Saturday, March 4, 2017

Taking action, not inaction

Most years for Lent I have given up sweets. I was successful only once, in 2001, I think; I forget the year, but I had devoted myself to fitness in an almost obsessive way. It was a tough 45ish days without a piece of candy, cake, or bowl of ice cream. But I was doing that more for myself than to bring myself closer to God, which is a big part of doing (or not doing) something for Lent.

I don't have nearly the faith I did then, but I do try most days to be a decent human being. If everyone strove to do that, the world would be a pretty great place, and it likely would not matter so much which religion people were, or if they had a religion. But I digress.

This year for Lent I have decided to do a few things.
  1. Try to lessen my "saying the opposite" of what the hubs says. I do this. A lot. It is not so much that I have to be right. I am pretty sure I AM right most of the time (he would disagree). But I am going to try to let things go more. This one is going to be tough. Really, really tough. But important. I don't expect to go 40 days (or even 4 days). But if I can do it a little less, that will be all the better for our relationship.
  2. Be thankful for what I have daily. Although I am not the steadfast prayer (prayor?) that many religious people are, I try to pray most days. And I try to say thanks during these prayers. But I am going to make a conscious effort to specifically name one thing every day that brings me gratitude and put it on Twitter and maybe FB. I have committed to do this in both places, which will likely compel me to carry it out. 
  3. While I am posting about what I am thankful for, I will also post something good I have done. I am not looking to save a life or bring someone immeasurable joy, but small things can add up. And even if they don't seem to, doing something good is still doing something good and will hopefully make me a better person. And, as Pope Francis recently said on Twitter, "Do not underestimate the value of example, for it is more powerful than a thousand words, a thousand “likes”, retweets or YouTube videos."
  4. Eat better and eat less This is not really related to Lent, though, but I want to include it here. I joined a "weight race" at work with two other coworkers. We each set a goal to lose so many pounds in 12 weeks. My goal is 6, but I will be somewhat satisfied with 4. If I lose only a pound or two or nothing, I will be disappointed, and it will tell me that I did not fulfill #4. I am keeping up with exercise, but eating, unfortunately for me, is a bigger part of losing weight. I have done well the last two weeks during the week, but I kind of faltered last weekend. We shall see how the rest of this weekend goes.
So there you have it. I am hoping #'s 2 and 3 will help lessen my anxiety. And I have felt better this week once I started to make a conscious effort to do those things.

I am heading out to walk the dog now. Hopefully during that walk, I do some good (other than picking up litter, which I do nearly every day, and seems "unfair" to count it more than once). If not, I will definitely be counting the 3 loads of laundry I am doing. If that is not a good, selfless deed for the family, I don't know what is! :-)

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Give a hoot; don't pollute!

Litter is my biggest pet peeve. It bothers me even more than when someone uses a hyphen instead of an em or en dash, and that is really saying something.

I have said many times, in many mediums that there are only two acceptable reasons to litter:
  1. Someone is threatening to kill you if you don't throw your empty McD's bag, water bottle or losing lottery tickets out of the car.
  2. Continuing to carry your grocery bag of wing bones, bag of chips, or half-eaten burger will impeded your ability to run away from a would-be assassin.
I am tired of people having no regard for their community. But I am even more tired of having to look at it when I walk my dog nearly every day. So most days (not including a couple of winter months) I pick up things along our 1-2 mile neighborhood stroll. Fortunately, because I do this so often, most days I have just a couple of things to pick up. Unfortunately, last year, my perception of litter became more heightened, and I started to become bothered by little bits of trash in people's lawns and driveways. These various items likely fell out of their garbage bags, or they might have been dropped there or were carried by the wind. But whatever the reason, the homeowners/renters do not feel compelled to pick them up. Last night, I reached down in someone's driveway and picked up a plastic lei that had been there for weeks. A few houses down, I picked up a spoon from the edge of a yard which had been there since sometime in January. Two weeks ago, I walked several feet into someone's yard to pick up wrapping paper that had been there since just after Christmas. I know I should not be doing this. I am pretty sure it constitutes as trespassing, but these things are so visible on my walk, and I just get tired of seeing them.

When I went to confession just before Christmas, I told the very traditionally conservative priest that whenever I pick up litter, I often wish something bad on the person. Not death. Nothing serious. But I find myself saying things like "I hope you were throwing up all night or had a horrible hangover the next day" when I pick up a beer can. Or "I hope you felt your chest tighten and stained your shirt" as I pick up a fast-food bag and ketchup packets. and, my most often "I hope you get into a coughing fit and that your lungs don't turn too black" (I did not mention that one to the priest). The priest, who actually chuckled, told me that if I felt this way, it might be best to stop picking up litter. I told him I was not sure I could. He also suggested I pray for them. I tried that for a few days. Then I was back to cursing people, though a little less often.

When I was nearly done with my walk last night, and had filled my bag with a variety of things, I noticed a piece of mail in a yard near ours. I walked a couple of feet into the yard and saw an official-looking envelope addressed to the woman who lives across the street. I hated to leave it there, as it would surely blow away. I figured the mail carrier dropped it (our neighborhood has had plenty of issues with mediocre mail people). I decided to pick it up and walk across the street. Because I had my dog with me, I did not want to ring the bell, so I just put it in the already full mailbox. And then I went home and told the hubs, who was quite upset. I get it. It was wrong. The neighbor whom I barely know might have thought I was taking mail from the box and could have called the police. In fact, there is a chance, although remote, that one day when I walk into someone's yard to pick up some trash, the homeowner might accuse of me something. I intend to call the police to ask what I should do in this situation. Unfortunately when I was walking last night, I also came upon a raw hamburger patty in a grocery bag that my dog almost got to. This was the third time in two months that someone has tossed out raw meat (the last two times it was a single chicken breast) in the same location. Some local people think maybe someone is trying to poison animals in the area. I hope it is not that. But I figure a phone call will not hurt, though a police officer might laugh when I call.

In the meantime, I will likely keep on picking up litter and attempting to keep my little part of America clean. And hopefully I can resist the urge to stop walking into others' yards to try to keep their places clean. As for wishing for hangovers and coughing fits? I am still working on it. Lent does start next week!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Some days I feel as if I am drowning.

At this very moment in my life, I feel okay. Overall, I am a pretty positive, optimistic person. When I get down, it rarely last more than a couple of hours. Even when someone does me wrong, depending on the person, I am usually over it within an hour (my kid) or a few hours or a half a day (the hubby) or a day or so (coworker or friend). I used to hold grudges much longer. But life is short, and I have learned to let things go.

But lately, I have these days, sometimes fortunately only half days, where I feel overcome. This usually happens to me as I am lying awake at night, fretting about something. Mostly it is my kid and various things around that, not the least of which is her going to high school in the fall a bit of a distance from our house. I fret about my job, which is not stable. I fret about the husband's unemployment. After more than a half year without work, he finally starts a job in two weeks, but that brings with it some different anxieties. I fret about my various relationships, from marriage, to parenting, to relatives, to friends.

I worry about myself as a person. A lot. Some days I think I could be a better human being, and then other days I think I let people walk all over me too much. I worry about letting people down. Sometimes I think I could be doing so much more, but I don't know what. Or where. Or how.

I think my feelings of dread, worry, and feeling lost began around the election and have stayed since then. It kind of took a piece of me, sadly. I feel differently than I used to. But I don't seem to know how to get past that. In my liberally conservative views (or is it conservatively liberal), I feel alone at times. I am scared for the country. I (try to) believe the best in people. But sometimes it is so hard. Whether it is seeing litter in my neighborhood and picking it up for the 10th day in a row, or hearing/watching people chant "Build the wall. Go back home."

It seems so simple to me: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But I guess it is not. And I don't get it.

And then I start to question myself.

And I worry.

Yeah, so I feel okay right now. Not great. Certainly not at peace. A bit aimless. Somewhat frustrated. (As an aside, I have not been sleeping well; and as a result, my brain does not seem to be working as well as it used to. My memory has certainly suffered.)

But I will try to keep on keeping on.

And choosing kindness and love.

And going high when they go low. For the most part.

But I will still worry. And struggle.

I am not sure I know how else to live right now. (As another aside, #ThisIsWhatAnxietyFeelsLike has been trending on Twitter. I could say a lot of about that. But just not in 140 chars.)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why I am an "Other"

Last month while I was getting my driver's license picture taken, I tried to change my political party affiliation. For whatever reason, my choices were Democrat, Republican, Other, and None. But first, how I got there.

I registered as a Democrat when I first registered to vote, just before the '92 election. At that time, I was "kind of" liberal (for growing up in a somewhat rural area in western PA), and pretty much all of my relatives were registered that way, so it made sense. I was not really into politics at that young age, however.

As I got into my late 20s, I started to realize I was becoming more conservative, so a few years later, when it was time to renew my driver's license, I changed to Republican. I still remember the day at work when I told my coworker Anne that I was really a Republican. She told me she had known it for years. During the 2008 election, I was on board with John McCain running for president, mostly because I thought he was a good person, and in 2012, I campaigned for Republican D. Raja, who was running for Allegheny County Executive at that time.

But over the past few years, as I was surrounded by liberal (and only liberal) coworkers, I started to drift back to the left side. It was a gradual shift; I did not wake up one day and pronounce myself that way. And I was not fully converted; I really saw myself as more of a Libertarian. But it became a little telling when I did the "I Side With" quiz last January, and my second, third and fourth choices were Democrats (at that time, I sided the most with Rand Paul, but Bernie was only 1% behind him).

But as the months wore on, and the election season was in full swing, I became more conflicted than ever. I was liking Bernie, but it was not looking good for him. And as Hillary became the front-runner, unlike the rest of my office, I could not say "I am with her." I had issues. But I also could not get past Donald Trump as a person. Frankly one of the main reasons I did not vote for Bill Clinton two decades ago was because of his infidelity; at that time and for years after, I voted for people on character. Eventually, I had to get past that; unfortunately and sadly, staying faithful did not seem to be a top priority for too many people in the political world.

But with Trump, I just could not get past how he seemed to portray women and non-whites. And just his demeanor in general was troublesome. I was starting to feel that Gary Johnson might be my best choice; and in August, when I retook the "I Side With" quiz, he was at the top at 86%. Much to my surprise Jill Stein came in at 72%, and Hillary and Donald brought up the rear at 65% and 63%. I felt okay, not great about that (I hated to "waste" a vote on a third party candidate). But within a couple of months, my mom informed me that he did not know where Aleppo was (or maybe it was what was happening there). Crap.

So now the election is a few days out, and I am still struggling. So I call my priest. He said a lot of helpful things, but most important to me, he said that it was unlikely that my one vote would affect the outcome of PA, so I just needed to make a decision and be okay with it. Right around that time  (maybe the day before the election), Hillary came to campus, and I went to see her. Even though I still was not "with her," I was pretty sure that after the recording of Trump's vulgarities toward women and one in particular came to light, Hillary would be our next president. So I wanted to be there, to see the first woman president just a couple of days before the election (note, no one else in my liberal office was there).

One the eve of the election, I took the "I Side With" quiz one final time; by now, Gary and I were in agreement only 63%. Hillary was next at 39%, then Donald at 34%. I had considered that and some other things, and made a decision. And then I woke up the next day and promptly changed my mind. As I got into the polls, I again changed my mind. I literally decided as I touched the screen, and I almost changed my mind for what was the 4th or 4th time, when I reviewed my choices. Insane.

Ultimately, I could not vote for Trump in good conscience, but I get why some did (mostly because I asked and read about it). My vote came down to Hillary and Gary. And only a few people know who I ultimately chose. But I am okay with my decision. My vote did not change the outcome, as Trump won PA by almost 60k. I am not sure who Johnson took votes away from, but my guess is more Donald; most of my conservative friends voted for him.

So why the "Other" party? Because I am not much of an R or a D; I am still pretty conflicted. But unlike a lot of people who are firmly on one side or the other, I have read a lot on both sides. I have not dropped FB friends as so many have done and continued to do. In fact, I have been dropped by people on both sides; I bet not many can claim that! I want to hear and understand both sides. I don't know want to know what just "my side" thinks. Of course, I don't really have a side.

Here is the thing: I get a lot of it. I get people who are scared about terrorism and that fear wants to keep people out of the country. But I also don't want to generalize. Just like I don't think banning guns will necessarily save lives, I don't think banning Muslims will necessarily either. For the record, I am for stricter gun control; I don't want to take people's guns away, though.

I have friends who had no insurance before the ACA. So I very much get that. But I also am married to someone who worked for a small company that pretty much fell apart due in no small part to high premiums because of the ACA.

I get people who believe you were born a man or a woman and you should stay that way. I get people who cannot accept gays because it is against their religion. It is against mine (well, not being gay, but acting on it). But I am a tolerant person who believes love is love and you cannot make yourself one way.

I get women's wanting the right to choose. I likely won't fight to end abortion. But I am pro-life; that is likely not going to change. And I am pro-life in everyway, whether a baby in the womb or an adult on death row.

And I get so many other things. I can see both sides, and a third side in many cases.

So even though I will be sitting out the primary this year, because unless you are a D or an R, you don't get to participate in PA, I am okay with that for now. As I said on FB, I just need to be "single" for awhile.

My Other party is about kindness; it is not about hate. My Other party is about seeing both sides and not being so quick to dismiss differing viewpoints. My Other party is about standing up for what we think is right or at least speaking up against what seems to be wrong. My Other party is about fighting the good fight. It's about helping others. It's about trying to do the right thing. It is about respecting ALL lives, no matter what stage, religion, nationality, job, gender, orientation, socio-economic status. My Other party is about starting small and caring about the community around us and focusing on things we can have an effect on. My Other party is about hoping for the best, but knowing the worst could happen. My Other party is wanting people, all people, including the President, to succeed. My Other party is about working hard and doing our best. My Other party is about saying sorry when we are wrong, and forgiving others both for our and their sakes. It is about saying thanks to those who deserve appreciation. It is about moving on and not beating ourselves and others up because we screwed up.

I am an Other, and that is just where I need to be right now.

The End. But hopefully really just the beginning.