Saturday, April 4, 2015

My thoughts on RFRA's and what they mean to me

For the past few  weeks there has been a huge stink about Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, especially with regard to LGBTQ+ rights. Rather than utilize my other lifestyle blog (The Migrated Dragonfly) I thought I'd dust this one off for use.

Anyone who might know me knows how I feel about laws that infringe the rights of the individual. Anyone who knows me also knows that I am an ally for LGBTQ+ rights and for the right for anyone to pursue his/her faith in any way s/he chooses, so long as no one is being hurt or causing harm to themselves or anyone else. With that belief in mind, one would think I'd be totally okay with a law that "protects" the religious freedom of the masses, right? Well I am to a degree. It's called the First Amendment, which allows Americans freedom of speech and freedom of religion. There are also those inalienable rights set out by the Declaration of Independence that all men (and women) have the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Whatever that may be.

How do I feel about RFRA laws set out by states like Indiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas Texas, Pennsylvania, and others?

I don't agree. The reason I don't agree (most strongly, I might add) is because the intent behind those laws isn't to protect religious freedom for all, just for some. Just for the Christian majority. The conservative types who put out these laws have this paranoid delusion that LGBTQ+ marriage is somehow going to infect their lives and undo the family values they say they strive to keep.

People love to argue that marriage is a religious thing and that it should only take place between a man and a woman. Marriage is a civil contract, and a coming together of two people to share their lives. Some like having the idea that their deity of choice sanctifies their union and it does something amazing to their souls, uniting them as one being (an idea that strangely sounds like the philosophy of Plato, who was not a religious man, who spoke of soul mates and one soul divided into two halves).

The main issue I have with these laws, however, has only a small part to do with their condoning the denial of  LGBTQ+ service on "religious" grounds, but rather on how it will affect people over all, especially people of different faiths. I find these acts to be hypocritical. There is no war on Christianity in the U.S. There's a war of Christianity. People in power who claim Christianity are essentially waging a religious beliefs war on everyone else who doesn't share their views, and it puts people at risk all around.

From a personal standpoint, I'm a person of blended faiths. I follow a non-traditional path, and  should I practice openly, such an act might essentially put me at a disadvantage in those states. But aside from the way it would affect me, I think about how it affects people of color, people who follow faiths other then Christianity, or people who don't follow faith at all, and identify as atheists.

  • A doctor who refuses to tell a patient who may have a risky pregnancy about abortion being one of her options because it's his/her religious preference not to promote abortion does a disservice to that woman because s/he is taking the choice of treatment out of the woman's hands by not providing her with all the options.

  • A person who is not Christian  really likes a particular kind of food and wants it at his/her party, and is refused because the faith doesn't match and s/he looks like those terrorists on TV killing Christians in *insert anti-Christian, intolerant country here* is denied service even though this place may be a specialty place or special to that person, and now s/he is being denied service.

  • A person breaks down on the side of the road and the mechanic or even the tow truck driver is of a different faith and refuses to assist because the person who had the breakdown is wearing a pentacle and identifies as a Wiccan or a pagan of some  non-monotheistic faith and it is against the beliefs of the person to assist them, or worse, they feel it is the duty to "not suffer a witch to live". Would the defense be "I was doing this according to my faith?"

Some of the views above might be extreme, but some are not so far from the realm of possibility. While I will agree that the right to refuse service for a private business is perfectly legal and legitimate, (and protected under the constitution) the idea that a government act is put in place to protect religious rights that are actually not being infringed upon, and is rather making it difficult for people to practice their non-Christian, non-traditional views publicly is the anti-thesis of what that supposed law is trying to protect, and what is stipulated in the Constitution. Freedom of faith/religion is a fundamental right.The Founding Fathers didn't make the US a Christian nation. There is no mention of Christ, Christianity, and how it relates to the law of the land in the Constitution. There is supposed to be separation of church and state. We aren't a theocracy.

Keep the religion out of politics. Keep Caesar and God separate. Even Jesus said it.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Law of Attraction and Depressives

It’s been a while since I’ve done any writing in this particular blog, mostly because I’ve been blogging at my personal blog, . There I tend to really express my feelings regarding my move to Houston, Texas from Massachusetts. I thought that this topic was more relevant to the purpose of this blog, however, so I thought I’d post here.

Lately I have been thinking about the “Law of Attraction” and its mechanics. It’s something that has been preached in various modern philosophies, and has made a lot of money to the author of the book “The Secret”. It’s not a modern concept, however, but it has made its way into the mainstream. The Law of Attraction is the idea that if you put forth and project and live life accordingly, usually in a positive manner, then the Universe/Deity/Life/etc. will bring more positivity your way. You are attracting what you desire. This can be made manifest through things like Vision Boards, wherein a person can use positive mental intention to attract the good things in his/her life. Personally, I like to use Pinterest for such boards. I have a dream home board, a board with positive messages, a clothes-I-wish-I-had board, and even a career dream board. I have other boards, too, but the point is that I use these like vision boards. The issue is that not only do you have to construct the vision board, but you have to focus energy on it every day, sending out your positive intent and desire into the universe. In the way of cosmic harmony eventually what you want will manifest in some way. For Christians, we like to use the verse from the Gospel of Matthew, “Ask and ye shall receive. Seek and ye shall find. Knock and the door will be opened.” (Matt. 7:7). But it’s the same concept. Ask God and He will grant you the desires of your heart.

The caveat to all this positive thinking and this abundance of the universe? One must be in the proper positive mindset. After all, in the Law of Attraction, like attracts like. If a person is happy, content, joyful, and positive good things will come to him or her. If a person is negative, sad, and miserable then that person will only attract negativity into his/her life.
For a depressive that seems a lot like victim blaming, and a hopeless cause.  In depression, the concept of “happy” and “positive” can be very elusive. A depressive is not a happy person, not in the sense that people understand, anyway. A depressive isn’t a sad person, either. Depression is like drowning in a well of apathy, encumbered by a lack of emotional energy to pull oneself out, and a physical manifestation of pain in aching limbs and muscles that reaches deep down.  However, it is easier to be “sad” than it is to be “happy”. It is easier to be negative than to be positive. It is easier to attract negativity, not because we are generally negative people, but because we find it so hard to be positive. Depression is a disease that can cripple even the strongest person. It is not an easy disease with which to live, and when major life events happen, the law of attraction can seem to work against a depressive.

Example – I am a depressive. I have been for many years. It is a disease and an illness I cannot cure. I can only treat it. I have good days where I just keep moving forward and don’t really notice the disease, and not so good days when nothing seems to go right, and I can’t be bothered to care about anything except sleep or watch TV, or read because I need to distance myself from the self-recrimination and apathy. But I don’t know what it is like to feel happiness or joy. It sounds like I’m being melodramatic and hyperbolic. I’m not. Many depressives can’t recognize happiness and joy because it is often clouded by doubt, and self-loathing, and apathy. When I first moved, I thought that things were finally going to start getting better. I had graduated with a master’s degree, I had a great job wherein I was going to help people, and I was going to have my own apartment. I was ready for the next phase of my life. I had high hopes that it was going to get better because I had been so utterly unhappy before.

Well, when I moved, my apartment was infested with roaches thanks to the previous residents. I have a fear of roaches, and it was just the beginning of my new life. Shaken, I continued, started my new job, loved it, but it became emotionally draining, and it was difficult to be away from home, friends, and family. I was homesick, and I didn’t know how to make friends very well. Eventually my mother came, brought my dog, and helped me buy furniture. I met people through Meetup, and though I was exceedingly uncomfortable because I don’t like meeting new people (yay social anxiety) I managed. But these weren’t my friends from home. These weren’t the people I knew for 5+ and 10+ years.  Slowly my apartment lost its roaches, and it would seem things were supposed to be improving…. Until my car lost its air conditioning during the hottest months of the year in Texas. I was hating life. My job’s demands became increasingly more difficult and eventually my car broke down entirely. I had to take the bus to work for nearly 2 months, which, in Houston, is a death knell to any life. I also lived alone, and it was a lot to take on at once. I was lonely, and upset all the time. I didn’t have a car to be sociable, and even when I did, I wasn’t very sociable because I didn’t know how to be, and I didn’t feel comfortable half the time. I worried about bills, and what I would do if I couldn’t fix my car. I thought about my family, and how even though I was so unhappy in Massachusetts, I was unhappy here in Texas, too. And I had no idea how to fix it.

After Christmas, I learned my job was in jeopardy. New rules and requirements from a funder required more than I knew, more than I could give, and I was already emotionally tired and drained from living alone, the stress of the job, the car situation, and the inability to adjust. By Valentine’s Day I was out of a job. And to boot, my dog had kidney failure. I managed to get another job, but I hated it. I stayed at it for about 4 months, however, and in that time I also had to put my dog to sleep. Two weeks after that a new dog came into my life. Then, I lost my other job due to lack of funding. And I turned 30. I was now alone, unemployed, and dealing with a new, very energetic dog with whom I get more annoyed than pleased because he doesn’t let me sleep past 6 am, even when I go to sleep too late.

I can’t even begin to count the number of nights I have gone to sleep crying over the past year. I can’t even estimate how much I’ve prayed and asked God for help, for guidance, for peace, and stability. But, as a depressive I can’t find joy and happiness in the little moments, though I’ve tried. I’ve tried to take up meditation, and yoga, and walks in the park, to try to find peace in my soul, but all that I can see is the depression. In the Law of Attraction where does that leave me? Constantly getting more negatives in my life and things not working out because I can’t muster positivity on a regular basis to “attract” more positivity? How does that help me? It’s the same as telling a depressive to just “be happy”, or to “stop being sad”. I can’t find my joy for life, my joie de vivere. I can only exist. I can only continue, but not live. Is it surprising, then, that as far as the Law of Attraction is concerned all I can attract is Murphy’s Law (Whatever can go wrong will go wrong)? How, then, can I make the Law or Attraction work for me? 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Honor thy commitments

So this week has been a little crazy, but what has really prompted me to write is the fact that while I work for my dream organization, and I get to do the kind of work that makes a difference in the lives of others, I have the skills, knowledge and capability to do more. As it stands, I just started this new job almost three months ago, and while I love it (direct services and working with clients, and making a difference), my skill set and my talent lies in community building and creating relationships between organizations. I'm a community psychologist, that's part of what I do, along with evaluation and some development.

Incidentally, the board of trustees for my organization is considering putting into place a position that would do all the community-building work that I also love. So which to choose? Do I honor my 2-year commitment with my position in case management and social services, or do I say, "screw it, I'm going for the job in which I actually have my master's training, and I can use my skills in that area"?

Hence the rock and the hard place.

The key thing to remember, especially as I grow older, is that I need to honor my commitments. How does it look to give up a stable job, and adding stability to an organization and a position, when I just "upgrade" into something after only 3 months of working at it?  Truth be told, while I really want this "new position" I need to honor the commitment I made. My mother (whose birthday is today, btw) has taught me that I need to honor my commitments, and that I need to keep my promises. When I signed my paperwork with my organization, I was committed to spending 2 years in my current position, stabilizing it, and making sure that I helped the organization with its growth.

I guess that means that no, I won't be making a leap into the next upgrade. Most likely it means I will be volunteering my time to help this person and perhaps after my two year commitment is done, revisit the question. 

I will be an adult and honor my commitment. It speaks more about me (and my character)  than what position I hold in the organization.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The constant pressure, and the constant heartbreak

I was hanging out with a friend not so long ago and she had told me about how she was seeing someone off and on. I did get permission from this friend to write this post, but I am not at liberty to say who it is, or how I know her. Basically, they get together, they spend time together, they may be even sleep together on occasion, however there's the rub... he has made it clear they fall into the "Friends With Benefits" category, and not at all inclined to really move past that, for various reasons (he may be moving, he isn't really in the market for a serious relationship, etc). Not to mention, there is  the fact that my friend has not had the most stellar relationship history, so this has caused her self-esteem to go down. She feels, as she puts it, "I'm good enough to sleep with/ have fun with, but not good enough to have a relationship with." 

I can understand what this person is going through, and frankly, I put it a different way -- "Good enough for fun, but not good enough to keep." Unfortunately, this seems to be a growing trend, and rather than feeling like we as women can embrace this sexual freedom and this singles lifestyle we are constantly pressured into this mindset of coupledom. So... we can't just "have fun" and enjoy being single with no stings attached. The intimate moments have to mean something, or lead up to something, or have a label. The constant pressure of being a woman nearly in her 30s and the "biological imperative" to become part of a couple, get married and have babies, is as inherent and as ingrained as worrying about our hair and if our butt looks big in this or that.  Personally, I feel this constant pressure not only from the media, but also culturally, and (unintentionally) from married/coupled friends. I've literally gotten the message of "Now that you've gotten your master's and you have a job and you're settled into your new apartment, your next mission is to find a man and finally join the rest of us/the world/etc in the realm of relationships and family-making." 

I have to tell you that message sucks, and here's why... 

I love my friends, I'm happy they are in happy, successful marriages and families, but that's not a lifestyle that may work for everyone. I am a loner by nature. Some of us are meant to be the teachers/hermits/crones in our society, providing a reflection and an outside persepctive. I joke around that I want to be the single friend my friends are all jealous of because I have no such commitments to another person, but it's hard when the message is constantly coming at you that "You are Nobody til Somebody Loves You." 

What about those of us who have trouble finding someone? Maybe we're shy, or awkward, or not as attractive as others. What about those of us who are constantly bombarded with the message that we are good enough to have fun with but not good enough to keep? What then? It's a double stigma because we are convinced that we are not worth having in a relationship and we feel we are defective in some way because we can't manage to get into one. 

To be honest, I wish that people would just let it be, and not make a fuss. If we could be happy with our single lives, then we could find more meaning in our work, and maybe even stop with all the heartbreak and the negativity of "Not good enough". 

Just my food for thought....

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Emphasizing loss while reinforcing what, exactly?

I realize that this post might lead people to be upset, angry, or offended. The disclaimer is that this is my opinion, and my feelings on this particular subject. Everyone is entitled to do what s/he wants with his/her life, just as everyone is entitled to his/her opinion. If you, as a reader, have a comment, let's keep it clean and respectful, please. I know this is a sensitive topic. Now... on to the post!

So what is the things I mostly notice about summer is the fact that people are feeling the need to lose weight. Not that this isn't something that is a year-round thing, but it seems especially prevalent during the summer months, perhaps because of the emphasis on "bikini" bodies or "beach" bodies. 

Recently I have had a few friends posting on Facebook about their weight loss thanks to this diet, or that eating style, this exercise, or that motivation/negative reinforcement from a loved one, or whatever. As a woman I find it sad and disconcerting that we place so much emphasis weight loss rather than just overall health. I personally know that I have to lose 40 to 50 pounds and I know that I have a bit of an issue with body image thanks to perpetually being on the larger side and being teased and/or constantly reminded and insulted because of my girth/weight. However when I consider weight loss I'm not extremely about it. I know that I have to lose weight to be healthy, but I also know that I am always going to be Rubenesque, and that doesn't bother me. I have come to terms with the fact that my body will always be "bigger". It is just how I am framed, and how I carry myself. I will never be less than a size 10 (in American sizes), or, hell, even a size 12 (much more feasible). 

When I think of weight loss for myself, I think more in terms of being healthy and active. I want to be able to walk and play with my dog without getting winded, and I want to dance flamenco and hip hop without getting a stitch in my side, and red-faced because I can't breathe. In order to achieve the abilities for all this I will need to change my eating habits and my activity habits. I would effectively have to "go on a diet" until it becomes an inherent part of my lifestyle change. If I lose weight along the way all the better, but I refuse to body-shame and self-shame, despite the well-intentions of those who in no uncertain terms tell me that I am "fat" and proceed to point out all the health risks related to obesity, especially those that are genetically imprinted into my DNA such as a propensity for heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. In essence, being full-figured doesn't bother me. The negative reinforcement, does, and that is what causes self-loathing and self-hatred (for me, anyway).

The true reason why my size does sometimes bother me doesn't have anything to do with my actual physical appearance but rather on the availability of clothing. I'm big-framed, but short in terms of height. Clothes for bigger women tends to look like bad drapery or sacks on my body, and pants are often too long or bunchy at the waist or ankles. It makes dressing nicely and dressing for my body shape difficult, because clothes are not made to fit both of my personal criteria (big-frame/short height). For the longest time this was such a problem for me that I hated shopping (still do) and I would get despaired of finding anything that fit or looked nice on me. Then I learned to dress both for my height and my body shape, and, believe me, that opened up worlds!! Not only was I finding clothes and styles that fit my style, my size, and my figure, but I wasn't as prone to body-shaming because I didn't look "ugly" or "disgusting" in my clothes. And I didn't feel disgusting either, which was a HUGE plus for me. 

As an additional and related note, I feel the need to comment on food and consumption thereof. I am not afraid to eat, and I don't think any woman should be afraid of eating!! If I feel like it I will enjoy a pizza, or chicken wings, or Chinese Food, or a cheeseburger with bacon! I won't penalize myself for eating these things, and I can't believe that so many women would do so! Having spent the majority of my time working in an all-female environment in a female-dominated field constantly has constantly reinforced the "ugh, I can't eat {insert 'bad' food here}" or "now I will have to run/walk/exercise/hate myself for eating this". I just look at women  who ascribe to this mindset and take a bite of my bacon cheeseburger with a smile while they force themselves to subsist less-than-enthusiastically on their lunch of salad/whatever healthy food fad of the season. The worst is when they look at me pointedly (which has happened before to me) and then at my lunch. I merely raise a brow and shrug. "I'm not afraid to eat." is my usual response. What they think of me and my lunch is irrelevant. What /I/ think of my lunch and my health is the most important factor. I do eat healthy as a general rule, and I don't like fried foods for the most part. If I can bake/poach/saute/ or guisar something, then I will do it over the frying any day. I eat rice maybe once or twice a week, and I try to balance my plate when I eat. That's my personal choice, and based on good nutrition advice from friends who are actually nutritionists and are actually certified to tell me what might be good options for my body. 

My point is, ultimately, do not condemn yourself or others because of this societal obsession with weight loss. As a woman, I want to encourage my fellow chromosome XX'ers to eat what makes you happy, but do it in proportion. Most of all, love yourself, stretch marks, flab, and imperfections and all. Be healthy, not obsessive. Be mindful, not critical. Enjoy your favorite ice cream and your favorite pizza, and don't worry about counting calories. We come in all shapes and sizes, colors, and heights, and it's glorious!

Peace, love, and acceptance!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Intelligence as a barrier

"No one wants to push you because you are intimidating."

"I am not intimidating!"

"Intelligence is very intimidating."

These are snippets of a conversation I was having with a friend recently, and obviously I was rather offended/indignant that he would ever describe me as intimidating. I have always thought of myself as rather the opposite of intimidating. Then I remembered a different conversation when I was volunteering with some young women whom I was teaching about creative journaling. The topic had been roadblocks and challenges. One of them said to me, "Surely you don't need all this. You have your whole life together." She was referring to the fact that I am in school for a master's degree, not living at a shelter, and, in her mind, I was as far away from her situation as I could possibly be. We had no common ground. I was the "expert" and the "outsider". I was intimidating because I had education...

I recall a conversation on the same topic during my first-year research methods course, where my professor reminded us that our education would set us apart from the people we serve, especially in their eyes. Education places us in an ivory tower far "above" the regular folk, makes us "experts", and, yes, intimidates them.

Even when we don't want it to.
Even when we wish it didn't.

I have been considered "smart" and "intelligent" my entire life. It is, in fact, a label of self-identification for me. I was an above-average student. My critical thinking skills and my ability to acquire knowledge quickly often got me labelled as a nerd, a geek, a weirdo (labels I absolutely embrace now). I was different because I was smart, and because I was smart I didn't fit in. I learned to be a loner, an introvert, and to pretend that it didn't matter that my classmates didn't want to play with me, or include me. I was smarter. I was going places they weren't... I made myself intimidating so that I didn't have to suffer their rejection. But I did. I suffered it, just like any child would. I suffered rejection because I was different when all I wanted was to fit in, to have friends, to be just like everyone else. 

As an adult, I often find that my intelligence still gets in my way. It pushes away potential relationships and friendships. My inability to think in "simpler" or "common" terms (not my own words, but others') makes it harder for me to communicate with regular people. In my work it makes it hard for me to relate to groups in which I would otherwise belong. It even puts barriers between my family members and me. I am currently one of about five in my family that is able to add a master's degree to my educational experience. While it is a source of pride, it has its drawbacks.  I am often told that I can say something in 20 words when only 5 are necessary. Party games, like Taboo, are difficult, because I can't make it simple. I don't think in simple terms because I don't know how. I don't communicate in simple terms because I don't process information that way.  Whether I like it or not, I am intimidating, even when I try not to be.

This can become a potential hazard in my worklife, because often then populations I serve may not have the same educational background I do, nor do they process information the same way. Over the course of the next few months, I will have to determine how to overcome these barriers presented by a trait I have always admired and prided myself upon.

Ideas and comments are welcome!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Spring Break that wasn't. ..

Well...The spring break that wasn't is almost over. I find it is hitting me harder this year than it normally does. I don't like to whine on such a public forum, but I feel the need to rant a bit. I have worked every spring break since my undergrad, but for some reason this one, like this past Christmas break, feels particularly unsatisfying.  I am not rested, I am not ahead of my tasks, and I feel like I haven't done anything constructive neither creatively nor academically. My to-read list still remains,  my chore list still remains,  my unwritten letters,  meditation, self-discovery,  and knitting projects ALL still remain!!

Even when I worked nights, I still felt like my last spring break meant something. Being the introspective creature that I am, I started thinking about why this could be.  Part of it could be due to the fact that I am ending one aspect of my life and acknowledging that might be causing me subconscious panic,  since I feel up in the air future-wise. Another part of me could cite ineffective prioritizing and time management (ironic considering I have done research on that very subject and it is going to be a future topic).  I let too many things become urgent-important or urgent-not important and let the important-not urgent stuff end up in the  back burner. (For the urgency matrix, look up Stephen R. Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People")

Regardless, I feel more harried than ever. None of my weekends seem to be free until after graduation, so I can't rely on them for the break I desperately need. Even my body feels the effects, tired, worn down, and sick. I haven't had a manicure, a hair trim, and barely have time to gather my thoughts. I also feel listless, undesiring to work, unable to concentrate, and impatient.

I need a break from Spring Break...