Category Archives: people

Huh?

A few years ago, a former colleague commented on a photo of my daughter. “She is so pretty and talented, she won’t have any problem finding a husband.”

“Huh?”

That was literally my reaction: “Huh?”

The comment about my daughter wasn’t made in the 1950’s. It was made in the 2020’s. Who the heck cares if my daughter ever gets married, or if she does, if she marries a man?

I knew responding to this person with a “huh?” wouldn’t have mattered. This same person’s whole identity seemed to be wrapped up in her husband to the extent that she rarely went anywhere but work without him. In fact, even when she went to work, she often dragged him with her as a volunteer.

My internal reaction to her prattling on about her husband was usually “huh?” To clarify, this wasn’t because she was talking about her husband. I mean, I talk about my husband all the time. That’s what you do when you are in a relationship. What bothered me was the way she talked about her husband. She obviously didn’t think she was a complete person without him and that her marriage to him was what defined her.

Even though I internally rolled my eyes at her backwards beliefs, there was a part of me that felt sorry for her. She had never outgrown that myth that many of us were fed as young girls: some day your prince will come and you will live happily ever after.

Thank goodness my mom told me early on that was a load of crap, and thank goodness my dad encouraged me to always be able to take care of myself. That was how I was raised: get an education and never expect that you can rely on anyone but yourself. I thought that was normal until I discovered how many of my peers were raised differently. There were numerous times that I was shocked when a smart, talented young woman put a relationship before education and career.

“Huh?”

Of course, these women usually didn’t have a mom who told them that needing a man to be complete was a load of crap or a dad who championed his daughter’s independence. Their parents had actually told them they didn’t need to worry about getting a good education if they found a good man or that going to college was a great place to find someone to marry.

“Huh?”

In hindsight, I was extremely fortunate to have parents who had the same expectations of me that they had for my brother. Even though I am very strong willed and I can’t imagine thinking I needed someone else to define me, but who really knows. Maybe I would be a completely different person if my parents had encouraged me to wear makeup instead of encouraging me to be my own person.

I know I shouldn’t judge women like my former colleague who see marriage (and then children) as what makes them successful. If they are truly happy, then good for them. What bothers me is putting that old-fashioned ideal on the next generation, which is what actually prompted me to write this.

Recently, I saw a Facebook post from someone who is the same age as me. Her daughter, who is is in her very early twenties, was getting married, and the post was “I always prayed that “Mary” would meet a wonderful man one day. God is working in her life.”

Huh?

Should she be happy and joyful and celebrating? Absolutely. But praying that your daughter would marry a good man? Really?

How about praying that your daughter will give back to the world more than she takes? How about praying your daughter will learn to navigate the tough world with the knowledge that she is strong enough to handle difficult times. How about praying that everyone will treat your daughter with the same respect and expectations that they treat your son? How about praying that your daughter has a such a sense of self that she will never consider getting married as something she needs to do to be a complete person.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not against marriage, or relationships or motherhood. I think they are all great. I just don’t understand how some people still hold on to the belief that women have to have these to be complete or fulfilled or happy.

In other words…

“Huh?”

The Chair

The chair on the side of the road gave me pause. From what I could see, it was in great condition, but the logical side of my brain told me that no one could possibly throw out a perfectly good chair. So I didn’t seriously consider stopping, checking it out, and, if it seemed ok, throwing it in the back of my car because one of my kids might be able to use it. Yet, something about the abandoned chair niggled at the back of my mind.

I couldn’t help but wonder if it actually was a perfectly good chair that someone just didn’t want. Maybe it was the wrong color, or the wrong shape, or the owner had just gotten bored with it. People do that with pets, so they would have no problem abandoning inanimate objects for the same reason.

Regardless, I felt an unexplained empathy with the chair. Yes, I have probably seen Beauty and the Beast too many times and automatically personify inanimate objects, but I have also developed a deeper relationship with chairs after spending a significant amount of time with them a couple of months ago. The organization where I work had an online auction, and a donation of new furniture, including chairs, provided numerous items to offer up for bid. I had the responsibility of photographing and researching each chair to determine its retail value. Of course, I did this as part of a team, and I quickly realized people can have really strong feelings about chairs.

Everyone loved the rockers and recliners, which were mostly in neutral tones. But the accent chairs were quite controversial. Some people loved the bright, floral ones. Others thought they were obnoxious. I was particularly fond of a paisley chair that my co-worker deemed “absolutely ugly.”

It was simply a matter of taste, and no one tried to convince any of us that we were right or wrong. Because of course, no one was right or wrong. We just liked different chairs. Yet, I felt oddly hurt that someone thought a chair I liked was ugly, and I momentarily questioned if maybe I was wrong. We live in a society that tries to define beauty for us and reminds us on an annual basis what is “in” and what is “out.”

I will be 56 years old next month, and, when I’m honest, I admit that I still worry that my wardrobe isn’t cool enough and that there is something wrong with me because I have nothing to contribute to a conversation about the latest trends in interior paint colors. I tell myself that I don’t care, but a part of me does care. I tell others “you do you,” and “the only person you have to make happy is yourself,” but I worry that they may be putting themselves in a position of ridicule. I feel the constant hum in the background of daily living is telling me what I should look like, how to decorate my house, what music I should enjoy, and even whether or not my kids choices are normal.

The constant pull between being true to myself and true to the dictates of society is a struggle. A part of me will always be that kid whose peers made fun of what she wore when she started a new school in a community very different from the one she had left. I will always be that young woman who downplayed her intelligence and pretended she liked music she didn’t because she thought that’s what she had to do if people were going to like her.

Over the decades, the part of me that needs to fit in has grown smaller with every year while my allegiance to my true self has strengthened and grown. I may still worry about what others think of me, but I rarely make decisions based on that. And every day, I strive to be a champion for individuals who don’t feel they can be true to themselves without being discarded and isolated.

Maybe that’s why the chair on the side of the road made me so sad. It was a reminder of how easily anything – or anyone- can be discarded when they no longer meet someone else’s wants, needs, or sense of what is right and wrong.

I didn’t go back for that chair, but I hope someone else did. I hope they saw its beauty, and purpose and uniqueness and that it’s now sitting in a place of honor in someone’s house or apartment.

Everything and everyone belongs somewhere.

The Challenge

I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts the other day, and the hosts were bubbling with excitement about having just received their 2022 year in review from Spotify. Since I had just received (and of course shared) my year in review from the language app Duolingo, I realized that these reviews are just another marketing tool to suck us in so we share our results while providing free advertising.

Because they are intended to make us feel good about ourselves, these fluffy, feel good, reports don’t capture a realistic snapshot of what really happened over the course of the past year.

I’m always up for a challenge, so I decided I’d try to create my own (realistic) year in review.

Here’s my best shot with the disclaimer the following may or may not be based on valid data:

Hours I spent listening to true crime podcasts: 836

Hours I spent cleaning my house: 12

Phrase I said the most: “The day I don’t make a mistake is the day I’m dead.”

Phrases I never said, “I’d like to live in Florida.” and “I think Texas would be a good place to live.”

The number of times I went to Google to make a diagnosis based on my symptoms: 18

The number of times I went to a doctor to get a diagnosis based on my symptoms: 0

Pounds I lost trying to get healthier: 8

Pounds I gained from stress eating: 10

The number of times in conversation I said, “I have a story about that:” 422

The number of times in conversation someone said “Trina always has a story:” 421

Minutes I spent doom scrolling the internet: 3,523

Minutes I spent reading serious literature: 0

The number of times I’ve stopped my car in the middle of the street and gotten out just to pet a neighbor’s dog: 43

The number of times I’ve stopped my care in the middle of the street and gotten out to help a neighbor: 0

Tears I shed from dealing with a narcissistic bitch who was gaslighting me: 2,530

Tears I shed from laughing so hard I cried: 3,403

The number of times I’ve said “I feel like I’m a bad mother:” 46

Number of children I have: 2

Number of children who are college graduates: 2

Number of children who have been arrested or gone to jail: 0

Number of children who are gainfully employed: 2

The number of times I’ve fallen down while walking the dog, or going down the stairs, or carrying something heavy: 19

The number of black eyes I had: 1

The number of bruises I had: 1,748

The percentage of words that I uttered that many people would consider inappropriate or swear words: 18%

The percentage of times I regretted not telling someone I loved them: 0.

(If I love you, you will know it – especially if you are a dog.)

This year I’ve learned that sometimes justice isn’t possible, and you just have to walk away from a bad situation even if it means also walking away from unachieved goals and people you care about. I’ve learned that if you are a genuine person who cares about the underdog, you will attract genuine people who care about the underdog. And, most importantly, I continue to learn not to take myself to seriously. I’m the only person who has to spend 100% of their time with me. I might as well enjoy that time.

So here is to 2022 and an even better 2023. Here’s to the people who listened to me cry and rant and to the people who I never want to see again but who have taught me important life lessons. And here is to you. I hope you are your own best friend and that you take care of yourself regardless of what others think. It’s a challenge we can all continue to pursue.

The Cover Up

I had an unexplainable flashback to my early childhood the other day.

For some reason, I was thinking about an object that sat on the back of our toilet when I was barely out of diapers. The object looked like a beautiful doll with a large, crocheted skirt, and I thought she was stunning. So stunning, in fact, that I was devastated when my mother told me that I couldn’t play with her because she wasn’t a toy but instead was a toilet paper cover.

She said the skirt was so full because it covered an extra roll of toilet paper.

Her explanation confused me. Why would someone waste a perfectly good doll on toilet paper? But even more curious to me was why we needed to hide the extra roll since there was already a clearly visible one of the holder next to the toilet. If toilet paper was that embarrassing, shouldn’t all of it be covered?

My mom couldn’t answer my questions, and, in hindsight, she probably had the same questions I had. The doll/toilet paper cover thing was definitely not my no-nonsense, practical mother’s style. I’m guessing that it was probably a gift from someone, so Mom felt compelled to use it. My hypothesis is backed up by the fact that the thing never resurfaced when we moved a couple of years later.

I’m not sure why I remembered the mysterious toilet paper cover more than fifty years after I last saw it. But I do know what it represents to me: the tendency for some people to hide what they don’t want others to see by creating distractions. These individuals also shut down anyone who asks questions about what is actually under the full skirt.

Hiding anything is generally problematic, but it can also be particularly traumatic for people like me who question everything and who value transparency.

Over the past few years, I had to deal with a person who wanted to shut down my questions while simultaneously surround herself with people who would swear the object on the back of the toilet was simply a doll with a big skirt and was most certainly not covering up something like toilet paper.

It took its toll on me. I questioned my questions, my self worth, my skills, and my expertise. I could clearly see the toilet paper and wanted to know why it was hidden. But when I asked, I had my hand slapped again, and again, and again and had to deal with a chorus of the hand slapper’s loyal followers who practically chanted “There’s nothing to see here. Just go along to get along.”

I know they probably all saw the toilet paper but were in self preservation mode. I just can’t do that. It’s not who I am. If I don’t call out the hidden toilet paper, I’m fairly certain my brain will explode.

Thankfully, the people I most respect affirmed my questions about the toilet paper and my integrity. They held me up when I would have otherwise crashed. They are what kept me sane.

As I write this, I realize that individuals who don’t know anything about the situation are probably wondering why I am writing something so cryptic, but I have my reasons.

First, a lot of people have asked me why I haven’t been writing. The truth is, when you are beaten down, it’s hard to do anything but survive. For the past three years, I was just trying to survive.

Secondly, I want to emphasize the importance of surrounding yourself with people who build you up instead of tear you down and are willing to look under the big full skirt with you to see what is really there.

And most importantly, I want to publicly state that I have put that entire situation behind me. One of the people who didn’t let me fall actually offered me a path to get away from the toilet paper deniers. I am now walking down it, starting to heal, and starting to write again.

Soon, the situation I left will just be a memory like the weird toilet paper doll cover thing on the back of the toilet, It will continue to fade as more important and current issues occupy my brain. But I know I will still take out the memory from time to time, brush it off, and keep asking questions. One of those questions will always be why so many people denied seeing the toilet paper because, if they had, it could have been used to clean up the load of crap they were also ignoring.

Five Questions

In the weeks leading up to the 2020 presidential election, I noticed a trend on Facebook. Trump supporters were posting false information and then complaining when the Facebook administrators called them out. Apparently, some of these individuals were even getting private messages telling them about the consequences of posting false information. When discussing this, one person said, “everyone is getting that message.”

I wanted to comment, “I haven’t received that warning because I don’t share false information.” I didn’t though, because I was fairly confident I would have been called a lying libtard or told that Facebook was targeting conservatives and protecting progressives.

The irony of all of this is that the people who kept posting false information were the same individuals ranting about “fake news.” While they were definitely projecting (unconsciously taking unwanted emotions, traits, and behaviors they didn’t like about themselves and attributing them to someone else), they were also acting like spoiled children. In their delusional brains, something is only a fact if it justifies their beliefs or meets their needs. 

Before the election, I rolled my eyes at their temper tantrums and self-centered posts. After the election, I realized that this twisted thinking, encouraged by President Donald Trump, was dangerous. When Trump and his allies told his minions that the election had been stolen, they believed them. Even when every avenue was pursued to ensure the election results were accurate, including re-counts in Republican-controlled states and court cases, these Trump supporters were convinced, or pretended to be convinced, of some grand conspiracy to steal the election. In an attempt to get their way, they filled busses and airplanes during a global pandemic and went to Washington D.C. to demand that Trump remain president.

The mayhem committed at the capitol building in Washington D.C. on January 6 is unforgivable as are false assertions that members of “Antifa” disguised themselves as Trump supporters and were the actual perpetrators. 

Following the events on Wednesday, Trump followers are now complaining that actions taken by social media and technology companies to address hate speech and violence is fascism. Considering the education level of most of the people I’ve witnessed saying this, I’m fairly certain they would be unable to define fascism without being given a computer to Google it. These are, after all, the same people who call any policy with which they don’t agree socialism. The icing on their hateful cake is that many are proclaiming themselves Christians while calling people with different beliefs evil.

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe people have the right to different opinions just as they have the right to organize and participate in peaceful protests. What they don’t have the right to do is demand that our country revolve around their belief system. And for those who say that’s not what they want, I have five questions:

  1. No one disputed that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016 but that Donald Trump won the electoral college. If Hillary Clinton had proclaimed the election was stolen, filed multiple lawsuits trying to get the results overturned, and tried to convince a secretary of state to find 11,000 votes, what would you have done and said?
  2. In Italy, the birthplace of fascism, people noted that the scenes at the United States Capitol on Wednesday were reminiscent of events in Italy in the 1930s under Mussolini. You call people who have taken a stand against police violence and for basic human rights as “Antifa,” which is short for Anti-fascists. Does that mean that you are pro-fascism?
  3. In America, where the economy is rooted in capitalism, the wealthier you are the more access you have to political power.  Donald Trump used his wealth and celebrity to win the 2016 presidential election but has yet to publicly share his tax returns. Since taxes are used to pay for public education, public safety, roads, and numerous other services that are equally available to all citizens, the amount he pays in taxes is one mechanism of demonstrating how he much he has or hasn’t contributed to the public good. Taxes are a contentious issue for many conservatives who constantly worry that their taxes might increase (even though they are benefiting from those public services). If the amount people pay in taxes is so important to you, why haven’t you held Donald Trump accountable to ensure he contributes his fair share?
  4. This week I saw a heartbreaking post from a young woman whose father berated her for not supporting Trump. He told her that college was giving her the wrong ideas. This isn’t unusual. I’ve witnessed numerous Trump supporters complain that colleges are turning young people into liberals. A college education is intended to expand a young person’s knowledge, expose them to different ideas, and teach them critical thinking skills.  Are you afraid that people who think for themselves or are better educated than you are a threat who will challenge your belief system or demonstrate that your way of thinking may not be for the greater good?
  5. A vast number of Evangelical Christians have continued to support President Trump even though he has never been actively engaged with the church or behaved in a Christ-like manner. Among his many behaviors, he has bragged about grabbing women by the genitalia, engaged in name-calling, endorsed policies that separate families, and lied on a daily basis. He cheated on his wives. In order to gain the support of Evangelical Christians, he chose Mike Pence as his vice president, but last week put him in danger when he didn’t “follow orders” to disrupt the electoral process. And he has supported a health care system that operates on the principles of making money rather than on ensuring all Americans have access to it.  None of these actions are in the least bit Christian. And yet so-called Christians have supported him in part because of his ability to put in place conservative judges. How do your reconcile the Golden Rule, the beatitudes, and the Ten Commandments with supporting a man who has demonstrated he worships wealth and power more than anything else? 

If any of Trump’s supporters read this, they will probably be angry. That’s fine with me. I’ve been angry for four years and during that time the most controversial political action I took was to wear a pink, knitted hat. And, for the record, I didn’t even have to purchase it thus contributing to a politician’s coffers. Someone made it and gave it to me for free because that is what genuinely nice, not evil, people do.

The Criminal

My soul hurts when I think about the incident at a local church. Apparently, the minister provoked a member of his congregation with a sermon about racism. The individual was  so offended, he actually left in the middle of the service. As he walked out, he loudly muttered, “George Floyd was a criminal.”

This happened in a Christian church.

I may not be a Biblical scholar, but the last time I checked, the Christian church is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. You know, that guy who taught about mercy, forgiveness and taking care of each other? I’m fairly certain that Jesus wanted us to interact kindly with all human beings – not just the people we like or respect or who make us feel comfortable.

I know that’s not always easy, and sometimes I feel as though it’s almost impossible. But labeling someone a criminal and then using that label to rationalize their mistreatment hurts all of us. That’s because we are all connected.

No one lives and shares that message more loudly and bravely than Father Greg Boyle. Father Boyle is a Catholic Priest who founded Homeboy Industries, a gang intervention and rehabilitation program in Los Angeles. I had the privilege of hearing him speak a few years ago, and his words resonated. Like him, I am incredibly fortunate to have a job in which I can learn from people who others might dismiss.

There is the woman experiencing homelessness who once proudly told me she was featured in a documentary about women in prison. She was, and I’ve since watched it. I’ve had her bags of medication for various mental illnesses in my office. I unintentionally taught her to beg in Spanish when she asked me how to say “I’m hungry” and “I need money” in Spanish. She recently stopped by the office to tell my coworkers and me that she had a place to live.  When I opened the door, I had to firmly tell her she couldn’t hug me because of COVID 19. I don’t call her a criminal. I call her a fellow human being.

There is the man who showed up in our office lobby loudly declaring “I just got out of prison and I don’t know where to go for help.” He had grown up in foster care and is functionally illiterate. He is demanding and difficult, but he was also sweet and helpful. He’d give staff cards and help clean our offices. After he went back to jail for rape, he still called the office on a regular basis. I don’t call him a criminal. I call him a fellow human being.

There is the young man with no place to live because his family kicked him out. Before COVID-19, he would stop by the office almost every day to make a cup of coffee. Occasionally, he would use the shower and do his laundry. He was always polite and followed the rules. When my co-workers and I hadn’t seen him for several days, one of us would look on the jail site. His mugshot would be there, and his charges ranged from battery to robbery. He stopped by the office last week to ask for a tent. I don’t call him a criminal. I call him a fellow human.

These individuals, like thousands of others, have stories to tell about what they have endured and survived. These individuals, like thousands of others, don’t have the support, resources, and connections that many of us do. And these individuals, like thousand of others, are so much more than a label or a criminal record.

Do I believe they should be held accountable for their actions? Absolutely! But I also believe that I should still care about them.

As Father Greg Boyle says, “There is no us and them, only us.”

I care about us.

And Now For Another Lie

When I was growing up, my mom baked a cherry pie every February in honor of George Washington’s birthday. The tradition was tied to the story about how, as a child, the first President of the United States chopped a cherry tree with his new hatchet. When his angry father confronted him, young George admitted what he had done because he couldn’t tell a lie.

The story was the basis of many elementary school lessons, and only as an adult did I learn that the story of the cherry tree was itself a lie. Author Mason Locke Weems added it, along with other heartwarming stories, to the fifth edition of his book The Life of Washington. Historians believe that Weems included the story to make Washington a virtuous role model that could influence the behavior of children.

He wasn’t alone. The history I learned in school almost always portrayed honorable men who built a perfect country on unquestionable values. In truth, the men were imperfect humans who built this country on the backs of others.

But for more than a century, history was written by people like Parson Weems, who wanted to shape it into a tool that could be used to control what people believed, and therefore how they behaved.

My elementary school classmates and I were taught that Christopher Columbus discovered America. We used crayons to color pictures of the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria while reciting “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” No one taught us about the genocide he perpetrated on the people of Haiti.

In Junior High, I had to memorize the presidents of the United States and their accomplishments.  I was taught that Andrew Jackson was the seventh president, was nicknamed “Old Hickory” and founded the Democratic Party. I was an adult before I learned how he abused his power to remove Native Americans from their homes and was  responsible for what is now known as the Trail of Tears.

In high school, the lessons about World War II covered how America helped defeat Germany and end the Holocaust. There was never any mention about the Japanese internment camps on U.S. soil.

For the most part, what I was taught was factual. It just wasn’t truthful. America may have been established on the principles of equality and freedom, but those principles only applied to white men. When the south tried to leave the United States to preserve slavery and its economy, the Confederate message was clear: equality and freedom weren’t the most important values; power and money were.

As a nation, we are still struggling with those conflicting values.

On Thursday as I was leaving work, a pickup truck stopped in front of my office. A large confederate flag with the handwritten words ‘heritage not hate” was flying from the back. I winced.  I wanted to stop and ask what heritage meant to the driver, but I knew that would be pointless.

Some people think they have to hold on to relics of the past to justify their belief system.

Instead, we need to distinguish between erasing the past and learning from it.

We can still eat cherry pie on Washington’s birthday because we like eating cherry pie. We just shouldn’t eat it because we think it makes us more patriotic. Taking care of each other and honoring our true history is the only way to do that.

People Who Don’t Like Dogs (And Other Warning Signs)

My husband told me to write this.

Well, he didn’t tell me to write these exact words.

I was complaining that I can’t relax because I can’t stop thinking, and he told me that I should write. When I said no one wants to read about what is currently going on in my head, he suggested I discuss the weather.

Since today is stormy and perfectly reflects the thoughts cycling around in my brain, his suggestion wasn’t very helpful.

Here’s the thing: the devil on my right shoulder wants me to write about the people who I prefer weren’t in my life right now. The angel on my left shoulder is telling me I can’t always control who is in my life nor can I control their behavior. I can only control my reaction to them.

And right smack dab between my right shoulder and my left shoulder is my head with all those thoughts blowing around like the gusts of wind currently rattling the windows. Since my brain is centrally located in the neutral position, I guess I should feel safe sharing some thoughts about the types of individuals who are currently setting me on edge – people I don’t trust.

I don’t trust people who never challenge authority. History provides dozens of examples of what happens when people blindly follow the leader rather than do what is right. When people are more concerned about protecting their status than they are about protecting those who are most vulnerable, I will never be able to trust them,

I don’t trust “suck ups” and “brown nosers.” Anyone who uses a significant amount of time and energy trying to impress those in power is doing a disservice to people who actually have integrity. If your words and behaviors don’t provide any evidence of your personal values, I can’t trust you.

I don’t trust people who don’t like dogs. According to my baby book, one of my first words was “doggy.” When my mom took me to the library as a toddler, I gravitated to the books with pictures of dogs.  The worst moments of my life have always improved when I’ve been able to wrap my arms around a nonjudgmental furry friend and sobbed uncontrollably.  And yes, I do have human friends who don’t like dogs, but they’ve had to earn that friendship and my trust.

I don’t trust people who have college degrees but still don’t use proper grammar or punctuation. I understand language is learned, but going to college requires a lot of reading and writing. It should also involve professors who demand the use of correct grammar. If you leave college still using mismatched verb tenses and confusing “wonder” and “wander,” you either didn’t truly earn your degree or there is something significantly wrong with your education.

And finally, I don’t trust people who try to buy my friendship or my approval. I don’t need gifts or flowers or disingenuous compliments. If someone has to give me something in order to validate the relationship, it’s not valid at all.

As I was writing these stormy thoughts, I realized my husband’s suggestion was actually a good one. Because as I went through my list of the types of people I can’t trust, I realized something really important.

In all of the aspects of my life over which I have control, I have surrounded myself with people whom I do trust. My friends are social justice advocates who always question authority. They are the people who call me out when I say or do something stupid and allow me to do the same to them. They are the people who give me the gifts of time and understanding. They are people who want to build a better world for others rather than for themselves. And yes, for the most part, they are also people who love dogs.

I Am One of Those People

A few months ago, my daughter performed the song “I’m Breaking Down” at a state thespian competition.

Kendall singing Breaking Down

Her song choice wasn’t lost on me. You see, the character who sings that song in the musical The Falsettos is named Trina.

If you’re wondering why the heck my daughter would do that, don’t worry. You’ll soon know more than you ever wanted about my mental health.

On Wednesday night, I was truly breaking down. For a while now, I’ve felt overwhelmed in so many aspects of my life.

Every. Single. Aspect.

Nothing is going as I hoped, and there’s even a scandal making national headlines that’s impacting my job. Fun times.

I’m not throwing a pity party. There are still wonderful elements of my life, like my husband.  (I’ll get to him in a minute.)

Let’s just say that, overall, I’m a walking mess. And when I’m a mess, all I want is for everyone else to understand exactly how I feel – even at 3:00 in the morning when I haven’t slept because I’m so angry, frustrated, stressed and just plain pissed off at the world.

(This is where my husband comes back in.)

After speaking only to myself for hours and realizing that my own words were only making me feel worse, I needed someone who would actually reassure me. So I woke my husband up to do that. He wasn’t happy.

At all.

In fact, he said something to the effect of “nobody cares.”

With those words, I felt like the whole world was against me.

Or, in the word’s of Trina in The Falsetto’s I was “breaking down.”

I got in my car and drove out of the neighborhood. The cop sitting in the church parking lot across from my neighborhood must have been thrilled to finally see a potential revenue source, because he (she?) pulled out behind me.

My first concern was to check to see if I’d actually thrown on a bra before leaving the house.

I hadn’t.

And even though I’m pretty certain that going braless while driving isn’t illegal, there might be some people who think it is. So I chose not to push my luck.

To get the cop off my tail, I turned into the nearby hospital parking lot.

That’s when I had a flashback to a few months earlier when I was in severe pain related to degenerative disk disease. I hadn’t slept for about a week and was miserable. I ended up making not one, but two, early morning visits to the Emergency Room. On one visit, to help ease the situation, the doctors gave me a shot of Valium and sent home a few more capsules to help me sleep until my condition improved.

Here’s what I learned about taking Valium:

  • I don’t stay up all night being preoccupied, worried and pissed off;
  • I don’t get preoccupied, worried and pissed off at all;
  • I don’t care if people understand where I’m coming from;
  • I can sleep;
  • I like it.

As I pulled into that hospital parking lot, the glowing emergency room sign seemed like a welcoming beacon calling me home to an simple solution.  And, for just a moment, I considered going in with the same set of complaints I’d had a few months earlier. The thought of not living with my head in a constant state of turmoil was overwhelmingly compelling.

But I didn’t. Instead, I parked in a dark, out of the way spot; I cried; I freaked out a couple of nurses who were sneaking off for an illegal smoke break; and then I headed home with the same set of problems and issues bouncing around in my head.

I honestly don’t know what stopped me from seeking drugs Wednesday night.  Not wearing a bra might have had a little bit to do with my choice, but not a lot.

Maybe I’ve had enough experiences in my life to know this too shall pass.

Maybe I know that the consequences wouldn’t justify the immediate relief.

Maybe I am fortunate to have a support system that, while not available at 3:00 in the morning, is still there for me.

Maybe my childhood continues to impact my life well into my fifties.

Maybe I just don’t have the predisposition for drug seeking behavior.

Whatever the reason, here’s what I do know: the gap between maybe and don’t is precariously slim. Literally anyone call fall through it in certain circumstances.

I should know. I almost did.

I am one of those people.

The Sin Next To Power

 

There’s an old saying “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

The saying may be old, but it’s more relevant than ever. From the world stage to the community stage, too many people use the slightest bit of authority to benefit themselves. Sometimes they do so with no thought to the damage they do to others, sometimes they tell lies to hide their true intentions, and sometimes they just don’t care.

But those left in their wake do care.

I should know.

In the last few months, weeks, and even days, the fallout from multiple instances of abuse of power has seeped into both my personal and professional life.

But, like so much in life, I’ve had to make a choice. I can either ignore the problems or I can can learn from them.

I’ve chosen to learn, and here’s what I’ve figured out:  people only abuse their power because other people let them.

Sometimes, people allow the abuse of power because they think they too will benefit. They realize what is happening is wrong, but the potential  gains outweigh the immorality of the situation. So they say and do nothing.

Sometimes people are afraid to call out the wrong doing. They fear they’ll be hurt, someone they care about will be hurt, or that an institution or organization in which they are invested will be hurt.  So they say and do nothing.

Sometimes people believe more in institutions than they do people, and they will do all they can to protect those institutions. So they say and do nothing.

Sometimes people are in such awe of power that they truly believe that the abuse of power is justified. Or they believe that those who are abusing the power somehow earned and deserve to be where they are and to do what they do. Or they were taught not to question authority.  So they say and do nothing.

These may be excuses, but they should never be excusable.

In the end, people who abuse their power only do harm: to people; to communities; to organizations; to institutions; and even to countries.

And while their behavior is reprehensible, looking the other way when abuse occurs is what allows it to continue.

It’s the sin that sits next to power.