Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Vacation perspective

Spending the holidays with family in small New England towns.  Feeling the cycle of life.  Babies are born, grow into children, become adults.  Adults marry, have children, have grandchildren, die of old age.  The cycle has been continuing for longer than our history records.

In the small towns, the pace is slower, more relaxed.  Instead of being on guard against each other, strangers smile and say hello.

People of different personalities learn to work around each other, to fit together and still be themselves. 

We sit and read, or sit and talk.  We listen.  We let each other be.

Here, there is room for me.

My normal life is not like this.  In my normal life, I don't fit.  I'm always looking for something to ease the boredom, always looking for the richness that is missing.

All those things I thought I wanted to do, they don't seem important any more.  Violence prevention, education, restorative justice, databases, spreadsheets, radio show, druidry -- they are all gone from my mind.  What is with me now is small New England towns, family, music, going for walks, reading, and learning about the histories of our small New England towns and of our families. 

When do we stick with relationships

His job was in one city, her job was in another.  They lived apart.  She visited him on the long holiday weekends. When they retired they could be together.

They both retired at the same time.  The time had arrived.  Only it was not what she had hoped for.  A year and a half before retirement, another woman came to live with him.  He chose the one who needs him over the one who was always there for him.  And the one who was always there for him is still there for him, despite her bitter disappointment. 

Would I do the same?

It seems to me that when you are young and healthy and gallivanting about, you meet lots of people and make your choices about whom to share your life with.  When you are old and frail and sick, your choices have been made, and you stick with the people who are in your life.

Me, I'm in the middle, somewhere between young and old, between healthy and sick.  In some ways, I'm still making choices.  In some ways, I'm sticking with people.

At this particular time, when I think about making choices, I look for how I'm treated.  I look for a relationship based on mutual acceptance and respect.  The only way it's appropriate to request a change is for either of us to say what we want from the other.  For example, I won't say, "You should quit smoking because smoking is bad for your health," but I will say, "Please don't smoke near me because it makes me cough."  I look for someone who sees who I am, likes what they see, and helps me see myself in the positive way they see me.  I look for someone who treats me as a treasure, and in return, I give the same. 

So would I stick with someone who decided to live with another woman instead of me? I don't think so.

Sunday, December 6, 2015


The Fall 2015 issue of Haverford Magazine tells the story of Emily Tuckman.  Her passion is acting.  She knew that was  not a sensible career, so after college she got a job at a nonprofit organization.  However, her passion still called her.  She got a master's degree in theater education and became a drama teacher.  Still, that was not the same as acting, and her passion still called her.  She continued teaching, but also did some acting and started a theater company.  She was drawn more to the theater company work than to the teaching work.  She wanted to do more with theater.  One of her students told her "You need to think about your future and your passion...that's the lesson you want to give us."  She quit teaching.  She went to a lot of auditions.  She estimates the rejection rate at the auditions is 90%.  But she keeps going.  But still she keeps going. 

The same issue also profiles Charles Wurster, who was involved in getting DDT banned, and recently published a book about those efforts.  He says that can be learned from the experience was, "When you get thrown out of court, you don't go away, you go back and knock again.  You keep banging on the system."

The people who succeed are the ones who keep going in the face of repeated failures. 

I just don't have that kind of persistence.

Preventing violence

There's an article Kids expecting agression from others become aggressive themselves.  To me, it seems obvious that violence often comes from fear, from a desire to protect oneself.  People in my country are talking a lot lately about preventing violence.  Many see violence as the only way to end violence.  But to me, that only continues the cycle.  It just doesn't make sense. 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Social and psychological impacts of chronic illness

I've been noticing a sense that people with different chronic illnesses have a shared experience.  Beyond the physical symptoms, certain social and psychological things commonly come along with chronic illness.
  • Friends, physicians, etc. tell you that there is nothing really wrong with you, or that your physical problems are entirely psychological.
  • People pelt you with a hailstorm of advice.
  • You become isolated because you can't go out and do things.
  • Even when you do see people, you can't be real with them.  You try to pass for normal, you don't talk about your illness.  You do this to protect yourself from the hailstorm of advice.  You do this because you are tired of being an invalid.  You do this because you want to be a normal person.
  • You find that you need help more than you can offer help, which leaves you feeling useless.  You which that the world valued what you have to offer.  You wonder if you have anything to offer.  
  • The way that you live as a result of your illness, the way you curtail your activities, diet, etc., is seen by others as something that is an expression of your choices and preferences, while you see it is something that interferes with the expression of your choices and preferences.