Call me pro-people

We like to think our society in 2015 has made great strides in treating everyone fairly. Too often, however, we’re reminded that just isn’t the case, whether it’s in race or gender issues. And even saying you’re pro-whatever might brand you as something you’re not. For example, I guess I’m a feminist. I’m pro-life (anti-abortion), fairly conservative when it comes to politics or “values,” but I am a feminist. Pretty simple: I believe women should be treated with the same respect as men. Women should vote, hold office, run companies, raise families, … whatever they would like to do. Their opinions should be given the same weight as men’s. They shouldn’t be abused by men, they shouldn’t be raped. These are very basic principles. Goes the other direction, too, of course: women need to treat men with respect and kindness.

Same goes for color. I was raised just believing we’re all alike. Sure, we’re all different where it counts, in our personalities, our talents, our interests, etc., but how we look certainly has no bearing on those real matters of identity. Heck, I married an Asian, we have three half-Asian, half-white kids, and we adopted a black girl. I respect whatever cultures we bring to the table, but they’re not the defining things about who we all are.

I could go on and on. But I hope you get the idea: we’re all people. And all people deserve kindness, respect, civility, hope, opportunities, the chance to pursue happiness, and so on.

I’m always disappointed, however, when I see that other people apparently don’t see others of the human race that way. The latest story in the news is just that an 8th-grade girl’s T-shirt got Photoshopped out of a class picture because it stated that she’s a “feminist.” I’m still not quite sure what about that is offensive: like I said, if you believe women and men should all be treated with respect and have equal opportunities, it’s pretty simple.

It struck home because right now I’m angry (yes, I got angry about this!) because my daughters’ high school allowed sexist (insulting, demeaning) messages on posters at a pep rally a few weeks ago. The student government/leadership group (ASB) led the charge on a “Battle of the Sexes” theme that’s been going on for some years (at least all four years my oldest, who graduated last year, attended). Done right, could be fun. But done wrong: ka-blooey. Here’s what some posters said, according to some students: “Stay in the kitchen,” “Female president? Nah” and “You woke up ugly”. Here’s a photo of one.pep rally

Anyone think these are respectful, fun, kind? This school and all the others in this system are always stressing how they are trying to instill character in the students, such as respect. The principal’s official online message even says this: “To help provide a safe and secure learning environment for everyone, staff members require students to treat every person at (our school) with respect, both in and out of the classroom.”

Hm. Curious. So in this situation, where the student “leadership” group’s members actively wrote and posted for the whole school to see messages that were disrespectful (and ridiculously antiquated: what decade IS this?), staff members who are required to be in place as overseers and advisers OK’d these messages.

I complained to the principal about this situation as soon as I could. We had a good conversation. I told him these messages were anything but respectful, and I said it would be a good opportunity for him and other staffers to use this as a learning situation for the students involved. Teach them what kind of messages we do want to send to others, whether it’s of the opposite sex or other races (can you imagine if the posters had been talking about race?!). Then have them take some responsibility for their poor choices and apologize themselves to the student body at the next rally.

Well, the next rally came and went last Friday, and the principal did none of these things. He stood up for three minutes and talked about how great the ASB is, how more students should be involved in it, and that some posters at the previous rally had bothered “some people” and he took “full responsibility.” The ASB teens were, after all, just 15- and 16-year-olds and didn’t really know what they were doing entirely. He pseudo-apologized and that was it.

This isn’t news because it’s unusual, just like the Ohio girl’s “feminist” message being censored from a class photo. It’s news because it reminds us just how much we still accept or gloss over disrespect to others, even when we know in some part of our brains that it’s “wrong” and we even get regular, “packaged” messages about respect. In practice, though, we treat people of other races differently and “less.” We accept all kinds of ridiculous messages in the media about how women should behave and look; we’re all about image, and the vast majority of us who don’t fit a certain image feel less than. Weight shaming is still tolerated. Commenters still somehow feel they’re perfectly entitled to comment online about how fat a certain celebrity is getting (see Pink or Kelly Clarkson, just in the past few weeks). In what universe does this all really seem OK? Ours, apparently.

When is this stuff going to stop? When are we going to put our collective foot down and say, “This is NOT OK!”? It’s not OK to body shame, it’s not OK to call names because of gender or race? It’s not OK to insult. Kindergarteners know this. Why do teens and adults seem to have forgotten?

When will we all just be people: people with all kinds of fascinating diversity of backgrounds and interests and talents and personalities, people who happen to look different because of color, because of disabilities, even?

I was hoping that day would come much sooner. In the meantime, I am putting my foot down, and I am saying loudly that respect to all matters. People matter.

Christmas: Saturday Night versus Sunday morning live

I’m not a HUGE Christmas nut. I don’t start fantasizing about the holiday in July; I don’t listen to carols in October; I don’t decorate before Thanksgiving. (My husband’s the one chomping at the bit about those things before Thanksgiving rolls around.) But that doesn’t mean Christmas doesn’t mean something to me. I have good memories of the holiday growing up, involving family, gifts, and treats, among many other things. Especially, I like to remember the significance of why we celebrate: Christ. I’m a Christian, and I love the spiritual messages that remind me of Him during this season. At the same time, I have nothing against Santa and the commercial stuff that’s not exclusively centered on Christ. It’s fine to enjoy all the other trappings of the holiday, too.

I don’t even have a problem with people who aren’t Christian celebrating the holidays in general, all the trappings but not Christ. That’s fine.

martin shortBut I’ll draw the line at what I saw last night on TV: I happened to have the set on when Saturday Night Live came on, and it showed Martin Short hosting. That, I thought, was worth my time watching for a while to see what he would say and do. He’s done and said some very funny things in the past, so it was fun to see him again.

Honestly, though, he did almost nothing to make me laugh. He was straining. Then he mentioned that “a lot of babies are conceived at Christmas.” OK. Fine. But then, rather than moving on, he and the SNL cast turned that into a huge production number. The tune of “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” was turned into a crass and completely tasteless number about sex, and Short used lots and lots and lots of synonyms: lascivious, lusty, … well, I don’t really care to think about it anymore. But it went on for four or five minutes, probably. I kept thinking it would end quickly. It didn’t. I don’t know why I didn’t turn off the TV sooner than I did. Perhaps it was like a train wreck.

I can’t express how tacky and tasteless and offensive it was. Sure, I expect there to be lots of that kind of thing on SNL. That’s part of why I haven’t watched it regularly since, well … ever. But to hijack Christmas, a day on which as a believer, I do try to remember the Savior of the world, well, I just found this one particularly bad.

It’s all been said before, so nothing I can say here will be new. I just hate to see it happen: the insensitivity of others who would call me intolerant if I were to express my views on subjects they wouldn’t agree with me about, but who have no problem taking a subject I consider deserving of some reverence and respect and just dashing it to pieces with, yes, blasphemy.

Needless to say, I didn’t watch any more of that show. I’m sure the SNL folks won’t care that they missed me. Yes, they have a right to do and sing and say everything they did, but was it right? Was it respectful? Was it tolerant? Me, I’m thinking no.

Contrast that “holiday” scene with the one I encountered today during our church service. Two young men sang, one played cello, a friend played her flute, and another woman played piano, coming together on a simply divine arrangement of “Away in a Manger.” For five minutes, I was entranced, transported, absolutely enchanted. The music truly focused on everything that’s best and most important about Christmas, and it was done so well and with such reverence and care. The feeling in the room was of rapt attention and holiness. I wanted it to go on and on. That was absolutely the spirit of Christmas, and I’ll keep it in my heart a good long while. The several minutes I was held captive (somehow) by Martin Short’s completely non-funny routine are minutes I’m trying to scrub from my memory.

I love to laugh, I love to feel reverence, I love to appreciate talent. Today gave me the opportunity for the second and third, and there will be some other wonderful opportunities in coming days with friends and family to experience the first. I am just sorry that SNL insulted me rather than allowing me to laugh.

Here’s to all the wonderful gifts of the season.

Balancing act, part one of many

It’s pretty common for women to talk about the tricky proposition of balancing the many elements of their lives. In fact, I know few women who don’t worry about getting a proper balance, let alone maintaining it. But having mental health issues just makes that balancing act that much more difficult. I can say from years of experience that it’s a razor-thin line; right on one side I might feel a little overwhelmed but still OK; on the other side, I’m far past overwhelmed: I’m stressed, I’m drowning, I’m angry and lashing out at whoever comes too close. The latter is not a pretty picture, and I don’t like thinking about the times I’ve been pushed too far on that side of the line.

What my psychiatrists and I are currently calling bipolar II or atypical bipolar disorder causes me to experience a kind of hopeless feeling in which I rarely feel that kind of depression that makes me not want to get out of bed. It’s more of an angry depression. I feel isolated, alone, abandoned by all who should love me and somehow care and know me well enough to be able to see what’s happening and help. When I feel that way, in the very extreme times, I feel that life won’t possibly get better, that I can’t take the psychological pressure that seems to be pressing in on every side of me. I just feel angry at everyone who could possibly be blamed, including God. When the anger kind of dies out, I feel depleted and in despair. So I “swing” back and forth between a sad, hopeless depression and an angry depression, if that makes any sense. I’ll try to explain further in later posts. Suffice it to say, yes, I am a type-A personality, but I’m also typically a fairly cheery, happy person who always has a smile on my face. So when I get backed into these corners where I feel trapped and angry, the rage that almost flares up out of nowhere feels so at odds with who I feel I AM that it upsets me even further.

That brief introduction to my moods is just to somehow try to explain that I can quickly get out of balance. After years of this kind of yo-yo-ing, I can feel when I’m getting close to the brink, and I start feeling desperate. I know I need some down time, alone time, unwinding time to try to swing myself back to a more stable self. The problem is when I feel I don’t have the choice to just say no to activities or pressures or expectations from others.

Some people are more sensitive about this than others. Again, finding balance is always a delicate proposition, and many people understand this for themselves and that it’s the same situation for others. Some are just more empathetic about others’ needs as they bump into their own needs. I admit I get a little irritable when I say, “Well, I can only do ___ because I am pretty busy.” In my mind, that’s me being responsible enough to know my limits and exercise my personal choice to lay down those limits and work around them. When someone else responds, “Well, yes, sure, but we’re ALL busy,” I know they’re not really going to be too respectful of whatever line I’m going to draw for myself. Or they may say, “Yes, well, but (____ organization) really NEEDS you.” Sure, every organization that relies on volunteer help of any kind always needs help and never has enough. But I cannot possibly do enough to fill in those gaps, for that group or any other. Or I might just say flat-out, “No, I simply don’t have the time and energy to do that right now,” and rather than saying, “Oh, of course, don’t worry about it. We’d love your help, but we understand that” they keep pressing on in some way. These responses essentially tell me that these people value their needs above mine. And sure, we tend to be selfish beings and that’s natural. But I certainly appreciate it when someone else rises above those human tendencies and tells me, “That’s fine. You do what you need to do.” I so greatly value when they have the kindness to respect my choice, my right to make decisions for my own life and that of my family.

You see, I know what my limits are, and I’m constantly doing the balancing act. I am a softie at heart, and I want to give my money and time to a whole lot of worthy causes, worthy people. My heart goes out to them. I may even sometimes foolishly say yes or maybe when I should have said no because I’m biting off more than I can chew or even get in my mouth at one time. But when it comes down to it, my mental health must stay intact, so I can be happy, so I can take care of my family (which is paramount in my life above all the other things that matter to me), and so I can in the future continue to give to others. Simply, it rankles me when others don’t respect that I should know best for my own life and my own well-being and continue to push me when I say no. It ticks me off. Big-time. But on the flip side, I feel respected and cared about when someone is kind enough to take me at my word and wish me the best. Perhaps I expect too much out of people, but I would love to see more sensitivity in how people treat each other. There’s just no way of knowing what someone else is going through. I’m being open here on this blog so I can help others understand what I’ve experienced, but I simply can’t go through my whole personal history every time someone demands justification for me saying no. Thank you for being understanding, those of you who have been and continue to be so with me.