Heroic Democracy

Joseph Campbell enlightens us on the cycle of the hero story in his work “The Hero with a Thousand Faces.”  He explains that most cultural heroes (even Jesus) share common themes and they definitely follow a pattern of rise-fall-rise again but stronger.

I suggest that US Democracy is in a moment of its own heroic cycle.

There are some commonalities between US Democracy and Campbell’s exemplary heroes: Born of a meager background, thirteen colonies with not much else but trendsetting ideas and a strong sense of independence, carved themselves into a nation unlike any other of its time. Then follows a slow rise to prominence in the international limelight where its tenants of equality have been accepted by some, rejected by some.

Ironically, it’s the hometown that usually brings down the hero, so it is with our Democracy.  Our own leaders have aided the crucifixion of Democracy through inaction. Where the legislative branch normally checks and balances the executive, Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have refused to intercept the blatant degradation of ethics by our current president and appear to happily allow a hostile, foreign nation to implant its fear mongering talking points into our national narrative.  Similar to Pontius Pilate, they have washed their hands of the issue, enabling the mob to raise Democracy up for a brutal death.

We now live in a moment of uncertainty where our hero has disappeared and many of us feel lost, hopeless, and betrayed. We huddle together in supportive groups, planning what next steps should be taken, eager to carry on the timeless ideas of Democracy, even while it struggles to overcome.

According to Campbell, heroes typically languish for a time in some dark depths before they are able to rise to greater heights, usually with the aid of some helper or assistant. While two short years of destruction and mayhem without Democracy may seem brief to some, we should deem it enough – we really don’t have the luxury of floundering (See Timothy Snyder’s “On Tyranny”).

We really do have the luxury of hope, however. There are helpers arriving in droves to ensure a resurrection.  There are those running for office, local and nationally, who bring the ideals of Democracy with them. There are those who work tirelessly to knock on doors, make phone calls, write letters, or offer their voice in some manner.  There are special elections won by citizens who espouse Democracy and its inherent equality.  There are donations of five or ten or hundreds of dollars going to women and men unwilling to cede to the Oligarchy, willing to bring Democracy back from the grave.

But it’s not just that Democracy will be revived, but that it will be revived stronger, more resilient, more powerful. You see, in every story, resurrection empowers the hero to  greater strength than it had before. If we can get it right this fall, if the #Bluewave2018 becomes a reality, then Democracy will have returned with a vengeance, ready to stand up to those from the outside who would delight in our complete demise, ready to send them running.

Fellow citizens, I submit that we are poised to see our hero, Democracy, rise from the ashes and shine brighter than before.  It is important to understand, however, that each of us is a needed helper to the cause.  Encourage one another, elucidate the good and right, get out of comfort zones and talk with each other, and we can resurrect our Democracy from the depths of darkness to be stronger, more vibrant, and more effective.

Yours, in peace.

Frankie

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“Lord of the Flies” Adapted by Paul Ryan

Stands on the corner,"homeless - please help" sign

cardboard sign in hand.

Dirty clothes, ragged shoes,

I bet you stink to high heaven

You worthless piece of shit.

Weak for falling so far,

Where’s your self-respect?

You’ll get nothing from me,

Not even a moment’s compassion.

You don’t deserve it

If you can’t help yourself.

Not my fault your boyfriend is an alcoholic,

and you’d rather be homeless.

Doesn’t matter that you’re mentally ill,

Don’t care that you got fucked up in the war.

I got problems too,

But you won’t catch me begging.

So move on bum, outta my town,

off my corner, away from my view.

Your presence disturbs,

Your reality pricks,

your desperation smells.

You are my intolerable spectre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Gun Talk

I had a conversation with a colleague the other day and he gave me the old “Guns don’t kill people, people with guns kill people.  I could set a gun on my desk right there and it wouldn’t kill a single person.”

Maybe, but I am certain I could never ignore a benign gun on a desk like I could ignore the tape dispenser or the sticky note pad or even the dagger-shaped letter opener. If I spot a gun on his desk, you can bet that I am going to approach him from a different perspective. I’m not going to be able to respect him based upon his intelligence, his level of articulation, or his knowledge; all of that would be eclipsed by the respect I had for the gun. Maybe he and I are cool and wouldn’t get to a point where we would reach for the weapon.  But what if a third party came into the setting?  What if derelict student came in, was having a bad day, and went for the gun?

What if none of those things happened and our interaction was uneventful? There remains a difficulty:  My experience with him would be eternally tied to that singular impression, and it’d be difficult for him to earn my respect based solely on his character.

Representative Ralph Norman made this hypothetical scene a reality the other day when he placed his .38 on a diner table during a meeting with his constituents. ” ‘I merely proved a point that guns themselves are not the issue,’…Norman said that having a loaded gun in the room should, if anything, have made people feel more safe.”  The point he actually proved was that energy of human interaction changes the second a gun is introduced. Instead of meaningful debate and a news story about discussion points, the emphasis was wholly on the presence of a gun. Everytown, an advocacy group seeking to end gun-violence in the US, was represented by Lori Freemon: “I had looked forward to a respectful dialogue with my representative about common-sense gun violence prevention policies. Instead, I felt unsafe when he insisted on showing us his loaded gun and keeping it out on the table for much of our conversation.”  The presence of a gun inherently invites the potential for harm and we will intuitively react by shutting out every other detail. There was no way this group of people could have a diplomatic discussion about the issue.

Consider another angle. Let’s compare two people arrested on attempted robbery charges.  All things being equal, if one of those is found to have a gun in their possession during the attempt, whether it was revealed or not, the consequences will be much worse than the one who merely had a knife or axe or baseball bat.  If it were just that  “guns don’t kill people” then it seems logical that both imagined perpetrators would be treated the same in a court. That isn’t the way it works. Because the presence of a gun exponentially increases the possibility and probability that someone will be harmed, even our courts treat the presence of a gun with stricter sentencing.

I’m done hearing the argument that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  When just the mere presence of a handgun changes the way people interact with one another, it’s time to start heeding the valid notion that guns do kill, even if it is the respect I could have garnered for you otherwise.

#Enough.

Frankie


Hey Dana!

What’s the deal with you and yours?  Why is it you despise liberals, democrats, and protesters?

Are we so threatening that degrading us becomes your only pastime?

Do you comprehend that when you condemn us for being paid protesters and crisis actors, you only disclose your lack of logic, empathy, and human decency?

Don’t you remember that democracy literally means equality, an idea which is a cornerstone of our nation?

Does that equality really constrict your rights and lifestyle, or is it that you prefer absolute superiority?

How is it that the fight for the poor, the immigrant, the homeless is deemed a  nauseous waste by you who stand for christian values?

Is your world view so narrow that you can make no room for these, even for a moment’s consideration?

Have your immigrant ancestors removed themselves so far from your memory that you’ve forgotten their struggles and faith in government for protection against the boss-man?

Were you absent from the history class that taught us that imperiousness only results in a spectacular downfall?

Answer these queries or not, here’s what we conclude:  We cannot believe your claim to be American when you despise those who choose to embrace democracy.

 


This Christian Nation

You claim this is a Christian nation,

Which means a practice of love and merciful consideration.

Yet I cannot see proof of this enacted creed,

but something opposite, derisive,wholly obscene:

Where Jesus fed thousands who failed to bring their lunch,

You would starve millions – children, elderly, those who do work but can’t claim much.

Where Jesus healed the infirm at the first asking,

You deny the same any kind of care or compassion.

Where Jesus refused to judge, and preached the same in scripture,

You complain, place blame, testify that some are simply lazy creatures.

Where Jesus displayed contempt for the corrupt and hatred for injustice,

You embrace these heartily while spewing lies that shift the focus.

Where Jesus overturned tables and openly abhorred greed,

You worship Mammon with gusto, keep your money in piles behind doors of steel.

Where Jesus exemplified love and unity,

You damage with pure divisiveness, then flit around deceitfully.

Where Jesus accepted without question the stranger and the prisoner,

You deny them with malicious prejudice and disdainful reasoning.

Where Jesus might have built a prosperous City on a Hill,

You destroy democracy, sell out lady justice like a two-bit shill.

So, spare us the self-righteous narrative,

Throw off the coat of pretending.

At least own who and what you are –

A faction full of forked tongues, willing to ignore Jesus’ mission

For the sake of self entitlement and blatant power grabbing ascension.

Relating to Empathy

As an HSP, one of the challenges we have is figuring out a way to ‘deal’ with our always-on empathy.  I believe the secret is to develop a relationship with the ability, rather than to try to shut it down or resist its pervasive presence in our lives.

The idea of  developing a relationship with the defining characteristic of HSP’s is a by-product of the lessons I’ve learned from Headspace meditation exercises (I strongly recommend the practice of meditation to everyone, especially HSP’s).  I was surprised as I worked through a thirty day session dealing with anxiety that the approach wasn’t about some magical way to rid my life of anxiety, it was rather a lesson on the relationship I had with the emotion.   Changing the relationship, the way I interact with anxiety, meant actually ending the enervating effect of anxiety.  The same applies to HSP’s and their relationship with empathy.

Without a way to positively relate to this essential, and beneficial, skill, HSP’s can find themselves in trouble.  I can look back on more than one instance when I had a difficult time ending a relationship.  I knew the ‘fit’ wasn’t right, but dealing with the hurt and anger and confusion I might be inflicting upon another by leaving sometimes seemed more exhausting than staying.  Sound familiar?  Or how about just saying ‘no’ to a request while at the same time actually feeling the other person’s rejection as our own?

It’s often as easy as just noting that I am being empathetic, thus providing a sense of awareness about where my head is at (usually in my heart, if ya know what I mean).  In other words, when we become anxious because we’re engaging with empathy, sometimes all we have to do is just realize that, and let it go. We don’t need to examine it, or mull it over, or act upon it.  We just have to say, “Oh, I’m feeling guilty for staying home tonight instead of joining my friends for a drink.  But that’s because I feel like I might be hurting someone’s feelings.  Okay.  This is the empathy part of being an HSP, I’ll just let it go.”

In a relationship with empathy, we’re not identifying with the guilt, hurt, shame  and taking them on as our own.  We’re simply observing that is how we feel, and letting it go.

There are times I can get pretty far down the ‘analyzing’ street with a situation and find five different layers for the empathy I am experiencing towards someone or something.  But the moment I realize that is what I am doing, I stop, notice it, acknowledge it, “I am really breaking this down.” and then I let it go.  It’s true that I’ll start to chase after the thought train even moments later, our minds are going to do what minds do.  But once I recognize what is going on, I can relate to the emotion differently.  “Oh, I am really thinking about this a lot, okay, letting it go now,” and like magic, it’s gone and I can turn my attention back to the task at hand.

Relating to empathy instead of just following it where ever it leads allows for a more workable dynamic.  If we can sort out the moments when we’re over indulging the strength from the moments when it actually brings clarity to a situation, then we are free to move through life without becoming bogged down in excessive guilt, shame, or hurt.

Here’s to a more productive relationship with empathy, and the subsequent ability to embracing its positive qualities.

Yours,

Frankie


Grieving Lessons

Grieving is hard work.  It’s exhausting, ugly, important work. I’ve learned a few lessons about it in five decades of life, I share them to encourage anyone experiencing their own loss, and the pain that accompanies it.

I became intimate with grief after the full-term stillbirth of my only daughter.  I learned that sorrow reaches unimaginable depths of the human soul.  I learned that it comes and goes in waves. I learned that giving in to those waves meant a debilitating keening that renders a body numb and spent. I learned that I could be a living contradiction:  whole in body, yet feeling as though my heart had been blown wide open with all the violence of a shotgun blast at close range.  I learned that the heart can physically ache and a mother’s empty arms can be painful beyond the help of any narcotic or anti-depressant.

It took two full years to work through that particular grief, but it prepared me for subsequent losses. A divorce that smashed relationships to pieces.  A brother whose time came too early and whose loss leaves the biggest of holes in family pictures.  A mother whose absence lends a permanent sense of nakedness to my life.  Sons that have grown and moved out, leaving deafening silence in their place.  Once, an election left me mourning.

The most recent loss is that of a treasured little sprite of a dog. She wasn’t even suppose to be mine, but she followed me around for a week until I gave in and hoisted her up on my lap where she loved to sit.  I’d always preferred big dogs, but this tiny creature

katiegirl

Katie

wedged her way into my heart and found a place to occupy that I didn’t even know existed.  At fifteen, she was cranky, blind, and in pain.  A solemn trip to the vet eased her suffering and she now sleeps under a favored tree in the back yard.

While she sleeps, my old friend grief follows me around. I recognized it immediately and where before I would be angry at having to go through it again, I realize that by now I’ve learned what’s in store for me and somehow that makes it easier.  My broken heart feels like it won’t ever be whole again but seasoned experience allows me to remind myself that this is temporary; time will see the pain subside, precious memories help to soothe and soften it. As familiar waves of sadness tumble over me, I can now see that they also consist of prior losses and like a valve, my sobs enable their release, bring healing. I now know without a doubt that those waves will become less forceful, less frequent.  I am numb, but in my intimacy with grief I realize this is normal, it will wear off. I remind myself that I have endured before, I will endure again.  Mostly, I am exhausted.  In my wisdom, I know that my energy will return, the future will bring happiness. A time will come when I will smile and mean it, and I’ll know that I am done grieving.  My friend will leave and wait patiently until the next time.

After 9/11 President Bush urged us to ‘get back to normal’ as soon as possible. Normalcy is quite relevant though; once a hole is blasted through the walls of a soul by a loss, a new normal must be sought.  Grief is the road we take to get there and there is no other route available.  It does not come easily. It does not come immediately.  It occurs gradually as the pain subsides and we adjust to an altered life.

Grieving and adjusting is hard work, however. May these lessons comfort, give strength, and help you discover that you can, and will, come out just fine on the other side.  Take it from me, I know.

With love,

Frankie


Mammon

We claim to be a nation conceived by God,

Blessed by virtue of Holy support,

But it seems we’ve been abandon, left under the charge of Mammon.

I offer such observations as these for proof:

An opioid epidemic enabled by

Doctors wooed by corporations,

Lawmakers wooed by the cherished dollar.

Millions of Americans in a prison of addiction while

Mammon pulls levers, then turns nobs

in order to maximize His earnings.

A gun lobby that encourages violence.

Causes us to turn inward upon ourselves,

Killing our own, racking up a body count

That even combined wars can’t touch;

Mammon gleefully collects His gold

From dutiful firearm makers and sellers.

A culture “war on Christmas”

In effort to keep pure a singular Holy Day

Layered upon Holy Days,

Yet we fight, grab, push, some even die,

In order to get those shiny Black Friday deals;

Mammon has never been so well fed.

Men of God preach from t.v. thrones

or stages of megachurches.

Their message feels contorted to

Some modern ideology where helping yourself

means blindly supporting them,

Instead of the homeless, instead of the abused,

instead of the sick.

Mammon laughs and laughs at this clever ruse,

and counts His gold at night with gluttonous hands.

Just a few examples of a misaligned religion,

Where we claim to be capitalists during the week

While displaying contrite gratefulness on Sundays

To a god that blesses and gives.

A god who’s name is Mammon, not Yahweh

A god who has become fat upon greed and hypocrisy

A god who presides by permission

thanks to human adoration of the holy free market,

where decency, sympathy, and cooperation are damned.

Praise be to Mammon, god of the United States of America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


A Sensitive Year: Take Care

One of the most important lessons to learn as an HSP is to take care of ourselves.  It is a must, for our physical health and for our mental health.

Today’s world is complicated, messy and wholly unforgiving – which makes living in modern times especially challenging for some of us. Just reading through one’s Facebook feed can produce enough stress to send an HSP into flight or fight mode.  The daily grind of clocking in and clocking out while navigating corporate rules or office gossip means that each night after work we ruminate endlessly and conjure ten different ways to adjust in order to be ready for another day of the same.  When tragedies happen such as a mass shooting, HSP’s can feel the impact physically, and travail for the lost and their families, on top of going about their normal day.  If we don’t take care of ourselves, and make that a constant priority, we risk the probability of becoming depressed or shutting down.  Self-care is imperative for HSP’s.

I’ll share with you a few of my techniques.  Take them or leave them, or maybe you do them all now anyway, perhaps you have one or two to share with me, you’re invited!  However you do it, make it an absolute priority to take good care of your self.

Meditate.   I cannot stress this enough.  It’s the reason this is very first on my personal list of ways to stay healthy.   I’ve been fairly consistent at this for the past four months, and have noticed impressive results even in this short time.  For people who are prone to dissect each thought ten different ways, training the mind is especially important.  I’ve noticed I don’t let myself go down some of those familiar dark rabbit holes any longer.  I’ve begun to recognize quite soon when my mind begins the route and have the ability now to gently pull it back to a resting place in tune with my breath.  During an acute period of stress I experienced during work, my blood pressure was still within normal range – I attribute this to meditation. Even my husband has noticed that I’m able to recover much quicker from moments of anger or overreaction.  At the risk of sounding like an advertisement, I do highly recommend the Headspace App.   I previewed three other options before committing to this particular brand and haven’t regretted my decision in any aspect.  In fact it’s one of the best investments I make in myself.  (the app is $12.99 US / mo.).  I appreciated that the ten day free trial got right to meditation and what you get in that trial is exactly what you get in the app.  There are a variety of ‘packs’ to meditate with and they’re broken out into some neat categories: Sports, Health, and  Brave for example, with sub categories that are equally helpful. Mini meditations are available for a quick re-balance and Andy just began a daily meditation that I’ve included in my routine, it’s a great way to unwind from work.  I now meditate twice a day, it’s the most empowering thing I do for myself, my family, and my writing career.

Alone time.  We crave it inherently as HSP’s but sometimes we become wrapped up in life and forget to sequester ourselves for recharging.   This is one area where I believe we need to give ourselves permission to be selfish.  If we don’t remember to consciously take time out, when we can be fully aware that we are resting from yesterday’s schedule and gearing up for tomorrow night’s meeting, then we’ll crash and burn.  At that point we do take the down time but we’re so depleted we rarely get filled completely, increasing the chances of another burnout.

Take baths.  Epsom salt baths to be specific.  The sweat produced from sitting in the hot water is healthy in itself.  It gets some of the toxins out of our system.  The minerals a salt bath aid in keeping inflammation down as well providing other health benefits. HSP’s endure a lot of stress, baths address some of the physical manifestations of stress, with the added bonus of giving us some down time.

Exercise/nature time.  The benefits of exercise are well known and perfect for HSP’s as a means of keeping stress hormones such as cortisol at minimums.   I’m a big believer in touching base with nature as helpful to HSP’s.  It allows us to take a step back and understand we’re only part of a much bigger picture.  Hike, walk, ride, whatever…make sure to include some nature in your self-care routine.

Therapy.  Just do it. There’s a lot to be said for talking with someone who’s entirely objective and has no stake in your social/personal life.  There are tools to be gained from grinding out some of our weaker points and allowing a soft counsel to help us accept them.  There is strength to be gleaned from understanding that most of our inner self is normal.  If therapy isn’t an option due to budgets, then check for a local support group.  It doesn’t have to be forever, but taking a few months to learn to understand how you perceive the HSP trait is advantageous.

Observe.  Watch your habits and see if you can adjust some things to help reduce anxiety and stress.  If I’m engaged in a vigorous Facebook conversation, I’ll sometimes avoid reading someone’s rebuttal right away.  If I’m not in the right frame of mind, their words might bring a reaction that’s more knee jerk than thoughtful, or I’ll take it more personally than intended.  I’ve learned that my day is much smoother when I meditate first thing in the morning instead of later.  I function much better when I have a protein breakfast rather than a carb breakfast.  These are just a few things I’ve learned about myself as I’ve simply watched and observed how certain habits interact with my moods and productivity.  I challenge you to take a neutral, third person view of your behaviors and their relationship to your feelings. You’ll find it’s fun to explore ways to improve your day and quality of life.

Taking care of ourselves as HSP’s is a priority.  However you do it, make sure to do it. We owe it to ourselves, those around us, and the world for which we care.

Yours,

Frankie

NB  Here are Dr. Elaine Aron’s tips on self-care.

 


Survey

The tragedy of the Las Vegas shooting is devastating. As I survey the news, I’ve noticed that the same headlines and talking points pop up after these kinds of incidences.  They bear listing, for the sake of understanding the big picture and the problems we face in attempting to turn around this particular, unique tide of violence .

The very first thing that comes up with each mass shooting is the argument of gun control.  Whether the timing is right or not, it’s natural human behavior to witness this kind of act and think “Can we do something about this?” The Onion has gotten cheeky (cynical??) in its reaction, using the same headline and article the past five mass shootings, just switching out the picture and a few details to reflect the current horrendous mess.  But more serious news articles abound with statistics demonstrating how the US compares to other nations whose restrictions on gun ownership means no one has guns, therefore the amount of deaths attributed to guns in those nations is much lower than what we experience in ours.  There are discussions about the inability to track gun deaths and violence in the US due to effective lobbying by the NRA.  There’s the opposing loud and proud call to retain the 2nd Amendment in it’s purity, forgetting the phrase ‘well regulated’, and including pat responses such as ‘This is the price we pay for being a free country’.

A more recent talking point that comes up at a time like this is the attention drawn to the fact that in the US, we are more likely to be struck down by one of our own than from a sworn enemy such as an ISIS operative.  This is definitely something to consider as we muddle through court cases arguing about the constitutionality of travel bans from specific countries.

Another common thread I’ve surveyed among news stories is the idea of the public obsession with the shooter and copycat behavior.  According to the FBI, this is a serious component to furthering our already violent nation into more violence.  It’s normal to long for an understanding as to how someone could be so callous as to murder their fellow primates. Part of that process means discussing their habits, their background, their final moments.  While the media provides these details to us, the disastrous cyclical effect it produces means we may want to re-think how we handle these circumstances in the future.

Finally, we are so anxious for news in the wake of these tragedies that we seize onto the first few stories that come out of the wreckage, often based on piecemeal details that are difficult to scrub clean in the investigative aftermath.  When the dust settles, when the investigation is complete, those initial stories are usually amended to include the findings of police and others.  However, those late arriving details are lost in the belief of whatever is read first while in the throes of shock.  ISIS has claimed responsibility for this attack, we won’t know if that’s true until computer records are gleaned, but the damage is already done.  While anything is possible, it’s not probable that this is ISIS inspired, and a small contingency will believe so anyway even if the investigative outcome reveals no connection.  It behooves us to wait until we have more facts before jumping to conclusions because those reactive stories are often adjusted to reflect a more realistic picture and understanding.

There aren’t words to describe the depth of despair these kinds of tragedies incur on our national population:  We are literally killing ourselves at an alarming rate.  The probability that it will happen again, soon, is depressingly high.  Yet as we survey emotions and news headlines each time, we notice that the same issues continue to raise their ugly heads, as well as ways to deal with them.

Maybe, one day, we will become wise enough to challenge ourselves to change.

Peace, and much strength and grace to the families of those who died in Las Vegas.

Frankie

NB:  Some of the links I use in this article are a couple of years old, yet quite relevant still.  I purposefully chose them to illustrate my point:  the same issues keep cropping up in situations such as this.