You Pay a Price for Being Yourself

This was written sort of without editing. I’m glad I have a place to mull over my thoughts, even ones I will find silly tomorrow after some sleep.

Suna the self absorbed (yet another put-down label; maybe that should be introspective)

I’ve been thinking and thinking about a meme I saw earlier this week. It’s one of those things that’s intended to empower and embolden women in the workplace and beyond. I used to take those things to heart and work hard to be my authentic self.

Authentic me, pondering.
I added: Negative: Keep pointing out problems.

I grew up being told to be quiet, that children should be seen and not heard. I was labeled bossy, a lot, for being assertive. I asked way to many questions. When there was an elephant in a room, I pointed it out. These were not good. I was difficult.

Also, I was empathetic, tried to help others, and didn’t mind sharing credit. I asked things politely rather than barking out orders, and didn’t mind at all explaining why I wanted things done a certain way. I felt like that got buy-in and created cohesive teams. That was good, I think.

It can truly be exhausting to have to pretend you are someone you’re not in order to keep a job, keep the peace, keep your reputation, etc. And whoa, have I done a lot of all those things in the past few years. I’ve been constantly checking my Zoom camera to be sure I’m smiling and looking pleasant in meetings. I’ve deleted and rewritten so many emails, chat posts, Facebook statuses, and so on. I do pretty well most of the time.

But, damn, when you are suffering from anxiety and dealing with a lot of difficult family and work situations, you can let your real self leak out without meaning to. You can express an actual opinion, point out something that’s not right, ask if something is true or the best thing to do, use the wrong tone of voice (guilty as charged)…you know, all those things that get you labeled like the ones that are in that meme.

Can we, as women, who are expected to smooth things over, agree with what the leaders say, follow instructions rather than making rules, and all those frustrating unspoken expectations, ever, actually be ourselves? What if yourself is sarcastic? What if yourself gets tired of inefficiency? What if yourself gets irritated when told to just follow orders when you’re used to helping make decisions? (Or if you are my male spouse, your real self is tired of being told not to be so brusque. They have their own sets of expectations.)

Nope, we can’t be those selves. We have to spend years in therapy, reading self-help books, and getting sanctimonious “coaching” from our bosses, so we can meekly fit in, and only speak up when it’s time to do what we are asked to do.

The dogs don’t even try to be fake.

So, no, I do not plan to act on the meme above. I give up. I think it’s just as stressful and unproductive to let my more prickly nature show as to try to smooth my nature out to meet expectations. I’ve thought about this a lot. I’m not going to make waves, express my opinions, or debate in work or public.

I’ll be me with my inner circle, and just do what I have to do to get by with others. I’ll make a bad impression to some and a good impression to others and it won’t matter at all, in the long run. The key is that I won’t be stressing myself out either trying to conform or trying to be my fierce self. No wonder both Lee and I are plumb tired. We’re tired of trying to matter.

I’m tired of being tired. The price of authenticity is just too high for me.

Letting Go

How good are you at just letting go of things? I’m not talking about physical things, where you ate on the continuum between hoarding and extreme minimalism. I mean mental stuff, from past hurts and disappointments to things going on right now. How are you doing with that?

Wishing you could fly away doesn’t help…much.

Now, are you getting better or worse at letting go? In the current situation, where pandemics, wars, political differences, poverty, and growing inequalities surround us all, I notice people seem to be clinging to their grudges and gripes as if they are a lifeline.

I think we feel powerless much of the time and need somewhere to direct our frustration that we can’t fix the big things. So, we go after smaller things, like our friends and families. Or we repeatedly spread inflammatory content on social media or in person, just to feel like we’ve done something. Just so much acrimony.

I’ve considered being inflammatory lately. I walked away from the useless debate. You can see it wasn’t easy.

Since I’ve become more aware of this, I’ve been repeating my mantras more and more. I’ve also made more time for meditation and hanging out with plants and animals. An image that helps me a lot is one where I’m a mountain and the wind of other people’s burdens just flows over and around me, but doesn’t move me or get inside.

Let it flow.

I was never good at letting other people’s energies wash over me. I’d always pick up on it and mirror their state. Now I reflect it back, gently. This empath is finally getting the hang of protecting myself, and setting boundaries , but without abandoning others. How long can I do this? I don’t know! It’s hard!

But it feels good to see the struggles around me and reflect back loving kindness, not take it all in and add to my own struggles. It’s progress. And there will be twists and turns along the path.

How are you coping?

AI Thinks I’m a Dude

Recently, I was talking to one of my old friends about being mistaken for a man. It happens to her fairly often, depending on how she’s dressed, since she is not shaped like the stereotypical Barbie-doll person, has short hair, often dresses androgynously, and is blessed with a deep voice (one of my favorite former singing partners). It doesn’t happen to me very often, probably because I like shiny accessories so much. Neither my friend nor I are particularly bothered by being mis-gendered, though I know it can be really difficult for some of our other friends, especially those who are trans.

I’ve talked about this before, but I tend to see my father’s face when I look in a mirror; I don’t have especially “feminine” features. And, now that my hair is quite short, it’s more noticeable, even though we all probably know enough people with different lengths, styles, and colors of hair to realize that any hair stereotype out there is pretty outdated. So, I was prepared to see interesting results when I tried that new AI software that turns your photographs into cartoons or paintings. As you can see, one setting gave me blue eyes and made me look like a 12-year-old boy.

My lovely friend.

I’d seen a few that my female-identified friends had done, and they looked cute/pretty and like women. I admit my example here is extremely lovely, but you can see they gave her eyelashes, lipstick, and such. That makes me think that the software makes a guess about whether an image is of a male or a female. I’d love to see more images from people who don’t identify one way or the other or who provide few cues to what they are trying to tell the world about themselves.

Adding glasses made me look more like a woman, but increased bye crossed-eyes.

Another thing that I notice about this software is that it’s very literal. I appear to have a “lazy eye” in most of the AI renderings, though at least in some of the photos I used I had appropriately brown eyes. The thing is, these things look nothing at all like me, whereas the ones I’ve seen of other people at least resemble them enough that you can say, “Ah, that’s so and so.” Well, it’s no big secret that AI is not perfect and that it is worse with women and people of color than men. Of note: none of my friends with darker complexions posted their little cartoon heads, unless I just didn’t see it in my feed, which is a possibility.

The bottom line for me is that the images are just plain…plain. Dare I say unattractive? I don’t imagine myself as some raving beauty, but I hope I am not as aesthetically displeasing as these images came out. The ambiguous, gender-fluid aspect is fine, even fun, but I’d like to be an attractive guy!

Oh, vanity, thy name turns out to be Suna, and THAT is not pretty, at all. Let’s change the topic, so you can enjoy Alfred and Goldie getting along well, and a nice photo of Goldie. I wish they hadn’t cropped her ears, but she’s still got a sweet, yet noble face. Like me!

Have you tried playing with the AI toy? Do you find it fun? I guess it appeals to fans of the selfie. Sometimes I am one of those, just because observing and recording the aging process is pretty fascinating.

Let’s Practice What We Preach

This is a note to myself. Maybe if I write it out, then read it, then listen to myself reading it in the podcast, I can have a reasonable weekend.

So, Suna, ponder this:

Stressing over something you can’t do anything about helps nothing.

Me

Hypothetically, if someone sends a message at the end of the work day on Friday that completely changes work you’re supposed to start at 8 am Monday, but won’t explain what’s going on until 7 am Monday…you might be inclined to spend all weekend guessing what might be going on. That could ruin your weekend, right?

But, I’ve been doing my damnedest to not get myself all worked up over things I can’t control. I can’t change whatever decision happened that my input wasn’t wanted on. I don’t even know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, because I don’t know the details. I’m just gonna have to deal with the consequences. Monday.

Worry doesn’t change a situation other than to make you feel bad the entire time you’re worrying.

I do have a hint that I’ve figured out through this situation, that might lead to happier relationships, whether with family, friends, or colleagues. Nah. I don’t. Hints you share for people who will never actually read or hear your words are sorta passive aggressive. Give that up, Suna.

Look, pretty flowers.

I’m guessing that, being human and fallible, I’m going to remain annoyed from time to time this weekend. But then I’ll remind myself that I wrote these messages to myself to remember to be way more philosophically consistent, more Zen, and kinder to myself.

You can only change your reactions, not the actions of others. Deal with it.

Suna

End of advice to self. You’re welcome, if you also needed to hear this. C’mon, we can practice what we preach! Let’s start now.

Stress Dreams: A Cry for Help You Can’t Answer

One thing that becomes clear to me is that if I try to squish down stressful situations and pretend they don’t affect me, my anxious brain has its own ways to beg to differ. It’s all well and good to consciously remind yourself that the only things you should concern yourself with are things you can do something about. But some part of you (probably hanging out somewhere with those unconscious biases, over in the unconscious stressors area) still feels stressed about those things.

Envying butterflies. They eat a lot, then sleep a lot. After that they just have one job, they do it, and then they go to butterfly heaven.

Usually I feel okay during the day, sort of observing what’s going on and doing my best to let other people’s problems be their problems and not take things personally. That’s a major triumph right there! I do a lot of deep breathing, just like I do with the horse. People, horses, they’re all things I can’t control, only offer information to.

At night, though, I have a completely different type of dream when I’m feeling anxious and overwhelmed than when things are just normally stressful. First, it’s the dreams about being in school and not knowing where to go or what the test is about. Then I’ll be at a large conference trying to avoid the scary people. Lately I dream about trying to get dressed in fancy clothing, but having forgotten how. That sounds like a COVID dream, doesn’t it?

I also think I’m trying to cover up my insecurities and put on a more professional/fancy face, but failing. People try to help me, but that makes me end up dressed really funny. I tend to end up going out to the party, meeting, or whatever half dressed. That’s a work-based interpretation. It means that all this hashing out of the same problems but only coming up with half-assed solutions ends up creating something totally unworkable. Hmm, that’s what my colleague L. and I talked about just today!

This is how I feel. All “extra” and woozy.

Otherwise, I’m overwhelmed with baby animals, adult animals, and their excrement. Duh. That’s literally true at the ranch, and figuratively true with my work and family life.

The dreams partially come from having so many animals in bed with me, and partially come from my problem of wanting to take care of everyone who’s helpless or needs comfort. Even when I consciously tell myself I can’t help people who don’t want to be helped or comfort everyone who’s hurting, my heart wants to anyway. Oh, stop it.

For me, I get physical symptoms only when my subconscious’s other ways of communicating don’t work. Right now they’ve been screaming at me for a week or so, and that’s led to my favorite anxiety symptom: chest pains. That means I need to do something NOW or I won’t be fully functional. I also get weird feelings like everything’s in slow motion, which makes it hard to talk. Usually, I can get through these and still do what I need to do, but it takes so much energy!

My mind and body are crying for help, obviously, but there isn’t a darned thing I can do to make today any different. I just have to get through today and see what tomorrow brings. We can’t always cope, and that’s actually fine. Sometimes we have a right to have an anxiety attack. It helps to know they will pass, and things can get back on an even keel.

Hope you aren’t having the ups and downs I am today! If you are, know you aren’t alone, because I’m surrounded by people in the same boat!

Information, Not Advice in This Cancel Culture

Today’s topic is something I’ve been mulling over for a long time, and I think I finally have come up with a way to present my thoughts coherently. I think it explains why I have close to zero tolerance for bullying in volunteer organizations and presents an alternative way to make valid points and open people’s minds to new and different ideas.

When I was a new mother, my lawyer and one of my mentors, Roberta Bishop Johnson, encouraged me to attend meetings of the mother-to-mother breastfeeding support group, La Leche League (and if talking about breastfeeding gets you all giggly, you can try to remember you’re a mammal and make an effort to be mature). I didn’t know any other new mothers, since I was older than most of my friends and the first to reproduce.

That’s right. We’re mammals.

So, I bravely went into the home of a stranger and sat down on the couch next to a woman who seemed nice. And I listened. At these meetings, only one of the people was speaking for the organization, an accredited La Leche League Leader. But, when people asked questions, all the other mothers were very welcome to chime in and share their experiences with their own babies. One thing that got repeated often in these meetings was to please share information, not give advice. Not even the Leader told women what they should do. The mothers were considered smart enough to make their own decisions based on their experiences and to use the experiences of others to help them. That led to the second thing I heard a lot, which was to take what works for you and leave the rest.

No matter what picture I chose, someone will find something wrong with it. She should lift her shirt from the top! Why is she white? Is her positioning right? Image by @nslebedinskaya via Twenty20

By getting to know all these different mothers with all their different babies it became very obvious that the best answer for one of us would not work at all for another one, and that was OK! We had lots of areas where we differed. There was cloth versus plastic diapers. There was jarred baby food versus “whole foods” only. There was the “family bed” versus having a crib for babies. There were vaccinators and non-vaccinators. Some mothers weaned promptly at one year (or earlier), while others kept a-goin’ until the child didn’t want to anymore.

The thing is, those of us who learned the LLL philosophy (which is a list of ways to be a good parent) mostly got the point that there’s more than one right way to parent AND that for some folks, ways other than ours make more sense to them. If a mother asked for help, we gave it and helped her work out a solution that made HER happy, not us.

I eventually became a Leader and learned a lot from the women I was friends with then. It was a lot of fun and such a great way to give to my community. But, when they started begging Leaders to become administrators (there was quite a hierarchy back then), my Leader, Sharon, took me aside and warned me that things weren’t always so warm and fuzzy at the State, National, and International levels. Oh, how I wish I’d listened to Sharon.

But, no, I like leading things, and because I’d made a little website for our group (before there were images on the world wide web) my mentor, Roberta, begged me to help them get on the fledgling Internet, so I went to a conference in Chicago, met the Executive Director, and suddenly I was the webmaster and co-owner of the first email list for Leaders, where we got to meet fellow mothers from all over.

Time marched on, and I had a lot of fun and met most of the people who read my blog. But, it turned out Sharon had a point. Once I started going to meetings and conferences outside my little bubble, and once I started reading the email lists, I began to see how La Leche League got its reputation as a bunch of breastfeeding…shall we say…”tyrants” (because I prefer not to use pejorative word word other people used). You could tell that there were members who we called “More League Than League” who looked down on you if your choices happened to come on the less radical attachment parenting side of things. Woe unto the parent who used a stroller and not a sling to carry babies (even outside conferences, where strollers were hazardous). You get the drift, I’m sure.

A lot of the time I spent as an administrator, web person, and eventually as a director in the organization was trying to keep portraying La Leche League (LLL) as an organization open to all who were interested in breastfeeding and parenting, not just a few people of a certain demographic (that would be white, Catholic, home birthing, stay-at-home mothers). It was never true that this group was even a majority, but it’s the reputation that came out. And the reputation that we told people to do this and that, and such. This all got to be quite exhausting, especially when we were wanting to help mothers succeed by their own standards and meet them where they were, not make them into other people!

There were, indeed, people in the organization with agendas that were at best peripheral to the core purpose of supporting breastfeeding in the communities where we lived. The diapers, the slings, the boycotts, the sleeping arrangements…subtly pressuring people to make certain choices or they weren’t “cool” led to a lot of sadness. I always thought either they should come out and say they’re an organization for a small group of people with certain beliefs and principles, rather than claiming to be for everyone, but alienating people whose cultures and ways of life preferred to do things differently.

Indeed, as the years went by, it came to pass that things got weirder and weirder at the higher levels, and we came under a lot of pressure, no I’ll say bullying, to only organize in certain ways, and only meet in certain ways, and…after a couple of years of trying to keep my team going through all this, I ended up being asked to leave. If your job, whether paid or volunteer, isn’t fulfilling and rewarding, it’s time to find a new job. And when my closest friends started in on me…it was time to go.

I did keep what I learned, though. I’ve always found it much easier to change someone’s mind or teach them something new by offering a wide range of information and suggestions and trusting them to figure out what works best for them. I’m so grateful for that lesson. There was and still is so much good in LLL. Honestly, this is a loving critique.

Now, today, a whole lot of years have passed, but it makes me chuckle a bit to learn that there are still factions battling it out to be the “right” kind of organization. The causes have shifted from Nestle boycotts and “Ferberizing” to trying to cancel members who aren’t deemed sufficiently on board with chestfeeding and racial/cultural issues.

All of that just isn’t the helpful kind of support parents, members, administrators, and former members need. And confronting, bullying, canceling, and lobbying against people you have a problem with has never, as far as I can see, solved the underlying issue, which is education. You know, perhaps we WANT to listen, but just being called names and treated like we aren’t even worth engaging in dialog with won’t help us learn a darn thing.

I can only suggest that people with strong feelings to convey consider this information I’m sharing, just as one option. By listening to the viewpoints of others, seeing where they are coming from, finding areas of commonality, and sharing our experiences as if they are all worthy of respect, I’m pretty sure some of the newer versions of the people I left behind in 2006 might be more successful at attaining their goals. I think they want more people to be welcome and included in LLL. I think that is a worthy goal that may not require tearing down others to achieve.

Breastfeeding is a great thing, and I applaud everyone who wants to do it, in whatever way works for their culture, religious practice, or social group. Sometimes having lived as long as I and some of my long-time LLL friends have, you learn that a little bit of listening and respect go a long way. We don’t all have to do things the exact same way, and we all will learn from our mistakes and new experiences.

Please, let’s be gentle with each other. I’m simply not going to let myself be put down for being who I am, and I don’t think any of you, my friends, should, either. And I do NOT want to put down others who have perfectly legitimate complaints, issues, or ideas! We should all have a chance to grow and learn, even us old white fogies.

I Am Woman, Hear My Woe

A Story of Empathy and Imagined Equality

No, I’m not particularly full of woe, but for the past few days I’ve been metaphorically girding my loins, knowing that a tale of woe is coming. Wow, I’ve listened a lot the past few days. The thing is, every single person venting, lamenting, kvetching, or sniffling is totally justified. Every so often it gets this way, when there seems to be a dark cloud over my social circle.

Rain lily in rocks. Beauty in a tough space.

I’m privileged to listen to people and not try to solve problems. We all need someone to listen to us from time to time. I know my turn will come! The problem today is that I’ve heard so much woe that I’m not able to come up with ideas for making the things better that it’s my JOB to make better. I’m all jumbled up. I guess I better go breathe and let some of it out by tomorrow!

Evening primrose and concrete.

As I went for a walk around the Austin house neighborhood to clear my mind (and take pictures), I started wondering if all this empathetic listening is one of those stereotypical woman things, you know, women are nurturing and all that. Do people assume I’ll listen because I’m a woman or because I just come across as gender-neutral empathetic? (Rhetorical question)

Drummond’s onion. Beautiful. Look at all those little antses!

Stick with me here. That musing led to a surprising thought. I just don’t spend a lot of thought on my status as a woman. In my mind I’m Suna, and being female is not one of my more important parts of my identity. I’m not on the alert for sexist comments or put-downs for being a woman. I don’t feel discriminated against at work or at home. What???

Nightshade.

Oh of course I know there’s sexism out there and stubborn areas of inequality that need to be addressed. You know, just like we’re not in a post-racist society, either. But I’m not feeling constricted by being labeled female anymore. I am quite confused by my lack of concern about this inequality, especially given that I get all righteously indignant about discrimination against other kinds of people.

Cedar sage by the Bobcat Lair.

I wonder if my privilege from my whiteness and being perceived as cisgender compensate for being female, to where most people treat me as equals. Or…I just assume people think I’m their equal and act accordingly? That may well be it. I feel equal so I don’t let myself be treated any other way.

Anita’s hibiscus.

Hmmm. I don’t know what to think about this. Life is complicated. I feel way too lucky to feel so free and equal when so many people I know feel oppressed, put down, or truly challenged just because of who their parents were, where they came from, or who they love.

Ruth’s succulent in bloom.

What can I do? I know that! I’ll keep advocating for the creation of a world where our diversity is celebrated and our differences used to our advantage. I’ll keep learning about ways to realize my prejudices and biases and be an ally for those not as privileged as me.

I’m also privileged to live in a beautiful place.

My question to you women out there is whether you feel like this or am I having atypical experiences? Where are you feeling discriminated against or thwarted in your life because of your sex? What’s your source of woe, or do you experience freedom and joy?

Curbing Your Anti-racist Enthusiasm

Wait, wait, I’m not going to tell anyone not to continue in their work to fight racism, point it out when they see it, or work on their own behavior and bias with regard to race. Nope, nope, that’s not where I’m going. But, I do want to share some insights I’ve been having as I watch discussions about race happening, and how the books I’ve recently been reading cause me to see them differently.

Here’s a very passionate young person I do my best to learn from.

The material I’ve been reading on unconscious bias has made it clear that, thanks to growing up in a particular society at a particular time, each of us presents ourselves to the world through the lens of our own biases, some of which are helpful and some of which may be less so. A good thing I’ve read is that the people born more recently may well be less prone to some of the racial biases that older people may have grown up with. A large percentage of younger adults in the US grew up in diverse neighborhoods, attended diverse schools, and are familiar with a wider range of US cultures (most young people I know are fans of music from urban, African, Caribbean, Latino, Korean, Indian and other artists), and have friends and colleagues from highly diverse backgrounds. So, they have a different set of biases from older Americans.

People my kids’ age tend to make friends based on common interests and experiences. This often leads to racially diverse friends with strong bonds in other areas. (Some don’t; I over-generalize.) Photo by @SBphoto via Twenty20.

I am very happy about this, and very interested in learning from people of my children’s generation. Sometimes it’s hard, though, because in their anti-racist enthusiasm they push their audience away.

Another fact about a large subset of younger adults is that their preferred methods of interacting with others tend to be more confrontational, less “polite,” and less patient when sharing their views with others (not implying only young people act this way, it’s more appropriate in some cultures, too). This is the part that causes communication problems with people who grew up avoiding confrontation, focusing on polite behavior, and a conversation style that includes acknowledging the potential validity of the other person’s point of view. Neither of these ways of interacting is all right or all wrong; there are issues with each one, which I’m going to let you think of for yourselves.

Admirably, many people in the 18-30-ish age group want to create a better society and are working hard toward those goals. They feel passionate about the rights of people of color, LGBTQ+, poor people, and the oppressed around the world. Yay for them! Those are goals shared by many older people, too, though their methods of working toward it are different, and often unpopular with younger folks (which is fine and normal; I’m not complaining, just noticing).

The thing is, I’m wondering what the goals the young and fervent activists are working toward might be.

  • Are they trying to change people’s minds? I wonder if calling people you don’t know racist for actions you don’t even know that they’ve done is terribly helpful (for example, I have been sitting back and watching a woman lecturing an obviously white woman about how race and racism work, blissfully unaware (or not listening hard enough to realize) that the second woman has a black husband and family members). It’s racist to assume someone has beliefs because of their looks, period. And yes, being in an interracial relationship doesn’t mean you have no bias and can shut down conversation (sorry if I’m not clear about this; I’m still learning).
  • Are they trying to prove how ethically advanced and modern they are? In this case, demonstrating that you’re a passionate anti-racist while bullying and insulting others shows ALL your ethics, quite clearly.
  • Are they trying to sow unity? Are they trying to add to divisiveness? These are my big questions. I’ve been observing people pick at others for not being non-racist in the “right” way (say, for adopting a child of another race, without knowing whether a white adoptive parent may have a black or Asian partner or other black or Asian children). It reminds me of one branch of a religion not saying another branch is Christian enough, or Muslim enough, or the right kind of Buddhist, without remembering they all are focused on the same overall goal, which is love.

This is why I wish more of us knew HOW our unconscious biases work, and that none of us is above them or immune to them. I see a lot of bias against older people in the passionate younger folks. That’s too bad, since when I was a young, passionate feminist, I learned a LOT from the women who’d gone before me, which helped me not repeat some mistakes and not burn some bridges. Perhaps some of us older folks might have useful insights, if we could share our perspectives without being silenced or labeled.

I know I harp on this message. It’s because I think the ONLY way we can make a better world is to listen to each other, maybe even respectfully.

And some of us elders want to silence and label younger folks. None of that is helpful, because the one thing I’ve learned is that the best way to limit the effects of unconscious bias is to get to know members of the groups you may have trouble with. Spending quality time in conversation and interaction with the “other” is guaranteed to help all of us realize that “they” are not a monolithic group, but diverse, varied, and interesting. Not all elderly people are the stereotypical MAGA-hat wearing, flag waving, insular white folks. They are not all inflexible members of the liberal elite. Not all young people hate everything that isn’t socialist or everyone who doesn’t fall into their definition of “woke” (insert current term for woke there). But, if we just talk AT each other rather than WITH each other, we’ll never figure that out.

We all have our blind spots, our prejudices, our biases, and our areas of passion. Not everyone will share them, and not everyone will even express the same biases and passions in the same way we do. We will never grow as human beings nor as a society if we don’t listen to other points of view. Even people we think are dead wrong in one area may have something “right” to share with us in another area, which we’d never find out if we just dismiss them out of hand.

I interrupt this diatribe with a photo of a dishcloth (with an error; I’m keeping this one). YOU can have one if you sponsor this blog and its companion podcast!

I know my audience skews toward people of my age, but still, I want to reach out to those younger than me to listen to us, and give us a chance to share what we’ve been through and how we got there. And then share with people my age what YOU are going through and how you got there, rather than pointing fingers at us, labeling us, and dismissing us. Being young doesn’t invalidate anyone’s experiences and insights, but neither does being old. We can all learn from each other, but we might have to stop talking sometimes and listen.

Rather than trying to drag others kicking and screaming into the new and more advanced world, I’d love to see enthusiastic and passionate people reaching out a hand and gently lifting up others, knowing that they used the experiences of those who came before as stepping stones to get where they are today.

To Troll or Not to Troll?

That’s my question for this first morning of spring, should I keep up with what appears to be a new undertaking for me, trolling with kindness? What the heck do I mean by that, anyway?

And by the way, Ostara (Vernal equinox) greetings to all of you!

Well, the book I just finished, Blind Spot, made it quite clear that humans are hard-wired to participate in us versus them thinking, and that there are actually good things about feeling a part of a group. Group membership conveys a sense of safety and belonging, and encourages us to take care of other members of our group.

You can’t really avoid creating “others” who are not in your group, and it is natural to focus on your differences to clarify who’s in what group. The authors of Blind Spot pointed to the Dr. Seuss book, The Sneetches, which arbitrarily had a star on their chest or not, leading to great division. And I think of that Star Trek episode, Let That Be Your Last Battlefield, where the people who are black on the right and white on the left are mortal enemies of people who are white on the right and black on the left. Both of these are heavy-handed examples, but they are right: we will work very hard to find ways to divide ourselves.

Yes, our outfits are embarrassing, and we do agree on that.

So, I am totally and completely aware that anything I do is not going to change people’s adamant insistence that “the other side” consists of horrible, no-good, bad, creepy people. Still, I know that even people who are biased to one belief system can start to question things, and that one way to initiate questioning is to repeatedly be exposed to other perspectives. THIS is why I feel compelled to “troll with kindness.”

Bubbling up inside me is a mission to not just keep scrolling when I see people making assertions that further our divided society. Rather, I am compelled to say something in a kind and/or neutral way that provides another way of looking at things.

Today’s example came when someone I used to know, sort of, posted something about President Biden tripping on the stairs of Air Force One. Commenters commenced to making all sorts of assertions about Biden’s age, competency, and such. I responded by asking if none of them had ever tripped on stairs before, that it seems common and not worthy of partisan commentary. Someone replied that they are doing it because once the previous president slipped and the media picked at him. So, I pointed out, nicely, that the tit for tat stuff isn’t very helpful, but I understand that it’s not going to stop.

And after that, I’m out of the conversation. I hope that just by planting the seed that being mean to someone because someone was mean to a member of your group in the past really doesn’t help anything at all. I don’t plan to prod and respond, just to provide another viewpoint.

No doubt I could have done a better job on today’s attempt, but it was only my second try. Maybe I’ll get better or get some suggestions. I know I won’t change anyone’s mind, but it makes ME feel better to gently point out that there are other ways of looking at things.

The chickens heard the Ostara Bunny was coming for their eggs.

Diversion About Today’s News

I know I’ve been pretty naïve most of my life about the hatred deep inside people. My conscious mind has worked so hard to overcome prejudices and stereotypes that I’m often genuinely surprised to find out how others feel about their fellow humans. It’s never occurred to me to think badly about people of Asian descent (consciously; I now know I’ve no clue what’s lurking in my brain).

I’ve always found Asian cultures interesting (since I was a tiny girl in love with kimono) and I’ve had many close friends who are Asian, even dated more than one. Once again, thanks to that linguistics education and that Japanese minor! For some reason, my bias toward Asians is more like they tend to be fun people and potential friends. My upbringing didn’t overtly cause this, though; it was something inside. (I always said it was because there were so few people I had things in common with that I didn’t want to rule out potential friends because of race, gender, religion, or sexuality.)

(here I give you a little piece of my history, again.)

It occurs to me that while my mom was not shy about her traditional Southern US white people view of Black folks, she was equally unhappy with Japanese (who killed her fiancé in WWII) and loved to sing some truly horrid song about “Chink-chink Chinaman named Chow Chow,” that I never understood, but is still in my brain, right along with the sound of her endlessly reading Little Black Sambo to me.

Still, just like she actually loved Black people she knew personally, she was really fond of her Chinese-American friend, Fay Eng.* Fay owned the only Chinese restaurant in the town I grew up in, and she and Mom became friends when my sister and her child were young. It was a long-time friendship, because I knew her all my childhood, and took all my friends to meet her and eat at the restaurant in college. Ha, I remember thinking Chop Suey was an exotic Asian dish. I did quickly learn better in college.

Sorry, I keep coming back to my mom, because I am pretty sure her attitudes about people got imprinted deep within me. I guess I rebelled in a constructive way by getting to know people of so many races and ethnicities and dragging them home to confront her stereotypes. And I’m sure my own children, who had a more diverse set of friends than I did (and do) are at least helping carry on the lessening of racial biases the Blind Spot book mentioned.

(back to the topic)

Where I was originally going with this was how blown away I was to learn about the murders of mostly Asian people in Atlanta this week. I don’t get it, at all. Hurting people just because of the way they look seems like the deepest depths of horrible human behavior. I’m now crying for my Asian-American friends just like I’ve been for African-American friends for so long.

Yes, it’s convenient to divide up according to superficial things like skin color, but it’s just not right, and I WILL speak up about this, and it may not be trolling with kindness.


*Oh my gosh, I looked Fay up to be sure I spelled her name right, and as of last year, she was still alive, at age 95 and a Democratic voter, not only that, she was a poll worker, and used to serve cookies from her father’s recipe, which used to be served at the restaurant I ate in my entire young life! She still lives with her daughter, in a beautiful home. Good for you, Fay. Mom picked a great friend.

Technology Staging a Revolt

This is also available as a podcast!

This is not funny. If I wasn’t trying to stay firmly grounded in rationality, I’d swear that the technology around me is trying to engage in a work slowdown or simply trying to quit. I’ve been having the worst time getting relatively simple things done. The most egregiously annoying thing has been trying to use my fancy headphones, both at home and in the office.

headphones on a desk, with a mask and a peace pillow in Japanese.

These headphones are wonderful when they work. They cancel sound. They have a high-quality microphone. They are comfy. BUT, both of my sets just suddenly cut out randomly, with no notice. I have to either plug them into a different USB port or mess with my settings in Zoom. That is getting really old.

In fact, the first time I recorded this as a podcast, the headphones stopped working, and the microphone in my webcam recorded it. Sounded like I was at the bottom of a well. Special.

But that’s not all. While I can hear in Zoom calls and on the Spotify app, I get nothing when trying to listen to videos or sound files in Chrome. To review e-learning, I have to open Edge. Eww. And, sadly, I can’t get into my podcast app to listen to what I’ve recorded. Occasionally it works. IT has no clue why this goes on. Buh.

To alleviate the issue with my headphones, which also cut out ridiculously when Zooming on my phone hotspot from the ranch, I have taken to doing calls on the phone. Because I have an iPhone X, I can’t use wired headphones. No, I have to use those cute li’l earpods. They are cute and little, all right, but they only last about an hour. I tend to have 6 hours of meetings every day. So, I end up using just one of the pods at a time, which makes people complain about my sound quality.

We are not on speaking terms, says the printer.

Maybe I should just type all my comments in chat, like my boss does.

Besides all this, I am unable to print, at all, period. Sometimes, like when you have a COVID form to fill out, you need to print things. I could get none of the printers at work to print today. They used to work, I swear! I don’t have a printer at either Cameron office, because every one I get works a month or two then refuses to speak to the laptop. I’m beginning to blame the laptop, only this happened before I got the current one. Grr.

keyboards, nice one that doesn't work. Boring one that does work.
Only the ugly wired keyboard works.

And, can I use my nice new fancy keyboard? Nope. It worked for a few weeks and stopped, too. Maybe there is some kind of haunted USB port issue going on. Yes, that’s it. My laptop is haunted and my peripherals are afraid of it, so they don’t work. I’m SO glad I figured this all out!

It’s a good thing I started that bullet journal! It’s analog! So far it has not rejected my input, my stickers, or my various pens.

And, on the other hand, it’s nice to have little annoyances like this to think about, because it means I’m not consumed with concerns about sick people, diseases spreading, political crud, and such.

So, what’s bugging you, eh?


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