Yep, it’s Labor Day here in the good ole USA, where we honor the working people who contribute so much, by giving them a day of rest. Well, we honor SOME of them, anyway. I have the day off at my “white-collar” full-time managerial position in a software company, where I get 3 weeks of vacation and insurance, plus a 401K retirement plan.
It was NOT always the case, and I will not forget it. Here’s what I said 11 years ago, before I got the job I’m in now:
I love the concept of Labor Day. But today, please remember us contract workers, folks for whom today is a forced day off, with no pay. That does not feel like a reward for our hard work. Independent contractors get no benefits, pay high self-employment taxes, and have no holiday or vacation pay. I have not had a vacation since 2006, except when laid off/between contracts. I am very grateful to have work, though.
Suna on Facebook, September 7, 2009
What that doesn’t tell you is that I hadn’t had a paid vacation in…ever. The work I did from 1995-2006 was a mix of volunteer work, contract work, and stipends for a nonprofit. (Poor pitiful me, not really; I managed to live just fine.)
Every year I make it a point to remind folks who are having parties, cooking out, boating, or relaxing in groups smaller than ten (my peeps) that not everyone has the luxury of time off. My younger son is out there delivering YOUR pizzas (if he can get into your gated community). The folks at Hearts, Homes and Hands are taking care of our clients, whose needs do not stop for holidays. Grocery and convenience stores are open to sell you beer and brats. Retailers are open for Labor Day Sales Extravaganzas.
So, not everyone gets a paid day of fun for Labor Day. Minimum-wage workers are out there earning their minimum wage, at jobs where their hours are kept just below what would legally require benefits (like paid time off). Contract workers, like me in my previous life, sit at home, hoping that the pay shortage won’t make it hard to pay rent or utility bills.
Sigh. I think something that would actually make America great would be to pay hard, honest workers a livable wage, with time off for holidays (or comp time if they choose to work holidays), and heck, maybe even parental leave when they have babies. Then I’d celebrate Labor Day with a happy heart.
I probably mean who are MY friends. I’m not talking about my inner circle of friends and family, which is a small number, like with most people. I mean the larger group of folks I care about, respect, and am interested in hearing from.
Thanks to my career on the internet, I know and have gotten pretty close to lots of people from a wide range of backgrounds. We all have something in common that ties us together, but we’re all different, too. I honestly like that, even though I also like being around my “tribe” as well, which is very human.
Most of the people I know are great about respecting the rights of others to express themselves, even when they are TOTALLY WRONG (i.e., on the other side of an issue). A few aren’t. I’m okay with that, unless I get accused of thinking or believing something I don’t think or believe.
I got my feelings hurt pretty badly when I shared the recent news article about people who,as a group, aren’t big on following rules sinking their compatriots’ boats by going too fast in a parade. I thought it was a funny example of logical consequences. (I am having trouble linking to an article, so just Google “Lake Travis boat parade” and it will come up.
Someone took offense to my posting it, even though I didn’t comment, and said: “Pretty sad that you take pleasure in this. I’ll bet you wish some of these people had drowned.”
Wow. That’s the kind of thing that hurts a lot. Did they really believe that? Knowing I’m a pacifist, nonviolent, Buddhist-leaning tree-hugger?
So yeah, I said that was mean. But I didn’t delete this person’s comments, since they have a right to insult me and lump me into some hypothetical evil group of people. On the other hand, I didn’t delete any subsequent comments, some of which agreed and some that didn’t. Everyone gets a say.
Im not surprised someone treated me like that. I’m learning that people who speak out, in today’s climate, will get bashed. Others have it lots worse, so I’m grateful for the kindness of people I know. Maybe that’s what matters more to me than beliefs, kindness.
I just hope the bashers (ha ha autocorrect hat it as badgers) stick to words! Dialog or one-sided rants are fine. But I’m against hurting others or their businesses because you disagree on things. I want to hear all sides, even when it’s hard. But I’m not super. I have to deal with my own knee-jerk reactions. Don’t we all?
What I Discovered
After all this, I checked my Facebook friends list. I was relieved to see quite a few people I care about who disagree politically or socially. This is GOOD. I don’t want to isolate myself in my comfort zone!
I want to share what I wrote on Facebook, mainly as a record for myself, but also to try to say how much I care for all my friends and family. Please don’t think I’m a horrible stereotype!
My Post.It’s Long.
I just culled my friends list. I saw a beautiful parade of faces from all over the world, in every color. From teens to my elders, there they were. Some I hear from often, some haven’t posted in years. I just like seeing their precious faces. Who did I cull? A couple of leftover fake people, people who have passed from this life (cause I get sad at their birthdays), and a lot of animals who long ago passed over the Rainbow Bridge.
Who did I keep? A large group of very diverse people I truly care about. Family, old friends, new friends, locals, people in other hemispheres, people from the whole spiritual spectrum (Yes, including Christians, Jews, Muslim, Buddhists, Wiccan, agnostics, and atheists). Straight, gay, trans, questioning, bi, gender fluid—they’re all good to me. There are people across the range of political and social groups, too (that’s right, from MAGA to Antifa to Communist to pacifists to gun rights activists to Capitalist to Socialist to fans of dictators to fans of the US Constitution (many interpretations) to people who just don’t care).
I’ve kept people who are vocal about their beliefs. I’ve kept people I agree with. I will keep people I disagree with. I’ve kept people who don’t post controversial things and people who do. Why? Because we all get to express ourselves however WE see fit.
We have the option to scroll by things that bother us or to react. Then we deal with the consequences. When I screw up, I can count on others to point it out. I am not going to censor friends I agree with or disagree with. I’m not going to invite people I disagree with to leave. Nope. We all get to stay.
Sometimes my humor upsets people. I hate that! But I’ll keep trying. If I hurt your feelings, tell me. I’ll do the same, though. Thanks to all of my diverse friends for sticking with me in these troubled times. I treasure YOU.
Take care friends. The US is in a bad place and it will get worse the rest of the year, I’m afraid. Do your best not to pigeonhole your friends, acquaintances, and family. Try?
I keep telling you one of my rules for life is to assume good intentions. I want to make the assumption that everyone I interact with is doing the best they can with the information they currently have. I want to assume the vast majority of people don’t set out to be mean, rude, arrogant, or unkind on purpose. I like to think that nearly everyone is capable of caring for the health and well being of others.
I can dream, can’t I? This whole pandemic thing seems like a big test of humanity, and one that is supporting the “man’s inhumanity to man” viewpoint (I’m quoting, so forgive me for the sexism).
Like many of my friends, my convictions have been tested strongly by people who come across as unconcerned about making friends and family members sick from a potentially deadly disease. No matter how hard you try to isolate, wipe things down, go nowhere, and see no one, it just takes one person who isn’t as careful to get you all infected.
I keep thinking of people I know who are essential workers, and have to be out in public. You know, the grocery store workers, the health care professionals, the police, the delivery drivers. They never know when a person who just doesn’t care will walk in and cough all over them. That then puts their own families at risk.
No longer is this just theory. Every single day I hear of a person who “doesn’t believe in” germs, or something, who gets infected and goes on their merry way. Not somewhere else. No, in the places where my loved ones live. They infect people I care about, and I can’t go help them or be with them. That makes assuming good intentions quite difficult.
Of course I’m not alone in this. Most people I know feel this way. Even people who are philosophically opposed to taking certain precautions don’t seem to want to make other people sick.
Where was I going with this? I guess the thing is that even if nearly everyone is coming from a place of good intentions and trying to do the right thing (even if their different backgrounds might cause them to choose differently from me), all it takes is a couple of people who honestly don’t give a flip about the rest of the world to ruin lives.
Is there nothing we can do about this? Should we just throw out the idea that people are doing the best they can? Maybe, just maybe, we can learn something and build a better future. I guess that depends on who’s left after all these viruses and other contagions (racism, fascism, random divisiveness, etc.) run their course.
Today I am babbling about freedom, rights and responsibilities from a personal perspective.
I’m 62 years and 4 months old. That’s the age my mother died. It took her a long time to do it, but she finally left her world of pain.
She died of lung cancer (spread all around), caused by a lifetime of tobacco use. She smoked through her pregnancies. She smoked while bottle feeding us Karo syrup or whatever poor people used to feed babies back then. She smoked in the car on every trip our family took. She smoked while cleaning the house, leaving long caterpillars of ash behind on the floor she’d vacuumed. She tried to hide her smoking. She’d smoke out her bathroom window. That led to the intake of our family room air conditioner. She smoked while on so much morphine that she didn’t see the burn holes in her polyester pajamas. It was her last pleasure. It was more important to her than her family or her own life.
I resented her for subjecting me and my family (especially my brother and dad) to her addictions. I wanted her love. She loved alcohol, pills, and tobacco more. Calling Dr. Freud!
I truly resented people who continued to smoke around me, knowing what my family had been through. What a relief when I could actually go to a restaurant or bar and not get sick from the smoke. What joy I found when my friends who were addicted started to only smoke outside, away from their children and elders.
I don’t blame the addicts; no one sets out to become addicted. But I sure am happy to see people behaving more responsibly about it. Sure, their freedom to smoke when and where they want to got taken away. And hey, not everyone they smoked around would eventually get sick. Not every smoker gets lung cancer, after all.
Nonetheless. Laws were passed and establishments made rules. Lots of people were pissed off, but they managed.
Today we have people who appear to care more for their right to potentially spread an extreme contagion more than they care for their families, friends, and communities. I hope it doesn’t take watching a loved one die because their lungs no longer work, like my family had to, to convince them otherwise.
Thoughts from me
We’re free to drive cars, but not to run stop signs, speed, or go without lights after dark. We’re free to burn trash out in the country, but not when conditions are ripe for fire. We’re free to own guns, but not to shoot others just because it’s fun. We’re free to build a home, but not on someone else’s property. We’re free to worship as we want, but not to force others to do as we do. We’re free to love, as long as it doesn’t harm others. We’re free to hate, even in absence of good reasons to do so.
With freedom comes responsibility.
Note: I didn’t write this to judge you or anyone else. I am not telling you what to do. This is just to explain why I have strong reactions to things going on these days. People get to make their own choices. People have rights. With rights come responsibilities, though. It’s worth thinking about what responsibilities we all have to others.
Expressing anger is difficult for some of us. Like Suna.
No, no, I’m not angry about anything right now! Everything’s just fine. If you’re looking for drama, I’m not serving that up today. I’m just thinking about anger.
The book club meeting I attended on Zoom (of course, no in-person meetings for me!) today got on the topic of things we struggle with, and I brought up the fact that I totally suck at getting angry. The very nice women in the meeting were quite supportive of me, and the consensus was not to expect to be great at something you don’t have a lot of experience with. They were right!
Even as a child, I was discouraged from getting angry. If my little brother pestered me, I was told to, “Just ignore him.” And if I did get angry and yell or hit back after he slapped me, I’d get spanked. So, I fairly quickly learned to bottle up any anger I had and to arrange things to be as peaceful as possible in my little world.
Hence, I ended up an Enneagram Number Nine. As the website says:
Key Motivations: Want to create harmony in their environment, to avoid conflicts and tension, to preserve things as they are, to resist whatever would upset or disturb them.
That probably also explains my initial resistance to change, even the good kind!
Another thing it explains is why I’m always trying to attain some sort of spiritual transcendence; it’s another way to escape the real world. At least I have the sense to know that “the only way out is through,” and am coming to terms with the whole “life is suffering” concept.
Anyhow, I am just not good at getting angry. Not one bit. I can’t be like Anita, who often declares she’s angry at this that or the other, but she just expresses herself strongly. I keep thinking, “Why is she angry at that? I’m sad, or…some other emotion.” That’s because if I try to express anger, it scares the pee out of people. You know, I also learned from my family or origin how to have a very sharp passive-aggressive tongue. Oopsie.
I can actually remember the two or three times I let my anger spill out. After one time, I was never able to bring myself into a particular community again. I just left and never came back. I’ve only let myself express anger at my spouse a couple of times in all these years. I just get snippy on occasion then over-apologize for it.
Dang, I need to learn how to legitimately express anger when it’s appropriate without alienating people forever, or turning into a sniveling ball of self-abuse. Those seem to be my main anger outlets. I’m just not equipped to be an angry mob of one, I guess.
As my colleagues in the book club pointed out, it helps to remember you’re angry at a situation. (And I point out that it helps to remember people are doing the best they can; though when I’m angry at an institution, that’s hard to apply.) If kindness is my main value, I should apply it to both the object of my anger AND me, right?
This is pitiful, I know, but I Googled “effectively express anger” (because, how else do you figure things out these days?) and I got this:
Address An Issue Immediately Before It Escalates. …
Take A Walk. …
Try A Simple Breathing Technique. …
Try Getting In Some Rigorous Exercise. …
Journaling Can Be Another Great Way To Process Anger. …
Well, I do all that! That’s not expressing anger, it’s dealing with anger. Those are all the tools I use to maintain the peace and not rock the boat.
I turned to that oracle of knowledge, WikiHow, who went through all the above anger mitigation techniques that I already do, then FINALLY gave some advice on how to express it! That’s what I wanted!
Choose to express your anger assertively. Assertive expression of anger is the most constructive way to express your anger. Assertiveness cultivates mutual respect for each other. You can still express your anger, but you do so in a way that doesn’t accuse the other person. You have mutual respect for each other.
Assertive communication emphasizes that both people’s needs are important. To communicate assertively, give the facts without making accusations. Simply state how the action made you feel. Stick to what you know and not what you think you know. Then ask the other person if he is willing to talk. 
For example, you might say: “I was hurt and angry because I felt like you were belittling my project when you laughed during my presentation. Can we talk and work this out?”
Enough with the background colors. I didn’t mean to make you all sick.
After reading the information, I conclude that it makes sense, and sounds a lot like things I’d read in all my “how to get along with people” courses and such. I know I try to do that, and sometimes do. I just need to work on my tone, maybe.
In any case, if you have an anger problem, whether inability to express it or expressing it too much, how have you dealt with it? There’s so much anger in the world right now, it might be helpful to band together and make an effort to say what upsets us without turning the audience away completely.
I shall now go look at nice, happy animals and stop with all this self-analysis.
I learned a thing from screwing up yesterday. One is that the alleged thing I did wrong wasn’t what bothered me. I’m over that, and have apologized and moved on. What aggravates me is that people didn’t let me know there was an issue; rather they told my family members.
That’s sad. I don’t want to feel wary of everyone I know. I don’t put dumb things on Facebook either, though I’m an open book when it comes to my own issues, things I do, and places I go. Life isn’t worth living if you feel like you have to hide. I don’t write about other people’s stuff, like problems my family members have, etc.
I would really appreciate it if someone sees me post about something they think I did that they don’t approve of, they TELL ME, so perhaps I could explain what was actually happening, or what legit reasons I have for what I do. Or extend an apology.
Yeesh. Thing number one is that I am acutely aware that the deaths of black people at the hands of law enforcement is not all about me and my problems with it. So skip that lecture; I already read it here. I want to say I’m not interested in hearing how my reactions to world events are wrong, or that I don’t have a right to react because of my race, socio-economic background, or perceived intellectual status. I get to react how I react. I get to test my bravery, even if I screw up. I get to be upset.
But I do want to butt out of other people’s issues. I’m all for letting the people most directly affected direct their responses, whether individual or as a group. If I’m needed, I’ll step up, but since I am reading over and over again that I’m not needed, I will stand by and do other stuff. What other stuff? Well, here’s a really long list:
And I am going to point out racism, anti-free speech, and non-factual content when it’s in my face. No, I’m not gonna go troll everyone I know and shower them with my thoughts. That’s not gonna work, and I know it. But I might answer back if you troll me with your anti-liberal assertions.
It’s a hard line, which is why I gave the title I did to this post. I just have to accept that some people will damn me for not taking enough action or being silent, while others will damn me for speaking out in ways they don’t approve of. I will be taken to task for not responding to accusations or inaccuracies, then told I should just block and ignore anyone I disagree with. This is true for a lot of us right not.
But, I want to hear what people have to say. All of them, not just the ones like me. I can’t figure out how to listen to my more radical and more conservative associates and not talk back. My mom would laugh. I always talked back.
Luckily I spent a lot of yesterday reading Lion’s Roar, the Buddhist magazine. It reminded me that life happens, it doesn’t happen to me. And that life is hard, but that’s how you learn. It reminded me of the virtues of silent observation.
That’s the Lesson for Today
I have, at least, figured out why I feel uncomfortable (in addition to the obvious other reasons). I’m used to being a participant, going out and doing stuff, and raising my voice to work for a better world. Right now I need to be more quiet. You know, like so many people of color have to be, in order to keep from being noticed and targeted.
Since we’ve added a very appropriate new focus of concern for the people of the country where I live, I’ve found it harder and harder to concentrate and more and more difficult to see the positive in things. This is the other area where I need to be brave. Let’s hope the horse stuff helps me.
It’s been bad enough watching people turn dealing with a pandemic into a partisan thing, but now I see the exact same thing going on with protests about the death of a black man at the hands of a police officer (and more). People seem WAY more interested in deflecting from the actual issue (systematic racism) to other issues, in the most polarizing way possible. I am just sick about it.
First I Want to Say This
NOT ALL POLICE OFFICERS ARE SOCIOPATHIC KILLERS. NOT ALL PROTESTERS ARE LOOTERS. THIRD PARTIES, LIKE ANARCHISTS, WHITE SUPREMACISTS, RUSSIAN AGENTS, AND THE LIKE WANT TO DISTRACT US FROM THIS: OUR SOCIETY MUST TAKE CONCRETE ACTION TO DEAL WITH RACISM OR WE ARE NOT A JUST AND FREE SOCIETY LIKE WE CLAIM TO BE.
Well, Suna, what qualifies you to say this?
Does personal experience count? I KNOW more than one ethical and principled police officer. In person. I’ve hugged them. I KNOW more than one passionate and peaceful protester who is willing to take action to improve the lives of black and brown people in this country. In person. I’ve hugged them. I’ve given birth to them.
That said, I am totally aware that telling people how to think and feel is not a useful tactic, because people will believe what they are already primed to believe. I’m primed to believe good things about liberals, socialists, actual communists (the very few real ones, not the “all media members are commies ones”), non-sensationalist news outlets, and intelligent people with backgrounds in the subjects they are talking about. I also think there are capitalists who try to do good in the world, and businesses that aren’t out to smash poor people.
So, news that fits in with my world view is more likely to be believed by me. I totally get it that if you are primed to believe liberals hate Good Americans, and all the associated beliefs, you will believe other angles. We’re just stuck with that. Can’t fix it all by myself.
What Can Brave Suna Do?
Or brave you, or anyone, for that matter. I get conflicting advice. One school of thought is to not let myself get all worked up about things not in my sphere of control. I can’t change people’s minds. I can’t cure diseases. I can’t make people learn to be less racist (other than me). So, I should just let go and stare at nature some more. Bravery, in this case, is being brave enough to live the Serenity Prayer, darn it.
But, I need the wisdom to know what I can and can’t control, right? Another set of advice I get tells me I need to speak up. I need to let the world know that the stereotypes of people like me are not all true. I need to not only say I’m an ally but BE an ally to people struggling. I need to listen to them and to learn where I can do better and maybe even make a difference.
And sometimes when I listen, I hear that, dear old white liberal lady, it’s not your time or place to protest. You have lived a life of privilege and have no clue what it’s like to be marginalized. Shut up and let the people who know the issues first hand figure out what to do. It’s not your job. I get that.
It’s hard to be a person with empath traits when there is a lot of hurting going on. You take on the pain and suffering of others around you, even if you don’t experience it yourself, but of COURSE you aren’t directly experiencing it. You want so badly to help, to make the world a better place for all of us, but you may not even have the right tools.
So, what can you or I do to be brave about our convictions in public?
It feels really inauthentic, and to be honest, chickenshit, to do nothing when you see your friends’ neighborhoods being destroyed, your children putting their lives in danger to support others, other people’s children being killed just because they look a certain way, your friends’ husbands feeling uncomfortable in their own neighborhoods. All that. It won’t do. It sure won’t make our society any better.
One thing I can do is model the behavior I’d like to see in others and hope someone notices, I guess. I sure can’t order people to notice their biases (I DO try to notice mine). We can all give that one a try.
Plus, I guess I must speak up publicly. As much as I really dislike being labeled and insulted, I will calmly state what I believe, and when I hear false information, present another viewpoint. That may not be much, but it is one way to make it clear that the vast majority of us, no matter what label we put on ourselves, just want ourselves and our neighbors to live in peace and safety, even if they look different from us, worship differently from us, or love differently from how we do.
Why is that so hard? Humans, you disappoint me, deeply. And I’m human. I’m not proud of it right now.
I’m physically sick. I’d flee, but there’s no place to go. Must be brave and stick it out with the rest of the humans, many of whom are in much worse shape than me. George Floyd doesn’t have that option anymore.
To be honest, a lot of things puzzle me these days, and I assume you’re probably puzzled a lot lately as well. Some of these things are fun or funny, and some are testing my ability to not be judgmental of others (and ya know, sometimes people seem to be begging to be judged; still I try not to do it). And some of it brings me way down. Sigh.
The first thing is this. It’s a fun one. What is going on with these mud daubers? Is this love or death?
There’s been a lot of mud dauber drama around the house, anyway. I see lots of hornets attacking the blue-black mud daubers, but there are usually just two of them. What a way to go!
On to the Rant
Next, I see so many people with huge logical inconsistencies in the things they say and post on social media. How is this not an issue for them? I was going to write some specific instances, but I decided that I don’t want to get involved, because of the next thing that puzzles me…
Why does everything have to be politicized? Health and safety precautions to protect ourselves and others now signify which political “side” we’re on? Why? I’m sorely disappointed at how people are labeling each other as fearful and irresponsible. Let’s look at a butterfly now and breathe.
And facts. What the hell has happened to those little gems? This whole business of not trusting science and verified facts confuses me a lot. Of course there is always more to be learned, but this doesn’t mean that historical event X never happened or gravity doesn’t exist (we don’t exactly know what gravity is, by the way.
And black men! My word! My heart is breaking and I would start hugging every black man I see, but that would not be good at this time, and at any time that would be sort of weird. Nobody deserves to live life judged guilty just for being born. Shame on us.
Honest, I respect people’s right to view the world from different perspectives from mine. I am not telling anyone how to think, as much as it’s tempting sometimes. I guess I’m just disappointed. And puzzled. And confused.
I’ll tell you exactly how bad I feel about other human beings right now. Last night, I dreamed that some kind of bomb went off and I watched a man fleeing a nuclear blast. I thought, “Well, he can’t escape that, but at least he won’t have to deal with the mess the survivors are left with.” I think my subconscious was reflecting what I consciously don’t want to admit, which is that there are times when I’d just rather not be here than to watch society disintegrate before my eyes. It’s so painful.
Debbie Downer, signing off. Going to look at nature so I can feel better. How are YOU coping?
This has just been making me chuckle, so I am sharing. To set the stage, at the Hermit Haus office, we currently have two bathrooms in the basement (someday there will be an upstairs bathroom). The church that occupied the building before us decorated the rooms in stereotypically masculine and feminine ways.
But, when you look closer, each of them has a toilet, a sink, some towels, a lot of soap and hand sanitizer, etc. They function exactly the same.
When we had Master Naturalist meetings in here, I noticed that people seemed aghast when I suggested that anyone could use either room. True, someone had stuck signs (two actually, one above the door and one on the door) on each room, hinting at the preferred users. But really, they are the SAME dang bathrooms!
(Aside, they also get upset that “the toilet doesn’t work” when people repeatedly flush before the tank has refilled. I need to put up a sign saying “ancient 1930s plumbing; please be patient if you want a good flush.”)
As we’ve been working here all by ourselves (the Hearts Homes and Hands staff and me), I’ve noticed another pattern. Repeatedly, Lee decides he has to “go” and bursts in on Chris, who has closed (but not locked) the door to the men’s room as a sign that it’s occupied. When it was suggested that Lee use the other bathroom, he acted like that was not a possible option. Once again, there is the SAME equipment in each room, just one looks 1980s girly and one looks like some fancy gentleman’s dressing quarters.
I THINK we have all come to an agreement that if a door is shut, it’s probably occupied, and you should at least knock. Preferably, just use the other one. Apparently once or twice someone closed the men’s room door after use and it confused Lee, but that hasn’t happened in months.
It just makes me laugh. At home, everyone uses whatever toilet is available. But when we get to work, the exact same group of people acts like one of the available options is poison.
We are so well trained! I can’t wait until there are more universal and family bathrooms around, so people will get used to it. As for me, when I gotta go, I gotta go. I can handle masculine decor, though I won’t use urinals. That’s my private business.