Sunday, April 21, 2013

Grass is Always Greener for the Other Mother

Sometimes I read in the news about women in developing nations, and how access to birth control is a life saver for them. It provides them with freedom from the incessant demands of motherhood so that they can pursue an education or career. Or even just simply have some time for themselves in a world where their health and energy are constantly being sucked dry by an infant.

And then I recall doing a mental, meditative body scan a couple of weeks after I got an IUD installed. My uterus told me it was sad that I’m not letting it do any more of what it was put here in my body to do.

I tried to reason with my uterus. I told it, “It’s not practical. We don't have room for another kid in this house. We will barely be able to afford college for one, and certainly not two. Besides I’m too old.”

But my heart took the side of my uterus, and I cried anyway, logic and reason be damned. I cried for the life I will never know…the life of a woman who has the freedom to procreate again and again, nurse babies one after the other, meet each unique child, and mother them so hard it kills her. I’m trapped in a sea of cultural expectations that demand that I have only healthy children (not the ones with birth defects more common in older mothers), that demand that each child have his or her own room, that demand I be able to provide not just love and food and shelter, but piano lessons and a college education.

Despite my mild despair over this issue, I am grateful to be living where I am, and sincerely expect to have no regrets over my decision to use birth control. I’m grateful for the benefits of living in the United States of America, with a husband who can provide for us, and as a stay at home mother of one beautiful daughter.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

We are all Unique. Yeah I can finally admit it.

You know how when you listen to a popular song, you recognize (on some level) the structure of the song…verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, verse variant, chorus? And you know when something varies from that structure widely that somehow it is no longer “fits” the pop music genre anymore? In fact, you might even call it experimental music.

Here, you can listen to some background music while you read the rest:

Let’s apply this concept to writing, specifically, modern journalism and blog entries. There’s a pattern to popular articles also.

It typically starts with a personal story, either about the author or about some other relatable figure. Let’s imagine a person named Mary Smith, with two small children. They live near a nuclear waste dump and Mary is concerned about the effects of the waste on her children. So after we’ve been sucked into the article via this tactic, the author broadens the scope of the article. He gives us the background and history, and interviews people from “both sides” of the situation. And eventually at the end of the article, he gets back to Mary and her situation. Recognize the pattern?

Ok. So what happens with articles that don’t fit the pattern? Are they still “good” articles that are worth your time? Or do you think the writer doesn’t know what he or she is doing?

Let’s take this article for example. I sucked you in not with a personal story about myself or some other named individual. I just talked about music song structures, with the idea that it would help you understand the article pattern concept when I got around to writing about it. Then I “failed” to provide you with history. Who was the first person to write articles with the pattern I’m describing? Heck, I don’t know, and I’m too lazy to research that. And so far, I have also failed to provide you with a conflicting viewpoint, so that you can feel like you’ve gotten a balanced perspective. Instead I’m going to rant.

It upsets me that I live in a time and place where the offerings of our people’s artists, musicians and writers are commoditized and usually only appreciated fully by large numbers of people if they fit into a recognizable pattern. In tribal cultures, you don’t get the option to “like” the dance that the Shaman is doing to heal the boil on your ass. You don’t get to write an Amazon review on the drum circle that is putting your Bokor in a voodoo trance or Yelp about the packet of healing herbs you just received from your witch doctor. Why we can’t just appreciate non-standard writing, music and art without people thinking we are weird for liking it is rather irritating. And our creative notions must apparently be condensed into a brief LOLcat style internet meme, or risk being ignored.

I like my seven year-old’s opinion on this, which she explained after belting out one of her own off-key compositions. She basically said, “If it's your own song, you can do it however you want.”

One of my favorite off-key singers:

Which brings me to the argument I usually get from people when I complain about this sort of thing, which goes along the lines of “People do art/music/writing/etc for themselves because they enjoy it or feel compelled to do it, and a real artist doesn’t care what people think about it.” But that’s not what I’m really getting at here. I’m not talking about making the art. That’s the easy part. The problem comes when you share it. If your core motivation for sharing your art is to connect with other people, then suddenly what other people think (and whether or not they deem your missives worthy of their time) is of utmost importance. Your child might make dozens of drawings, but the one she shows you is the one you need to regard carefully, asking yourself: “Why does she think I need to see this? What is she hoping I will get from this?” You may scoff and think that all a child wants is attention and praise (and think the same of any adult who tries to share their art or writing with you), but look deeper. If every time my child hands me a drawing it shows the two of us together with a heart shape between us, I can see she is trying to express her love. So…might not the rest of the people in the world be trying to do something similar? The person singing, playing guitar and selling his CD down at Pike Place Market…is he just looking for attention and money? Or might he be trying to find like-minded people who appreciate what he has to offer, and in a roundabout way, showing his love for his audience by performing the best he can?

If you ask anyone to examine their deepest goals and motivations, the vast majority would likely tell you that they want to love and be loved, and share whatever unique gifts they have with the world while they are here. The key word there is unique. We are all different. We don’t fit into a boilerplate pattern and our creative output should not be expected to fit a formula either.

Now if you’ve got the counterpoint, I’d love to hear it.

P.S. One thing I hinted at but didn’t explore fully was the connection between healing and creativity. Maybe another article.

Friday, April 19, 2013

I'm a Killjoy

When I was a girl I asked for martial arts lessons and was told not to bother with them because knowing taekwondo won’t help me a bit if my opponent has a gun. During a recent conversation with the people who raised me, I realized where I get my killjoy tendencies.

I’ve always got an excuse not to act on something I believe in or to try something I want do. I’ve got excuses for why I shouldn’t publish my novels, why I shouldn’t bother signing up for a meditation retreat, or travel to Europe this summer. For example:

--it’s too hard
--it takes too much time and money
--I can’t find enough people to support me, or watch my kid for me, etc.
--someone will not like it and get angry and fight with me and I don’t need that stress in my life
--it’s not worth the effort unless it’s successful and I have no guarantee it will be
--even if it is successful, I am not sure I want the notoriety and attention that comes with success
--I don’t want to be typecast as “that person who…”
--it might require physical hardship and I’m a wimp
--there’s surely some other reason I shouldn’t do whatever it is, and if I dare do it, I will find out the reason, too late.

So I’m talking with these people who raised me about an idea I had to try to get OTC medication education in high schools, and they had a pile of reasons why my idea was no good and why I shouldn’t bother with it. It was like listening to myself try to talk myself out of something.

Fascinating, I thought. No wonder I haven’t amounted to much. I still don’t think I can.

I’m so used to my concerns being dismissed that sometimes I just disrespect my own needs and desires before someone else can. I guess that’s called “shooting oneself in the foot,” and I’ve been accused before of doing that…by the people who raised me. Awesome.

Where do we go from here then? Recognizing that I tend to view things in the most negative way possible, I can shrug and say “that’s how it is, but it doesn’t have to stop me.” And in fact, it hasn’t. I still do just what I want to do every day. I craft time alone and time with others with a strong sense of pursuing my own agenda as much as possible. But my agenda isn’t always writing, art or vacation planning. Sometimes it is the subtle art of running errands, or recipe planning, or deciding what yarn will be crafted into what wearable object. Sometimes I light a candle or some incense as a statement of purpose and intent toward pursuing my aims toward their highest potential. Sometimes I turn on my computer and cook some self-referential meant-to-inspire-and-enlightened stew of words into a frothy, bubbled-over mess like this one.

Anyhow, I hope that whoever reads this might see some morsel of usefulness in it. I’m optimistic that way, at least.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Ignorance is not Bliss

Recently in the news: the morning after pill will be available over the counter to under 17-year-olds. It got me to thinking. Trouble, I know.

On the one hand, having any drug available over the counter makes it convenient; you don't need a doctor’s prescription to get it, and you don’t need to feel like anyone… including your parents…need to know what you are doing. And I would be 100% for this, except for one thing: people aren’t taught about risks of any over the counter (OTC) medicines they take. They don’t get an automatic pharmacist’s counsel on OTC drugs, and most people don’t have a knowledgeable friend or family member who can warn them about risks. And when it does occur to someone to look up risks on the internet, the information found can be confusing or untrustworthy.

My mom was in the pharmaceutical industry for many years. I learned from her that ibuprofen was excellent for menstrual cramps. And because I am curious and I read labels, I learned that ibuprofen is the generic name for the active drug found in both Motrin and Advil. So I knew to only take one of those drugs at a time, or risk having too much.

Some people aren’t so lucky. Like the person in the news years ago who took the maximum dose of both Tylenol and Co-Tylenol, not realizing he was doubling his dose of acetaminophen, a drug that can cause liver failure at higher doses.

Despite my background, I was not informed enough to understand everything about OTC drugs. I was reminded of this one night in college when I felt a cold coming on and I took two Co-Tylenol before bed. I naively expected the medicine to nip the cold in the bud (essentially expecting allopathic medicine to act like homeopathic medicine). Instead I was kept awake half the night because of the stimulant pseudoephedrine hydrochloride, which was in there as an antihistamine.

All this got me to thinking: wouldn’t it be nice if high schoolers were taught about OTC drugs? It wouldn’t have to be a semester long class. It could just be part of the health unit, or it could just be an hour long seminar and a handout. It wouldn’t even necessarily be part of the school curriculum, but it could be something you could sign your kid up for, much like some parents sign their kid up for a class in Internet safety.

Or should we just trust that people will read the package inserts and Google any medicine they are taking in order to find out its risks? Personally, I don’t think so. Medical information on the internet seems to come in three flavors:
--too hard for a lay person to understand, but generally the most accurate, like
--moderately easy to understand, like
--super easy to understand, but least likely to be accurate, like

After spending ten years doing technical support for software, I know that many people don’t read the information that comes with the products they buy. Many don’t like doing web searches or posting questions on forums either. They want to talk to a real person. Having a class would really help give young people a good foundation in understanding the risks and benefits of OTC drugs.

Now here’s the point where I step back and poke holes in my own argument. If you are like a good number of people, you may read what I’ve written here and assume I’m one of those liberals who think that people need to be treated like babies who don’t know what’s good for them. And you’d be correct…partly. I am one of those bleeding heart liberals. I love people for their inherent value as sentient beings, and want them to be happy. The trouble comes when my idea of what will lead to others’ happiness conflicts with their own. So I may think that if you get knowledge about the dangers of something, that you will use that knowledge to the benefit of your own health, and when you have good health, you have one brick in the fortress of happiness. In that regard, I think I am helping but you may not agree. So it goes. Namaste!

     I Like this quote I dislike this quote

“Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” - Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What's On Your Bucket List?

Here's mine:

--Be content at the time of my death that I’ve done as much as I can to have a positive impact on others and our world.

--Feel that other people have forgiven me for whatever negative stuff I might have done to them, and that I have forgiven them likewise.

--Make sure my material life is pared down and in order so that whoever has to deal with my crap after I die won’t have too hard a time of it.

--Feel somewhat certain that my daughter is going to be able to make it without me.

--Feel calm and peaceful as I face death (just as I faced childbirth, floating on the waves of inevitability).

--Find out what happens at the end of Pandora Hearts manga. :)

I don’t want to climb Mount Everest, win a Nobel Prize, or travel around the world in a hot air balloon. In a way, I wish my list could be as cut and dried as that. After all, going to a specific place on Earth seems pretty easy, but the inner work it takes to rest in a state of contentment, peace and forgiveness can be a real challenge.

But in a way, every goal is only attainable if you really want it, and really work at it. Part of my trouble in life is that I am sometimes ambivalent about what I really want, unsure if I’m just being swayed but what other people think I’m supposed to want. So I think this list is about as honest as I can be, for now.

Whatever your bucket list holds, may you fill it with checkmarks of completion, and die knowing you really lived.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Spring Tai Chi Haiku

I'm currently taking a tai chi class and some of us write haiku to celebrate the season. I'm not sure I honored spring so well, but here are my  offerings:

Still winds and other
oxymorons fill my head,
empty of wise thought.

Cat chases yarn ball
paws move like wood, like water.
I, too, play tai chi.

Flower petals bloom
My arms are curling tendrils
Reaching for the sun.

Tea leaves float upward
my hands absorb the sun’s warmth
dan tien steeping.

Monday, April 1, 2013

I'm an April Fool

I'm not very good at determining when someone is joking or not. 

Maybe I has the dumb.

Or maybe my sense of humor doesn't sync up with other people's. That's entirely possible.

When people are snarky or sarcastic, I often just read them as mean-spirited, grumpy complainers. This can be a problem, especially since sarcastic humor seems to rule the internet, and human interaction can mostly only be experienced on the internet these days.

So April Fools' Day is a bit of a landmine for me, because I am easily made a fool.

How about April Flowers' Day instead?