Accepting Unacceptable Behavior

Detaching from the Donald.

john-kasich-rips-trumps-unacceptable-behavior-1038x584Families in recovery are taught they don’t have to accept the addict/alcoholic’s unacceptable behavior. They learn that their lives have value beyond suffering and repairing the chaos the alcoholic/addict causes through their disease. “Detachment” is the tool used in recovery to separate oneself from the abusive behavior. Once the family member has detached, the addict/alcoholic is left to suffer the natural consequences of their actions, and sometimes they choose recovery for themselves as a result. Even if they don’t, the previously affected family member is living a healthier life without the constant chaos caused by the sick behavior of another.

What does detachment look like? Here’s an example: your drug addicted loved one steals from the other people in the house. You explain calmly that they are not allowed back in the house until the missing money is returned. Then you change the locks. You can still meet the family member outside of the house, give them rides, find them a rehab–whatever–but they can’t rummage around the home stealing your stuff.

This is hard enough in a family setting, when the abuser is a suffering alcoholic/drug addict whom you once loved or still love. But what do we do when the abuser is the president of our country?

I’m not making a joke here. Yesterday I hit my limit, and I can tell by the Twittersphere than so many others have too. Nevertheless, because we are not in a family setting, the average citizen has no power to put “natural consequences” in place for DJT. Only Congress does, and they will move slowly (if they do at all). Even individual Congress members, or entire Congressional blocs, have no power to check his abusive behavior.

Detachment, in this case, is impossible. We can avoid news, the internet, Facebook, Twitter, email, radio and overhearing other’s conversations, but his actions will affect us whether we pay attention or not. Our healthcare will change or disappear, our rights to birth control, travel, voting etc will be threatened or lost. Those of us who disagree with his agenda must continue to pay attention and engage, no matter how upsetting.

And many of us are. And many of us are suffering as a result. Those of us in medical fields have been talking amongst ourselves about the rise in stress-related disease. Not just mental health issues (anxiety and depression have spiked in the last five months), and not just the threatened loss of health coverage, but also things like chronic pain, digestive issues, sleep issues, migraines–all of these are exacerbated by emotional stress. There is also the issue of very real violence against groups targeted by DJT supporters inspired by his hate-speech. Women, people of color, the poor, and immigrants are being hit especially hard. And these groups make up the majority of Americans.

This situation in our country is currently similar to that of a child trapped in an alcoholic home. Just as the child is dependent on the alcoholic and has no power to leave, most of us depend upon a functioning and predictable government, and we can’t simply move to Canada.

To make matters worse, we are told by DJT supporters and certain news outlets and the entire Republican party that we are wrong, the news is fake, and we are hysterical snowflakes. This kind of gas lighting drives any sane person crazy. Our country is like the alcoholic household where the other parent or the siblings are in denial and tell the child that they are the crazy one, Dad is fine, stop making trouble, even as Dad is throttling family members and destroying household stability.

What are we to do?

The recovery model advises we find support in a group where people understand what we are going through. Meditation is helpful, so that we can soothe our own stress response. Use the Serenity Prayer: Accept the things you cannot change, but more importantly, for self-efficacy and sanity, CHANGE THE THINGS YOU CAN. Remember that this too shall pass. In 3 years and change, this will pass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Record of the Times

20170425_183908The other day I ran out of postcard stamps. That meant I’d sent 100 postcards since DJT became president. I’d sent postcards to the man himself (remember the Ides of Trump?), to my members of Congress when their phones were jammed, to Mitch McConnell, to Paul Ryan, and to Republican MOC who deserved thanks for bucking the trend and voting against the health abomination bill passed by the house. The last batch of cards were to Democrats in South Carolina’s 5th District to remind them to vote for Archie Parnell in the upcoming special election.

I’ve been super-busy since DJT crashed into the White House. I’ve gone on 3 marches: The Women’s March, The March for Science, and The People’s Climate March down in DC. With some other ladies in town, we’ve formed an Indivisible Group–and with that comes meetings, and creating agendas, and educating ourselves on all sorts of local issues. We’ve run a member for the local Board of Education (she won), and are running two members for the City Council. That means I’ve attended local Democratic Committee meetings, quickly come up to speed on the issues in our local politics, and now I am walking around with petitions to get a friend on the ballot.

In between all this, I’ve joined Facebook and Twitter, to better keep up with the issues and to communicate with my various new political actions groups and coordinate with other groups in neighboring towns.

Of course there are the daily phone calls (or faxes if the lines are jammed), petitions (probably useless–but I can’t help signing some when they show up in the in-box), Twitter blasts to various officials, Facebook posts to MOCs, and good, old fashioned letters and emails to politicians.

I have no way of knowing what or which of these efforts will make a difference. I do know that I am super-busy. After all, I am a mom with two teens, and I’m mostly doing that by myself (husband travels a lot). I also have a full time job as a nurse, and a side-gig as a writer. So I certainly didn’t want to take all this on. Sometimes I resent how these selfish men in Washington are so incompetent and mean-spirited that I am forced to monitor their messes. It’s mom-work, but on a national level. Instead of coming into the kitchen to discover a mess, I’m watching the news and seeing corruption. Instead of scolding, “Put the milk away when you’re done with it!”, I’m writing about keeping the Paris Accord or Single-Payer Healthcare.

Such are the times, and this is a record of the times.

Firing Bill O’Reilly: a few thoughts from a broken feminist

rts12tlpI felt a sense of righteous vindication upon reading that Fox has let Bill O’Reilly go. I was one of the many women writing letters  by email and on Facebook to companies that advertised on his show. Thanks to the work of women’s rights organizations like ultraviolet and NOWI knew who to write to and what to say. I explained to my children that every small action the resistance takes is making a difference. The pawns are falling: the resignations of Milo Yiannopolous, Roger Ailes, Michael Flynn, the recusements of David Nunes and Jeff Sessions, and Jason Chaffetz deciding not to run in 2018, are all precursors to the eventual, inevitable, downfall of DJT.

We deserve a moment to relish the sense of accomplishment we feel after taking out the trash.

But this morning my daughter and I had a conversation about music. At the moment, she’s into music that denigrates women: “b**tches and h*s” lyrics by men who slap their girlfriends around. I tried to explain to her that she’s internalizing those bad messages, and that it wasn’t healthy.

She wasn’t buying it.

After all, why should she listen to me? I’m a broken feminist. I talk the talk, I even try to walk the walk, but there’s a part of me that’s so deeply damaged, I continue to accept unacceptable behavior from men ALL THE TIME. I still make myself nice, and small, and agreeable, just to fly low under the radar. I have not realized my potential, and it’s likely I never will. I’m like many American women: I’ve been a victim of sexual violence, both attempted and completed. The attempted left a 21-stitch long scar on my right hand; I sliced it open scaling a chainlink fence in a burst of adrenaline to get away from two attackers after my car broke down on the side of the road in Brooklyn. The completed acts left internal scars that despite years of therapy, have not healed. These scars affect my ability to have healthy adult relationships with men, both in work environments and social environments. My workaround is that I limit myself by sticking to female dominant work settings, and I work primarily alone. I don’t ask for promotions or raises because the bosses are male. I’ve tried a few times, but after being shut down I’ve given up.

The resistance is female for a reason. DJT’s voice turns our stomachs. He has the cadence of our predators. He has the same cold, dead eyes. He has their sensibility. That the predator-in-chief is still in his position, despite what he’s admitted to, and what he’s suspected of doing, wounds us and our daughters daily.

I am so proud of our every accomplishment in resisting this juggernaut of sexual predation. And I am so grateful when men, like the Patriots, join us. But I am afraid for my daughter. The end of allowing predatory men in positions of power can’t come soon enough for her or millions of girls like her.

 

 

 

Writing the Resistance

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This weekend I had a chance to take a break from politics and attend the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators 18th Annual International Conference in New York. It was my first time, and everyone was so warm and welcoming.

On the first day,  Fish in a Tree author Linda Mullaly Hunt spoke with me at the Friday Professional Author’s forum, and  Jodi Kendall (whose book The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City is out October 2017) and Marcie Colleen  (who writes the Super Happy Party Bears chapter books, among others) took me to Grand Central Station’s food court for lunch.

Mathew Winner (of All the Wonders podcast and blog), was so knowledgeable about social media, and so open to meeting new, awkward people like me.  Erica S. Perl (Ferocious Fluffety and many more), said hello on that first day and kept letting me hang around whenever I felt awkward. Ellen Hopkins, of Crank and Traffick fame, chatted with me at the Saturday night get together when it was clear I had no idea who she was, and when I finally realized it and fell all over myself apologizing (I knew her books, but not her face, and she had no name tag), she  graciously let it slide.

But it was’t just about schmoozing and self-promotion. And it wasn’t just about writing craft. As the weekend went on, it was clear that the unstated themes of the conference were Bravery, Diversity, and Empathy. Over and over, the keynote illustrators and writers  were moved to talk about their response to the current political and emotional climate in this country. Bryan Colliers moved us to tears as he talked about the illustrations in Knock Knock, a picture book about a boy separated from his father. He spoke of how each of us saw that child every day, separated from a parent by death, deportation, incarceration, or simply “gone”, and how our empathy for that child’s story changes lives. Cynthia Leitich Smith had us examine how we depicted diversity in our books, and she gave me a lot to think about with regards to identity and the Own Voices movement.

The editors and agents and authors repeatedly revisited the idea that when we bravely and empathetically tell stories about diverse children, we make space for them in a troubling and sometimes hostile world, and that in times like these, that is more important than ever. Diversity means all kinds of things–nearly every one in this country has some hyphen, whether it’s based on religion, ethnicity, gender identity, sexuality, regional or socio-economic factors. Sara Pennypacker summed it up in the closing keynote, when she spoke of each of our efforts as “positive acts of creation” that remove one drop of evil from the world.

In times of crisis, writing and reading children’s books can seem frivolous,  chatting about our art can seem self-indulgent. But we need to dream better versions of the world before we can realize better versions of the world,  and art for children is the first step. Children grown on diverse voices get used to diversity, and are far less likely to vote for hate in the future. By bravely writing about diverse people with empathy, we write the resistance.

 

 

 

 

DJT Day 12: Why the Resistance Will Win

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I work in schools as a private duty nurse for medically fragile students, so every day I say the Pledge of Allegiance. Today, I started crying. Now, I know Trump and his supporters might say those are “fake tears”, but I don’t care anymore what Trumpies say. Because as I was feeling sad, my survival instincts kicked in, and I started something like a Gratitude List.

Except in this case, it was a “Why the Resistance Will Win” list.

  1. Martha’s Vineyard ran out of pink yarn and over a thousand people showed up at 5-Corners on the day of the Women’s March–even though Martha’s Vineyard has a winter population of 16, 535 people. That’s about 1 in 16!
  2. We’ve got heart: The resistance actually cares about people other than themselves. We aren’t guided by fear, but by love.
  3. We’ve got soul: We have the Pope, The Dalai Lama, and thousands of other religious leaders on our righteous side. After all, what would Jesus (or Buddha) do?
  4. We’ve got spine: Sally Yates, Bob Ferguson, CREW, Walter Shaub, that 12 year old from Yemen; all the “Indivisible” groups, journalists, protestors, the Standing Rock Sioux, the Veterans who joined them and who stood with the Muslim refugees, etc etc (There are so many up-standers I can’t list them all in this quick and dirty blog)
  5. We’ve got the truth: data backs us up, over and over. Photos, archived quotes, leaked tweets…
  6. We’re cooler: all the artists, actors, musicians, celebrities–they’re with us.
  7. We’ve got history: not only does history show that authoritarians eventually lose, but we’re also on the right side of history.
  8. We’ve got the dramatic arc: In every major story, every hero movie (Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, everything about WWII, The Wizard of OZ, etc) the Resistance wins.
  9. We’ve got rainbows: We’re the face of the world–that big, beautiful diverse place of many wondrous differences.
  10. We own the future: people will keep moving across borders no matter what, loving different people, mixing it up, making crazy quilt families and communities until everyone knows and loves someone that this administration would hate–

And that is why, my friends, We are going to win.

Yay Team Democracy!

Trump: Day 3

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(image from melaniebiehle.com ; generously provided for the women’s march)

Okay, so what next? How about a visit to the petitions page of the whitehouse.gov?

You can sign a petition to get DJT to show us his tax returns (After all, it’s only fair, right? After all the hassle he gave President Obama about his birth certificate?), and you can tell him to divest of his businesses and do the job he signed up for when he ran for office.

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov

You can also write a letter. I did! It’s kind of fun. I wrote a personal note asking him to show us his tax returns. I figure he has to eventually get the message that we really do care about our national security, and his foreign financial entanglements actually do concern us as citizens.

I’m considering making it a frequent thing. Like I could explain, today, that “alternative facts” are in fact, NOT FACTS, but as implied by the Orwellian name, LIES. After all, this isn’t 1984. Perhaps I can suggest that he and Ms. Conway read that classic tale of a lying authoritarian government nightmare, and then try to avoid behaving that way.

Also, if you want to do something organize-y, check out this:

https://www.indivisibleguide.com

It’s a handy-dandy guide to organizing your community. We’re already getting started in my neck of the woods. How about you?