Archive | March 2010

Relief and working while having a chronic illness:

Have you ever finished up something and felt such a relief?  Maybe you had been doing something for a long time, a job you hated or a friendship that was toxic or fake?  Then after you finally get rid of it, you felt free?  Felt like the proverbial “monkey was off your back?”  I have had this feeling before and I have friends who have as well.  It’s amazing how you can get into a “rut” doing something you despise or being involved with someone who you just feel is not who they pretend to be…you just keep dragging this thing out, maybe because you feel you must for financial reasons in the case of a bad job or you hate to hurt someones feelings in the case of a bad friendship.  In either case it’s not good for the job, the friend or yourself to stick around.

In job situations sometimes people MUST stick it out, no matter how bad they hate it or how bad it is for their health.  That is so detrimental to that person’s mental and physical health.  They take being treated badly, being taken for granted and being paid a lousy wage just to put food on the table. Or the employer is just a delusional psych job that thinks they are the best thing since sliced bread, and that by allowing you to work for them they are somehow doing you a favor and expect you to kiss their feet for giving you a paycheck after a long hard week on the job?  It’s an all around bad situation.  I know many people stuck in jobs they hate, but have no other options other than to stick it out…for now.  I know waitresses who rely on tips…and who have clients who are too idiotic to leave decent tips or make you jump through hoops to get a decent tip…guess what people?  TIPS are part of most jobs that are service oriented!  DUH!  Giving that tip to the waitress doesn’t make you kind…it’s part of the deal when dining out!  Unless of course you get crappy service, then of course you may have a valid reason not to tip.

I am lucky in that I have found a job I love and that works out with my physical limitations!  The supervisors I have are amazing!  They treat the employees very well and with respect.  The co workers are great, everyone helps each other out.  Working any job when having a chronic illness, especially one involving alot of pain, is very difficult.  On days when you can barely bring yourself to get out of bed…but you must force yourself up and to work.  You take your meds and you just push yourself to get to your job and to do it to the best of your ability…even with the pain and the brain-fog related to the pain medications.  Yes, it is hard indeed.  But we do it, because we have to or because it fullfills us to be out in the world, doing something we enjoy.  I am so grateful that I am able to work outside the home in a job that I love and can physically do…I’m lucky to be able to push myself to do it.

I hate the days where I am in so much pain I can’t even force myself to get up, much less work.  Those days suck.  They make you feel so pitiful and helpless.  I have many of these days each month, but thankfully not every single day…I can usually “suck it up” enough to get up and get stuff done…with the help of my pharmaceutical suitcase…lol.

Well, I hope everyone out there in cyberland is having a glorious day!  The weather is awesome!  Slide open those windows and air the house out!  (Some people REALLY need to do this….ever walked into a house that smelled like stinky garbage? ewww)…

xoxoxoxoxxo

“Make plans, but allow for changes!”

Gifts from the heart? Micro-managing…and more!

Have you ever given a gift to someone?  Of course you have!  All of us have given a gift to someone at some point or another in our lives.  Maybe it was an extravagant gift like a diamond necklace…or maybe it was a used t-shirt we no longer needed or wore…maybe it was rocks from your garden that your bestfriend really liked and wanted….maybe it was lunch for a friend….maybe it was a cash tip for a job well done!  Yes, we have all done this, right?

When you gave this gift…did you do it because you wanted to?  Because you felt good doing something nice for someone?  Because you are just a kind and giving person?  Because you wanted to show the other person some type of appreciation?  Because you liked or loved the recipient of the gift?  Probably so.

After giving said gift, did you then harbor in the back of your mind that this person somehow was now indebted to you or owed you in some capacity?  That you now have done something nice for them and they now owe you the same in return?  I would think not, because the whole idea of giving a gift is to do it out of kindness…not out of some twisted sense of “HA! Now you must turn and do something nice for me!”  lol…no, I think we all give gifts because we are nice and it makes US feel good to do good for others.  At least I hope so. 

I have heard stories of people who do nice things for others, then throw it in their face when things don’t go their way for some reason.  I’ve never been sure what to make of people who do things like that.  People who say things like “Well I was nice to you!  How can you disagree with my opinion?”  Like being nice was payment on some future debt owed.  “I was nice to you in 1987, so I need you to wash my car now!”  Or they blow what they have given you so far out of proportion…like that old mirror that had been in their attic unused or unseen for years was some brand new grand piano?  I dunno.  I have just heard of these type of occurrances, and it bothers me.  When I give someone something, I gave it.  It’s gone.  It made me feel good and it made them feel good.  Once you bring it up or make it ugly….it makes no one feel good.

Just watched a movie this week where this man was a micro-manager.  OF EVERYTHING!  He was the supervisor at a big department store.  He was one of those bossy bosses…lol.  You know the type.  They know it all.  They have done it all.  They know the best way of doing it all.  On the surface he seemed like a nice guy…in fact, he would be the first to tell you what  a nice guy he was!  😉 Once they really got to know him however…or worked under him for any length of time…they saw the truth.  He would tell the guys stories about his life..or problems he is having with other employees or other people in general…and of course they agree with everything he says…he’s the boss or your friend or your brother in law!  What else are ya gonna do?  Anyway, on the show he was such a “manager” of everything, at home…he ran the show…he told his wife how to do everything, where to put things, how to put them there, when to put them there. He wasn’t abusive or anything, it was a comedy…lol, he was just so arrogant!  He didn’t even seem to realize just how annoying he was, or how everyone really found him to be a total bafoon! His poor wife, she followed his every rule and command like a whipped puppy dog.  She’d say “Oh yes, Honey!  I’ll do that!” To his every command.  “If she only knew how he talked about her behind her back!”…the friends would say.  He had two grown sons who wouldn’t even talk to him…they would talk to the mom, and stop over only when the dad wasn’t around, at first…before you found out how the dad was, you thought these two sons were real brats for being so mean to their father…then as the story unfolded, you understood!   The employees did as they were told and pretended to be interested in his boring and sometimes ridiculous stories, they would put in the correct compliments where indicated.  But outside of work, they all made fun of him.  Of how he really thought he was “cool” or “goodlooking” or “smart”, or “talented” he really thought he was a great singer, when in fact it sounded like fingernails on the chalkboard!  Didn’t stop him from singing all the time though!  In the shower, in the bathroom stalls, in the halls, everywhere!  lol…  This guy would find one employee and take him under his wing…he was so desperate for a friend at the beginning of the movie, the new employee would go along with his boss…at times feeling pity for the guy.  Eventually this “boss’s pet” would figure out that the dude was completely nutzo!  He soon learned why all the other employee’s talked badly about this guy and why some had previously quit.  His demands were at times just plain moronic, and he always thought someone was trying to rip him off…whether at work or at home…it was hilarious..at one point he had three different plumbers coming to his house for estimates on just changing the ballcock in the toilet tank!  Trying to save $5.oo!  lol….but you would’ve had to watch the movie and I can’t remember the name of it right now.  Eventually the guy lost his job…and was left as he started…friendless and looking for work….but no worries, his hapless wife was still by his side, but there was the indication that she would soon be sick of his insanity. It ended with him sending back the car he had just had specially outfitted with outrageous interior because he now thought it was vulgar…the guys at the auto detailers, put a dead fish in his car heater vents!  It was great!!! Even though it was funny, it did have a moral…that even if you’re delusional thinking you are greater than you really are, in the end…it’s others opinion of you that tells the world what kind of person you are.  Anyway…I guess the show got me thinkin about all the micro-managers of the world….I bet they give themselves migraines!

I’m feeling pretty good tonight.  For a change.  Think I’m getting my UTI under control.  It’s one of those days where I am feeling thankful for alot of things instead of down.  I am thankful that I have two great children who love me and spend alot of time with me…willingly!  I am grateful that I have such a great relationship with my kids and my family!  I am grateful that I have so many kind and loving and true friends…some in person and some online!  I am grateful that I have a strong and supportive family…even through tough times.  I am just grateful for alot tonight!  And guess what peeps?  SPRING has sprung!  Woo Hoo!  What’s not to love about that?!  Sunshine!  That always makes me feel better.  And Easter is Sunday, and spring break….I sure hope the weather stays nice for everyone! 

I appreciate all of you who read and message me privately and comment! 

We should give as we would receive, cheerfully, quickly, and without hesitation; for there is no grace in a benefit that sticks to the fingers.  ~Seneca

Accomplished much?

Yea, it’s one of those nights.  Sittin here, feeling the twisting serated knife traveling through my intestines.  Thinking.  What have I really accomplished?  I have a friend who blogs frequently about not having accomplished his dreams at the young age of 29.  I am on the verge of 43 and have in no way accomplished anything much to chat about.

I have my kids of course.  I raised them.  Loved them.  Watched them.  Read to them.  Kissed their boo boo’s.  Rubbed their heads and backs.  Bathed them.  Rocked them.  Tickled them.  Played with them.  Stayed up all night with them when they were sick.  Protected them from the world.  Nervously sent them off on their first days of school.  All their little “firsts”….first step, first word, first smile, first giggle…I was there.  But, was I an amazing mother?  Nah.  I tried to be the very best I could be.  I made mistakes.  But I know in my heart everything I did was done out of love.  No one could ever doubt my love for my children. They are great kids, and I love them both very much.  I am equally proud of both of them and wouldn’t trade either for anything in the world.  They are my two biggest accomplishments…and they are still a work in progress………………………..as am I.

I became a nurse.  That was a goal I had as a child.  So I can check that one off.  I’ve always wanted to be a published writer…I am actively working on that.  I always wanted to work in a field where I was helping people..I can check that off…I love my job at the hospital.  I always wanted to work with animals…check…I get to do that with my petsitting, and of course my own pets.  But unless you are leaving your mark somehow, how do you record your accomplishments?  Somedays getting out of the bed is a huge accomplishment!  Getting my belly brace down before I pee my pant is a big accomplishment!  Shaving my legs is something deserving of some type of ribbon!  So, like today…I did two loads of laundry…that’s accomplishing something…

So, I guess I was just sayin that I haven’t accomplished much in my 42 years….When I die there won’t be brilliant books left behind that I’ve written for future generations, no movie reels of me playing the female lead with John  Travolta, no CD of me jammin out with Jon Bon Jovi….nothing to remember me by…I will just be one of the many humans who walked this earth for a short time…looking and searching for answers to questions that have been asked since the beginning of time…why am I here? What is my purpose?

Maybe what we are to accomplish, is to just accept our being.

Should I just give up?

Laying here in bed….in my usual position, propped up on pillows, on a heating pad.  TV on Hallmark channel, although I’m not really watching it.  Computer on lap.  House phone and cell phone within reach.  Bottle of water and pills on bedside table, several books/magazines  next to me.  Pain levels are thru the roof of course, as they have steadily been as of late.  The plethora of pain meds I take routinely … not doin their job.

Have a raging UTI with possible right kidney involvment just for fun.  Waiting out to go to the doc til Monday…but I am drinkin lots of water and cranberry juice, taking AZO and leftover pyridium. 

Wondering if I should just give up.  Not on life completely per say.  But give up trying to be NORMAL.  Trying to behave as if I have no health issues, when I most definitely do.  Give up trying to please everyone, when I am only failing repeatedly.  Give up trying to do anything resembling worth while when I can’t seem to.  Give up trying to fight all the damn health problems I have…the list just keeps growing.  Give up trying to keep going to doctors and keep taking pills, it’s all just costing us money we don’t have.  Give up trying to look decent, when its a fail.  Give up wishing the past could’ve been different, cuz it can’t.  Give up trying to be the best mom, cuz there ain’t no such thing.  Give up on trying to keep dreams alive.  Give up on thinking I’m here for a purpose.  Give up on trying to figure out my phone/internet bills, cuz Verizon is obviously trying to drive ME (yes, just me) completely insane with their billing practices.  Just give up. 

I will just stop showering.  Lay here in bed.  Eat like a depraved elephant.  Have people wait on me.  And wait for death to come and take me to a place where there is no illness, no pain, no hate, no fear, no misery, no anger, no spite, no stupidity, no envy, no competition, no bad people….just take me away.  I’m tired of it all.  Sick and damn tired of it ALL.

No one needs to freak out.  This is not some sordid suicide letter of any sorts.  This is me purging my mind because I am laying here pissed off as hell at the world.  I am supposed to be trying to get ready…we are supposed to be going out to dinner with friends tonite.  So after I am done crying, I will get the Visine, and go to work with the makeup to cover my blotchy face.  Find some clothes and TRY to look human and force myself to go out and pretend to be normal for a few hours.  I WANT to go out.  I WANT to see my friends.  I WANT to eat a great meal.  I WANT to be normal.  But the best I can hope for is just getting through the night.

So…see there, I guess I’m not giving up.  Yet.  Not sure if I will actually make it out tonite yet or not.  At this moment…it seems doubtful…but who knows…I will atleast get dressed, take my drugs…then when 6:30pm rolls around, my poor husband will then know if his disabled and useless wife will be able to accompany him on this Saturday night out….or not.  He should’ve run for the hills long ago.

Hope the rest of you are having a better weekend than I am.  Sorry to be a downer….but somedays…..it’s hard to pretend.

No inspiring quote today….not feelin it.

xo

Girls….

As the mother of a teen girl…I have unfortunately had to watch over the last few years how girls today treat each other.  Now of course since time began, I’m sure there has always been a certain “rivalry” between girls/women…but it seems to me that it is getting worse and worse over the last decade or so.

I can remember being a teen and looking at the other girls in my class and wishing I looked like that one or dressed like that one or had that one’s boyfriend or whatever…there is always someone who looks better than you or has better than you…that’s life.  And yes, there was always the gossip type stuff going on…”I heard Sasha was kissing Joey behind the bleachers!”

But now it’s taken on a life of it’s own.  Girls are crazy ass vicious with each other.  They are mean and vindictive.  They spread the most vile and malicious lies about each other.  They get physical with each other, they vandalize peoples property.  It is out of control.  The media is partly to blame, in my opinion…everything is sex, nudity and shows like Bad Girls Club, Jersey Shore and all the other smut crap that’s out there…these young girls are growing up thinking it’s cool to say you’re “bi sexual” or “gay/lesbian” they think it’s cool to cut other girls down or to spread lies about each other.  They travel in “packs” and go after the “weaker prey”…for what?  All to make themselves feel superior in some way? 

What this shows is that girls are lacking in self esteem and self respect.  They have lost the innocence they had right before they hit the age of 11…when they all played together and hugged each other and were all just the best of friends.  Suddenly puberty hits and they all lose their minds!  Someone gets boobs before the other and suddenly that girl is a slut!  Someone gets a cuter outfit than the other and suddenly she is a whore!  Someone spends too much time with one girl and then she is a lesbo!

Growing up in todays society as a woman is hard enough with all the crap in the media making women feel inferior to all the air-brushed models and surgically enhanced celebrities….women should be sticking together.  Supporting each other.  These girls will find out one day that their close women friends that they have will be their biggest allies in getting through life.  Friendships should be cultivated and cherished.  And they need to learn that it’s okay to have more than ONE best friend…have as many best friends as you can get!!!  We need different friends for different reasons…maybe one friend loves to shop, while another doesn’t, one friend loves to play hero guitar, another doesn’t…etc.

That movie with Lindsey Lohan…Mean Girls…was right on…in fact, it’s WORSE than that for these girls in high school.  Have you seen the news reports about these “girl fights?”  These poorly brought up girls all gang up on one and just beat the shit out of her…It is repulsive!  In one report the mother of one of the girls was right there cheering on her daughter in the fight!  My God!  What is the world coming to?

Like I said, there will always be someone who has better clothes, a better body, better skin/hair, a cuter boyfriend…whatever…get the hell over it!  Learn to love your own individual style.  You do not have to HATE another woman because you envy her!  We all have our insecurities.  Even the most beautiful woman in the world thinks her thighs are too fat!  So let’s teach our girls to love each other!  To protect each other.  To support each other.  To lean on each other.  To relate to each other, confide in each other.  Let’s stop all the backstabbing, the gossiping, the lieing, the side taking, the butchering of girls feelings.

It’s like some of these girls just have no compassion whatsoever.  They are not happy unless they are on the attack of another girl.  Do they not have any empathy for other girls feelings?  Don’t they think of how it would feel for it to be happening to them?  It is just really upsetting to me to see how girls are treating each other now-a-days.  It’s always been a competition, but it wasn’t as nasty as it is now…and the parents would’ve never put up with it or been involved, cheering it on like now.  It’s sick. 

It’s hard enough growing up in todays world.  Why rip each other apart?  Why not help each other through the maze of your high-school years?  You’re all going through the same things…the same feelings…the same insecurities…the same dreams….support each other…stop hurting each other.

“You give but little when you give of your possessions.  It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”…Kahil Gibran.

GIVE PEACE A CHANCE!!!!  NO ONE IS BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE!!!!  WE ARE ALL EQUAL!!!  WE ALL HAVE FEELINGS!!!  WE ALL HAVE PROBLEMS!!!  WE ALL HAVE INSECURITIES!!!  STOP THE INSANITY!!!

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog…sorry I haven’t been good about posting lately…just haven’t been very motivated.  I’m gonna try to get back into the groove!

Robbed!

I haven’t posted any blog entries lately.  Been feeling crappy lately.  Just the pain trying to take over my mind again.  Sometimes it wins, sometimes I win.  I really felt ROBBED yesterday.  Robbed of a normal life.  Ya see, about twice a month or even once a week most of the time…my 15 year old daughter and I like to go out and shop or see a movie together.  We are very close, and sit with each other everyday when she gets home from school and we chat about her day and whats going on in her life and mine.  We watch tv shows together, bake cookies together, just normal mom/kid things.  But on these days where we want to go out and “hit the town” so to speak, it goes something like this:

We decide to go Friday after school.  We are both excited!  Gonna head to the Mall and walk around, eat at the food court, hit our favorite stores, Jessies are of course American Eagle, Aeropostle, Buckle, Claires, Ulta….mine are Barnes/Noble, CjBanks, Ulta, Payless….;) So we jump in the van, all talkative and hyper…singing along to the radio…making the plans as to where to go first, when to eat, etc.  We find a strategic place to park…and we’re off!

Now we both know that with my physical limitations, I can only walk for so long before the pain gets unbearable.  So we try go where we know I can find a place to sit if need be….we also know from past experience that by the end of this fun event, I will be near tears with pain…but I think we hope each time that it won’t be as bad each time…but, of course it is.  So, we go to the shoe store first…we saw some really cute flip flops…but decided to head to the other stores and come back for them on the way leaving.  Hit the next store…Cjbanks…again, I saw a really cute outfit I liked, but was still peppy and we decided to go on to the other stores and get that outfit on the way out.  Big mistake.

We then head off to Ulta…we spent quite a bit of time in there messin around with all the makeup and perfumes and stuff…this is where the pain started ripping into my gutt.  So, after making our purchases we head over to eat…so I can sit.  I got my second wind…sort of…and we headed to AE.  Now of course this store is great….the tshirts and polos alone can take Jess hours to choose from…and she had to try them on….but the pain in my gutt is getting worse and worse.  The pain pills are not working.  I sit on the couch while she is in the dressing room…thank God for their couches!  By this time I am sweating profusely…I sweat like a hog when I am in that much pain…I’m sure people think I am about to have  a heart attack or something…lol.

I tell Jess, we have to speed up the process…feeling like I am dissappointing her in the process.  We make our purchases and head to Aeropostle…there is no place for me to sit in that store…so I am wondering around, trying to ignore the fact that it feels like Freddy Kruger is sharpening his finger blades on my intestines…sweat pouring off my head…tryin to look blase’, while Jess is in the fitting room.  It’s getting hard for me to remain standing…I am getting irritable.  Poor Jess comes out of the dressing room and I am being abrupt, “is that what you want? Let’s go now”….we check out….I find a bench, sit down.  Jess is getting stressed, because I am getting stressed…we begin to snap at each other.

We decide to try to make it to Claires…of course there are 5000 people in that tiny little store…I manage to remain calm while we found some earrings and some hair do dads…but again..I am not pleasant…I am crabby and sweaty and about to burst into tears because my evening out with my daughter is getting ruined by pain.

We wanted to go to Old Navy, but we sat down on the bench and I told Jess there was no way I could walk much more.  We were cold…by now it was getting dark and the temp had cooled and we were both wearing light jackets.  I honestly sat there on that bench wondering how in the hell I was gonna make it out to the parking lot!  I could barely stand up strait.  After resting for a short time we started out…now remember, I had wanted to go back to cjbanks and payless on our way out…that wasn’t happening…no way.  I was praying hard just to make it out to the parking lot.

I made it, but I could barely get into the van.  Some old lady was getting into her car next to me and looking at me with the strangest expression as I was trying to get behind the wheel of the car … grimacing in pain and trying hard not to just burst into tears.  I got the door closed.  Took some deep breaths.  Apologized to Jess that I always have to ruin our times out together, she tells me it’s okay, that she understands and it just makes her sad and angry that a stupid doctor did this to me.  I wanted us to be able to stop and have a Starbucks coffee, couldn’t do that.  I wanted to stop at Target…couldn’t do that either.

So we did end up going through a drive-thru and each got a shake.  Came home and I swallowed more pills and barely managed to get into my pj’s and flopped into bed.  Finally letting the tears flow.  I have been robbed of a normal life.  There is no other way to put it or to look at it.  Yea, I can try to be positive about it, make the most of it, be thankful to be here….blah blah blah…and I am thankful to be here.  But I am also PISSED that I can’t just go shopping with my daughter and have fun!!!  The pain is always there…somedays worse than others…but it’s ALWAYS there.

Well…this has been a long post…I will end it now…lol.  I just need to learn to stop pushing myself.  If I want to shop, I guess I can only go to one store per day or something, I don’t know.  I just know that it bothers me.  Alot.  I can’t make plans in advance, cause when that day arrives I may be bedridden with pain.  It makes life so damn complicated.  I get tired of wearing the “I’m normal” mask everyday.  I am not normal.  I am defective.  And it totally makes me ANGRY!

“Look at a tree, a flower, a plant.  Let your awareness rest upon it.  How still it is, how deeply rooted in Being. Allow nature to teach you STILLNESS”

God…I am really trying!  Thanks to everyone who reads my blogs!  I appreciate everyones messages and comments, thanks for all the support.

xoxoxo

Politics!

Oh boy.  Politics!  I never discuss politics.  Ever.  It’s too volatile…gets people crazy.  Everyone has their opinions and they are entitled to them.  It’s like religion.  You believe what you want to believe in and I will do the same.  What scares me about both those topics, are the EXTREMIST views of certain sects of the population.  I think being extreme with anything in life is dangerous…life is not black and white…there are alot of grey areas.  There are some groups however that will only believe and preach a very one-sided skewed view of certain topics.  They, in my opinion, are dangerous.  They preach so much hatred, they make people angry.  They produce documents or verbage that can make you believe the government is out to get us, to put us into concentration camps, to repeat what Hitler or Stalin did.  If you do not follow these beliefs, then you are called sheeple or drones.  This is much like the Church of Scientology, if you don’t believe what they do…you are branded in a negative fashion.

I do not know alot about various religions nor do I consider myself the most political of people.  I am simply a “middle of the road” kinda person.  I believe in live and let live.  I do not advocate violence in any fashion.  I do not like bullying someone into your beliefs.  I do not think anyone should be stockpiling weapons or preparing for some civil war that isn’t going to happen.  Who wants to live with that type of thought process?  Constantly believing “Big Brother” is gonna take over your life?  Are these extremists actually living and enjoying life?  I don’t have my head in the sand at all.  I know our country has problems right now…alot of problems.  But I also know the USA has been in trouble before and we came out of it, stronger for it.  If I am wrong, then so be it…I guess I will go down with my country…but I prefer that than to arming myself with automatic weapons and filling my closet with jugs of water…waiting to be invaded by the United States Military.

I don’t think anyone should think in EXTREMES.  We all have to see ALL sides and options to situations.  Yes, we all have differing opinions…and that is good…we should fight for what we believe in.  We should protect those who can’t protect themselves.  But I do not think that we should be fighting ourselves.  We are all Americans…we should protect our Country and our people…but by peaceable ways…not by brainwashing or bullying.  When we constantly only hear or read one groups side of things, that of course is what we tend to believe.  If you watch and or listen to it every day…it’s ingrained into you.  If you don’t like your government, then make sure you vote for who you do want in office, if your man loses, then wait til the next vote and get someone better in.  Polititians are all the same…they say what they think or are told the majority wants to hear…it doesn’t mean they will follow through on their campaign promises.  They are puppets. 

My only point of this blog was to ask people to not be so EXTREME in their views.  To not follow groups that can be or are a danger to society.  To have a “group mentality” can be a dangerous thing.  People involved in groups will sometimes do things they would never do on their own.  This includes many bad things…read up on group mentality…it’s not a good thing.  We have to keep our own opinions.  We have to use common sense.  We can not live in a constant anger mode, constantly cynical.  We have to have faith (in whatever higher being you choose to believe in)…faith that we as a people are kind and caring and want to do the right thing.

Here is a website I found and kind of liked.  It’s a “middle of the road” type site about politics…it does a decent job of breaking down issues, without being too biased.  It may be a bit simplistic, but I like it.  If you don’t then thats fine!  We all have our opinions, as I said…and I don’t fault you if you disagree with my philosophy…live and let live. 

Thanks to everyone who reads my blog…I really do appreciate it. 

Do something kind for another person today.

The Solution to Fighting Extremism: Choose The Middle

  By: Joe Messerli

The Polarization of America

Extremism in American thinking has grown to epidemic proportions. I’m talking about more than just the kind of extremism that leads to someone piloting planes into buildings; I’m talking about extremes in ideology and opinions. Americans have divided themselves into rigid camps: Democrat vs. Republican, Anti-War vs. Pro-War, Liberal vs. Conservative, Pro-Choice vs. Pro-Life, Black vs. White, Right vs. Wrong.

Most controversial issues we face nowadays don’t have any easy solution. However, more and more people continue to throw their support on one side of an issue, ignoring the fact that both sides often have good arguments. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, George Bush, Ann Coulter, Fred Barnes and others are convinced the conservative side of issues is completely correct. Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Alan Colmes, and many Hollywood stars are convinced that everything President Bush does is wrong. It’s become almost a reflex action nowadays: whenever Bush or another prominent Republican states a policy, no matter what the position, liberals attack it. And the same was true of conservative attacks on Bill Clinton.

Conventional wisdom says 30-40 percent of the population will always vote Republican and 30-40 percent will always vote Democrat no matter who the candidate is or his/her stance on the issues. What’s worse is that an atmosphere of hatred and antagonism has spread throughout the political landscape. Conservatives refer to the “loony left” or the Hollywood “left coast”. Liberals refer to “right wing fanatics”. Congress bickers to gridlock on virtually every issue. And political books attacking the other side have become fixtures of the New York Times Bestseller List. Observe the titles of some of the more popular ones:

The list goes on and on. Even if these books are meticulously researched and prove their case beyond a shadow of a doubt, they aren’t going to change anybody’s mind on the other side. To illustrate, how many liberals are going to buy the book Why the Left Hates America? Probably very few. What percentage of this book’s purchasers do you think fall into the conservative camp? It’s probably a high number. The result is that no one on the left changes their mind and people who are already conservative are going to be more entrenched in their views and more hostile to the other side.

Not only are people dividing themselves into ideological extremes, they are often supporting a platform of ideas rather than debating each one individually. To illustrate, liberals generally are pro-choice, are anti-war, advocate more government, support more social spending, and oppose tax cuts. Conservatives generally are pro-life, support increased defense spending, oppose an increase in social spending, and advocate tax cuts. On virtually every issue, there is a Democrat position and an opposite Republican position. The damage comes in when you consider that extreme liberals or conservatives start to support everything on the agenda of “their side” rather than debate each issue individually. Politicians must often change their public stance rather than take the one they truly believe in their hearts. For example, a person cannot secure the Democratic presidential nomination unless he or she is pro-choice. Virtually all politicians can find an issue in which they disagrees with the stance of their party but are unable to advocate publicly.

Clearly, there’s a problem here. Rather than engage in intelligent discussion of both sides of an issue, political debate has turned into an “us vs. them” mentality. This mentality leads to a breeding ground of extremism. If you don’t believe me, watch a single episode of CNN’s Crossfire or the Fox News show Hannity and Colmes. The next section discusses the basic psychology of brainwashing and why so many of us now fit into that category.

The Basics of Brainwashing and Extremism

As described above, most politicians and media commentators have become extreme in their views. All of us can probably think of a couple people in our lives who are extreme in their opinions and will never change their minds no matter how much logic, reason, and evidence is presented to them. People who are extreme in their thinking have in effect been brainwashed one way or the other. Let’s examine the common characteristics of brainwashing and how they relate to political views.

Bombardment of Information

The first technique of brainwashing is bombarding an individual with information that supports a certain point of view. For example, if you listen to Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity for several hours a day, you’re likely to form conservative opinions on most issues. You’re constantly hearing opinions, evidence, and logic that detail why conservatives are right and liberals are wrong. Conversely, if you look to the magazine The Nation or the New York Times for all your news and commentary, you’re likely to form liberal opinions. Either side may be right or wrong, but when you only hear positive things about a certain political philosophy and only hear negative things about the opposite side, the brainwashing has begun.

Biased Seeking Out of Information

Generally speaking, there is a very real human tendency to seek out information that confirms your existing beliefs and ignore or discount information that contradicts your current beliefs. For example, if you’re an atheist, you’re more likely to read magazines like American Atheist or frequent the website for Freedom from Religion Foundation. If you’re Christian, you’re more likely to read Christian Magazine or read the literature of Focus on Family. Conversely, how many Christians do you know that read American Atheist? That kind of bias naturally makes it’s way into politics. If you’re liberal, how likely are you to subscribe to the conservative Limbaugh Letter? If you’re conservative, how likely are you to read Al Gore’s books? Consider a feminist is convinced single motherhood has no adverse effects on the raising of kids. Imagine a psychology journal article is released that scientifically proves children of single moms have more mental problems and more often choose a life of crime. What do you think the reaction of that feminist would be? If she’s like most humans, she probably won’t read the article, or if she does, she will look for inconsistencies or flaws in the research. All of this biased seeking out of information just leads us to become more and more extreme in our thinking, and in a vicious cycle, causes us to seek out more information that supports our views while discounting contradictory viewpoints.

Social Approval/Disapproval

One of the most fundamental techniques of behavior or thought modification is operant conditioning. This is a psychological principle that says behavior that’s rewarded tends to be repeated and behavior that’s punished tends to diminish. When it comes to political issues, rewards and punishments tend to come in the form of social approval or disapproval. To find an ideal example of this tendency, you need not look any further than the Hollywood elite, or what’s often called the “left coast”. For decades, movie and TV personalities have been extremely liberal in their politics. The most recent demonstrations of this liberalism are the incessant attacks on President Bush over anything and everything. Despite the fact that the majority of the American public supports the president’s actions in the War on Terror, the opinion is Hollywood is almost universally opposed. How do you explain this universal extreme opinion? It’s simple–social approval/disapproval. If you take a liberal stance in Hollywood, you’re praised and included in social activities. If you oppose the liberal stance, you’re ostracized and ridiculed. In fact, an actor will often be blacklisted for taking a conservative political stance in Hollywood (as detailed in Tammy Bruce’s book The New Thought Police). The same social approval applies to people around the country. This is why we have certain areas of the country that always elect a Democrat and certain areas that always elect a Republican. This is why people who work with or hang out with members of the Democratic National Committee become more liberal in their views, and vice versa for RNC members.

As pointed out earlier, humans usually seek out literature and TV programs that support their current view; however, they also seek out people that support their current views. Thus, an extreme conservative is more likely to hang out with fellow conservatives. An extreme environmentalist is more likely to seek out fellow environmentalists. This causes two problems: first, it reinforces the information-seeking bias. In other words, friends may point out information that further supports your views and ridicules the other side. For example, a group of conservatives gets together and talks about “the idiotic thing Democratic minority leader Pelosi” said today. The second problem is what I call the “everybody thinks the way I do” phenomena. When you only hang out with people that believe what you do and don’t hang out with people that have contradictory beliefs, you tend to believe that everyone shares the same opinions. How many times have you heard a politician say “President so-and-so is not in touch with the American people”. Often, this is simply the result of the politician not spending time with people who have opposite viewpoints. If you only hang out with anti-war activists, you tend to believe almost all people are against the war.

Groupthink and Other Thought-Control Techniques

There are a number of other thought-control techniques that I will briefly touch on. For more extensive discussions of these, read The New Thought Police by Tammy Bruce or Victims of Groupthink: a Psychological Study of Foreign-Policy Decisions and Fiascos by Irving Janis. Groupthink is a psychological term used to describe the tendencies of groups to place group harmony and consensus over doing the right thing. As group members, each is in fear of group rejection or being the lone voice of dissent. Anybody who speaks out is promptly squashed for disrupting group agreement. Eventually, group members don’t speak out and the impression is created that everyone agrees with a certain position. An example is Kennedy’s Bay of Pigs invasion. Many policy makers saw weaknesses in the invasion plan, but no one wanted to speak out and be the lone voice of disagreement. Dissent is often squashed by using personal attacks. For years, fair and balanced discussions of such things as racism, affirmative action, homelessness, and feminism have been muted by the use of personal attacks. For example, if someone questions whether affirmative action is still necessary in today’s society, that person is immediately labeled a racist rather than debated on the merits of his argument. Since people (especially politicians) often will do anything to avoid being labeled a racist; the opposing argument simply isn’t discussed. All these groupthink/squash-dissent techniques lead to more extremism with little chance of pulling some people back to the middle.

War with the Other Side

As I’ve talked about previously, rigidly arguing or attacking the other side rarely changes the mind of people who have opposite views. In fact, it usually causes them to become even more firm in their beliefs. If I say to you “You’re an idiot, and I’m going to tell you why….”, does this cause you to open up your mind to my ideas? If you’re like most humans, a statement like that will put you on the defensive and you will strive to justify or explain your views. And in the process, you’re likely to hold onto your views even tighter. Unfortunately, a verbal attack by one side often leads to a verbal attack from the other side. Then, a vicious cycle begins. The end result is two sides firmly entrenched in their beliefs and loaded with negative feelings toward the other side. For a more extensive discussion on this point, read How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

The Solution: Why You Should Choose the Middle

The solution to these problems is to take a middle-of-the-road approach to politics and to encourage others to do the same thing. I’m not saying you should be exactly in the middle of the conservative-liberal continuum. I’m saying that for most issues, the extreme position is wrong. The correct answer is almost always somewhere in the middle. Thus, a person should do a balanced study of both sides of an issue. If you’re already firm in your belief for an issue, pretend you’re a lawyer preparing to debate the merits of the other side of the issue. For example, if you firmly believe in capital punishment, invest some time to find all the information you can on why the death penalty should be banned.

Let’s examine the advantages of more people taking a balanced, party-independent approach to political and social issues:

Lessening of the Hostile, Adversarial Environment

A middle-of-the-road approach to politics means there is less chance people will gravitate to one party or the other. What do you think would be more persuasive, saying “You’re wrong and an idiot; here’s why” or something like “You may be right; I’ve been wrong before; let’s examine the pros and cons of the issue”. If more people open their minds and not tie themselves to one “side” or the other, there’s a better chance of having an intelligent discussion.

Reduction of the Human Tendency to Only Seek Out Information that Supports your Current Views

As mentioned previously, when you’re already firm in your opinions, you’re less likely to seek out opposing ideas. Conversely, you’re more likely to hang out with people who have similar views and read literature that supports your beliefs. Taking an independent, I-haven’t-made-up-my-mind approach encourages us to look at both sides of issue.

Less Chance of a Move to Extremism

The independent approach means less of a chance you’ll start on the brainwashing cycle that leads to extremism. How many civil rights leaders examine the detrimental effects of affirmative action? How many environmentalists examine the ways humans have improved the environment? How many Islamic extremists have examined the good things about America (like the trillion dollars it’s given out in foreign aid)?

People Are More Open to Change and Finding the Correct Answer

It’s unfortunate that in our society, you’re almost considered “weak” if you haven’t decided on an issue or if you frequently change your mind. It’s the kiss of death for a politician to flip-flop on too many issues. Yet, most people inevitably take a stand on an issue before they know all the facts. In the War In Iraq analysis on this website, there are over 10 solid reasons for going to war and over 10 solid reasons for not going to war. A good 20-30 percent of the population has flip-flopped on the issue once more evidence and logical reasoning was discussed. However, the rest of the population remained firmly in the pro-war or anti-war camps. And I’m willing to bet that no matter what level of cooperation Saddam exerted or no matter how much evidence was released that he wasn’t cooperating, those same people would remain solidly in their pro-war or anti-war stances. Clearly, the people who don’t have allegiance to one side or the other are the most open to finding the correct answer.

Citizens Will Elect the Right Person Rather Than the Right Party

Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt were Democrats. Ronald Reagan and Abraham Lincoln were Republicans. All four of these men are considered among our greatest presidents, and each was probably exactly what we needed during the point in history in which they were elected. Clearly, the party they were affiliated with didn’t matter, each was the right person for the job. Conventional wisdom says 30-40 percent of people will vote Democrat no matter who’s running and 30-40 percent will vote Republican. If more of us would concentrate on electing the right person for the job rather than the right party, we might begin to have an efficient, harmonious government.

Independents Have More Credibility

An often overlooked advantage of having an independent approach to politics is the increase in credibility. If the issue is President Bush’s dividend tax cut, who would have more creditability: a Republican senator, a Democratic senator, or an independent political analyst? One of the things that changed much of public opinion to pro-war, especially in this country, was the change in attitude of Colin Powell. He was the one who pushed Bush to go to the U.N. He was the one who most advocated a peaceful solution to the crisis, and disarmament over regime change. After trying his best to promote inspections and work with the U.N., Powell realized the futility of the actions and joined the pro-war camp. Now, he was taking the exact same position that Rumsfield, Cheney, and Bush had advocated all along. But it took the change of heart in the even-handed, open-minded Powell that finally convinced much of the American public to support a pro-war stance. Think about that credibility issue the next time you examine the facts of an issue.

Conclusion

As we’ve seen, much of the American public (and the world for that matter) has in effect been brainwashed to a certain way of thinking. Extremism has pervaded the thoughts of environmentalists, communists, anti-war activists, Islamic fundamentalists & other religious fanatics, civil rights leaders, feminists, pro-family traditionalists, and more. There is no easy way to change the minds of these people or bring them back from the extremes. The best we can do is to try to encourage a middle-of-the-road approach, hoping that these people will eventually make the right decisions. And we can prevent others (including ourselves) from becoming extremists in the future.

I’m not saying you should give up your principles or values.  I’m simply saying it pays to get all the facts and reasoning before you come to a conclusion, and it pays to stay open to new evidence that becomes available.  If after analyzing both sides of an issue, you believe one side is stronger than the other, by all means, become a vocal advocate of your position, keeping in mind the good points of the other side.

A society that takes an independent, open-minded view of politics means we can finally begin to solve the problems that continue to plague us. As Albert Einstein said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”