Yes, I’m Still Here

Well, it’s been a weird and interesting few months! Following the news of my husband’s cancer, I went in for a rapid diagnostic breast exam and came out with a sore breast after a biopsy. Turns out the Doc suspects cancer and I’ll find out on June 7th. If it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all! As the saying goes.

I’m still working on disengaging emotionally from what may have been my codependent tendency to latch onto people and make them conform to my idea of said relationship. For example, my marriage.  I probably invested WAY too much baggage into this marriage thing and now I’ve reversed myself enough, taken a step back to re-evaluate, and come at it from a different direction so that I can see more clearly the person I married and what I do and do not have control over. Articles like this help me:

Dysfunction can occur if you misjudge the type of relationship that is required. Many people, especially those new in relationships, jump too quickly to the communal style. When they are wrapped up in the fantasy of new love they assume that they will be spending the rest of their lives together. They then give way too much of themselves, again, this can quickly lead to codependency.

That about sums it up for me. Assuming all along that I was the one with the level head, it turns out I can have issues of my own to sort out, perhaps laying an unfair burden on the other person! The stress of it all isn’t going to help me either, especially now.

Unlike my mother and sister who had and have made a fetish out of dieting and the foods they eat, I am not going to go down that route; thinking cancer is a result of diet choices. Cancer is such a complicated mix of environmental factors, our DNA, our ancestral history, and other things we can’t possibly understand, that believing you can control such a thing has to be classed with other mental disorders such as dysphoria. We humans do love to be in control don’t we?  Sure is devastating when we realize we aren’t.

My mother put herself in an early grave because she believed God was going to cure her without medical intervention. Uh, hello! How about IF there is a god, said god would use the things at hand such as doctors and medicine!! Why is it that God has to bear burden of ‘curing’ without anything else whatsoever. Does everything have to be a miracle? Is there something wrong with using the tools at had to fix things? Why? Anyway, I’m done with magical thinking.

I’ll let you know what the diagnosis is, but I suspect it ain’t good.

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Is That All I Do?

desk_job_1201245Some people must think all I do is complain about my marriage. No, I do other things, but the state of my marriage is what occupies my thoughts most of the time. I have a lot of time to think. I come to this blog, as I have always done, to get things off my chest, to write reviews about books and movies I’ve seen, and to comment on news items of interest.

I started this blog ages ago to give myself a writing outlet when I finished, or was about to finish, studies at university. You see I am one of those odd ducks that loved to write the research paper, bringing all sorts of disparate bits of information together into a cohesive whole. Unless you keep at it though, you tend to get rusty. I’ve fallen into lazy thinking habits and I rarely write anything except in my journal.

My day now is pretty easy-going. Rather than a 9 to 5 job, I can get up when I wish and come to my desk and do whatever my husband needs done to prepare for his gigs, his radio show, or errands about town. Since he can’t drive, I am the designated driver for most everything unless he goes by train or taxi somewhere without me. I am not wedded to my desk and being so was the absolute worst part of a desk job. That 3 p.m. lag after lunch and before getting off work was sheer torture. It was all I could do to stay awake if our office happened to have nothing going on that day. And let’s not mention getting up early to drive 35 minutes one way to get there. I definitely do NOT miss a job like that.

When I first came to this country I tried to find work outside the support work role that I found myself in, but even with a degree, I did not get any second interviews. I barely got an acknowledgement of application. I must have filled out 30 or 40 applications in the first few months, but heard back from none of them. I wanted a job; any job. I was willing to work for peanuts, but employers just did not care. There were meticulous rules about even filling out the correct application forms. Everything was regimented down to how you could answer an application question. After being here some years I have come to realize that there are so many employment shysters out there and so many rules and regulations regarding EVERYTHING job-related that I wasn’t so sure I wanted a job outside the house.  No wonder there is benefit fraud. It’s MUCH easier to stay at home than to jump through those regulatory hoops for a minimum wage.

In the States, getting a job is pretty straightforward. You either work full or part-time.  The applications are easy to fill out. You either get benefits or not. You will get a letter of denial or be called in for an interview usually within a week or so of applying. Everything is stated up front. Once you’ve gotten the job you pretty much have it unless you royally screw up and get fired. Not here. Here, you could get stuck in a 0 hours contract with no assurance you would have a job in 6 months, even if you did an absolutely fantastic job and didn’t screw up once. They use your talents and discard you.  Not only that, paying train fare can leave you penniless unless you find a job that is close by. Commuting into London could cost you upwards of £6,000 a year, not to mention parking 5 days a week for 8 hours or more a day! You’d better have a damn good job then!

No, in many ways, despite my unhappiness with my relationship, I have a pretty good job right here. When I’m not being his eyes or organizer, I can go read or watch television or play the many video games that I’m hooked on at the moment. I can be interrupted at any time when he needs something, but it’s a small price to pay for the freedom it provides. I can set my own hours and take time off whenever I wish. We can go see friends for a couple of days between gigs and not have to arrange it with anyone.

The downside of all this is that we are together 24 hours a day. All of these factors come into play when it comes to relationship matters, so I know it’s complicated. So, if I complain, I’m letting off steam. It’s not like I don’t have a legitimate gripe after all. I just wish I knew what the answer was. Perhaps there is no answer.

If You Could Just Be More…

fat_women_by_a7med47-d4qttthWomen have always been more (or felt more) responsible for their relationships than men. Women are held to a higher standard. I think I am being held to such right now. Only, rather than being too fat for a good marriage, I’m not interesting enough.

When we were conversing via Skype long-distance before I came over here, my husband claimed later that he thought I would be good for him, help him not be so complacent, and provide so much excitement intellectually that he would be distracted enough not to look elsewhere.  The one thing I didn’t have to worry about was my weight, because my husband is an FA; Fat Admirer in fetish-speak. I was delighted to find this out.  I then came to realize that I could lay my fat in the bed next to him and he would be perfectly happy that the rest of me wasn’t there. It’s all about the feel of fat on a woman, not the woman herself.

He claimed that he could not help discussing his fetishes and other things with others because he just NEEDED to. He claimed that he thought I would be interesting enough to keep him from turning to others. I feel like the wife of a husband who says that if I hadn’t let myself go, he’d be more interested. In other words, it’s my fault that I haven’t lived up to his expectations.  Sometimes I wonder who it was he thought he was getting because it surely was not me. I never offered to be a world traveller, fascinating conversationalist OR fetishistic. The assumptions we make when we are in the fog of infatuation.

I can’t win really. I firmly believe that even if I kept him busy, stimulated his mind with scintillating conversation all day and night long, dressed up in nylons and girdle and bustier, and was pleasingly fat, he would STILL find others online to share his fetishes with. The problem with this thinking is that there is no incentive for me to even try. He’s not trying.  It’s a vicious cycle. If he wants me to start investing interest, he’s going to have to do the same. I’m supposed to go fishing and hope to catch a fish, even though the fish isn’t interested in the bait.

I’m done thinking that it’s me that’s the problem; that it’s me who isn’t trying hard enough to fix things. And why am I always responsible for what happens in this relationship? My husband typifies the sentiment, ‘Look at what you made me do’.

“By Their Fruits” and the Public Political Debate

A female Quaker preaches at a meeting...

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Hereby begins a long rambling post by someone with too much time on her hands. Having no standing in the political or religious arena, I feel free to think aloud about what’s running through my head lately.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve settled down to married life without a spouse in the household, which makes it more difficult than I anticipated. My husband of two weeks had to return to the UK and get to work and before we could spend Christmas together. But the future bodes well with my moving there early next spring and transporting most of my worldly goods as well. In the meantime, I need to keep busy at work and keep my mind off missing him.

As I said before, the wedding ceremony was beautiful. We chose a scripture text because a) we were married in a church and b) it seemed a very practical passage. We used Matthew’s passage about salt and light. Salt should keep its flavor and light should not be hid. It probably seems a strange pick for a wedding scripture but it fit with both of our convictions that actions speak louder than words. For both of us, action is more important than all the talk in the world. Action proves one’s intent more than a thousand declarations. My husband is a newly minted Quaker and The Religious Society of Friends values action more than speech. Even the quiet waiting of the Lord in meeting is an action of surrender, far more powerful than a liturgy or mumbling of words in a ritual. Willingness, reception, humility… far more important than stubbornly proclaiming and correcting. I, on the other hand, take the bible with a huge grain of salt (pun intended). 😀

I was reading many blog posts on the internet this morning. It’s Christmas after all and I was looking for inspiration of some kind. Any kind really. I always tell myself I will go to church or do this or that. And I never do it. I think my IDEA of Christianity is a fond nostalgic moment in my mind, but one which never lives up to that nostalgia in practice. My idea of Christianity is just that; ideal. From my readings I sensed a theme though. Some Christians like to use particular passages to prove  what they consider to be wrong in God’s eyes. This provides the basis for most evangelical sermons heard round the world on most Sundays.  I kept coming to articles quoting another section from Matthew; one that some use as a moral compass:

15″Watch out for false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves.  16 You will recognize them by their fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they? 17 In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  18 A good tree is not able to bear bad fruit, nor a bad tree to bear good fruit.  19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  20 So then, you will recognize them by their fruit. (Mt. 7:15-20)

It’s a great passage because it describes the predicament of men very well.  It’s a wonderful metaphor for a principle that probably precedes any biblical inclusion. Let’s assume for a moment that the bible contains an absolute set of ethics which is prescriptive of our behavior.  How is this passage prescriptive? Well in the churches in which I was a member, I heard from the pulpit that you could pretty easily recognize the wrongness of a thing by what it produced. Romans 1:24-32 was often used as a companion text to illustrate this point. Never mind the fact that sometimes “fruit” is not instant. Sometimes we cannot see the good or evil of an action until many years down the road.

But some Christians would like us to believe that this can be a test of some kind, right now.  They tell us that certain acts will automatically produce a certain consequence.  It is true that one can generally tell the worth of a thing by the fruits produced. The problem comes when Christians use this passage as a prescription to tell others what is “good” or “bad” in particular, according to their interpretation of the scriptures. They also get to decide which consequences are good or evil.  For them sexuality is the chief illustration of a tree and its fruits. AIDS is a consequence of homosexuality therefore it is bad. Abortion is a consequence of  preventable choices therefore it is bad. Depression is a consequence of abortions therefore it is preventable and bad. Failed third marriages are the consequence of divorce therefore divorce is bad. Laziness and freeloading is a consequence of welfare therefore welfare is bad.  Communism is a consequence of basic health care for all therefore not only is communism bad, basic health care for free is bad. For these kinds of folk, B is always a result of A, no matter what.

But, let’s continue the metaphor and take it further. But what if a tree produces good fruit one year and bad fruit the next? What if part of it’s fruit is bad but the rest is good? What happens if the fruit looks really good and healthy but tastes bitter? What if the fruit that ripens and “rots” the most is the juiciest and the best? Isn’t this parable more a generalization rather than a sure fire way of telling what’s good and bad? You’ll know an action is generally unworthy if it generally and consistently produces bad things. Conversely, and more importantly, you’ll know an action is generally worthy if it generally and consistently produces good things.  Generally then, we can look at the bible as another set of ethics that needs to be scrutinized alongside all systems of ethics, using the same criteria: Does it work? Unfortunately some Christians do not ask that question often enough mainly because they don’t care if it works. God said it, that settles it.

This brings me to philosophy as it relates to the public debate about politics and whose politics are “better,” (as most of what I read always does). Setting aside biblical philosophy, I am always interested in John Stuart Mill and his theory of utilitarianism, which seems important right now in the public debate over whose politics are true, especially in this country. Utilitarianism posits that the “moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome.”  This seems to be exactly what Matthew is saying.  You cannot really judge anything as an idea. Ideas have no worth in and of themselves. An idea of a perfect society has no worth if its not enacted in the culture and proven in the public arena. Politics is merely one group arguing for their idea of a society over another group’s idea. Each tries to prevent the other from enacting the principles behind their idea.

Political utilitarianism in general terms is the idea that the most good to the most number of people is helpful to society as a whole. To work for the good of society is a morally worthy goal. The problem is when groups of individuals disagree about what’s good for society.  But that jumps the gun. Mill wrote that

To do the right thing…we do not need to be constantly motivated by concern for the general happiness. The large majority of actions intend the good of individuals (including ourselves) rather than the good of the world. Yet the world’s good is made up of the good of the individuals that constitute it and unless we are in the position of, say, a legislator, we act properly by looking to private rather than to public good. Our attention to the public well-being usually needs to extend only so far as is required to know that we aren’t violating the rights of others.

How this dovetails with scripture depends on how one views scripture. For me, having once taken it so literally, I can say that the bible exists for me now only as a record of other peoples’ experiences of their ideas about God. There is nothing systematic about it. There is no consistent ethic. It provides no absolute foundation for anything. It is literature of the past that contains myth. Like most myth, it it meant to explain after the fact rather than be a presentation of fact. Myth is written by men for other men to try and explain how the world works for them (see my Master’s thesis introduction). The fact that no woman wrote scripture, or if she did, no woman was allowed a presence in its collection, convinces me that the bible is not meant for a woman’s consumption and indeed probably has nothing of any value to say to modern women. There are some worthy statements in the bible, just as there are in another philosphers’ writings, but to stand the test of time a philosophy has to be workable and representative of most people; women included! If it does not stand that test, then it can be discarded as an idea; a pretty idea perhaps, but not workable in any real sense.

All this is a long treatise on the simple idea of mine that we will never get anywhere in political debate until we are allowed to test the theories posited. This is what makes the United States unique in that there are individual states making legislation amid the larger idea of a cohesive Federal government. The states are little microcosms whereby the people can enact what they believe are good ideas and see if they work. If they do work then legislators and the public should try to convince other states and eventually the Federal government to enact them. But progress is extremely slow and we have to realize that. We cannot assume that something doesn’t work even after many years. But we can assume that something works if it’s proven to have worked. Who will say that Brown vs. the Board of Education didn’t accomplish much? Yet it was vociferously protested at the time. We’ve already seen how theocracy works in part by looking at history (the Crusades, Salem Witch trials, etc.) and by looking at how individual churches run themselves. We know that we trample on individual rights when we keep out all the undesirable people these churches cannot stand. No one wants a government that exhibits such exclusivity and punishment espoused by such doctrines. A society based on such exclusivity does not work. We have seen that slavery doesn’t work by watching our Southern states and realizing the devastating path that racism takes. Our western states have shown us in the past that women’s rights were successful long before the Eastern part of the country got wind of it or realized that women were intelligent beings.

I guess all of this is my way of realizing that action and the consequences of it is the only proof of a good idea. People and mere existence comes first, not institutions or foundations. We aren’t born into rules. Rules are born from us and the good of society as a whole is a direct result of the happiness and freedom of individuals IN COOPERATION with the happiness and freedom of our neighbor. There are some “trees” that deserve to be cut down. Al Qaida is a bad tree. Theocracy is a bad tree. Slavery is a bad tree. The subjugation of women is a bad tree. Unregulated capitalism is a bad tree. War that is not just is a bad tree. People dying because they cannot afford health care is a bad tree. Sexual stereotyping is a bad tree. What else is a bad tree? You get the picture.

Are Religious Scriptures “Hate Speech?”

The Westboro Baptist Church picketing at the m...

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According to Wikipedia hate speech is defined as:

In law, hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group. The law may identify a protected individual or a protected group by race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, or other characteristic.[3] In some countries, a victim of hate speech may seek redress under civil law, criminal law, or both.

Over at Anne Rice’s Facebook page there is discussion about hate speech and homosexuality. Many are claiming the christian bible as their authority to call out homosexuality as sinful behavior. They have every right to label something sinful if they want. That’s their choice. However, one person’s comment struck me however when they said that the bible itself was hate speech. Hmm. I tend to agree that bible could be construed as hate speech. So can the Koran and other scriptures that advocate killing due to behavior or ethnicity. The Hebrew god condoned killing when “he” moved the tribes of Israel around and demanded others move out to accommodate them. The Muslim god condones killing those who don’t believe in their religion. This falls under the category of inciting violence against a protected group. So I believe both of their scriptures can be construed as hate speech if they are taken literally as guides for modern life. In fact, I think anyone inciting violence using religion and their scriptures as a prop for supporting such violence should be prosecuted for hate crimes. Let’s just call it for what it is and be done with it. You can claim something as sin all you want as long as you keep it to yourself. If your religion is peaceful you have nothing to fear.

Quote of the Day

 

Original caption states, "The internation...

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For those who are dogmatically predisposed to thinking that the world is a hellhole, no amount of contrary evidence will change their minds. The cynic who asked me the following question didn’t really want an answer: “Tell me how your pronoia explains a child in Darfur starving to death after watching soldiers kill his mommy?”

While I don’t claim to have the authoritative response to that accusation, I think it’s worthwhile to consider the possibility that suffering is, among other things, a difficult gift we humans are given in order to prod our evolution.

On a personal level, our longing to escape our suffering is a primal force in making us smarter. On a collective level, nothing refines and ennobles us more than our passion to keep others from suffering. For every dead child in Darfur, 100 people in other places on the planet have responded with a commitment to create a world in which future Darfurs won’t happen. (Rob Brezsny)

Politics Isn’t Worth the Effort

Amish schoolchildren

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I must say that in all my 50 years, I’ve never been so disgusted with politics as I am now. I’ve always voted, but I’m not going to any longer. I’ve felt guilty for not voting, but no longer. I’ve kept abreast of events that have happened and read all sides of political arguments, but no longer.  The only thing that I can see clearly at this stage of my life is that politics breeds rancor and hatred. All of it is an age-old battle between those who think they are right vs. those who think they are right. There is no such thing as partisanship. There is no consensus and nothing moves forward. The less people knew the better. Now the internet has fueled a giant war of words and hatred ’round the world. The one interesting news story that caught my eye today was this one:

WESTCLIFFE, Colorado (AP) — A new road sign cautions drivers to watch for Amish horse-drawn carriages in the valley beneath Colorado’s Sangre de Cristo mountains. Highway pull-offs and dedicated horse-and-buggy paths are in the works.

Amid the serenity and isolation of southern Colorado, hamlets like Westcliffe, La Jara and Monte Vista are welcoming Amish families who are moving West to escape high land prices and community overcrowding back East in Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“The reason we moved out West is the farm land is a little bit cheaper and it’s not as heavily populated, a little more open space and a little more opportunity for young people to get started with their own farms,” said Ben Coblentz, a 47-year-old alfalfa farmer from Indiana. “The general public seems to have a little slower pace of life than what it was back east. Everybody here respects us.”

And respect them I do. I respect anyone who stays above the factions of modern life and sticks to principles such as hard work, community building, and respect for one’s neighbor. They’ve been a consistent witness without ever saying a word in public for our consumption and I long for that kind of peace and silence. I started this blog to expose “the mystery of iniquity that doth now work…” and it seems to be working overtime. There’s something in society that’s rotting from the inside and I don’t want to be any part of it. I want to live life rather than observe it.

I see none of the peacefulness of the Amish while reading the news.  I see none of the ethics that religions espouse when I see vicious slander against public figures and groups purposely fomenting riots. I see no one with the wisdom to hold their tongues when it’s unwise to speak (me included!) I see people who cannot abide others who think differently. I see politically correct language police. And I see that none of it has made this country or this world better than it was 20 years ago. If anything it’s worse. Am I a curmudgeonly “old woman?” Perhaps, but the advantages of getting older is being able to speak one’s mind without fear of reprisal. There will always be haters. I don’t want to be one of them. I can no longer read that hateful mishmash called “news.” I can no longer go through an election cycle that drags hatefully on for years here in America. It wears on me and makes me mean, vindictive, and hateful. I can’t stand that about myself and about what makes me that way. One can never write honestly without being labeled. One can’t sympathize with those who are unjustly attacked without being equated with a particular “ism.” It’s like being in grade school again!.

Like other bloggers who I respect greatly, I’m going to stop participating in the political game. It was intriguing for a while. In fact, I thought it would do some good to show up the misleading mischievousness and hatred of both sides. But pointing these things out doesn’t do that. It entrenches the camps. It only makes sides dig in further and flames of hatred burn hotter. And I’m only adding small sticks to the fire. Do people pay attention to what I write? Of course not, but I have to write this somewhere, and a small seed has to be planted somewhere.  I’ve seen some good examples from religious folk who stay above the fray: Amish, Quakers, Episcopalians, nuns, monks, etc. They’ve shown me that a personal ethic is all that is required to live an ethical life. It’s not my place to speak about injustice.  Some people have that role. I’m sure I don’t. My seed will be to refuse to add those sticks to the bonfire already raging. There are too many voices already; so many that it’s impossible to be heard. I think the internet has been a good thing for getting information out there, but I see that because of it, we are more polarized politically than ever. Good information is out there. Unfortunately, there is more bad information than good.

Will anyone notice my lack of posts about politics. Hell no! But I will, and what a relief that will be. I’m not sure what will be the focus of this blog with it’s main mission when I started it. Perhaps a few more reviews of books, movies, television. Perhaps I’ll blog about my family and my new life in another country. Or perhaps it’s really time to shelve it and move on. Not sure. I’ll take it one day at a time, hopefully silent ones.