The Joys of Drugs

And by drugs, I mean antidepressants. It’s been a while since I last wrote; time enough for my antidepressants to kick in. It takes 2 to 4 weeks for things to start working after a long time without taking them. But, I can say that they’ve made a difference.

527920_499926106703100_362275096_nI am less despondent and less critical. I do not have those horrible cyclical mood swings associated with menopausal women. I can now speak to my husband without crying, which for the last year I could not do. I also think that it has allowed me to feel normal in my newfound take on the marriage. The jealousy that had plagued me is gone. Now that I know that nothing I say or do changes anything in this marriage, I have given up trying to change things. This also means that I have given up investing in it as well.

There are advantages and disadvantages to this arrangement, but I can say that the advantages for me outweigh the negatives. I’ve always run my course of action in life through a list of pros and cons. If they seem balanced, I listen to my gut; my intuition. It has never steered me wrong. I’ve gone against my gut feelings and have lived with the consequences; one of them being this marriage. So I know them to be true. How I wish I listened to myself more. However, if I did that, life would be boring and I wouldn’t learn new things about myself and other people.

I’ve learned SO much in the last five years.  I’ve learned that perhaps I should not have been married. I bought into romance and not into real life. I was ill prepared for life as a wife and partner. Who is prepared really? We either set incredibly unrealistic expectations for married couples or we dispense with all the rules. No wonder people are confused. I also learned that perhaps I’m not suited to having a male partner. I’m not saying I’m suited for any sex or gender at all. All I’m saying is that I plunged headlong into a life that was expected of me and never once thought any of it through seriously.  I gave men what I thought they wanted to get along. I had no real desire for them. I’ve lived my life on automatic pilot; feeling nothing and now, when I actually took a chance on the feelings that I was swept up in, it turned out not to be for the best.

Tough lessons. But they are lessons earned and learned. They are mine and I am no longer going to do what anyone else wants me to do. Anything I do now is because it’s good for me and because I want to. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about others, but caring for others will be because I really care and not because I’m supposed to care.

Advertisement

Feminist Gatekeepers

 

Writing in the 18th century, Mary Wollstonecra...

Image via Wikipedia

 

Rebecca Traister, Hanna Rosin, and others on why you can’t own feminism. (1) – By DoubleX Staff – Slate Magazine.

Now I understand. After reading these feminists (and I’m surprised that they “allowed” Christina Hoff Summers to comment) I understand better about the feminist gatekeepers. They are elite women-firsters. They are academic women lording sover the lives of any other creatures; fetuses, men, animals, etc. They have earned this right because they believe others have ruled them long enough. Fair enough. I’m on board with that. Men have always taken what they wanted without weighing consequences. It’s their right. However, feminist gatekeepers look askance at anyone who would claim the right to be first themselves, such as Sarah Palin, who they label “unserious.” Why? Because she’s not educated like you or believe in the same policies as you do? As I recall, men in their patriarchal heyday often called Victoria Woodhull and suffragettes “unserious.” Gatekeepers label Palin and other women who disagree with them as dabblers at politics who do not understand what they are talking about.  Why? Because they don’t understand it the way you do? Which education is enough to make them “serious” about their political beliefs. Ivy league colleges? I smell elitism in the air.

Again, ladies, we UNDERSTAND what you are saying. You are saying women have rights no matter who’s involved. You are saying that your body is yours no matter what. Abortion is your banner no matter who you’ve allowed inside your body first. We get it. Fathers have no rights. Grandparents have no rights. The fetus has the least rights of all. The only right that matters is the female because she carries the baby. No parthenogenesis is involved yet somehow this “tissue” is strictly hers to dispose of at will as if no one was involved in its creation but her. We understand that no one has the right to an opinion about the government, about welfare, about employment, but you. Early feminists such as Mary Wollstonecraft and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, ladies who were never governors of their states, are considered “minor” feminists, probably because Stanton opposed abortion as another means of enslaving women by getting rid of men’s mistakes for them. Stanton wrote:

“When we consider that woman are treated as property, it is degrading to women that we should Treat our  children as property to be disposed of as we see fit.”  Letter to Julia Ward Howe, October 16, 1873, recorded in Howe’s diary at Harvard University Library

Mary Wollstonecraft wrote:

“Women becoming, consequently, weaker…than they ought to be…have not sufficient strength to discharge the first duty of a mother; and sacrificing to lasciviousness the parental affection…either destroy the embryo in the  womb, or cast if off when born. Nature in every thing demands respect, and those who violate her laws seldom violate them with impunity.” A Vindication of the Rights of Women,”

In other words, there is a price to be paid for such cavalier trashing of nature’s effects isn’t there? I think so. Yet, I am pro-choice myself and think the laws should stay as they are to protect a woman’s health and against crimes committed against her. However, there should be caveats as with any act that has responsibilities attached to it; the rights of fathers who care, and other family members who have a vested interest. No decision should be responsibility free. I don’t believe the religionists that say your body is God’s, but I also don’t go to the other extreme that say your body is yours no matter what.

There was a division in Stanton’s day and it appears there will be in our day. Ideology always creates division. Perhaps it should but people who don’t agree with you have a right to express their beliefs just as much as you do. Agreeing to further the causes of women should not however lie on the stance of a single issue.  Life is never about single issues. Again, modern feminists are making themselves the gatekeepers of an ideology that only a few women will ascribe to and declaring it true and right. They are “mortified” that other women claim their accomplishments as feminist; women who are married, mothers, or in any other category not fitting for complete and total freedom as they see it, a right they only accord to themselves. Is abortion really going to be the test for all political ideologies, left, right, and middle? Really? Feminism will never go anywhere with this mentality.

As for who gets to be feminist? I’ll tell you; only those who agree with the gatekeepers of their generation, that’s who.

“Taken Over By Fear…” and Quitting the Internet

There’s a great post on Bitch blogs this month about songstress Lily Allen quitting the internet. I must admit I’ve never heard of Lily Allen but a quick trip to YouTube fixed that:

But the blog post is about Allen’s decision to delete her Internet presence completely. Particularly telling is this paragraph about the decision, written by Bitch blogger Sady Doyle:

“I’m being taken over by the Fear.” Yeah, of course you are. Because, if you’re a woman, and you operate without fear – fear of people calling you fat or ugly, fear of being deemed unladylike (or “out of control,” or “bratty,” or whatever), fear of making people angry – people will do their very best to drill it into you. People will scold you, scorn you, call you names, tell you that you ought to feel ashamed of yourself. They’ll try to scare you, and keep you scared. And the end goal of fear is silence. It is always silence. Silence doesn’t have to mean not talking, either: only saying what you think people want to hear is also silence, maybe the worst kind of silence, because then people can point at you and go, look! She’s fine! And she’s on our side now! Gee, we really helped her out. No, you didn’t help her. And maybe you didn’t even bring her over to your side. Maybe you just made her too scared to tell you the truth. That’s the end goal of it, all of it: we want each other to get to that point (have you been to this point?) where you are just about to respond, you have something to say that you believe to be true, and then it just dries up in your mouth. And you think, why bother? You think, it doesn’t matter whether I’m right. You think, being right won’t help me in the long run. You think, silence is easier. It’s a permanent fear we’re working toward – every time that person dares to disagree with you, you want your voice ringing in her head, stilling her tongue, making her doubt herself too much to try anything. Or, if she speaks, you want your voice to come out of her mouth. Your voice, or a very good imitation.

Yes. What woman hasn’t wrestled with this and wanted to quit the Internet altogether? When we begin we aren’t aware of the environment. We even feel we can control it, but one thing we learn pretty quickly, as Doyle notes, the Internet “…thrives on people like her, people with an innate rawness, people with enormous personalities and very little inclination to trim them down. But here’s another thing the Internet thrives on: anger.” Ah yes, the Internet thrives on anger. Don’t we know it? An anger that feeds off the lives of others and others’ thoughts. How many of us women love to write but are surprised and mortified by the types of responses we get on our blogs? How many of us want to chuck it and be silent? I know I do. But blogging is sometimes the only way to get our ideas, which we deem inherently worthwhile, out there for others to read and that’s always a good thing. What’s not a good thing are those who feel it’s their duty to bring us “down a notch” when we get too “uppity” and when we “demand too much.” What’s not right is when others criticize everything we put on our blogs as if it’s their duty to keep track of us and our doings. I suspect that’s what Allen is dealing with and being such a public figure, the public thinks they have a right to call her on everything, including her private life. The cult of celebrity is cruel I’m sure.

But we ordinary women are also in danger of losing our unique voices when trying to placate everyone who comes along and happens upon our blogs. In our eagerness to pacify the angry, we compromise our internal integrity. We begin to doubt and to question and wonder, “Am I right in sticking to my guns about this?” The answer is simple; we are right if we’ve considered it and we feel it’s right. We are so conditioned to shut our mouths in the face of criticism that it is indeed easier to just stop putting our ideas out there. Allen is right when she says that an active Internet life impedes her actual life. For some of us though, the Internet is a means of connecting with others and a necessary means for those of us in long distance relationships, but we can so easily get sucked into lost vortices like Facebook, which is one of the best means to stay connected to family and the worst time wasters in terms of apps in the history of the Internet.

I suppose it’s a matter of balance and sanity. Staying grounded about what’s important to us is the main thing. How do we do that? Spend at least as much time off the Internet as on? Maybe. Taking time out to read a good book or see a movie that makes us think? Perhaps. Not letting Internet trolls and other riff-raff who just want to argue goad us into pointless arguments. You bet! Sticking by our hard won convictions even if everyone disagrees with us? Yes, with the caveat that we might be wrong. But also, making our own decision to quit for our own reasons and not because someone is being a thoughtless jackass in the responses. It’s perfectly okay to write what we want, when we want, and for as long as we want. Lily Allen had enough of those who questioned her conviction that music should be paid for. When she had enough, she quit. It may not even be the real reason. We don’t know. She doesn’t have to explain to anybody why she did so. We can wonder, but it’s not up to us. What is up to us is deciding when to speak and when to keep silent…in our own time… and for our own reasons.

Of Fighting Back and Trigger Warnings

I never understood why feminists put “trigger warnings” on their posts. I mean, I understand the concept and it’s great that they are thinking about how what they post will be percieved by those reading them, but I find the use of images far more triggering than actual words. Take for instance this excellent post about blaming women for fighting back when raped over at Kate Harding’s Shapely Prose blog. It’s a great post about the mixed messages sent to women about keeping one’s mouth shut and not being angry or responsive, either in person or while blogging.

The same men who wonder why women don’t fight back more when raped to prove they actually have been raped are the same men who believe that women should keep their mouths shut on blogs or if not keep their mouths shut, at least “temper” their language to pass as respectable in polite society! In past relationships, I also could never understand why the same men, who didn’t like my ranting in blogs in public or personally in arguments about the merits of feminism, could admire the most vociferous and bitchy of women elsewhere in the blogosphere or in public. I mean what’s that about? It’s as if they were saying to me, “Personally, I’d like you to keep your mouth shut about feminism and how patriarchy kills the soul, but hey did you read that woman over there? She is so cool for voicing her opinion and in such a bitchy way!” What is one supposed to think of that? My brand of “bitching” wasn’t cool enough to merit admiration? It was unbecoming for me, but pretty cool when someone else does it? Makes no sense.

These mixed messages that we get on a daily basis is not merely annoying at best, but at worst is dangerous when it comes to real life situations in which life, limb, and happiness of soul are on the line.  As a woman who was forced most of her life to keep her mouth shut, I am finally taking the opportunity to make my thoughts known, loudly and sometimes obnoxiously, but as I get older the voices telling me to be quiet and more lady-like are getting more subtle but more insistent. I even find myself critical of other women when I wonder to myself why the women on feminist blogs have to use the word “fuck” all the time in their posts and podcasts and YouTubes. In my mind, men using it in everyday discourse is natural, but women…. that’s another story! I realized my hypocrisy of course, but sometimes I don’t catch myself in time. After all, it’s the same mindset that keeps us from speaking our minds at all, let alone using the words of the male world in a revolutionary way.

But back to triggering. I realized that images were more powerful triggering mechanisms than words for me when I was watching the new A & E program Obsessed last night, which chronicles the OCD symptoms of people seeking therapy to help them control their anxieties and hopefully rid them of their OCD. Most OCDs stem from some traumatic event that the person has not dealt with in a reasonable way.  I realized my propensity toward the same type of obsessive behavior when I watched last night’s episode. A woman who watched her father abuse their pet dog while she was a kid and her inability to protect the poor animal led her to visualize over and over scenes of animal abuse and such visualizing caused her to have horrible wrenching crying episodes. She couldn’t watch television or go anywhere that animals were living or being euthanized, like the animal shelter.

I can understand this completely. My step-father would put our poor kittens in abusive situations and in harm’s way in front of my sister and I just for the sheer fun of watching us be horrified at it! We too could do nothing for the poor things and all my life I can’t stand to see a cat or kitten in need or starving or abused. I too would have obsessive thoughts about kittens being put in a bag and drowned as some in our rural area would do when they didn’t want to take care of them (this rather than getting the cat spayed/neutered!) I would imagine cats being run over or hit by cars. I can’t even watch that commerical about preventing animal cruelty that Sarah McClachlen has done without crying like a baby! I also couldn’t get the thought of a kitten with pneumonia that I found outside my apartment years ago out of my head. The kitten was dying and wanted to sleep on me constantly but I wouldn’t let it for some strange reason and to this day I am haunted by that kitten, whom I didn’t help like I should have. It too had to be euthanized because it was obviously dying and all it wanted was a warm body.  Guilt, guilt, guilt.  It makes me tear up just thinking about it. So last night while this woman sobbed during her Cognitive Behavioral Therapy forcing her to face the animals at the pound, I too sobbed over that poor pneumonia-ridden kitten that I couldn’t help and all other helpless animals out there.  Trigger warning necessary for that???? You betcha!’ But there was none. Of course this still doesn’t explain to me why I can watch horror movies and cinematic violence perpetrated against humans, but can’t watch an animal cruelty advertisement! Warped? Yes.

However, I find the crying over it useful and therapeutic and perhaps the one reason why my obsessive thoughts don’t turn into OCD-like thoughts. I understand the trigger warnings and am grateful others think of them before posting. For me, however, the words aren’t triggering; images are. And in this visual culture, shouldn’t we at least be more careful what we put out there for everyone to see, especially if it’s billed as “reality?” Don’t we have enough of reality already?

Love and Freedom vs. Fear and Possessiveness

The Naked Soul has a most excellent post about love and possessiveness that is a very old “new” lesson, but one that needs to be learned over and over again, especially in today’s world where people feel they have a right to just about everything. I find it sad that the most possessive of people may use coercive forms which may include violence to keep from losing what they fear.  However, this fear is not love, but a desperate need to fill some void in our lives or to keep somehow what we think the other brings to us; something that perhaps we wish we had but that we don’t find in ourselves. Tobeme writes:

This attachment that we form feels like love, however it is not love in the purest sense. The other person becomes a possession, a possession which we begin to fear losing. In our fear of possible loss we become insecure about our relationship. When we become insecure our thoughts and behavior change and often as reaction to our fear of loss we begin to tighten our grip and seek more control over the other person. We become suspicious of the behavior of the other person, we worry about them straying when we are not around, we may even sabotage other relationships that they have with long time friends and even family in the name of “love” which really is in the name of attachment and our fear of loss.

Who hasn’t felt this at one time or another? I think as we grow older and hopefully wiser, we can learn to express our feelings for others in ways that give the utmost freedom to them and to ourselves.  The rest of the post is well worth reading and re-reading.

Advices, Queries, and Defining the Divine

I’ve made much in my blog about my spiritual path. I’ve wrestled with angels and wrestled with institutions. I’ve even fancied my de-conversion from Christianity, specifically the fundamentalist variety. All of these experiences has informed and defined my path in significant ways. On another blog, I’ve explored my Goddess-y self and I’ve tried to come to grips with what engaging with the Divine means to me.  All of these parts of me seemed like disparate bits trying to meld into a specific whole and not quite managing it. I felt that I had to keep my explorations secret, as if exploring the Divine was frowned upon, especially in today’s climate of religious and political extremism.

I did not like the God of fundamentalist Christianity much and have since turned my back on that chapter of my life. I found this male Father/God officious and meddling and reflective of the narrow mindset so inherent in such extremist faiths based on male power and control. I knew that I had to keep a distance from that God, just for my own mental health and spiritual integrity. Following that God brought out the worst elements in me and, I felt, in society. On the opposite pole, I explored the Goddess within and found much more peace and harmony with the Divine than I previously had before. I ascribe this mainly to my trading one gendered imagination for another, but it did help me mend the damaged views of the Divine that I had swirling in my soul due to my earlier experiences with the gendered Divine in religion. However, I found that in the Goddess realm there is also some extremism, but only in the political wing of this spiritual heritage. If one does not set all one’s store in political movements or invest oneself totally in one political figure, the spiritual call becomes clearer and the Divine can be heard through the clamorous politics. But attachment to such things in public life and culture left me feeling frustrated and angry most of the time. I knew this politicized path wasn’t the path for me either. I also found that one can so focus on the gender of the Divine that the essence of what the Divine means in real life gets completely subsumed. Pretty soon all we have is what particular groups and individual human beings want irrespective of what the total genderless Divine Spirit of the world may reflect.

Quaker Definition

Quaker Definition

Throughout this entire spiritual journey I’ve questioned my own participation in this world of faith and the Divine and what it is that I actually do believe. Not only that, where does it fit into my world? Some would say that that’s the wrong focus. I should find out where I fit into “it” whatever “it” is not the reverse. I don’t think that’s the answer for me. More and more I believe the Divine to be the best and highest of human love, potential, and will as expressed in the spirit of human beings committed to the good rather than those committed to narrow self interests and political movements. Now I’m sure some will disagree with me about the politics, but for me spirituality is about changing myself for the better and becoming a better person to live in this world whether that involves politics or not. Politics don’t change anything. Individuals do. I’ve come to realize that the old saw “people are the only hands God has” is really saying that there is no God/dess apart from human beings. It is really saying that the Divine is impotent without us. There would be no point to the Divine otherwise. The Divine is contingent on the human then. Would speculating that a Divine being exists otherwise be delving into an area that has no purpose and no relevance to human life? Where do humans end and the Divine begin?  If one wants to posit a god without reference to humans, my question would be; “to what purpose?”

Recently, in my own journey, the Quakers, or Friends as they are commonly called, have come to my attention. Far from being just another ecclesiastical movement, this group embodies all that the Divine and spirituality has come to mean for me precisely because it it undefined and open. I was skeptical at first, as I am always wont to be when it comes to being introduced to a religion. But the more I learned, the more intrigued I became, until finally, last Sunday, I had the opportunity to visit a Quaker Meeting House and experienced their worship for the first time. There were no hymns, no pastors, no sermon. There was a congenial time of visiting and friendly conversation before the time set for worship and then there was a quiet trek into the meeting house proper, where we all sat in a circle and quieted ourselves for an hour to listen to the Divine within us.

I thought I would have a tough time of it, considering that other attempts at meditation on my own never worked for me. My “monkey mind” as Buddhists call it could never quiet enough to reach a state of meditative silence. However, I found that immediately upon being seated and situated, I entered a quiet zone unlike I had before. I honestly felt my mind go blank (for anyone who knows me, this is quite a feat!) and a heavy, heavy peacefulness descended upon me. I almost fell asleep, but didn’t and found that no thoughts good or ill drifted through my brain. The meeting room had windows near the ceiling and one could see through glass doors to the outside. It was a windy and rainy day and I watched, mesmerized, as the branches of the leafless tree outside swayed and danced in the wind. Again, there were no thoughts. Someone stood to speak and quietly addressed the group for a couple minutes about the day being recognized in the Christian calendar as the Conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus. Some ten minutes or so later, another person did the same with another similar message about “conversion” and what that meant for the Friends. Then after a larger gap, one woman, who exuded a spirit of calm and gentleness spoke of a friend she had met at a Quaker meeting over 40 years ago and how that impacted her life. Another two or three spoke as the Spirit moved them. Then after an hour, someone signaled the end of the meeting and we all went out into the foyer for coffee and conversation. While inside I had not thought of anything that normally occupied my mind and it was the most refreshing time of worship I’ve had in a long, long time. I don’t claim to know if I communed with anything, but a communal spirit of Love and humanity was strong.

All I can say is that after reading and studying and after the Friends worship experience, I’ve come to a refining point in my thoughts of the Divine. Rather than the Divine being the collective unconscious of humanity in all its best aspect, which indeed it very well could be, the Divine has come to mean something far less individually anthropomorphic and far more cosmically expansive and inclusive and all encompassing than the previous definitions of the Divine. This Divine Spirit exists in its own right and feeds on the spirits of all and processes and reflects back the best and most loving of all to us to use with and for each other. The Divine lives so in tune with humanity that, like water it can be stepped into and out of at any given moment, until finally, one begins to realize that we are already in the water of Spirit; it is we who unconsciously step in and out, not realizing that we just need to quiet down enough to realize where we are. We come back to ourselves in the silence. We come back to the Divine within the silence.

The experience has left me wondering more and more how to relate to this, how to incorporate this new type of experience into the many and varied ones that I’ve already had, or how this all fits into my beliefs about the Divine, but I’m sure I’ll be writing more about discovering this later. I’m still very much a work in progress. For now, I will leave you with a small tidbit of truth in the Advices and Queries of the Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends in Britain:

Each of us has a particular experience of God and each must find the way to be true to it…listen patiently and seek the truth which other people’s opinions may contain for you… (point 17)

Blessings!

Where Does The “Buck” Stop?

forkHaving no serious academic background in moral philosophy, it seems to me that, for as long as this regrettable state lasts, my only useful contribution to a discussion on moral philosophy is the possibility of getting a discussion started without the constraints which would bedevil the academician. As such, I’m simply throwing out a few untutored thoughts here, to provoke further thought and discussion in others. If that happens, I may learn something.

If we perform an action which we think of as “good”, we are usually very happy to take responsibility for it. If, on the other hand, we perform an action of which we would ourselves disapprove, there is a natural human tendency to search diligently for some reason by which our responsibility for this action may be avoided.

In this latter case, we might explain that we had been physically coerced into doing something which we knew to be wrong. Most people would agree that coercive force, being force which an adult, much less a child, could not reasonably be expected to withstand, absolves the individual of such responsibility. However, If we can’t claim to have been the victim of physical coercion, we might say that someone else’s behaviour was so unreasonable or unbearable to us, that we temporarily lost control of our senses and did something for which we cannot be held responsible. Much shakier ground I think.

The legalistic view of responsibility is that any action we perform is our action, and therefore we are responsible for it. Having established our responsibility for something, the law seeks to mitigate this harsh position by taking into account extenuating circumstances if a penalty is to be imposed.

As outsiders, judging the actions of others, we are never going to see the whole picture. This has prompted the notion that God would have to be invented if God did not already exist. Someone or something has to have all the answers, as in the biblical omnipotent God; all seeing; mankind’s only true judge. In the absence of all relevant data, we cannot simply abrogate all judgments to God. Even if societies operate their legal system, not on the basis of moral responsibility, but simply as a means of regulating anti-social conduct, we as individuals would still be confronted by moral judgments of others’ actions in our daily lives. Unsatisfactory though it may be, we have to hold each other ultimately responsible for our actions, because the alternative is to allow the buck never to stop.  Our responsibility for our actions may be limited, but our sheer subjectivity prevents us from being honest with ourselves. If faced with choice between being responsible for nothing we do, or for everything we do, choosing to take responsibility is the more honest and adult choice.

For ourselves, I think we are no better than outsiders at distinguishing the real power of others to make us act in particular ways, from our own wish to avoid responsibility for what we do.We are all shaped by previous damage or present stress. But to me, this is far too easily used as an excuse to be excusable. May our friends try to understand and show us mercy; but the buck ultimately stops with us.

Posted by: BritishReg