Sunday, March 26, 2017

Multi-level Mayhem

I’ve got a problem, friends.  It seems like I’ve been dealing with this more than usual lately.  It always starts out the same: I will hear from a friend I haven’t talked to in a while.  That always feels good, right?  Someone drops back into your life seemingly out of the blue, and wants to know all about how you’re doing!  No matter how I answer the seemingly innocent questions about my life, work, family and health, the conversation inevitably turns to an exciting new opportunity.  (Is this starting to sound familiar?)  Whether it’s to make more money while staying home to manage my health, essential oils, smoothies, vitamins, or diets, the common denominator is the Multi-Level Marketing product that’s going to change my life.  Can you get excited!?!? No, not so much.
My first experience with having someone try to take advantage of my disability for their own financial gain was quite a while ago.  A coworker knew I’d been having a hard time with my Cerebral Palsy, and asked if I’d like to have lunch and talk about what was going on?  I had only been getting my shots for about a year, and my doctor was still trying to get the dosage and timing right.  Still, the outlook was promising, even if we still had a way to go to get to a therapeutic treatment plan.  After listening to me talk about how hopeful I felt, my coworker assumed a worried expression.  Botox is literally poison, I was told.  He was heartbroken that I was subjecting myself to toxic chemicals that were sure to kill me.  I explained to him that my surgeon, who is a medical doctor while my friend is not, had discussed possible side effects and potential dangers of the medication with me.  I had made a well-informed decision to proceed with the treatment, and was having really good results!  My friend shook his head.  He proceeded into a full-on sales pitch about a juice he and his wife were selling.  To say I was disappointed is quite an understatement.  I really thought this was someone who cared for me, and wanted to see me be well.  
Right now, someone is reading this who really does believe in the product they sell.  You know what?  I’m not going to tell you that you’re wrong.  But I am going to tell you to stop trying to sell it to me as a cure.  I don’t think you have any idea how much you can hurt someone without meaning to.  In fact, I believe that most of you have good intentions and really want to help.  
Off the top of my head, I’m going to write out suggestions lay people have made for my CP/Depression:
-Meditation
-Yoga
-Swimming
-Vegetarianism
-Veganism
-Paleo Diet
-Atkins Diet
-Juice
-Smoothies
-Supplements
-Personal life coaching
-Exercise
-Sunlight
-Stopping my meds
-Stopping my CP treatments
-Medicinal Marijuana
Some of these are an absolute crock, some of them may help, some do help.  But here’s the thing: What I choose to do or not do is just that: MY CHOICE.  One of the options on the list is wonderful for CP, but horrible for Depression.  If someone makes a suggestion to me and I choose not to take it, it’s not a personal affront to that person.  Hang on, let me repeat that a little louder for the people in the back or in case anyone showed up late: IF I DON’T TAKE YOUR SUGGESTION, IT’S NOT PERSONAL.  Now, if you start insisting after I’ve explained why I am choosing not to do as you’ve suggested, we’re going to have a problem.  Unfortunately, the former friend I told you about at the beginning of this article is not the only person to try to pull this type of theme.
Now here’s something you may not have thought about if you believe peddling snake oil is harmless: It hurts to be thought of as someone’s potential customer, potential recruit, or science project.  I know you may mean well.  The damage is still done.  I’m fairly certain my name is on a number of lists of independent sales consultant’s “People who NEED…” Insert name of product here.  
Let’s go back to our Wellness Plans for a minute.  Don’t give me that look, I never said there wouldn’t be homework!  The plans that work the best are the ones with well thought out lists.  We don’t have a support person, we have support people.  We make lists of coping skillS, plural.  Any time anyone says that there’s a miracle cure, RUN.  That’s not how any of this works.  You know what works best for me from the aforementioned list?  Lots!  How much? Depends!  Whose business is it?  Mine!  Now having said that, I place a very high value on relationships.  The people close to me know a good bit about both the CP and the Depression.  They know what works for me, and how to help.  But at the heart of all of that is their desire to see me well.  It works both ways, I want the people I love and care about to be well too!  But if I start imposing and telling them that I know better than they do, there’s a problem.  If I am offended by someone rejecting my help, that says more about me than them.  Stepping back from our egos is one of the biggest challenges we deal with in relationships.  This is even more true when we believe that we’re right!  But I’ll finish this one up with the following question: What’s your priority?  If it’s truly someone’s well being, they shouldn’t need to bring their wallet.

Be well.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

How the Midwest was Won

Friends, I am participating in an interesting online discussion about how a person is able to vote against their own best interest.  I wanted to share this with you, my IOI followers.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts.  Please remember to keep comments respectful.  Thank you!

Okay, I need to preface this by saying I am about as rabidly Democrat as they come.  I am only addressing the mindset that COULD lead someone to vote against their own best interests.  I am an educated liberal.  But I believe I have a slightly different perspective because I am an educated liberal with a disability, Cerebral Palsy.  I feel invisible most of the time.  Whenever a list of minorities is presented, people with disabilities are frequently overlooked.  There are often discussions of sex, gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, but disability isn't there.  This is really frustrating.  Discrimination against people with disabilities (PWD) still happens.  What's more, it's not given the same importance as discrimination against other classes.  I find Mr. Trump's treatment of women abhorrent and disgusting.  I am so grateful that so many people refused to vote for him because of his stated views about women.  However, while people expressed outrage when he mocked Mr. Kovaleski as they should have, I didn't hear anyone say, honestly, that this was the straw that broke the camel's back.  

So let me circle this back around to my understanding how someone could vote for Donald Trump.  I don’t know how to explain how awful it feels to feel invisible day after day.  When I am left off of a list the message is that I have no value.  Here’s a list of people whom we acknowledge as being treated as if they have less value than hetero, white, cisgendered males.  I don’t even rank as less than.  My rank is naught.  I have lived this way for 39 years.  IF a candidate were to come along and tell us, “I’m here for the gimps!  The amputees, crutch users, the blue tags, the rollers? I’m going to help you.  See all those people who mean well but still ignore you?  How can they ignore you if they mean well?  I mean, sure, I don’t like chocolate and plan to make it illegal, but I’m here, and I am going to fix this.  We’ll build you the best hospitals money can buy without a single stair in any of them.  I’ll even make the ables pay for it!”  NO ONE has so much as acknowledged my existence in politics and now not only does he see me, but he’s TALKING TO ME.  This sounds really good.  I’m excited.  I latch onto the idea of a hospital I can get to!  Okay, the people around me are going to suffer but you know what? I’ve been suffering for 39 years.  So yes, I’m on board.  I can’t wait!  But as soon as the election is over, Hershey bars start disappearing from grocery stores.  People were already quietly buying up the Snickers bars since the last debate.  But…I didn’t want this part, I just wanted a hospital.  I wanted the ramps.  I wanted to see my oppressors have to do the work for once.  So this is how, even with muscle spasms that twist me up like a pretzel and freeze my muscles like Han Solo in carbonite, I have managed to royally screw myself.  This is how Trump exploited the very people who stand to be hurt the most by his policies.  He distracted them.  He told them what they wanted to hear and played right into their fears and vulnerabilities.  This is how someone votes for the very thing that will hurt them most.  

Monday, January 2, 2017

Update: I've been busy being human.

Hey there, IOI!  I am still somewhere out here in cyberspace!
I had a hard time writing for about a month after the election.  I couldn't get my head around what was happening and felt like I had nothing to write about.
Then we were well into the holidays and things were just busy!  I am thrilled to announce that during that time I finished my cert program, and now hold a Certificate of Proficiency in American Sign Language!  I have been taking classes toward this goal for 7 years.  I wanted to sleep for a week after dealing with all the bureaucracy it took to get through the program.
Now for the bad news: I was in a car accident the day after Christmas.  My car went down an embankment.  I was incredibly fortunate to come through with a sprained ankle and lots of bruising.  My body has been sore all over.  I have been experiencing grief symptoms and was in shock for a few days after.  A lot of what I am dealing with in my personal life has to do with the accident.  I get tired very easily since my body seems to be putting all its energy into healing.
What's come from all of this is a lot of new material for IOI.  I have had a lot of time to think and come up with new topics.  
I look forward to getting back to blogging regularly.  My goal for 2017 is one entry per week.  In fact, how about we pick up there next time with goals?
I sincerely wish the best to each of you.  If you feel like it give us your own check-in in the comments.  
I don't usually give much of anything away about my personal life.  But I do want to publically thank my sister for kicking my butt this morning with the blend of love and honesty that only people who truly give a damn can achieve.  Love you, B.  
Now for all of us,
Be well.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Arm in Arm, We Confront What's Real: Facing Election Fears

To say it’s been quite a week is probably the understatement of the year.  While I know I may have readers from many different backgrounds and points of view, I am going to be writing about my own experiences this week.  I have grave concerns about what Donald Trump’s presidency will mean for the marginalized populations with whom I work and for whom I advocate.  I have concerns about what his presidency will mean for me as a woman, a woman with a disability, and a woman with a mental illness.  I am concerned about his financial policies and what they will mean for me as an independent contractor.  The purpose of this blog entry, however, is not to be a list of the concerns that I know are shared across the nation and the world.  Rather, I want to tell you about my weekend.  
I take classes at a junior college.  Most of my classes have been toward a certificate in American Sign Language, but I have also taken some classes for fun and for personal enrichment.  I have taken a couple of art classes with a gentleman named Seth. Seth’s teaching style has pushed me both as an artist and a human being.  I have grown from being his student.  He has been working on a show to honor his mentor, Remy Charlip.  Charlip was an artist, a dancer, a choreographer, and an author of children’s books.  Charlip was a Jewish man raised in New York City.  As a gay man who came of age in the 1940’s he struggled throughout his life to find acceptance from family, intimate relationships, professional relationships, and himself.  His life and work ultimately brought him to the San Francisco Bay Area where he met Seth.  Seth uses puppetry, light, visual art, theater, and dance to bring Remy Charlip to life in a show called, “Rainbow Logic: Arm in Arm with Remy Charlip.”  I was absolutely blown away.  
Seth’s work could not be any more relevant to what we are all experiencing as the short term and long term effects of this election start to sink in.  Charlip’s struggle for acceptance started at a very young age with his father.  While I absolutely know this is a common experience in the queer community, I think we are all experiencing this struggle right now.  I don’t know anyone who feels safe in who they are in the current political climate.  As I’ve written about before on IOI, I believe each of us is a sum of all the versions of ourselves we have ever been.  Right now, our child selves are afraid.  We need to feel the safety from those who are meant to protect us (social norms and government), and overnight, it’s just gone.  So we set out.  That’s where we are now.  Charlip experienced temporary safety again and again as he moved through life and relationships, only to find rejection and disappointment. Reflecting on his life, it makes so much sense that he would strive to create safety, nurturing, and acceptance for those coming up after him. 
Last night, I had the privilege to see the documentary “Real Boy,” and hear music from the gentlemen featured in the film.  Real Boy shows a transgender man named Ben’s process of transitioning from a female body to a make one.  Like Charlip, Ben was rejected by his family and had to make his own way.  He was fortunate to meet up with another transgender man named Joe.  Both are extremely talented musicians.  Joe helped Ben to channel what he was going through into his music.  
As frightened as many of us are, one of the most important things we can do right now is CREATE.  Whatever our personal gifts are, we need to use them.  For some, it will be music.  Others will draw.  Another way will be someone doing their part to create a safe space.  But I find that when I am putting positive energy out, it’s very difficult for negative energy to find its way in.  I feel like what Seth, Ben, and Joe are doing is what the conservative movement is most afraid of: Living.  We all know the threats we are subject to just by existing right now.  But instead of cowering, we are skipping down the street, arm in arm, just as Seth and Remy did in San Francisco.  I’m excited.  We don’t do the tough work when it’s too easy.  We get complacent.  We don’t have that luxury right now.  It’s go time.  We all have the opportunity to be part of something bigger, and it’s just getting started. If you’re not the one doing the creating, you can still support the ones who are.  You won’t regret it.  I can’t wait to get out there and see what’s next for each of us.
In the meantime, don’t let anyone tell you what you’re feeling and experiencing is invalid.  People are sad, angry, and afraid, and with good reason.  But we don’t have to stay there.  In fact, we can’t.  It’s no way to live.  Do what you need to in order to be healthy and safe, friends.  But please use what you have to tell your truth.  Regardless of what anyone may tell you, everyone’s story deserves to be told.  Your story needs to be told.  Everyone deserves to make their own unique contribution.  What will yours be?  
Be well.

For more information about the projects described, please check out

Saturday, November 5, 2016

I Don't Want to Write

Friends, I haven’t posted in almost 2 weeks.  Like I said the other day, I’ve had writer’s block.  Today I remembered a creative writing teacher who gave us an assignment: Write an essay titled “I don’t want to write about…”  So I’m going to try it.
I don’t want to write about the election.  I don’t want to write about how I’ve been watching CNN so much, I know it’s not in my best interest.  it makes my head hurt to just hear the same commentators talking over one another.
I don’t want to write about how sad I am.  I love my country.  I especially love the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  I love that we have due process.  There are amendments I wish we didn’t have.  There are rights I wish were not afforded to us, and there are also rights of which I sincerely wish some people would stop availing themselves!  I have lost friends over this election.  I just can’t maintain a meaningful relationship with someone who espouses the values that any person or group of people are less-than and should be harmed.  I am sad because I love the people in my life very deeply.  It truly breaks my heart that anyone could hate them because of their race, country of origin, sex, gender, orientation, diagnosis, or ability.  
I don’t want to write about how angry I am. It infuriates me to see anyone harmed.  I am enraged that people with a microphone and a camera focused on them would use their power and influence to advocate for and encourage people to hurt someone else for not agreeing with them. I don’t like to be angry at all.  It clouds how I experience the world around me.  I lose patience and sometimes react in ways I regret later.  It keeps me from being present for people I love.  It inhibits me from being my best.
I don’t want to write about how confused I am.  I go to bed at night with a new story breaking, only to wake up in the morning to it having been debunked.  It’s hard to know which stories I read are true, and which ones are not.  When I write, accuracy is extremely important to me.  if I present something on IOI as a fact, it means I have done my research.  I cite my sources so that you can look for yourselves.  If I make a mistake, I want to know.  I feel responsible for what I publish.  It represents me as a writer and a human being.  If I write an article and falsify information to get you to agree with me, I have failed.  If I can’t feel strong and secure by telling the truth, I shouldn’t be writing at all.  
I don’t want to write about how scared I am.  Things that have been said and done during this election have evoked strong feelings in a lot of people.  First off, I am afraid for the people I mentioned earlier who fit into categories of people who have been marginalized and slandered. I worry for their well-being.  I worry about if any of them are internalizing the horrible things they’re hearing about themselves.  I know from experience how easy it is to internalize things that I shouldn’t.  My brain capitalizes on every negative thing it can when I am depressed.  I am really scared by the thought of people who already are vulnerable feeling attacked by someone validating their deepest fears.  Even worse, seeing someone encourage people en masse to be violent toward strangers.  I am afraid for people I love and feel very helpless.  I worry that anything I have to say pales in comparison to what’s being fed to us 24/7.    As if that weren’t enough to be afraid of, November 9 some people are going to be very happy.  Others will be very upset.  Hate crimes against American Muslims went up 78% in 2015.  Hate crimes against people who are transgender rose 40% (2016).  My fear is that no matter who wins, these numbers are going to go up.  
I want to write about gratitude.  I have had deep, meaningful conversations with people I wouldn’t have had otherwise.  I have made new friends and strengthened other relationships.  I have reconnected with friends on Facebook whom I haven’t spoken to in over 20 years.  I am grateful because this election has made me think critically about issues.  I know where I stand and what I think about many different subjects.  But as new information, some of it false, was presented I did my own research.  It has been a good experience to look at issues and what they will mean for me and my loved ones.  It feels good to stand up for other people and work to create safety in a volatile environment where their very personhood is being belittled at best, and at worst, demonized.
Finally, this election has given me hope.  People are standing up and getting involved.  Organizing, educating, advocating, and demonstrating are happening from the ground up.  Regardless of who is elected, I hope these people won’t lose that fire and passion.  People are standing up for one another.  I have seen people come together from completely different backgrounds, demographics, and ways of life.  This wasn’t going to happen without something drastic happening.  Something I often say is that there are very few things we have control over in life.  However, we always have control of our attitude, and what we do with the situations in which we find ourselves.
As always, I’m reminding you to please take care of yourselves and those you love.  IOI has a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/insightoutsidein and you can always post there or message me directly.  I didn’t want to write, but now I’m glad I did.

Be well

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Writer's block!

Hey Insighters!

Everything is fine, I've just got a serious case of writer's block.  If there's anything you'd like to see covered on IOI, please let me know, either in the comments or at insightoutsidein@gmail.com. 

I hope to be back comforting the disturbed and disturbing the comfortable SOON!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Can you Hear me?

Can you hear me now?
Friends, something is bothering me.  Last week I posted something on my personal FaceBook page about being a safe person for members of a certain minority group.  It was a re-post of something that’s going around.  I got a comment on the post from someone making a disparaging comment about that group.  I answered the person with this question: Why would you choose to post that comment on a post about supporting other people?  I left the question up for 24 hours.  When the person didn’t respond, I deleted the post, and re-posted the graphic with the following caveat: Supportive comments only.
While I have dealt with the offending comment, my discomfort with it remains.  I have been thinking a lot about the question I asked.  I really am trying to figure out the person’s motivation. Did the post make the person question their own values? Were they so offended by the topic that they felt they had to speak up? It’s almost a week later, and I’m still not sure.  I seriously doubt they thought they were going to change my mind.  In fact, anyone who knows me at all knows that I am going to speak up for the minority group.  
The one thing that I am pretty sure of is that the person needed to be heard.   They needed to be understood.  I think that’s a very common need.  If you recall Maslow’s hierarchy, our need for belongingness and love comes right above safety.  Intellectually it doesn’t make much sense to go to someone else’s Facebook page and post a disparaging comment.  But in doing so, the person making the comment probably felt stronger in their own role in their own group.  I can understand that.  Maybe they thought they were doing the right thing?  I believe it is extremely rare for someone to do something with the sole motivation being cruelty.  An action may cause harm, but the person might say that the ends justified the means.  
I am disappointed that the person chose not to talk to me about why they posted the comment.  I did not ask my question to antagonize, but to understand.  Don’t get me wrong, I was still going to delete the comment, or even the whole post.  I’m more than willing to listen, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to leave something up that could be harmful to people I love and care about.  I’m left feeling sad about the whole situation.  I know that someone saw the comment who could have really been harmed by it.  That scares me.  Fortunately the person also saw me stand up for the group of people and ultimately delete the post, but what if they hadn’t?  I would be mortified if someone in my own group thought that I agreed with what the commenter wrote.  The comment really went against everything I stand for.  
I am all for debate and discussion.  It’s how we learn and grow.  How can I learn to adapt my point of view to incorporate other ideas if I never hear any?  But how we have that discussion is what’s important, probably even more so than the content.  I need to be heard too.  Before I sign off, let me just say one quick thing about censorship and the first amendment: The first amendment protects us from laws which abridge our freedom of speech.  It doesn’t mean you get to say what you want when you want how you want.  Your right to extend your fist ends where my nose begins.  It's the same thing with our words.  Even in a context like an online forum where you can type pretty much anything you’re not free from the consequences of what you say because of free speech.  We all have a great responsibility to one another in order to live all together in society the way we do.  As for me, I endeavor to use my words to educate, counsel, comfort, and understand.  How do you want to use yours?

Be well