Can we ever stop the hemorrhaging?

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America is sliding backwards in almost every way imaginable.   Like it or not, as a country we have become far more superstitious, fearful, intolerant, and tribal than we were twenty, forty, or even sixty years ago.   Such a worldview is incredibly dangerous to any real progress and the sustainability of democracy.

The following article will provide a background of why this happened, its historical roots, how our situation compares with the rest of the world, and what, if anything, we can do to reverse our destiny and restore democracy as we used to know it.

The Middle Ages.

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Hundreds of years ago, tribalism and irrational fear of the “Other” was the norm in the West. During the Middle Ages, the only form of government was basically a theocracy with “one party rule” by the medieval Catholic Church.  Feudal lords ruled over the serfs with an iron hand, with meager benefits, such as a small patch of land for a family to subsist on, handed out in return for loyalty and backbreaking labor.   There was very little to no chance of a common peasant or serf escaping their grim reality, or ever rising to the merchant class and certainly not the nobility (the oligarchs of those times).   For almost all who weren’t part of the nobility or merchant class,  life was “brutal and short.”  Harsh punishments were meted out liberally against those who dared question the regime or their overlords.  It was a life not much better than slavery.   Science was considered heresy and education was discouraged.  Higher education was limited to the clergy and the nobility, and even that was primarily religious education.

During these “dark ages,” which lasted approximately a thousand years following the fall of the Roman Empire, there was little to no progress, scientifically or otherwise.  Each generation lived pretty much the same way as the one that came before, and people did not live very long.   Daily life revolved around religion and the church and people were very superstitious.  Women were considered the property of men, their only role (besides backbreaking labor alongside the men) was producing as many children as possible as quickly as possible.  Most of those children died of illness before the age of 5 or so.   In fact, infant mortality was so common that medieval women didn’t bother to name a child until he or she was several years old, and more likely to survive.   Not naming a new child made it possible to not get too attached to the child and enabled the mother to take its death in stride without undue grief.

Modern feudalism and third world countries.

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Today, there are such societies. But they are not in the West. You can find feudal-like living conditions under harsh dictatorships and theocracies in third world countries in South America, Africa, and other parts of the undeveloped world.   Unlike advanced western democracies, these developing countries have not advanced in any discernible way, and do not contribute knowledge to the rest of the world. The vast majority of their people live much as Europeans did in medieval times.  The rulers and kings of these impoverished nations may themselves be very wealthy, but they keep their wealth for themselves at the expense of the populace, who have no chance to ever live a good life within their own countries.  These regimes are rife with corruption, oppression, sexism, and violence.  They are societies where hatred, fear, tribalism, and often religious superstition take the place of rational and enlightened thought and higher values such as inclusiveness and empathy for others.

Random violence and harsh and unforgiving laws are common in these societies, and people live in fear of their own government, who care nothing for them and treat them as vermin or at best, as inconvenient burdens.  Some people have been fortunate and able to escape from these regimes.  Many of those refugees emigratred to America for what they believed would be a better life, and for the most part, they have not been disappointed.

Tyranny outside the third world. 

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Islamic theocracies in places like Saudi Arabia and Iran are slightly better as far as quality of life than impoverished third world countries (most people have access to modern technology and generally have at least the basic necessities for survival), but are still rigidly authoritarian states that tolerate no dissent from the national religion and Sharia law. These regimes especially fear feminine power — a power which draws from the higher human values of empathy, altruism, and inclusiveness — and so women have been oppressed and denied a voice.    The rulers of such nations are always men, and they rule with an iron fist.   Toxic masculinity, where power, wealth, violence, and complete control are lauded as virtues, ensures that the “feminine” is kept silenced and where qualities associated with the feminine are dismissed or even considered evil (in medieval times, these qualities were usually associated with witchcraft).   Keeping women in line and obedient safeguards against the risk that the power of the feminine could ever threaten the hypermasculine regime’s control.

The Enlightenment.

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While these harsh conditions used to exist in the West during medieval times, since the Renaissance and Enlightenment they have gradually been discarded.   Since then, the West has come to embrace rational thought and democratic, humane values over superstition and religious intolerance — and has changed their beliefs and laws in keeping with that.   The recognition that science (over religious dogma) is about truth and secular and higher education is valid and desirable, coupled with the idea that different kinds of people can and should learn from each other — and that difference is not something to be feared but something to be celebrated — paved the way for western countries to establish new policies that greatly enhanced the quality of life for all their citizens.  Policies that recognize that each human being is intrinsically valuable and worthy (instead of valued only for what they own or the power they wield) and should therefore be nurtured and encouraged to develop their full potential instead of punished and controlled for attempting to assert that potential has led to greater happiness, prosperity, and longevity for almost all people who live in those societies.  This recognition by the west that the “feminine” is as important (or more important) to the advancement of humanity as the “masculine” is the foundation for democracy, the most spiritually advanced and humane form of government that currently exists.

“Manifest destiny” and the roots of American tyranny.

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America was, unfortunately, founded at least partly through the invasion and oppression of the native people who lived peacefully and sustainably on this continent for thousands of years.  This unpleasant reality has always hindered us as far as advancing in democratic values as easily as other western countries have been able to do. There has always been that undercurrent of violence and intolerance of the “other” that has darkened our path to true progress — even though our Founding Fathers did everything they could when writing up the Constitution to protect against tyranny, whether religious tyranny or some other form of it.

Since the Enlightenment, this reality has been concealed, even to ourselves.  We have convinced ourselves America is the most advanced, prosperous, and humanitarian democracy that ever existed, a concept known as “manifest destiny.”   We have long believed we are the one shining example of morality, liberty, and prosperity to the rest of the world — and that they should follow our example (even if by force at times).  But the reality is, while we lurched toward democracy with the rest of the west,  we were never a true democracy.   We have always been more hubristic and narcissistic than other countries, believing ourselves to be morally and in every other way better than anyone else, but it’s proven to be a slippery slope that has led to the serious problems we are facing right now.    In fact, our narcissism and belief in “manifest destiny” is causing us to slide back into a more medieval, almost feudal, type of society.   We are being sucked into a moral vacuum that was formed by our fear of the “other” and the feminine strengths that, for at least a while, forced us to face those fears and attempt to toss them on the ash heap of history.   The Roman Empire fell for the same reasons we are now.   In fact, America’s system of government was based on ancient Rome, and just as the ancient Romans did, we are eating ourselves alive with our wrongheaded belief that we are the rightful Masters of the Universe and should be treated as such by the rest of the world.

True democracy cannot exist when there is a moral vacuum where feminine qualities and higher human values that recognize all humans are intrinsically valuable are dismissed, ignored, or oppressed.   Toxic masculinity and “strongman” policies are, ironically, born in a crucible of fear.  Fear leads to nationalism and tribalism, which leads to hatred, which inevitably results in violence, oppression, and even tyranny.  The undercurrent of terror and superstition that has always existed in America is poisoning our fragile democracy, which never had a chance to fully flourish and become what it could have been.  Other western countries are far ahead of us in this sense, and now we are falling even farther behind.   We can no longer even pretend to be the “shining light on the hill” to the rest of the world, and to do so would only make us even more laughable to the developed world than we already are.

For over 240 years, in spite of our issues with narcissism, we were still able to make much progress — but we never let go of our need to regard ourselves as superior and make others treat us that way.  And because of our prosperity, our enviable technology, and our comfort with great power and wealth, other countries  did in fact look up to us as the rightful leaders of the free world.   Yet most of this was their perception — that being nothing more than an acknowledgement of the glorified image we wanted to project — not the actual reality of things.    No other western country ever had any concept of themselves comparable to “manifest destiny.”   The erroneous belief that we are “best” and should be admired and emulated by the entire world has kept us from developing sufficient humility to be able to empathize and take care of each other, never mind those “foreigners.”  Humility — the opposite of hubris — is necessary for the development of the feminine and the humane in any society, and that is why other western countries have had a much easier time adapting to true “social” democracy and the concept that good governance means “we’re all in this together” and not “I’ve got mine, screw you.”   Power and wealth has become more important in America than compassion and inclusiveness, and probably always was, if truth be told.  Democracy and unbridled, unregulated power cannot coexist. Since the days of Reagan, the idea that deregulated power and unlimited wealth trumps compassion, inclusion, and humanity (demonized by the right as “socialism”) has increased exponentially.

Our experiment with democracy.

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“Spirit of America” by Norman Rockwell (1894-1978).

For a relatively short time — from sometime in the 1940s through the late 1970s — we experimented with social democracy.   Following FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society, American life and prosperity improved immensely for most (though racism and sexism were still issues, no one anywhere had really recognized those things as problems yet — reform was to come later).   The middle class grew and poverty diminished greatly, though it was never completely eradicated (and probably can’t be anyway).  Still, the uniquely American concept that some people were “better” or more “deserving” than others by virtue of their wealth, social status, or what they owned were still the true measures of human worth, even though this remained hidden or denied during those decades where we experimented with real democracy.  The truth is, we were never entirely comfortable with democracy.  Reaganism came as a relief to many people who feared the kinds of changes democracy could bring about.   Reaganism also began the slow unraveling of our developing, but still fragile and easily derailed, progress toward a more fair and humane society.  Forty years later, we are confronted with the terrifying spectre a near- fascist regime whose moral bankruptcy, brutality, ruthlessness, and lack of any semblance of conscience and empathy seems to have no limits.

We all know (or should know) how Reaganism eventually morphed into Trumpism, so I won’t detail the whole story of how that happened here.  Trump is not really the problem, nor would his immediate removal stop the hemorrhaging.   Trump is merely a symptom of a very deep and pervasive problem we have always had and that has become cancerous in the past four decades.   Other western democracies don’t have this problem, at least not to the extent America does. Because humility and “feminine” values (seen by tyrants as “weakness”) are not anathema to them, and narcissism and hubris hasn’t taken over their concept of themselves, they have always been more immune than we are to backsliding into tyranny.  That doesn’t mean it can’t happen in other countries, but it is less likely and their far right factions wield less power.  Our own fear and narcissism is destroying us from within.  We are regressing.

America is no longer a first world country.

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We have arrived at a point where we are not far ahead of places like Saudi Arabia, Iran, or Russia. While these are not third world countries in the strict sense, they are second world theocracies or dictatorships where the common people have no freedom (though they may be told they do and believe they do), lies are passed as the truth, history is rewritten, the free press is replaced by state propaganda,  and fair elections are either outlawed or a sham, dissent is punished, journalists are jailed, and the “different” are ostracized or even eliminated.   Such regimes have a number of things in common: oppression of women, criminalizing perceived “immorality” (homosexuality is an almost universal example in all these regimes), general intolerance for outsiders, an emphasis placed on buildup of the military,  police states, suppression of the arts and humanities, disdain or hatred for scientific thought, silencing the free press, revisionist history, the merging of religion and state, and state propaganda (whether religious or not) that passes itself off as “education” (in Communist regimes, atheism is treated as the state “religion”).

Lies are their currency; truth is always the enemy. Compassion is seen as weak and toxic masculinity (violence, controlling others, harsh punishment) is seen as “strong.” Higher human values — gentleness, inclusiveness, empathy — are not just regarded as weak, but sometimes as outright evil.   Such regimes are prone to constant wars and violence. Poverty is a given.  The wealthy few rule.  There is no middle class and it is not possible for a person to move upward from one class to another.  The “values” that are rewarded — wealth, power, total control — are often aided and abetted by authoritarian religion whose beliefs dovetail with the regime’s hypermasculine values.  American evangelical right-wing Christianity has much in common with radical Islam and organizations like ISIS.  In theocracies, whether the state-sanctioned religion is Islam, Christianity (so far, we have managed to avoid a religious theocracy here, but it existed during the Middle Ages and in Puritan times), or something else, there is no separation between religion and state and the leaders rule over the masses with an iron fist.  Any deviation is not tolerated.   As I mentioned earlier, this was par for the course during medieval times, but this form of governance was discarded by Europe hundreds of years ago when rational thought supplanted superstition, tribalism, and fear.  America, though denying it, was never able to completely let go of it.

Looking in the mirror.     

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Trump did not cause our decline, but through his hyper-masculine “strongman” words, actions, and tweets, has emboldened those who have always secretly wished for a return to authoritarian, medieval-like conditions and have never been comfortable with democratic values because such values demand we accept those who are different or more vulnerable than we are.  It also demands we embrace so-called feminine values, and that we recognize that every human being is intrinsically valuable. To be able to recognize the value in all people requires empathy, a quality that may be lacking in many Trump supporters, or seen as a “weakness” by people — usually men — who cannot accept any feminine softness within themselves.

But the proverbial phoenix rises from the ashes.  Fortunately, those of us who believe in true democracy and embrace higher human values over base ones like wealth and power greatly outnumber those who do not.   Trump, as bad as he may be, has done one very good thing:  he has provided a mirror for us to see ourselves as we really are, and how sick a nation we have become.   Sometimes the cure for cancer is painful, sometimes more painful than the disease.  Trump has  woken us up from our complacency and our apathy — which, had they continued, would have allowed the incipient authoritarian regime to take full control.   Though unwittingly, he gave us a window of opportunity to recognize the truth and finally take action against the horror that faced us.   Had Clinton or someone else been elected, we might have missed the opportunity.   There would have been no Resistance movement, we would have continued to sit home during elections,  and the thoroughly corrupted new Republican party would have continued to consolidate power and increase their stranglehold on our democracy without us ever realizing it until it was too late.    The cancer America is battling would have metastasized to the point that our destruction was inevitable.   Yes, Trump is extremely dangerous and yes, we could still self destruct just like the Roman Empire did, but I think with things having happened as they did, such an outcome is actually less likely, even as close as we are to destruction now.

The future. 

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We have a long and difficult journey ahead, if we are ever to liberate our country from the jaws of fascism and return to the democratic, humanitarian values that leaders during the WWII and postwar years recognized were necessary for us to thrive and become a real inspiration to the rest of the world, instead of a flashy sham of one.

There may be war. It’s inevitable people will die.  No revolution ever occurred without bloodshed and great sacrifice. We can’t be cowards and just wait for things to change, because they won’t on their own.   Inaction is death.   America’s soul is in the balance: do we want democracy or tyranny? The choice is ours.

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Asheville Womens March 2018!

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I wasn’t able to attend the Womens March that took place in downtown Asheville today, but the day was beautiful (sunny, high 50’s) and the turnout was unbelievable!  My jaw dropped to the floor when I saw this photo (which I was informed later is actually from 2017, but the turnout was the same or even greater than last year’s).

Asheville is a very progressive (deep, deep indigo blue!) bastion in a mostly red state (though a lot of the “redness” is misleading, since the GOP gerrymandering here is the worst in the nation.  There are actually quite a few blue/Democratic areas in North Carolina, particularly in the urban areas.

But I’m fortunate to live in what is probably the most politically progressive city in the state, outside of the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area, which is full of colleges and universities.   Asheville has a couple of colleges, but higher education isn’t its main draw.  We’re a haven for artists, musicians, people involved in the healing arts, and other creative types, and people from other areas of the country seeking the vibrant culture here as well as the beautiful scenery and the weather — we have all 4 seasons, but the winters are generally milder than what you find farther north and the summers are not that hot because of our location in the mountains.

The turnout in this small city (population about 89,000) was incredible.   It might as well have been in a big city like New York or Chicago!

Beautiful weather, beautiful city, beautiful people.   I’m proud to live in Asheville even though I wasn’t able to attend the march today.    I’m thrilled that the resistance seems to be growing even after a year of Trump, and proud of my fellow Ashevillians.

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Self-care in turbulent times.

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The trendy term “self care” irritates me the same way other trendy terms tend to irritate me, but it’s actually a good phrase and good advice.

I had two days off from work this week due to the snow, and I could have spent that time glued to the news, scanning Twitter for the latest Trumpian outrages (I can’t even keep up with them anymore), and making myself angry, depressed, and scared.

For a year I have struggled with retriggered C-PTSD because of this president and his abuse of vulnerable Americans, which includes myself because I am not rich or conservative.

I could have worked myself up into a righteous tizzy and returned to work feeling exhausted instead of refreshed.

But instead, I took a moratorium from the news and from the Internet.   Reading my Kindle copy of “Fire and Fury” (I’m almost done) was about the extent of my politics-related activities.   I cleaned my house (really well for a change) , organized a couple of closets, and actually cooked.   I spent time catching up with friends on Facebook and reading funny or inspiring websites, and watching funny animal videos.  I watched part of a “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” marathon, and even walked in the snow.    I read one of the novels in the list of books I posted the other day, and was actually able to concentrate on the plot.   I’m almost finished with it now.

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I have to admit I felt a twinge of guilt for burying my head in the sand and choosing not to follow the news for a couple of days.    I’ve always believed if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, but taking mental health breaks from all the chaos coming from the White House doesn’t mean you’re ignoring the dangers and becoming complacent and complicit.  It means you are a human being and need time to take care of yourself.  If you’re active in the resistance, whether as an actual activist, or just protesting online, you’re not going to be any good to anyone if you’re depressed, deflated,  apathetic, terrified, or unhealthily enraged.   All you’ll be able to do is spread negativity instead of inspiration and ideas.

So it’s absolutely imperative, especially if you suffer from PTSD, C-PTSD or a depressive disorder, to give yourself breaks from all the chaos and negative politics and take care of yourself.   It’s still possible to enjoy the simple things in life and even have fun, yes, even in the darkest times.   I can’t help but think of Anne Frank, a young girl confined in a German concentration camp, but she never let that reality break her spirit.  She was still a happy, positive person who spread joy and hope to others, even knowing she and her family were going to die.   Even today, her legacy still inspires others.

After my two days off spent staying away from politics and the news, I actually felt refreshed and ready to fight again.    So don’t feel guilty if you need to take breaks to concentrate on yourself, your friends or family.   Spend time doing things you like or that relax you — listening to music, watching a funny movie, meditating, praying, doing Yoga, reading a novel, cooking or baking, or spending time in nature (nothing is more healing than nature, if that’s your thing).   You are not abandoning your ideals or becoming complacent.   You are just refueling.

*****

Further reading:

12 Ways to Resist Without Losing Your Mind

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What Color Am I? A True Story About Race Identity and Racism.

I love this post about racism by my friend Linda Lee, and want more people to read it. I was surprised by what she found out about herself, but I think it’s so cool!

Please leave comments under the original post.

 

A Blog About Healing From PTSD

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I have never been able to understand racism. Not even when I lived in an all-white town and believed that I, too, was 100% white.

If racists were a tiny minority group, then I might understand it. I would believe they were mentally ill. Their thinking is screwed up because their brain isn’t working right. (Yes, I know how ironic this is, considering that I have a diagnosis of PTSD!) But so many otherwise “normal” people are rabidly racist — WHY? It makes no sense to me.

I grew up in a small town in southwestern Missouri. One day when I was five years old, my mother took me to see the doctor. Ahead of us, in the waiting room, sat a beautiful dark skinned family: a mother, a father, and two small children. They were sitting near the receptionist’s desk, in the area where everyone usually sat.

I went…

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It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

We need a wise and compassionate patriot today, like Martin Luther King, Jr. was five decades ago.   We need someone with integrity and maturity who believes in equality and justice for all Americans, especially the most vulnerable.

King may be gone, but his words have staying power, and his life and wisdom will not be forgotten, even in the darkest times.    We need his words of wisdom and inspiration in these dark times more than ever before.

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Guest Post (by Anonymous): Thoughts About Suicide and Selfishness.

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The following is a guest post from another blogger who kindly asked me if I would post this.  She is hesitant to link to her blog here, since her blog tends to focus on much lighter content, but still wanted to share her thoughts about this dark subject that’s a real issue for so many people who feel like all hope has been lost, as well as the people who love and care for them.     This blogger is not suicidal, but has been in the past.  I think most of us have considered it as an option at some point in our lives.   We need to stop judging them for it!   It isn’t helpful.

Thoughts about Suicide and Selfishness.

By Anonymous.

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The word itself can be quite triggering to some people… It is taboo and disturbing. What better proof of that, than the fact that I didn’t find the courage to speak out loud in my own blog?

Suicide is something that makes people uncomfortable. One shouldn’t even think about it. It scares, especially if you’ve had depressive episodes in the past. Doesn’t thinking about taking your own life mean you might be thinking about actually doing it?

I don’t think so. I don’t think you have to be a professional, working on serious research to give it a thought or two. I know a lot of people think about it, but just don’t share their thoughts. I am willing to open that door today. But I don’t encourage you to keep reading if you are not comfortable with the subject.

I’d like to point out that I am no professional about the matter. I am not a doctor, or a psychiatrist. I’m just a woman, who went through severe depression at some point in her life, and who had to deal with the idea of ending her days. I’m just the close friend of a good man who did take that step while he was living “The Life.”  But I think my view is worth being shared all the same. The following are just opinions, that you might agree with, or not.

From my experience, most people seem to see suicide as a cowardly act. You’ll often hear the classic “He chose an irreversible solution to a temporary problem”. But when you talk to someone who has just lost a loved one to suicide, the first thought resembles more “How could he do this to me?”

As a society, we tend to blame people who commit suicide of robbing us from someone we cherish. How dare that person be so selfish, that they would choose to leave their family and friends mourning them behind?

When I look back those dark days when I struggled between staying one more day or putting an end to my misery, I see things quite differently. I remember how much I thought about all the people that love me. Going through depression doesn’t mean forgetting your surroundings. If anything, those people were the only reason I hesitated. Had I been truly alone, I would have jumped in a second.

imfine

But I didn’t want my mother, my father and my brother to have to mourn me. Even if I seriously thought living without me would be a good thing in the long run. I knew no letter, no matter how long or how well penned would get them to understand I was right. No matter what I’d leave behind, they would end up suffering. And I could not stomach that.

I lived so they wouldn’t suffer. As simple as that. I ached and fought my demons, day by day, night by night, just so they wouldn’t have to wonder why I chose to rest, at last. Even to this day, I sometimes wish there were words that could explain the pain that rips my very soul when depression hits.

Mental distress is as painful if not worse than physical pain. People who haven’t felt it can’t imagine how real the hurt is. It is not “just” a matter of dark thoughts you can chase away or wait to see go away. And although some people can go through therapy or use medication to make the pain lessen, I believe some others will suffer all their lives.

In some countries, laws give the possibility to people suffering from chronic physical diseases that leave them with no quality of life to choose to end their life with doctors’ help. It is even considered an honorable way to leave this world. I agree that people shouldn’t be forced to live, when the suffering is too much to take. We put down our pets so they won’t have to go through unbearable pain, why should we force people to put up with agony?

I am not encouraging suicide. I think it is a terrible way to die. To hurt so much that you’d rather face mankind’s worst fear is horrible. But I don’t understand why we still tend to blame those who get to that point. No one would blame a cancer patient for losing their fight against that illness. Why do we do so, with mentally ill people?

“They should have asked for help!” you might think…. Which doesn’t make sense to me either. Would you blame your mom for dying from an undiagnosed heart failure?

Some people struggling with mental pain do seek help. But from my experience, a lot of doctors don’t measure the depth of the problem. They can’t see it on a scan, a physical exam, or on an X ray. It is not really their fault, but treatment is often lacking, even if people reach out for help.

I think my point here is just that maybe we should consider suicide a loss like that of any other disease. Families and friends shouldn’t have to deal with shame, and shouldn’t have to play the blaming game. The deceased should be able to rest in peace…

Just rest in peace.

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The Stack.

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My Stack.

A few weeks ago, I got a catalogue from The Vermont Country Store.  I’ve ordered a few things from their catalogues (I adore their super-comfy and attractive Mumu-style tops, and keep ordering more — I have 4 of them now) so they keep sending them to me.   Catalogues make great bathroom reading, and TVCS’s is one of the most fun to look at because it has just about everything you could ever want to have in it.    The candy page is always the page that automatically flips open because I’m constantly looking at it and drooling (although I have only ordered candy from them twice).  There’s candy there you just can’t find in regular stores — marzipan snow balls, maple-sugar leaves, chocolate covered sponge candy, and commercial candy that I remember from my childhood but is no longer available in any store.

On the inside front cover of their catalogue, there’s always a  quaint, old-timey, slightly corny write up about life in Vermont.  It’s always an idyllic little slice of Vermont life,  written by one of the owners.  Sometimes I read them and sometimes I don’t, but I happened to read the one that was in the latest catalogue.    The write up was called “A Nice, Quiet Winter Afternoon–and ‘The Stack’ Is Waiting.”  It was about something I can relate to — that tall stack of books that sits next to your favorite chair, usually on the floor (of course, in Vermont country, The Chair is always a cushy easy chair, perched next to a large picture window overlooking gently rolling fields of snow and farmland, and a large mug of hot cocoa is waiting there next to the stack — or on top of it!)

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I have a Stack.  It’s not on the floor, and it’s not next to a comfy easy chair, and there is no bay window behind it overlooking gently rolling fields of snow and farmland.  My stack is located on a dirty old orange steamer trunk next to my bed.  The window just to its right overlooks the parking lot of the apartment complex next door, and being that this is North Carolina, there is usually no snow on the ground.

But it’s still a stack of books just begging to be read, or referred to, or making me feel guilty because I haven’t read them yet — and maybe never will.   I look forward to the day I actually have the time to read (or give away) all these books (and de-clutter my bedroom in the process).    Since I’m home today, I may spend time reading (in fact, I definitely will), but before I do that, in this post I’m going to take inventory of these books and describe them, since even I can’t even recall what all of them are.

One Second After by William R. Fortschen.   A political/technology thriller written by one of my customers, who gave this book to me (I forgot to get it autographed though).    It was a New York Times bestseller a few years ago.  I know this man to be a political conservative (Lordy, I hope he isn’t a Trump supporter!),  but I started reading it a few days ago, and it’s damn hard to put down.   Since Fortschen also lives in my city, I am familiar with most of the places he describes in the book, which makes it seem even more real.  The man is a phenomenal writer, so I think I’ll be finishing this book first (although “Fire and Fury” is giving it competition).

Twin Flame by William Fortschen with Nora D’Ecclesis.  Fortschen’s first romance novel. He gave this to me along with the above book.   It’s a very short book and I read it in two days.  I haven’t removed it from the Stack yet.   It was both a fascinating and uncomfortable read for me, since this “novel” is obviously a factual account about him and his new wife (who he is now separated from), who I also know slightly.   The only things that have been changed from real life are their first names, but everything else is autobiographical.   Reading it, I got the slightly uncomfortable feeling of eavesdropping into the very personal life of someone I don’t know that well (but know well enough to know this is not a novel!).   The guy is a hopeless romantic, emotional, and very spiritual person and also an amazing writer.  And yes, I wish I could find someone like him in spite of the fact he is pushing 70 years old (though not him, obviously!)   And no, there is no sex in the book (thank goodness!)  It’s a very clean read.    Unlike Fortschen, however, I don’t believe we have “soul mates.”  I’m far too cynical for that.   The fact he does believe that each person has a “twin flame” at the age of almost 70 years old gives me hope for humanity.

Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty by Daniel Schulman.   This is a library book that is due back in a week.  I read about half of it, but I decided to stop reading because after awhile the book started to bore me (and make me feel sick).   I’ve already read so much about the Koch Brothers, their vast empire, and their diabolical plans to make America into their own image that I’m burned out on this sort of stuff and don’t want to read about them anymore.    I was curious about their early lives, and that’s the real reason I checked out this book.   I wanted to find out if they were ever human beings, and yes, apparently they were.  They were cute as children.   Charles Koch actually seemed like a sweet kid but it was clear he was his family’s golden child, even though he wasn’t the first born.    The eldest, Frederick, was the family scapegoat because he never fit in with the rest of the family, may be gay, and was partially disinherited.  He’s a patron of the arts, New York gadfly, and eccentric, and that embarrasses the rest of the Koch family.   Apparently, Freddy’s  not all that conservative (and may even be liberal).    David (one of the twins which included Bill) always looked up to Charles and became his partner in crime.  David was the cutup of the family, always in trouble as a kid but was Mr. Popularity at school.   Bill had a terrible temper, was unpopular with other kids, always threw tantrums as a kid, and wasn’t favored by the family.  He was never really part of the family business, except in a peripheral way.   I found out everything I needed to know.  Now make them go away, please.   I’ve had enough of the Kochs.

Exoplanets by Michael Summers and James Trefil.  This is also a library book due back in a week.   I haven’t read it, but I skimmed through it, and I looked at the beautiful color photos and paintings of earth like planets that may exist in the Milky Way Galaxy.   I may renew it, or not.   I probably won’t have time to read it even if I renew it though, so I probably won’t.

Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult.   I picked up this hardback novel by one of my favorite writers at Dollar General for three bucks.   I want to read it, and eventually will, but it will probably be awhile since between blogging, work, and my Internet activities, I don’t find a lot of time for novel reading anymore, and that’s a shame.

The Silent Corner by Dean Koontz.  I actually bought this paperback for the full list price at Food Lion.   Like the above book, I want to read it (because Dean Koontz has always been a favorite writer of mine), but wonder when I’ll get around to doing so.

Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency by Joshua Green.   This was a bestseller a few months ago, and I did read a few chapters of it, but there are so many other books about this presidency that have come out since then that are more timely (since current events are moving at near-light speed) that I probably won’t ever finish this book.   It seems kind of dated now, but I keep it in my stack just in case I change my mind or have nothing else to read (not likely).

The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President, editor Bandy Lee, M.D.    A must read for all conscientious Americans.   Although I finished this some time ago, it’s one of those books I will keep referring to again and again.  So it stays in the Stack.

Left Behind: A Novel of the Earth’s Last Days by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.   This was a one dollar Goodwill find, otherwise I would not have it in my Stack or even in my house.  I will probably never read it, but on that day at Goodwill, I was momentarily curious about the far right Christian evangelical mindset about the End Times, and since I’d heard so much about these books, curiosity got the best of me.  I’ll probably take it back to Goodwill at some point.    I don’t like Tim LaHaye or his politics so I don’t want to read any of his books.

Cold Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels by J. Warner Wallace.   This attractive looking trade paperback was sent to me anonymously, possibly by a reader of this blog who happens to have my address (thank you, whoever you are!) but so far the three people who I know have my address have denied sending it to me.  The book came in the mail at a time I was having doubts about my faith, so perhaps this is a message from God — very mysterious!    It looks interesting and fun to read, and evidently God wants me to read it, so in my stack it sits.  But I really have no idea when I’ll get around to it.   I will try!

My Fucking Coloring Book (with a box of Crayola crayons and package of colored markers which have probably dried up).  This adult coloring book was a gag gift from my daughter last Christmas (2016), but I’ve only found the time to color in one and a half of the intricate panels.   I wrote about receiving this book here.

Three books that are not in my Stack but should be:

The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy by William Strauss and Neil Howe.   My copy of this 1997 future history is dogeared and battered from constant reference.  I won’t describe the book in this post because it would take too long.  Never mind that Steve Bannon is a huge fan of the theory.  It’s not the insane conspiracy theory everyone thinks it is.  I wrote about it here and here.

The Bible.  I really need to get a modern English (preferably a Catholic version, which includes the extra chapters), since the two translations I have (Old Scofield Study version and KJV) I find so difficult to read.

Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff.   I did not want to wait for this book, or fight people in line at Barnes and Noble to get the last copy.  I don’t like reading books on a computer, but I just had to have it right away, so I went ahead and ordered a Kindle version off Amazon.  I’m reading it now, and believe me, it is a page turner.  It reads like a soap opera, but it isn’t trashy, because with this dumpster fire reality show of a presidency, that’s actually the way this White House operates.

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To everything there is a season…

I forgot about this old article I wrote in June 2015, but I’d like to put these thoughts out there again for others to think about.

Lucky Otters Haven

seasons

There seem to be three different kinds of people in the world. Those who are fake-positive, always wearing a plastered on smile and never admitting to failure or to their true emotions; those who walk around wearing their misery like a badge of honor; and everyone else.

Before I became active in the narcissistic abuse community, I really only met the first type of person and the third. I’m all too well acquainted with “positive thinking nazis” — you know, fake and shallow people who don’t want to acknowledge your pain and tell you to “get over it” or “you bring your misery on yourself with your negativity.” These people are often–but not always–narcissists (but even when they aren’t, they are all neurotypicals.) They are good at social skills and making a good impression at all times, and that means they are always smiling. They cannot and will not understand…

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Early morning musings about where we are now…and where we are going.

 

covfefe

I’ve been so active in the Twitter resistance community, that I’ve neglected blogging.

The resistance community on Twitter has become my lifeline and I’m completely addicted. Today, I’d like to share an early morning thread I posted. Having written this in a semi-awake state (pre-covfefe!), this was written from my heart more than from my brain, which hasn’t fully kicked in yet (still waiting for the covfefe to do its magic).

1. Sometimes I want to live long enough to see my country become a shining light on the hill again, sadly I don’t see that happening for a very long time, much longer than the 25-30 or so years I probably have left (if I’m lucky). But, 90 (the same age my dad died) seems like a good time to bow out.

2. I just don’t want to leave this world with my country in such disarray and possibly a totalitarian regime. I would worry about my kids and possible future grandkids. It would make me very sad to pass on without seeing a big change for the better.

3. That’s why it’s so important to me we turn around Congress/Senate back to the Democrats. Even if Trump is still president (god forbid), he will be able to do little damage if the GOP is out. All I want is to see my country back to what it was (or better!) so I can die happy and be assured the future for my descendants is a hopeful or even bright one.

4. I’m old enough to remember when fairness and compassion mattered. I want to see a return to that. Reaganism pretty much ruined all that. We are now finally paying the piper for 40 years of craven selfishness, runaway societal narcissism, and greed. At least people are finally waking up to the damage Reaganism ultimately caused.

5. That said, I do see signs that the tide is beginning to turn. But make no mistake, we have the fight of our life in front of us. Things always get worse before they improve. I do think in the end, justice and goodness will prevail, but the road is going to get bumpy for all of us. Strap in and hang on tight! Have courage! Don’t cave, for that’s what our enemies (and they are enemies!) are counting on.

interestingtimes

6. My biggest take away from all this is that I’ve come to realize I care deeply about my country and am willing to die for it, if necessary. That’s a big improvement from the apathy and cynicism I used to feel. I see this all over and it’s very encouraging! I’m also learning more about history than I ever did in all my years of schooling. What an education this has been!

7. Finally, as dysfunctional and scary as our country has become, we are watching history unfold and we are all part of it, whether we want to be or not. We are living in interesting times. That can be either a curse or a blessing, depending on how you frame it and whether you choose to get involved or succumb.

8. I won’t lie though. I’d give anything for my news to be boring again. With Godspeed, maybe one day soon it will be again.

9. A hot cup of Covfefe and a banana nut muffin helps.

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Throwback Thursday: My Inner Narcissist.

Originally posted on January 8, 2015

envy pride
The beautiful paintings in this article are by Marta Dahlig at Deviantart.

Narcissism isn’t limited to narcissists.

Most people have some narcissistic traits and that’s why it’s dangerous to try to diagnose someone you don’t know pretty well or have lived with. Mislabeling happens a lot, and ACONS and victims of abuse tend to be quick to label anyone who shows any narcissistic traits as a narcissist, because we’re so hypervigilant about everything and trust no one.

I hate my narcissistic traits, but I do have a few. Now’s the time I “come out” of the closet about them.

We also can’t forget a little narcissism is actually healthy and protects us to some extent from victimization. No one can be completely unselfish. It’s just not realistic or good for survival.

My two most deadly narcissistic sins are:

1. Envy. I’ve gotten better over the years, but I used to be pathologically envious of those who had more than I did, were more attractive, came from loving homes, had a better job or made more money (practically everybody!) I don’t think this is uncommon in people who were raised and/or married narcissists, and we are not incorrect about having been cheated in life. We have a right to feel like it’s unfair. It’s still an ugly, soul-destroying emotion though, because it makes us hate ourselves even more when we think we fall short of others.

I think what sets my envy apart from true narcissistic envy is that I have never had any desire to ruin or take away someone’s else’s good fortune. I might feel bitter and brood about it, but I never felt it was my right to interfere. Sometimes the people I envied could inspire me too. I also didn’t necessarily hate the people I envied, even when I wanted to. Or maybe it just sets me apart from the MALIGNANT narcissists, because those are the dangerous ones who really want to hurt you.

I’ve been getting a lot better–but another deadly sin that is envy’s polar opposite is slowly taking its place…

2. Pride (vanity). I haven’t experienced too much of this until recently. I think some pride is normal and healthy. If you have no pride you feel like you deserve nothing. But I have noticed a tendency to brag about this blog when it’s doing well or my stats are high. Maybe that’s a normal thing for bloggers (I think we tend to be competitive) but I bet it’s also made a few people think I’m a narcissist playing the victim. I hope not, but I still worry about it. I’m always tempted to delete those stats posts after they go up, but then again, why not share good news when you have some to share? Because until recently, I hardly ever had any good news to share. So I’m like a little kid on Christmas Day or something.

I still have to watch this though, because you can drive people away with too much bragging, and pride, as pleasant an emotion as it can be, can turn you into a narcissist eventually. It’s a slippery slope to selfishness and evil. I can’t ever forget that my primary focus with this blog is to get better, and maybe help others get better too through my writing. Not to have X number of views or Y levels of visibility. It’s not about me anyway, it’s about what God wants for me and how he wants me to be of service.

Acquired narcissism due to good fortune is probably why there are so many narcissists in Hollywood and the music industry (not all celebrities are narcissists of course). Their success has probably changed them. Or it drives them crazy. I think only the most mentally sound and insightful celebrities are able to escape from the clutches of acquired narcissism (or serious mental conditions such as bipolar disorder, drug addiction, and even psychosis). It can’t be easy being famous and sought after by millions of strangers and having to be “on” for the media all the time.

Then there’s the other kind of pride–the kind that keeps people from admitting when they’ve been wrong or showing humility when it would benefit them and others to do so. Fortunately, I don’t think I’m guilty of that kind of pride very much. I can admit when I’ve been wrong and am not “too proud” to do so. I think narcissists pretty much have a monopoly on that type of pride.

My last “deadly sin” is sloth. I can be the laziest person you ever met. I’m a world class procrastinator. But I don’t think that’s a narcissist trait.

sloth

What are yours?

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