Tag Archives: understanding

Listen Up

There are so many topics out there that are heavily polarized. One side thinks the other is crazy. The other side thinks the first side is nuts. And neither side is very kind about it. We’ve seen this day in and day out with politics and it just seems to be the way things are right now, but I have a problem with it.

Note: This is not going to be a post arguing vaccine safety, gun control, the right type of ‘diet’ or animal cruelty. While I realize I am opening myself up to such scrutiny, I’m not looking for a debate on the issues and as such I’m closing the comments. If you’d like to send me a kind note, please do, ( salamanderpal at gmail) but know that I am really not into being berated or lectured. It’s taking me a lot of guts to put this out there, so please be kind.  I’m going to make my choices, and you can make yours and I’m pretty good with that.

That said, this is coming about due to my experience on social media with my political views and others. I am a liberal, hippie-crunchy vegetarian that disagrees with mandatory vaccination, is pained by factory farming and the slaughter of animals, and loves socialized medicine. It takes a LOT of guts and pep talking on my part to even POST a response, or something I believe in, simply for fear of the response. (Some will say – who cares what people think!? But…being sensitive I just can’t dismiss the replies, so I keep my mouth shut) I’m pretty familiar with being on the edge of things. It’s a tiring, exhausting place to be some days and biting my tongue gets painful.

I bite it because I don’t want to argue, not because I don’t care or don’t have strong views. I bite my tongue because inevitably, it won’t be a discussion where both people are heard and we agree to disagree with a better understanding of each other. I bite my tongue because nine times out of ten, it will devolve into accusations of stupidity and idiocy with a side of hurt feelings. I don’t care if you think killing animals is awesome, vaccination is the greatest thing we’ve ever done and it never hurts anyone or if MOAR GUNS is your battlecry. I do care, that you don’t call me names or be insensitive.

So maybe you can already tell, but my problem isn’t that I am on the minority side of things here. It tends to be my thing. My problem is exactly the same problem I had during the elections – the way one side ostracises the other. The way articles label the side they are not on as crazy, idiotic and just plain stupid for even questioning the ‘truth’.  The way they invalidate good peoples’ fears and concerns without batting an eyelash.

Guys, why do we do this?

I personally live in a constant state of feeling stifled. I realize some of this lies in my own sensitivity and fear of reaction, but should I have to fear being jumped on? Should I really keep my mouth shut, because I don’t want to get attacked? Called stupid? Made to feel inadequate or unintelligent? Told I clearly don’t believe in science? Made to feel like I must not understand or I’d feel differently? Really, should I fear all these things?

I don’t think so.

There are extreme ends to every issue and there always will be. Is it possible we make them even MORE extreme by our constant labeling and ostracism? By the way we immediately brush off their concerns or fears? By continually not validating people who buck the status quo? By villainizing the ‘other’ side or the minority, we make people more defensive, more aggressive and more rabid in their attempts at being heard. It’s really no wonder that speaking my mind gives me such great anxiety that it keeps me from doing so.

Questioning authority is a GOOD thing in my book. So much of the controversial topics have things that DO need more investigation by impartial parties. Studies. Research. Why are we teaching the world that questioning the rules is such an awful thing? Shouldn’t we be encouraging each other to think for ourselves and to keep pushing for truth? Truths change. Scientific theories have changed over the years, repeatedly as technology and innovation happens. We wouldn’t have many of the innovations we have if people hadn’t kept questioning. Kept seeking. Kept searching.

It’s easy to be big, to talk boldly and to stand up when you’re with the majority. It’s easy to talk about your beliefs when you know you’ll get support, without doubt. It’s not so easy when you’re in a minority without the same vocalization and safety in numbers. I’ll say from experience, it is REALLY FREAKING HARD to be brave enough to say – this is what I stand for – when you know you’re going to get shot down. When you know people will make you feel like an idiot, if they don’t actually call you one. When you know the majority won’t understand where you’re coming from, or even care. Then what happens is the loud majority gets heard, while the minority still gets stifled, ostracised and isolated.

When what they really need, is validation. They need someone to listen to them, and even if they don’t agree, say that they understand where they are coming from or at least WHY they feel/believe the way that they do. You don’t have to agree, but I feel like we take disagreement as a cue that we don’t have to listen or try to understand. I don’t need you to not vaccinate your children, but I do need you to hear my personal story with vaccine injury and maybe understand where I’m coming from. I don’t need you to agree that no one should carry a concealed weapon, but I do need you to hear my experiences and listen to me. I need you to understand my feelings on the matter, whether you agree or disagree and in return? I’ll do the same for you, as long as you’re not making me feel inadequate or calling me names. Really! That’s how it can work! If it is so clearly me vs. you, why do I need to understand?

Well, because it’s the only way that we’re going to get anywhere in this world. If two people on opposite sides of gun control can’t sit down and understand why they feel the way they do in a safe manner, how will effective policy ever be made? If the Pro-Vaccine people can’t hear the cries of those with injured or deceased children and be at the very least compassionate, we will just keep yelling at each other. If Democrats paint Republicans as conservative crazies and Republicans continually tell you that Democrats are one eyed monsters, well, who the hell is going to want to sit down and really understand each other? (If you’d like to see a well spoken speech on this, and the media’s effect on polarization, go look up the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. Jon Stewart is pretty brilliant in my opinion with his words.)

I just don’t care what the issue is. Political parties. Gun control. Drugs. Vaccination. Religion. GMOs. Vegetarians vs. Cavemen. I don’t care. What I care about is that we watch how we talk about ‘the other side’. Both to their faces and in general. That we watch how we make others feel. That we be compassionate while discussing these things. That we don’t just say what idiots a group of people are, off the cuff without thinking. While it might be simple open and shut for you, it may not be for the other person. Maybe they’ve had a gun death, or a vaccine injury in their family that you don’t know about that has brought them to where they are. Maybe you’ve had other experiences that they don’t know about that have helped form your views.

Maybe before you tell someone how irresponsible they are for their choices, liken someone’s unvaccinated children to rabid dogs, tell someone they are a moron for owning a gun or call a group of believers idiots, think about the story they might have.  I know they can be impassioned topics, but we each have a reason for the views we take, we each have stories to tell and experiences that color our take on life. Why not share your story, rather than an aggressive argument? I just can’t help feeling that we’d get a lot farther in this world and even in our little pocket communities if we listened. Truly listened. Not to respond, but to understand.

I don’t need you to agree with me, but I do need you to respect my intelligence, my beliefs and my story. I promise, I’ll extend the same courtesy to you. (And maybe we can get our politicians to do similar 😉 )

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” 
― Stephen R. Covey

Spinning Brain Dump

To say that a lot of things are going on with me would be a gross understatement. Perhaps even the understatement of the century. It’s been trying to say the least but I am hanging in there and working pretty well I think. I always feel guilty when I whine on twitter and then disappear, but it’s kind of all I’ve got at the moment and I appreciate everyone sticking by me and with me.

I am currently at my Mom’s house and have been for over a week now, while trying to remotely hunt for an apartment in New York City that is within budget, near a certain train and that has a kitchen I won’t feel disgusting in. We seem to have found one at this point that I am not thrilled with, but can make work. So. That’s a bonus. Now to figure out the financial aspect of things with cross-border banking yaddah yaddah yaddah. Seriously. I hate this stuff.

Being at my Mom’s has been great at times and…simultaneously the WORST. I love her. I swear I do, but holy ever loving is she critical. We have spats while I’ve been away but I think I have forgotten just HOW critical she is of me. Of others. Of just about everything.  Then the best part is when I speak up and call her on it, she scoffs and makes it seem like everything is my fault and she is just trying to help or have an opinion. There literally is NO comment that I can make and stand up for myself. Somehow, she always wins. She always comes out on top. People will say, “Well stand up! Tell her that’s not okay!” and I have. Trust me. It just somehow doesn’t work. She’s an evil magician that can turn anything around to make me look like a whiner, a weak person, a negative Nancy when all I want to do is just be comforted.

I want to be able to cry and be validated. To hear that yes, this sucks and it’s okay to be upset. I don’t really want to hear how I’m not looking at this right, it should be an ADVENTURE. I don’ t really want to hear that everyone has anxiety, when I say my father WITH CANCER is anxious about the future. It’s not supportive or helpful. It’s just…ugh. It’s cold and annoying and it feels so dismissive of every feeling I have worked SO HARD to allow out in the open. Honestly, it’s no wonder I am so worried about others’ opinions. It’s no wonder that I have trouble speaking up for myself or believing in myself. It’s really no wonder that I am so uber, highly critical of my appearance and self. My eyes are just blown wide open when it comes to understanding where all this negativity has come from in my life.

I feel anxiety and stress when Mom comes up the stairs. I tense, wondering what she wants from me now. She comments on when I eat, what I eat, how much I eat, how often I eat and what I eat. SHE only eats one big meal a day, so…I must be a pig to eat so often or so much. Honestly folks. She truly comments on this. Just today, my grandparents took us out for lunch and an ice cream afterwards. I came home with an iced coffee and she commented on the fact that I had ice cream and iced coffee. Uhm. Well. They serve different purposes. She remarked that it was all “in between meals” as far as she was concerned so, oh well!

I just hate how weak I feel against her. A dear friend on Twitter said to respond with, “I Love you Mom.” and I think I’m going to have to start doing so because man, this is just eroding my sense of self. I’ve worked SO HARD to love myself. To not be critical of others, of myself, of my relationships. I’ve struggled with anxiety and oversensitivity – knowing that I am not abnormal and it’s okay.  All this to come home and feel crushed and absolutely helpless against her, at thirty three years old. It’s humiliating. It’s painful and I just can’t handle it.

On top of that, as I mentioned above, my Dad has been diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma. It’s been really hard on me and I haven’t said much about it but have been SO GRATEFUL for all your prayers and love and support. So thank you for that. Truly. He has had many tests in the last week that I’ve been home and the results today say that he has cancer in the lymph nodes in his throat, armpits and torso/groin, as well as some cancerous cells found in his bone marrow. He will have 24 weeks of chemotherapy and will have to stay at the hospital for three days when treatment starts. He’s having to not go fishing with his friends, for fear of getting a fish hook in his hand and getting an infection. Dad lives in a cabin on some acreage, with a HUGE garden and lots of house projects. It’s extremely difficult for him to rest and be still, so already he is worried about this.

Icing on the cake? Dad has no health insurance. Yeah, let that one sink in for a while. The next time someone wants to argue against socialized health care, I’m sorry, but I will tell them RIGHT where to go. Just for his local visits he is in for over 10k. This does not include any body scans, bone marrow biopsies or anything like that. Already. I just am not sure how he will pay for all of this and I cannot imagine how that is weighing on him even as he is fearing for his own life. How can someone heal when they are so stressed about how to PAY for each treatment? I just…I lay awake at night thinking about this.

It’s been so hard to hear my Dad with such worry. Such anxiety. I can hear the tension, the fear in his voice everytime we speak and it just wounds my heart. He hugged me yesterday, what he thought would be a goodbye for a few months, and I felt his sadness. I felt his person clinging to me even as he released me physically. Thinking about that moment now, I am tearing up. I wanted to hold onto him forever in that moment. We had just spent a few hours at the local fair, showing me his blue and red ribbons for the vegetables he’d grown, eating fried dough and ice cream – his favourite. The way his person lingered, the way he looked at me really broke my heart and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.

There is a lot more inside me but I just don’t want to overwhelm anyone. I’m worried about finding a job. About furnishing this apartment. I’m worried about being qualified for jobs after not working for a few years. I’m scared of not having enough for food and necessities. I’m just…scared. I apologize in advance but for a little while my posting will be brain dumps. Spots for me to get out the feelings that I’m spinning on and worrying about. I understand if you step back for a while, I’m cool with that.

I wish I could step back for a little while.

All that said? I honestly think that I AM handling things pretty well. I need to have a big ol break down at some point soon and cry it out but for now? I’m doing okay. I’m trying still to talk about things even if I’m getting shut down. I’ve exercised a bit (I can’t wait to get back to regular working out – good LORD I can’t wait!), I’ve gone for walks, I’ve eaten what I”ve wanted and not what I haven’t. I’ve really been trying hard and am pretty proud of myself for the most part.

I AM excited about this new chapter. It’s not where I thought I’d be a few months ago but here I am and I am making the best of it. I have already started the reading list that is required to become a certified Doula. I am hoping to take a course in November that would satisfy two out of three coursework requirements for the Doula certification. I am excited at the opportunities that New York will provide me for this certification and have plans for the next four years at least when it comes to my future and career. I feel confident in that and I am looking forward to the undertaking itself. The end goal is to become a Midwife and I truly feel in my heart that whether or not I have my own children, I will be a great support, resource and ally through birth and beyond.

So yeah. Lots going on. So much up in the air and uncertain but…I’m hanging in there. Thanks for hanging with me.

Begin at the Beginning

Apparently I started blogging back in 2003, when I was a very different person. I was in graduate school. I was in a relationship with a man who never said he loved me. I was binge eating and exercising to an unhealthy degree. I wasn’t happy.  I’m guessing I started blogging like most do, to just get their thoughts out there. Seems that’s what I did.

I started reading the old blog and while it was neat to see the ‘old Sarah’, a part of me felt…triggered? A lot of my past I really don’t want to see again. I just don’t want to. I’m not proud of some of the things, but mostly? It just feels like a really old, sad, confused me. It hurts me to see her struggle and to remember it. My brain has shut out some of those memories for a reason and while a walk down memory lane would be nice, I don’t think I’m ready just yet.  I’m just now coming into my own at almost 33, and I think it’s important for me to stay here in the present for a little while. To get comfortable, settle in; make a butt print on my seat before I delve into the 10 years before now. I think I need to honour that feeling in me for now. For now.

Fast forward a few years. I’m overweight and reading healthy living blogs like it’s my J.O.B. I dislike my job. It’s wearing me down and I’m looking for light.  I really did find the light, the hope, the potential in these HLBs.  I got the idea that I could succeed. That maybe, I could write too and share my information, my success and my passions with the world!  It took me a while after that to really get settled. It took Jennie asking me to write for Food Lush. It took me feeling confident before I started Fear No Food.

But I struggled to blog there. I wasn’t good at stopping the cooking process to take pictures. My pictures weren’t very good. I realized I was horrid at keeping track of what I dumped in the pot for dinner. Furthermore? I just…didn’t WANT to keep track.  Around this time I started feeling jaded about healthy living blogs and suddenly, my own words while genuine, felt crappy.  I wanted to share my life and loves with people. I wanted to help them succeed and be very honest and real. But this blog wasn’t it.

So I abandoned that one and hopped on over here! It’s new and I’m still getting settled here. I’m getting a few people to read what I say. I’m more open. Less composed. Less structured. I share more. I feel more comfortable immediately here which I think is a good sign.  That said – I hope you guys stick around to see what I do with the place!

(Thanks to Ginger for starting this Bring Back the Words prompts! I’m excited to participate and hope you’ll think of joining in. Writer’s block and anxiety be gone!! This is a post for Week 1.)