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Me Too

September 29, 2018

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Survivor.  The word carries a lot of power.  It’s used to describe people who have grappled with potentially terminal illnesses, those who have lived through horrific car accidents or terrorist attacks or wars.  When we hear the term “survivor” we not only recognize that it refers to someone who endured something, we understand that he or she lived through it.  Living through something doesn’t mean one comes out unscathed; a breast cancer survivor may carry physical scars and emotional trauma.  A survivor of a plane crash may experience guilt and fear.

But no one denies them the right to heal however they need to.  No one questions whether they really had cancer, or whether the plane crash was their fault.  No one suggests that perhaps the cancer or the plane crash wasn’t that bad, that maybe they’re overreacting or being overly sensitive.

I sat down in front of my computer to write this not because I wanted to (I really, really didn’t), but because I felt compelled to.  See, I’m a survivor.  I still cringe using that word to describe myself because I don’t feel worthy of it.  I’ve been conditioned or convinced by a lifetime of living in this society of ours that what I experienced wasn’t that bad.  And I’m usually pretty adept at putting a lid on any feelings that might threaten to escape when a situation comes up in the media or in my life that reminds me of my experience.  Until now.

This time feels different.  Maybe it’s because my assault happened in high school, too.  Perhaps it’s because I have a daughter about to enter the fraught and dangerous waters of puberty.  And possibly it’s that I’m finally fed up.

After all these years, I’m calling a spade a spade.  I’m done convincing myself that what happened to me was my fault, that I had been drinking and I led him on.  I’m finished telling myself it wasn’t really rape because a stranger didn’t force me at knifepoint in a dark alley.  I’m absolutely done lying to myself and swallowing my truth because it might make other people uncomfortable.  And I’m grateful, so very grateful, to women like Dr. Ford whose bravery finally gave me a voice.

Let me be clear: I don’t blindly believe every accusation.  I recognize the reality that false allegations exist.  In fact, I have personally witnessed this with someone I care deeply about and it was extremely traumatic and terrifying for him.  Falsely accusing someone of sexual assault or rape is heinous not only because it damages the accused, but because it gives people an excuse not to believe those who truly have been assaulted.  However, I also understand that at most these false reports represent between two to eight percent of reported sexual assaults, and that even that percentage is likely inflated.  I also recognize that over sixty percent of assaults and rapes are never reported, further weakening the argument that false allegations are common.

Given those statistics, I find it irresponsible and reprehensible that our society’s knee-jerk reaction remains one of doubt when it comes to believing victims of sexual crimes.  When someone is mugged or carjacked, we don’t ask if they’d been drinking.  We don’t wonder if they’re just looking for attention or whether they have a vendetta against the alleged perpetrator.  Yes, we as a society do believe that everyone should remain innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.  Kavanaugh isn’t in court, though, he’s essentially in a job interview, one in which the stakes are incredibly high.

What Dr. Ford is experiencing now is precisely why so many victims are afraid to come forward.  Expressions of outright disbelief, attacks on character, attempts to undermine credibility, dragging the accuser through the public court of opinion…all the things she feared have come to pass.  And still she bravely stood up and spoke her truth because the weight of silence had become too heavy a burden to bear.

What I find most troubling about this particular situation are the specific arguments being used in the attempt to discredit Dr. Ford.  “Why didn’t she come forward sooner if it was that important?”  One simply needs to have a basic understanding of the neurobiological and psychological impact of sexual assault and rape in order to recognize the weakness of this question.  “Yes, but her memory is so shaky, how can she be sure it was Kavanaugh?”  Again, one must take into account how assault impacts the recovery of specific details, as well as recognize that with the passage of many years, peripheral facts may become unclear.  What remains, despite any attempts to dislodge it from memory, is how the attack made the victim feel and the identity of the attacker.

Ask me to tell you the date of my assault, the clothes I was wearing, the identity of every person present that evening, and I will be unable to answer.  Attempt to confirm with me the specifics of everything leading up to or following it, I will likely fail to provide that information.  But ask me to tell you how I felt that night or the days following, ask if I have ever been able to shake that memory or the image of his face, and unfortunately I will be able to recount it all.

I am in my forties as I write this.  I was a teenager at the time of my assault.  Ask me if it still matters.  Ask me if I mind the idea of my now 10-year old daughter experiencing something like it.  Ask me why until now I haven’t even told my husband of 20 years, my parents or my sister, my friends.  And ask me what I would do if I found out my attacker was being considered for one of the most powerful positions in our democracy.

But don’t ask me if it happened.  Don’t suggest that I made something out of nothing.  Don’t question my memory, or my integrity, or my decision to remain silent for so long.  I am a survivor, and get to decide when and if I talk about it.  I get to choose how I share my experience.  You know why?  Because I’m the one who had to live through it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Treat Yo Self

August 11, 2018

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Self care.  It’s one of those overused, Oprah-style buzzwords that tends to make me roll my eyes.  It’s not that I don’t believe it’s important, or that I don’t appreciate the focus on something that many women have traditionally struggled to justify.  But my knee-jerk reaction is basically, “No shit.”  I’ve always subscribed to the If-Mama-Ain’t-Happy-Ain’t-Nobody-Happy school of thought.

Of course, I realize how fortunate I am to be in a position to take care of myself.  My basic needs have always been met, and for those whom that isn’t true, self care takes on a completely different meaning.  For purposes of this ramble, I refer to those of us who are privileged enough to think beyond survival to some form of personal enrichment.

While the concept may not be novel to me, my definition of it has certainly evolved.  In the past, me time equalled fun.  Usually it revolved around something mindless and frivolous, an escape from reality like shopping or drinks with friends.  Sure, it often included reading (because that’s pretty much my favorite of all time), but when I thought of self care I was more likely to picture a spa day or a girls trip.

Somewhere in the midst of growing older, I’ve realized that what’s fun isn’t always what brings me actual happiness.  A lot of the activities I considered entertaining weren’t what truly brought me joy or peace.  Sure, laughing hysterically over a few too many glasses of wine can be fun.  Shopping for pretty things can give me a thrill.  Pampering myself with a blowout or a pedicure can be relaxing.  But ultimately, none of those things feeds my soul.

I’ve also started taking issue with the rationale that is rooted in the self care movement: I have to fill my cup in order to pour into yours.  In other words, caring for ourselves is only important inasmuch as it allows us to better care for others.  I would argue that true self care should be undertaken simply because it benefits the individual.  After all, aren’t we enough?

In my forties, I’ve finally begun to understand what self care really means to me.  It isn’t necessarily about doing what feels good, it’s about being true to myself. It’s about choosing to participate in and experience things that will bring deeper meaning to my life and leave me feeling content and positive long after the moment has passed. Time spent in nature, in meditation, in movement…time spent with people I can be myself with, who bring out the best in me…and yes, time spent reading.  These activities fill my cup.  I’m always glad I invested my time and energy in these pursuits.  They never leave me feeling guilty or empty or depleted.  (Aside from staying up too late to read “just one more chapter!”)

Real, true self care is the antithesis of self indulgence.  Caring for yourself means heeding your inner voice, whether it’s whispering or shouting.  It may be urging you to create, to write or paint or compose.  It may be coaxing you to sit in quiet contemplation and just breathe.  It may be inspiring you to climb a mountain with close friends or hike a solitary trail.

It also may be telling you to let go of things, people and activities that aren’t healthy for your mind, spirit or body.  Deep down, you recognize what those are.  Perhaps you’ve allowed fear or guilt or just plain old habit to win out even though doing so undermines your well being.  Self care can be every bit as much about the things we choose not to engage in.  Sometimes what we elect to say “no” to can have as much impact on our happiness as what we say “yes” to.  Freeing ourselves from the weight of other peoples’ expectations and judgments, declining invitations that feel like obligations, freeing up our time to devote to the people and activities that truly nurture us and enrich our lives, that is self care.

If I want to truly take care of myself, I have to be honest about what I need, both with myself and with others.  Subscribing to anyone else’s version of self care will only leave me feeling unsatisfied.  That’s why it’s crucial to remember that there’s no “right” way to care for ourselves.  What brings me peace may give you anxiety.  What you find energizing might sap my spirit.  The ways we choose to be kind to ourselves may look nothing alike.  But ultimately if we’re true to ourselves and pay attention to how things, people, places, and activities make us feel at our core, we are giving our minds, bodies, and souls what they need to feel fulfilled.

So go ahead, treat yourself.  To a good book in a quiet corner.  To a walk in the woods.  To a sunrise on the water with strong coffee and good company.  To an uninterrupted hour of writing.  To whatever stirs your soul and feeds your fire.  After all, we each only get one self; we really ought to take care of it.

 

I Choose Us

May 15, 2018

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Despite the fact that we are clearly not old enough for this to be true, my husband and I are about to celebrate twenty years of marriage.  Twenty years of ups and downs, of good days and bad days.  Twenty years of making memories, of raising a family.  Twenty years of choosing each other over and over again, even when we weren’t sure we wanted to.

Last night he gave me my anniversary present…three weeks early.  To be fair, we will be out of the country on the actual date and it wouldn’t be especially wise to bring an expensive gift with him where we’re going.  But he probably would have caved early anyways, truth be told.  He can never make it until Christmas, or my birthday, or Valentine’s Day…when we got engaged he’d already shown the ring to nearly all of our friends and family because he just couldn’t keep it to himself.

So in the waning hours of Mother’s Day, his first without his own mother, my guy handed me the most beautiful bracelet made up of interlocking infinity symbols.  Because that’s what this marriage thing is about for us: forever.  We both got choked up thinking of all we’ve been through together and imagining/wishing/hoping for all that’s to come.  It became one of those defining moments, one when you both recommit to the choice you made however many years ago.

Twenty years.  A lot changes in that amount of time.  I was only a few weeks out of college when we said our vows.  We were one of the first couples we knew to tie the knot, having been together already for several years and figuring we had a good enough thing to make it official.

We moved into a tiny duplex, the first home we would share together.  If those walls could talk, they’d tell the sometimes bumpy story of our early married years.  In fact, one of them may even still have a dent in it from the time I threw something (the specifics escape me, I like to forget I was ever such a hothead) during a particularly heated fight.  Those walls held the raised voices of arguments, the sighs of lovemaking, the smells of burnt dinners…they held two amateurs trying to act like they knew what the hell they were doing.

So after twenty years we should be pros, right?  Wrong.  Marriage, like parenthood, is constantly evolving.  The people involved are constantly evolving.  The situations they face are constantly evolving.  There are no pros, just aging amateurs.

But I have learned a few things over the years that I thought might be worth sharing:

  1. At the end of the day, your spouse is the person you’re most likely to take out all your stress and frustration on.  Try really, really hard not to.  Be nicer to him than you would be to your barista, or your child’s teacher, or the coworker who secretly drives you bonkers but who you have to get along with.  Absolutely share your stresses and frustrations with him, just don’t treat him like he’s the source of them all.
  2. Your spouse is going to have habits that bug the hell out of you.  Guess what?  You have habits that probably bug the hell out of him.  Let it go.  And pick up your socks while you’re at it.
  3. You aren’t going to parent exactly the same way, or celebrate holidays the same way, or perhaps even vote the same way.  You each carry your own upbringings, your own experiences, your own baggage into this union.  Recognize that.  Withhold judgment.  Share.  Compromise.  Create something together from your differences.
  4. Be realistic.  We’ve all watched too many rom-coms and Disney movies over the years.  Marriage isn’t a fairy tale.  Your partner isn’t going to sweep you off your feet on the daily.  That initial rush of romantic excitement isn’t sustainable long term, at least not consistently.  I guarantee even the characters from Fifty Shades will end up spending more nights watching reality TV in their sweats than they will in the Red Room.  It doesn’t mean the thrill is gone; it’s just really, really comfy on the couch right now.
  5. Gratitude matters.  Showing appreciation for your spouse when he does something that makes you feel loved or cared for and taking time to do the things you know will make him feel the same creates a self-sustaining pattern of kindness in your marriage.  There will be times when you just don’t feel very grateful, or when you’re so overwhelmed by the business of life, or parenting, or simply surviving that you let this slip.  It will show.  Stop.  Think about what your spouse does that you might be thankful for.  Tell him.
  6. Make an effort to stay connected.  Whether that means regular date nights or simply cuddling and catching up on each other’s days before bed, prioritize time and communication with your partner.  When life gets hectic it’s very easy to become roommates and (family) business partners rather than lovers and friends.  Be aware of it and work together to find ways to connect as a couple.
  7. Have each other’s backs.  It’s natural to share things about your relationship with your friends and family, it can be tempting to get a laugh by making a joke at your spouse’s expense, it can be hard not to let on to your children when you disagree with the way your partner handles a parenting situation.  But ultimately you two should be each other’s greatest supporters and staunchest defenders.  Don’t make a habit of talking behind his back or undermining his parenting decisions.  If you can’t count on each other and feel safe with one another, you’re setting yourselves up for heartache.
  8. Have fun together!  Between work and kids and the all-go-no-quit nature of our society, it can be challenging to carve out time to just enjoy each other’s company.  Make each other laugh, do things together that you both enjoy, be silly with each other.  When you share a lifetime together, you’re bound to face your share of hardships and serious situations.  Balance it out with levity whenever you can.

I’m sure I could add to this list every day for the rest of our marriage.  And I’m sure there are others out there with much better advice.  I imagine couples coming up on fifty years could share a whole lot more.  Hopefully that will be us one day.  We never know how long we have on this earth, how many years we will get with the people we love.  There’s a song by Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit that says it best:

“Maybe time running out is a gift
I’ll work hard ’til the end of my shift
And give you every second I can find
And hope it isn’t me who’s left behind

It’s knowing that this can’t go on forever
Likely one of us will have to spend some days alone
Maybe we’ll get forty years together
But one day I’ll be gone or one day you’ll be gone.”

Until that day comes, I’ll just keep choosing us.  For better, for worse.  In sickness and in health.  For richer, for poorer.  For as long as we both shall live.  I choose us. 

Happy Anniversary, B.

Peas and Carrots forever.

 

 

 

Mother’s Day Musings

May 12, 2018

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Mother’s Day: does any other holiday arrive so fraught with emotions and expectations?  It’s understandable.  After all, motherhood is in and of itself a complicated, emotional business.  Mothering and being mothered are the very foundations of humanity, a weighty distinction to be sure.

But all that weight can get…well, heavy.  Expectations can set us up for disappointment, in ourselves and others.  When Hallmark and Facebook are constantly telling us how important this day is and giving us examples of how it should be celebrated, we can begin to believe it ourselves.  We start doing the one thing guaranteed to make us miserable: comparing.

In this way, Mother’s Day really does reflect Motherhood.  We all go into it with certain ideas about what it will be like, about the kind of mothers we will be.  I remember judging parents before I was one, smugly shaking my head at the tantrumming toddler in Target, rolling my eyes at the mom bribing her preschooler with candy to make it through the checkout line, frowning at the mother who raised her voice in the parking lot when her little one wouldn’t hold her hand.  I had a degree in this shit.  I was going to totally win at momming.

Fast forward to my inevitable reality check: namely, my firstborn.  Suddenly all those classes and all those books seemed to mock my inability to help him sleep through the night.  My prior hubris bit me in the ass when he threw himself on the ground at Dillons and screamed bloody murder.  I was failing at the one thing I most wanted to excel at.

And yet…it didn’t really feel like a failure.  Sure, I may have spent my days coaching other parents on how to handle parenting challenges and my nights in survival mode, ignoring all of my own advice.  I might have lost my cool when I intended to be patient, caved when I meant to consistent.  But through it all, the guilt and the sleepless nights and the desire to burn all my parenting books in a bonfire at 2 a.m. (hey, I was already up, might as well), there was love.  Boundless, ferocious, breathtaking love.

When his sister came along, I thought I had at least the early years figured out.  After all, I’d done this before, how different could it be?  (That sound is God laughing hysterically.)  She was born pissed.  Her first four months were a blur of sleep deprivation so extreme I’m certain the Geneva Conventions would have banned it.  She wouldn’t nurse, she screamed non-stop, she couldn’t be comforted…and I fell apart.  It was a dark, lonely time for me even though I was surrounded by supportive loved ones.  And once again, I questioned whether I had what it took to be a good mom.

Eventually I found my way back to the light, and she stopped crying incessantly and made me fall completely in love with her.  Though I’d questioned how I would ever be able to feel as much emotion for anyone but my son, my daughter answered with a force of love that swept all questions away.  I might not have been a perfect mom, but I was their mom, and that was all that mattered.

My expectations were so very different than my ultimate reality.  I could have easily allowed them to make me feel less, to lower my estimation of what I was worth as a mother.  Instead, I chose to forgive myself, to commit myself to being the best mom I could be.  When I faltered, I granted myself grace and I prayed that God would give me what I needed to be what they needed.

I am fortunate in so many ways, but one of my greatest blessings is that I was born to a woman who truly lives what it means to be a Mother.  Not just to me and my sister, but to anyone who needs nurturing.  I never, ever take that for granted.  I realize there are so many who have strained or difficult relationships with their mothers.  There are those who have no contact with the women who raised them, who have suffered years of hurt and disappointment and heartbreak.

For them, Mother’s Day is a painful reminder of all that is missing.  The sappy commercials, the gushing posts on social media, they’re like barbs stuck into hearts that have never really healed.  All the flaws in their mothers and their relationships with them are brought to light in a seemingly unavoidable way once a year.

Then there are those for whom motherhood has resulted in the deepest pain imaginable: the loss of a child.  There are women who long to be mothers, whose bodies have betrayed that desire, or whose circumstances have prevented them from acting on it.  There are those for whom Mother’s Day is a day of mourning, for the mothers they loved and lost.

And there are those of us who simply feel let down if our day doesn’t look like we think it should.  We scroll through Facebook and see breakfasts in bed, pampering spa sessions, gourmet dinners, meaningful homemade gifts…we create a vision of what Mother’s Day will hold.  We grow impatient when our children still bicker, when our spouse forgets to buy a card, when we find ourselves doing the dishes and picking up socks from the living room floor.  After all, THIS IS OUR DAY AND IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE PERFECT, DAMNIT.

Just like motherhood, right?  Oh, wait…we haven’t totally nailed that, have we? Our reality doesn’t always measure up to our expectations.  Does that mean we aren’t good mamas?  Does it mean we don’t love our children?  Of course not.

So perhaps we should wake up on Mother’s Day with that same understanding.  Maybe we should acknowledge that the reality of our day may not measure up to our expectation.  It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t embrace the idea.  It doesn’t mean our families don’t appreciate us or care about us.  It just means this day is no different than any other: special, ordinary, meaningful, hopeful, disappointing, challenging, magical, mundane…a gift.

To everyone who has mothered or longed to, who has been mothered or longed to be, may your Mother’s Day have fewer expectations and more love, more grace, more forgiveness, more healing.  And more chocolate.  Because HELLO.  Chocolate.

Happy Mother’s Day, y’all.

~Ashley

 

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The Sun’ll Come Up Tomorrow

April 6, 2018

This never ending winter has been getting to me.  It’s been cold and grey and dreary, and the past months have brought an overwhelming abundance of shittiness in the form of illness and injuries and death.  Perhaps because of all that’s happened I found myself fighting off my usual seasonal depression because frankly, I had too many other people to take care of.  But the past week or two I’ve felt my mood slip.  That familiar blue feeling has taken hold.  I’ve been wallowing a bit, allowing myself to be lazy and unhealthy and antisocial.

I woke up this morning full of anxiety, irritable with everyone, feeling low.  But then something magical happened.  The sun came out.  The temperature rose.  The air smelled sweet.  And I decided a little self care was in order.

By self care I don’t mean self indulgence.  I’m not talking about a pedicure or retail therapy (though both sound divine right now).  I mean doing what you know is truly good for you, body and soul.  I mean taking time to set your world right, whatever that means to you.

For me, it meant putting in some work.  It meant cooking something healthy and delicious that would make my tastebuds AND my body happy.  It meant cleaning my house because I know clutter makes me anxious.  It meant going to the gym when I really wanted to sit on the couch, because I knew I would feel better if I worked out.  It meant taking both dogs on a walk in the sunshine, even though the puppy is crazy when she walks with her sister, because sunshine and walking and puppies are the best medicine.  It meant hanging out on the deck with my family and a roaring fire to end my day, because…well, that one’s pretty self explanatory.

And yes, tomorrow the weather will be crummy.  The cold and the gloom will return, any promise of spring forgotten.  But I’ll be okay.  I’ll understand what all of us know if we just hang in there: the sun always comes back.  The winter never lasts forever.  Even when it seems like it might, spring is right around the corner.                                              We just have to hold on until it arrives.

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American the Broken

February 22, 2018

 

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America, we are broken.  This country is so divided, and the responses to virtually any potentially controversial topic are so automated, that we’ve made it nearly impossible to work together towards a common goal.  At this point it’s hard to envision a way for us to come together and have an actual dialogue about anything worthwhile.  But when it comes to preventing further tragedies like the recent murder of seventeen students and teachers in Florida, we must.  We’re the grown-ups here.  We’re the ones who are supposed to be protecting these children from harm.  We owe it to them and to ourselves to press pause on the knee-jerk reactivity that’s become so ingrained in our culture.  It’s time we all shut up and truly listen to the “other side.”  (And P.S., we’re on the same side, we’ve just forgotten that.)

The one thing I think we can all agree on is that we have a serious problem in this country.  There’s really no logical way to argue that mass shootings and gun violence are not issues.  I think that unfortunately we have reached a point in our national conversation where we tend to hear certain words or catch phrases and immediately assume we know what someone is saying, rather than truly listening to learn and understand.  Perhaps if we did that, we would realize that we have more in common than we thought.

For example, when some folks hear the words “gun control,” they shut down.  They assume that anyone proposing any changes to our current system wants to take their guns away, destroy the 2nd Amendment, and blame mass shootings on the guns themselves rather than the people using them.  Instead of thoughtfully approaching the issue with open minds and solution-focused perspectives, they fall back on talking points like “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” and “Good guys with guns will stop bad guys with guns.”

For those who believe common sense gun control is a real solution, hearing the words “mental health problem” or “parenting issue” may spark feelings of frustration and anger at what they perceive as willful disregard of the real issue at hand.  Instead of working toward a common understanding of a complicated problem, they shut down and say things like, “You must love your guns more than you love your children.”

What’s missing in both instances is crucial: any attempt to truly understand and to find common ground.  No one involved in this discussion is for school shootings.  No one is pro-massacre.  This is a complicated issue, and an emotional one.  In order to fix the problem, we have to be willing to open our ears, our hearts, and our minds.  We have to be willing to feel some discomfort, to admit that we might not have all the answers. We have to be willfully engaged in the business of change, not married to our own agendas and our comfortable talking points.

A dear friend of mine who is a psychiatric nurse posted a New York Times opinion piece today that detailed how mental health professionals’ hands are often tied when it comes to preventing mass shootings.  There are considerable limitations on what qualifies as “mental illness” and protections afforded those who may be diagnosed with it.  The article makes a strong point that “the psychiatrist responsible for (his) care would know how to treat delusions, paranoia, mania, suicidal impulses, self-injurious behaviors, auditory hallucinations and catatonia.  But there are no reliable cures for insecurity, resentment, entitlement and hatred.”  The author, Amy Barnhorst (vice chair of Community Psychiatry at the University of California) explains what those who study mass shootings already know: mental illness is rarely the cause of such violence.  This may be hard for those of us not in the mental health field to comprehend.  We may assume that anyone capable of inflicting such death and destruction with no regard for human life must be mentally ill.  But in fact, the mentally ill are far more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators.

So what, we all wonder, is causing these young men to act out such violent fantasies and to feel so cut off from society in the first place that they no longer view other humans as worthy of life?  Perhaps, some argue, our society has fallen so far and produced such men because we have turned away from God and from our traditional values.  We have removed religion from our daily lives, we have raised a generation of entitled brats who think the world owes them everything, we have created monsters with violent video games.  Unfortunately this theory is one that is incredibly difficult to quantify or study, and next to impossible to mandate through policy changes or laws.  It’s an easy way to point fingers and blame without having to assume any real responsibility.  It is opinion, not hard fact.  Folks can believe it all they want, and there may truth to it, but there’s no clear way to prove it and there’s no real way to implement change in this area.  (Not to mention that whole separation of church and state, if we want to talk amendments and such.)  Certainly we can do our part, we can treat others with kindness and teach our children to do the same.  We can strengthen our own families by living our own core values and passing them down to the next generation.  But we cannot force others to do the same, and we cannot indemnify ourselves by judging others.

So what can we quantify?  What can we study and mandate?  When it comes down to it, the piece of the puzzle that we actually have the means to change is…you got it…guns.  Unfortunately as of right now, the Centers for Disease Control are not freely able to study gun violence as a public health issue, despite the high number of deaths attributed to guns each year in the U.S.  The Dickey Amendment, passed over twenty years ago, prohibits the CDC from advocating for gun control, and Congress has routinely withheld funding to send a clear message to the CDC regarding any efforts to truly study gun violence.  Without clear data on the issue, it is nearly impossible to gain any real traction on common sense gun control.  The National Rifle Association was behind the Dickey Amendment and financially controls much of Congress’ action/inaction with regards to guns in our society.  Politicians are motivated by money rather than by what their constituents want.  Moving this issue out of the realm of politics and into the area of hard science would go a long ways toward reaching some sort of common ground between gun control and gun rights.  Hopefully we are seeing a move towards that which could ultimately make the case for sensible gun law reform.

Obviously policies and laws won’t always prevent the bad guys from doing bad things.  We have laws against robbery and illegal drugs and possession of child pornography…and we have prisons full of people who have broken those laws.  But we continue to spend massive amounts of money and invest untold time and energy in fighting these issues.  We don’t simply throw up our hands and say, “Well, criminals will steal stuff and sell heroin, and pedophiles will exploit children in the worst way possible…but laws won’t completely prevent that from happening, so let’s just not bother.”  The fact that there will always be those who break laws is not an argument for anarchy; rather, it is the clearest possible reminder of why we need those laws in place and why we need to uphold them and punish those who break them.

As for the “Guns don’t kill people” argument, I couldn’t agree more.  Cars don’t kill people, either.  The people driving them do.  Which is exactly why we have laws and rules regulating who can drive them and how.  We have mandated training before anyone can legally get behind the wheel or own a car.  We have traffic safety laws.  We have licensure that must be approved and updated.  We have limits on the type of cars that can be driven in public.  We recognize both society’s need for cars and the potential dangers inherent to them, and we have implemented ways to account for both.

And yes, the 2nd Amendment is a hot topic.  The interpretation of its intent, the fact that it was an amendment and not a part of the original Constitution, I’ll leave that to the legal scholars.  I personally grew up in Western Kansas with a healthy respect for the guns (safely stored) in my house, and a healthy respect for the people in my life who own and use firearms responsibly.  I don’t begrudge anyone the right to hunt or own a firearm for protection.  But any real hunter should only need to take a shot or two.  Anyone defending their home from an intruder should only have to fire a round or two to scare off or incapacitate someone intent on doing them harm.  Beyond that, I truly don’t believe our forefathers thought that anyone off the street should be able to purchase and wield a weapon capable of mass destruction.  And as far as being armed against the government, that’s pretty well laughable unless we think every citizen should also have access to missiles and grenade launchers.

So let us be reasonable.  Let us come together as human beings who care about their children and their fellow human beings.  The fact is that the majority of Americans support common sense gun control within the parameters of our basic rights: universal background checks, waiting periods, banning high capacity magazines and bump stocks and weapons like the AR-15, closing loopholes on gun shows and private sales.  None of these would prevent any rational, law abiding citizen from owning reasonable weapons.

The majority of us recognize that our society is broken, that our divisiveness is tearing apart the fabric of our democracy.  We cannot stand by and wring our hands while our children fear going into their classrooms and concert-goers nervously look to the windows of nearby buildings.  This isn’t a political issue, it’s a human issue.  Divided we fail, united we work towards a common goal: saving lives.  The issue at hand is complex, to be sure.  There is not one clear solution that will end all violence.  But we have before us the opportunity to end some violence.  Can we live with ourselves if we allow our differences to prevent us from doing so?  I, for one, can’t.

 

 

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New Year’s Revolution

January 1, 2018

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As another year comes to a close, I feel that nagging pull to resolve.  Resolve any lingering issues from the past year, make resolutions for the shiny new one.  Buy a fresh pen and journal, ink a list of bullet points that will (ostensibly) keep me accountable.

But here’s the thing…it’s kind of bullshit.  Sure, it feels good to set goals.  Given the right circumstances, goals can be exactly what we need to stay motivated and on track.

There’s something about New Year’s resolutions, though, that implies we’ve failed the previous year.  We didn’t totally get our act together, but HERE’S OUR CHANCE!!  “New Year, New You!”  Finally we can be skinny, strong, calm, patient, fiscally responsible, healthy, perfect.  

Maybe this past year we ate too many cookies, watched too much Netflix, spent too much time on Facebook and not enough time in the gym, yelled at our kids too much, wasted our talents…but the coming year will be different.  We will be our best selves.  We will do all the things.  (And when we, inevitably, don’t?  Well, there’s always next year!)

But what if it turns out we’re already good enough?  What if losing ten pounds or getting organized won’t actually make us happier?  What if, instead of cataloguing our shortcomings, we embraced who we already are, our flaws and weaknesses, our shiny outsides and our tarnished insides?  What if this NewYear’s we spent time reflecting on what we’ve done well the past year?

I think this New Year’s Day I’ll spend more time reviewing the things I like about myself and my life rather than listing out how I can be “better” in 2018.  I’ll focus on my highlight reel and appreciate all the best parts of me.  It doesn’t mean I won’t strive to improve certain things or reach new goals in the coming year.  It just means I’m okay with the Me I am right now.  I’m granting myself a little hard earned grace.

New Year, New You?  I believe I’ll take a pass this go-round.  I’ll just be grateful I get to take the old me into the new year.  She’s got some pretty cool shit to contribute to the next 365 days.  Just the way she is.

xoxo

Ash