Unreal Expectations

I used to love romance novels when I was younger.  Fairy tales, too.  Really, anything with a big ol’ Hollywood “And they lived happily ever after” ending.  I just loved the idea of two people meeting and overcoming whatever personality conflicts they had to realize they loved each other.  But as I got older, I realized how potentially damaging those kinds of stories are.  In fact, I just finished reading one and found it so hokey and unrealistic, that it was very hard to finish.

First off, unlike what those kinds of stories would have you believe, very few lasting relationships derive from the hero saving the heroine from whatever catastrophe threw them together in the first place.  After the endorphin from that scenario wears off, most people realize they have nothing in common.  And secondly, making love is NOT the same as being in love.  I now truly despise any movie where the romantic duo have sex and then “realize” they’re in love with each other (I’m looking at you Failure to Launch!).  Real, loving relationships take time, perseverance, and a willingness to be vulnerable to the person you’re partnering with.  You can’t have REAL love unless you’re willing to get real yourself.

One of the other “lies” that heterosexual romance novels perpetuate is that the guy somehow knows exactly how to drive the woman crazy, sexually.  He knows just the right places to touch her in just the right ways; in many cases, even better than she knows how to herself.  And these sex fests always end in a mind-blowing orgasm for her, and oftentimes he climaxes at exactly the same moment she does.  You read too many of those kinds of stories and it can truly distort your expectations of what love and sex is, or should be.

Like with Craig . . . we have what I feel is a truly loving, honest relationship.  I know he loves me, and I think he knows how much I love him.  And our sex life is amazing . . . when we can actually get it in (no pun intended).  But I’ve still got a TON of emotional and sexual baggage that we’re sorting out, some of which was caused by my years of reading these books that are truly nothing more than fantasy.  While reading this recent romance novel, I actually found myself thinking that my marriage was somehow lacking because we weren’t having sex every time we saw each other (like in the book).  I quickly realized there was nothing wrong with Craig and I, and it was shortly thereafter that I started thinking the book hokey and unrealistic.

And it’s just as bad for the “fantasy” books and movies that cater to men.  Porn usually depicts completely unrealistic situations that–if viewed too often–can make someone believe that the hot pizza delivery guy will get laid by every sorority girl when he delivers their pizzas for the pillow fight in their baby doll nighties that ALL college girls have.  *insert eye roll here*  Or what about the girl who is a virgin, but magically likes to do every nasty little sexual thing some sweaty pudgy guy wants to do to her?  *second eye roll*  Then there’s the one about the lesbian lovers who are so turned on by some random guy that they want to have a menage a trois with him.  *violent eye roll that makes my eyes stick that way*

Anyway, these kinds of stories are fine and dandy when they’re treated as the mere fantasies that they are.  But I think there are too many impressionable young men and women who come to view these as real possibilities, which then causes extreme disappointment when they’re faced with the reality of life and love.  I’d like to see more movies and books that discuss a realistic and healthy outlook on love and sex, but sadly, I don’t think they would be as successful.

Maybe if we as a country were more willing to discuss things like that–had better sex education in schools and didn’t consider the topic of sex to be so taboo (as well as discuss emotional health)–we’d be able to raise a new generation of people who didn’t look to their significant other to solve all their problems.

I don’t know, I’m just spouting here.  But I can tell you one thing . . . I won’t be picking up any Harlequin Romances anytime soon.

Unhealthy Bonds

There is a very strong bond between a mother and her child; and in many cases, it’s even stronger when the child is a daughter.  But unfortunately, when the mother has Narcissistic Personality Disorder that bond can become quite unhealthy.

Such was the case with my mother and me.  I thought of her as my best friend while I was growing up, and, as a little girl, I liked that.  As an adult, I can see so many other facets of that relationship, and recognize it for the co-dependency that it truly was.

I think part of the reason I initially put her in the “Best Friend” role as a child was because I was constantly picked on by other kids in school, and felt like no one understood me . . . except for my mom.  Another reason would probably be that I felt emotionally abandoned by my father at an early age.  My mom used to tell me how, at the age of three, I came up to her and said “Mommy, Daddy doesn’t love me anymore, and I don’t know why.”  She would then tell me how Dad acted like the sun rose and set with me when I was born, but when my brother came along a year later, it seemed to her like I became a secondary character . . . he now had a SON to carry on his name.

Something else that contributed to my thinking us so close was because she would often tell me how similar our lives were.  Looking back on it now, it’s kind of weird how often she’d say that.  Not that it wasn’t true–there are a lot of similarities in our lives–but I wonder how many there would be if she hadn’t pointed it out as often as she did; like maybe I was picking up on her desire for us to be so alike, and subconsciously made similar choices.  There was even one time, when I was about seven or eight years old, that the song You and Me Against the World by Helen Reddy came on, and she actually said that she felt like that song was our song.

As a child I was so happy that my mother felt the same way about me as I did about her, but as an adult all I can think is “How could you put THAT much pressure on a child!?!”  This behavior ties into points #23 and #27 on the Do You Have a Narcissistic Mother survey by Dr. Karyl McBride that I mentioned in my last post on NPD:

23.  Do you find it difficult to be a separate person from your mother?
27.  Did you feel you had to take care of your mother’s emotional needs as a child?

I had a very vivid dream when I was about five years old where I literally gave up my life to save hers (I woke up just before I slipped fully under the water).  And over the last decade or so, I’ve started feeling more and more pressure from her to continue the co-dependent relationship we’d had during my formative years.  To be fair to her, it’s hard to adjust to something different when you’ve had a certain dynamic for 20+ years, but as the parent, she should’ve been able to separate our lives in the first place . . . there IS a 24 year age difference, after all.  But that wasn’t going to happen, because–as this article outlines“. . . Narcissistic Parents are possessively close to their children when they are small – their children are a source of self-esteem . . .”

Thankfully I feel the opposite with Athena, my step-daughter . . . I enjoy spending time with her and we have a good time when we do things together, but I also realize that she needs to spend time with people her own age, and I encourage her to do so.  While I’m happy to be her friend, I don’t want to be her Best Friend.  I’ve got my own Best Friend, and so should she.

Anyway, as time went on and my mother lost more and more friends (or stopped wanting to be around them for one reason or another), she would often tell me how I was the only person who understood her.  I couldn’t help but feel an immense pressure from her about that.  Not only because it felt like she was making me responsible for her emotional security, but also because there were subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) reminders that–if I didn’t agree with one of her viewpoints or excuses for her behavior–then I didn’t “understand” or accept her anymore (a key behavior that is explained in this article that I found on Goop, author unknown).  As if the fact that I might disagree with her was an indication that I was somehow lacking in supporting her.

So, over time, I began to give my opinions less and less.  If she said something that I didn’t agree with, I would simply make some noncommittal sound; like I do with strangers or coworkers whose opinions I don’t share.  Then, about two years ago I received an unprovoked email from her where she laid out a major guilt trip  (which I’ll talk about in more depth next month, as it ties to different survey points).

And now, unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), I have no contact with my mother.  She went from being my best friend to being someone who drained my energy nearly every time I spoke with her.  I would have preferred it if she could’ve let go a little more and allowed me to be my own person–without constantly trying to keep me at her side (figuratively, of course)–because there were still some good times in my adult years.  Which is why I initially tried to set boundaries and just do “measured contact,” with my mother (as this article suggests near the end), but when I did that, she became more overtly abusive, and the good times came farther apart, and were instead replaced by blatant guilt trips, and unprovoked digs into my behavior.

It’s not all bad, though.  There is a wonderful freedom from not speaking with my mother right now.  For one, I don’t have to censor my true thoughts and feelings about things.  Craig and I are able to have discussions where we disagree on something, but don’t make the other person feel badly for having a different opinion.  It’s quite refreshing and something I never thought was possible in a relationship.  I also don’t have to worry about being held responsible for someone else’s happiness or sense of worth (a subject which gets discussed in this article by Bethany Webster [thanks to my friend Natalia for sharing this with me]).

But it is still a long healing process.  Thankfully writing it down here is helping (thank you, dear reader), and there are other articles that I’ll share later which offer more ideas on how to heal.

What Is NPD?

I’m going to start today’s blog with some foundational articles that highlight how you might recognize a person with NPD.

This page starts off with some basic info and goes into good detail about how people with NPD act and react.  And this site (I can’t find the author) goes into even greater detail about the characteristics of people with NPD.  I didn’t fully read the second article, to be honest, because by the time I found it, I was depressed enough.

When I first read this survey, written by Dr. Karyl McBride, I felt the first stirrings that my mother might have NPD.  With a little over 30 questions I found it a very comprehensive guide into narcissists, without sounding angry or finger-pointing.

Now, it’s key to remember that not all characteristics will show up in every narcissist.  I’m guessing that has something to do with the article I shared last month about the two different kinds of narcissists.  But, as with all humans, it’s also possible that each individual is just a mish-mash of traits, and that there’s no rhyme or reason.

In my particular case, the questions in the survey that hit home (to varying degrees) were numbers 1, 2, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 23, 27, & 30.  Since these are the ones that resonated the strongest with me, those will be the topics for my blogs.  There are some that seem to work in tandem in my case, so I’ll discuss those in the same blog.

So, on to points 1 & 2 . . .

  1. When you discuss your life issues with your mother, does she divert the discussion to talk about herself?
  2. When you discuss your feelings with your mother, does she try to top the feeling with her own?

The first instance I remember of this happening was when she and I discussed my father molesting me.  Being such a large part of my childhood, the topic came up often during my teen years.  And nearly every time, without fail, my mother would say “Your father (or “that man,” depending on how angry she was at him at the time) could not have hurt me more than by doing that to you.”

Now, I completely understand that both she and my brother were affected by the situation, too (how could they not be?), but for her to say what she did accomplished a couple of things:

First, it allowed her to turn the attention away from me and my reactions to the experience and put the focus on her and how she’d been wronged.  When done repeatedly, this effectively taught me that my pain wasn’t the important part of this situation . . . HER pain was.  She made sure I had therapy, which was good, but I eventually stopped talking about this topic with her at all.

Secondly, this statement implied that my father intentionally set out to hurt my mother.  That, somewhere in his head he thought “I’m really mad at her, so how can I get back at her?  I know!  I’ll hurt one of our kids . . . now, what would be the worst thing I could do?  I’ve got it!  I’ll sexually molest my own daughter!  Yeah, that’ll show [my ex-wife]!”  I’m not making excuses for my father’s actions, but I honestly don’t believe he put that much thought into the situation.

There have been several other cases over the years where I would start discussing some emotional breakthrough I was having (small or large), and somehow my mother was going through the exact same breakthrough!  So, we stopped talking about my revelation and how I was growing, and began, instead, to discuss her emotional growth.

#9 also applies somewhat here:

When something happens in your life (accident, illness, divorce) does your mother react with how it will affect her rather than how you feel?

When I discovered that I had a prolactinoma (a non-cancerous tumor attached to my pituitary gland) back in 1989, I called to tell her about it shortly after the doctor’s visit.  I was still in shock after hearing the doctor say “You’re not pregnant.  You have a tumor in your brain (it’s not cancer), and you need to see an endocrinologist,” and gave her the same spiel the doctor had given me.  Well, she freaked out (as did another friend of mine), had tons of questions (most of which I didn’t have answers for yet), and decided to travel to where I was living at the time so she could attend the doctor’s appointment with me.

Now, one could argue that she did those things out of concern for me and my well-being (I am her child, after all), but again, this kind of reaction essentially made it so that I had to put my own feelings aside and talk her down off the ledge; basically “it’s all about her.”

Looking back, these were some of my most vivid memories of growing up with her, and the places where I felt the most anger.  I understand that she had her own feelings for each of these occasions in my life, but it got exhausting to constantly hear her blow things out of proportion, or to have my thoughts cut short so she could be the main focus of the discussion.

Tune in next month for another installment of this touchy subject.

Treading Carefully

I’ve talked a lot about issues I’ve had in my life, but there’s a major one that I’ve refrained from discussing for a variety of reasons.  However, I truly believe that it’s impossible to work through your issues without discussing them, so I feel it’s time to do just that.  It’s a difficult one for me to talk about, though, because it involves my mother.

For most of my childhood, she was my best friend; I told her everything that was going on in my life.  And, like most kids, she was my guide for how to behave in the world.  But, as I became a teenager, I started to see some of her words and actions differently; there were hypocrisies and failings that bothered me a lot.  I eventually learned that everyone is human and that we all have issues we’re working through, but some of her inconsistencies bothered me more than a little.  And, when I moved away from home and began to see more of the world and more of how other people react and interact with each other, my memories of my “wonderful” relationship with her became less shiny and happy than before.

A major blow to our relationship came when I married Craig and we tried to gain custody of his daughter, Athena.  We both felt that Athena’s mother was doing what’s called Gaslighting to her and hoped–if we brought this to the judge’s attention–it would strengthen our case to remove her from that negative home life.

In researching Gaslighting, I found that it’s a common trait among people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD), so I began to do more research on that and found more and more traits that I believed Athena’s mother possessed.  However, I also started seeing some similarities in these articles in my own life.

This was a VERY hard realization to come to, because I didn’t want to think of my mother in this light (who does?), but the more articles I read, the more things resonated with my childhood.  And the more I discussed this with my own therapist, the more I had to finally accept that yes, I am a child of a parent with NPD.

Now, I will fully state that I’m NOT a psychologist, psychiatrist, or anyone skilled enough in the mental health fields to make an actual diagnosis.  For me to say that my mother has NPD is merely my opinion,  though it is based on LOTS of research and articles written by mental health professionals, which I will share with you in upcoming blogs.

I also want to state that I don’t think my mother is a bad person.  She has a huge heart and is very nice and wise in many ways.  But people with NPD have this tendency to think much of their wants/needs are more important, and their actions towards others often reflect this (consciously or otherwise).  The biggest cause of the trouble right now is that I tried to set some boundaries between us (in order to maintain my sanity in this issue and work through it), but she didn’t like that thought and it escalated from there.

And, please understand, this is NOT something I’m saying lightly.  It’s taken me nearly three years of research and therapy for me to come to this conclusion.  And it’s not a subject that anyone should take lightly.  As you’ll see in the articles and blogs I’ll post over the next few months, this is a very detrimental form of mental abuse.  In many cases it’s not an intentional abuse (I certainly don’t believe my mother intended to hurt me at all), but the effects are just as damaging as if it were.

Because this is such an involved topic, I’ve decided to write about it in blogs separate from my regular monthly ones.  I don’t have any set dates in mind for when I’ll post them, but it won’t be more than once a month.  I’m spacing them out because there’s SO much information out there to be disseminated, and trying to do it all at once can feel like an overload.  I know I felt overloaded and depressed when I tried to read more than five articles in one sitting.

I will also say that I’m venturing into this topic with quite a bit of trepidation.  The subject of mothers and their roles in our lives is a very delicate one.  The media, our families, movies and TV (and just about every other venue out there) depicts mothers as the most wonderful parent.  The most nurturing.  The one that holds the family together, and who we’ll all miss when she goes.  That role is held up on a pedestal (unfairly so), so to even think of saying anything against that institution can be dangerous.  But these blogs will be about MY relationship with my mother (the good and bad), so I have to be as honest as I can.

I also hear the apologies in my tone while I’m writing this (which I’ll explain in a future blog), but the more I deal with this issue, the stronger I’ll get.

Stay tuned.

Closing of the Year

This post–hopefully the first of many–is going to be a shout out to the other career I’ve undertaken.  Many of you know that I’m an aspiring author (which has had to be shelved for now), and you might also know that I’m a photographer (my images can be seen here, and my latest photography-based blog, here).  But what you might not know (unless you’ve been following me for a while and even read the fine print) is that I’m also a voice over (VO) artist.

I’ve been taking VO classes for a few years now, and did get to do one web commercial for a product that my husband, Craig, animated, but about 4-5 months ago, I began to earn the title of audiobook narrator.

I auditioned for the book through ACX and the author chose me to be the voice of her collection of fairy tale mystery short stories, titled Cinderella P.I. and Other Fairy Tale Mystery Stories, and it’s written by Juliet Kincaid. Many of the stories were published back in 2013 or earlier, but she’d recently decided that she wanted to turn it into an audiobook.

I was psyched to be chosen, to say the least, and even though the task proved–at times–to be frustrating (mostly because I was SO new to this process), I enjoyed every minute of it.  I got to provide so many character voices for this audiobook, and got to learn a new skill and get more practice at it.  It challenged me in ways that I’ve wanted to be challenged for a while now.

Juliet and I had to work together to make sure the finished product was to her liking, and thankfully we got it done in time for the Christmas buying season.  And I even decided to make up a trailer (like a movie trailer) for the audiobook and posted it on YouTube.  Or you can click the image below to see it:

Cinderella PI

Since I still have my day job (all of these career paths will eventually be my “day job”), the 4-5 month process was a little exhausting, so Juliet and I are going to take a break from recording and meet back up for another collection of hers some time next year.  But I’m already excited to get started on another audiobook.  This is one of the careers where I feel I’m truly meant to be (like photography and writing) . . . it’s just a matter of making the time to do more of it.

And since this is my last blog of 2015, I want to say that I hope you are enjoying the holiday season, and I wish you Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah (belated), Happy Kwanzaa, and  a Happy New Year!  May 2016 be filled with much love, joy, and dreams coming true!

Thanksgiving 2015

It’s been a couple of years since I wrote up a blog outlining what I’m thankful for, but I think it’s high time I do it again.

I’m thankful for all the successes I’ve had this year:

Exhibiting at AOC again
Selling some of my photography pieces through an art fair
Booking my first audio book gig as a narrator

This year has seen me make strides in my chosen careers, and I plan to have those trends continue into 2016 and beyond.

I’m also thankful for all the struggles that happened this year:

Craig’s broken collar-bone
Me learning I have Hashimoto’s Disease
Work-related stress-induced health issues
Craig’s second motorcycle accident
Various other stressors

True, it would’ve been nice if they hadn’t ALL  happened in one year, but I made it through each and every one of them, and have come out the other side a stronger person.  Plus, I can’t help but feel like all of these have been gearing me up for some exciting stuff to come.

I’m grateful that I have a very good-paying job, located just 5 miles from home, so I have an easy commute and can afford to have a very nice lifestyle, including travel to new and exciting places.

Purrbot - 022I’m grateful for our newest kitty, Bot (short for Purrbot).  We got her in February, and she’s adorable and very sweet.

I’m incredibly grateful for my husband, Craig, who has helped me grow over the years, and allows me the space to continue to grow.  His support, love, and companionship are wonderful assets that I cherish every single day.

I’m thankful for this year’s birthday trip to Alaska.  The gorgeous scenery will stay with me for quite a while . . . and with you, if we ever get around to editing all the photos we took.

I’m grateful for my step-daughter, Athena.  It’s wonderful to see her growing into a fine, young woman, and I’m glad we get to enjoy her as much as we do.

I’m thankful for my friends and family.  It’s nice to know there are people who will always be there for you, even if you don’t talk with them all the time.

I’m sure there are other things that I’m missing right now, but believe me, I do show my appreciation for them when they pop up in my life.  That’s one thing I truly believe about The Secret: the more gratitude you show for the good things in your life, the more good things you’ll see in your life.  You draw it to you like a magnet, because that’s what you’re thinking about.

I’d like to wish all of you out there (and your families) a very Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope your celebrations produce wonderful memories, and warm fuzzies.

Timing Is Everything

In our current reality, we’ve gotten so used to having information right at our fingertips–we are in the Information Age, after all–but instant gratification isn’t always a good thing.

I can’t believe I just typed that sentence above and actually meant it.

As someone who used to hate waiting (and in some cases, still does), I completely understand the pull of wanting the information “now.”  We even tell ourselves we need the information now.  But honestly, unless the information is going to save you from sudden (or painful) death or dismemberment . . . you don’t really “need” it, period.  But the whole want versus need debate is for another blog.

Back to the topic at hand . . . some things take time before the answer/reason becomes fully clear and useful.  For instance, you can dismiss a caterpillar as just a fuzzy little inchworm that meanders along eating leaves.  And who knows how many times you’ve passed by one in its chrysalis stage, mistaking it for just another leaf on the vine.  But when it breaks out of the cocoon, ahhh, THEN you see a spectacular beauty that you would never have guessed came from the fuzzy little insect (Well, except for the fact that scientists have told us this, but work with me, people!)

Anyway, one particular area where I think the push for information “now” can be detrimental is when asking questions of someone who’s gone through a difficult time.  There are five stages of grief: Denial; Anger; Bargaining; Depression; Acceptance (or seven, according to this site).  So when you ask how someone’s doing right after, say, the loss of a loved one, you should fully expect that their answer will not be a happy one.

However, we don’t seem to offer the same understanding to public figures.  This is especially true of the media, who–in their search to get the most attention and sound bites–will ask oftentimes inane questions that have no place being asked so quickly after a particular incident.

For instance, when a sports team loses a championship game, the media wants their several minutes to ask questions like “Why do you think you lost the game?” or “How do you feel about losing the game?”  And when a player responds as best as s/he can (LeBron James, for instance), s/he sometimes gets slammed for seeming down about the game, or that s/he can’t come up with more genuine responses.  Yet, if a player were to answer how s/he really feels (“It sucks that we lost,” or words to that effect) s/he is thought to be a sore loser.

And don’t get me started on the soundbites made by politicians right after a tragedy (Ben Carson and the Oregon Shooting, anybody?).  Believe me, I was just as appalled as many people when Dr. Carson seemed to imply that the victims of that horrific incident didn’t do enough to stop the shooter, but I also know that the media likes to take things out of context.  And, as someone pointed out to me, his comment can also be seen in another light; not that he’s shaming those for not doing more, just that he thinks he would have a different reaction.

Think about it for just a moment . . . to say that you would handle a situation differently than someone else is not necessarily implying that their way is wrong.  I’m sure we’ve all said something along the lines of “If I were in that situation, I’d have done [fill in blank].”  Whether or not Dr. Carson would actually have handled the shooting differently than the other victims did is something that hopefully he won’t ever have to find out (I personally think he’d be dead before he ever got his brain or mouth to finish thinking/speaking about his plan), but the real problem here is that the media wants to get immediate reactions from people so they can exploit such tragedies for as long as possible.

If people are given more time to reflect on a situation, their response(s) might be completely different.  LeBron might have gotten to the Acceptance stage of grief, and given a more upbeat interview where he actually believed it when he said “It’s unfortunate that we lost, but we’ve studied the tapes and have worked out a new plan of attack and we’re hopeful that we’ll do much better next year,” rather than dully reading the words from his cheat sheet.  And, while Dr. Carson might still have told us how he would’ve handled the situation differently–if asked the question months after the shooting–we as a nation might not have been so outraged, because we would have been given time to work through our own stages of grief.

So maybe we can all learn not to seek an immediate response to an event.  Give the situation time to settle down.  Give people space to deal with their pain.  Then maybe come to them after a little while and see how they’ve handled everything.  You might find they’re in a much healthier place emotionally, and able to discuss it better.

Living In the Aquarian Age

When the moon is in the seventh house . . .

While I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a hippie, I can’t help but rejoice at the thought that we appear to now be in the Age of Aquarius.  Astrologically speaking, the Age of Aquarius is:

The approximate 2,150 years . . . it takes for the vernal equinox to move from one constellation of the zodiac into the next . . .  According to different astrologers’ calculations, approximated dates for entering the Age of Aquarius range from 1447 AD to 3597.
(info found on Wikipedia)

I’m no astrologist, and I don’t understand a lot of the explanations of when the actual Aquarian Age will appear, but I can tell you that I’m noticing a real shift in the collective consciousness of the world.

For the last few years, I’ve been introduced to more and more people who do not believe in any organized religion.  Some call themselves atheists, and others (like me) don’t really believe in an almighty deity, but do believe in some sort of spiritual connection that binds us all together.  And I’m sure there are others who fall somewhere between those classifications.  But I’ve even met people who were raised in a certain faith that are now shifting away from said faith.

You can see it with the polarizing attitudes surrounding the legality of same-sex marriage.  There are those who strongly maintain that the Bible says it’s a sin, and do whatever they can to let the public know that they don’t approve, but there are others who are seeing the non-Christ-like behavior of their fellow denominational brethren and have begun to question some of the antiquated and non-inclusive ways of their religion.

And it’s not just religions where I’m noticing this increase in dissidents; many long-time Republicans, conservatives and other Right-wing supporters are beginning to question the usefulness of those organizations as well.  I’ve heard quite a few people who’d always voted Republican now saying that they’re disentangling themselves from that party.  The fact that the current GOP race is a ridiculous live version of the Hannah-Barbera Wacky Races is most certainly prompting many a defector, but some people were switching their thoughts long before this calamity started.

It definitely helps that we’re in the beginning/middle (depending on how you look at it) of the Information Age, where any bit of knowledge can be found if you’re willing to spend enough time and effort to look past the first page of a Google search.  Plus, while those born before 1970 might still be able to cling to the thought that “Our Government will take care of us,” all of us born after Watergate have lived knowing that our politicians lie to us, and that they don’t always have the public’s best interest at heart.

Where there were a few conspiracy theorists around before the World Wide Web, I’m certain the number of them has grown since the internet has practically exploded with information.

But back to the topic at hand . . . Depending on which astrological website you peruse, you’ll see that the Age of Aquarius is characterized by certain traits:

“The Age of Aquarius is the Age of Freedom, Technology (especially electricity), and the Water Bearer.”
~Spiritual Growth Prophecies

Kindness and compassion * Spiritual awareness * Rebels and rebellion * Nonconformity
~Wicca Spirituality

And even without astrologers talking about the new astrological age, it’s quite clear to me that the tide of consciousness is shifting; and the conservatives and religious zealots are scared as all get out. You can almost feel it in their frenzied responses and reactions.  If you tune out all the hate they spew, what you hear is fear.  Fear of the change(s) zooming around the corner.  At least, that’s what I can hear, when I don’t get caught up in the ugly rhetoric that acts like a mask to cover their real feelings.

So, here’s to all of those who have been ahead of the astrological curve.  Change is a-comin’ folks.  It might take approximately 2,150 years for it to hit us fully–and it won’t always be pretty–but take comfort in the fact that a new age is here.

 

Let’s Talk About . . . Sex

Yes, I know that word is a big taboo in this country, but I don’t care . . . this is something that NEEDS to be discussed.  BIG TIME.

John Oliver (my new fave since Jon Stewart is gone) recently posted a video pointing out the ridiculous lack of sex education in this country:

Sex Education

The general consensus of parents in this country seems to be that talking about sex is vulgar, dirty, uncomfortable, etc., especially with children, and shouldn’t happen in schools.  However, the parents who don’t want it being discussed in schools are usually also the parents who won’t talk to their kids about it at home.  Which means that kids are very limited in where they can get answers to their questions.

Make no mistake . . . kids have questions about sex; even from an early age.  And they’re not stupid, either.  They notice when Dad finds a woman attractive (no matter how he might try to hide his stare).  They notice if Mom’s not in the mood, and maybe even why.  They even learn that a woman in a bikini holding a beer on TV is “sexy,” even if they don’t yet know what that word means.  Yes, these are stereotypes, but you get the picture . . . kids notice things.  It’s unfair to have them notice things and not answer the resulting questions they will undoubtedly have.

And honestly, what’s the big friggin’ deal if they ask questions about sex?!  You don’t hear parents freaking out about children asking why the sky is blue, or why snow is cold.  Why should they freak out about “the sex talk?”  It’s honestly just as innocuous as the other questions . . . YES, it is.

I guarantee you, that if a parent calls a vagina or penis what they are (rather than the ridiculous words like “hooha” or “thingy”), the kids won’t snicker so much when they hear those words in the future.  And I also guarantee that if you give honest and frank answers to questions about sexual attraction or even a girl’s period, they won’t freak out either.  How can I guarantee that?  Because I’ve answered the question about a menstrual cycle to two girls who weren’t yet 10 (I was babysitting them).  The two girls (upon hearing what the tampon in my purse was for) simply said “okay,” and went off to play.  And I was raised by parents who answered all my sexual questions and even let me know they still had sex, and I don’t think either word for genitalia is funny or weird (thought “fart” still makes me giggle, go fig).

And for the parents who say it’s their kids who’d be uncomfortable with “the talk,” I’d have to say it’s really more the parent who’s uncomfortable and the kid has picked up on that feeling.  If you treat something like a non-issue, it really becomes a non-issue to your kids (see menstrual cycle discussion above).

But even if it is awkward for you or your kid, so what?!  For the parents who don’t want sex-ed taught in schools, what’s the alternative?  Thinking that your kid(s) won’t be interested in something if you (or a teacher at school) don’t talk to them about it is basically putting your head in the sand.  Sex is a NORMAL part of being human!  Yes, we can stand/walk on two legs, and we wear clothes, drive cars, and fly in airplanes, but first and foremost we are animals!  And one of the most normal functions of nearly EVERY animal on this planet is procreation, which means S-E-X.  When you inhibit that basic body function, bad shit happens, as this article about Josh Duggar and his cheating ways perfectly demonstrates.

I’m not suggesting that kids should be having sex as soon as their hormones start ramping up, but feeling those urges IS normal and should NOT be treated like a horrible thing.  To do so only makes your kids feel like they’re horrible people for having urges that they truly have no control over.  Yes, they have control over how they respond to said urges, but if they’re not educated about those urges and the different responses to them, then how are they going to know which response is the right one for them?  Besides, a lack of education in ANY arena means you’re not equipping them to be fully functional adults, which is the responsibility of every parent.

One more argument I’d make to the parents who want to hide behind the “My parents did it this way with me and look how fine I turned out,” . . . clearly you didn’t turn out “fine” if you’re uncomfortable talking about a NORMAL BODY FUNCTION with your children!  And don’t even get me started on the parents who had children at such an early age and “had” to get married.  I’d bet any amount of money that happened because their own parents refused to let them be educated about sex before they had it, or else told them the only or best option was abstinence.

Abstinence is an option, yes, but it’s just one of MANY options in response to raging hormones.  If you don’t want your kids having sex with a partner yet, then teach them about masturbation . . . I can guarantee you they’ll know about it (and probably try it out) before you think they do.  But let them know that masturbating isn’t dirty, and that it’s a great way to take care of those urges without risking pregnancy or STDs.

Bottom line, your kids WILL have sex eventually; it’s just a part of our physical make up to do so.  Some will have it before they’re out of high school, and hoping they won’t is just irresponsible parenting.  Would you rather they were educated about sex and all the possible outcomes, or would you rather keep your head buried in the sand?

America Isn’t Easy

In case you’ve missed it, a couple of huge decisions have been made over the last couple of months.  I’m talking about the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality for LGBT people, and the removal of the Confederate Flag from a state building.

As you can imagine, both of these decisions have been met with resounding “Huzzahs!” and “Boos!”  I will state right now that I’m on the “Huzzah” side of both decisions, but the “Boos” are getting a lot of media attention lately (or, maybe it’s just that I know more conservative people than I thought).

People who are against LGBT equality, or the removal of the flag of the south, are screaming about how our country is going to Hell in a hand-basket, or how we’ve lost sight of what’s important in this country.  But what it sounds like to me is they’re thinking about it in a “you vs me” sort of way.  Like, “If you get your way, then I don’t, and that’s not fair.”

But the thing is that these recent decisions aren’t personal attacks, no matter how much some people are assuming them to be.  It’s not like the LGBT community hopes to abolish hetero relationships, nor is it that black people want to become the “superior” race.  They just want to be considered equal in this country of ours, which is exactly what our Declaration of Independence says they are in the first place.  It doesn’t say “You have the right to . . . only if you’re a white, straight male:”

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Women have already had to fight to be considered equal, and it’s generally accepted that this wording was just in keeping with the patriarchal mindset of the day, but if you substitute “people” for “men,” it doesn’t change the meaning at all.  EVERYONE has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!  That means black people, LGBT people, immigrants, women, etc.

And for those out there who might want to cite religious reasons to be against these decisions, check out this wonderful article by a Minister down in Texas, or this other great article on opinions.

I understand that change can be hard for some people (or several million, as it turns out), but change is also a good thing.  It wasn’t too long ago that women were only allowed to “work” in the home, or only when men were off fighting a war.  But now women run entire corporations, and even run for President of the U.S.  And there was a time when interracial marriages weren’t “allowed,” and people were actually afraid to acknowledge their love.  But now, it’s a big ol’ melting pot of love!  Who knows what good can come from LGBT people being allowed to marry and have their families recognized alongside other families?  And only good things can come from black people not feeling bigotry whenever they walk into a government building somewhere in the south.

But here’s something that people on the “Huzzah” side need to remember; change takes time and effort.  And BOTH sides need to heed the words of one of my favorite movie speeches . . . America isn’t easy:

America isn’t easy.
America is advanced citizenship.
You’ve got to want it bad,
Cuz it’s gonna put up a fight.
It’s gonna say,
“You want free speech?  Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage, and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.  You want to claim this land is the ‘Land of the Free?’  Then the symbol of your country cannot just be a flag; the symbol also has to be one of its citizens exercising his right to burn that flag in protest.  Now show me that, defend that, celebrate that in your classrooms.  Then you can stand up and sing about the ‘Land of the Free.’

Click the image to see the full speech from The American President:

America Isn't Easy

A truer statement couldn’t be said about this country.  While it might be easier for countries like Norway, England, Spain, etc. to pass laws without too much hullabaloo, each state in America is about the size of one of those countries.  It’s not that other countries don’t have their dissenters (I’m certain they do), but because their population is smaller than ours, we appear to have more of them.

So, as much as I would love to tell all those “Boos” to hurry up and join the 21st Century way of thinking, I can’t, because they have a right to their opinions, no matter how much I might disagree with them.  That doesn’t mean I’m going to stop disagreeing, because debating is how things can get discussed and improved.

It just means that we all need to take a chill pill and realize that we’re all entitled to our thoughts and beliefs, provided they’re not hurting other people.

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