Fear

This election year has been one of confusion and instant polarity. Although both parties have slowly polarized themselves over time, and it seems they both think “you’re either with us or against us,” this year has mixed up many declared Republicans and Democrats. Some politicians are supporting the opposite candidate because they cannot stand the one who represents their party. For the “average voter” the choice between “him” or “her” has been a difficult one. Some people are staunchly on one side or another, which has led to many family and friend disagreements across the country, but most of us are still unsure about who to vote for, which leads us to the “the fear vote.”

Voting out of fear is when you cast your ballot for a certain candidate because you fear having the opposing candidate win.  I have been led to voting in this way many times. This year I have heard, “He’s going to start world war three, so I’m voting for her,” or “She’s a liar and will take away my gun rights, so I have to vote for him,” among other reasons, all based in fear of what the other candidate might do or might be. Most people would say that they have no choice, but to vote that way. “There is no one to agree with! They’re both terrible!” I disagree. There must be some stance on a given issue that a voter could share with one of the candidates. Instead of constantly fearing the unknown, sit down and think about what you do agree with regarding each candidate’s issues. Try to wipe away all the muck that has been thrown around (quite heavily) and ask yourself what is important to you and who represents those values, then just vote for whoever that is.  Excuse yourself from arguing with people about who did what, or why he or she will be the worst president in the history of the U.S., and go on with your life.
And now, I will get down from my soapbox  after this little poem.

10/14/16 addition: I think I need to change my tune since all of the allegations against a certain candidate and the women he has treated “indelicately” let’s say. Even if I thought he was a worthy candidate at some point, when people come forward and repeatedly make the same claims thereby showing his immoral character, I would say that voting from fear is understandable and acceptable. The president has a very public persona and I do not want my son to have such a role model, nor do I want my daughter feeling the effects of men who think it’s acceptable to treat women that way.  So I will be voting out of fear – again. But I still believe in my poem below. People’s opinions are theirs, even if I don’t agree with them!


 

The Walls

Instead of putting the wall up by Mexico,
We put it up around the U.S. in total.
No imports or exports, no immigrants or ex-pats,
Nothing in and nothing out, be it fruit, phones, or yoga mats.

Instead of keeping us safe, however,
We now learned to fear each other.
Sides were divided, groups were split.
Instead of living together,
We changed our tactics.

We couldn’t see the outsiders to hate,
We looked inside and found each other to discriminate.
Until we stop finding differences, we won’t be free.
We’ll keep on seeing the “other” in you and me.

So, instead of building walls and blaming the other guys,
Maybe we should look at ourselves and remove the disguise.
We are all human, in the end,
Preposterous as it sounds, we could all be friends.

But more than likely, we’ll keep on this way.
“You’re wrong, I’m right” is what we all say.
And so the walls continue to climb,
Instead of our country, it’s either yours or mine.

And yet, it’s not difficult to stop and say,
“Yeah, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.”
And go on with your day.

 

Thanks to “the Dude” for the inspiration.The Dude

Grief, Illness, Kids, Parenting

My mom has Parkinson’s disease, yes that same one as Michael J Fox, and unless you read his books or know someone who has it, most may not realize what a terrible disease it is. It’s more than tremors or a shaky hand reaching for something. It will make my mom fall apart in the middle of a store, unable to move, frozen in her tracks, and she will be forced to take tiny baby steps in a confused state as people whip past her, annoyed at this slow old lady. It’s the realization that she now wets the bed every night because the disease is forcing her bladder to contract, so while she sleeps she unknowingly urinates. It’s slowly taking her mind and memories away due to the dementia side of the illness. And someday, as the progressive disease takes its toll, she will be unable to do anything on her own: eat, walk, talk, use the bathroom, enjoy her grandchildren, the disease will have taken it all.

My husband, my brother, and I watch this progression grimly. Rationally we understand the disease, it slowly cuts off her serotonin and other neurotransmitters so that the needed connections to move don’t readily work (that is putting it very simply). You lose control over that connection in which your brain tells your body what to do. We also know that there is no cure; medications can only help with the symptoms of the disease as it gets gradually worse. And the kicker is that the long term side effect of the main medication she takes ultimately leads to uncontrollable movements – just like her disease.

When she first got diagnosed I knew almost nothing about Parkinson’s disease. Like most people, I just thought it would make her hand shaky as she reached for the salt at the dinner table. Since I always think that understanding something and arming oneself with knowledge is the best route, I researched the disease. I found out what happens in the brain and what will ultimately happen as time goes by. It was a difficult read. As I grappled with her doomed fate, I cried a lot, and asked “Why? Why is this happening to her?” This is a woman who wouldn’t hurt a soul. She was a bank teller, raised her kids, learned to live her own life after divorce, and was always present for her family – why is something so terrible happening to her, I questioned. Then, I inevitably went through the “It’s not fair!” side of it, because it wasn’t. Why is my mom, a nice person, a model (more or less) human being, sentenced to this disease when child-molesting perverts, rapists, and jerks who scam old people get to lead healthy lives? It’s not fair! I angrily thought to myself.

And, no, it isn’t fair. That is true. But this isn’t about what is fair. That is just my way of caring and being angry about her illness. I know there isn’t some being in the universe, handing out punishments to bad people and rewarding the good. That is obvious by all the pain and anguish in the world. So, fair has nothing to do with it. And in the end, neither does the why. Why does she have this disease, why did she get it instead of someone else? It doesn’t matter why she has it, she does. And someone else has it too, approximately one million people in the US alone have Parkinson’s disease.

So, as hard as it is, I need to let these things go. Whenever we are faced with adversity or pain or tragedy, we often point to the why (and the government and news point to the who – as in, who is to blame for this). Then when the why (or who) isn’t answered, or even if it is, we go to the fairness of it all – and when is it ever fair? In the midst of something terrible nothing seems fair.

So I have learned to let these two things go most days and just accept that she has a terminal disease, and it’s not going away. Some days are good for her, others aren’t,

My mom in the '80's, before her disease.
My mom in the ’80’s, before her disease.

and it will get worse, but we are dealing with that as it happens. That is all. Is that easy? Definitely not. No one can watch someone get worse in tiny increments and think, “oh it’s okay, it will be okay” because it’s not. I cannot hide behind the false idea that “she’ll be okay” because she won’t.

The hard part lately is when my eight-year-old daughter said, “I wish we could take Nana’s disease and give it to someone else.”   It made me realize how my very-aware daughter is witnessing this too, and how difficult it must be for her as well. I just said, “I know, I understand, but we can’t.” “But it’s not fair!” she said emphatically. “No, it isn’t,” I said, “I agree, but it’s the disease she has.”  I can’t fix it or shield my daughter from her grandmother’s disease. None of us can. So, instead, we will continue to visit her regardless of her current state that day. We’ll stick by her, even when the disease takes it all, not knowing the reason why and just letting the idea of fair go. It doesn’t have a place here even if we want it to.  As we painfully watch we will hope that our presence will make it easier on my mom, the one, in the end, who is suffering the most.

Self-awareness

Recently my brother and I were talking about how we don’t like to waste food, even if we buy something new and don’t like it, we will either eat it or find someone to give it to. For whatever reason, we can’t find it in ourselves to just dump it down the drain or throw it in the garbage. My brother said that he offered his neighbor a snack that he did not find appealing, except during starvation possibly, because she is an elementary  teacher and always has snacks on hand for her students (that she pays for herself, of course). She said, definitely, she would take them because she has students who are “food insecure.” Food insecure? I asked. What is that? It sounded like some type of eating disorder or social anxiety problem in which you feel insecure about eating in front of others.  My brother was questioning too. It turns out that we are both naive to the world’s problems. She told him that “food insecure” means that they don’t have enough to eat, and possibly don’t know when the next meal will be or from where.

I looked into the term and the USDA labels it this way:

Food Insecurity

  • Low food security (old label=Food insecurity without hunger): reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet. Little or no indication of reduced food intake.
  • Very low food security (old label=Food insecurity with hunger): Reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake

My brother and I were surprised. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, in the middle of Silicon Valley. We thought, there are starving kids here? This  neighbor teaches in a district that is definitely not in a desired neighborhood of the Los Altos hills, but still, we didn’t realize that there are “food insecure” kids so nearby. That suddenly made it “real” for my brother. Before it seemed like some floating idea that happened to people “somewhere else.” Sure, we can read the statistics; we know there are hungry kids out there, even in the U.S., but it didn’t seem so real until he talked to someone who was experiencing it firsthand in her classroom.

Why is that? That got us questioning about how we unconsciously distance ourselves from the reality of painful things. Granted, we were ignorant to knowing about the legitimately distressed kids in the neighborhood. We thought that happened in bigger cities with more poverty, but it still wasn’t “real” until now. I pointed out the many other things we do that with – how many times do we hear about a bombing in the Middle East, but we don’t have a strong reaction to it any more. On one hand, we have heard about so many bombings over there, almost on a daily basis, that we have become desensitized to it.  But, on the other hand, it is so far away, and we are so removed from it, that we can’t really understand the reality of living with the idea of getting bombed on a shopping trip to pick up tonight’s dinner. And it doesn’t have to be with something as drastic as bombings, think about wives getting beaten, children sexually abused, animals left to starve and die – it happens all the time unfortunately, probably somewhere nearby, and we know it does, but we distance ourselves from the reality of it. We don’t go looking for the facts of these horrible things, we just know they are there, and try our best to not think about it until we have to, or until something moves us to look closer and do something about it.

Someone hungry might need that snack.
Someone hungry might need that snack.

For my brother’s part, he knows where his unwanted snacks can go, and he’ll also throw something extra in his cart at the store to give to his neighbor. Now that he knows, and the realness is there, he is choosing to do something about it, instead of hiding from the reality of it. I live two hundred miles away, but have started wondering about how many kids near me are hungry at school today…