Wednesday, September 30, 2020

The dilemma of using social media

In deciding how you will use social media, it has to be for you. I went over my usage yesterday, not because that's how everyone should do it, but because tracing the journey might give you ideas for your own.

But yes, there is programming being done to increase the amount of time that you spend on social media. (My issues with The Social Dilemma can wait until next week.)

For example, lately on Facebook I am seeing notification about things like a friend updating a status, or one friend commenting on another friend's photo. They must not have enough notifications about things that relate directly to me. Okay. 

Initially I checked on those things, assuming that the notification meant it was pertinent to me in some way. Now I have started ignoring them. I don't have a problem with knowing that Becky commented on Shannon's photo, but I don't need to know. I have also un-followed a lot of pages, because I was seeing more from them than from friends.

Ages ago I wrote about not letting Facebook stress you out. At the time, a lot of that was gaming requests, and my solution was blocking all of the apps. I sometimes blocked invitations from people who played every game, but usually blocking the applications as they came in was enough. There was a time when I played those games and sent invitations too; four of my friends came about through Hatchlings. Now I don't even know if it's a thing.

The first part of this post is really to decide how you want to use social media, and then how to do that. 

Good questions to ask yourself might include...

  • Am I neglecting things that are important to me because of my time spent on social media?
  • Am I surprised when I see how much time has passed after I have been viewing social media?
  • Is my mood worse after seeing posts? Does it make me scared, angry, or sad?
  • Am I getting misinformed through social media?

Not all potential answers are going to be about social media use. Some people have issues with comparing to others, and then feeling worse. That may indicate more of a need to deal with personal insecurities, which can be harder than limiting social media but also more beneficial.

I know someone who has felt hurt multiple times because she expresses herself on Facebook and then it feels like everyone is attacking her. Yes, one possible conclusion is that she has horrible friends and should block them, but in this specific case the issue is that she has horrible opinions and people are largely being really gentle with her. That requires a different solution (and more self-awareness than is likely, because she is unfriending and blocking).

The analysis can be tricky, but ultimately you are checking for a gap between how you are interacting with social media, and how you want to. That may require multiple decisions. 

I don't know much about business use; I have discovered that I cannot sell myself, so while I do occasionally link to my books, that's the extent of it for me. You can use Facebook for friends and Instagram for customers, or have separate profiles for personal and business, or link everything so that when you post on Instagram in automatically tweets and posts on Facebook. 

(However, if you do want to have some social media use for your business, you should take note of whether your target market prefers one platform to another, and how they use it.) 

For personal use, then it becomes a lot more emotional. Especially now, during a pandemic, does it help with connection and support? Does it add to stress? That doesn't have to be how you get support, but if you feel yourself more stressed or depressed as you use it, that is a good reason to change. 

As I wrote yesterday, my priority is relationships. That is why I do things like #RememberSeptember where I want to reach out to people and remind them that I care and that we have had good times. It has been very rewarding, and I am going to keep it going into October for a while. 

Maintaining relationships is also why I have put a 30-day snooze on a lot of people. Sure, that's great for now, but at some point next month when things are really heating up they are all going to expire and I may start feeling like I hate everyone. However, I know that. I will recognize when it is happening. That's the benefit of thinking these things through.

Being more mindful may help on its own. Scheduling specific times to check your feeds might work. Deleting the apps from your phone - and only viewing social media on a PC - might work. There are apps that will time your usage. 

One of the movie subjects talked about deciding to leave his phone in his car, or to not look at his phone, and then not being able to resist the temptation. If that's you, you may need to enlist help.

I never post on Instagram, because you have to do it through the app, and you can't install the app on a PC. Years of cheap phones have gotten me used to not doing social media on my phone. The technology has advanced enough that my $15-on-Ebay phone can handle social media, but I like that it is not always with me. When I am away from the keyboard, I have no idea if my posts are being liked or argued with, and I like that. 

If I were an artist, and Instagram seemed like the best way to market my work, I would have to find a way to deal with that. Maybe it would be having Instagram on my phone, but still leaving Facebook and Twitter for the computer only.

As long as you are not doing harm, I don't think there is any wrong way. However, doing harm can include spreading misinformation, stressing out other people, and it can include harm to yourself, so please take that caveat seriously.

These are just ways of thinking about it, and I hope they can be helpful. Now I want to address that second part of post (and the movie), for which I am completely unqualified.

I do not know how to help your kids on social media.

I do know, with that guy who said his teenagers don't use any social media at all... I think he is fooling himself. Or more accurately, I suspect his kids are fooling him.

To have forces that are working on altering on the brain working on the still-developing brains of young people is a scary thing. That's not just the psychology. One theory on why children are starting puberty sooner is that the screen light fools the brain into thinking they have been alive for longer, seeing more days. It's not the only theory, but it gives me pause.

Without having the answers for that (but believing in the importance of respect and open communication), I want to say that I got really irritated watching the phone-less teen flopping around on his bed, bored. Pick up a book! Draw something! Listen to some tunes!

And I thought that, but then I remembered that a lot of the educational materials for reading now turn kids off of reading, and that music, art and PE have been cut from schools. 

With the reading thing (that is from The Book Whisperer in my education reading), I am not saying that those companies specifically don't want kids to read, but they want to make money and so they may not have the best interests of the kids at heart. Also, maybe teaching to the test isn't the best idea.

Regardless, a lot of those things being cut come from people (and especially companies) trying to get away with paying as little as possible, though education is a valuable investment. Furthermore, even a lot of people trying to revolutionize education are trying to make students into good future workers, instead of people who understand their world and how to navigate it and live satisfying lives within it. 

I believe if we aim for the latter, we will have people who are then perfectly capable of being good workers, unless you're just against critical thinking skills. 

I'm just saying, there's a bigger picture.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Putting the "me" in social media

One thing I will have to do to successfully blog regularly is write ahead. Yesterday I started a post that was getting too long, but I realized it was because I didn't lay the proper groundwork. That's what I need to do today, going over my social media usage and history.

The first thing I realized is that it is much bigger than I thought. When I think social media, I think Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, plus lots of things that I know exist but I have never tried.

Then I remembered that Goodreads allows messages and likes and I have a profile. Blogger is a little different, at least in how you get feedback, but at least social media adjacent.

Then I remembered I tried Tumblr, and I have profiles on at least two fiction sites, and I am on a film networking site that is completely useless, but I still get notifications. I set up on Wordpress, but because I was used to Blogger it didn't stick. I kept remembering other things. 

Therefore, my first point is that your online footprint is probably larger than you realize. That may leave you some vulnerabilities for hacking, especially if you reuse passwords. 

It's not even that I didn't know that. I finished Zoe Quinn's Crash Override on May 4th (I can tell you that because of Goodreads) and I have left it on my desk since then because I thought I should go through and clean my online presence up. I haven't done it yet. Getting around to things can be a problem, but at least take time to think about it.

So, if we are including Blogger, I got on that just before the end of 2006, and added the travel blog in 2008 after our Australia trip, which is also when I got on to Facebook and Goodreads. (I added the Preparedness blog a few months later so I could archive newsletters.) Twitter didn't come until 2012, and has been the most transformative.

I initially got on Twitter because I was into Grimm and it didn't seem to have much of a Facebook presence. It was coincidental that I got on about two weeks before a coworker got me into the Misfits and I remembered that I had liked those two My Chemical Romance songs.

Lots of things happened from that. Because I followed various bands, a lot of bands followed me. I wanted to do something with that. That's how the music reviews started, and it eventually informed the songs of the day. I had liked music before, but I was listening to more and newer music.

A lot of people who liked the same music followed me. They tended to be much younger. A lot of them had issues with depression. That started me reading a lot more about psychology and recovery. It was not a complete change - Psychology Today had been one of my favorite magazines since college - but it became more targeted, especially as I begin to recognize more of my own experience in theirs.

I don't remember for sure if it was the music or something else that led to the comic book stuff, but it was definitely the comic book stuff (and mostly Gail Simone) that led to intersectional feminism. 

It was definitely on Twitter that I first learned about Trayvon Martin's shooting, and I learned about it from a Grimm writer.

My point there is that a lot of it wasn't deliberate. For example, after I finished one personal writing project (the script for a comic book based on an MCR album) I felt like it was time for something different. One girl tweeted a lot of people on that next #FollowFriday. That's not a common practice anymore, but people used tweet other accounts to follow on Fridays. I usually ignored it, but that day I followed around 80. Come to think of it, that's when the increased interest in psychology kicked in.

While I had not planned things out in advance, the paths I followed were nonetheless dictated by my interests and values. I believe that is why I have ultimately been happy with the results.

There have been adjustments. Initially I automatically followed back everyone who followed me. A lot of people follow you to advertise to you; I learned that quickly. Some people retweet a lot of questionable content. Sometimes it may be best to un-follow, but you can keep following someone while turning off re-tweets.

I have decided that the important thing for me is relationships. 

For Twitter that means that I keep the accounts I follow at a relatively low number. (Currently 1266, and followed by 1242.) I have made some friends there, but I also use it more for learning things, because that is how it works for me.

On the other hand, Facebook (for me) means keeping up with people I already know (mostly). I have used it for arranging in-person contact (pre-pandemic) and I am really dedicated to remembering people on their birthdays. 

I use both Facebook and Twitter for putting out my blog posts and daily songs. Lately I have seen more opportunities to do good with the daily songs: using them for encouraging donations, promoting service opportunities, and now for sharing memories with other people. Those have come up because social good is important to me, and because people are important to me.

All of those efforts have had blog posts:

There have been many changes in the way I use social media over time, but they have all been ones that have made it better for me. That is where I will be going with the next post, which will also cover my use (or the lack thereof) of Instagram.

Monday, September 28, 2020

My best way to help

At one point last week I was thinking about posting that if anyone needed help they could tag me in. That didn't feel quite right, especially as I remembered that I have just gotten to the point where I am merely low energy and not exhausted all the time.

I have been trying to think about what would be a good fit.

It came from seeing more people who have not been political in the past posting political things. I have talked to some of them and I know it is a matter of conscience for them; they feel like they need to say something now. I totally get that. It is also a great way to find out exactly how obnoxious some of your friends and family are, and how reprehensible their beliefs.

The people I was watching skirmish that day were using their own strengths and interests. They probably don't really need my help, and may not want it. I know that you may not want everyone piling on your friend. There was one dust-up that definitely caused one person to unfriend me and I think it was part of why the other one left Twitter, and that all happened while I was making dinner.

So while it is certainly possible that there may be a time when you post something important to you, and someone else is being rotten about it, maybe tagging me in would help, and be something I could do, but it is probably not the only way we can help each other.

I recently watched The Social Dilemma. I should be writing more about tomorrow, but the answer is frequently going to be about making conscious choices, and then there are a lot of options.

One option is refuting your friends, and letting other, bolder friends help.

That can get very adversarial. I have found my bulldog self many times since I have gotten on Facebook (October 2008), and I can hold on tirelessly. As a result, I think a lot of the more conservative people I have known from church or school have muted me or unfriended me, and that can be okay.

You don't want to get yourself into an echo chamber, and I am not recommending that. That is a big part of why on Twitter I follow people who are both more and less radical than I am. Sometimes they are irritating, as am I. However, I don't follow anyone who promotes racism or misogyny or any kind of bigotry, because those things are not up for debate. Also, - and I want to make this very clear - you are NOT obligated to maintain a relationship with someone who is abusive.

That may involve name calling - "baby killer" is very popular right now - but it may be something more subtle. You may find that someone is stressing you out by posting the same arguments every single time, even when you thought you had already answered them. You can try and set a boundary, and if they ignore that, that can be reason enough to delete a Facebook friendship. I did that with one person, he said he understood, and then he kept flooding me with direct messages after having lost the ability to post on my wall. I blocked him. It wasn't what I'd wanted, but it felt like the only option.

Your time and your mental health are important. There are sayings about wrestling with pigs and playing chess with pigeons - I don't disagree with them, but the real problem tends to be humans. 

Sometimes there is reluctance to let someone go, because it feels like that means they are winning the argument. They probably will think that, but they will probably think that after still more hours of arguing. Is that worth the effort?

I say that as someone who has held on tenaciously, possibly with no reward other than that person ignoring me in the future. (Which can be worth something.) 

Sometimes it is worth it. Recently I had an exchange with my brother pointing out that when he talks about open season on liberals, that's all of his sisters. It wasn't fun and I think it irritated him more than anything else. It also still felt important to do. I don't think he really wants us dead, but I also think he is spoiling for a fight, which is a concern, and that other people reading those memes are more violent and shorter-fused. I believe words matter. 

I also believe that if you make a point, it might not sink in right away, but if enough other points hit over time, it may add up. That can be good. It's probably not worth getting an ulcer over.

Sometimes it is nice to have your friends come in and help in an argument, but there are other ways we can help each other, and these are some things to think of:

Maybe at some point you want a fact-check or a logic-check; we can do that for each other.

Maybe you need someone to remind you that you are a good person and your values are humane and just; we can do that for each other.

Maybe you need a sounding board over whether it is okay to sever ties with someone; we can do that for each other.

These are rough times. Let's be kind, and also firm.

Sometimes that means a firm and loving goodbye, and sometimes it doesn't.

Serenity, courage, and wisdom: they are useful in many situations.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Bad idea movies

I did not want to see Where Hands Touch - even though I was watching the work of Amma Assante - because I thought the movie was a bad idea. Oh, a romance between a Nazi and a Black girl! How original! She can even be a little anti-Semitic, because we really aren't all that different!

Yes, African-American anti-Semitic sentiment has been a problem (see Jesse Jackson, circa 1984). Also, while the Nazis were focused on Jews, they had some prejudices against Black people as well (see Jesse Owens, 1936). Of course, racism does not rule out attraction - some people have seen that turn pretty quickly - so it's not that it's impossible, but what do you gain from it? Even if it is handled super well, which can so easily not be the case.

That was how I felt in 2018. Then in 2019 three other movies screamed "Bad idea!" at me. I have read quite a bit about them while conscientiously not seeing them, but then because I have not seen them I was reluctant to blog about them; I mean, I don't really know.

So in honor of Amma Assante I am going to throw all my caution out the window today, and rip on movies that I haven't seen. 

There will be spoilers.

Richard Jewell 

It became very obvious from the trailer where this was going, when you hear the profile of the Olympic bomber being a white man. How dare they make that about race? You can hear Clint Eastwood thinking it. 

However, the bomber Eric Rudolph was white, and had some similarities with Richard Jewell where it was not completely unreasonable that given Jewell's proximity to the scene he would be investigated. He was never charged. I will gladly acknowledge that law enforcement can be heavy-handed - Portland sure knows that! - and that the media could have handled it better. 

In return it would be great if Eastwood would acknowledge that the mass shooters and bombers have been overwhelmingly white males, and that it is not a coincidence that a white man who hated abortion, gay people, and socialism would cause death and destruction. Also, since he does see that putting out a false view of someone like Jewell via mass media is wrong, then it would be great if he could apologizing for the ugly smearing of reporter Kathy Scruggs. 

I had posted one article about it at the time, without commenting a lot. Here is another one:


What bothers me most about this is that he becomes a hero by killing powerful white men, like jerky corporate businessmen and a popular television host. Well, and his mother; that part was realistic.

In real life, it's the girl they liked but never asked out, or the ex-girlfriend, or the kid walking home at night but he has dark skin and a hoodie. He would have killed the Zazie Beetz character. Their lack of power gets directed downward, not upward. There's no analysis of how the ways in which society lets him down are worse for other people, but there is an understanding that because it rolls downhill he can take advantage of that. 

I don't know; I didn't see it. Maybe people came out of the theater anxious to help uplift others with better health care, including mental health care, and better safety nets. Did that happen? Did I misjudge it?

Jojo Rabbit

It was another quote in the trailer that did it: "You're not a Nazi, Jojo. You're a ten-year-old kid who likes dressing up in a funny uniform and wants to be part of a club."

Okay, I get that not joining the Hitler Youth would have been really dangerous, and maybe the toll that takes could be interesting, but all that sympathy for this weird, weak kid and triumph that and he finally comes around. That price is his mother getting hanged, his leader sacrificing himself, and him stabbing the Jewish girl before he can finally reject violence.

Yes, a lot of the people drawn into white supremacy have been rejected from other groups (Higher Learning portrays that pretty well), but once they are in they can see a lot of death and destruction without feeling any remorse for it. They love it. Even if they could learn from it, they do not have the right to have marginalized people pay the price for it.

I think the reason it happens is because there is this mindset that everyone knows racism is wrong and Nazis are bad; let's do something different!

That there should be emotional truth in works of fiction would be reason enough to be very careful about that, but your real problem is that racism isn't settled. Some people believe it is in the past because they don't understand it, while others are downright reveling in it. The pursuit of a twist is not worth accommodating that!

Art can be a very effective way of showing the humanity of others. There are so many marginalized people that are constantly having their humanity denied; why would you focus on the Nazis?

Anyway, 2019 was the year that I started making a point of going to see movies that I felt it was important to support. It's not that I had been likely to see movies that screamed "Bad idea! at me before; that wasn't the change. Instead, realizing that who was in the lead and wrote the screenplay and directed affected the ideas that would be put forth, and that it mattered and I should vote with my dollars, that was kind of new. 

That was also the year I started watching the works of these Black directors, so it all circles back.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Director Spotlight: AMMA ASSANTE

Had already seen: A United Kingdom (2016)
Watched for this: Belle (2013), A Way of Life (2004), Nokia "No Time To Die" commercial
Have not seen: Where Hands Touch (2018), two episodes each of The Handmaid's Tale and Mrs. America

I could probably have managed to watch Where Hands Touch, but I was pretty sure I didn't want to. More on that tomorrow.

Amma Assante is a bit different from the other directors is that she is British, born in London. I am sure that affects her outlook on a variety of topics, including class. I included her because my sisters and I had really enjoyed A United Kingdom and I had heard good things about Belle, so wanted to watch it anyway.

It is notable how different the three films watched are in their settings and characters. A United Kingdom spans mid-20th century England and Botswana, with characters from the working class dealing with royalty and government functionaries, as well as the colonizers abroad. Belle is set in 19th century England, and strictly upper-class, but facing issues of race and illegitimacy. Then A Way of Life is early 21st century, set squalidly among the urban poor in Cardiff, Wales.

A United Kingdom remains my favorite, but it also the one where the director needed to slice a little. The lead-in to the conflict - where Seretse and Ruth fall in love - feels overly long and drawn out. I understand why it feels important to show that start, but the interactions between David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike show so much tenderness and devotion via both the acting and the script that the movie would have been better for simply trusting them. Belle is much more even, perhaps simply for trying to tell a simpler story.

But where I really want to focus is on A Way of Life. I need to rant a bit, though not at Assante.

When I refer to the squalor, it's not so much a matter of cleanliness or the lack of opulence; there are things that look dingy and sad but that's not the real problem.

Instead it is the pervasive nastiness of the young, poor, criminal Welsh. I did feel for them, especially seeing one applying for a job, and the impossibility of any good experiences being open to him. There is a lot of real pain, but they all did so much to make it worse, and so much of that was rooted in racism.

I am grateful that I saw Blinded By the Light previously. That meant that when I heard the word "Paki" being hurled at people with darker skin, I was kind of prepared for it, though you would like to hope there has been some improvement between the 1980s and now. Based on UKIP, probably not. I was surprised to see it being used on people from Turkey, though I am not sure whether that means that racial epithets are not specific or that people don't pay attention to country of origin. There isn't really a better option there.

Spoilers follow:

LeighAnne is a 17 year old girl with a six-month old baby. Her mother is dead, the baby's father is in jail, and she does not get along with her father and stepmother. She is closest to her brother and his friends, who squat and steal to get by, though she is not above hurting them either. They are cruelly loyal to each other. LeighAnne sometimes interacts with her child's grandmother, though that relationship is acrimonious as well. 

She also really hates the Turkish man across the street. For all of her many faults, LeighAnne loves her daughter, and is afraid of being found unfit to care for her. This fear leads to bad decisions, like delaying medical care when Rebecca burns her hand. It leads to always being suspicious of everything her neighbor does, especially when she sees him talking to a social worker.

I am sure there is some jealousy too. Hassan has a loving relationship with his daughter, and his own business that can at least give him some hope for future improvement. It is true he sometimes looks at LeighAnne with cold eyes, but having never seen a friendly look from her, that's understandable. 

LeighAnne becomes convinced that Hassan has reported her to the social worker, and stalking and an accusation turns into LeighAnne, her brother, and his friends stomping Hassan to death in a horrifying scene. You actually see part of it in the beginning, and you see the ball roll off to the side, so you know it is not the ball that they are kicking, but that doesn't make any of it less shocking. 

Later, the social worker reveals to LeighAnne - who is going to jail and so is absolutely losing Rebecca - that Hassan was speaking to her because he was worried about his own daughter, who you find out is pregnant, by LeighAnne's brother. (That does not all come from the social worker, which would be a breach of privacy, of course. Everything is spiraling in that last segment.) As LeighAnne realizes that what they did was stupid and pointless (I assume she already knew it was vicious but did not care about that part) and that her anger at potential separation from her daughter is now leading to actual separation from her daughter, the social worker asks her "What did you think would happen?"

What makes you think there was thought? 

In all of the undermining and pettiness and defensiveness and spite and harassment, where were there any signs of thought?

I sympathized with the misery, but I hated how they turned that against others, and people who had done them no harm. In fact, one of the friends was half-Indian (again, they are not specific in their racism). LeighAnne's brother was certainly capable of being attracted to a girl who was at least half Turkish, but that was not a reason to not stomp her father to death, while she is crying and screaming for help. Her child will come into the world missing a grandparent, with a father in jail, and little hope that the cycle won't repeat.

The film was well-done, but it was so frustrating in its hopeless poverty and racism, which was the point. 

Truly a film for this 21st century.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Just under the wire

I'm not sure if anyone will find this a super-impressive transformation, but I feel better.

The most obvious change for me is that the only papers on my desk now are things I use for tracking various projects, which is much easier to do when there are not all of the other papers.

Less obvious is that it is easier to reach the crayons now, and my sketchbook is easily accessible on the printer. I should sharpen some pencils too, colored and regular. It is good for me to draw sometimes, and if getting the drawing materials requires risking an avalanche, I am much less likely to do it. Actually, I should really draw a new vision board.

You may also notice there is still a stack of books on both the desk and dresser. In fact, there are also three stacks of books on the equivalent of my nightstand (old wicker chest next to my bed) and a collection of Spanish and music books on a side surface. That's just me! That's not changing!

The less obvious thing that feels better relates to some of the things that led to the mess. As I wrote yesterday, I had filed all of the important forms and documentation and so much paperwork, and then I kept having to bring it back out for other things. There is a hope - easily squashed but it hasn't happened yet - that maybe I won't have to pull anything back out. I think it should at least be true of the mortgage. 

I hope.

I still keep doing that. 

Perhaps most importantly, it would have been very easy to put it off another day if I had not told you that I would do it today.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

But sometimes...

Sometimes there are things that you need to do first before something else can happen. 

That isn't really a contradiction; I gave two examples yesterday, though the mattress example was kind of being used in the opposite way. I was going to function better after getting a new mattress, so making it a reward for good functioning was not helpful. Did I specifically need to be sleeping well for something happening at that time? Not that I remember. Bad sleep is not great for memory.

Sometimes sequence is important. That doesn't even sound like it means that "until you accomplish steps 3 thought 7 you must remain lonely and deprived", but it is possible to be really hard on yourself, and punitive. 

(Actually, I suspect there are two kinds of people: those of us who mostly blame ourselves and those who mostly don't. They each have their own pitfalls.)

Anyway, that's not really the point of today. On my ever growing list of tasks, there has been this one about clearing off my desk and dresser that I never seem to move past. I have filed various things, and sometimes I get close to getting somewhere, but I have never actually completed the task and then the mess grows back very quickly. 

I believe it is holding me back. I think the clutter and lack of organization make it easier to procrastinate doing other things, and harder to move forward.

Getting it done does seem to really be worth doing. It should also be something I am capable of doing, though without super solid evidence. Even with all of that filing I did, when I got the tax information, mortgage information, care giving information, and future products all sorted and contained, when I needed to fill out two new applications and fax documents, that undid a lot of it.

But it still seems important, so I am inviting you into my need. 

I am posting pictures of how it looks today, and then I will post pictures tomorrow.

Am I motivating by adding support or shame? It's questionable. I know the people who are likely to read this are likely to be supportive, but that may not matter as much as my perception. The more pertinent question is probably whether I am going to really regret this tomorrow.

I hope not, and that means hope remains.

Monday, September 21, 2020

The wisdom in kindness

This is a link to yesterday's post for the preparedness blog:

I had thought about doing that post on this blog, thinking that yesterday I would post about the white horse prophecy, which I am sure I will still get to. One concern I am running into a lot now is that given the topics that are important to me, it will be easy to come off as scolding, which I don't think is helpful. I'll work it out.

Today's topic, though, should be a comforting one. It is also something that I really thought I would write last week, and then didn't. I hope that things come out in an order that builds understanding and arrives when it is most useful.

The most important part of yesterday's post was that sunflowers that were toppled by a storm on the verge of blooming still bloomed. I didn't think that they could, and I had felt on one level that I should clear them out and put them in yard debris or something. Then they surprised me, not just making me glad that I'd followed my heart, but also providing me with some hope: no matter how down and out you seem, you are still not done. There can still be progress and beauty.

I think I have written about this before yesterday even, but maybe I was just tweeting with someone about it. It is a common thing to say that God will not give you more than you can handle. It's not even that I disbelieve that, but that the way we hear it and the way we picture it in our minds may not be the same. I might have gotten through two really difficult months with my mother without ever hurting her, yelling at her, or making her cry, but!

Okay, there is no might. I did that. That is worth something. However, during that time I was also always behind on housework, I did not find fun activities to do with her or make engaging conversation like I felt I should. I did not make much progress on my reading or music listening or anything I meant to do. My A1C score jumped two points. I felt it was really important to learn and finally get good at self-care while caring for my mother, because it was certainly important to do self-care, and I needed it. I was an utter failure at that.

I can't even tell you that it was a conscious choice to put her needs over my own; a lot of that was habit and apparent need and not having time to think things through and come up with other strategies. I would not have accepted a solution that involved hurting her, but that still does not mean I did as well as I could. At the same time, because the most important need was met, it was enough.

What may seem like a topic for another day is that there needs to be better care solutions and better help for caregivers. Where it actually is a topic for today is that often what we think is being asked of us individually is based on a flaw in society.

I say that because I was thinking of how often we put off believing that we deserve happiness until we fix this one thing (or twenty things) about us. Once I lose X pounds or I pay off this debt or I get a little bit of money in the bank, or if I just let a little time go by people will forget about this, then everything will be okay. I will be able to get what I want or be with whom I want, and then it will be fine.

My first thought with that is that you should have happiness now. You are worth something now. Then the second thought was that so much of what we think we need to do is based on very faulty ideas about what constitutes healthy and how the economy works and how healing works. Maybe sometimes the reward you have in mind is actually what would help you accomplish your goal. Wouldn't that be something?

(ETA: For example, one time my reward after taking care of various other financial obligations was going to be a new mattress, except I was waking up tired and in pain every day because of the old mattress. I could accomplish other things better after replacing the mattress.)

Here are my caveats:

1. Of course you should still be working to improve, but your worth as a human being is not dependent on your perfection. None of us would be worth anything if it were. (And really, look at a few rich people if you have any doubts about financial success not being tied to goodness.)

2. Needing to improve is especially true if what you are doing is hurting other people. Stopping that would be the first improvement to make. But also, that covers a lot of ground, and it could include things that are not really your responsibility. Be kind, and try; everything else starts there.

3. Yes, sometimes there is sequence that needs to happen first. When I quit K-Mart, they were pretty terrible and also I was only eighteen. I deliberately said something critical within earshot of a corporate guy on my way out. Then I did not hear back about the job I had applied for and was sure I would get. I got worried and called K-Mart about going back, which was a humiliating experience. Then I got the call from Burlington. I believed that it was necessary to learn a lesson there, and it worked out. Even then, I have changed my mind on the lesson, thinking at the time that it was to be smarter (looking before you leap), and thinking more recently that it was about not being petty; if I have an issue I should be direct about it.

As much as I believe learning lessons, and as much as I see that the extended time period of our mother's dementia has taught some of her children things and brought them closer together,  and also as much as I still think there are things that I should have been able to do better (independent of any evidence that I actually could have) I have been worth kindness and happiness all along.

There is still that section of my mind where I think that if I can just manage to do this one thing, then everything will work out. It is probably more helpful to know that "everything working out" is not likely, but some things will work out, even as I fall. Therefore, it is more to the point to decide if that "just one thing" actually has value, and then to try and be realistic (and kind) about whether I am capable of it.

I hope you find kindness within and without.

Friday, September 18, 2020

Celebrity Smackdown: Couric versus Washington

It's an overly dramatic post title, I know; I'm just trying to be a little playful to take the edge off of my anger at Katie Couric.

I mentioned yesterday that Denzel Washington waited to direct Fences until he was emotionally ready to do a good job with it. I found that while trying to find out how he chooses which films to direct.

I never actually found an explanation. I did see that for at least one of the films, he took the acting role to help it get made. I heard him talking about his coaching background and helping others. A lot of warmth and good intentions came through. It is not surprising that he funded Chadwick Boseman and other Howard students for a summer program at Oxford. That would be helping growth along, and it would be right up his alley.

In April Katie Couric was being interviewed on the Everything Iconic podcast and mentioned an awkward interview with Denzel Washington from 2004. I was interested in this because I had been looking at Washington as a director, but also because I had recently been doing some interviews and thinking about that process more, and also because a few months before that Adam Driver had walked out of an NPR interview because they played one of his clips and he had expressed discomfort with that prior to the interview.

With Driver, it is possible to simultaneously think that is a weird quirk and that he sounds like a bit of a prima donna, but still believe that NPR was wrong to disregard a previously set boundary.

For the small group of interviews that I did on this blog - which I loved - I was not receiving any pay nor paying the subject; anyone participating was only doing it for fun. It would have been gross to try and do some "gotcha" questions or to try and put down my subjects in any way. There was still a lot of thought that needed to go into thinking about good topics where they could give interesting answers. What is the clearest phrasing so they don't think you are asking about something completely different? Is there a word you can use that will jog more memories?

There are circumstances where being more aggressive makes sense. David Frost's interview of Richard Nixon comes to mind, but more recently Gayle King's interview with R. Kelly.  There is some skill needed for drawing them out without alienating them and losing the potential reveals. Doing that requires some understanding and finesse, as well as some courage and commitment. 

That is not what happened with Katie Couric.

The irony is that in that same 2020 interview she is talking about making interview subjects comfortable. Talking about Washington could have been a good example of how she screwed up and now knows better, except she still doesn't.

If I recall, Couric did not specify which section of the interview made her feel uncomfortable, but it seems pretty clear where it was. It looks like she was trying to get him to admit that actors don't know enough to talk about politics.

Washington deflected three times, that he is not a Hollywood person or one of "those people" or an "actor" as a category, but that he is a person. That should have been fine; you can talk to a person. Couric felt "gone after" and "shaken" and "jumped all over". So much so that she still needed to cry about it sixteen years later.

I saw the clip; she was not jumped all over. She was barely bumped. 

I see it playing out on two levels. On the first, she is trying to lead him to a certain response, where Washington would admit that he was not the best person for political commentary, but he was not going to address that without getting rid of the dehumanization. Frankly, I think that should have been a fairly easy redirect. What do you as a person believe about speaking out politically? Does your job give you a bigger platform and how do you try to use that? Do you feel qualified to speak out politically?

There's plenty to build on there: What's your political philosophy? What news sources do you like? What impact would you like to have on the world?

The other thing going on was racism, where it is always easy to see a Black man as threatening and to feel he owes you more deference.

In that way, Couric's being shaken is in line with Darren Wilson saying Michael Brown looked like a demon, or leash law violator Amy Cooper saying bird watcher Christian Cooper was threatening her life. Washington was unlikely to be killed for offending Couric, but it's dangerous, as well as a failure of Couric as an interviewer and as a person. 

If anything I guess the good part is that it seemed to fail, and most people could clearly see that Washington did not do anything offensive or aggressive, but it is weird to me that as I try and find the clips of the 2004 interview that were available just five months ago, I can't find them now. I see plenty of reaction videos to the podcast, but they only quote the podcast.

Maybe on one level Couric won after all.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Director Spotlight: DENZEL WASHINGTON

Had already seen: none
Watched for this: Fences (2016), The Great Debaters (2007), and Antwone Fisher (2002) 
Have not seen: an episode of Grey's Anatomy

Initially I wanted to watch Fences because I very much want to watch (or at least read, but watching would be better) August Wilson's entire Century Cycle. My originally deciding to watch Fences was not for the focus on Black directors, and I thought of Denzel Washington as an actor, not a director. I really liked the other two, but they hadn't been in the original plan.

I'm so glad I went back and watched the other two, though, because I did like them so much.

Because of the route I followed, I can't really speak to the place of Fences in the Century Cycle or compared to other works by August Wilson. I am also not sure I can say a lot about Washington as a director. He does all right. 

That sounds like faint praise, but it means a lot to not have anything grating, like an uneven performance or weird jumps. He was telling straightforward, human stories, too, where a lot of flashy transitions or camera tricks would have not seemed right. What he did was enough.

That is probably especially important for Fences. Sometimes plays adapted to screen can either do too much to break out of the restrictions of the stage, thus losing the focus of the play, or they do too little and feel kind of static. This was well-balanced.

I want to spend more time on Fences today, with more on Washington tomorrow.

There are some long monologues where you remember that this was for the stage; that is a theater thing. Sometimes you can cut a lot of text, like Kenneth Branagh did with Much Ado About Nothing, but I think that makes more sense with a comedy (especially a Shakespearean one) than a drama. Troy's tendency to tell long stories is integral to his character.

There is a part where Troy's wife Rose is talking to their son Cory, who is understandably frustrated with his father. Among other things, she says about meeting Troy," I thought 'Here is a man I can lay down with and make a baby.'" The play was written in 1983, before Denzel Washington was well-known, and I don't know if August Wilson had anyone specific in mind, but that made me laugh and seemed like perfect casting.

Otherwise, most of the humor came from Troy's stories, and you can't necessarily believe them, but you can believe that some of that long-winded talking is a way to avoid saying something real.

Troy Maxson is a frustrating character. His stories can be fun, and grandiose, and he is a very capable man. Being a man, though - with his version of masculinity and what that requires - takes a terrible toll on him and on the people he loves most.

At least, you assume he loves them, though he doesn't go so soft as to admit it. He spends a long time telling his younger son that he doesn't have to like him, indicating that the care he gives his son is just a matter of duty. Without specifying any negative feelings, it's still pretty efficient at killing warmth.

It is also pretty clear that Troy is a better father than his own father was, and that's something. There are times when he demonstrates care, especially for his brother Gabriel. But why does he have to be so hard so much of the time? If he knows how it feels to have a talent and miss his chance with it, why can't he go hear Lyons play? Why can't he give a little so that Cory can play football? Why does he have to carry on with another woman instead of being open with his wife? (Because, seriously, his reasons for fooling around are stupidly male.)

I suppose there are some feelings about my own father that get tied up with it, though it might resonate more with sons of controlling, emotionally withholding fathers. It would take so little to give.

He hurts all of them, but he hurts himself too. He successfully gets a promotion that isolates him, and not being able to read or admit it leads to a betrayal of his brother. It hurts, all through the movie.

But then, perhaps the most important part of the movie is the ending. It's not tacked on, because Gabriel has been foretelling it the entire time and we just didn't understand. After two failed attempts, Gabriel is able to blow a clear note on his horn to signal the gates of Heaven opening for Troy's admittance. The clouds part, and a beautiful shaft of light shines down. And then you know there is the possibility of grace, even for a hard man like Troy.

As much as we have been frustrated with him, we have cared for him too. Somehow we can believe it will all work out.

I spent some time trying to figure out how Washington chooses which projects to direct, and I could never find anything on that. I did find that he had gotten the offer to direct Fences earlier, but he put it on hold until he was emotionally ready. That shows a conscientious choice, and I think one that paid off.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

You can only be true to thine own self if you know your own self

In yesterday's post, one of the key things about seeing and realizing things about myself is because there are these wells of sadness and pain and false beliefs. Ignoring them isn't helpful for a happy and productive life.

That matters, but there is another facet to needing to know myself, and that is living with integrity, and without regrets.

I think it is sad that it is usually only antisocial criminals who tend to write manifestos, because I think there is a lot to be said on being clear about what you believe in and what kind of life that means you should live. 

It concerns me that so many people have such twisted beliefs politically. That's on the right and the left both, and I am sure I will write more about that later, but often it seems to have not really been thought through. Do you really believe that? Do you really think this is okay? That policy would kill me, I get that you are not thinking about me dead personally, but since that would be the result can you put a little bit of thought into it?

I was recently told I had no honor, which in context seemed to mean automatic deference to law enforcement, so, okay, fine. I don't, but because I don't value that particular thing, it works out. I nonetheless need to live my life in accordance with what I do value.

Since I highlighted the various service activities for the Christmas in July songs, I have been thinking more about what I could do, and what is within my power. A very small one came up with

I know that the amount of good that daily clicking does must be small, but it also requires small effort so I do it. I had been bothered more and more, though, by my click for the Autism site, because one of the charities it gives to is Autism Speaks. A lot of people with autism hate them. It also seemed probable that at least sometimes donations might go to ABA therapy. Many autistic people find ABA therapy equivalent to conversion therapy for queer people. Some of my clicks might go to good things, but I started feeling more and more uncomfortable. 

Okay, I could stop clicking, and I did, but that didn't feel like enough either. I ended up submitting feedback. I got an answer that it would be forwarded, which didn't feel like a big triumph, but if other people give feedback, maybe it will matter. (It's still more than I have heard back from my church on the hedge fund issue, but at least I tried.)

That's the thing: there may be many things I care about that I can't help, but I at least should be doing what I can. I am still figuring that out. A lot of it has been simply trying to reach out to people, and remember them, even if that's just sending a card or tagging them in a song that reminds me of an experience we shared. (All of those things that I do that may seem silly, even if they are also sweet, I think about them an excruciating amount.)

There are two more things I need to say on this topic.

First of all, the blogging seems really important, therefore I am trying to do better with that. It will require more planning ahead, and I am not ready to start reviewing new bands again yet (though I think I do understand what I need to do first). I think I will put the rest of my director spotlights in the Thursday and Friday slots, at least for now. I would love to start interviewing people again, but we are not there yet. Regardless, if I have a real talent, it is probably taking in a lot of different information from a variety of sources and synthesizing something cohesive from that. So, that's probably what I should do, even if there is no guarantee of impact. That feels right to me. Sometimes, in addition to explaining past and present, maybe I can also give a vision for the future.

The other thing is that in terms of that value and belief that I need to be acting on... this is what I can say about myself: I will not say that I completely comprehend the worth of souls, but I at least have a sense of it. That often comes out with my frustration with bigotry, but it is just as often a matter of things like people having food and clothing and shelter, and everything else on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. 

That's where I am coming from, and I have no doubts about the rightness of it. Questions about how to get from here to there? Sure. Frustrations with individual humans? All the freaking time! But my North star is that people matter, and that they can be capable of great good, and that is where I am coming from.

And I will fight you.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Notice that

There is a thing with both EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and meditation where thoughts will come up that you are not going to pursue right then. Someone guiding you will often say something like "Just notice that".

The thing is, even if you are not pursuing those thoughts right then, that doesn't mean that they are not important, or that some further thought later wouldn't be important. It is even very probable that some of those fragments that are coming up are going to be important for later integration and wholeness, but you don't have to figure out everything right then.

(Which is good, because you probably can't.)

Personally, a lot of my personal healing has been delayed by avoiding noticing things and thinking about things, so if there is anything you have been putting off, I cannot judge you. I will share my experience.

Separately, there is an area for which I can't tell if I have backslid in the past four years or not. At one point I had trained myself to just thank people for compliments automatically, because if you try to deny the compliment then they push back harder, and thanking gives them closure and gets you out of there. It's the same thing with saying "You're welcome" instead of "It was nothing".

I have been trying to ignore compliments lately, for sure. I'm just not sure whether giving insincere thanks to end the compliment was really growth. There have been three big ones recently, but the one I will focus on is a friend who praised my courage for trying out and participating in a school musical in fifth grade. It happened twice, which I think is why it stuck.

Both times I tried shrugging it off in that it wasn't even brave for me because that didn't scare me. When it stuck the second time (and kept poking at me) I realized that I don't have stage fright. I get into this anticipatory state when I am going to talk or teach or do standup or karaoke (Should I go to the bathroom? Water? Cough drop?), but there really isn't fear.

Then I thought, "What a strange thing not to notice."

How did I not know something so basic about myself? But of course, I do know how I missed it. It was never allowed to know anything good about yourself, because then you're conceited and who do you think you are? You've got to be modest, except now we've watered that down to how much of her body a girl keeps covered. Knowing the bad stuff is fine, though. That's allowed. It just creates a really distorted picture.

Also, realistically, I have gotten a lot better already. There are still just depths that haven't been explored yet (or just explored fully), and there are things to mine there. There was a lot more in my abandoning drama in ninth grade than I knew, and I made a great breakthrough on connecting my major depressive episodes that I need to explore more. It's a lifelong process that is very hindered by only acknowledging what's wrong with you.

However, this is what I will give you.

The second time Jennie mentioned my bravery, it was because I was doing #RememberSeptember, and it stemmed from one of the memories. The idea to do those memories had been poking at me since at least July. One of the other compliments I tried shrugging off happened because there was someone whom I knew I needed to talk to.

I may be more in the habit of listening to my intuition and getting those ideas, but that is through practice. I don't think I am  unique in that being available.

There are guideposts along the path.

Notice them.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Identity crisis

I am job hunting now, which is not great on the confidence anyway.

It is a little worse now because I have been out of the regular work force for so long, and what I have been doing instead has had so many emotional layers and so much of a downward trajectory that there is no way it wasn't going to be rough. Am I still even good at anything? Would I still want this type of work if I could get it? I could be doing much worse, but then something really threw me.

I saw diabetes on the list of disabilities.

If you haven't been job hunting for a while, the first thing you should know is to plan on over an hour for every unique site. They will upload your resume and use it to automatically fill out their forms, but that data pull never works quite right. You get to then go through and correct it. I cannot see any way in which this is efficient, but no one has asked me. (Therefore, if there are multiple jobs that you can apply for through a single site, that is awesome.)

After you get done with your education, experience, and certifications, there are some standard questions that have to do with anti-discrimination laws and tax credits and things like that. They ask about your race, veteran status, and if you have a disability. You can choose not to answer, but I have always gone through and answered without thinking about it much. I am white, and not a veteran, and I always put that I didn't have a disability until I noticed diabetes on the list.

There is a level at which I have known. In Twitter discussions about disabilities, I have known that I have a chronic condition, and that is a factor for some of the other participants. I didn't really feel like I grasped a lot of what they were saying until I was a caregiver, because of the exhaustion that comes with that. My diabetes has not been a big deal.

Technically it could. I do need to be able to address it if my blood sugar drops. In a desk job with regular breaks, that has never been a problem. If I were going for an assembly line job, or a fab tech, it might.

I also remember when I had that one really bad leg infection, which was associated with the diabetes. For a while after I needed to elevate my leg. I just balanced it on boxes and waste baskets, which did not work great. I probably could have asked for something better, but it never occurred to me to do so.

Also, as things were sliding down during that last two months of care-giving, I was not taking good care of myself and my blood sugar was not doing well. I guess that is a job and disability interaction.

Perhaps it has more of an impact than I thought.

I find that in declaring my disability, I do not trust employers not to discriminate. With the "yes" check, they wouldn't even know what they were discriminating against. Theoretically the whole point of them asking is to prevent discrimination, but it seems like for that the question should come after hiring. "Do you have any disabilities we need to accommodate?" Wouldn't that be nice?

Previously, when I would not declare myself as disabled on Twitter, it was more from a sense that it wouldn't be fair; the conditions that the others had affected their lives so much more, it felt like it would be gross to say "Oh, me too; I totally get it." Now, finding out that my condition is a matter of federal law, I don't even know how to process that. I still don't have it as bad as many other people that I look to and admire, and I still do not want to have to worry about jobs holding it against me.

Clearly, I am impossible to satisfy.

The first application where I noticed it, I marked "yes". It didn't feel right, but having seen that it would be a lie, I couldn't do my automatic "no" anymore. Today I chose a "prefer not to answer". That also doesn't feel great. What am I hiding? Why am I hiding it? What will they think of me? Will they hold it against me?

(The last time I was doing hiring, I just looked at resumes to decide if I wanted an interview, and then interviewed. It worked great.)

In reality, I don't know that it will change that much. There are bigger problems, for sure.

I have been thinking about identity a lot, and self-knowledge and integrity, so this seemed to fit in. It did shake me, even if it shouldn't have.

And it is still an issue where many others deal with it more, and could tell you more about it.

I already know that when there are accommodations we can make to allow more people to participate, we should do that.