Archives for posts with tag: collateral damage

I’m sipping my second coffee on a proper day off. I highly recommend taking the occasional actual day off from work (and yes, even from non-work routines). Real down time. Don’t check that email. Don’t answer those calls. Don’t participate in “just one meeting”. Be available for you, once in a while.

…There are very few things that feel reliably more luxurious, satisfying, and nurturing than having my own undivided attention for a few hours, a day, or a weekend… Just saying. Totally worth doing, even during a pandemic. Even if social distancing. Even staying right here at home. I like the woman in the mirror, rather a lot these days, and I enjoy her company greatly. (If you don’t feel well-disposed toward that human being you face in your mirror each day, well… it’s a great place to begin again, on better terms!)

It is a lovely autumn morning, well-suited to all sorts of things I might like to do with my time.

Autumn is already more than just hints of color, or occasional leaves found on the deck.

It is a chilly morning. Yesterday, there was even ice on the windshield of my car, well past sunrise. I enjoyed my morning coffee with my Traveling Partner. I took time to soak in the hot tub, watching the morning sunshine warm the dewy rooftops, steamy vapor rising into the air. I listened to the birds in the neighbor’s pear tree arguing over the not-yet-ripe pears, hoping they’d leave a few unmarred by pecking, but not particularly concerned about it. My mind wandered briefly to chores and housekeeping, and weekend meals, and I made some “mental notes” (promptly forgotten) about things I could add to my list. No pressure.

Today is definitely about “no pressure”, and that feels good.

The holiday season crossed my mind. Gifts to think about. Meals to consider. Guests to invite. No guests; there’s a pandemic going on. No, seriously – and it is serious – we’re okay here at home, and fortunate to enjoy each other in close quarters over a long period of time. (I sometimes suspect our military experience gives us an advantage; we “work as a unit”, even when we are aggravated with each other.) I know there are people who are frustrated with the constraints placed upon them by pandemic life. I get it. I just think it’s worth making the effort to be generally safe, generally respectful of the wellness of others, and generally fully compliant with the requirement to practice social distancing, to wear a mask, to avoid crowds. Yes, even close family crowds at important family events; those people will go home (and so will you), having shared whatever they’ve been exposed to, and to share what they were exposed to at the event. It’s not an acceptable risk, from my perspective. We see it play out in the news every week; a big gathering, a spike in new cases of COVID-19. It honestly just seems like an easy choice to me… so, since March, my partner and I stay home, except for a handful of difficult to avoid errands. It complicated house hunting. It complicated the closing. It complicated the move.

…Both of us remain well. Worth the complications.

We relaxed enough to allow my partner’s son (my step-son) to visit after we finished moving in. I regretted that more than a little bit, as much I enjoyed seeing him, particularly after he admitted to attending gatherings of friends, more recently than two weeks prior to traveling to see us… and… he did have to travel. He was here less than two weeks. Yes, it caused me stress to consider that with greater care – too late to change the planning. I am unlikely to make another exception as we head into flu season. I’d rather not even get the flu, or a head cold, and social distancing and mask wearing has definitely reduced my exposure to those risks! Win.

…But… Thanksgiving…!?! Giftmas??

Yeah. Thanksgiving. Giftmas, too. Fuck your Thanksgiving feast and holiday parties if they send half your family home to far away places with new exposure to COVID-19, and with increased potential of losing loved ones to it. I mean, seriously? Weddings too. Baby showers. Parties of all kinds. Music festivals. Worship. Celebrations. All of it. Fuck every minute of every “important life event” any one of us chooses to attend that results in the loss of someone else’s life. What right do we have, as individuals, to be callous with someone else’s risk of death?

So. Holidays will be simple this year, here at home. Cards. Letters. Calls. Merriment. A comfy holiday at home – intimate, joyful, and low-stress. Healthy, too, maybe…? (I am one of those folks who nearly always has a head cold, or is “just getting over” – or just catching – the flu, right around Thanksgiving or Giftmas – maybe not this year?)

I sip my coffee and smile. We’ve already figured out where the Giftmas tree will go… and there’s so much room for it… 🙂 Right now, that’s enough. I look at the time. The lovely day stretches out ahead of me. It looks like a good one to take a walk on an untraveled trail… or simply to begin again. 🙂

It’s hard to dodge all the news about the ‘upcoming’ US presidential election – next year. I’m fairly bored with the bits that are about the election itself, and like many citizens I already have a good idea who I will vote for when the time comes. All the fuss and bother between now and then is just media foolishness, marketing to undecided voters, and a ludicrous waste of time and money for everyone else. Well – my opinion. I’m sure people who make their living marketing human beings for sale to voters probably feel quite differently about these sorts of things.

The barrage of human interest details, media-marketing of character qualities, and increase in spin (both positive and negative) spilling all over every pundit, issue, or moment that might brush past an ‘issue’ relevant to the upcoming election also tends to highlight some peculiarities of human beings that I do find worthy of study. I study the use of bias to drive cultural opinion. I study the use of social media to manipulate public opinion by charismatic grass-roots personalities, YouTube celebrities, and professional pundits. I study the deliberate use of inflammatory language to shift public opinion such that really horrible treatment of other human beings seems somehow… acceptable. I study the ferocity with which human beings strive to ‘be right’ – or to prove to someone else that they are, over the objections of other thinking and other experiences.

I most particularly study my own reaction when I read something, or interact with someone, and find one human being or another in some way ‘lacking’ humanity – a ‘bad person’. I’m very much aware that some people whose speech or actions I find entirely reprehensible quite likely seem fully justified and justifiable to the person using the words, or taking the action. Cops shooting people, for example – as a human being, I often find the circumstances (as presented by the media, that I’m able to be aware of) objectionable – and therefore, the law enforcement person who committed the act seems ‘in the wrong’ to me, and potentially ‘a bad person’ if they take their action to the ‘court of public opinion’ and try to excuse or justify it. From my outside perspective, I see the dead person as having every bit as much to live for, and every bit as much significance, as that law enforcement person. I don’t understand how people take a life without being affected by that action, myself; it is inconsistent with my experience of the value of human life. That’s an intense example, but there are equally troubling examples that don’t involve life or death in such an immediate way – politicians who push to cut government programs that benefit the working poor don’t focus on the impact those changes would have on people who rely on that help, they focus on the intended benefit to the bottom line. Employers who don’t pay a living wage don’t put their emphasis on any awareness that their employees are having to rely on government programs to make ends  meet, they focus on gross margin, and meeting financial goals. Most people, most of the time, think they are ‘the good guys’. So very very often we are not the good guys at all. It’s worth thinking about.

What is truly the outcome of my words, my choices, my actions – even my opinions and values? Who is being hurt by what I say, and what I do? I’ve given up on making an effort to ‘be right’ – even at work, which has real moments of hilarity; people definitely tend to expect a person to stand firm on some opinion or policy moment-to-moment, and being more invested in a greater understanding, and questions over answers, is unexpected. (I make a distinction between being accurate and ‘being right’; the former is about data, the latter about opinion.) On those rare occasions when I get pulled into a discussion where I feel I may ‘be right’ and inclined to defend that position, I notice pretty quickly; I question why I think I am right, and why I feel moved to defend my opinion – would the stronger position be to ask questions (and listen to the answers), and find a shared answer, an inarguable mutually respected truth, or a new solution? Listening has more value than ‘knowing’. All that worthless certainty generally just adds up to waiting for a turn to talk and not listening (or learning) much at all.

Just for fun, when you are reading articles in your feed, or listening to politicians talk, ask yourself ‘who is this position hurting?’ Just that. Go with the assumption that the more certain someone is, or the more they fight to be recognized as ‘being right’, the more likely their position does have unacknowledged consequences – collateral damage at a minimum – and ask the hard question; who is this hurting? Make a point of acknowledging for yourself the fundamental legitimate humanity of each human being participating in our culture (yes, all of them, even ____ ). Isn’t it easier to talk about cutting social security benefits if we don’t also have to think about elders who count on social security to live on in their final years, and what the practical realities of that scenario really are? Isn’t it easier to talk about ‘constitutionally protected gun ownership’ if we don’t also focus on innocent lives lost to gun violence, to accidents, to misuse? The media knows this is difficult stuff and applies a generous helping of spin – depending on their preferred audience – to ensure our attention is ‘well-placed’ to keep us glued to their channel for their advertisers – it sure isn’t about ‘truth’, or informing us.

Compassion was much harder to develop or to experience when I was firmly focused on being right. Turned out ‘being right’ has a lot less value for me, personally, than compassion has.  I’m sometimes fairly dismayed at how willing human beings are to hurt each other in the name of being right. It’s not a pleasant quality. Being willing to listen more, and being committed to letting go of ‘being right’, it is also hard to allow myself to look at another human being (however ludicrous or evil their opinions seems to me to be) and judge them as ‘a bad person’…but it is appalling to me how many people build their fame (or notoriety) on treating others poorly… and how often we allow, or encourage, it. Maybe it is time to stop rewarding such people with our attention – or our votes? Well… it is for me.

Walking my own path.

Walking my own path.

Thoughts over coffee on a chilly autumn morning. It’s a good day for taking time to listen. It’s a good day to include my own in the voices I listen to myself. It’s a good day to recognize the value of my attention and to be quite selective about what media is allowed past my eye holes into my thoughts; the profit margin of any one business, pundit, or news outlet is no concern of mine (and I am aware that it is their sole concern as a business). It’s a good day to change what I hear about the world by setting boundaries, and asking questions: “just the facts, please”, “who profits from this position/proposal?”, and “who will this hurt – and how badly?”