Monday, June 30, 2008

Balance Held

This past week, my daughter was running an errand for me. It had begun to rain and the streets were most likely slick with motor oil that was rising from the pavement and had not been yet washed away. She needed to make a left-hand turn through the intersection. She thought she had clear access to make her turn and began her way across the oncoming lanes. The next thing she remembers is someone knocking on her window, asking if she was all right, her car pointing in an entirely different direction than the one in which she had been headed.

From witnesses, we understand that an oncoming car hit her directly in the middle of the passenger side of her car. She spun several times before stopping against a small embankment on the side of the road. The passenger side of my daughter’s car had folded in on itself. The metal wrapped around both the front and back tires. My daughter hit her head against the door frame, causing her to lose consciousness. Her left knee was jammed in between the steering wheel and the dashboard, causing a good deal of soft tissue damage, but thankfully no broken bones. She was very fortunate to have not been injured worse.

The gentleman who knocked on her window to see if she was all right stopped traffic for her so that she could pull her car out of the middle of the road. [This gentleman was gone by the time I got there and I want him to know how much I appreciate his help to my daughter. I am very grateful that you were there for her.]

She received a ticket for failure to yield the right of way. I expected that and don’t argue with it in the least. Considering the damage done to my daughter’s car and where she wound up after her spin, I did expect that the woman who hit her would have received a ticket for driving too fast for conditions. She was an elderly lady and I was greatly concerned as to her own physical condition. I know that she was shook up and probably, like my daughter, she is having a hard time convincing herself to drive again. Her husband came to the scene to drive her home, leaving his truck in a nearby parking lot. I hope that someone was kind enough to take him back to pick it up later. I should have offered.

These were dark moments for both my daughter and the woman in the other car. I worry about them both – physically and emotionally – as they recover. I am thankful that neither of them were seriously injured. I am grateful that no one else was caught in the accident and suffered for their lack of involvement. I am satisfied with whatever comes of the status of my daughter’s car, whether it is repairable or totaled. It has been a good car and if it can be fixed, I know that it will continue to serve her well. If it must be totaled, we will look for something that doesn’t sit so close to the ground and has a little more presence on the road. My daughter is not contesting her ticket and has taken the responsibility of paying it in advance. She is prepared for the insurance deductible to fix her car and is preparing for increased insurance rates. Not once has she whined, “Why did this happen to me?” or exclaimed, “It’s not fair! What am I supposed to do now?” She understands that with privilege comes responsibility, and is willing to take on both, hand in hand.

In this comes the balance of the situation. I wish it had not happened, but if it had to happen, then at least some good can come from it. A lesson learned without great loss. An understanding gleaned without great cost. In this situation, the balance was held. Would not it be great if it could be held in all?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Staring Into a Dark Pit

Most of my life I listened to my father complain about the pains in his chest. My father loved attention and I grew up believing that his complaints were to gain attention for himself. In most instances, I would ignore him. Occasionally we would ask if he wanted to go to the hospital or if we should call an ambulance. He would say that he didn’t want to go and I would view this as proof that this was just an attention-getting ploy.

A few years ago, my father died of a heart attack. He was living alone in a mobile home and he did not show up for work one morning. His co-workers were concerned when he did not answer his phone and went to his house. My father was dead on the floor of his living room. The coroner said that it was a quick death from a massive heart attack. After an autopsy, the coroner told us that my father had several heart attacks over the years - some very small ones - but this was definitely not his first.

My father never received medical attention for those other heart attacks and now I have to believe that he was not simply seeking attention all the times he complained about the pains in his chest. My father had a high tolerance for pain; as do I. He sat out the small ones until the big one came along that took his life.

Lately I have been experiencing a great amount of stress. Yes, I have stress on my job – like most people. My children create stress – as felt by most parents. My extended family can be a stress factor in spades! But the problem that causes me stress with which I cannot successfully deal is my “romantic” relationship. I place the word romantic in quotations because it has ceased to be just that. The stress generated from this relationship has caused me pain in my chest, migraine headaches, tightness in the chest, dizziness, and other physical symptoms that concern me. I fear that I am playing the same role that was played out by my father years ago.

This relationship, which began as a mutual admiration society, has developed a constant gaping wound that sucks me dry – financially, physically and emotionally. Talk about a dark, dark pit! Financially, I am the sole source of income for all household bills. The income of my significant other pays for one legal responsibility and their gas, cigarettes and booze. Physically, I hold down a full-time job, go to school part-time, raise two children, and maintain a household. They work a full-time (almost full-time) job and …do nothing else. In their opinion, when the work day is through, it is time to come home, take a shower and go to bed. Dinner should be served in bed. Hmmmm…. Emotionally, I am often told that I don’t do enough to keep them happy. I don’t give them enough time; I don’t do enough around the house; I don’t work hard enough on my job; and why can’t I boost our income?!? Jealousy is a frequent emotion – jealous of the time I spend on homework, the time I spend with my children, the time I give to my mother, any time, quite frankly, that is not devoted completely to them. On top of everything else, they believe it is their right to tell me what I can and cannot do! That is just the final straw. I full well know that without me, they would fall flat on their face. And this is the only thing that keeps me from saying – Adios! I am outta here!

And so I battle the dark and hope that I will not wind up like my father before I screw up the courage to let another fall into the pit in order to keep my own self from destruction. Sometimes sacrifices must be made. It is time for self-preservation to kick in.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Dark Side of Anger

Being that I believe a balance is required between dark and light in life, I am a believer also that each person possesses dark and light within their personality/character and is meant to use both as needed in their life. This is sometimes in direct conflict with how we are taught to behave.

I was raised in the South and taught Southern hospitality and manners. Southern women, characteristically speaking, are not supposed to get angry. We are supposed to remain calm, even-tempered and mild mannered regardless of situation. We are supposed to be the example of how to behave with finesse and dignity. As a result, I spent many years of my life believing that I was a failure as a Southern woman because I felt genuine anger and I expressed it inappropriately because I was not taught proper techniques for dealing with anger. For the most part, when angry, I would cry, leaving others to believe I was hurt instead of angered.

Slowly I came to the realization that not only was anger appropriate in various situations, but healthy! Anger is a beneficial emotion. I do not believe in being over-dramatic and do not encourage fits of fury; however, anger allows us to set boundaries and limits when dealing with others. This is beneficial because without boundaries, we might allow others to run over us with their requests and demands. Anger also allows us an outlet to deal with our feelings regarding injustices. It can give us the courage to speak out against wrong-doing. It can promote our need to raise our voices to complain to those in power. In short, anger is often the catalyst of much-needed change.

In this mode, anger - while dark – is not a “bad” emotion.

Rage, however, can be. While it is not necessary to deny anger, it is necessary to have a sense of control over it. Road rage, sports violence, spousal/child abuse often originate from anger that has escalated out of control. This is the darkness that we should avoid. This is the darkness that can stain our souls.

I am content that I have learned that suppressing my anger is not necessary and that expressing my anger does not make me a failure as a Southern woman. I am grateful that there are programs that exist to aid those who have a problem controlling their anger. I hope that more people will come to the realization that they must control their anger rather than allowing their anger to control them.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Generational Curses

I used to scoff at the talk of childhood pastors when they got on the subject of generational curses. All of that "sins of the father" becoming the "sins of the son" stuff made no sense to me. Oh, the blissful ignorance of youth.

I must admit that my realization of generational curses had nothing to do with the inside of a church or a preacher's well-worded sermon. Instead it came from real-life experiences. Let's start with alcoholism. Alcoholism runs in my family - my father was an alcoholic, his brother was an alcoholic, one of his sisters was an alcoholic. I am sure that it ran back farther than that, but I did not know them well. I married an alcoholic - it ran in his family, too. A father, an uncle, a cousin, a nephew... Then I found studies showing that there is a genetic marker for alcoholism. The sins of the father being passed to the son. And so I began to teach my own daughters about the genetic factors of alcoholism and how to avoid "awaking" that particular gene in their make-up. It was an effort at breaking the cycle. Whether or not it works is entirely up to them.

Addictions are not the only generation curses. Abuse falls into this category. Those who are abused are more likely to abuse others. It is the patterened behavior that we learn and repeat. Those who are raised by enablers often become enablers. Those who fight weight issues often come from families who fight weight issues. It is a vicious, frantic part of life.

It is only through recognizing that we are falling under a generational curse that we can break its hold. The "curse" may begin somewhere other than ourselves, but we hold the key to breaking the cycle. We can acknowledge our risk of dependency and learn to avoid triggers and usage in order to keep that particular curse out of our lives. We can acknowledge received abuse and obtain counseling to keep ourselves from passing on this curse.

We must learn to live - and learn - from the darkness that we cannot escape. That is the permanance of a generational curse. It will always be there. But that does not mean that we have to fall for its effects or pass it on to others. We can learn to conquer the darkness and remove its fear. Dare to explore your own generational curses, take hold of them, and break the cycle!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Dark Side of "Love"

I am sure that many of you have heard the story of the woman who said, “I love it when my husband beats me.” To the shocked faces of her friends she states: “It feels so good when he stops.” Sadly, there are women who believe this adage. A “beating” does not have to come in physical form. Women take beatings every day and no one lays a hand on them. Instead, they view themselves as so insignificant that every demeaning word from the mouths of others inflicts raw, gaping wounds. “You’re a failure.” “You are worthless.” “You don’t understand anything!”

Maybe she works a full-time job, raises the children, takes care of the house, pays the bills and still is told that she “isn’t there for her family” or that she “doesn’t do enough.” A woman who has not experienced previous trauma would tell the person berating her where they could go jump! But a woman who is already experiencing a lack of self-confidence – from whatever source – will take those words to heart and derive her worth – or lack of it – from this twisted view.

Using “love” – withholding it or granting its favor – is despicable. I am not referring to sex; I am talking about the emotion of love. Some people treat others as if their love for them is dependent upon how well that individual pleases them. If they do not agree, make a choice that is not approved, or pursue a direction that is not understood, love is retracted. Once they come “into line” again, love is granted. This is NOT love. This is manipulation.

If a woman desires love, the first thing she must do is learn how to love herself. Loving yourself means removing from your life those people and things who attempt to hold you down and keep you feeling insignificant. Loving yourself means demanding and expecting respect. Loving yourself means no settling for the desires of others when your own desires call to your heart.

Loving yourself – especially for a woman who has already experienced a “beating” – is an act of courage, fortitude, and determination. The rewards are well-worth the effort: respect for self and from others, a chance at happiness, and the knowledge and experience of real love.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Healthy Competition in the Free Marketplace

A few miles from my home is an interstate junction where sits a cluster of three gas stations, a Raceway, a City Gas, and a BP. They periodically engage in price wars, underbidding each other by pennies per gallon of gas. This is a benefit to the customers and I frequent whichever station originates the price war. The lowest their prices have been lately is $3.73 per gallon.

A couple of days ago, a new Wal-Mart gas station opened at the same intersection. While I am sure it is an "introductory" rate, their gas, per gallon is $3.66. Of course, the lines at their pumps were long and the other three were seeing fewer cars at their own pumps. So there prices began to slowly drop. Penny by penny. Until this morning when I drove through to find that Raceway is $3.66, BP is $3.68 and City Gas is $3.66 (and I am betting that City Gas will be $3.65 by the time I drive through on my way home).

This type of pricing war proves to me that gas stations do not HAVE to sell their gasoline at as high a price as they do. I am certain that at $3.66 (a full $.07 lower than this time last week) they are still making profit. However, if it were not for the new station, they would be making MORE profit and we would all believe nothing was really wrong.

To further throw a monkeywrench in the works, the gas station (Shell) just over the bridge past this little cluster sells its gasoline for $3.86 per gallon - a full $.20 cents more! Somehow I don't think we can blame all of the increase in gas prices on the war in Iraq or OPEC prices. There are some red-blooded Americans out there who are making healthy profit in the free marketplace.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Dark Side of Politics

(As soon as I wrote the title of this piece, I realized that I was being oxymoronical.)

In an effort to find out what other choices the American people have in the upcoming election besides McCain, Clinton and Obama, I went searching for those little known or remembered parties who boast candidates in the presidential election. I found or Ron Gunzburger's Politics1.

I knew that we had the Green Party and the Independent Party (yes, Ralph Nader is running - again), but did you know that the Constitutional Party, Liberterian Party, Party of Socialism & Liberation, Prohibition Party, Socialist Party USA, and the Socialist Workers Party also have candidates on the ballot in the 2008 presidential election?

There are also 44 official write-in candidates, who while not listed on any states ballot at this time, are wanting your vote! They represent, for the most part, independent factions; however, there are a few that represent such groups as The National Socialist Order of America, the Marijuana Party, the United Facist Union, and the Light Party.

We are all free to express our opinons in the United States without fear of retribution. That is what we call "freedom of speech." And, like some of these individuals, we are all free to make fools of ourselves if we so desire. Out of curiousity, I did a little research into some of these little known groups and some of them are white supremicists in disguise, religious fanatics, and some are simply not "of this world." Yet they all are free to express their beliefs and take it so far as to be a part of the presidential election process.

Do they have a chance in hell of becoming President? Not likely. We all know that we are going to have either a Republican or a Democrat in office. So let me put a bug in the ear of some of these little knowns...if you want a foothold in our political system, you might want to start at the bottom of the ladder instead of jumping straight for the top.

Hey, but at least we know we have choices...

Monday, June 02, 2008

A Mishap on the Lighter Side

On Friday of last week, I had a "pollyana" moment that took my by surprise. I decided that the "dislike" I was experiencing from fellow life travelers was because I was unhappy with myself and that this made them uncomfortable. My "pollyanna" solution was that I was responsible for my own happiness and needed to do something about it pronto! Well, I can only take so much of the "light side" and I become nauseus with this line of thinking.

I do believe that we are responsible for our own happiness. However, what creates happiness for one does not necessarily create it for another. My happiness may be a bit "darker" than that of yours...and this is okay. My happiness does not have to emulate yours, nor vice versa.

As a society, we need to learn to accept each other for who we are rather than expecting those around us to fit into a preconceived mold of who we think they should be. I may not be all sunshine and light, but I am a good friend, an excellent mother, and a hard worker. And quite frankly, Pollyanna makes my head hurt.