Archive for the ‘issues’ Category

I had to do something hard this week. I had to let go of a friend—temporarily at least and possibly longer. The friendship had become strained and unhealthy over time. I’ve had to do this before, but it’s usually been with someone who is obviously destructive to my life. But, this time, it wasn’t a bad person and it took me by surprise…even though it was my choice; however, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a completely appropriate and needed decision. I put a lot of thought and care into the situation so that when I came to the conclusion of saying “goodbye for now”, I knew it was the right thing even though I still love that person. I was feeling too negative about the situation and certain things that had transpired.

If a friend is bringing out negative feelings in you, it may be a good sign that the friendship is what many call toxic. It’s a strong word, but it’s fitting in that anything that breeds negative feelings is emotionally poisonous. A friendship can involve two good people and still be toxic. It can be toxic for one and not the other. But, if there are negative thoughts, words, and actions being tossed around, something isn’t right. But still, there seems to be this expectation that friendships should always weather these issues. That’s just not realistic.

Dr. Irene Levine is the author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend. In an online Pscyhology Today blog, Dr. Levine talks about how the media romanticizes female relationships in novels, movies, etc. She claims that people “tend to shy away from talking about girlfriend breakups…because women are often judged by their ability to make and keep friends.” I could not agree more and it’s often unfortunate and unfair. She says that “men attribute (female) breakups to stereotypical female cattiness.” But what about the women who walk away from friendships to get away from this? I walk away because I don’t want to engage in so-called typical female cattiness. I want to break that stereotype.

Dr. Levine goes on to talk about the expectation that close friendships are meant to last forever but that most of them fall apart at some point. I’d like to think that as we get older this happens less. For me, at this point in my life, I’m looking to really establish a healthy circle of friends that I can hang onto for life. I want the kind of relationships that provide nurturing and bonding complimented by space—the kind that can bend with changes so they can last. Creating this healthy circle of friends may mean letting go of some who don’t contribute to that goal. Levine does say that female relationships—apart from couple friendships—are really important. I certainly agree with that. But, they should be based on honesty and trust rather than habit.

People do outgrow friendships and that is okay. People change, have different experiences, and develop new needs. Stuff happens: marriage, children, moving. These things change us. But, we too often treat friendships as if they should stay the same and last forever and it’s abnormal if they don’t. It’s an ideal and it does happen, but it’s perfectly natural to step back, assess a relationship, and determine that it may be unhealthy. We expect people to choose healthy romantic partners and to leave them when they aren’t. Why don’t we have that same expectation for friendships?

Because there’s this unrealistic idea that we must be loyal and to be otherwise means betrayal, but loyalty isn’t sticking around in a friendship that’s painful. True friendship isn’t about acting or looking the part. True friendship is flexible, spacious, and free.

An area where I need space is phone communication. Most of my friends know I’m a terrible phone person. Most everyone in my family is this way. We’ll talk on the phone, but we aren’t the type to pick up and call people to chat for long lengths of time. We aren’t the type to wait by the phone. At least, I haven’t been that way since my single life of marginally messy love liaisons. This doesn’t mean I won’t talk on the phone and don’t even enjoy it sometimes. I’m just a little allergic to it, and, in a world obsessed with phones, I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. But, I have tried to be more available when friends do call and I’ve made a concentrated effort to call my friends more.

Trying to be a better phone-caller is where I give. And, in return I expect my friends to give back by understanding that I’m just not a phone person. Yes, my friends will probably always call me more than I call them, but I try to make up for that in other ways. I email. I am a writer, so that is where I’m most comfortable. Oddly enough, I enjoy Skype. I like it more than the phone by far. I think it’s because I can see the person. I find it easier to be engaged.

This is where real friendship is. It’s give and take. It’s allowing minor flaws—the non-toxic ones at least—to be what they are. It’s understanding that we lead busy lives and have lots of people in them, especially after living in two countries, three states, and seven cities. It’s understanding that though I may not get back to you right away, I WILL get back to you. For the most part, all of my friends respect this unspoken rule and seem to live by it as well. That’s why our friendships work. But, sometimes they don’t work. Sometimes the give and take just doesn’t happen. But, I’m always trying. Here’s to me sucking it up and picking up the damn phone every once in a while…as I’ve been told I should.

Resource:Breaking Up with Friends: Can You Empathize?

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Racism is Racism

I like inappropriate humor. I like that it can push the edges of political correctness. I appreciate that humor can point out the ridiculousness of certain beliefs or reveal how we take some things too seriously while other more truly serious things are ignored. But, there is a fine line between racy humor and saying something that is just plain racist.

This week, I encountered such a statement and it shook me through and through. I was shocked, appalled, and every other word that denotes disgust. Let me put this into context. I had a friendly conversation going on Facebook about Sarah Palin. I don’t like her, and I make no bones about it. But, that is neither here nor there, and this is really not about politics.

I go back and forth between starting these conversations and continuing them. I’m well aware that political comments can be dangerous on Facebook and that, if it’s out there, it’s out there. But, I never write anything I don’t truly believe in. I rarely intend to start an in-depth conversation. I’m usually just venting or offering an idea. And, contrary to what some may think, I hate conflict. I like rational discussion. But then, I admit that I like to be provocative because I think it’s sometimes needed to challenge misguided, dangerous beliefs and propaganda that spread and infect, and I take responsibility for that. But, sometimes someone says something so blatantly offensive that there is no excuse for.

Some friends of mine were replying humorously to a comment I made about Sarah Palin who I think is a terrible representative of hard-working, intelligent women everywhere—Republican or Democrat. Okay, fine. This is not an uncommon opinion among people—Republican or Democrat. I often make cynical statements but most of my friends know how to take it and know I am not an overall cynical person. They usually respond in jest. Everyone who replied was in agreement with me until a cousin of mine jumped into the conversation.

This is a cousin with whom I’ve spoken very few words in many years. We’ve never been close and I don’t see that side of the family much. Not that unusual really. But, actually, it is strange. We connect with family members on Facebook who we may not have talked to much in the past and are hoping to maybe reconnect. You are connected to them for weeks, months, etc., and no words pass until someone says something political and the other disagrees and needs to retaliate. Isn’t something wrong with that? Who cares about what our kids are doing or HOW we are doing. Let’s be honest. We all just signed up and friended each other for the sole purpose of showing our nice pictures off. This seems to be the main reason for distant relatives and old high school friends to connect anyway. I mean, if we aren’t talking, what are we doing? I digress…

So, we have a cousin I never speak to, a somewhat provocative political statement, and a social media networking platform. Yeah, I’m safe here, right? At some point–and I can’t recall what prefaced it other than comments about not liking Palin and a Kenyan friend mentioning her home country–my cousin of the tea-bagging, conspiracy theorist extremist persuasion decided to make this comment, “Speaking of Kenya…there is a little hut over there some people would be better off in:)” This a glaringly ignorant, racist statement and no amount of smiley faces makes it okay. I suspect it was directed toward our President, but it was offensive to all Kenyans.

I called the cousin out on this and apologized for her to my Kenyan friend and firmly said I do not tolerate racist comments ever. Retort: “Classic liberal defense. RACISM!” And, “I have black friends so that couldn’t be racist.” We have some serious flaws in logic here. I mean, surely even Richard Nixon and Henry Ford had at least one friend named Shlomo Berkowitz, right? Having friends of other races does not make you magically immune to saying stupid things. You may not have a white sheet that converts into a funny hat, but you just said something undeniably racist and ethnocentric and you need to own up to it and apologize. The liberal defense excuse is just a tired political buzz phrase to shirk off responsibility for saying such vile things.

I’m weary of these useless buzz phrases being thrown around on both sides that carry no meaning and are merely used for defense or offense without having any applicable truth. Look, I may be liberal standing next to this person, but what she said is racist plain and simple regardless of my political views. This isn’t political. It’s moral, and we need to be able to call things what they are without lame excuses entering the conversation. You just said something ignorant and painful and a person included in the group you disrespected is in this thread.

Thankfully, my Kenyan friend is classy, magnanimous, smart, and, sadly, far more used to such ignorant, hurtful statements than she should be. She doesn’t pay attention to people who say such wicked things. I would be wise to follow her lead. But, boiling blood and a writer’s mind make for a quick Facebook retort, and I believe it was necessary to point out how egregious such a statement is. I feel like I have this superpower ability to change people with words. I know this is wishful and not-too-humble thinking, but it comes from a good heart that believes people don’t deserve such nasty words to cross their ears and eyes. The conversation went on a bit longer until I just shut it down out of embarrassment for everyone involved by completely deleting my Facebook page altogether. I’ve had enough…again.

Before I hit delete, to further aggravate a hopeless situation, this same person went on to tell me there is nothing she can learn from other cultures and that university education is basically bad because college professors aren’t challenged to think in the university forum. So, you just told me you are against learning and you expect me to believe you have an educated, intelligent opinion? Exactly.

You know, I know of this great piece of property in Kenya with a nice little house…plenty of room for narrow minds. Location, location, location.

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On the eve of the most important election of my lifetime, I’m copying here this powerful little post by my friend Celeste Headlee. She is a reporter for NPR. She talks here about the feeling of covering an Obama rally. It’s a different perspective than what we normally hear.

Believe me when I say that reporters are among the most cynical people in the world. I wasn’t like this before I became a journalist. I was optimistic, idealistic, and had perfect faith that the majority of people in public service were good, upstanding citizens with our best interests at heart. Now, having spent the past ten years studying these people, hanging out with them, talking with them and watching them, I believe that most of them are self-serving, opportunistic phonies. Maybe they start out following the path of righteousness, but bit by bit, they give up some of their integrity in order to get elected and stay elected. By the time they are career politicians, not much is left of the young city councilman or school board president that they were.So, the months between July and November in presidential election years are not my favorite. I get tired of the staged events, the cliche applause lines, the waving American flags and the way candidates are carefully dressed, lit and scripted to appeal to whatever audience they’re facing. I went to Barack Obama’s Labor Day rally in Detroit with a job to do: get the audience response to his speech, file the story and collect my check.But as I stood there in the heat, sweating into my headphones and praying for rain, I had a totally unexpected reaction. I looked out over the crowd… tens of thousands of people waiting to see Barack Obama. There were white college students in oxford shirts, black fathers with their kids on their shoulders, Arab-American autoworkers with time off for the holiday… dozens of races, occupations, and faiths were represented. And there they stood, waiting to see a black man from Illinois. And I started to cry.

The past welled up on me rather suddenly. I thought about my great-grandmother, whose father was her white owner on a plantation in Mississippi. I thought about my grandfather, who had to drive to Tijuana to get married because his bride was white and their union was illegal in his home country. I thought about the time that he had to drive without stopping from Los Angeles to Ohio because the white hotels wouldn’t take him and the black hotels wouldn’t take her. And my grandmother was abandoned by family and friends because she dared to marry a man whose skin was brown. I thought about the kid whose eye I blacked in elementary school because he called me a “nigger.”

And then I started to think about how my grandparents would feel if they could be standing in that crowd of thousands, waiting to see the first African-American candidate for president. That’s when I began to cry. I was overwhelmed, in every sense of that word. I can’t begin to describe how it felt when he stepped onto the platform and a deafening cheer rose up around him. Is this how Catholics felt when they watched John F. Kennedy speak? Is this how they felt in the audience watching Marian Anderson sing at the Lincoln Memorial? I don’t think this feeling of hope and joy and sheer wonder has a political affiliation; I don’t think it would have mattered if the man at the dais was a Republican or Democrat.

In his acceptance speech, Senator Obama said that his detractors don’t seem to understand this his campaign is not about him, but about us. And that’s something I can agree with. We are not on the edge of doing something historic; we have done it. And Obama’s presence on that stage, as a candidate for president, is something that every American can be proud of, both Democrat and Republican.

I don’t know if Barack Obama will become president. I know, sadly, that many people who say they support him will change their minds in the privacy of the voting booth. And it is sad, not because Barack Obama should or should not be president. It’s tragic because those people will not vote for him because of the color of his skin, and they will feel guilty about it, and they may not understand where their fear springs from. But they will feel fearful and they will feel guilty, and they won’t mark that box next to Obama. And if this man loses because his skin tone is brown, it will be a tragic for all of us, and for our country.

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