healthcare, law

Freaking out over faltering federal mask mandates…

Well… just as I predicted last year, the time has come for governments around the world to reverse course on the pandemic. Not every government, mind you… I think I read that Australia is still pretty locked down, trying to keep COVID-19 at bay. But European countries are trying to find a way to open up a bit this summer, especially as people are finally getting vaccinated. In the United States, there was an even bigger surprise. The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta has stated that both fully vaccinated adults may now ditch their face masks indoors and outdoors in most situations.

This is a contrast to the advice given two weeks ago, that vaccinated adults could ditch their masks outside– and they could also potentially ditch them inside, but only if they’re with other fully vaccinated adults. Now they’re evidently saying it doesn’t matter if others aren’t also vaccinated. Masks among vaccinated people will, evidently, only be necessary at medical facilities and on public transportation, like trains, buses, and airplanes. A month ago, there was all this news about deadly new variants and how we’ll never reach herd immunity. And now, the news seems to be signaling the end, or at least a pause, in the worst part of the pandemic.

I remember last year, when all of this shit started, I told Bill that eventually, the government would be asking people to venture out again. They would do it because the economy would be in a shambles. I also predicted that many people would not want to venture out. They would be too shell-shocked and traumatized by all of the COVID-19 doom porn, even with all of the safety precautions in place. Sure enough, based on the comments I read on The New York Times piece I linked above, that is what has come to pass. Governments are now saying they want to reopen things– New York City has even made a plea for tourists to return. In Europe, governments are trying to find ways to open up to tourists so they can make money. Vaccines are supposedly working pretty well, although new COVID-19 variants are also coming out all the time. The face masks are a downer, and allowing people to dispense with them if they get the shot(s) is one way to encourage vaccine cooperation.

The funny thing is, all year I’ve been reading indignant comments from pro-mask people about how science changes, and that’s why in early March of 2020, we were all being told NOT to buy face masks by the U.S. Surgeon General, and then that advice had changed within weeks. Now, since the CDC is saying that vaccinated people will be able to enjoy some freedom, many of the same people who were once extolling the virtues of science and scientists, are now bitching about how it’s too soon to loosen face masking and allowing people to unmask will be a disastrous decision.

Quite a few people seem to think this rule relaxation was done purely for political reasons. Many people have expressed that they believe unvaccinated “anti-maskers” will use this new guidance as a reason to flout the rules. So many people, who had once praised Dr. Fauci and the CDC, are now saying that the decision to relax the mask rules is a terrible, unscientific idea that spells DOOM for everyone. And, perhaps rightfully so, people are saying that people have no honor, and there will be no way to enforce people to keep taking precautions until they have been vaccinated. Fake vaccination cards are already becoming a problem, and the conspiracy theorists worry that the vaccines have chips in them that will invade their privacy (seriously?).

What happened to all of the respect for scientists? All of a sudden, because the rules have abruptly changed, just as they did last year, the scientists are wrong and simply pandering to politicians? And now, all of the people who, a couple of months ago, were liberally quoting and religiously following the scientists, are saying they are going to rely on their own common sense? Isn’t that the same behavior they were shaming the “anti-vaxxers” and “anti-maskers” for doing? Also, again, I notice that the “experts” all seem to be saying different things… which means that everybody has to decide for themselves which one is correct, and which course of action will suit them best. Sounds a lot like life, to me.

Here’s what I think about those so-called “anti-vaxxers” and “anti-maskers”. First off, many of those people never followed the rules anyway, so it’s doubtful that this rule change will affect them. I mean… if they get sick from COVID-19, they’ll get sick. Some won’t get very sick. Some will die. That’s how it’s been all year. Lots of people are commenting that, despite being vaccinated, they will keep wearing a mask so they “won’t be mistaken for a Republican” or “to make other people feel better”– that is, the ones who are comforted by the sight of someone whose face they can’t see fully. Others, who have children that can’t yet be vaccinated, are saying they are going to keep wearing a mask for that reason, even though last year so many people were saying that the masks are intended to protect other people, and not the wearer. Now they’re saying that the masks also protect the wearer, which is probably what they should have said from the beginning. But see? The information is constantly changing, isn’t it?

Personally, I don’t find seeing everyone in face masks comforting. They are a constant reminder of how fucked up things are, how lonely I am (especially when my half vaccinated husband has to travel on business for weeks on end), and how I don’t enjoy this lifestyle at all. That’s just how I feel about it, though… and the person who IS comforted by face masks also has a right to their feelings and opinions about this issue. Fortunately, it’s not like face masks have been outlawed, so they are free to keep doing what they’ve always been doing. Given how many people in the USA were completely uncooperative regarding COVID-19 safety mandates anyway, I don’t think much is going to change in the wake of this new guidance.

Sadly, what it will boil down to is money… and the fact that the safety rules are very expensive in terms of the economy. Lots of people cheer when they read stories about anti-maskers being arrested, fined, jailed, or banned from services like airlines. But all of those measures cost money. Banning someone from an airline for not wearing a face mask often doesn’t just mean that one person is banned– it also means their immediate family will be effectively banned, even if they weren’t officially so by their airline, as will any loyal extended family members and friends who happen to be on their side of the issue. That could add up to a lot of missed revenue that affects people other than the folks running the airlines… it also might affect hotels, restaurants, tour operators, taxi drivers, and even retailers that sell travel gear. If I wanted to, I could probably sit here for an hour and think of all of the people that are potentially affected when someone gets banned for life from flying.

Now… I do think some good can come out of this past year of COVID-19 hell. Perhaps employers will rethink some of their more destructive policies, like encouraging workers to come into an office setting when they’re sick. Maybe working from home will become an even more viable solution for companies, which could mean that more children are raised by their actual parents instead of at a day care. Maybe there will be less vehicular congestion and accompanying air pollution, too, since people can roll out of bed and walk ten feet to their “office” instead of sitting in traffic for hours every day. And maybe airlines will stop cramming people into seats like sardines… although I would be VERY surprised if that happens.

I do think wearing the mask is a good idea if one is sick. Judging by the slow cold and flu season, they are helpful in that regard. However… I don’t think the enforced mask fashion is a sustainable concept. I’m glad to see it going. I hope it stays gone, although I’m not going to hold my breath. Fortunately, thanks to the vaccine and staying the fuck away from people (which is really the best way to avoid getting sick from a virus), it’s still possible for me to hold my breath.

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Ex, narcissists, psychology

Sometimes you simply have to call bullshit…

This morning, I read an article about Olympic swimmer, 36 year old Ryan Lochte. He’s currently estranged from his mother Ileana Lochte. In an interview with Graham Bensinger, Lochte explained that in 2011, when his mother had divorced his father, Steven Lochte, everyone had been on her side. But then when Ryan told his mother she was going to be a grandmother, she apparently said some very hurtful things and refused to apologize for them. And now, Ryan and his mother have been estranged for a few years. He hasn’t spoken to her. By contrast, he and his father and stepmother are now on very good terms.

I’ve often reflected on how perspectives change as we grow older. When I was a child, things were a lot simpler. Or, at least they seemed that way. I saw things in more black and white terms. All of my friends and relatives were “good”. All of the kids in school who bullied me were “bad”. But then, as I got older, I started to see everyone in a different light. At some point, people I thought were all good developed some very noticeable character defects. Or really, I just noticed them for the first time. By contrast, people I had thought were all bad all of a sudden seemed more human and decent to me. This expanded vision is ultimately a good and necessary thing, but it’s also kind of heartbreaking. Especially when I have good memories of some of these folks, but I know that we’ll probably never speak again.

I think this phenomenon happens to most people who are at least somewhat psychologically healthy. But it’s disconcerting and sometimes very sad when the whole truth comes out about someone we love, or even just like. I think that’s what might be happening with my husband’s children right now.

Last night, Bill talked with his younger daughter, who is struggling with some stuff. She and her husband are in their mid 20s, trying to survive in this pandemic craziness and pay their bills. They have two small children, and as Mormons, are very much involved with their family. Fortunately, younger daughter inherited a lot of Bill’s character and she’s committed to being a good mom.

All of the years, when younger daughter was growing up, Ex’s story was that she was all about taking care of her family. In fact, some years ago, I remember reading a bullshit news story about Ex that appeared in a local newspaper. She claimed that she’d arrived in Arizona in a used van with just $3000 and a dream. She didn’t mention that she was getting child support faithfully every month and that my husband could see to it that the children had medical care. Nope– her narrative was that she was a supermom, doing it ALL alone and handling everything brilliantly. It was such a load of shit!

Bill was faithfully paying her $2550 a month in child support, more than what a general officer would have paid for three children at that time. One of the children he was supporting wasn’t even legally his child. Because Bill was in the military, his children were entitled to military ID cards. They also had access to full medical benefits and free care at military treatment facilities. And yet, Ex chose not to avail herself of these valuable benefits for her children. In fact, she evidently acted as if she didn’t care when younger daughter needed medical attention.

Younger daughter had some physical problems that needed care. Her mother made a huge deal out of the inconvenience and expense of seeking care and implied that she couldn’t afford it. Consequently, those issues went neglected, and now younger daughter is paying a price that may cost her for the rest of her life.

Some people might read this and wonder where Bill was. Well… he tried to stay in touch with Ex and asked her repeatedly about the children. Once she realized that he was going to persist in being involved with the children, she went on a very effective alienation campaign. He really tried to be a good father as best as he was able. But Ex had so effectively alienated Bill’s daughters and ex stepson that no one would speak to him. She moved them to a different state and neglected to inform Bill. We found out about the move through Internet sleuthing. In any case, when these issues were occurring, younger daughter was almost an adult anyway, and wouldn’t speak to Bill. But her mother was freaking out over having to pay several hundred dollars for special equipment that would have helped her daughter function better. She implied that she wasn’t getting any help from Bill, which was patently untrue.

Later, when younger daughter was offered a job in Utah, Ex did her best to get her to stay home. She offered her all kinds of stuff– everything from music lessons that she’d always wanted to more money than what younger daughter would make in Utah. Fortunately, younger daughter was smart enough to see through the bullshit and valued her freedom from the craziness more than a few extra bucks (which would not have materialized, anyway). When younger daughter made her decision, Ex did what she always does… sent a long, scathing, insulting letter full of shaming, empty promises, pleading, and berating. Then, in a true act of apparent desperation to maintain control, she allegedly attempted suicide by overdosing on pills. And when that didn’t work, she brutally cut off her daughter (temporarily, of course– in retrospect, permanently cutting her off might have been the kindest thing to do).

Of course, Ex never totally lets anyone go. The beautiful thing about COVID-19, though, is that it makes it much harder for her to travel. Ex, who once told Bill she would never put the children on a plane to see us in Virginia (because of terrorism), would not hesitate to drive or fly thousands of miles and drop in on people unawares. If she ever got a sign that younger daughter was weakening in her resolve, she would absolutely take the opportunity to insert herself and poison her daughter’s relationships or even alienate her own kids from her. That’s how toxic people operate, and I have been watching Ex do it from afar for many years now.

For many years, I was very angry with my husband’s daughters. I thought they had treated Bill unfairly and were not very bright for rejecting him. Now that we’re hearing the other side, I can see why they did what they did. They were told a lot of lies and raised by a master manipulator who only thinks of herself and her own needs. This morning, Bill said that he used to think that his Ex did these things to be mean and hurtful to him. But now, after comparing notes with his daughter, he realizes that she simply doesn’t care, and that’s even worse than her trying to be hurtful. Because Bill DID care and would have helped them if he’d only known. Those girls didn’t have to suffer as much as they did when they were growing up.

It’s amazing how perspectives change as we age. Five years ago, I never believed I would be writing this about Bill’s daughter. Five years ago, she wouldn’t speak to or about Bill. Now, I realize that she must have been scared. Her mother had built up this image that Bill is an awful man. She told outrageous lies about him and me… things like he abandoned the family to have an affair with me (even though she had moved her boyfriend– now husband #3– into the house while she was still married to Bill) or that the Army was more important than his family (the Army provided excellent pay and benefits he couldn’t get working in a factory– much of which he was sending to Ex as child support).

One of the nice things I have discovered since moving my blog from Blogger is that I get fewer people reading… and leaving me shitty comments because they assume I’ve either made up this story or I’m just a bitter second wife. It’s true that I’m bitter about a lot of things. I despise Bill’s ex wife. That is not a secret. I certainly wouldn’t like her for the way she treated Bill and his kids and other people, but there’s another reason I despise her. It’s because she’s a cruel person. She was very cruel to Bill when they were married. When I say “very cruel”, I mean criminally so… as in, I think she should go to prison for what she did. If she were a man, there would be no question, as long as the crime was reported. Suffice to say, my husband was a victim of domestic violence in his first marriage.

More than once, random people have told me that I have no right to write about these things. They tell me how I “come off” to others and try to silence me from speaking the truth. It’s happened to me repeatedly throughout my life, not just in terms of my husband’s ex wife, but in other situations, too. I’m looking at certain people who have been “interested” in my writing and not wanted me to write about my experiences because they are friends with the other person or because they themselves don’t want to be cast in a bad light. You know what? If you’re doing dirty, dishonest things, you totally deserve to deal with the repercussions of being outed, and I’m done trying to be “positive”, “fair”, and “forgiving” toward people who don’t warrant the consideration. My days of putting up with that shit are over, and it’s a very liberating way to be. Like everyone else, I deserve to be heard and validated, too, even if no one wants to listen to what I have to say (or write). This doesn’t mean, though, that I agree with mobbing people or deliberately trying to ruin their lives. I just think they should have to deal with the natural and inevitable consequences of their bad behavior.

My husband’s daughter, to her credit, has figured this all out a lot younger than her dad and I have. She realizes that some people are simply full of shit and she doesn’t have to waste her time on them. She knows that her mother is full of shit and doesn’t care about her. Her mother couldn’t be bothered to buy inserts for younger daughter’s shoes so she wasn’t in so much pain. Her mother couldn’t be bothered to have her daughter’s spine checked by a doctor and braced so that she didn’t suffer from scoliosis that caused her back problems. She couldn’t be bothered to get in touch with Bill so that those kids could get healthcare. The one time she did contact Bill about their healthcare needs, she asked him to send HER money instead of paying the provider directly. Why? Because that way, she could ask for as much as she wanted and it would go into her pocket… hell, we don’t even know if there ever was a bill that needed to be paid because she wouldn’t send it. Instead, she just tried to demand the money.

The other day, I watched an excellent video by YouTube psychologist, Dr. Ramani, who specializes in talking about narcissists. The video was about “toxic positivity”, which is a real problem in our society today. We have many people who think we always need to be “positive” and “understanding” at all costs. These toxic positivity folks are perfect “flying monkeys” for narcissists, because they always harp on giving people the benefit of the doubt, even when it’s clear that they don’t deserve it.

Well worth watching, if you have the time and inclination.

I have been on the receiving end of a lot of that shit from people… people who have tried to gaslight me into doubting my own instincts and observations in favor of their well spun bullshit. You know what? Letting this kind of thing go– just giving people a break all the time– always leads to being screwed. If you’re a chronically nice and understanding person, you’re are just begging to be screwed over by this type of person. They thrive on people who are always “nice” and “fair” to them. Anyone who has a well-developed sense of shame and a tendency to be forgiving is at risk of being exploited by people like Ex. A little bit of forgiveness is a good thing; don’t get me wrong. But sometimes, you simply have to call bullshit. And bravo to younger daughter for being smart enough and BRAVE enough to do just that. Her dad and I are now working on the same thing.

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musings

Losing friends over “dumb memes”…

Although I might lose friends for writing this post, I’m not one of the people who lost friends yesterday over patriotic or unpatriotic Facebook postings. For once, I stayed well out of controversial territory yesterday. Although my initial impressions of Leipzig were kind of lukewarm, the city quickly grew on me. I cried twice yesterday, both times because I was overwhelmed by music and sights that moved my senses.

The first time I cried was largely due to simply being overwhelmed by the beauty of Bach being played expertly by live buskers outside of the church where he served as the Thomaskantor for 27 years. One thing I absolutely love about living in Europe is the number of talented musicians who share their passions with people on the street. Quite often, their music moves me to tears. Bill and I joke that we become “verklempt” over things of beauty. I’ve seen him melt into tears over art exhibits or, more commonly, beautiful cathedrals. Give us a cathedral where someone is playing music or a choir is singing well, and we’ll both end up crying for different reasons.

The second time I cried was for somewhat sadder reasons. We were enjoying the Leipziger Weinfest, which fortunately happens to be going on all this weekend. A duo was playing music. I happened to notice a beautiful young family. Mom was pregnant and clearly would be delivering a baby very soon. Dad was taking care of their toddler aged son, who was obviously enchanted by the music. I watched them dancing together, father and son, as mom stood by, looking on adoringly. I realized that I’m 47 years old and I won’t ever have what that family has. I thought I had mostly come to terms with that, and have even realized it might be for the best. It still makes me sad sometimes to realize that a significant life experience that most people take for granted won’t be part of my history. In fact, when I die, the mold will be broken. Some people are grateful for that.

Add in the fact that we were drinking wine and Bill’s younger daughter will be having her daughter any day now… and, in fact, I would not be surprised if she’s already given birth. Bill Skyped with her on July 3rd. She was scheduled to be induced on the 9th, but she was already having contractions. If she had her baby yesterday, and it’s possible that she did, the baby will share birthdays with her Aunt Brigid, Bill’s older daughter who still doesn’t speak to him. Maybe the baby will hang on until the 7th and be Bill’s best birthday present, as he turns 55.

Then I read about Joy Anna Forsyth’s pregnancy loss in the 20th week. Her baby girl had no heartbeat, and she was forced to deliver little Annabell Elise stillborn. While I don’t necessarily admire the Duggar family’s focus on birthing as many babies as humanly possible and trying to deny reproductive rights to women who aren’t like them, I do have empathy for Joy. I’m sure this loss was absolutely devastating for her, as it would be for most parents. So… I guess that might be why I was so emotional last night.

Once we’d decided to retire for the evening, we came back to our hotel room. I went on Facebook, and soon found two heated arguments among my friends. One friend is very conservative. Lately, she’s been more political than ever, posting memes that promote conservative ideals and getting into arguments with her more liberal contacts. Now… it’s certainly her right to post whatever she wants on Facebook. I generally don’t comment on her political posts because I mostly understand her viewpoints. There was a time when I even shared her views somewhat. I also realize that I don’t like it when I post something on Facebook and someone starts a nasty argument about it on my page. I don’t mind discussions, but I don’t enjoy arguments, especially when they devolve into personal attacks, sarcasm, and insults.

My conservative friend is, for the most part, very respectful in her discussions. Although I don’t necessarily agree with a lot of her views– at least not since I went more liberal– I do very much respect her ability to be civilized when she disagrees with others. I can easily see why she seems to think liberals are “ganging up” on people with conservative views, since she’s recently been involved in some rather contentious arguments with people who are “aggressively liberal” and insistent about pushing their views on her page. My friend has a lot of conservative friends who have her back, so the comments can get wild. Unfortunately, one of her former friends, who is also one of my friends, got nasty and personal as he commented on the meme she shared, pictured below…

My friend posted this, and a former mutual friend of ours took her to task for not respecting Colin Kaepernick’s reasons, and rights, to peaceful protest. While I don’t disagree with the more liberal view of this, I do think his comments to her were unnecessarily offensive.

For the record, while there was a time when I didn’t see what all the hoopla was over racism in the United States, my views have changed a lot. I think it’s because I left the country and stopped spending so much time around like minded people. I started opening my eyes to what happens to people of color on a regular basis. I’m not sure if things have gotten much worse recently, or I’m just a lot more aware. But while I will never know what it means to be black in America, I do think I have a lot more empathy for non-whites than I once had. Maybe it’s because I pay a lot more attention to the news than I used to. Or maybe it’s because I studied social work and spent time working with people in minority groups. I don’t want to say I’m “woke”, because I don’t really like that term. It’s more like I can’t unring the bell. I don’t see things as black and white as much as I used to. That being said… I don’t think liberals do the cause any favors when they become self-righteous, insulting, or shaming toward people who don’t share their views. It takes time for people to change and, by and large, they have to want to do it for it to be a genuine change. Trying to force someone to be tolerant is not very tolerant behavior.

Well, I left that thread without responding to it… and promptly fell into another rabbit hole. A liberal friend– someone much more liberal than I am– posted this meme.

True… but…

My liberal friend has a friend I don’t know who took exception to this meme. She posted this comment.

Thankfully things have changed….its important to remember where we came from, equally important to realize what HAS changed and stop hammering the past to death. It is not 1787 anymore.

I really didn’t find this comment offensive at all. However, other people did, and they quickly let her know. Eight comments, at least half of which were accusatory and shaming, were lobbed at this lady. At least one comment made an assumption about what this poster thinks and what kind of person she is, even though she’s evidently a complete stranger to them. Most of the other comments were outraged and rather sanctimonious in nature. I couldn’t help but imagine the poster folding her arms and walking away from the conversation. I doubt the confrontation did much good, if the intention was to “educate” and/or change hearts and minds. I wasn’t even involved in the conversation and I found it offensive, even if I don’t disagree with the posters who agreed with the meme.

I’m reminded of a discussion I was part of about 20 years ago, when I used to attend Adult Children of Alcoholics meetings. One of the regular attendees was a young woman who was learning how to do massages. She brought with her some type of clay that she used to practice her massage techniques. During the meeting, she introduced the concept of being “gentle” with applying pressure toward any approach to change. She showed us how pressing the clay forcefully with her fingers met with immediate resistance. But when she pressed into the clay gently, the clay gradually yielded and she was able to make indentations that changed its form significantly. It’s the same with muscles. Brutally pressing into muscles results in pain, resistance, and sometimes even damage. Gentle pressure yields better results, as the muscles gradually yield to the therapeutic pressure and the massage therapist can effect health promoting change.

I think the same could be said for some discussions we have with other people, particularly on social media. No one likes to be lectured to, aggressively attacked, shamed, or insulted. That is not what makes people open their minds or change their opinions. Respectful communication, empathy, listening, and being willing and able to consider other people’s views without closing one’s mind is how real conversations can happen… and sometimes maybe even real, positive change can be effected.

I think memes can be good conversation starters. Sometimes, they are thought provoking. However, memes don’t sum up real life. I think it’s a shame when a meme leads to people losing friendships. If the goal is to educate, open minds, or change perspectives, it’s best to try to be respectful and empathetic. And if you want to be respected yourself, then you should yourself act respectable.

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