communication, musings, social media

Dining on fresh food for thought, and not “incorrecting” people…

I woke up this morning to an interesting post by Father Nathan Monk, a dyslexic former priest and author who has an impressive following on Facebook. This is what he wrote:

I think this makes a lot of sense.

Naturally, the above post attracted a lot of feedback. Many people made points that I thought were entirely valid, even if they didn’t agree with Father Nathan Monk. Some people protested that abortion is always a terrible thing, but a private decision that is sometimes necessary to make for one’s own well being. Some were on Father Nathan Monk’s side, and congratulated him for his words of wisdom on an experience that he will never personally face. Still others pointed out that the word “abortion” has wrongly been turned into a bad word that needs euphemistic language to get around the taboo with which it is associated.

Personally, I agree with Father Nathan Monk that abortion isn’t a dirty word. I’ve even written about that topic in this blog. But I also agree with people who have emotional responses to the term. Some people have no emotional connection to abortions. They don’t see it as anything other than a medical procedure. While many people associate abortion with tragedy, others have experienced immense relief after having one. Some have experienced gratitude that the procedure was available to them when they needed it. Reactions to the abortion experience run the gamut. No one’s reaction is “wrong”, because everyone has their own story.

As it so often happens in comment sections on Facebook, some people got on a soapbox, and the topic segued a bit into discussion about other societal issues. As the discussion developed, I noticed some tension. Some people took issue with other people’s opinions and felt the need to “correct” them. I especially noticed it when someone used a term that another person found objectionable. More than a few of them responded to other posters with condescension, hostility, and criticism, rather than measured consideration. I noticed that many people chimed in on comments that were directed to other people, and they often did so with a certain haughtiness. And some went into ass kissing mode, although overall, I agree with what this person wrote…

Dearest Father Nathan Monk I totally support your comments.

Furthermore, I know you are a gifted wordsmith but for a moment I’m going to take full on offense at the cretin level witlessness of the individual who took it upon themselves to *correct* your wording.

Dear Sir or Ma’am I suggest that you desist lecturing a published author on their use of words. You can take your insulting remarks and trot right off the end of that short dock over yonder. Yeah that sketchy one that’s probably going to dump you right back into the swamp of self-righteousness that you seemed to have crawled out of at some point.

Sheesh people. Give it a rest with the gatekeeping.

Alrighty. I’m done.

Carry on my friend. And my deepest apologies if I’ve crossed a line.

After the above comment was made, someone else wrote this:

On a related note, I saw a stand up comedian a few months ago give a great response to unwelcome corrections:

“Thank you for incorrecting me”

Apparently, that quote was from comedian, Steve Hofstetter. I have never heard of Mr. Hofstetter, but maybe I need to look him up and see if I find the rest of his observations so astute. People do have a tendency to “correct” other people when they disagree with them. I think there’s a certain arrogance in assuming that one’s perspective is absolutely the only “right” one. As I mentioned up post, everybody has a story, and those stories can affect how people view things that aren’t cut and dried. It’s a barrier to communication, and ultimately, learning new things, when people come at others aggressively for saying something they assume is wrong, or just “politically incorrect”.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Years ago, I was part of an online messageboard for second wives and stepmothers. In that group, I sometimes used to post about how Mormonism had affected our step situation. It was a valid issue, as within Mormonism, there is a strong emphasis on spreading the faith and encouraging people within a family of maintaining their common belief system. For example, Mormons typically exclude non believers from their weddings, which usually take place in a temple (though some have civil weddings and then do the religious ordinance later). Mormon temples are only open to people who have “temple recommends”. The only exception is when a new temple is opened, and there’s an “open house”, which is for a set period of time. So, the fact that my husband’s daughters were converted and raised LDS, and Bill had left the faith, was a legitimate issue within the family.

There was a Mormon woman in the group who used to get very offended when I dared to bring up this topic. She insisted that I was being disrespectful to her. She claimed that I “misunderstood” and was confused by her religion, and that my “negative” comments were destructive to her. She was not receptive to “hearing” what I was trying to communicate. Instead, she focused on what she thought was my “bashing” her religious beliefs. In short, she basically labeled me a bigot, because I said something negative about her religion that she found offensive. She wasn’t willing to see it from my perspective. She just wanted me to shut up and color.

Honestly, I don’t give a shit what people’s personal religious beliefs are. It’s when your beliefs affect other people’s lives that I have a problem. The fact the Ex had decided to convert to Mormonism and raised Bill’s children LDS was a real problem that affected us, because Bill and I aren’t LDS. To be fair, I don’t think Ex is LDS anymore, either. But, back when the girls were still kids, the fact that they were LDS caused issues, because their perfectly good father was portrayed as “less worthy” simply because he didn’t have the same religious beliefs they had. It didn’t even have to be Mormonism that caused this problem. The girls could have been raised Orthodox Jewish or Muslim or Jehovah’s Witness, and that could have been an issue. I was simply trying to point that out, and being specific about how the LDS religion caused steplife issues for us. This should have been okay in an online support group for second wives and stepmothers, but instead, it was a “taboo topic” that I was strongly discouraged from discussing because one person found it “offensive”.

For the most part, I think people should be heard, even if they say something that seems “wrong” on the surface. And if someone does say something that seems “wrong”, it would be really excellent if more people would simply take a deep breath and hear them out… or at least try to respond with civility, instead of rudeness and snark. Being self-righteous and condescending is not how you win hearts and minds. And if you’re not trying to possibly change someone’s perspective, what’s the point of making a comment? Especially if you’re so insufferable that they block you.

A few days ago, I made a comment to someone about how most Americans have no idea of what we tolerate. They haven’t lived anywhere else, and they’ve been fed a bunch of horseshit about how “great” America is. I wrote that if more Americans experienced living in Europe, they might be outraged by what is normal here, and not normal in the United States. I was going to specify Germany, but I realized that there are a lot of countries in Europe that offer affordable healthcare, childcare, and education. As it was Facebook, I didn’t want to make a list, because that would make my comment too long and convoluted.

I then got a somewhat hostile comment from someone in the Czech Republic, who groused about how Europe isn’t so great, because medical care in her country isn’t “good”. I hadn’t addressed this person, but she chimed in on my comment to someone else, so I explained further. I don’t think I did so in a condescending way. I simply explained where I was coming from, and she came back with swear words and rudeness, as if I had insulted her intelligence. Her point was that not all European nations are created equally. My immediate reaction was “duh”, but that’s not what I wrote. Instead, I posted that I had originally considered writing only about Germany, but realized that much of the continent is similar and I didn’t feel the need to type out the countries for a Facebook post. I added that I did that because I didn’t want to wind up in a rude exchange with a stranger. Then I finished with, “but I see that’s happened, anyway. Have a nice day.” I was surprised she didn’t come back with more snark. I probably shocked her by calling her out for being unnecessarily offensive.

One of the things I really love about my husband is that we can have conversations about anything. He’s thoughtful and considerate, and he hears what I have to say as I flesh out a thought. He doesn’t react with indignation, or break out the red pen, wanting to “correct” my opinions. He doesn’t always agree with me, but he’s always willing to listen. I think we’re both better off because of that. We learn new things, and dine on fresh food for thought. Just as a new food can be exciting and interesting, so can a considering new perspective. But it’s hard to access that “fresh food for thought”, if you are preoccupied with correcting someone else for their opinions that don’t align with your own.

Now, when it comes to abortion, I can certainly understand why many people find it a sad and abhorrent thing. I understand why some people, having had an ectopic pregnancy that necessitated termination, can’t bear to think of that action as having an abortion, even if that is technically what happened. But I can also see how someone might find abortion liberating and even exhilarating. Father Nathan Monk’s post spells out how it can be a huge relief for someone to have an abortion. It should be okay for people to be honest about their feelings without fear of being shamed. We should be encouraging respectful communication, rather than trying to squelch things we don’t want to hear or read. Imagine how much more interesting life would be, if we could consider things that are “taboo” without feeling ashamed or threatened with censure.

I imagine that we might even have fewer Trump supporters if more people could stop themselves from being holier than thou toward others. I suspect that a lot of people like Trump because he’s not “PC” and doesn’t insist that people be “PC”. I think a lot of people like it when a loudmouth jerk like Trump says what they’re thinking, without any shame or hesitation whatsoever. This isn’t to say that I think people should be going around being deliberately offensive, but more that people might not be so compelled to be deliberately offensive if they felt heard and understood, even if the other person disagrees. A basic level of respect can be a great lubricant for productive discussion and– dare I say it?– a broader perspective on life, a keener intellect, and a more interesting existence outside of an echo chamber.

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mental health, movies, music, musings, Song parodies

Suicide is not painless, particularly for those left behind… (partial repost)

When I was a child, the old sitcom M*A*S*H was still airing on television. I remember the instrumental version of the show’s theme song, which was titled “Suicide Is Painless”. The song’s lyrics went:

Through early morning fog I see
Visions of the things to be
The pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see

That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it
If I please

The game of life is hard to play
I’m gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I’ll someday lay
So this is all I have to say

Suicide is painless (suicide)
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it
If I please

The sword of time will pierce our skins
It doesn’t hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows stronger, watch it grin

Suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it
If I please

A brave man once requested me
To answer questions that are key
“Is it to be or not to be?”
And I replied, “Oh, why ask me?”

Suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it
If I please

And you can do the same thing
If you please

The story goes that this song was written for the 1970 film version of M*A*S*H, and in the film, the song was sung by The Ron Hicklin Singers. The song’s composer is Johnny Mandel, and the film’s director, Robert Altman, wanted it to be the “stupidest song ever written.” Altman, then in his mid 40s, attempted to come up with “stupid” lyrics, but found that he couldn’t come up with any that were “stupid enough”. So he asked his then 14 year old son, Mike, to write the words to the song, which Mike was able to do in just a few minutes. The funny thing is, Altman only earned about $70,000 for directing the movie, but his son has reportedly made over $1 million for co-writing the “stupidest” song ever written. Absurd, isn’t it?

In May 2018, when I was still posting on my Blogspot version of The Overeducated Housewife, I used the melody for “Suicide Is Painless” for my own lyrics. I renamed the song “Parenthood is Pricey”, which was inspired by the 2018 era sad news that births are declining in the United States, mainly because it’s EXPENSIVE to raise children today. Below are the words I wrote. I also recorded the song on SingSnap.

My early 20s
I could see
Visions of my life to be.
The costs that were laid out for me
I realized what I can’t be…

Cuz’ parenthood is pricey!
And the job market is dicey!
And that is why 
my womb remains empty.

The game of life 
is full of chance.
So much is left to circumstance.
There’s so much that is up to fate.
So childbirth, I’ll procrastinate.

Cuz’ parenthood is pricey!
The job market is dicey!
And that is why 
my womb remained empty.

Painful student loans
will last…
It doesn’t hurt ’til time
has passed.
By then, too many years have gone
For me to take parenthood on…

Cuz’ parenthood is pricey!
The job market is dicey!
And that is why 
my womb is so empty.

A brave reporter once asked me
“Why haven’t you made a mini me?
 Don’t you want your own family?”
And I replied
“How can it be?”

Cuz parenthood is pricey!
The job market is dicey!
And that is why 
my womb is still empty.

And my friends are mostly
doing the same thing…

I remember the urge to make the parody popped into my head randomly. It was a flicker of inspiration that I decided to feed, after I wrote a blog post about reasons why people aren’t having so many kids these days. Of course, in 2018, we had no idea of the epic shitshow that awaited us in 2020, 2021, and 2022. I had written a lengthy and revelatory post about why Bill and I never sought reproductive assistance when it became apparent that his vasectomy reversal wasn’t going to be enough to make us parents. When I was still fertile, we were broke. We aren’t broke anymore, but I just turned 50 and pregnancy would probably either kill me or make me sick, if by some miracle it could even happen. And now, I don’t want kids anymore, because of the epic shitshow I mentioned. So maybe we were lucky things worked out how they did.

I’m not sure if the birth rate is still declining. That’s not really the point of this post. I just remembered the song, and how I rewrote the lyrics. I used to enjoy making song parodies, writing fiction, and engaging in other creative pursuits. But thanks to a former blog follower who mocked my efforts, I’ve lost a lot of the desire to do the funny, creative stuff I used to love doing. It’s like there’s a block there, because I really just want to get through this life with as few altercations as possible.

Ironically enough, that person is now dead, because she committed suicide. I don’t know why she took that action, and I don’t rejoice in her decision, especially since I have seen evidence that many people who were left behind are now hurting. She had two children who have now lost their mother forever, and will always have to deal with that huge loss for the rest of their lives. It will affect other people, too. People they’ve not even met yet, who will have to shoulder the baggage that came from that tragic decision. Suicide is definitely not painless for those who are left in the wake of it. I suspect it isn’t painless for the people who do it, either, even when it’s done quickly and violently.

A few months ago, I wrote about how several people in Bill’s and my world had made the choice to kill themselves. We weren’t particularly close to any of them– they were mainly just people on the peripheries of our lives. Still, we were affected by the fact that they made that choice and it was publicized. There’s always this sense of shock and wonder when someone takes their own life. What made them do it? What was the final straw that pushed them to make that decision? Bill was so shaken by it, he even searched Google for links about it while he was at work. That decision was discovered by the IT guys at his job, and he ended up getting a talking to by his boss, who was concerned that Bill might be contemplating suicide. See how suicide has ripple effects, even toward people who aren’t involved? The three people who ended their lives by suicide affected us enough to talk about it and search for information on the Internet. And then other people– completely uninvolved– felt compelled to talk to us about it, in case we were thinking of doing it ourselves.

A couple of days ago, I learned that yet another person in my sphere took their own life. Apparently, this person decided to exit life on their own terms because of a chronic illness that was causing them a lot of pain and disability. I looked at their most recent posts on social media, and realize that in the days before their exit, there weren’t really any obvious hints of what was coming. A couple of memes are there– they seem prescient now, but wouldn’t have seemed like that at the time they were posted. And now, there are so many tributes to this person about what a wonderful, kind, caring, awesome person they were, and how much they are already missed. I wonder how many of them said that before the suicide happened. I wonder what the point of saying it now is, although I know that many people believe in life after death, and assume that perhaps the person is looking down from Heaven… or maybe up from Hell? I don’t know.

My husband had a near death experience when he was a teenager. I know not everyone believes in those, but I have read enough books about people who have been clinically dead and came “back” from the beyond that I think there might be something to them. I think the experience changed Bill on many levels. Even if what he experienced was nothing but a massive discharge of endorphins as life briefly ebbed away from him, it still gives me comfort. A few months ago, an Epinions friend passed away from cancer, and I remember one of her last posts was that we shouldn’t fear dying. She said that it doesn’t hurt… you just slip away. But what if your death is unnatural? What if you weren’t meant to die? Is suicide that painless? Maybe after it happens, it’s painless. No one’s “home” anymore. It’s not painless for the people who remain in their Earthly existences. A lot of them are left with endless questions, guilt, and grief, as they try to make sense of what may seem senseless to them.

We really are all affected by each other. I used to love to write things that were “creative”. I lost the urge to write creative stuff after that huge mess caused by a woman who shamed me for doing it. That woman is now dead, because she decided to exit life on her own terms. I’m still left the aftereffects of her last words to me. They were her last words, because I blocked her from contacting me a few years before she died. Maybe all isn’t lost, though. That flicker could come back to life, as if it experienced a near death experience or resurrection.

The other day, when I was in the shower, thinking about the whole abortion debate, I had another flicker of inspiration as an idea for a satire piece came into my head. For a moment, I was excited about it. I thought maybe I’d sit down and write something. I wouldn’t be doing it for anything but satisfying my own urges to write and express myself in an interesting way. But then the doubt came back, put there by someone who couldn’t simply leave me alone, and I pushed it out of my head. Still, it was a flicker of inspiration… and maybe it’s time I got back down to business. Because I really do believe that expression can be one way to avoid committing suicide. Even if it’s just expressing oneself to someone who cares and might offer another perspective… one that offers a different reality that the person whose mind is muddied with thoughts of suicide can’t consider at the time.

And now, I am going to repost the article I wrote that birthed the song parody I wrote above. This was written on May 18, 2018, and I’m going to leave it “as/is”. Maybe the flicker will come back again.

My fat ass itches… (I’m sure this is one of the posts I wrote that the former “spy” disapproved of.)

Today’s blog post comes courtesy of my old buddy, Ken Turetzky, who wrote and sang a hilarious song of the same name.  I “met” Ken online about ten years ago, when I wrote a review of a compilation album done by comedian/musician Red Peters.  I discovered Red Peters when Bill and I went to a karaoke night at Fort Belvoir’s Officers’ Club and the hosts played Peters’ infamous “Closing Song” to finish the evening.  I thought it was hilarious, so I bought Peters’ two available albums and became a fan. 

Years later, Red Peters got into promoting other comedic musicians.  Turetzky’s hit song, “Her Shit Don’t Stink” was among the songs on Peters’ compilation, which I purchased the last time we were living in Germany.  To this day, I can’t listen to some songs on that album and not have idyllic memories of our first Germany tour.  Anyway, Turetzky happened to find my Epinions review and engaged me in the comments section.  Now we’re Facebook friends.

“Her Shit Don’t Stink”… I always dedicate this to Ex.
Ken shows off his blues chops.

This morning, as I was waking up, I read a news article about how the U.S. Fertility Rate Fell to a Record Low for the Second Straight Year.  Actually, the title of this article is misleading.  It’s not that Americans are infertile.  It’s that they aren’t having as many babies.  Frankly, I think that’s a good thing.  Our country is well and truly fucked right now and plenty of people are having trouble simply supporting themselves.  The Trump administration seems to be doing its level best to erase any protections for American citizens.  The whole country appears to be in a shambles.  So I don’t blame young people for not wanting to reproduce right now.  Besides, we’ve got PLENTY of people as it is.

But seriously, though.  Think about what young people are up against.  Young people today are leaving college saddled with massive student loans.  Student loans can’t be discharged in a bankruptcy.  And well paying jobs, which would make use of those hard won degrees, are in short supply.  Now… one doesn’t necessarily have to go to college in order to make a good living.  Some people are able to learn trades or are gifted athletes or musicians.  Some people luck into money or are born into wealth.  But, for a lot of people, college is the gateway to a decent career.  There are a lot of jobs that require a degree and, in America, it’s expensive to get a degree.  So lots of young folks start off their best fertility years ladened with debt.  That makes it a lot less appealing for young people to make babies.

I will be turning 46 next month and by September, I expect to have my student loans completely paid.  I will be accomplishing this goal about nine years ahead of schedule.  When I think about it, it’s pretty amazing, especially since Bill and I started our marriage completely broke.  That “broke” period lasted about five years, as Bill recovered from financial disasters wrought in his first marriage and paid massive child support.  It finally turned around when Bill went to Iraq and started earning combat pay.  I used the extra money to get rid of some debt and start paying ahead on my student loans.  I started by paying an extra $20 a month and snowballed it for years.  

For awhile, I got letters from my student loan service letting me know the extra money wasn’t necessary.  Like hell it wasn’t.  When I consolidated my loans, I owed $57,000 and that was before the interest.  Of course, I have three degrees.  However, I don’t currently use my college degrees to make a big paycheck.  Life did not go in a direction where that would have been possible for me.  I happened to marry a kind, generous man who was willing to help me.  Not everyone is as lucky as I’ve been.  Plenty of young people are now leaving college with as much debt as I once had, and they only have one degree.

When you have to pay a lot of money for your student loans and your job isn’t necessarily secure, it might make you think twice about buying a home.  It might make you think twice about getting married or having children.  And then, once you have those children, you have to worry about all of the things that come from having them… not the least of which is how much it costs.  Kids are expensive.  Even if your child is healthy, they cost a lot of money.  If your child isn’t healthy, then there are other expenses to consider.  

And then, as you have your kids– maybe when you’re in your thirties, prime earning years– your parents might start having medical issues.  In my case, I was blessed with healthy, independent folks.  My dad had full medical coverage courtesy of being a retired Air Force officer.  My mom is very healthy and independent and has a good head for money.  So she’s doing fine.  Bill’s dad and stepmother, likewise, seem to be doing okay.  Bill’s mom needs help, but Bill is lucky enough to make good money right now.  At any point, that reality could change and screw things up.  If your parents aren’t healthy and can’t afford to take care of themselves, then you might be tasked with helping them.  And that takes money.  Sure, you can tell your parents to bugger off if you’re really selfish or sociopathic, but most people aren’t like that.

So… I can see why a lot of younger folks are holding off on having children.  Those who wait until they have money might have a harder time reproducing.  Fertility declines as a person ages.  Yes, there are women out there who can get pregnant naturally when they are in their mid 40s.  Women who decide to wait for their kids until they’ve become settled in their careers might find themselves pondering spending thousands on fertility treatments.  Some might decide to go to another country for cheaper fertility treatments.  If anything goes wrong, though, their health insurance probably won’t pay for anything related to care they received out of the country.  That’s if they can afford to have health insurance in the first place.    

I have no idea how fertile I am, since our fertility issues were probably caused by Bill’s vasectomy and subsequent reversal.  I never bothered to get thoroughly checked out because when I was in my 30s, we were still broke.  Any kind of fertility treatment would have cost money we didn’t have, even if we could have gotten that treatment at a substantial discount, thanks to the military.  I didn’t want to stay broke, so I focused on getting rid of debt instead of having children.  

I was also influenced by a woman I met while living at Fort Belvoir.  Like me, she had trouble conceiving.  She got fertility treatments and eventually had a son.  Sadly, he was born with multiple devastating birth defects.  He needed round the clock care.  She went from being a wife in a comfortable financial situation with two dogs, to a woman who spent all of her time trying to take care of her very medically fragile baby boy.  I remember very clearly when she warned me that if I had fertility treatments, I could end up in the situation she was in.  She seemed bitter about it.  I have to admit that I had a lot of empathy for her.  All she wanted was to simply be a mother.  She was lucky, though, in that she had access to military healthcare and housing.  Still, caring for her baby meant she needed extra help.  And that also costs serious money.

These are just a few reasons why women aren’t having babies.  I haven’t even touched on the fact that a lot of men who might be decent fathers are scared of commitment.  Frankly, I can’t blame them for that.  If a marriage fails, and many of them do, it can cost a lot of money.  Men, more often often than women, wind up being on the hook for child support for years.  It happened to Bill.  It was a long stretch of being nearly broke while working his ass off, while his first wife denied him access to his daughters, and his second wife struggled to find work.  Trust me, it’s not fun, although Bill and I were lucky enough to be able to survive and thrive.  Not everyone is as lucky as we’ve been.

I also didn’t even get into people who are involved in religions that demand a lot of tithing.  When I met Bill, he was still a Mormon and obliged to give ten percent of his gross income to the church.  That was so he could be “temple worthy”… which meant he was allowed to wear the special underwear and enter the temple and participate in culty religious ordinances that were either very bizarre or very boring.  Again, ten percent of one’s income, especially when the income isn’t quite enough, is a lot of money.  It tends to discourage reproduction, even as church leaders are encouraging it.

Anyway, I posted the article by The New York Times on my Facebook page and it immediately attracted comments.  A few comments came from my old online comedian friend, Ken Turetzky.  I remembered his silly song, “My Fat Ass Itches” and its bluesy hooks.  I suggested to Ken that maybe he ought to write a blues song inspired by the article I posted.  But, you know what?  Maybe I’ll do it myself.  I have all day.  I have no job.  I have no other purpose other than to comment on the news.  And, by some miracle, I managed to get to middle age without defaulting on any loans.  But I have no descendants or dependents… and when I die, the mold will be broken.  Maybe that’s a good thing.  

Yeah… I’ll think about it.  If I come up with a blues song, maybe I’ll post it later (see above).  If I don’t come up with one or otherwise get distracted, I’ll just write another meaningless blog post about the state of life today.

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