Thursday, December 10, 2015

'Tis The Season

Oh yes, it's the most wonderful time of the year.  The time where we all come together to wish each other well and good cheer.  A time to spend with family and friends, and to count our blessings.  A time to share good food and good times with all.  So why all the stress?  Why all the arguing and bickering over who's holiday trumps who's?  Why all the animosity?  Where is it all coming from?

This is the time of year where I see so many posts online, and hear so many people talking about how everyone is taking the "Christ" out of Christmas.  And how everyone is getting too sensitive and they are going to say "Merry Christmas" to everyone whether they like it or not and they will be really offended if the person doesn't say "Merry Christmas" right back.  I see and hear all of "Jesus is the reason for the season" plastered everywhere.  And it seems to me like the majority of the strife is coming from some, not all, Christians who feel "their" holiday is being taken over.  So let's take a closer look at this, shall we?

What is Christmas all about anyway?  Well, the Christian celebration is the birth of Jesus in a manger, with three wise men, and some animals.  So basically the birth of Jesus.  This is celebrated on the 25th of December.  So this man, called Jesus, was presumably born on the 25th of December, right?  Actually, no.  Scholars and historians have calculated Jesus's birthdate to be some time in June.  Feel free to search for yourself or check out this link here for more information.  So why would the Christians start a false holiday?

Well, you see there were these pesky heathens running around worshipping all these other gods and goddesses, and the Christians very much wanted to convert them to Christianity.  In order to make the transition smoother the church created Christian celebrations that mirrored the Pagan ones.  One of them being Christmas.  Christmas was used to replace Yule also known as the Winter Solstice.  This is a time of year when the night is the longest and the Pagans are celebrating the birth of the Sun God who will return to the earth and brighten the days.  Hmmm, birth of the Sun God, birth of Jesus.  Trees, being male phallic symbols were decorated with edible treats for the birds and wildlife to help them through the last of Winter until the Sun God was strong enough to help the earth grow again. 

And to this day there are still people who celebrate the Winter Solstice and the birth of the Sun God.  Now, that doesn't make Christmas any less of a holiday.  After all it's been around long enough now to earn itself a place at the December holiday table right up there with Hanukkah and Kawanzaa. 

There is another pesky little thing I would like to address, the dreaded "X".  SO , so often through the holidays I get lectured on how I shouldn't use Xmas as an abbreviation for Christmas as it is disrespectful to Christ.  Guess what, it's not.  Please read up here for the full explanation.  For the short version, "X" has replaced Christ's name in Christianity for centuries because it is from the Greek alphabet.  It has nothing to do with disrespect.

One last thing, if someone wishes you a "Merry Christmas", "Happy Holidays", "Seasons Greetings", "Happy Hanukkah", "Happy Kawanzaa", "Merry Yule", or a "Merry Happy ChristmaKawanzHanuYule!", just remember they are all doing it with the same intention, to wish you and yours a well and a Happy New Year!

Next lesson, how to stop commercializing whatever you celebrate!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Matter of Perspective

Now that marijuana has been legalized in Oregon, and even more recently can be sold in a retail setting, it has become a hot topic of conversation everywhere.  On one hand I think that's great.  We should be talking about it.  We should talk about its risks, its benefits, appropriate times to use it, legal age, and all the other important boundaries we would talk about with any other controlled substance like tobacco or alcohol.

The problem I am having is the media sensationalizing any and every negative experience that has happened here that may or may not involve marijuana.  For one thing, it gives the impression hat it only happened because marijuana was legalized, and for another it gives the impression that whatever the outcome was marijuana was the one and only cause.  Neither of these is always true.

For example there is this recent tragic event.  Notice how the headline boldly claims the driver allegedly was smoking pot.  Notice how they slipped in there that the accident comes just 5 days after retail sales of recreational marijuana is legal.  And also notice that all the way at the bottom they finally say that the driver was smoking "seconds" before the crash.

Don't get me wrong, I do not in any way shape or form condone any type of driving while under the influence.  However, for the sake of playing devil's advocate, let's say that this moron took his very first hit just seconds before the crash.  He would not have been high at that point, it takes a little time to get to that point.  Could he have been distracted?  Probably, but high?  Most likely not.

Also, the fact that retail sales just started has absolutely nothing to do with this story.  If the media and authorities think that just because it is legal it is all of a sudden easier to get your hands on marijuana then they are really delusional.  This area has to be one of the easiest to buy marijuana, even before it was legal.  I can think of about 5 people off of the top of my head I could go to and say hey, I want to get high, and they would gladly oblige.  This same tragic accident could have easily taken place last year, the year before, or even 4 years ago for that matter.  Making it legal doesn't make people smarter.  It just makes it so those who choose not to break the law can enjoy what is known to be a relatively safe drug when used in moderation like everything else.

So the next time you see a news article that makes you angry about a hot topic issue stop and ask yourself, is this just a matter of perspective?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Thinking

I am feeling very introspective today.  This is usually either a very good thing or a very bad thing that then ends up being a very good thing...either way I win it's just a matter of how rocky the road is ahead.

I am not really thinking about anything in particular, more like lots of things in particular that add up to the big picture.  If that makes any sense.  I am thinking a lot about journeys and paths taken and roads less traveled.  I am thinking about the forks in the road in front of me and the decisions I need to make soon. 

I am thinking about how much should I let my past journeys affect my new roads, and what baggage can I really afford to leave behind.  Because even though sometimes you really just want to get rid of that baggage, because it's old and tattered and painful, you also want to cling to it because it's all you've ever really known and if you get rid of it what will you pack your things in now?

I am thinking about the unknown and adventure and how much it used to thrill and excitement, and how that now that I have been burned so badly all I want to do is curl in a ball and hide from the world never to try again.  I think about how bold and brave I used to be, and how sometimes, just sometimes I see that glimmer of my former self in the mirror before my inner monologue squashes it like a parent telling a child too close to a hot stove "NO! Ouch! You'll hurt yourself!"

I am thinking about how to define the word "alone" as in "I feel so alone".  Because whenever I say it to someone I love they are always so helpful in listing off all the amazing people in my life.  And while it's true I do have an amazing support system I still feel "alone" and yet I can't explain it.

I think back looking for the happy days, and am grateful when I can find them, it's progress.  I am making progress.  I take some breaths.  I focus on a happy memory hoping to pull myself from this downward spiral.  Almost, for now I will settle for staying steady.  It's progress.

Monday, August 31, 2015

A Little Compassion

It's all well and good that organizations provide their employees with bereavement leave, and I understand not all do so this is a luxury and not necessarily a right.  But when they do provide it there are so many policies surrounding it that it is almost a hassle to use it, not what you need in a time of loss.  Those who don't have it, should, it provides piece of mind to their employees...as long as you pay attention to what I have to say here.

Most places only cover what they call "immediate family", but everyone has a different definition of "immediate family".  For some it is just spouse, parents, and children.  For others they extend it out to brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, even cousins.  For some it only covers your family, for others it covers your spouse's family as well.  Some cover step, some don't.

But here is what none of them take into account...Your relationship with the deceased.  Nobody cares that the person who died had a huge impact on you growing up, or that was the one person who inspired and helped you go to college, or that was the one person in your family you truly connected to.  Who cares if that one person was a second cousin, a great great aunt, a great grandmother, or some other "distant" relative.

It is assumed that people live in the 1950's nuclear family environment still.  Mom, dad, and kids live together in their little pod, and the rest of the families all live in their little pods and everyone gets together for Christmas, Easter, and maybe a Summer Reunion.  Guess what?  That's not the reality anymore, and hasn't been for a while.  Reality is more and more families are living together in multi-generational homes.  More and more people are seeing the benefits of spending time with their elders and gaining the knowledge of the past from them. 

And then you also have the other aspect, not every family has a nice, pretty, perfect family tree.  My family tree would look like a gnarly old oak tree if you were to map it out with two of  my great aunts being born just before my mom and being closer in age to her than her own younger sisters, so naturally she was closer to them and so was I.  My family tree also comes with trap doors, tree houses and zip lines, because you just never know what nut is going to shake loose whenever you start asking questions about family history.  The point is though there are some whose leaves are within poking distance that I have probably only spent hours with in my entire life, whereas there are others that I would have to scamper across the entire tree to get to that I spent so much time learning from and loving their company yet when the one I barely know passes I can get bereavement leave without a second glance, and the one who was the bigger influence on my life I have to find a way to get time off some other way.

Yes, I know there would probably be a couple who would abuse the system if it was opened up wider.  And honestly for those who family means so much, like me, it would make times of loss less stressful and more productive at work.  Instead of offering the 24 hours of leave being offered for "Immediate Family" perhaps they could offer just 8 hours for Extended Family, just so someone can attend the services.  It just seems so cold for this giant organism to decide who is most important to me based on dilution of blood.  If you are going to go by that then they are equally as unimportant because nobody has the same bloody parents!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Snake Oil Cure All?

I had an interesting conversation with one of my coworkers this morning.  Since I have been back to work from my leave of absence I have been much happier, much more positive, and I haven't missed a single day of work...which compared to before I took my time is a big deal.

She asked me, "What happened while you were off?  What did the doctor do?  What did he give you?  You are so different and you don't even seem like you are hurting much anymore!"

She was so incredulous and almost accusatory like she couldn't believe I was the same person that I almost had to laugh.  I explained to her that before I took my time off I was in a really bad headspace.  I told her that I was in a cycle of bad depression and I told her that depression is something I have struggled with for a great deal of my life.  I explained that I finally recognized that I was so bad off if I didn't do something to help myself things were going to get really bad and I didn't want that to happen.  I told her that by taking time off I was able to take time for me and it gave me a chance to breathe and sort of reset myself.  I said that because I was so depressed the pain would get worse and the worse the pain got the more depressed I would get so I would get in a vicious cycle.  I still have pain, and it's manageable now, and I can have a more positive attitude about it.

She was amazed by what I was telling her.  I don't think she, or a lot of other people, realize what a toll depression and other mental illnesses can take on a person.  I also don't think she realized what a difference it can make when that person takes the time to treat their illnesses.  I also told her that I don't know how long this good time will last, and that I plan to enjoy it and make it last as long as it can.  I know that the chemical imbalance of depression is a part of my brain and who I am.  I am okay with this.  I just have to be aware and try to catch it as early as I can.  This time I could have caught it earlier, and I caught it before it got any worse. 

Depression is like anything else in life, it's a journey.  Sure, it's a roller coaster of a journey, and after time you can learn to change it from the death defying, hang you upside down, send you in loop-de-loops, make you want to vomit ride into the little kiddie coasters with the cute little dragon heads that just go in circles and up and down soft, gentle hills.  The more you learn about your depression and your emotions the more prepared you are to hang with the ride.  Sure, meds help smooth it out, but there is no snake oil cure for depression.  It takes hard work to keep it under control.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

New and improved...?

Wow, I really took a hiatus...I didn't intend to, it kind of just happened.  Truth is, I fell.  I fell into a massive black hole of a deep depression.  I was in a pretty bad headspace for quite a while.  I wrestled with some nasty demons, and with the help of my amazing fiancĂ©, wonderful friends and family, and of course my awesome therapist I was able to fight them off and thus I am here to soapbox another day!

In order to heal I had to take a bit of time off of work to give myself some space and time to work on me.  Time where I wasn't under even more pressure to perform every day under the scrutiny of others.  During this time I worked on making myself feel better on the inside by focusing on my outside.  Before anyone goes and gets the wrong idea, this isn't about being shallow or vain, it's about feeling beautiful inside and out.  It's about self care and doing the little things to make myself smile.

One of the first things I did was completely gut the bathroom and re-organize it.  But wait you say, I said I was focusing on MY outside, well my home is my outside.  It's part of my outside world, and quite honestly it has been a disaster.  We just never had the time or energy to make it a true home once we got moved in.  We received so many wonderful donated items when we moved in together and it became a mishmash of things that we never actually weeded through and put away properly.  I always felt like my home was closing in around me.  Now I have two sanctuaries, my bathroom and my kitchen.  My next project was to give the kitchen the same treatment.  With the help of one of my amazing friends we completely cleaned and reorganized the kitchen.  Now I have an amazing space to create beautiful meals in.

Ok, now back to me...one of the things I have really let go due to my depression and other things is really truly taking care of myself and being a girl.  So during my time off I started a whole new skin care routine to start taking care of my face better, and began realizing I have lines and wrinkles oh my!  I also started playing with some make-up, which has been so much fun!  I love trying new looks and seeing what I come up with.  I have been watching YouTube videos to get ideas, and so I don't end up looking like Bozo the Clown or a lady of the night.  I have also been putting my nail polish collection to use and painting my nails fun and vibrant colors.

So what has been the result of all of this?  Did it work?  Honestly, yes.  Not only do I feel better about myself in general, but I actually feel stronger and more at peace.  I feel happier with life overall.  I know that life won't always be glitter and sunshine, and when it's not I can be okay with that because the doom and gloom won't last forever either.

I came back to work on Monday this week.  Everyone has been amazing.  They have all noticed a huge change in me and keep saying I am the new and improved me.  I appreciate the sentiment and understand what they mean, and I don't think that's quite right either.  I wouldn't say I am new as I am the same person that has always been here, nor am I improved as that may indicate I was once no good.  I am just me, not depressed.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Some things really do never change...

I took a big leap out of the broom closet at work.  We have this newsletter that comes out once a month, and the editor asked everyone in the agency to submit a statement about what diversity means to them or why diversity is important to them.  Since we are a government agency they are always touting how important diversity is to them and how proud they are of their sensitivity to diversity and their diverse culture...so being my ever ornery self I had to push the button.

I submitted my statement as "Diversity is important to me because I am Wiccan, which is still not always widely accepted.  I feel by being more open about my spiritual beliefs, and allowing others to ask respectful questions, I am opening a door to allow them the opportunity to see Wicca as another thread in society’s web of diversity".  I thought it was good, the editor really liked it, and it got printed in the latest newsletter.  I wasn't really sure what kind of responses I would get.  I figured on a bit of stupidity, but I mean come on we are all adults here, right?

Oh dear gods it's like junior high all over again!  Between the ones who are whispering behind my back, to the ones who are now flat out scared of me it is freaking ridiculous.  Grow up people, I didn't just announce I sacrifice babies or something!  The worst though are the ones who claimed to have known it because they "sensed" it...but they aren't Pagan or Wiccan...Or the ones who have a friend who is Wiccan, and do I know them?  You know because we all must know each other...because there aren't like hundreds of thousands of us out there or anything /sarcasm.  Or even better..."I know this girl and she wears lots of flowery jewelry and stuff, do you think she's Wiccan?  I asked her and she said no, but I don't believe her."  Really?  How dense can you people really be?

The difference between junior high and now is I can totally laugh at the ignorance of people.  I think what makes it even more humorous though is with as much information is available at our fingertips it would take almost no effort for these individuals to become just a tiny bit informed before opening their mouths and sounding like complete dumb asses.  At least when a topic comes up that I am not informed enough to discuss I either research first or politely decline to comment.  Especially when it concerns something as important as someone's religion. 

The thing is not one person has asked me an intelligent question about my beliefs, and I would be more than happy to answer those.  So much for promoting a culture of diversity.  I think somebody has blinders on to what's really going on around here.