THE GIFT OF TIME
For me, one of the many advantages of senior citizen status and semi-retirement is the rediscovery of time. While I presumably have less time to spend on this earth, I am more careful to choose how I use it. I am dedicating this blog post to my sister-in-law Kathy Shields who left us this Fall after a courageous struggle with illness and mortality. My husband lived in a birth family with one older brother and five sisters. (That’s a lot of sibling history and dynamics going on in my book.) Typically, I will only cultivate relationships with a few favorites in my extended family pool. Blessedly, I became acquainted with Kathy over the almost 2 years preceding her death. She was the mother of two young women. She seemed to love and enjoy spending time with her granddaughter. She dedicated her life to educating 2nd Grade students in Fremont, Nebraska. She was hardworking, thrifty, and gentile in her manner with zero swear words in her vocabulary. I learned something about humility and courage in our association. She was completely aware of how even brief human connections can help us grow wisdom and character. I will try to remember and share her contributions to my life’s direction and the daily path I choose.
God bless and keep you Kathryn.
MY 2015 ROAD TRIP
September and October took me on enjoyable personal travel to Florida and Europe. It was comforting to see how maturity on everyone’s part can avoid toxic conflict and unnecessary drama. I greatly appreciate my family’s contributions to a New Age of Tolerance and Civility. I only wish we could roll this program out to and through the media. I am totally disgusted and honestly more than a little afraid of all the hate and vitriol I see daily on social media. The political cycle feeds this monster in a political climate of our own making. Of course, I am a recovering political road warrior myself. I understand how fear and irrational beliefs have always been a factor in political contests. Social media just shines a hot spotlight on all our anxiety and impatience. I try to be thoughtful, tactful and kind. I carefully reflect on my social media presence to be as authentic and constructive as I can. I appreciate that what I consider a strength may be viewed as a crippling weakness. I can live with that. I am proud to wear the mantle of “Little Goody Two Shoes.” I am in fact a do-gooder. I can also be a busy body. I can live with all that too.
GO BIG RED Miami
LION OF LUCERNE c. 1821
TROLLS, STALKERS AND DISAGREEABLE FANS
I hear from more friends than foes on Facebook. I benefit from varied connections I have made. My life is enriched by information and perspectives I glean from Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, et al. Pinterest helps me flesh out my life story. I share this experience with my favorite cousin Micki. Instagram visually connects me with a sampling of interests, friends, family and miscellaneous persons of interest. Tumblr is a platform for this blog and others I mostly enjoy through photographs. I occasionally look at Google+ for random stuff on science and technology. Snapchat is a new addition where I was delighted to connect with my spouse and a grandson who shares status reports on geckos. The benefits of LinkedIn are not as obvious to me looking in the rearview mirror of my employment history. I still have some professional connections who carefully avoid Facebook, Twitter, etc. LinkedIn provides a snapshot of their journey if they remember to keep it current.
I share content on Facebook daily from numerous sources I find enjoyable, informative or thought provoking. I obviously do not endorse or fact check everything I post. Why would I take on this level of responsibility? I am an amateur blogger and gadfly. I spend most of my time tending little dogs, and looking for updates on grandsons. I enjoy pictures posted by my favorite niece, some first cousins, in-laws and their families. It always perplexes me when a Facebook “friend” scolds me for posting a source or report they find suspect. REALLY? Do your own Internet due diligence people! I am not your research assistant.
I am going to reference my Facebook experience this week to make a few points. I shared a medium.com blog post by David Brock who describes himself as “Journalist. Author. Democratic activist.” His title “Let’s Talk Hillary” shared his opinion that as people get to know Clinton they seem to like her more. Fair enough you say? One of my so-called Facebook “friends” instantly shared the post with his suggestion: “You must be gullible to believe her lies. Not ever going to support her.” I posted a comment denying personal gullibility and clarifying why I personally admire and support this leader, and suggesting it is too easy (implication simplistic and/or unfair) to just dismiss a political candidate as a liar. Not surprisingly, the discourse went further downhill as my gullibility and the candidate’s veracity and ethics were further called into question. A comment reply by some guy I do not know then suggested I was too “thin skinned” when I challenged disparaging characterizations of myself. This is a classic maneuver of the Facebook troll. If I stick up for myself I am obviously thin skinned. I couldn’t be, say, confident, brave, savvy, or professionally trained to spot male chauvinism and aggression. Now I concede that anyone who comments critically on an acquaintance’s (let’s not say friend’s) post is asking for it. We all have defensive and ego saving impulses. Socialized gender roles and bad communication habits can then take social discourse down a frustrating path. I know it is irrational to think my Facebook protestations will motivate personal growth and change in others while I am voluntarily jousting over politics. Having said this, I am still going to call out haters who try to put me and my team in our place. Trying to shame, intimidate or defeat others through vicious accusations is not O.K. with me. I am also finding it hard to defend the shortsighted “Team Spirit” I see when a political partisan promotes their favorite candidate by vilifying a competitor in the tryouts. It’s like shooting some of your team’s players in the foot, while discouraging boosters who loyally support your team’s shot at victory! It’s anyone’s guess which campaigns or interests fan these flames of divisive discourse. The tactics are obvious, but the strategic motives far from transparent. This troubled landscape clearly invites some alternative consideration of gullibility.
QUERY: I am pondering if a confessed Goody Two Shoes like me can actually be “too nice?” That was another critique I received this week for criticizing 24 hour news organizations. Using media hyperbole to stoke flames of political character assassination is not responsible journalism in my book. Apparently lots of partisans will give this conduct a pass as long as the attack centers on a public figure they fear or dislike. News reporters and commentators rely too much on press releases and news sources manipulating their coverage. One of my pet peeves, for sure. I want to believe Free Speech in a democratic society can do better.
As always, this reflection takes me back to memorable entertainment from my 1950s childhood. (Actually, Walt Disney’s film “Pollyanna” was screened in 1960.) Based upon a bestselling 1913 novel, it depicted a young orphan remarkably determined to welcome the most optimistic perspective into her life. Why this message resonated with me is curious. I was not an orphan sent to live with a wealthy relative. I may have envied a few possibilities in this scenario. Being nice and speaking optimistically was certainly not my default style. Maybe the Pollyanna message was somehow congruent with my Mother’s instruction on manners?
Blogging 56 years later, my takeaway is that trying to look for the best in everyone and everything helps me more than hurts me. It does not seem to damage those around me. I never regret being kind or polite. Others may choose another path and the consequences. I guess friends and followers can feel free to “rain on my parade” if they must. Just know I almost always carry my umbrella….