Filtering Yourself

Photo by Retha Ferguson on Pexels.com

Keeping your mouth shut these days is harder than shoving a passel of hogs into a tiny hog pen . . . at feeding time. I’ve been around for quite some time and I’ve never experienced anything like what we’re seeing today. Division, unrest, widespread racism, anger, pandemics, extreme climate change, and the list goes on. Every generation speaks of times in their lives when major changes caused emotional disruption; however, I would argue that what is happening now, has to be up there in the top five.

Regardless of the rank and strength of the impact, these are challenging times. If you have a heart and an opinion, you are feeling it with an intensity that can cause quite the verbal eruption. Some would say that speaking your truth is healthy and necessary and others regard it as dangerous. People in both camps exist in my world and will continue to be a part of my life. I have been notoriously vocal my entire life, except when I’m quiet. So why the contradiction?

What it Feels Like

When I have something to say, it feels like fire in my belly and a vice squeezing my skull. It’s not pleasant and there are very few ways to release the pressure.

Having opinions is a good thing. Speaking your mind is a way of expressing your thoughts and feelings. It allows others to get to know you better. It’s also a way to remain free, free of thoughts weighing you down. Keeping it all bottled up can destroy your already compromised organs.

The conversation I have with myself about whether or not to speak-up is getting easier as I mature. There was a time when remaining quiet was not even an option; today, I employ this method of self-preservation, more often than not.

The Process of Deciding When to Share

Yesterday, I reposted a blog I wrote on Racism last year. I know it will anger some of the people in my life who will disagree. In the blog I call myself a passive racist; I believe it to be true. I’m ashamed of the number of times I have stood by and listened to people disparage black or brown people and said nothing. At the time I disagreed, but I didn’t want to rock the boat or cause a scene. I was dead wrong. I cannot turn back the clock, however, I can behave differently and call people out when I see and hear racial bias.

Sharing my political point of view has been difficult because of the current climate. These days it’s difficult to have a civilized conversation about politics. I’ve been told I have no right to share my opinion because I no longer live in the States or that the only reason I’m a left leaning liberal is because I’m gay — both rediculous.

What to Share

Choose wisely. Carefully consider what to share with others and when to share it. The last thing I want is for people to say, “There he goes again, mouthing off about something.” That can happen easily if you’re not careful.

Lately, I wait until I’m truly passionate about something before I put it out there. This seems to be more effective. The response I get on social media can be very telling and I’ve been paying attention. People are tired of politics. Those that feel very strongly, on either side, are not giving up, nor should they. I’m certainly not giving up. What I am doing is being more deliberate about when and how I state my opinion.

There are many people out there who do not want to hear it. They are in denial about the existence of problems in and with society. To those people I say, turn off your social media news feeds and television. You you don’t want to hear it, telling me or anyone else to shut up is not going to be effective. If you want to bury your head in the sand, then refrain from coming to the surface.

Some of us feel, me included, that in order for positive change to happen, we must have the converstaion.

Reactions and Responses

When you share in a public forum, you must be prepared for backlash. For me, having people agree with me is not necessarily what I am hoping for. I enjoy a good debate or argument. Tell me why you feel or think the way you do and back it up with facts, I promise to do the same. I have admitted to being wrong on more than one occasion and I have also been known to change my point of view. In addition to learning something in the process, a good argument can be a lot of fun; stimulating and enlightening. So why are so many adverse to partaking in a good debate? These days it seems that some would prefer to walk away from a relationship, than engage in a discussion. I think that’s sad.

Losing Friends & Family

Losing people in your life may be the most difficult outcome of being honest with your thoughts and feelings. Before you speak or write or video what’s on your mind, you should consider the toll it may take. Are you willing to alienate people in your life that have meant something to you for a long time?

I recently had this situation tested in my personal life. My politics have pissed people off for a long time; however, because of where the nation is politically today, people are more wedded to their point of view than ever before. It’s unwise and wrong for me to fault anyone for their beliefs, whether I think those beliefs are based on truth or not. My choice is to find middle ground and recall what made that person special to me.

Going Forward

I have learned that that staying silent is impossible. Repressed thoughts or feelings eventually surface; when they do, the longer I allowed them to fester, the more toxic and harder they are to rein in.

The bottom line is comfort. For me, if I’m not strong in my convictions and resolute about where I stand, I cannot speak out. There are moments when I feel that my time is better spent working on my own self-worth; exercising my ego and feeding my brain. I have to be certain I know what I am talking about before I spout off. I have to fact check myself and do my homework. Then and only then, can I speak my mind.This is the way for me to defend myself, debate and walk away with pride. Self-empowerment is mighty strong and an effective tool for healthy living.

I Am Strong | Sick and Sick of It

Traveling to Cascais, Portugal tomorrow; see next week’s blog. First trip since lockdown.

Caring Too Much or Too Little

Developing a balance between empathy and good health is a formidable goal and this is a good time to work on it.

 

65 Compassionate Empathy Quotes (2019)

 

I have always been a bit too sensitive. I was bullied as a child because I cried easily (and I liked playing with girls . . . and I hated sports). I get the crying part honestly, my dad wept without shame. The problem with feeling intense empathy is that you often feel as if you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. Managing these feelings and mitigating your health and well-being are essential.

 

What it Feels Like

I have been reluctant to look at the number of deaths around the world due to the Coronavirus. Denying a problem exists or refusing to acknowledge it, has long been a defense mechanism. However, in this case I believe empathy matters. I need to be able to experience what is happening all over the world so that I can do my part to help. I’m forcing myself to look at the numbers and think about what people are going through. It’s surreal, it’s painful, it’s difficult and it’s morbid, but it’s necessary. We’ve been told what we can do and we need to listen, learn, and hold ourselves accountable. Doing your part helps you to be empathetic without drowning in sorrow.

A brief story of too much empathy — very recent and still fresh:  When I adopted Paco in January, he had only been found on a country road two weeks prior. He weighed just over five pounds and his bones were protruding everywhere, his fur was extremely matted, and he was deathly ill from a virus. When I saw him for the first time, I wept. Each time I thought about him fighting for his life, alone and abandoned in the woods, I wept. Admittedly, this extreme sensitivity went on for weeks. This is the reason I had to leave my volunteer position at a pet shelter; I had too much empathy. Learning how to compartmentalize my feelings and thoughts was and is, necessary. By the way — Paco has fully recovered and he’s out of danger. I still worry, but it’s under control. The crying has stopped.

 

 Family

The reality of family members who are not as strong as I am or who might be struggling with emotional and/or financial issues is ever-present. How much of their worries are my worries? How much of their suffering can I or should I take on? What can I do to ease the anxiety I impose upon myself? There are a number of considerations when discussing problems with family members. First and most importantly, in some cases, they have families of their own. Therefore, when you get involved, there may be others in your family that are also affected and that complicates matters further. There is a risk of alienating family members who may be embarrassed or who may see things differently.

Most people prefer privacy, even if it means not sharing with their own family. This could be the topic of a whole other blog. I’ll leave it at this:  there are times when it is best to keep family problems at arm’s length. You may have to be clear about that when approached. “Sue, I think it would be better to discuss that with Greg; your husband is my brother-in-law and one of my favorite people in the world, I don’t want him to be angry with me for taking sides.” Sue doesn’t exist. Just an example of the language you may have to call upon when communicating. Remember, most people prefer candor and authenticity. Those who don’t may not deserve your time or energy.

There is always the advice that is unwelcomed. Family members who are not ready or willing to face their problems will sometimes push you away and resent you for getting involved. In these situations, you have to be either willing to handle the confrontation or in some cases ignore the radio silence.

 

Friends

Our friends are our chosen family. We love them dearly and sometimes that love might cause us great pain. When you see a friend in trouble and you cannot help them, it can tear you apart. Two of my friends are alcoholics. One of these individuals will no longer speak to me because I tried to help and he does not want to acknowledge his problem. The other is in treatment and doing well so far. The only way I can live with myself in situations like this (be it a friend or a family member) is to try to help in some way:  support, resource, friend, caregiver, etc. Doing nothing makes me feel useless and more like a failure. On the other hand, if I reach out numerous times and the friend refuses my help, I have to be able to accept that I’ve done all I could do and walk away. Speaking from experience, I’m not insinuating this part is easy; in fact, it may be one of the more difficult things in life you will have to do. Friendship is like any other relationship, empathy is imperative and it must be conveyed delicately. People who are suffering emotionally cannot always handle empathy when you’re feeling it, they may need time to process and prepare. As a friend, you need to understand boundaries and know when it’s the right time to help.

 

Our World

We live in complicated circumstances with over seven billion people inhabiting the planet.  Unfortunately, 734 million of the world’s dwellers are considered to be living in absolute poverty (wikipedia); that’s a lot of people. Horrible reality like this can keep you up at night. The number of people with cancer and no access to care, the number of people in abusive relationships, the number of children without food, the number of refugees without a home, self-serving politicians, and on and on. It is important to consider the difficulties all around you and do what you can to help; however, it is equally important to consider all that you have to be grateful for.

 

How to Manage it So that it Doesn’t Take Over

Meditation is a self-help practice I mention regularly. People often think of it as a waste of time or new agie. For me, it is a way of keeping things in perspective. Sometimes I make life too much about me and I have to remind myself that it is not at all about me. At other times, the weight of everything around me is so difficult to manage, I have to shed some of it by logically thinking it through.

Exercise is one of my top three ways of sorting through life’s difficulties. When you’re overly concerned about everything, you have to have a way to balance the gravity of all of these concerns or it will consume you. Exercise is like a release valve. There is no doubt in my mind that I have developed an addiction to working out. Exercise and chocolate are the only two addictions I can honestly say I embrace without guilt or self-punishment. I do not often give myself a free pass to indulge; therefore, I am grateful for the freedom to just enjoy these two gifts.

Volunteering your time is not a panacea for solving the world’s problems. However, it is a way for you to feel empowered. Everything you do to help will yield rewards.

“Volunteers are not paid — not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless.”

— Sherry Anderson

 

You know as well as I, that no matter how thoughtful you are or healthy you may try to be, your emotional state of mind (mood), often determines how you feel. You might have a good night’s sleep and wake up feeling so much better than the night before. On the other hand, you might do everything right and have a restless night’s sleep and wake up angry at the world. I have learned to just go with it. If you try to push it away or sweep it under the rug, you are likely to either experience it with greater angst or have it rear its ugly head at the most inopportune time. If you breathe and treat yourself kindly during these difficult periods, you will come through the difficulty with less collateral damage.

 

Talk Through it With Someone You Love and Trust

For some, talking through your worries is a learned behavior. Some of us are hesitant to burden others with our problems or confused thoughts. We’re quick to want to help others, but when it comes to our own issues, we retreat and suffer in silence. I’m a big fan or running things by people who are not directly involved and I believe, can be objective. Be sure to ask if it is okay to share. Do not judge or dismiss an individual’s thoughts. You can be certain that if you disrespect a generous listener, you will never be able to solicit advice again.

 

 

“Empathy is the medicine the world needs.”

— Judith Orloff. M.D.

 

Resources:

How to Be More Empathetic (NY Times)

Importance and Benefits of Empathy (Very Well Mind)

 

I hit a milestone with 100 blog posts last week. I wish I had been aware of it, I would have celebrated sooner.