Suicide: Why I Never Did It.

GUEST BLOG POST:

I wanted to die.  Not out of anger or fear.  I just wanted the pain to go away. It was the only way I could imagine it would stop. End it! I didn’t just feel pain. I was pain itself – and it had to end.

I had some deep dark days dealing with childhood sexual abuse, a teenage rape and feelings of utter worthlessness.

I never actually physically attempted suicide.  But for many years the thought was never far from my mind.

What kept me from doing it?

In the beginning it may have been the Catholic faith I was raised in.  A part of me was hopeful, despite my deep depression. I was an optimist at heart.  I kept telling myself that maybe, it would get better.

Maybe, if I offed myself I would miss something really good that would make me feel happy and good about myself.  What if that good thing happened tomorrow and I would miss it by just one day?

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Maybe it was Rita Moreno.  I saw her on a talk show many years ago where she talked about her suicide attempt.  “If you ever feel like killing yourself just wait one day,” she said.

I always waited.

I found strong support through therapy, but the thoughts persisted. Suicide became a trusted escape hatch.  When the depression and anxiety felt too much to handle I could tell myself, I had a way out.  I was not trapped in this mess.  I could leave anytime I wanted.  I didn’t have to actually go down that chute, but if it was handy I would feel safe.

I was tired of the dark sameness of my life, but the idea of change was terrifying.

I was afraid to show who I was.  Exposure felt unsafe. Stay hidden or you will be abused, beaten, raped. But something in me wanted to emerge. I dared myself to break out. Step into the light. It felt like I would die if I stepped out even one inch. I was trapped there in that place between deep yearning and fear. It felt like I would die, if I did this, if I stepped out into the light. I realized this was a suicide. I would die this way. Not a physical death – but a jumping off the cliff into a new way of being.  A new expression of who I am.

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Since that first leap, I have had many suicides.  I confronted my abuser.  That was jumping off a scary cliff.  Years later, I forgave him.  That was an even bigger cliff.  I took on leadership positions at work. That was frightening – it was exposure. I might be a target for abuse – but I was not. Those leadership positions helped me discover a whole part of myself that was always there, but had kept hidden even from myself.

I jumped into relationships – some were successful, some, not so successful.  Jumping into them was a suicide – jumping out of them was a suicide.

I survived all of them.  The old Elaine was dead and the new one was there to live a new joyful life.

My favorite suicide has always been the last one — When I am still still basking in the afterglow after having taken a chance to expand into my sense of who I am.

My most favorite suicide is the next one.  I don’t yet know what that is. I eagerly await its revelation.  I will jump off that cliff with joy into a new me.

ELAINE OCASIO

 

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I Met God at the Juice Bar.

 

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I never expected to find God when I went to the juice bar.

As I approached the counter, the man behind the abundance of fruit and vegetables looked up at me. “Hi,” he smiled, maintaining a daringly long eye contact. Smiling, I looked away shyly. Eye contact is so rare these days, it almost felt like it burned. “What is your name?” After I told him my name, he apologized. “I know you were in here the other day, and I am so sorry that I didn’t remember your name.” He remembered I was here? He continued looking me in the eye, addressing me by my name before wishing me an amazing day. Somewhere along the way, I slipped my phone into my pocket. His attention, kindness made me want to give back that connection, that respect. I waited for my juice – observing my surroundings, chatting with another woman.

I walked out feeling different. Connected.

What just happened? 

God.

There was a time I did not believe in God. I felt alone, separate. We often sit alone in our pain, thinking we are the only ones. But if we look around, that pain is everywhere. It is all one click away on social media or the news. It seems people are either talking about their pain, or giving the impression that everything is perfect. Then we hear about another suicide and we know the truth. If they could have said the words, “I am so much pain.” Would things have turned out differently?

All those people in pain, unable to give a voice, or better yet, to feel it, in all its raw gut wrenching agony. Instead, hurt people continue to hurt people, or themself. When pain, hatred, intolerance, rears it ugly head, we can wonder where is God in all of this? When bad things happen to good people, we often think God has forgotten about us.

It is too simple an explanation that when darkness and evil rest upon this earth, or knocks on our door, that God has abandoned us. When bad things happen, it does not mean, God is absent. I see God not in the tragedy of someone’s blind rage, the separation of an act of violence, but in others compassion that follows. Just as we hold each other in our darkest hour, or rise up against the oppressed, we can find God, not in the heinous act, but in the aftermath. I see God, not in the dirty dishes that pile up in the sink, but in the grace of the clean running water that helps clean up the mess.

I believe no matter what, God has our back. God is there, directing, guiding, often gently,  sometimes abruptly, prying open our hearts. I see it that we all have a personal plan, a guideline, a route mapped out before we come into our life. As if we are in New Jersey and are meant to go to California before we die. Which road we take, what method of transportation, how long it takes to get there, is in our hands. Do we camp out beneath the stars, or sleep beneath satin sheets within the comfort of a hotel. We make those choices. There are many paths we can take, and they are all out there, as possibilities. We will get there. Some of us will get there quickly, others will take a lifetime. On our trip, we will experience loss, joy, laughter and love.

In writing about God, I received the image of a person who sits in front of a huge network of switches, knobs and dials. It reminds me of the technology used for producing songs in a studio. God is there, turning up the volume on something, switching off something else – based on our choices, relationships, our intentions, interactions, insights and our divine plan. We can co-create our journey, we can make decisions. But God is also at work, directing through coincidences, synchronicities and seemingly meaningless interactions.

We just need to show up. Be present and look for the signs, even if we do not intuitively know what we are to do, or where we are meant to go. Everything is here to move us to a higher awareness, opening. Every challenge is a gift. It’s all in the way we receive it and incorporate it into our life.

We all have a purpose, and there is God in all of us. One person may serve juice, another directing planes for safe landing. One may reside homeless, searching for their next meal, another living within a newly erected castle with Italian inspired designer marble columns.

It is does not matter how we get there, how we find God. It can happen in an instant or across lifetimes. We can be reminded we are not alone at a juice bar or at a football game, In church, or gliding along a lake with the sun shimmering upon its glass like image.

If you have never seen or felt God, look closer. Peer into those hidden nooks and crannies, choose door number three or just become quiet and ask God to send you a sign, and to make it obvious.

God is here. God was here all along. Whether, life turns our world upside down, or we had to order a juice, to be reminded. God is everywhere, and we are never alone.

 

 

 

 

 

When You Start Blaming, You Start Healing.

Why are we so afraid to blame others? Blame is calling people on their shit. It is putting the onus where it deserves. It is giving the shame back to the abuser, the rape back to the rapist, the battering back to the batterer. Blame is empowering. It is about getting angry, and saying, you did this. You don’t have to take ownership, but I am no longer blaming myself.

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At some point in my life, I made a promise that I would devote my life to helping others feel worthy, and this blog has evolved out of that promise. I made that promise because I spent so much of my life feeling the opposite – unworthy, ashamed, bad, and confused about why I felt this way. Perfectionism, achievements were my way out of this unworthiness, or so I thought. Wrong! We can become intellectually worthy, but that is not the same as truly feeling worthy.

Feeling worthy begins with getting honest, real, speaking the truth. Sometimes being inspirational is about lifting others up with a hand, and other times it is about keeping it real.

Today, I am going to get real. If it is too real for you, feel free to look away. But if you have ever felt less than, unworthy, deep down like you are not enough, then stay with me. Whether you have experienced exactly what I have or can just be helped in some way from my experience, read on.

I used to think being a good person was about being nice. Janet Straightarrow, a very wise woman once told me, that nice is just an acronym for:  Neurotic Insecure Codependent Emotional. Does not sound as appealing does it? Truth is being nice is not the same as being loving, having compassion or feeling through our heart. People pleasing often puts the pleasing away from us, and we are left feeling empty, hollow and wondering why we always come last.

Want to take back your life? Start blaming.

I know blame is taboo. I have heard it many times. “No,” they shout from the rooftops. “Don’t blame! Forgive.” Here is the thing.

If you feel unworthy, like you are not good enough, chances are you are already blaming; you are just blaming yourself.

Why are we so afraid to blame others? Blame is calling people on their shit. It is putting the onus where it deserves. It is giving the shame back to the abuser, the rape back to the rapist, the battering back to the batterer. Blame is empowering. It is about getting angry, and saying, you did this. You don’t have to take ownership, but I am no longer blaming myself. Someone is never responsible for our feelings, our reactions, but he is responsible for his actions. She is responsible for her abuse.

Why has blame become so taboo? The actual definition of blame is to assign responsibility for a fault or wrong. Why is putting the responsibility where it is deserves – wrong?

Blame is a necessary step in healing. Do you want to feel relief like you have never felt? Do you want to honor all you have experienced and then be able to let go of whatever you are holding on to? Want to watch anxiety and depression melt away like an ice cream cone on a hundred degree day? Get angry, put the blame back where it deserves. Write return to sender on the package that you mistakenly opened and thought was yours, and give it back. images-3

We jump to forgiveness because we are being nice – the good daughter, the cooperative friend, the submissive spouse – and it is hurting us on all levels. We have no idea what self-care, nurturing, or true feelings, look, feel, taste and smell like.

I was the ultimate champion for running away – I literally began running for miles and miles to escape the past, those unwanted feelings that seemed to creep in when I was least expecting. Here’s the thing, the run always ends. It all catches up with us – every last repressed feeling. I had always known there was something very wrong with how I felt growing up. I just didn’t know the extent to the trauma and abuse I endured. I am learning that now with the help of an amazing therapist, among other things.

I know I am not alone. I know there are those of you out there, who also have endured trauma and abuse – whether it was a one time occurrence or over the span of years. The #metoo movement is just the tip of the iceberg, but it is one hell of a start. Whether it was a single event, or repetitive, it is time to let yourself off the hook. Educate yourself. And if you are or know of someone who is struggling with the effects of abuse or a traumatic event, please seek professional help. Please email me. I have resources, and information to share.

As a waitress in college, there was an old saying, I am in the weeds. It describes how we would feel when the hostess used to sit three tables in our section at once. I am currently in the weeds because I am doing the work. I feel at the moment like the hostess has sat ten tables all in my section and they all want a five-course meal with drinks. Before we can have a beautiful rose garden, we must begin pulling our weeds.I just keep pulling the weeds out, one by one. I also ask for help. There are food servers, gardeners and managers – all waiting to help us. We don’t have to go it alone.

One of the greatest strengths of those of us who endured abuse is our ability to handle  anything. Whatever life has thrown at me, I have handled it. But we can handle a lot more when we stop blaming ourselves. When we rush to forgive the abuse, injustice, assault, the lashing out – whether it is an internet troll lurking behind the tree, ready to toss off an angry post or someone who is close to us, who we least expect, hurting us. It can be a grandiose boss who berates us on a conference call, a borderline friend, who puts us on a pedestal only to cut us down the next week. A possessive boyfriend, exploitive controlling parent, or a narcissistic coach.

We have been taught forgiveness is the key to moving on, letting go. Yes, this is true. But not before we do the work, not before we blame.We rush into forgiveness because blaming, getting angry is about getting dirty. And it can cause us to roll around in the mud for years. We want clean, tidy, perfectly wrapped presents, complete with a beautiful bow. We put that neatly wrapped present upon the shelf for years, hoping that is where it stays. Until someone comes into our life – someone who is kind, compassionate, unconditionally loving, and she looks at the present on the shelf and he points and says, what is that? And we say, Oh, that? It is nothing. 

It is time to open the box. Picking up the phone or sending that letter to whoever hurt us, may be a part of your healing, but that is not what I am talking about. It means giving ourself the green light to send it all back, to finally honor what we really feel. It is not about getting someone to admit what she did, but getting ourself to admit it. If you feel called to reach out to the person who caused you to wrap up your pretty box in the first place, do so, not for a response or an apology, do it for yourself.

Rushed forgiveness does not break the cycle. Rushed forgiveness is not healing. Healing begins with blame.

I could not possibly cover everything about the effects of a traumatic event or long-term abuse in this blog post, but I hope this will be a springboard, a start. You can heal. It takes strength, love and support, but you can do it. Please reach out for help. I will continue to inspire you to believe you are worthy, beautiful, smart and enough because it is the truth. But you must find the strength to do the work or my words will bounce off of you like rain pelting down upon an umbrella. It is time to dance in the rain.

Do the work, get into that discomfort zone, and you will find yourself gifted to everything you ever desired – peace, joy, love and the greatest inspirational feelings you can imagine. Life is a gift. If someone opened yours, and cast it aside, it is time to take your life back. After all, it was never his to take.

 

The Gift of Anxiety

Change is about becoming uncomfortable, but change also leads us to a life we have only dreamt about – a life of abundance, peace, joy and love.

 

Anxiety is tough, isn’t it? I get it. I’ve been there – many times. I don’t have it always, but when it comes on, I want to get rid of it, and fast. Like everything else, that affects our mental health, there are different levels of anxiety. There is acute panic symptoms which can be accompanied by sweating, increased heart rate, rapid breathing. Then there’s the long-term generalized anxiety – that uneasy feeling that seems to hang around more often than not, like termites gnawing at your insides. Anxiety can manifest as specific fears, which can be about anything. The two strangest I have heard of is:

  • Nomophobia: Fear of Being without Cellphones. 
  • Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia: Fear of Long Words.

We are programmed from an early age to be fearful. “Don’t step on a crack, or you will break your mother’s back.” As we grow, we continue to hear messages of fear. We cannot turn on the news without some fearful message plastered across our computer or television.

But let’s go deeper. Let’s get personal. It has been my experience that all anxiety is a cover up, a warning, a message that something is lurking beneath the surface. Something is trying to get our attention. The more we resist, the more anxious we become.

Well before the feelings of anxiety erupt, the seeds of denial, avoidance or repression are planted. Seeds grow, and over time, and it is natural for the seed to want to break through the surface and find the sun. Whatever you are repressing from your awareness, trying not to think about or feel, is attempting to break through the surface.

When the seedling wants to find the light, it is like a pot of water, boiling, with a lid rattling against the top. If you remove the lid, the steam and bubbles are free to just be. But if you keep the lid on – it will rattle you to the core.

Whether you feel anxiety or fear, here is what has helped me. It is a process that involves 5 steps – changing your state, becoming curious, allowing what arises to be felt or known, surrendering, honoring your truth.

  1. Changing your state with gratitude – if you are busy focusing on what you are thankful for, you are giving your mind something to focus on other than fearful thoughts. I like to play the Gratitude Alphabet Game. I start with A, and think about all the things I am thankful for that begin with A. Then, I move to B, and so on. Somewhere along the way, I begin to feel calmer.
  2. I surrender control – anxiety and fears worsen, when we try to control, manage or stuff it down. It is like holding down the pot lid, when it wants to come off.
  3. Curiosity – anxiety and fear cannot coexist with curiosity. I ask my self what is it really about? Where in my body am I feeling the most anxious? What is behind this anxiety?
  4. Allowing – whether is it an awareness, memory of feeling, I let it come to me without judgment.

Here is the final step. I separate it because it has become the most important step for me to grasp.

5. I honor and love all of me – every quirk, feeling, thought, behavior; every weird bit of me.

Let me explain.

It was a few years ago, when my intuitive gifts began to emerge. I was talking with a woman who was telling me her dog was limping – that she thought she must have hurt her leg while chasing horses on their farm. I heard the words “She has Lyme Disease.” I said nothing because I thought it was strange and I had not idea why I thought that. I left without telling her what I heard. Over the course of the day, the anxiety began to build. It got so bad, it was not until I went back and told her what came into my mind that the anxiety dissipated and I felt calm and peaceful again. Turned out, her dog had Lyme.

This happened again and again. Images, thoughts, gut feelings, song lyrics, messages – kept coming into my awareness without my asking. Because I am stubborn, I kept resisting. I didn’t like them. I thought it was weird, and I didn’t want to be weird.

Eventually, I gave in. What I realized is, whether I like it or not, I am an empath. I can hear messages from beyond my body. I see images in my mind’s eye. I can feel someone who has already passed away and what they need me to hear. I have no idea where they are, but they sure have a lot to say. I can also feel what someone is feeling who is sitting beside me on the bus, or across the world. Like anxiety, I used to think my empathic abilities were a curse, now I know they are a blessing. It came down to a choice. Honor who I am, or feel anxious.

My advice is to let your feelings, thoughts, memories out! Say it, write it down, honor the truth. If you were not ready to hear it, feel it, know it, you would not be feeling anxious. Anxiety is always a gift. It encourages us to go inward, express ourself, feel and acknowledge our feelings and our true self.

Perhaps you can look at anxiety, as a gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) nudge. Change is about becoming uncomfortable, but change also leads us to a life we have only dreamt about – a life of abundance, peace, joy and love. Coming out with who we are, speaking the truth about our past and our self, feeling everything, promotes peace and well-being.

I used to pray to figure out my life’s purpose, why I was here. I didn’t expect to be an empath, a messenger. I was thinking it would be more like – opening up a coffee/book store, a business professional or serving drinks under a cabana on the beach.

Finding my purpose is where I have found peace. And anxiety got me there. Now, I am grateful to find, not the road less travelled, but the road I am meant to travel. And if we cross paths, do not forget to give me a high-five. I will be the one that keeps on walking, feeling, figuring out who I am, and why I am here. And just maybe I will also be the one serving drinks on the beach.

 

 

 

 

One Spoonful, One Single Act of Kindness

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It was 1977. I was scared, but I knew I was in a good place. Surrounded by 10 other girls my age, I was just dropped off at summer camp for the first time. I was a shy, but athletic kid. I could overcome my social awkwardness by kicking one of those slightly squishy oversized red balls over the heads of the most hopeful of outfielders. Always, I was the first picked for any teams, and the fastest runner. Yet, none of my strength or speed helped that late morning, when I first stood at the foot of my bed, watching many of the other girls, laughing and reuniting from last summer.

It was a moment of relief, when one of my counselors walked over to me, sensing how I was feeling. “I’m Gina,” she said, pointing to her name tag. I smiled, shyly. “Come on, let’s go meet the other girls.” I let her lead me over to the group, still feeling awkward, but joining in a game of jacks. By the end of the morning, I was already feeling better, thanks to Gina. At that moment, I could not know that 10 days later, Gina would reach out to me again, in the moment I would need it most.

As a former recruiter, I know you can only find so much about a person before you hire them. You ask questions, scan resumes, but in the end you must make assumptions that you hope are right. Most of the time, you get it right – but not always. Some people look good on paper or over the phone, but do not end up being the best fit for a job. Others – you don’t realize just how good they are. That summer at camp, I had both. An incredible counselor, Gina, and a less than optimal one, Nancy.

It was about 10 days into camp (so 10 months), and we were all sitting around our dining table. Servers, who were also bunkmates, were moving back and forth, bringing bug juice, cups, plates, and whatever dinner was prepared that evening. I was a picky eater. No worries. There was always peanut butter and jelly on the table – my favorite.

Dinner that night was some sort of meat. I think it was pot roast -not my favorite. I went to reach for the peanut butter and jelly, the loaf of soft white bread, glistening against the wooden table. Nancy stopped me in my tracks, “No!” She uttered, grabbing my hand. Nancy liked to exert control over us, because she could. Her moods affected her action more than common sense. More often than not, she made up her own rules. We did not know when and where she was going to strike, but when she did, we listened. I took my hand back like I had been burned, and held it in my lap.

Tears sprung to my eyes at the thought of going hungry, or worse having to eat the pot roast. But it was more than that. I was tasting the feeling of fear upon my tongue. I knew that feeling well, as it was a familiar feeling at home, one akin to walking on eggshells. Sometimes the mood was better, and you felt free to be yourself, but then the rules could change in a heartbeat, and you got burned.

But this was camp, my safe place. Yet, there I sat, helpless, my plate empty, waiting for Nancy’s emotions to calm, and her need for control to pass. There I sat, helpless, trying to make myself invisible in a room full of screaming campers, feeling scared and alone as I did that first day. 

Problem was, dinner was ending, and having run around all day, I was really hungry, and afraid to speak up. It was then, I felt it. A tap on my knee. I looked beneath the table, and there was a hand. It was Gina’s. Her fingers held on to a spoon, filled with peanut butter. I realized in that moment, I was not the only one afraid of Nancy. We are never alone – we just think we are.

I looked up at Gina, as if that spoon was a scalpel and we were about to do surgery. She nodded at me. Take it. her eyes pleaded. I nodded back, and took the spoon, got up from the table, away from Nancy’s disapproving eyes. I hid in the corner, eating that spoonful of peanut butter, feeling both shame and relief. Feelings that would fight for bragging rights over the course of most of my life, until I would finally name them both.

As I reach into the my memory box, clearing away some of the cobwebs to come up with the details of this story, I admit to not even remembering if Nancy is her real name, while Gina’s name, I will never forget.

If Gina had not reached out to me, I could have gone a bit hungry that night, but probably not. Nobody went hungry at camp. We were likely getting canteen, candy in an hour or two, or making s’mores by the campfire. But she did, and it meant more to me than she will ever know. She reached out to me, not knowing the impact. 

There were many people in my life, that went on to hand me spoonfuls of peanut butter. My incredible life long friends, my dear husband, my former kind and patient boss, my children and my dogs – all scoops of peanut butter. Playing cards with my father when I was sick, sitting on the grass in the college quad with my wonderful poetry professor, laughing till our sides ache with my husband – all scoops of peanut butter. I have even learned how to scoop my own peanut butter with a nap on the beach, a walk through a wooded path, a funny movie and a warm fire on a icy winter morning.

Summer camp, as it turned out would become one big scoop of peanut butter after another, a place even my daughters would eventually call home, many years later.

I am sure Gina would not remember that night, or knew the impact of such a small act of compassion. Just as we do not know if our smile at a stranger or a quick text to a friend could brighten their day, or even prevent him from hurting himself. Kindness can have more of an impact than abuse, hatred and drama – especially when someone has been the recipient of both. One spoonful, one single act of kindness – so simple and yet so meaningful. We can all impact each other, choose how we connect. Why not choose kindness?

Today, I sometimes wonder where Gina is – if she has a family, what jobs she took on, if she travelled as a single warrior woman, or made a home, nestled in the security of suburbia. I would like to think she is still handing out spoonfuls of peanut butter wherever she goes.

My Response to my 9-year-old son’s Statement: “Immigrants cause Cancer.”

My latest essay published on Elephant Journal:

 

My Response to my 9-year-old son’s Statement: “Immigrants cause Cancer.”

“Do you want to hear something funny, Mom?”

I glanced at my nine-year-old son, but was also busy fixing my rear-view mirror and adjusting the heat in the car.

Because we were running late for school, I was only half paying attention when he said, “Immigrants cause cancer.”

If I had taken a sip of coffee, I would have spit it out right then.

“Where did you hear that?” I asked, holding my breath. I mean, it could have been a myriad of places—another kid, who heard it from another kid, who heard it from his parents…or the internet, as turned out to be the case. In a YouTube video.

While the video itself is clearly intended to be humorous, I was dumbfounded. I immediately replied to my son, who I adopted from Russia, “Did you know that you are an immigrant?” I paused to let that sink in. “And there are many reasons why that statement is not funny. Let me explain.”

Stunned, my son sat in complete silence.

In that moment, I realized there are so many things a nine-year-old just doesn’t understand. Most children his age are only just trying to grasp the nature of our world, and nowadays, it is right there in front of them to take in. Donald Trump has created the newest form of reality TV—he and his policies are everywhere.

Now, should my nine-year-old be watching YouTube uncensored? Maybe not. Which begs the question, should he even be anywhere within 10 feet of the TV when we are watching CNN, Stephen Colbert, or Saturday Night Live? Because there is hardly a difference anymore.

Technology has brought the outside world into our homes. And a big part of the outside world, at least in America, is “The Donald Trump Show.”

No matter how much we would like to shelter our children so that they can one day create their own objective views of the world when they’re old enough to actually form them based on higher learning, we simply can’t.

As parents, most of us have been sucked into “The Donald Trump Show,” regardless of which side we are on. We toss our opinions around like a pizza, eventually dropping them on the counter, placing some good-tasting stuff on top, and hoping that someone agrees ours is the best one to sink their teeth into.

Politics is everywhere because of Donald Trump. Social media is everywhere, too, and our kids are learning how to navigate the world of technology at a very early age. The combination of these means that our children will hear things that are racist, biased, false, vindictive, and just plain mean. How can we expect our children to act responsibly online if our president won’t even do so? Or if their role models—athletes, movie stars, singers—post Instagram pictures showcasing how good they look in a bathing suit, as if that’s all that matters in life?

Well, we can, if we teach them the value our words and actions carry.

We are not going to change our world overnight, nor are we going to impeach our president anytime soon—and maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe the lessons we are all learning from this are invaluable.

Our children are growing up in the age of technology, and there is really no way around it. We, as parents, need to show them why our words matter. Posting should follow The Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Technology ensures that our words and pictures stay out there for more than a moment—and sometimes forever.

That morning, it didn’t matter that we were late for school. I pulled over to talk about why that video was hurtful. And it was a good lesson.

On my way home, I thought about censoring my son’s time online, which I already do because, well, the whole shorter attention span thing. And the addictive nature of technology. And the “stranger danger” worries. But he is not learning compassion for others from the internet; he is learning it at home. And he is making some mistakes, just as we did growing up (teasing someone without realizing its impact, for instance). Many of us grew into compassionate, responsible adults, and so will our children.

Taking away our children’s social media will just postpone the lessons they will learn. We do not take away the stove so they won’t burn themselves, or the stairs so they won’t trip. They will fall, and they will burn themselves, and they will learn the lesson, hopefully sooner rather than later, that words matter, that what we read online is usually just one person’s opinion, that there are people out there who are unhappy and in pain and lash out with criticisms and judgments online as a result. And there are those in power who have access to Twitter who are able to say whatever they wish to whomever they please.

What we can do, as parents, is teach our children the difference between right and wrong. To slow down and think about the impact their words might have on another. To remember the tenets of mindful speech.

Yes, our words matter, even if our president does not understand this truth. Allowing our children to learn this lesson early will help them become more aware about the nature and importance of responsible posting, texting, tweeting, and commenting. Preventing them access will just keep them in a bubble, which will inevitably burst.

 

 

You can find this essay on Elephant Journal, as well as other thought provoking articles.

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2018/01/my-response-to-my-9-year-old-sons-statement-immigrants-cause-cancer/

We Can Change the World, One Gatorade Bottle at a Time.

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It is way too easy to get lost in our world. We live among billions of people, each attending to their own lives, families, jobs and if there is time, having a bit of fun. Somewhere in between work and play, we may find we have a passion that hides, lurking in the bushes like an excited child waiting to pop out at us. A passion for something higher than ourselves, outside of our personal lives.

It may be cleaning up the planet, and we may hop on the bandwagon, finding ourselves writing letters to our congressmen or posting pictures on Facebook about ways to stop using plastic. Or we may become outraged at the poisoning of our food, or the abuse of animals, both domestic and farm.  Some of us have a passion for politics and we stay glued to our televisions, watching and waiting, yelling and complaining about the latest lie or dirty campaign. Or we build homes in Central America or help to gentrify our own neighborhoods.

How wonderful to feel called to a higher purpose, but it also may feel like a burden – the more the passion arises, the more helpless we feel.  The problems of our world seem huge, overwhelming and our small part – well, are we really making a  difference?  And of course, there is that other side of our lives. Work, parenting, baseball games. We carry on doing. Carpooling, enjoying trips to the theatre, hanging out with friends and cooking our dinners – heck this is just as important, and many don’t have time to venture out to help our planet.  And yet, the bigger things, the issues of our world still remain in our peripheral vision, gnawing at us to do something. And what can we do, really?  Can we really make a difference?

I have come to realize that we can make a difference. But we need to start small, really small. Almost every day, I find myself walking in the woods, a path near my house.  The abundance of trees surrounding the trail and brook that provide a home for birds, fish insects and the occasional snake. It is beautiful, serene and often to my liking, I find myself alone, with only the accompany of a dog.

A few times a year, they stock the brook and the few ponds where the water gather with Trout, and fishermen have begun to gather each day.  With the fisherman comes discarded garbage, some of it meant to make the trash can, others left without care.  At first, this angered me, and I walked by, thinking why people toss their trash without just walking a few steps to the garbage can.  And then I begin thinking about all the plastic in the world collecting within the beautiful waters of our oceans and land, and then I think what can I do really?  Ugh! All those grocery bags! But just the other day, I stopped thinking that I can’t make a difference.

Unknown-6I heard a voice deep within my being that said, just pick it up.  I looked around.  How can I pick up all this garbage?  I will spend all my time cleaning up and not enjoying my walk which has come to calm and clear my head, proving peace and serenity in a chaotic world. Then the voice returned, it said,  you do not need to pick up everything.  Just pick up one piece.  So I did.  And then I thought I can carry three or four pieces to the garbage can, and I did.  And I went on with my walk.

The next day, I set out down my favorite path, I found more garbage and picked up a few pieces and put them in the trash. And I began to feel, as small as it was, that I was making a difference. For if we do something small, that is right in front of us, this is the most direct way we can change our world. Even if we feel like we are not making a dent.

For we need both, the masses and the individual. Would Rosa Parks, in 1955 have had the strength to refuse to surrender her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama bus which spurred a city-wide boycott, had the masses not come before her, marching and protesting? She was not the first to resist, as there were many that came before her throughout the 40’s and early 50’s, and after her. It was the momentum, persistence and patience that eventually led to changes in our segregation laws. And there was that one person that said, I can make a difference. Rosa did not act alone, and neither do we when we perform one random act of kindness.

When I turn my attention back to my own life, in the year 2017, and I look at the myriad of protesting, marching, and discord within our government and the chaos and fighting going on in the world as a whole, I think can I really make a difference? I mean, I am no Mother Theresa – not even close.

And yet, as I stepped out of my car to go grocery shopping, and kicked an empty Gatorade bottle, I heard that voice again, saying, pick it up and toss it in the garbage.  So I did. Is this a bit grandiose for me to think about that I, alone, can make a difference in the world, by picking up an empty Gatorade bottle? No. Because I am not alone. There are masses of people looking to clean up our planet, recycling programs, as well as, climate change programs that are doing their best to survive the agenda of our current government. I don’t have to be working in Washington, DC to make a difference.

How Is my picking up the small pieces of garbage making a difference in all the pollution, plastics and garbage wrecking havoc upon our planet? Can you imagine if we all picked up a few pieces of garbage, give a few dollars to someone who is homeless or took a few moments to let someone go in front of us?  Or we just sent our prayers everyday to those who are less fortunate than we are – those who are hungry, unsafe or in harm’s way when walking outside their front door. We think we have to do something huge, but we don’t.

We don’t even have to seek it out – our higher self passions. What if we all woke each more, and took a few seconds, and uttered the phrase, “Today, let me be the answer to someone else’s prayers. or today I will do one random act of kindness.”  And then went about our day, until the opportunity arose for us to help. I bet we would all find our small moment to do something to help our beautiful planet with the amazing billions of people who live on it. If we all said a prayer, in between our play off games and sales appointments, or if we just noticed when something or someone came across our path that needed our attention, we really would not need to leave our living rooms, unless called to do so. And this is as much a reminder for myself, as it is for anyone reading this article. We all get caught up in our personal lives, forgetting how we can make a difference, or help one another.

We all have a little voice inside of our heads that speak to us. We just need to spend a few moments in quiet, so we can hear it. We can all make a difference. There is a Rosa Parks, in all of us. We just need to figure out what bus we are meant to get on, and then climb aboard.