Oh the drama

The night of the election I stayed up until the 1 a.m. captivated by the drama of election returns, of the great sweep of the Democrats into the House of Representatives. After hanging out with some like-minded local political volunteers and neighbors, I came home feeling optimistic, happy and excited.

Turning the t.v. off was hard, but I reasoned that more would be known in the morning, and sleep was a better use of my time than speculation. In the morning, I spent time listening to my public radio station, reading news stories and absorbing the social media feed from my friends. I commented, considered the implications of the results and attempted to connect the dots.

After about 2.5 hours of that, my body and synapses were already feeling burned and tired. I opted to attend my favorite Wednesday Zumba class. It is a great way to dance it all out, and to get out of my head and back into my body. Ahh!

Since I had an interview in the afternoon for an Upwork contract, an opportunity to do some writing and research for a bio-pharmaceutical company, I did not turn the radio back on when I returned home. Instead, I showered, had some lunch, got quiet and prepared my questions for the interview.

drama
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In the process, I was captivated by the research I was doing and felt a sense of flow emerging. I had no feeling of “FOMO” by staying off of social media. The storm of opinions will continue to brew while I get my work done, I told myself.

I figured I would return to it in the evening, flip the radio on and begin consuming the drama once again. But something in my body said “no, not right now.” I opted to run an errand, go to the grocery store and take care of the mundane habits to which we all must tend.

I listened to another chapter of an Ann Patchett book which I’d downloaded on Audible over the weekend as a “treat” to myself for those times when I want a break from work.

I considered my unwillingness to listen to the talking heads. I meditated. I wrote in my journal. I took my own advice from yesterday.  I felt peaceful and centered.

There is a theatrical aspect of politics which lends itself to using these stories as a form of entertainment. It is a serious endeavor, to be sure, but it is also drama. I have no wish to hear the president’s voice. I had already heard a bit on the car ride on the way home from Zumba, so promptly turned it off. He is not a good actor at all. Seriously.

Normally I love analyzing the semiotics and messaging of campaign language and considering the meaning behind the results. I expect I will return to that sometime.

For now, the dust will settle and I will turn away from it for a bit. With my new work contract starting, I am excited to make some “real monies” again as I joked to my husband. I shall savor that, and enjoy every moment of it.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

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Wellness Wednesday – rest and digest

Now that the excitement of this midterm election has come to a close, it is time to rest and digest. After all the “aerobic” energy of the campaign and election season, and as we process the results, we must enter a season of pausing and reflecting.

I am relieved this election cycle is over. Some of the returns have yet to be finalized but I am happy to see that the turnouts were high, and more women were voted into office than ever before.

Rest and digest.jpgThough I did not get to bed very early because I was still watching election returns, I know I will need some down time to recover this week. I identify as an introvert, so I am aware of my need for more down time than the average person. I have found that if I approach life in terms of cycles of intense activity followed by adequate rest, I am able to make better decisions for the long-term.

Maybe it is a product of age or maturity but I feel like it is easier to see the big picture than it used to be. I recognize that it is necessary to regroup and recharge between the intervals of intensity. As it turns out, this is how we best deal with stress in our lives. Stress in itself is not bad, and is in fact necessary in a healthy life.

But chronic and unrelenting stress for long periods take a toll on our bodies, our immune systems and our mental health as well. So take a break, gather your energy, allow some time for reflection and recovery. We will live and be stronger in case we need to “fight” another day for important causes that matter to us.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Binders full of women

Do you remember that phrase?

People in the U.S. probably do.

But just in case your history is foggy, it was a phrase used in a debate on October 16, 2012 by Mitt Romney when responding to a question on how he sought to create a gender-balanced cabinet. It was not so much about whether or not he did try to recruit women. It became about the objectifying women to “figures” that could be put into binders.

Perhaps that had an effect on his prospects for election. I’m not sure. He didn’t win. For a variety of reasons. President Obama had been doing a good job, and the economy had turned around since 2008. So there were myriad reasons Mitt Romney did not succeed.

And yet: 4 years after that, we elected a man who openly bragged about grabbing women by the pussy.

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Shocking, really.

I know and realize that Hillary made a lot of mistakes in her campaign. I also believe that her “like-ability” was in question, and I believe that a lot of misogyny, both real and internalized, affected her odds of election. As I have already written, all candidates running for office are deeply flawed.

However, there are a record number of women running for office in 2018 who have been galvanized by the obvious misogyny of the current administration. Our sense of decency and fairness has been violated. Some might say “binders full of women” are stepping forward.

The recent result of the Supreme Court appointment of Justice Kavanaugh just rubbed salt into the wound for so many of us. I hope that voters keep in mind the flawed nature of our power structure as they go to the polls on Tuesday. Electing different people sends a message to our misogynist President and the party that still supports him.

I understand that some people do not plan to vote at all on Tuesday. I have already talked with an individual who believes the 2-party system is broken so he does not plan to vote. I feel very sad about that. And I believe this is the reason we have ended up with the leadership we have right now.

Rock the Vote
Link to Rock the Vote

Please make a plan to vote on Tuesday, if you have not already voted absentee, or in early voting as some states allow. I am not going to tell you how to cast your vote. That is up to you. But when 40% or more of the country is not voting, it is much easier to ignore “we the people.”

That is a dangerous state for our democracy. Even if you think some candidates are flawed, show up and be counted. We need you. All of you. Do not drop out of your duty as a citizen.

Stepping down off my soapbox now.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Dropping the illusion

It is Day of the Dead in Mexican tradition, and Samhain in the Celtic transition. How fascinating that separate cultures and traditions celebrate similar human experiences. It’s also a bit amusing (or perhaps disturbing depending on your perspective) that religions tried to either co-opt or quash the celebrations.

The Catholic Church tried to get people to stop celebrating Halloween in favor of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. But it did not work, and I think one reason the church has been successful in Mexico is that people simply adopt and meld both traditions in a kind of mash-up of pre-Hispanic and indigenous traditions.

day of the dead
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If you want a charming and beautifully-rendered movie about the traditions of Dia de los Muertos or Dia de los Santos (Nov 1-2), check out Coco, a Disney Pixar film about the choices we make despite our families’ desires for our future.

But I digress.

What about illusions? Wasn’t that the topic of this post?

Yes. I am getting there.

The illusion that most of us live by, and what drives so much divisive politics is that we are all separate, as human beings, as cultures, as groups.

The reality is that we are all part of one miraculous and unlikely part of our earth’s existence: humankind. Whether you believe our origin is divine or a product of evolution, we are one species.

Separation is the illusion.

We are all in this together on this small planet. I believe we are becoming more and more aware of that as humans evolve. We are made up of matter and energy, swirling together in an amazing array.

Those who cannot see that perhaps lack the ability to look beyond their protective egos and reptilian “fear” brains to the wider world where we are actually just part of a larger story of the universe.

What if we dropped the illusion? What if we began to see each other as one amazing sphere of beautiful energy that can ebb and flow? What if we allowed for the mystery that we are all connected, in ways we are only beginning to understand?

What a world it could be. What a vision to embrace.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

 

 

Deeply flawed

I heard a news program today describe the two presidential candidates in 2016 as “deeply flawed.” They were commenting on the fact that a lot of millennial-aged people who voted in 2012 did not vote in 2016.

I get it. I do.

I was a big fan of Hillary, and I knew she was a flawed candidate. You know why? Because nobody is perfect. Because anyone who has been in politics for any length of time has made lots of public mistakes. I guess I’ll argue that a candidate that has openly bragged about assaulting women, or has committed treason by inviting Russia to hack our democracy has deeper flaws than Hillary. But that is a matter than can be debated, and I am biased.

People are messy. People are imperfect. Democracy is messy. And yet, I still prefer it to any other alternative. We need to show up and make our voices heard. 

deeply flawed

Democracy is a team sport. Even if you are on the bench, you still have to take a position at least during elections. Abstaining means the same old, same old people.

If you want that, fine. If you want to maintain our democracy and assure that all people continue to have their rights protected: VOTE!

I hate negative ads as much as anyone, and I am grateful the election will be over in one week here in the U.S. Make a decision. Show up at the polls. Even if you don’t vote for all the offices, at least find out your local candidate race (for Senate or Congress) and vote for that one.

Are any of us without sin?

I doubt it. Which means: we need leaders, flawed or not. If you want better, run yourself. 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

(end soapbox rant)

 

 

Edginess

I write this reflection with a feeling of edginess in my body, and unresolved tension in my throat and my heart related to recent political events.

The confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh feels like yet another assault on women. I realize that the circumstances surrounding the testimony of Professor Ford had some unconfirmed facts. But it haunts me to know that our political and legal systems have added to the most important court in our nation someone who’s character I would deem unfit for this appointment.

My question now involves what my role will be in the next election, and in future political activities. I know that until we have a shift in power, and more women and others who are underrepresented in this process, we will continue to fall short of the ideals of this nation.

Years ago I was very active in electoral politics. I volunteered with campaigns, managed a winning city council campaign, and I engaged in phone calling and door-to-door voter outreach. This is despite my introvert preference to do the “quieter” types of activism, that do not involve meeting large numbers of new people.

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Photo credit link – BT News

In an earlier era of my life, I felt a sense of urgency in my activities. While I still feel urgency in some ways, my activism may take another form this time around. I went back to my master’s thesis on “Mythical Condensation in Electoral Politics” completed in 2006 to review some of the ideas I had then about what is happening today.

Much of it still rings true, particularly on the polarizing effects of our political discourse today:

I argue that political candidate success is a function of mythic condensation or voter consumerism rather than issue positions or leadership competence.

Yes. Today, more than ever these concepts apply to the political realm. Back in those days I used discourse analysis and drew from the disciplines of linguistics, social psychology, media studies and political science to make my argument.

The 40-page document took a great deal of effort for me to “birth” at the time. But I look back fondly at having the privilege to think and write that analysis. Myth and metaphor continue to be relevant in how we construct our political truths. We use cognitive frames to interpret the world while conveniently ignoring facts.

Neuroscience explains how our choice of language shapes our beliefs. And myths “naturalize” what is historical artifact. Rhetoric and imagery appeal to our emotions, while realities are constructed of symbolism in which polarities seem to thrive.

For now, my question of what I will do in this final month before the next election remains unresolved. The edginess remains.

 

 

Wellness Wednesday – What do you do when triggered?

I was not proud of my angry response to an inflammatory post from someone in my WordPress feed over the weekend. I was temporarily unable to step away and I got side-tracked from the intention I had for that morning. It made me want to fight, defend and debate.

In reflecting on this phenomenon later, I realized that I had been “triggered” but that I had a choice about how to respond. Eventually, when I realized I was not going to get anything productive out of the interaction, I stepped away and disengaged. I re-directed my attention and moved on to more fulfilling and satisfying endeavors.

In truth, someone who has been through trauma has a much more difficult time dealing with a situation that triggers them. I cannot recall any specific trauma that led to this response, so I was able to bring my frontal cortex back online relatively quickly from that amygdala “hijack” by telling myself there was no need to add fuel to the flames. There was clearly high emotion on both sides, and we were not able to “hear” one another arguments.

triggers graphic
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I also realized in hearing the testimony of Dr. Blasey Ford, and the humiliation she endured after her assault, I deeply empathized with her story. I could feel viscerally that shame she must have felt, even though I am one of the fortunate few who has not suffered assault.

It occurred to me that so many women who have similar stories are likely feeling a little more vulnerable and emotionally rocked by the testimony. And it is good for those of us with empathy to be there to reassure our friends that their reactions are valid, and that we are willing to sit with them during their process.

Some time ago I became intrigued by some research on trauma and PTSD by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, who was featured in the On Being podcast episode. He explains that trauma leaves an imprint on the body, not just the brain, in sensory and hormonal systems. Of the treatment options, body-centered practices like Yoga help develop a body that is strong and feels comfortable.

In an article published at the Trauma Center, explains that “Yoga offers a way to reprogram automatic physical responses.”

“Yoga helps regulate emotional and physiological states. It allows the body to regain its natural movement and teaches the use of breath for self-regulation. What is beautiful about Yoga is that it teaches use – and this is a critical point for those who feel trapped in their memory sensations – that things come to an end…

The process of being in a safe space and staying with whatever sensations emerge and seeing how they come to and end is a positive imprinting process. Yoga helps them befriend their bodies that have betrayed them by failing to guarantee safety.”

Yoga also teaches us to use the breath. Western culture tends to solve our issues through means from the outside, rather than teaching us how we can master our own physiology. This is where the intersection of these practices can and should be used in conjunction with “modern” medicine in the treatment of trauma and its effects.

Perhaps this is why I am such a big “evangelist” of yoga and why I am developing a course on “yoga and mindful leadership.” Based on my own consistent practice of yoga and meditation, I have seen the effects in my own life. I am always grateful when I also come across strong research to back this up.

So, what to do when we are triggered? The first thing is to breathe deeply a few times and slow down. We can realize that our physiological response is real, but that it does not reflect present danger. We honor that part of our primitive brain that is trying to keep us safe, and recognize that we need timely self-care to calm our nervous system. Over time, with practice, it is possible to heal with the right support.

Be well,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com