The Four C’s

 

          My mother, a well-educated, proper, southern belle, graduated from college in the 1950s with a double Major in Business and Communication. She traveled the world with my father while he was in the military and knew many languages; she considered them an art form. However, she loved proper English the most; not the American version, which she considered lazy, but actual English. She was a staunch believer in its correct usage and she passed this sentiment to me. When I was young, she never spoke in “baby talk”, she taught me the importance of pronunciation and corrected my conversational skills on a constant basis. For her, the ability to communicate and communicate well was a priority in life. She saw healthy debate as the door to knowledge and that communication was the key that opened the door. Everyone should have the right to express their opinion, but in doing so certain graces should be applied. Therein she created a set of rules she called “The Four C’s,” they are her dos’ and don’ts of conversation and debate.

First, “Do Collect your thoughts.” Make sure your opinion is clear and well thought out. By drifting off topic or switching up your points of argument, you just seem scattered and ill-informed. Before expressing your opinion, educate yourself on the topic. Find out facts and firmly decide where you stand on a subject. If you only know a small amount about something how can you be appropriately, intellectually armed to defend your argument? This concept seems lost in an age of vitriolic preconceived notions and judgments, where facts and truth are continually ignored. Why should you take the time to research something, when you just know, in your gut, that you’re right? Right?

Second, “Do be Considerate of and open to the other person’s opinion.” You should always remain open-minded to an opposing opinion. A person has a reason for their beliefs regarding a topic and sometimes their life experiences make them uniquely qualified to speak about it. They may have facts you do not or, more importantly, they may have an emotional connection to the subject that could make it easy to offend them. I, for instance, have no firsthand knowledge of what life is like in ‘coal country’. I have educated myself on facts regarding coal’s effects on climate, the environment and the health of those that mine it, but I have not lived it. I have not faced having to work from dawn until dusk; in dark, oxygen starved caverns, to provide for my family, simply because there are no other options. Therefore, I would not assume to relate to a coal miner’s point of view, though I should at least attempt to understand it.

    Third, “Don’t be Condescending with your delivery.” Harsh language, or talking down to someone, immediately puts them on the defensive and will cause them to stop listening to what you say. Believing you know all the problems and solutions speaks more to your ego than your intellect. There is never a time when approaching someone with an air of superiority serves you well. Most people want to speak with you, not be spoken at by you.

 Fourth, “Don’t Curse.” My mother was emphatic regarding this. She considered cursing the last defense of a simple mind. When debating a topic that you are passionate about, cursing undermines the intelligence of your point of view and creates a hostile tone that will, again, make the other person defensive and closed off. And, of course, you run the risk of it turning into a shouting match. My mother also said: “Raising the octave of your voice over the other person doesn’t make you right. It just makes you look out of control and irrational.” Honestly, this last one is the hardest one for me to follow. I find it satisfying to use the ‘F word’; in all its variations, to give inflection to my side of a debate. Not as an insult to the other person, but as an exclamation at the end of my point. I’m sure my mother would be mortified by some of the words I have used when frustrated with, what I deem to be, an extreme display of ignorance. While I know it may weaken my argument, I can’t bring myself to stop. My one comfort is that I am not alone in my failing. While watching late night television talk shows, I hear an abundance of ‘bleeping out’ what may be considered offensive language. Apparently, society seems to still have quite a large amount of ‘F’s’ to give; despite protestations to the contrary.

  Sadly, these rules do not currently seem to be prevalent in modern culture. I, myself, do attempt to keep The Four C’s in mind when expressing my opinion, though I own I am not always successful. Especially on the topics of politics, education, and religion. On these ‘hot button’ topics, I have been accused (especially by my children) of being opinionated to the point of obnoxiousness.

     Politics; I confess, world political issues are heavy on my mind.  As I become more concerned for the future of civil liberties and the spread of nationalism, I dread the constant rhetoric and daily ‘Breaking News’ alerts, along with all the commentary they inspire.

    Education; especially regarding World History, puts me up on my ‘soap box’. A person’s lack of knowing it, learning from it or acknowledging that it tends to repeat itself, frustrates and confuses me. How can we know where we are going if we don’t know where we have been?

    Religion; always a tricky subject. I am a firm believer in religious choice, we are each entitled to believe whatever path best serves us and our world view. My belief is the ‘One goal, many paths’ philosophy. I do not, however, appreciate when someone tries to force me onto their chosen path. If I am respecting your choice, then please respect mine.

     When discussing these topics, I lose my ability to be tactful and pleasant. I am not proud of this and acknowledge there are times when I should just ‘walk away’. Afterward, when tempted to apologize for my behavior, I remember what they said (or typed) to set me off, and I just can’t. I cannot offer an apology to someone I know not only won’t appreciate it, but who will, almost certainly, take it as a concession to their point. I am just too stubborn.

         In recent years, I have seen an excess of opinions shared that could be considered unproductive and destructive. Global communications have expanded and anyone with an internet connection can express their opinion, whether measured and educated or haphazard and ill-informed. As a result, decorum, tact, and simple human kindness have gone out the window. Everyone has a unique perspective on events based on their influences and individual experiences, yet there seems to be an excess of “I’m right and you’re wrong” back and forth without listening or attempting to understand each other. Rules of etiquette and politeness are being sacrificed. At a time when society is very divisive, the ways in which we express ourselves have become altered. Anonymity has created a sense of safety; we can sit behind our keyboards and rant, tweet and chat against perceived injustices of the world, spewing our opinions with no thought to the consequences or effects of what we are saying.

     We are flooded with information on a constant basis; the internet, the news media, and social media all come at us with facts and ‘alternative facts’, leaving us to discern what is true and accurate for ourselves. Add to this the constant bombardment of commentary; either pushing a certain side of the argument or a separate agenda entirely, and it has led to an acceptance of dissolution of proper human interaction.  

 Technology provides us with the illusion of participating in world events, even as personal one-on-one interactions diminish. With the advent of smartphones and tablets, we now use apps, chat rooms, gaming and live streaming to convince ourselves that we are part of something while always keeping ourselves somewhat separate and safe; we can sine off, check out and disconnect whenever we wish. The result is a growing portion of society has become disinterested in actual, logical debate. They just want their opinion heard and don’t care about anyone else’s. I understand the attraction to that, trust me. There are times I just want to shout what I feel should be an obvious conclusion and have a ‘drop the mic’ moment but, the thought of my mother and her Four C’s always stops me in my tracks.

Thankfully, there are some, like myself, who still look forward to lively, respectful, debate, peppered with the occasional expletive. We may be diminishing in number, but we are not yet extinct. And though it may be comfortable to limit my interactions with those who believe and express themselves differently, I will continue to engage; as I’m a firm believer in challenging myself and my own preconceived notions and beliefs.

    While I accept that it may difficult, I will always strive to implement the Four C’s into those engagements, to the best of my ability.

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Time to start again.

My first husband passed away just over a year ago. I had not set eyes on him for 19 years when he passed but I felt his lose deeply. He had given me my three children, who are my whole life. I never really allowed myself to express outwardly how much his death affected me. Last week when I went into Denver I saw a number of places where he and I used to live. It brought it back fresh that he was no longer walking around on this planet somewhere.

It’s important to note that my children are 24, 24 and 22. Yes twins :). My 24 year old daughter and 22 year old son moved back in with me last year and I have reverted back into Mom mode after a year of an empty nest.

Last night I dreamt they were little again and I was back in Denver with my sister trying to keep track of my little kids and keep them from danger. Suddenly Bill was there. He pulled me aside and talked to me about the kids. How much they have grown and what I have accomplished. And saying he was happy I was back in school and writing again. He gave me what felt like a very real hug. I felt his warmth and the texture of his shirt. He just held on. I finally asked him “does this mean I’m dead? I don’t want to die yet! I have more to do!” He just looked at me and said “Yes. The old you is dead. You have to let her and the past go. Mourn her if you have to but not for long.  You have to move on and start over. You have to start your new life now.” I woke up crying, knowing that it was real. He had just told me that our kids weren’t babies anymore and I can’t keep protecting them from themselves. I have to start living for me now. I have to embrace this new phase in my life and start living it for me.

No matter what ugly things transpired between he and I in life, he gave me my kids and he gave me the message I needed to hear most at a critical time. I will carry this message with me going forward, embrace my life and release the pain and regret.

 

I conquered my fear!

Well this past week I conquered a fear. I had not been on a plane in over 10 years. Ever since I became sick and was diagnosed with lupus. Prior to that I had worked for two airlines and was a travel agent so flying was second nature to me. Then I became ill and heard horror stories of how bad flying was for people with inflammatory issues. Well time has proven that as long as you hydrate and prepare flying on a plane should not be a hardship. So when my sister offered to buy me a ticket to go visit her in Colorado I jumped at it. I was so excited to get away. As the day came closer and closer to travel however, my anxiousness grew. I spoke to my doctor and he prescribed me meds for anxiety for the flights just in case. I didn’t sleep at all the night before. But last Saturday I committed and got on the plane 🙂 I distracted myself with a good book and a very effective set of ear plugs and managed the flight without having to take any meds! I spent 5 glorious days in Colorado. Going up to the mountains many times and going to see a fantastic exhibit at The Denver Museum of Nature and Science on Vikings. The flight back was a little harder, I think mainly because I was tired from all of the activity. But bottom line is that I did it! And now that I have I want to do it again! Soon! I know I have to let my body recover, I definitely feel the effects of all the walking we did, but I have already started getting ideas for my next trip. I have missed the excitement and exhilaration of traveling. Discovering new places and hidden gems. So now I just have to decide. Will it be New Orleans or California’s wine country? Who knows? Maybe I will do both 🙂

Polite Society?

Why is it that we are taught early on not to discuss Politics or Religion in “polite society ” situations?  Why is it so taboo to scratch beneath the surface of someone’s outward persona to try to get to their truth? I would rather know exactly who I am having a conversation with. I no longer am okay with wasting my time associating with people that have no depth. That care more about how many hearts they have on Instagram or likes on Facebook instead of giving a crap about the really important things going on in our world. I have no time for mindless sheep that just blindly adapt and conform to whatever crowd their with so they can have a false sense of acceptance. For that’s what it is, false. We have regressed so far back as a society that restrictions on women’s rights and racial hate crimes are on the rise. Conservative politics is devoloving back to a early 1900s patriarchal mindset. As women gain positions of power and strength and different ethnic groups are gaining in numbers the old guard still hold the financial power and they are fighting back. They are terrified of becoming obsolete so they are kicking and screaming for “family values” and complaining about a lose of “religion”. When in fact everything they truly represent is the exact opposite of those things. So when I sit down to speak to someone new I want to ask them the hard questions.  I want to know what they believe in, if anything and what their world view is. Are they looking through rose colored glasses in blissful ignorance of the demise of societies humanity?  Or are they awake? Do they see the scary, uncertain and dangerous road we are on politically and socially in this country? I don’t want a “polite” society that lies to itself about its identity and hides behind masks of civility. I want a society that says “Enough!”. Enough with platitudes and bullshit. Let’s have open, honest dialog about how to fix what has been broken. And how to take back our country and make it something to really be proud of again….

Acceptance

I really cried about the demise of my marriage for the first time today. All thanks to Annie Lennox. Just driving home and I hear Walking on Broken Glass and that’s all it took. I started remembering the happy times of my marriage and trying to figure out when exactly it started going bad. Sadly, it took a turn when I had to stop work due to lupus. Until that point I had been the main bread winner. As soon as he had to step up and take over providing it all went to hell in a hand basket. Then he started taking my pain meds that led to other drugs, finally to meth and smoking spice. He used to tell me that if I ever tried to end things he would fight for me and never let me go. However, once the addictions took hold they were more important. When I asked him to leave, he just left. He tried for 2 weeks to act like he wanted me back yet he was still doing the drugs. In the end, they were more important than our family. That told me that he no longer loved me. If he ever really did. After the split I found out all of these lies he told me about his life. For 11 years he played a part. I don’t think it was even so much the drugs as him being unable to keep the charade up anymore. It’s been over 2 years since we split and I haven’t spoken to him or seen his face in about a year and a half. He just let me go and went on with his life. And I went on with mine. All three of my kids have grown up and moved out now. I am alone for the first time in 22 years. I, today, finally accepted that that chapter of my life is closed. Time to finally file the divorce papers and put and end to a really rough patch of my life. I have finally gotten myself off of all the pain meds and am free, clear and focused. Time to restart, time for me to let him REALLY go. All the memories, all the bitterness, all the hurt, all the love and time wasted, done. Not just chapter but book ended. Now it’s time for me to focus on me and what I need and want. I accept my part in why our marriage ended and I accept that he never was as invested in us as I was…..