Concatenation Nation

cause and effect. intent vs action. will vs outcome.

Just because you have a good heart about something, doesn’t mean you can project that positivity in any way upon what comes next. (In fact, Word doesn’t even recognize the word positivity at all, so there’s that). There are countless examples of this type of cause and effect throughout history. I don’t have to name them specifically, I’ll leave that to you. But think of the pain, loss, betrayal, and chaos imparted in myriad ways, all riding on the tail of a comet made of altruism and benevolence.

How can we know when our well-mannered actions are going to be offensive? By waiting for the effect? Does that teach us anything? Make us more knowledgeable on how misconstrued intent can make us look like an asshole? Rarely, do people realize that you can’t ever know how someone will react to what you have said or done, until it has transpired. And at that point, it doesn’t matter how honestly you can claim ignorance or sympathy. What’s said is said, and what’s done is done, and you get to watch your intentions get filtered through that person’s brain, through their emotions, and then morph into whatever follows. You did that, good or bad. That was you.

I sound like Mary Poppins. I believe she also said, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” as she poured medicine down the throats of freckled British kids who just didn’t want to clean their fuckin room. Did she think that old school cough medicine was going to get them cleaning, or get them more obedient? I think about what I know about cough medicine, which is A LOT, and then I think about when Mary Poppins was supposed to have taken place, and I know that cough syrup was loaded with the good shit. Way to go, Mary Poppins, you pusher.

What’s that you say? That’s a bible quote (it’s not a bible quote) and you’re not religious, so it doesn’t relate to you? Well maybe you’re a woman or man of science? Newton’s Third Law states that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” I always wondered why it had to be an opposite reaction (ex: why can’t a good intention end in a good reaction, and vice versa?) and, how can you measure the reaction as being equal or unequal? What is the quantifier? I know, I know, forces come in pairs, blah blah blah. I want to see the force.

Show me the forrrrrce!!!

Basically, if you do something, something will happen. What they don’t tell you is, when you do nothingstuff can still happen. I’ve tried it. I just stayed at home for three days, and then two days later, my boss said, “hey, don’t come in on Monday” like I even was gonna.

Also, I remember I didn’t pay my phone bill once, and the shit got shut off. You want to know a convenient time to have your phone turned off? Pretty much any, as far as I’m concerned, but when this example happened, I wasn’t quite in that mind set. I am now, and now I just wish I could afford the hassle of living without my phone. One day, the internet will go bye-bye, and we’ll be alright again. It’s just a matter of taking the choice away. I’ll be okay with that.

But you know what’s going to happen before the internet goes bye-bye? A whole mess of shit. And actions and reactions, and causes and effects are all going to be broadcast to the world, for all to see, and then you can all have your own reactions to that, and it’ll just keep grinding on that way, and oh yes, it will be televised.

The decline, that is.

The decline that was brought on by the good intentions of convenience. The convenience of the internet makes us think we need it, because it introduces micro-conveniences, one by one, until you have a whole pile of conveniences stacked up, all interwoven together, and it keeps you from leaving. It’s like strapping yourself down with bungee cords, until you can’t move. Sure, with one or two or three bungee cords, you could probably still get away. But once you have ten or fifteen of those fuckers, you’re probably not going anywhere. That’s the internet. Don’t fight it.

Or, do fight it. We’ll all watch it, streaming live on the internet. Hell, there’s a whole demographic of folks out there, who would pay to see that. There’s money to be made in everything, including the horrific effects of good intentions.

Good intentions such as wrestling. I mean, the people need to be entertained, don’t they? It’s the will of the people to be entertained, and the line of willing entertainers is not only neverending, it’s highly competitive. Why not let them fight it out? We like watching a fight, don’t we? It’s entertaining. Those are some good-ass intentions. 

One of my favorite ways to recognize cause and effect, comes in the form of expressing appreciation. I was raised to defy the value of people as anything but pieces of shit that didn’t matter. My father did a terrible job of teaching me how to behave around people, and he was way too strict to allow school dances or games, sleepovers, parties, school clubs, or trips to the movies or dinner with friends. He did a wonderful job, on the other hand, of teaching me to hate everybody, and to search for the fault in others; preferably the fatal flaw that could eventually be used to destroy them if I felt so inclined. I was not asocial, but quite literally anti-social, meaning I was against people… period.

As I’ve gotten older the effects of my father’s influence on me have worn off, and as a result, I have discovered what kind of person I am. I reflect on times when I brought people (who cared about me) to tears, because I didn’t fully realize they were a person – just like me. I feel shame and embarrassment when I think of how cruel I was to others, and so, I have worked consistently (though not completely) to be a better person.

People often get lost in their own shortcomings, and their biggest failure is the failure to recognize when they’ve done something good. But the flip side of that coin is, the lack of positive reinforcement. When you feel confident about something, and everyone’s reaction is underwhelming or non-existent, it becomes difficult to feel inspired to persevere.

I try to have the reverse effect on people, and overwhelm them with positive reaction to their work. Of course, no matter how hard I try to be friendly and eloquent, it’s just gonna come off as creepy sometimes. For example: I am not above writing an email to someone, to let them know they have affected me in some way, whether moving me to tears with a musical piece, or catching my eye with a photograph they’ve taken. A poem, or a piece of philosophy. An act of kindness I witnessed. And most of the time, these people don’t know me. They’re just getting a message from a complete stranger, about something they may not have put much thought into. I think celebrities get this all the time, just for being famous. Why should a regular person feel strange about getting an unsolicited Attaboy from me? I’m pretty great. And safe. Believe me, I don’t want to come kidnap you. I’m way too lazy for that.

But I will gladly freak out 100,000 people (give or take), if I make one person feel like they’ve made a positive ripple in the world. People need to know those moments exist. They need to feel like their presence on this planet is making a difference. There are plenty of opportunities that people will jump at ferociously, to point out the ways you’re fucking up. I say, as long as Participation trophies are a thing, surely we can spare a few words to let someone know they didn’t fuck up. This action rarely results in someone feeling worse about themselves, I promise.

I saw a young man give a speech about diversity at a rally a few months ago, and even before hearing that he was an aspiring journalist (yesssss), I was really feeling the connection to his speech. He spoke about the things that made him stand out, some of which I share, as if they were badges of honor in a world that doesn’t recognize that kind of honor. That kid is going into a field that will eat him alive, and he couldn’t have looked more confident. 

On another fairly recent occasion, I watched a young lady perform as Rizzo in Grease, and her rendition of “There Are Worse Things I Could Do” was so emotionally charged, that it brought tears to my eyes. I saw it three times, and I cried each time. She was it. I bet that wasn’t an easy thing, and she was next level. I said, “giiiirrrrlllll…”

There’s an anchor on the morning news, who is consistent as hell  with her impressive wardrobe, and every day, I would see her and say, “look at that dress!” This woman had a fashion sense that I found to be more sophisticated and pleasing to the eye, than most people in our area could ever dream of. She most likely put a lot of thought into her attire, and I felt she deserved to hear some positive feedback on her style. So I sent her an email. (Most of my surprise appreciation comes in the form of something they can re-read, and feel good about more than once.) I don’t watch TV anymore, but she still wows ’em, I bet.

None of those people had any idea that I felt such a connection to what they were doing, and very likely (and understandably) were freaked out by my sudden praise. But it didn’t deter me one bit. Being freaked out is just another form of surprise, which I told you I was doing to people.

I wrote an email to my 3rd grade teacher, last year, because I just had to apologize for being such a little fucking shit when I first moved there. He was the first teacher I had in that school system, and even though he had a reputation for being a hard-ass curmudgeon, I still had no problem testing his patience (he failed). I was constantly disruptive: telling jokes, talking back to authority, and aggressively daydreaming to lure him into the idea that I wasn’t paying attention, only to “snap out of it” in time to answer his question correctly. Other students weren’t yet at the level I was, and I knew that, so I was also a show-off.

I was a dick. Like I was saying before.

So, I wrote the teacher an email to apologize, and to let him know that I appreciated that he had dedicated his life to educating children, and that surrounding yourself with 200 kids every day is a ding-dong move, if you value your sanity at all. I think he already knew that part, though. That age (3rd grade) is terrible, especially for boys. They have endless energy, and they want to scream it in your face, so you know about said energy at all times. That’s also the age where kids want to be a dick for no reason, and I’m trying to tell you that I was no different.

I’m different, now. I’m not a little shithead anymore. I’m way fuckin taller.

I appreciate when things look nice, when they smell nice, when things work out smoothly, when people are polite, when people are genuine, when something sounds pleasant, when someone has gone out of their way, when my time is not wasted, when I know I’ve done the right thing. I think recognizing these things has caused me to not be the person I used to be. I value kindness and simple things, even when it makes me look like an old corny person that I used to think was lame (and now know, isn’t).

I no longer feel the need to make myself look attractive, and rarely look closely at myself in a mirror. There’s no reason not to, but there’s no real reason to. It is not so important what I look like; I’m just happy my body is cooperative from day to day. Even that isn’t guaranteed, but as long as I can impart my will on the working parts to compensate for the broken parts, there’s not really anything wrong, is there?

I no longer strive to get the upper hand on people, or make myself look “good” by making someone else look bad. That competitive nature was hammered home in my childhood, and I used to delight in my victory being a lone one. This has caused me to try to understand where people are coming from, and think about what I could do to help, if anything at all. Sometimes, it’s nothing. Sometimes, it’s nothing to me, but everything to them.

I no longer value getting things handed to me easily. Not that I’ve ever had anything handed to me, but I no longer wish for that. Hard work has been more of a reward than anything else has been. I don’t think about taking away from someone else, to be able to have something they don’t have, because things aren’t important to me.

People are important to me.

Time is important to me.

Those are the two things which change us throughout life, and shape who we are. And once either is gone, you don’t get them back. Appreciate somebody, before it’s too late to tell them. Far too often, people think of what they should have said, after they can’t say anything. Don’t wait for that moment. Make the Aha Moment happen now. Cause some effect. Ripple that shit.

-jg

P.S. please don’t go stalking people, and sending weird messages. That’s not the kind of surprises I was talking about. I can’t express enough, that you have to choose how you approach people. Your intentions may be innocent, but there are more factors than just that. Consider how that person is going to receive your praise. I have changed my outlook to catch the things that evoke true emotion, and then present my appreciation in a safe way. Just to be clear.

 

 

 

Living in Fear of Living

My son said something to me recently, that made me sad. He was talking about something that was difficult, or undesirable; not something that would hurt or kill him, but a common situation he just didn’t want to experience in the future.
“Well, that would make it so I had to (do this bothersome/uncomfortable thing) so I’m definitely not going to do that!”
While I would normally applaud him for making a decision to avoid an undesirable outcome, I did not teach him to live in fear of feeling or experiencing things that aren’t necessarily ideal. I have lived through many things that were dark and scary, and when I look back, I realize those situations could have ended in my death. Several times. But I went through them, and I made more bad decisions, and I experienced more hurt and loss and sadness and failure, and I went back and did it again. I wasn’t afraid to feel those things, because they’re necessary.
I have been completely broke and starving, staying awake all night in my car, because I didn’t want to be late to bring my daughter to school the next day… and at other times, I have also had more money than I could spend.
I have lived in my car, I have lived in a trailer, and I have lived in a beautiful split-level ranch. I have lived with my parents, as an adult. I have lived with toxic people who I depended on for help. I have lived with people who I had no idea were keeping me hostage.
I have felt like I had nowhere to turn, and I have had enormous support all around me. I have felt smothered by attention, from those who love me, and those who don’t.
I have submitted countless pieces of my writing, and had them all be rejected. To this day, I have not been paid for one word I have written, and I continue to write for free.
I goofed around in school and got poor grades, and I went to college at 26. I dropped out of college, and went to work. I have quit jobs, been fired, and been promoted, only to then be laid-off indefinitely.
I have been married, I have been divorced. Twice each. Stalked countless times. I’ve been “loved” in ways that terrified me.
I have been very overweight, and I have been severely underweight. Both because of choices I made, to not care for myself.
I have loved myself, and hated myself. I have contemplated suicide, and I have been grateful for resisting the urge to do so.
I have been in trouble that was so bad, I thought it had to be a dream. I have been in situations that were less than ideal, and if I had known they were coming, I may have said “I’m definitely not doing that!” But I went out and lived those shitty things, because that is where you grow.
The idea that my son thinks he can pick and choose what he can feel in his life, or what he will experience, is unfathomable. I realize he is trying to make as smooth of a path as possible for himself, but he needs to let things happen: good AND bad. He needs to go for things that lie beyond the destruction of his ideal picture. He needs to be brave. He needs to be scared, and do it anyway. He needs to feel sad, bored, and let down, because that is life, and we grow from the pain. The happy times are beautiful, and should be cherished, but they do nothing to bolster our fight. I want him to fight.

-jg

Be Kind, Remind

Five years ago, I almost lost my kids in a car accident. They were passengers in a car with my ex husband, on a nice and sunny, clear afternoon. My ex husband (who has a lengthy history of accidents due to drunk driving or just being fucked up on whatever he could find) went off the road, later blaming it on swerving to avoid hitting a dog (the other 7 witnesses said there was no dog, and he simply drifted off the road). What happened next, has left both of my kids with nightmares they can’t escape.
The car blasted through the guard rail, rolled down a steep hill into a ravine, where they hit a tree, and the car caught fire. Their seatbelts were stuck, so they had to work their way out of them (driver never wore one). Their doors were stuck as well, so they had to climb out of the window. No sooner did everyone get out, then the car exploded, sending my ex husband flying.
He got no charges on him, despite the fact that hypodermic needles were found in his car wreckage. No sobriety tests were administered, which would normally seem weird to me, but I read it in the police report so I guess they didn’t care about his OUI history (*eventually they did, after a few more offenses and several years). The tow company that pulled the car said that nobody should have survived a crash like that.
I got a call from him that night, and he told me it was “no big deal, just a little accident.”
I can’t imagine experiencing that, EVER, much less as a 9- or 11- year old kid. It’s so much a big deal. They’re lucky to be alive today, and I don’t know what I would do if they weren’t here. I don’t even think I would still be here.
Cherish your loved ones, let them know you appreciate them. Be there for them, even if it doesn’t bring you anything extra, it might make all the difference to them. You never know when you have said your last word to someone. Try not to make it a hateful one.

-jg

Why Women’s Empowerment Is Important To Me

I have been asked what made me start a Women’s Empowerment Group. There is no simple answer, being that I became interested in women’s strength when I was just a teenager in the 90’s, looking for some feminism. While I would love to credit that interest for the reason I became active, it simply isn’t the case.
I started the group because I was once a damsel in distress. I had nobody to help me out of the darkest, deepest hole of my life:  a failed marriage with children involved. My husband had slowly controlled every small aspect of my life, while making it invisible- almost enjoyable -to me, until there was nothing left. He literally walked away from me and the kids like we were a detonation site. I had no job, no money, no phone, no computer access if I even had wifi to turn on, no car, no tv, no friends, and no family to lean on. I know my parents will read this, and they’ll feel insulted that I’ve said no family to lean on. The truth is, I’m certain I could have gone to my grandparents or my mother at any time, and they would have helped me, with no questions asked.
But I would have asked questions of myself, and I didn’t want you to see that process, so I didn’t ask. Asking you for help would entail me finding a dollar in change somehow (because apparently there is a place I haven’t checked for change before…) and piling my 100 lbs of children into a 50 lb stroller, and finding a payphone, telling you about how my husband found a younger woman without kids, and tried to stretch out two lives for as long as possible. I would also then have to tell you that when it stopped being possible to cheat on me for that long, he decided it would be better to leave the three of us behind, and not ever come back or check on us. I would probably also have included the information that he had his girlfriend come to our house to pick him up. But then, I would also have to face the questions (there they are!) about why. Why was I not enough? Why was my passion and dedication to our children not enough? Why were my domestic efforts not enough? Why was my faithfulness to our marriage not enough? There are questions of how as well. How did I become so undesirable, when he had just married me the year before? How could I not notice the signs sooner? How am I going to word this to my grandparents, or to my mom, in a way that won’t sound like I need them to save me?
I felt alone. In a way, being alone was better than being pitied. When I wasn’t alone, it meant someone was sitting around, listening to my plight, and agreeing that it sucked. Nothing changed, and nothing got better. They just agreed that my situation was fucked up, and thanked “god” that it wasn’t them.  I wanted to minimize the circle of people who fit into that category of “visitors” and decided being alone was the way I needed to go. I had my kids, and immersed myself in being with them, and taking pictures of them. But I still felt an emptiness inside, where my pride used to be. I had lost what people like to call “my voice.”
For years.
So, when I noticed a sadly obvious trend among my girlfriends, I couldn’t help but feel a duty to them; a duty to help them understand that there IS someone out there who wants to listen. There ARE other women who know what she is going through. She just doesn’t know, because she has lost her voice for everything other than asking herself the same questions I suffered through.
I started the Women’s Empowerment and Education Group online, and invited all of the ladies I thought would benefit from it. I posted articles from psychology journals, educating women on things that were happening to them, that they couldn’t understand. I posted funny blogs by women who used humor to ease their pain in their own situations. I posted links to events that could be helpful to women, for whatever reason, which I didn’t need to know. It was a casual forum, where women could read about issues females face in our society, as well as other cultures. But I didn’t know how effective the group was, until our first actual meeting.
There were only a handful of ladies at the first meeting, including my teenage daughter, which upset me at first. I had put the event together, because of some very specific ladies who had been coming to me for advice. Imagine my surprise when many of them didn’t show up. My disappointment didn’t last long, and the meeting was a great success. I met a new friend, and was able to help old friends vent out frustrations they had been sitting on. There was a TON of “Yes! Exactly!” and even talk of our next meeting. My new friend messaged me the following week, and said she couldn’t wait for the next time we could meet in person, because she loved the group. My other friends said they loved the small setting, and felt like they could talk about anything, despite having just met each other that day. My daughter said she had a good time, and learned a lot about what life is like outside of the nuclear family. I found it eye opening to see how my friends easily interacted with each other, and decided this had to happen again soon.
As things have progressed, I’ve seen both the rewarding side of helping women in less than desirable situations, as well as the scary side that tests your conscience to see how much you really want to help. I’ve been in the position where I’ve had to consider that someone would come after me and possibly harm myself and my family- or worse. I’ve considered my name being dragged around the internet, I’ve considered that I may be followed, or my car may be tampered with, or my house might be broken into. I don’t know what will happen. I do know that Matt recently lost a great friend because he tried to help his sister-in-law escape a violent relationship. Her boyfriend drove 600 miles to find her, kill her, and then kill the family who had tried to help her. Three people were murdered that night, including Matt’s friend and his (friend’s) wife…in front of their 4 year-old daughter. Months after, I read about a woman who I had known to be in a very violent situation for years, getting shot by her boyfriend. This was after people repeatedly told her that “nobody risks their freedom to get back at a girlfriend.” I guess he was willing to risk it. Her mother stood fearlessly between them, and saved her daughter from being killed by her attacker, though she did end up in ICU for her injuries.
Matt has been worried that I will end up on the unfortunate side of things because I tried to help. This is a very real concern, but when I think about what would happen to these women if I abandoned them, I can’t bring myself to leave them. They have nobody else to go to. Nobody else to trust them, or let them know that their feelings are valid. Nobody who cared enough to listen, much less give advice or make moves happen. My role in these women’s lives is important. They gain strength through my love and support, and are able to look at themselves differently, and are able to fight their way to something better. Even inspiring one woman is enough for me to not turn my back. If I stopped helping because I was afraid, I would be leaving these women to fight alone, when they are much more afraid than I am.
I started a Women’s Group, because I wanted women to stop being told nobody is going to listen to them. I started it because it was necessary. I tell them to be strong and never give up. How could I not practice the same for them?

-jg