The Needs Of The Many

While you won’t catch me on any B-roll footage from the conventions, I have been (and always shall be) a Star Trek fan. I was introduced to it, as I was the majority of my pop culture obsessions, by my father. My mom was never a fan of fantasy. She still isn’t unless it has some foothold in the real world. I, on the other hand, loved being transported to the worlds created by Gene Roddenberry. In fact, during that brief time as a child where lines between fictional worlds and reality are blurred, I thought for sure I must be Vulcan or at least half Vulcan, like Mr. Spock.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the character originally played by Leonard Nimoy, Vulcans are a people who voluntarily disconnect from their emotions to live a more logical and peaceful existence. Spock himself struggles more than most Vulcans because he is half human. His mother is from Earth and on his planet that amounts to being flawed. My child mind envisioned that some other Vulcan viewed Spock’s difficulties fitting in from a nearby vantage point and decided that I would struggle less on Earth, so I was raised here instead. Not meaning any disrespect to my Vulcan mother, but that could not have been further from the truth.

Before you get the wrong idea about me, I’m far from emotionless. Just like Spock I possess all of them and can feel them very deeply if I allow myself to succumb to their pull. Too deeply almost, if I’m going to be vulnerable and completely honest. Without the controls I’ve learned and maintained over close to half a century, I’d be enveloped by them…barely able to keep my head above water.

I’ve discussed in previous blogs my depression diagnosis, and the best way for me to rationalize it is that I wore down my body, brain, and soul to the point where those controls I had previously established fritzed the heck out. Like a control panel suddenly exposed to watery elements, sparks were flying and zapping noises abounded. My emotions were at the surface and anyone who had known me prior to the short-circuit could see a noticeable shift in my behavior. Shocking displays of irritability and tears (Not tears!!) left them spellbound. Where did their calm, rational friend go?

Calm was always a trait attributed to me. It still is with newer friends, which makes me giggle a little. You think this is calm? You should’ve met Jen 1.0. My world feels anything but calm now, especially considering what’s going on in the world around us. That, albeit in the most meandering, long-winded way possible, is what this essay is about.

I’ve always studied people from a distance. Whether it was hand engineering long layovers back in my travel agent days or watching countless hours of reality TV programming. I have always been fascinated by why people do what they do. In eras where things are going well, it’s a fun and lighthearted pastime. In times of crisis, however, it can set my minding spinning.

One of the emotional control dials I referred to earlier is humor. Humor has a way of deflating the stress of a situation that few things, barring music, can rival. It can beam us away from fear and worry with the speed of one of Star Trek’s transporter platforms. Some view it as irreverent and even callous in times of tragedy. I don’t concern myself much with those perceptions, because it’s an effective tool with a high success rate.

As we’re facing the COVID pandemic, it has continued to be my go-to control. Creating memes or funny takes on it to share with my friends has kept me stable and floating in calm seas as my boat bobs gently up and down. Roiling under that surface, though, is an eddy of epic proportions threatening to pull me ever downward. That whirlpool is fueled by the force of dismay at what I’m witnessing in the world around me.

One of the most iconic Spock moments occurs in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The USS Enterprise and its crew are facing certain peril after a battle with Ricardo Montalban’s Khan character. The ship’s warp drive has been damaged and is unable to flee to safety. Mr. Spock, in a moment of unbridled heroism, enters a radiation filled room in order to repair the engine and in the very last moment possible the ship manages to escape.

I won’t bore non-fans with the entire dialogue, but trust that I can recite it verbatim. The key point to be had is this: once Captain Kirk is called to engineering and sees his friend covered with radiation burns, mentally addled by the invasive rays, we’re treated to the apex of emotion. Spock hoarsely utters “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” His life force is snuffed out shortly after. Growing up in a Christian household, it’s hard not to draw the parallel of self-sacrifice in order to save the masses. It was a powerful and moving cinematic moment. We all hope to possess that type of nobility, wherein the well being of our friends and loved ones supersedes our own.

As you gaze around our world today, it stands in stark contrast to that principle, and it’s shocking me to my core. I’m fritzing out again, not by my own body’s failings, but instead by what I perceive to be the failings of humanity. People have crossed that fine line between self-interest and selfishness. Whether they are hoarding in an attempt to profit off of it or for their own consumption, the result is the same: the needs of the many don’t rank on their priority list.

Be it an excess of toilet paper, cleaning products, or more heartbreaking…diapers, people are stockpiling goods beyond their needs at the expense of the needs of others. Shelves are bare all across the country and people have lost their ability to be civil, kind, and in the worst cases: rational. Fights are breaking out in stores and car accidents are increasing as people rush to not be left wanting, as people are taking much more than they need.

This isn’t meant to be a scold, but a moment of reflection during dark times and a plea to evaluate our behavior. I’m aware that the panic and fear are very real to some. The unknown by nature often elicits fear, because we’re unable to predict what comes next. I also know that if we allow ourselves to be consumed by it, we’re going to usher in a very dark period. Fear has stoked the fires of some of the greatest tragedies in history. The moment we begin to repeatedly tell ourselves that an every-man-for-himself mentality is necessary is when we will lose the essence of what makes humanity so powerful. There is a balance to be found in all of this if cooler Vulcan heads prevail. We can get what we need without depriving others of their needs. Please, at least consider it, so we can all live long and prosper.

The Untapped Cleansing Power of Imagination

I don’t know if I’m alone in my fascination with imagination. I marvel at the ability to create entire worlds and their inhabitants solely by picturing them. Tolkein, Rowling, and so many others have made their fantastic realms tangible to me by their sheer wills of thought.

The real-life applications are also amazing. For millennia humanity has been dreaming up tools and inventions to make tasks more efficient and time-saving. They’ve provided us with previously unknown and undreamt methods to achieve our goals. Even as children we were able to develop non-existent creatures; fascinating, inspiring, and in an array of colors unique to their creators. We all have this innate power within us, but unless you go on to pursue a story-telling medium or spend your days inventing gadgets or living in daydreams, it often goes untapped.

What also seems to be lacking developmentally is a cleanse for the most powerful organ in the body. We’re subjected daily to commercials with cleansing products. From the sundry health cleanses to at-home cleaners. Products to flush every body part whether externally or internally. The reminder that cleanliness has a correlation with health surrounds us, especially in this era of newly born influenza outbreaks. Hand sanitizers are practically impossible to find as we focus on things outside our body that can invade our inner being.

While all of that is important, there is a glaring omission. Where is the cleanser for the negative talk and self-destructive ideas that our brain feeds us daily? Well, I’m prepared to give it to you free of charge, not even shipping and handling fees are required. Why? Because you already own it! The revolutionary product had a self-cleaning feature that most people were unaware was part of the amenity package.

That imagination that always fascinated me has been the key to cleaning my brain of the clutter that filled it. The tidbits that hold me back and keep me from growing are often the external invaders we fear only when they’re presented in germ form. We view as benign, or worse yet…warranted, these seeds of self-doubt and esteem eroding ideas.

I was blessed this weekend to spend a full 24 hours with my grandson. He is two and he is fearless. I witnessed his feeling of invincibility with a sense of awe until I was gripped by my own fears. Who knew how ominous a Little Tykes slide in my living room could become as I watched him attempt to perform daredevil-like feats? A barely 3 feet tall resin structure transformed into a harbinger of doom in my vivid imagination. I was picturing rushed visits to the emergency room at my extreme moments, or bruises and scrapes I’d have to explain to his mom at my milder ones.

All the while he was giddy. Clapping and happy as he made the extremely short ascent to his not-so-perilous drop. He ended his stay perfectly unharmed and content with little guidance from me, and that started me thinking how much fear and diminished self-esteem inhibit me on a daily basis.

I have a penchant for recalling every negative thing said about who I am before I even bother thinking about the positive encouragement I’ve received. The impressions of others and their interpretations became facts, not opinions. Not only did I view them as truisms, but as THE most important truths about myself. Like some sort of auto-run file, my brain would put them on display right after a prompt for action.

Ironically enough, their presence often led to inaction. They became false starts resulting in self-imposed penalties. I was deeming myself incapable or less worthy than someone who could do it better. But how do you remedy the indoctrination your brain has formatted? You guessed it…that self-cleaning feature of imagination.

Our brains are malleable. We are capable of training them to suit our needs and our interests if we choose. Proper use of our ability to create and envision is the key. For me it is beginning with recognizing which negative speech works toward self-preservation versus self-destruction. By taking the time to relabel the destructive operators as invaders, I’m embarking on cleansing my brain of their power over me. So what if Karen thinks I’m incapable! (Apologies by the way to all the Karens that don’t fit the stereotype.) The Karens of the world are entitled to their opinions on what works for them, but I govern my choices and my faith in my abilities.

Could it really be as simple as that? Yes, and no. It is actually that simple, but our minds are infested with these thought demons. There’s no one time treatment to be had. It will require elbow grease to undo the negative talk we’ve fed ourselves for years. Just like with weight issues, we don’t gain it in a day and we can’t remove it in merely one either. But we can get there…if we only dare to imagine it.

Do You Even Know Me?

Have you ever been asked that question? When people say, “Do you even know me,” usually it’s intended to stop the person addressed in his or her tracks. It is often posited as proof that the addressee has utterly misperceived the nature and intent of the situation to the point where he or she must not know the questioner at all.

I’m going to flip that question on its head though with a reply of, “Can anyone ever really know someone that completely?”

Most everyone I know has the desire to be “seen.” Not in a fame sense, but rather an external validation of how they see themselves and the image they want to present to the world. For a long time I had that desire, but in retrospect I was cheating everyone out of seeing me in my entirety. I would give them the pieces of me I thought would be aesthetically pleasing to them and hide the parts that I thought would displease them or cause them to decide that I wasn’t worthy of their time or friendship.

While having a heart-to-heart with one of my sisters yesterday, I used the analogy of a quilt. She is a wonderful seamstress (though she humbly plays down her skills) and her best friend is a master quilter. I conveyed to her my past of showing only what I thought would be acceptable person by person and she gave me an amazing visual example. She took me upstairs to her guest room and showed me the latest piece her friend had made. I photographed sections, akin to the sections I would give to the people in my life.

This is my fun side. Showing that everything doesn’t require symmetry, and I can go with the flow. It was often the representation of myself I gave to my wilder friend groups, or in some cases what I showed to people who wanted to confine me to a box based on what they thought they knew of me.

This is my intellectual side. Attention to detail, complexity, and intricacy. I often shared this with anyone who I felt the desire to impress. I didn’t want to be seen as the stereotypical dumb blonde incapable of depth of thinking or understanding the world around her. The recipients of this section rarely if ever got to see the fun section of me.

By chopping myself up into bits and pieces I thought people would like or handle, they missed the big picture…and it was by my own doing. By not wanting myself to be put in a box, I had inadvertently placed everyone in my life in little boxes of their own. And to what effect? What resulted was an entire circle of friends and acquaintances who couldn’t possibly know me or be expected to.

It also had an effect on me. By hiding the whole picture of who I was, I was telling myself that who I was as a whole had no inherent beauty on its own. My misplaced stitches and asymmetry in comparison to things I found more beautiful was “less than” and therefore unworthy. I remained unseen because deep down, I was afraid to be seen, and then judged, and ultimately rejected and ostracized.

Looking at myself under a microscope was the problem. My own self-judgment and my focus being highly attuned to my flaws clouded my thinking. I’ve since come to realize that most everyone around me is struggling with the exact same issue. Maybe if we panned back a little and showed everyone the whole picture, they could find the beauty in it. And even if some people don’t, I can almost guarantee you that the right people who are worthy of you will.

In Remembrance of Our Boy Cooper

Alice Cooper the Cat (2009-2020)

This morning our fur buddy Cooper passed away. He was born under our front porch to a neighborhood feral. We found homes for his siblings, but the girls wanted him so badly that despite my allergies, John and I granted their wish.

They named him Alice, because that early on we weren’t aware that the tiny ball of fluff was a boy. When that became all too obvious, we changed his name to Alice Cooper, and he eventually became just Cooper or “Coop.”

Many people who visited our home never even realized we had a cat. He was by no means very social; a lot like me in that regard. When he heard strange voices he often hid under some remote piece of furniture, only choosing to come out when the door audibly shut and the house became calm again.

His favorite hang out spots were in the cool porcelain of the pedestal sink, or inside the washer or dryer if I failed to remember to shut the lid or door while I was doing laundry.

His hobbies included knocking everything that wasn’t nailed down from a flat surface down to floor, and also delighting in intimidating Boo, Winnie, and George into leaving a wide berth as they walked around him to avoid any swats. He also loved a good headbutt and belly rub.

He is now laid to rest in our yard where he was born. In a green expanse of grass buffered by pines adjoining the woods, alongside his fur siblings that have passed who he often tormented, but loved. Buried with great love, care, and reverence by the man who has taught me to love nature in all its forms and learn every lesson I can from it. I feel grateful and blessed to have someone whose heart is so big that he can do a task that I couldn’t and give our boy a beautiful resting place.

Many wood surfaces in our homes bear the marks of his claws even though he had a perfectly good scratching post at his disposal. He is leaving us with similar indelible marks on our hearts and memories. He was a good boy, he was loved, and our house won’t feel quite the same again. 💔

Big Buts

I’ve seen the movie Pee-wee’s Big Adventure more times than I dare admit. Suffice it to say, I can quote it at will and ad nauseam. There is a scene where Pee-wee’s waitress friend Simone is talking about her aspirations and then adds the dreaded word. Pee-wee replies, “Everyone I know has a big ‘but.’ C’mon, Simone, let’s talk about your big but.” I’m going to pick up that tossed gauntlet and do just that, albeit not specifically Simone’s.

I had come to a place where I hated the word “but.” The word itself has multiple meanings and uses, and I don’t find all of them offensive. Truthfully, there are some that are valuable and necessary to convey a message. I’m perfectly content and on pleasant terms with the noun form, or its adverb and preposition alter egos. However my personal struggle and thoughts for this missive are all about the conjunction. (Cue the music from SchoolHouse Rock for all of the readers old enough to remember “Conjunction Junction.”)

You’d think that a conjunction that is only three letters long would have little impact on the world. In fact, it can have as big of an impact on our psyches and self worth as the Kardashian versions of butts have on pop culture aesthetic.

Our brains are almost perfectly trained to hear the word “but” and effectively cancel out everything said prior to its utterance. It doesn’t matter how effusive or uplifting the previous praise had been, it’s now been flushed down the mental commode and the swirl of neurons has the same dizzying effect as watching the real-life water vortex.

We are now waiting on tenterhooks for the crux of the conversation, or what we see as “the truth.” Often times, however, the truth was actually what preceded the word and everything that comes after is merely opinion or perception.

One of my least favorites of the big buts is, “I adore you, but…” I’ve actually said and typed this as much as anyone. Often times I use it in a joking manner, or sometimes to soften the edges of what I’m about to say. Until you’re on the receiving end of the phrase, you can be unaware of the magnitude of its capabilities.

In essence, prior to the “but,” you’ve just prepped someone to hear what many of us long for and receive less often than we need…positive validation. Then immediately after, it is snatched away like a perfectly wrapped present shown to you, yet meant for a receiver other than you. A completely fictional receiver that our brains manifest and perceive as more worthy than we are.

That circumstance has a way of emotionally reverting us to our past failures. Moments where we fell short of living up to the expectations of someone we were trying desperately to please or impress. It’s the embodiment of our missed opportunities to be seen as achievers, or to feel like we’ve actually figured this “life” thing out for a change.

When we realize, however, that everything following that little word doesn’t have to be taken in as immutable fact, we can free ourselves from the mental prison in which we placed ourselves. We are the possessors and rightful owners of that key. Confinement has been self-imposed because, for whatever reason, we found the speaker’s perception of us more valid than our own knowledge of ourselves.

The perceptions of others can be helpful. In unknown territory they can be guideposts of experiences we’ve yet to have. We just need to take them in knowing that no two lives are exactly the same. We’ve all been moulded by our pasts. With each new day and experience we transform and adjust to what works for us. If you think of the number of encounters you have in one day alone, then multiply that over the days of your lifetime, you can understand how no one can know you or know what works for you better than yourself.

So, the next time you encounter a big “but,” remember that you have the choice to imprison yourself or to leave the door unlocked and wide open. Take every thought said after as was likely intended…advice or experiences of a completely separate and distinctly different being than you. If it works for you and helps you grow, take it in. If it doesn’t though, don’t bind yourself in it and devalue your worth. You have the power and the key…no ifs, ands, or big buts.

Ranting and Raving

There’s an irony and also hypocrisy in blogging your own rant about the ranting and raving of others. Trust that I’m fully aware of that fact. I’m doing so, however, in the hope of starting real dialogue among my friends I’ve met through the internet.

We’re all aware that Twitter can be an overtly hostile environment. You’d be hard-pressed to come across another user who hasn’t been subjected to trolling of some sort. This missive isn’t about trolls as much as it’s about group-think with no room for dissent or alternate viewpoints.

I’ve never been the type of person to expect people to agree with me, because I learned long ago that my brain works differently than the brains of many others in my life. Maybe it’s that trait that makes agreeing to disagree easier for me. I view social media as a platform of opinions. People can say whatever is on their minds.

Like everything in life, that comes with ups and downs. The upside is the ability to be authentic and uncensored; saying things our personal bubbles or society has deemed the unspeakable. The downside is that we are often floored by what people really think and believe when we read it. Words can trigger emotions in readers that instigate fight or flight responses.

The flight response is to scroll on by or block. The fight response is to speak out and condemn whatever rhetoric has triggered us. The thing I’m realizing is that there’s a third response that’s rarely employed. And that’s to take in the message, learn what you can about a person and sometimes learn something about yourself in the process.

I’ve never been a fan of “teams” when it comes to interactions with others. I think boxes and cliques tend to isolate us to our own detriment. Disagreeing in one area doesn’t mean we can’t learn something from each other in another.

The propensity toward a “cancel culture” and silencing everyone who doesn’t think or act like we do leads us down the path towards echo chambers. Be it the “Ok, Boomer,” dismissiveness or a call to attack a specific user in general, it’s shutting down dialogue. When you only hear the sound of your own thoughts and perspectives coming back to you, you run the risk of never learning anything new or hearing ideas that might change your thinking.

Everyone has the right to self-protection. I’m in no way saying people should subject themselves to outright abuse. My own block list is testament to that. There are definitely toxic people in the world that we need to avoid for our own sanity. But toxicity is in the eye of the beholder.

More than once over the past few weeks I’ve been put in the position of being stuck in the middle of spats between friends online. I’m not a referee, nor do I play one online. Unless I see what is a clear misunderstanding on one of my own posts, I stay out of it. My silence isn’t complicity. My silence is because it’s not my business.

There have been multiple occasions in my eleven months on Twitter where I have specifically told people not to fight on my behalf. The biggest reason behind that is that rarely does it do anything other than escalate a situation. There is enough contentiousness to be found without adding to the mix.

This whole discussion is by no means me telling anyone how they should act or what’s good for them. We all need to make our own decisions about what is acceptable in our world and on our timelines. What it is, however, is a plea to my friends to not force their choices or issues upon others. You may be proven correct in the long run about your thoughts and opinions. There’s a chance though that what wasn’t good for you may have other enlightening benefits for others.

We all grow at our own pace. Lessons learned through experience often lead to a deeper understanding than shutting our ears off to them altogether. Do you, and allow others to do them. Good friendships allow each other to grow without expecting your friends to grow in exactly the same way as you. The best friendships occur when you’re given enough space and can enjoy each others’ lights.

When Real Life And Reality TV Collide

You’ll learn as we go along that my TV tastes hover mostly in the world of dramatic (some might say “trashy”) reality or true crime. This week, my real life collided with what I was watching play out on Vanderpump Rules.

For those not familiar, Vanderpump Rules (or “Pump Rules” as it’s better known in the hashtag realm of Twitter) is a reality show on Bravo. It’s centered around a group of friends who work for restaurateur and philanthropist Lisa Vanderpump. They work primarily at SUR, but since the inception of the show she and her husband Ken Todd have created other venues included on the show, such as Pump and TomTom.

Over the past eight seasons we’ve witnessed the dramatic relationships between the cast including cheating scandals, birthday meltdowns, couplings and conscious uncouplings, and a veritable river of alcohol flowing throughout. Up until now my viewing has been from entirely voyeuristic perspective into lives I found completely dissimilar, albeit entertaining, to my own.

That changed this week when Ariana Madix discussed her history of depression with Lisa Vanderpump. As Ariana spoke of her experiences, her words resonated with every core of my being. Despite not always being a fan of hers, I discovered a new kinship and was happy to see the real life struggle being tackled on what had previously been a fairly innocuous platform.

The next morning I signed on to Twitter with the excitement of a child blessed with a snow day, anxious to capitalize on the moment and to continue a much needed dialogue. Imagine my surprise and dejection when the first tweets I stumbled across were ones mocking Ariana’s experience or dismissing it as fake. I was gutted.

Twitter can be cruel in general, with the ability to say pretty much whatever you want without consequence whether it’s fact-based or not. This seemed especially cruel to me, likely because my brain translated it into a personal attack.

When I received my diagnosis I was advised by my doctor to share it with everyone in my world. He told me that too many stay silent because of the stigma of mental illness. I took his advice and was flabbergasted by some of the responses I received by people I loved, who I knew loved me in return. They varied from “That can’t be right, you’re one of the happiest people I know,” to “you just need more sleep.” It was then that I became aware of how truly misunderstood depression is.

My first responses to the tweets of the arm chair psychologists were outrage and a renewed sense of shame. Those quickly fell by the wayside and I chose instead to focus my energy on educating those who lack the experience to know of what they speak.

When people who haven’t experienced it hear the word, they almost immediately associate it with sadness or the inability to be happy. It does manifest as sadness with some, but it can also display itself as irritability, a tendency to withdraw, anxiety, sleeping too much or too little, and even physical aches and pains. Increases or decreases in appetite and energy are also manifestations.

Most doctors will start you on some form of SSRI medication that increases seratonin levels which in turn increases the transmission of messages between neurons. SSRIs don’t work for everyone, however, and there’s no concrete evidence to show how or why the imbalance occurs. Basically it’s a trial and error method of treatment that can take several tries to be effective for some.

I’m not an M.D., I’m a housewife and run of the mill human who is learning to deal with my new normal. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, don’t take my word for it…consult a professional. There is hope to be had and the light at the end of the tunnel doesn’t have to be an oncoming train.

The Adventure Begins

Whisperings of @HWsWhisperer

Welcome, my friends, to the blog that never ends. I’m so glad you could attend. Come inside, come inside.

I appreciate you stopping by. I’m about to start a blogging journey into the world of reality TV, coping with depression, life as a real-life housewife, and occasional images that I capture as a hobbyist nature photographer. If that sounds eclectic and all over the place…welcome to my mind.

I hope you’ll join me on this adventure, even if it’s only for the topics that interest you personally. Grateful, to be honest, that you found your way here and were willing to take the time to see what it’s about.

Stay tuned for updates, or better yet, subscribe so they come directly to you! Wishing you a blessed day!

A little bit about me..

In real life I’m a total introvert. Online I’m a does-she-ever-stop-typing-or-shut-up extrovert.

I’m a full time housewife, part time blogger, mom, grandma, hobbyist photographer, and reality TV obsessed hermit. I started recapping reality TV years ago with an audience of one…my best friend Fairy. She encouraged me to share my thoughts on a message board we both frequented and it was fun while the show lasted.

Cut to a decade and a half later and she dragged me kicking and screaming into the world of Twitter. I owed it to her as recompense for my similar act of dragging her into the world of Real Housewives when RHOC first aired.

Little did she nor I know what monster was in the making. I fell in love with Twitter and the chance to interact with fellow reality TV fans. My hermit-like life was now filled with friends from across the globe.

About 4 months into my Twitter journey a new, more personal journey arose. After three years of helping my husband through various medical issues, I was diagnosed with depression brought on by caretaker fatigue. My interactions on Twitter now included fellow sufferers and how we could help each other through.

As my follower count rose, I was also blessed to meet Brianna and Jordan, hosts of the Kiki & Kibbitz podcast. They blessed me with the opportunity to be a guest on their podcast and also to blog for their growing social media company.

This gave me a chance to get back into my passion for writing, and to share my thoughts and perspectives in a format that worked with my tendency to use eleven words when the same message could be conveyed in three. The lack of character restraints was liberating, but I wanted the ability to discuss real life issues as well as the drama of reality television. Hence this blog.

I hope it brings you some sort of joy, be it laughter, insight, or even just a momentary distraction from a busy day. Thank you for joining me on this journey, and I hope to do you proud and keep you coming back for more.