Sometimes, the world seems like a place that makes relative sense to me and things bump along fairly o.k. I'm reasonably sure that I'm on the right path and that I have found where I'm supposed to be. At other times, I feel like the world is one big mystery and not in an exciting or fun way. It's a bit like when we do something and one of the dogs gives us that head slightly cocked to one side, utterly baffled look as if we are entirely bizarre and incomprehensible. That's how the world, and people in particular, seem to me sometimes and when life gets like that, I struggle. I really struggle. I am in one of those stages these days.
I've written here before about feeling like I don't belong and about the fact that I think to some degree, that's related to my childhood. Over the last year, I've seen that more and more and more. I grew up in a very devout Christian family but a Christian family that was decidedly left-wing and whose guiding principle was Luke 10:27:
He answered, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
This was taken very literally in our home and I have clearly internalized that because it's making life harder and harder. I keep being thrown into situations in which this fundamental belief throws me into conflict with others and it's so uncomfortable.
For many years, I have dealt with this profound internal struggle. On the one hand, I honestly believe that some things are fundamentally true (such as that we need to respect other people, that people have a right to their own beliefs and that we need to do the "right" thing). On the other hand, I have this intense fear and guilt related to having conflict with anyone. When I am in conflict, I feel sick, I can't sleep and I can't think of anything else. It's utterly devastating to me and it taints every moment in my life when I feel as if there is something wrong with someone. It's hard to live life conflict-free, especially when you are coming from a life view and a faith that preaches beliefs and values that are entirely in conflict with much of what is culturally dominant. It's even harder when you are often in conflict with people who supposedly share your world view.
I was so grateful a few months ago when someone with whom I am friends on Facebook posted a link to an article on being INFJ. Myers-Briggs is a personality categorizing system that breaks the world up into sixteen distinct personality types and I am an INFJ, the least common personality type. Basically, it means that I am an introvert with a very strong sense of justice and rightness in the world who makes decisions based on intuition and feeling and who happens to struggle greatly with conflict. Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa and Jimmy Carter are a few INFJ's - incredible company but not exactly a path to an easy life. While it doesn't make life any easier, at least I feel like a bit less of a complete freak when the conflict and yet the need to see things be right gets overwhelming.
Of late, I am feeling more and more like the world is a baffling place and I have really struggled with how to remain true to my basic beliefs while also being respectful of other people. I have gotten caught in a firestorm more than once and it's taking years off my life in terms of stress. I have worked so hard to speak diplomatically but at the mercy of so many who don't seem to feel the same need to hold back. It's my blog and you don't have to read it so I'm feeling the need to express some of the things that baffle me. Ignore this and stop reading if you are going to be offended (if there is anyone who has made it this far). I need to get some of this off my chest, knowing that the people from whom I am feeling judged won't be reading this:
1. Vaccines - I vax my kids. I am baffled by people who claim that vaccines directly cause autism. I am baffled by people who claim that measles is not serious. I am baffled by people who think that they can go to their naturopaths and get weird dietary things that will heal everything and keep them safe. I am baffled by people who refuse to admit that vaccines are not entirely safe - they are not and have serious side effects that are admitted in their inserts, even if they are very rare. I am entirely baffled by the fact that the vaccine debate is allowed to overshadow the fact that there is SOMETHING WRONG WITH OUR KIDS. They have ADHD, allergic to everything, autism is rampant, we are seeing a rise in certain cancers, they are riddled with anxiety and they are killing themselves. SOMETHING is causing that. We need to stop calling each other names and start asking where this is coming from. The sound research I have read would indicate that it's a combination of environmental factors - chemicals, radiation, too much time in front of a screen, overly busy families, contaminants (quite possibly some coming from vaccines) and stress. Why are we so afraid to talk about what we are doing? Why are people asking about it either screamed at from the health nuts for not eating nuts and berries all the time and using good vibes to heal themselves or screamed at by the pro vax people for being ignorant of science? Clearly we can't just heal ourselves and science has been known to let us down in a big way.
2. Shades of grey (or abuse or violence against women) - I made the mistake, when the Jian Ghomeshi case came out in the media, of saying something on Facebook about how I thought that needing to inflict violence on one's partner to get one's jollies was indication of mental instability. I'm sorry, I did NOT imagine for a second that it would be anything other than normal thought. It would seem that I am wrong. I was totally impaled for being judgmental, close-minded and lacking understanding for others. I am sorry that I offended anyone but I can't get away from the fact that violence is intended to inflict pain, injury, to create a power imbalance and to hurt someone else. While middle class couples might think it's fun to pretend to "be bad", I can't help the fact that I associate violence with the women who ARE victims and that needing to inflict pain on other people and "love" that involves such a power imbalance is unhealthy and goes against Luke 10. There is so much violence and abuse in the world and bored white people needing to find an outlet seems kind of pathetic at best and signaling emotional damage at worst. Sorry if I offended you but I am entirely baffled that people think this is normal. I heard crazy things like equating that homosexuality used to be in the DSM, too. That offended me - two consenting adults in a long-term, committed relationship should NEVER be equated with someone who is hurting people for pleasure. I was too scared to say that but I'm saying it here.
3. Labels - I read a post this week about a school board that says that one board is trying to eliminate language that might be offensive to some. Included are terms like "husband and wife", "father and mother". I WANT to be inclusive and respectful. I want to be kind and supportive. I want everyone to feel "o.k." in the world. On the other hand, at what point do I get to say that I feel disrespected? I love being "mom", I am honoured to be "wife" and those are words that mean something to me. I don't want to align myself with people who are homophobic or who bigoted but I also think that I need to be allowed to define myself, as well. Just because our labels aren't the same doesn't mean that I see that one is of higher value than the other. When I am against stuff like this, I worry about the company that I might be keeping but when we are SO extremely, it just makes everyone involved look ridiculous and as far as I can see, pushes progress backwards rather than forwards.
4. My faith -Am I the only person out there who REALLY struggles with how to be true to my faith but to also be compassionate and supportive to those whose beliefs aren't mine? I have some personal feelings about some things that I will never speak out loud for fear of being attacked or misunderstood but at the end of the day, I have decided that for me, I try to stick with "until I have walked a mile in someone else's shoes, I can't understand." I've never had an abortion, I have never sat beside the bed of someone who was painfully dying, I have never had a child who felt convinced that he or she was in the wrong gendered body, I have never had to make the decision about whether to terminate a pregnancy or carry to term a baby who will be horribly deformed. I will never take a public stand on any of these issues because I can't tell other people how to face these challenges when I haven't been there. Sometimes, I feel like a moral coward because I know that many Christians would tell me that I was choosing a flexible morality. On the other hand, I just can't reconcile myself to judging others based on my standards. It's hard sometimes, though - I DO have my opinions and I really don't ever feel safe expressing them on some issues and that's tough, too.
5. Parenting - aren't we all baffled by this one? My personal struggle tends to be in finding the balance. I read articles about how we aren't giving our children enough freedom to fail and about how they need to play outside unsupervised and that we try to fight their battles for them. I get that and we try not to do too much of that (sometimes, I think, at the expense of taking a stronger stand when sometimes, we should). On the other hand, I know that some parents think we are crazy to let Pk do horseback riding (she has been thrown twice) and we are not afraid of some of the things parents around us fear. I also struggle on the "not having children with no free time who do too many lessons/activities" vs. "not giving them the opportunities to find their passions." I feel judged by people on both sides.
Anyway, there is my senseless rant and since some of this post was written with a little boy jumping on the bed in my room, I'm guessing that I don't make all that much sense at the moment. If, by some chance, I have a reader and even bigger chance, that my reader has made it to the end, I am sure that I have offended you somehow. Rest assured, I won't sleep because of it but the words were bursting to get out...