Posts Tagged ‘compassion


the right to be you

the right to be youI have been on a hiatus of sorts.  It’s not because I haven’t had any thoughts, concerns or opinions about life.  I guess I just found myself coming up against the same roadblocks, questioning the source, perhaps a common one, of these consistent struggles.

Just the other night I was out with a beautiful artist.  I have seen her work many times and she is a kind-hearted, loving individual.  Yet I hear her say the very words which plague my own heart: can I do it?  Do I have any talent?  Am I beautiful?  I know the answer to all of these questions, but when we are alone with ourselves, we tend to create a comparison which always leaves us feeling less than.  Our society, especially American society, thrives on doing and results.  The expectations placed on us, especially women, make it almost impossible to find satisfaction and pride in oneself.

Society tells women that they must achieve an idyllic beauty which requires youth.  Obviously, this is impossible as we all age, but because so many others strive to reach this imposed rule, we do everything in our power to fulfill it.  Countless, beautiful, brilliant women of all ages with whom I’ve had the pleasure to know, have shared their fear of aging and remaining physically attractive.  The constant fear of gaining even a few pounds or showing signs of a wrinkle plagues their existence.

Then there’s the expectation that women should have it all; if they don’t have both a successful career and children, they disappoint someone.  Many women work hard to obtain an education and use it to compete in an unequal marketplace which not only expects them to give as much, but for less compensation.  Simultaneously, society also places pressure on women to have children whilst making it virtually impossible to maintain the same level of job performance.  Meanwhile, if they do give attention to their work, they may feel guilt or anxiety over their parental role.

As a result, society continues to place women in positions which inevitably cause them to seemingly fall short of its expectations in one area or another.  Personally, I’m tired of never feeling like enough.  No matter how much personal fulfillment I may find apart from society, as soon as I step off my island, I am reminded of my failures.

So how do we break this pattern?  How do we defy these expectations and create ones which build us up rather than tear each other down?  It is hard to walk this path against the grain alone and I don’t believe we are meant to go it alone.  Life is short.  Can we come together and simply claim the right to be ourselves?


helping or hurting?

helping or hurtingDoes America really help or hurt refugees?

After recently watching a documentary on the Lost boys of Sudan, I couldn’t help but question if America is really helping them?  There seems to be a miscommunication between what the boys expect and what is being offered.  Most of the boys are encouraged by their peers and elders to get education in order to bring it back to the rest of their country.  However, that is not what they are given.

Instead, they are set up for a few months in order to find a job.  Because of their need to learn the language and lack of marketable skills, their eligibility for jobs which pay more than just the rent is difficult to secure.  They find themselves stranded in the area they are assigned due to no mobility both figuratively and literally.  In the end, they end up more alone here than when they were back home in the refugee camp.

One of the primary comments the boys had about life in America was that one has to make it alone.  There is not sense of community which they used to have, despite losing their parents.  How unnerving is it that a parentless child feels more alone in America, the land of opportunity, than in a war torn land.  What does that say about our country?   What opportunities are we giving them?  Ones that help them barely “make it” in our world and culture or those that they can take home and make the life of their people better?

Who are we really helping?  Do we just want to make ourselves feel better about a situation which we do not control?  Are we taking the time to really listen to what they need?  Are we helping or hurting them?



just deal with it

just deal with it“That’s life.  Just deal with it.”

Don’t you want to just smack someone in the face when they say that?  You’re sharing a deep and troubling issue and they throw that line out at you and it feels like someone is stabbing you in the gut.  “Just deal with it.”  Really?  Do they have a sympathetic bone in their body?  Or are they just trying to toughen you up?  Either way, it’s really evasive and belittling.

Unfortunately, I heard this two times over the past couple of weeks.  I poured my soul out, sharing my woes about the past year’s struggles which seemed to happen one after another and that’s the reply I received.  “Okay,” I said.  “That may be life, but for most people stuff like this happens over a ten year period or more and mine was condensed into a little over one year.”  This still elicited little to no response.  And then I realized it.  They themselves couldn’t deal with it, so they threw it back on me.

As I reflected on the lives of those that reacted this way, I found a vast differences between them but one consistency; avoidance.  The first person really hadn’t experienced a whole lot of loss or struggle in their lives because they kept themselves at just enough distance from others so that they could quietly back away at any sign of trouble.  Meanwhile, the second person had had their fair share of difficulties and loss, but wouldn’t dare admit its effects on them.  For both, what hardships they faced they merely avoided dealing with it.  Which makes their statement all the more ironic.

Life is not something to “deal” with.  It’s not something to avoid.  It’s something to live and experience.  Good or bad, it’s part of who we are and what makes us human.  And I believe we live it better when we do it together.  So the next time someone punches me in the gut with that phrase, I think I’ll say, “I don’t want to just deal with it.  I want to live it and I hope you’ll take the journey with me.”


empathy or ethnocentrism?

empathy or ethnocentrismFreedom of speech is a powerful tool.  However, can a lack of accountability cause the loss of respect or even empathy for one another?

Today in my sociology class we were talking about ethnocentrism.  Soon, this conversation led to the activity on the internet and how with this open platform, we can all become critics.  The professor mentioned the use of sociology in exploring the reasons why society evolves as it does.  This made me wonder if and why society has lost empathy as a result of the internet and if this is why so much negativity manifests itself there.

The professor prodded me further and asked why I thought this was the case.  I answered that I believed it was because the internet provides a certain anonymity which allows people to say things they would not otherwise say to someone’s face.  Although the internet has connected us and brought us closer together, it has also enabled us to remain distant and inflict insult/judgment on each other without consequences.

Perhaps there has always been this amount of negativity and lack of empathy throughout generations.   They just never had the opportunity to voice it as we do today.  However, it does make me fear that current and future generations may have a difficult time learning how to build healthy social skills which encourage ethnocentrism.  Though the internet exposes us to a vast diversity of people, does it also teach us to accept and respect those differences or simply give opportunities to freely criticize each other?

Freedom of speech is a powerful tool.  So how can we use it to build our society rather than tear one another down?


message from my body

message from my bodyDon’t you just hate getting sick?  I’m not talking going to the doctor or hospital sick, but the kind that just wears you out and makes you want to stay in bed all day long?

Last night I was woken by a cold.  Couldn’t breathe through my nose or get comfortable.  I was still optimistic that it may have been allergies or sinuses (because I struggle with both all year long), but once I had a three consecutive sneezing fit, I knew the verdict was in: I was sick.  When these things happen, we always tend to blame ourselves for it.  For me, I was asking for it because the week previously I reflected on the past year and realized that I hadn’t gotten sick at all.  Frankly, I couldn’t afford to with my husband’s accident and my dog’s cancer.  So I guess now is my turn.

But when can we really afford to get sick?  Is there ever really a “good” time?  Simultaneously, our body believes it is an appropriate time and is giving us the message to slow down.  And is that so bad?  To slow down?  After I recover from an illness I am always so grateful for my health.  I look at life a little differently and appreciate the everyday things which may normally pass me by unnoticed.

So as I lay here in bed with a billion layers on, trying to fight the chills and breathing obnoxiously through my mouth, I will try to let my body have what it wants and take it easy on myself.  After all, staying in bed all day long once in a while might be a cure for a lot more things than just a cold…


armchair activism

Ever encounter fiction that reflected real life but the real life seemed less fathomable than the fiction?

Today I began a huge endeavor of bringing to life a scene from one of the most compelling pieces of fiction in theatre:  the play by Lynn Nottage called Ruined.  This play depicts the story of men and women struggling for survival in the Congo.  The author hones in on the women of the play and how they are stripped of their identity just like the land being stripped around them.

Though this is a piece of fiction, the stories of these women echo true in todays’ society.  The war and atrocities associated with the plight of these characters is happening, now.  And that is the goal of the author, to not only bring awareness by giving these women a voice, but to move us to action.  I can only hope that I can direct this scene in such a way which will also inspire those who see it to reach out and make a difference.

armchair activistIt’s so easy to become an armchair activist.  We can sit from on high and look down on all the problems that need addressing in the world.  But when it comes to rising and taking part in the efforts to change or bring relief to those in need, we feel weak and helpless, sitting back in our comfortable, safe and distant seats away from the stage.

Sometimes we just don’t fully understand the complete conflict.  Other times we don’t want to know.  But if we don’t know then how do we discover how to help?  How do we truly find the root of the issue?  And how do we address the immediate consequences of the problems?  It’s easy to throw money at a cause, but where does that money go?  And would your investment be better spent if instead of giving money you give time or training or awareness or education or other donations?

The world is a big place but we are not alone in it.  I find it difficult to listen to the news because of all the pain and difficulty.  But I realize more and more that I have a part to play.  And sharing the message of Ruined with others is one way of getting off the couch.

Here are some links about the war in the Congo:



the courage not to stand alone

the courage to see another human beingAs we enjoy our holidays and the warmth of our beds and hot soup, let’s not forget those who do not share in our abundance.  Do you have the courage not to let them stand alone?