Failure Does Not Make You Stronger

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Since so many people feel free to throw around a blanket statement like “failure makes you stronger,” I’m going to throw my own blanket out there for those who think that’s a colossal load of horseshit.

Failure may make some people stronger. Or maybe it makes them more determined. Or angry enough to attack their problem and crush it.

Failure also destroys dreams, costs people their life savings, demoralizes them, causes them to fall into deep depressions that never lift, makes them simply give up. No, it’s not a case of blame the victim for their response to the situation. It is the situation that brings on the emotions that break a person.

There have been many people who have gotten back up after failures and become heroes, and I admire those people. But there are many more people who “failed” and lost their motivation, their way, even their will to live. Those people are not one iota less than any other person who has ever walked the face of the earth. They deserve our empathy and our help and our support.

Not one single person in the world has the exact personality and strength as another. We are all snowflakes. The way that we respond to all the stones life throws at us is a combination of nurture and circumstance. The cruelest thing someone ever said to me was a friend (it’s always a friend) who, when I was very down (I have chronic untreated depression because I can’t afford the healthcare I need) said, “You want to hear about a real problem? My first son was stillborn.”

I knew about that, she told me about it earlier in our friendship, and it broke my heart that her baby didn’t live, that she is still so obviously tormented by it after more than twenty years and four living, extraordinary sons. Pregnancy, the deaths of infants, stillbirths, and infertility affect me in a different way than “normal” people because I’m infertile. I cried for my friend.

I have seen her through so many problems, and I don’t consider a stillbirth a “problem.” I consider it a tragedy. I’ve seen her through problems large and small. I’ve seen many people through problems large and small. I’ve never said, “You want to hear about a real problem? I got pregnant once, when I was 20, had a miscarriage, and had to have a hysterectomy when I was 32.”

Every single person deals with tragedies and problems differently. We’re beaten with the “tragedy/failure/whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” myth until we feel like failures if our failures don’t make us stronger. My tragedy didn’t make me stronger. Am I a failure? My marriage failed. I don’t feel that made me stronger. Smarter, maybe, wary, cynical, suspicious, cautious, guarded, reliant on my intuition, mistrustful of my heart. But mostly it made me feel like I hurt my stepdaughter by not bearing up under the abuse for four more years, until she turned 18, and then I could have somehow bowed out gracefully.

That’s the mindset evoked for some of us by “failure makes you stronger.”

If it doesn’t make you stronger either, you’re not weak. You, like me, lack the ability to rebound from deep personal tragedy or disappointment in a way that inspires others.

It’s not my damn job to be an inspiration.

We’re not heroes in the conventional sense. We’re heroes because we’re alive. Like my friend, who lived through a tragedy and kept going.

We need to stop celebrating the myth of strength through failure and start celebrating the fact that we got up  today and took care of our families and/or went to work or put in another job application or planted a garden or adopted a pet or saw another human being through the fallout of a failure. Failing doesn’t have to mean you lose your dreams. It would be a lot more productive and humane if we all saw ourselves as part of a support system and helped each other regain our strength after a failure or a loss.

Not Enough to Go Around

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I read a book a few years ago that said something to the effect that greed and the belief that there’s not enough to go around keeps people poor. I don’t agree with that; there are so many factors that keep people in poverty. And yes, many of them are beyond their control. I live in a poor neighborhood. Prejudice, poor physical health, mental and emotional issues left untreated because the county Social Services can only meet basic needs, the ridiculous yearly vehicle tax that you have to pay for your car to be street legal, landlords who have to be sued to get them to perform basic maintenance, a truly awful police department with officers who will destroy a life by arresting someone for a petty misdemeanor and pass half-a-dozen known drug houses on their way to the jail, hostile neighbors who move in across the street from black families and call the cops over and over for nuisance calls and even VIDEOTAPE people arguing. How would you like to have an argument with a family member, make up, forget about it . . . until the police show up at your house with a video of your argument?

Last summer, a family of Nazis came up from the next block intent on BEATING UP A BLACK BOY IN THE FOURTH GRADE because he “said something” to one of their children. Luckily, his mother takes no shit and sent them back to their bunker with their tails between their legs. This kid is big for his age, yes, but the kid he argued with and the kid’s family know very well how old he is if he’s on the elementary school bus, FFS.

My neighbor’s oldest son thought he had a full football scholarship and planned to go to a local college. It turned out that his guidance counselor had not fully informed him about the tuition and the fact that the scholarship would not cover all of his tuition, even with him living at home. He decided to forego starting college that fall and instead worked a full-time job in an attempt to save the money for the rest of the tuition. He also looked at colleges in other states. Now he’s enrolled part-time in the local college. Not his dream, not what he worked so hard for all through high school, and now his mother is distrustful of the people scouting her younger son for football because of what happened to his brother.

There is a grocery store, two dollar stores, a fast-food restaurant, a barbecue joint, a Subway, and a convenience store in this town. Even the town’s only bank closed. The town’s only store with a pharmacy closed. The only jobs are a bus ride away in a larger town with no industry. The only jobs there are retail, food service, and office jobs that you may as well forget about because once someone gets one, they don’t leave until they die.

The county isn’t hiring.

The city isn’t hiring.

The library isn’t hiring, and the county commissioners, in their infinite wisdom, cut library hours and positions.

Maybe the police department or fire department or hospital is hiring. I’m not qualified for the first two and I’d have to go back to school for two years to get a job at the hospital, which has a terrible reputation for patient care and patient relations. People who have injuries more serious than a broken arm are airlifted to another hospital. People who have more than a simple fracture are airlifted to another hospital.

I know several people who work in nursing homes, but I’d have to go to school for at least two years for that.

I’d have to go back to school to be a beautician.

People need jobs NOW. They can’t wait for two years and then MAYBE find a job.

We don’t go to movies because we can’t afford it. We don’t go out to eat. Our cookouts aren’t that fun because the cops are always cruising by, looking for an excuse to shut them down.

Winter is terrible. We stay in our houses. The depression really sets in. We don’t have the motivation to even visit each other.

Summer is better. My neighbor and I are avid gardeners. We have that to occupy our time and to talk about. We exchange seeds and plants.

I work at home as a freelance writer. My neighbor has four children. She cares for her grandchildren almost every day. She also babysits. Her husband has a job as a cook in a restaurant that’s a step up from fast food.

We’re not lazy. Stupid people who live hours away in big cities with lots of opportunities tell us that we are. If you’re tempted to ask “Why don’t you move?” please don’t. My neighbor doesn’t want to take her sons out of school and put the in a new school district. My mother and I live in her childhood home. The property value has gone down drastically through no fault of our own. Why don’t you pay me the value of the property when we moved into the house in 2001?

We are damned depressed. All of the things I’ve described here grind away at you until you hurt all over and you’re exhausted but you can’t sleep and don’t even get me started on the way that doctors behave towards you when you don’t have insurance. I go to the doctor twice a year to get prescriptions for my inhalers so I don’t die.

I had a lot of work the last three months. I paid for a plumber, two new (used) tires for our car, the oil change, inspection, tag, vehicle tax, and various other household bills. I paid for my doctor visit out of pocket. I paid for my prescriptions out of pocket, and asthma inhalers ain’t cheap.

You’re not allowed to have anything when you’re poor. Someone right now is thinking, “how does she afford the Internet and a computer and her camera and her iPod?” Well, let me explain it to you. I switched Internet/phone/cable providers to lower the bill. Then when the promotion ended and the bill went up, I called the company and negotiated another promotion. I also dropped some unnecessary services. I don’t need their fastest Internet. I cut every dollar that I could. They worked with me because I managed to pay that bill on time every month. I’m a good customer.

I bought my laptop in 2014 when I had a temp job. I bought the iPod at the same time. I’m a writer. I had a 2008 Sony Vaio. I have to have a computer to work, and I earned that money, and no one has the right to question me regarding my computer and my iPod. Notice I did not say iPhone. That’s out of my reach.

My camera is seven years old. It’s a Canon. I highly recommend Canons. I bought it when I was married to a man who made over $100,000 a year. He also abused me, and when I left him, female relatives told me I should have just put up with the abuse and cheating for the financial security.

When my main client sends me a month’s worth of orders, I buy something for myself. Clothes. Shoes. Used books. I replace worn-out bedding. I have one purse. I always have one purse. I carry it until it’s worn out. I go to an independent salon and get dry haircuts. I have the back of my hair and my bangs trimmed. Looking decent makes me feel better. I don’t get services I want, like hair color. Just the minimum to keep my hair in some sort of style.

And I’m white, and I know that my story doesn’t even begin to address the problems that my black neighbor has to deal with. I’m glad I don’t have children. I can’t imagine being a black woman with four sons. I’ve seen with my own eyes the way that the police treat her and her family. They treat me as a nuisance. They are absolutely hostile towards her and treat her and her children as threats. The white man across the street who videotapes everyone and the white man from South African can tell any lie about her, even lies that I can debunk, and the police believe them.

I do believe that there is more than enough to go around. I do believe that the money for healthcare and a living wage is there. I do believe that, if employers like Walmart would stop getting by with a skeleton staff, there would be many more jobs. I believe that we can afford a higher minimum wage. I believe that we can keep the library open. I believe that we can pay teachers more. I do believe that the state Utilities Commission could step in and make sure we’re paying only what we owe. I do believe that the money is there for food stamps and Medicaid expansion. I do believe that they money is there for free community college. I believe that a healthy, well-educated populace would dramatically improve the economy and reduce the need for social safety nets. I believe that we can have people working and getting affordable healthcare and no longer in need of food stamps, no longer walking into the ER for something that could be dealt with by a primary care physician.

I know who is preventing all of those things from happening: the revoltingly greedy 1%, and the poor whites they have deceived in order to maintain their own lifestyle.

There’s a meanness, a viciousness, a “you won’t get anything from me” mentality among poor whites. And there’s a suspicion of education that takes the form of mocking “elites.” And it doesn’t help when “elites” mock people in “flyover country.”

Nothing is going to change unless people stop disparaging charity. Charity is more than a donation to an organization. It’s knowing you have the means to help people who are hurting AND DOING SO.

And taxes, my god, I am so tired of hearing “I DON’T WANT MY TAX MONEY USED FOR…” Well, suck it up, Buttercup. I don’t want my taxes used to pay the salaries of politicians whose values conflict with mine. I don’t want my taxes used to pay the salaries of police officers who KILL PEOPLE, who ignore drug houses, don’t arrest people who commit assault, but harass someone who had an argument with a family member and forgot about it until the cops showed up with the recording made by the neighbor across the street.

I don’t want to hear about anyone’s taxes.

There IS enough to go around. It’s being hoarded by the 1% and it’s not even getting to the people who vote for the politicians they groom and back.

There is enough to go around. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that there isn’t. There is enough money for Duke Energy to clean up their coal ash ponds and offer affected families acceptable compensation. There is enough money for Flint to have clean water. There is enough money to reroute the Dakota Access Pipeline. There is enough money to retrain police officers. There is enough money to raise the minimum wage. There is enough money for healthcare for everyone.

The money is there. It is our tax money: federal, state, and sales taxes. It is the money we spend at Walmart. It is the obscene amounts of interest we pay when we take out a mortgage. It is being hoarded by the 1% but IT IS OUR MONEY.

Now think about that the next time someone tells you “we just don’t have enough money for….” and know that person is a liar.

No One Walks Away From This Battle

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Stevie Nicks was so sure, like the rest of us, that Hillary Clinton would win the 2016 presidential election, that she planned to sing “Landslide” at Mrs. Clinton’s inaugural address. I think that her song “Battle of the Dragon,” copyrighted in 1985, released on the “American Anthem” soundtrack, sums up these dark days.

No one walks away from this battle

From the power

It’s so strong

Like a fury

Keep that fury deep inside you

And wish it to end

And when your friends start asking you why

You just say nothing

Stevie has always spoken her mind. I cannot comprehend taking on the responsibility of being a writer and remaining “neutral” for the sake of one’s sales and career and the slight possibility of finding an agent. I did not choose to write so that I could become a mealy-mouthed promoter of my own work in times of crisis. I did not choose to write so that I could sit on the fence and swing my legs and nod and smile to everyone who passed my way.

Muslims are still suffering under trump’s unconstitutional religious ban because despite the fact that a federal judge ruled against it, lawless members of various U.S. government departments, specifically the CBP, have refused to obey the law and have chosen to back an illegitimate president’s illegitimate laws.

I had hoped that this year might be the year I met one of my “online friends” IRL, but she lives in Canada, and as things stand now she would be required to surrender her phone to the CBP for inspection AND answer invasive questions about her country of origin and the websites she visits. I can’t ask that of anyone, and I can’t cross the border into Canada with the confidence that I won’t receive the same illegal treatment from the CBP.

I am not a refugee. I am re-reading The Diary of a Young Girl. I’m dealing with petty discomforts and unfulfilled wishes. Every day I read new horror tales from people of Middle Eastern descent, and POC in this flung to the winds country. I tell myself “but I’m poor too,” and then I tell myself to shut up.

This thing had to happen during my lifetime. I don’t have any clever quotes to follow that statement. This thing that has been wrought upon our country demands that I use my voice and stand up and add what I have to give to the blacks and the Muslims and the gays and the trans people, breaking it down into simplistic terminology that even my sister’s boyfriend who voted for Trump can understand.

Allow me, please, to inject a little humor into my post: this fucker dating my sister is dumb as a sack of dirt and twice as heavy.

I’m not carrying his burden.

As a spiritual person, I reject his burden, I will not aid him, I will save my strength for the people he would harm. He has to give account to his god. I’m glad I won’t have to witness that.

I am here in the world. My religion does not teach the convenient release of Heaven after death. I will remain in the world and return to the world. I believe that I will meet the people close to me in new incarnations in the future. I believe that I may be asked at some point, “Where did you stand?”

I stood with the many hundreds of thousands of people who lived in fear of deportation or internment camps. I stood with them.

I was very tired and angry when I wrote this post. I’d like to revise one paragraph here while leaving the original paragraph as is:

“This thing had to happen during my lifetime. I don’t have any clever quotes to follow that statement. This thing that has been wrought upon our country demands that I use my voice and stand up and add whatever I have to give in support to black people and Muslims and LGBT people and trans people in particular since my state’s new governor is still fighting to repeal HB2. I have learned from listening to Muslims and POC and LGBT people who take their personal time to break it down so that even my sister’s boyfriend who voted for Trump can understand, if they choose. He does not choose.”

Also, my intent was absolutely not to fat-shame my sister’s boyfriend. I’m fat. I hate him because he’s abusive, he’s a bully, he’s threatened me, and he’s turned my sister and my nephew against me because I am a Democrat.

So if anyone was or is offended by anything in my original post, I am so sorry, and I’ve attempted to express myself more coherently. Thank you.

Get Over It

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I did.

I got over caring about the opinions of people who can’t comprehend that to some of us, money is not everything.

I got over expecting people to change. I’ve accepted that some people in my life are good people with bad habits. I’ve also accepted that some people are just bad people who will always drag down others, and I’ve excised them from my life.

I got over feeling that I need to live up to the standards of people who don’t share my values and have no respect for me.

I got over feeling that my life and life experiences are less valuable than those of other people.

I got over feeling that something was wrong with me for being single and liking it.

I got over taunts from so-called adults about my cats and my hobbies.

I got over wasting energy on people who think that caring for an aging parent at home is a waste of my life.

I got over trying to fit into a faith where I do not belong.

I got over trying to apply all the rules to my books when I realize I was fucking up my voice in an attempt to write to the trend.

I got over the societal pressure to forgive those who haven’t asked for forgiveness or tried to make amends or even admitted wrongdoing. I don’t need to forgive them to “heal.” I have mental and physical scars that are never going to heal. I am brave enough to live with them instead of mouthing words of forgiveness that evoke no feeling in me.

I did forgive the people who comprehended the pain caused by their actions.

I learned to set boundaries. That was hard because I thought I was already doing it. I wasn’t. I also got over my fear of “authority” figures who expect me to be the one who always gives, gives in, accepts atrocious behavior for the sake of appearances. This fucking state. This fucking town. This fucking multi-generational sickness that says smile and keep the peace.

I’ve always been taught not to make waves. Some situations require making waves and being firm and unyielding. And those are skills we’re all going to need for the foreseeable future: don’t be afraid of upsetting people by demanding your legal rights, your familial rights, your right to be treated like a human being and not just a customer/account number.

I’m so very tired of seeing awful advice about forgiveness dispensed by people who just make up bullshit for a living. I’ve tossed out self-help books and unfollowed motivational authors whose advice has not one damn thing to do with our reality. Now, the impossible standards they set just piss me off.

Honestly, if you’ve found a way to survive and cope and somehow thrive in this new world, I applaud you.

I got over taking things for granted. The things I’ve trusted in my whole life are crumbling by the day. I learned the difference between quality time and wasted time. I learned that spiritual rituals help me when I’m anxious and confused and give me back a sense of control that’s been trod into the muck over the last several months.

I learned that there are some opportunities you should take even if you’re unsure because if you don’t, you’ll regret it later.

My wish is to somehow bring all my friends back together like we were a year ago because what has divided us is a living lie.

I’ve had some brutal life experiences the last two months, and I don’t wish them on anyone. I hope you can “get over” the things that are holding you back and put yourself first, unapologetically.

I want us to be united because that’s the only way we can take control and create our best future.

“Embrace the person who can’t have fun without intruding on your personal space.”

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Fuuuck, no.

I called the police twice on New Year’s Eve because people–I don’t know who–were setting off M-80s on my block. My 10-year-old Maine Coon has congestive heart failure. He was terrorized by what sounded like cannon fire. My mother wasn’t in physical danger, but she wasn’t happy. I was working. I am working. I have three more articles to write this weekend.

I called the police at 9:30 when the fireworks started. The pop-pop-pop pretty in the sky fireworks aren’t bothersome to any of us. The I will blow up the loudest thing I can to make people pay attention to me fireworks are.

No, I’m not going to get over it because it was New Year’s Eve. A holiday isn’t a Free Asshole Pass.

I called the police the first time and asked that they just have an officer drive through the neighborhood because I just wanted the overwhelming noise to stop. And the second time I called, I asked for an officer to drive through. I just wanted the people setting off the blasts to see the police and stop.

The officer stopped at my house the second time I called. While I was talking with him, one of my neighbors decided to interfere. She wasn’t involved in setting off the fireworks, but for some reason she felt the need to come over and tell me LET IT GO, IT’S A NEW YEAR, EMBRACE IT.

Embrace what? My cat possibly dying prematurely because some redneck piece of trash wanted to explode things in his yard?

I said no, thank you, I’m not letting it go. The officer got another call, I’m sure one that was more important than mine and that’s why I asked that the officer only drive through, not waste time stopping at my house.

I’m very angry with my neighbor because she apparently thinks so little of me that she puts the momentary enjoyment of my idiot neighbors before the health of my household. And it’s not “just” my household. It’s the couple in their 80s across the street. It’s the couple next door with four children under ten. It’s all the people around us that we don’t know, and we should be expected to . . . what? Go to a hotel every freaking holiday because every freaking holiday here has turned into BLOW SHIT UP, Y’ALL?

I’m going to be 44 years old the day after tomorrow and dammit, I have some expectations. I do NOT expect my neighbor (who is 49, if it matters) to come over to my house and tell me to embrace bad behavior!

I knew that 2017 wasn’t going to be a magic year of People Learning to be Humans again, but I didn’t expect to be slapped in the face with it FIVE MINUTES AFTER MIDNIGHT.

I’ve made my resolutions but I have to add another now: I am not a doormat. I’m going to stand up for myself and my household. Anyone who does not respect that can consider themselves out of my life.

Resolved

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I have three New Year’s resolutions:

Stop worrying about offending people who don’t/wouldn’t like the real me.

Spend more time studying and practicing my religion.

Start drawing again every day.

The first encompasses the other two. People have always attacked me or mocked me for my interest in Wicca, to the point that I tried to fit myself into Christianity or at least more “acceptable” belief systems that Wicca. I’m done being mocked. Spending more time studying, practicing, and drawing will mean less wasted time online. It will all help my anxiety and OCD and depression, and it will help my arthritis and hand tremor.

More time practicing my religion will naturally lead to healthier eating by eating fresh, seasonal foods.

Focus on study and practice, I hope, will help with my OCD. I do not expect a cure. I do think that Wicca will help me learn to turn my thoughts to positive things and start to banish these intrusive thoughts that keep me from functioning as well as I could.

I’ve been drawing fairies and goddesses since I was in high school. Over the past couple of years, I’ve bought art supplies but not used them. Just as I’ve bought books and not read them. I’ve felt like an old doll cast into a corner, out of date, out of chances, immobile.

But I’m not a doll (although I’m really fucking tired of whiny losers getting their undergarments in wads over my dolls) and I can start to live again in 2017, and I plan to.

I feel like re-starting that story I started in high school, I feel like taking my camera for a long drive.

I feel like stretching and listening to my joints creak back into movement.

Tired

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I am so dreadfully tired, and I’m afraid to go to sleep because I’m afraid I’ll wake up to another family crisis, death, or celebrity death.

Carrie Fish is part of my earliest memories. She was the only “girl” in Star Wars. I had a Princess Leia doll. God, I wish it I still had it, it would be such a comfort.

I have to work. We all have to work. We all have to live and move towards 2017, and I dread it. I’d like to believe that an arbitrary date conceived by a human mind could Make Things Better, but that would mean any other arbitrarily conceived human bookmark in time could Make Things Worse.

I read something today about losing our best and brightest stars, that it means that they are going to come back to us when we most need them, but isn’t that moment right now?

Or did we have to lose them to truly understand their wisdom and influence on our lives?

I don’t know, I don’t know.