Sunday, January 8, 2017

Starting a Fresh New Year

(from my Penny Rug Sampler quilt not yet quilted.
I have been anxiously waiting to start 2017 and put last year in the past. The final four months of 2016 were too hectic and by the time the holidays hit, I was short of the energy I needed to handle all the plans we made. I finished the holiday season doing my best to embrace and celebrate as best I could. Our gatherings were successful, though perhaps next year I will lessen my expectations and make the holidays a bit simpler? If only I remember!

2016  seemed to be an intense year! The bitter debates that preceded the election as well those after seemed to put a strain on us all. My family is as un-unified politically as the nation, and I found people weren't ready to move on! Having recently read several books written about the Civil War, I couldn't help but feel that we are experiencing political polarization like our nation has not known since those days. I know that I was and still am passionate about my beliefs and respect that others were and remain so as well, but rhetoric on-line and sometimes in-person got heated enough that many were offended, me included. I realized that many Facebook postings didn't just express differences of opinion but personally attacked people for their views and it seemed that the senders felt justified in sending such posts to those that differed. One person held me personally responsible for being a clone of my candidate, no matter that I am not, nor is anyone else. Selections were made for all sorts of reasons and it wasn't unusual that our final pick was not necessarily our first choice.

Sadly I am two friends shorter by the end of this year's election. While that doesn't sound like much, each year my friend list grows shorter without intentionally eliminating anyone for reasons other than death. It was emotionally draining and being right before the holiday season, many besides me were still "on-edge and guarded" as families gathered for holiday dinners. I love the Christmas season and genuinely did not want to miss the good energy that ebbs from it, but found myself a bit short on the "Christmas spirit" and I am hearing that I wasn't the only one.

I recently forwarded on what I considered to be a festive holiday greeting to a friend and received back a request to not send such messages. I respect anyone's wish to not receive a seemingly "impersonal" greeting, but I truly thought a cheerful message was better than spreading any of the gloom I was still feeling. I was shocked at my friend's attitude toward this simple greeting but after this, I then noted another posting on Facebook requesting that anyone that demands constant internet attention, get a puppy, and couldn't help but sense that people are burnt out on having their Facebook sites flooded, even if with simple holiday wishes.

I am the first to admit that I can be guilty of spending too many hours on the internet. Not being so fond of winter, I choose to hibernate and often communicate with others via on-line in the warmth of my own home. I also keep irregular hours when days are dark. I like to send my messages at any time and those that communicate with me can do likewise. Internet communication is easy and convenient!
(from my "Comfort Her" pen and ink quilt still in process)

I did see that Pope Francis recently announced that he supports use of such electronic devices that connect people, and if I am reading him right, he is appreciating that there are positive connections being made between people that wouldn't otherwise be happening without the use of the internet. I think he understands people like myself, who value others but for one reason or another cannot make connections as well without the internet. People are still in need of connecting with others to remain"alive" and "in touch" and I am very grateful for being able to relate in this manner, but it seems that internet communication isn't always positive.

Because I have aggravated more than one person with my internet communications, I have checked out internet etiquette to be sure that I am using it appropriately, and must admit that religious and political posts remain areas that are still considered to be best avoided. Interestingly, those that request that of others are often guilty of posting very inflammatory posts regarding both subjects, so I am not alone in sending out what I perhaps shouldn't.  While that doesn't excuse my communications regarding either of these subjects, I am noting that boundaries are changing when it comes to what is shared with others. Clearly if standards change regarding such off-limit subjects, we all need to be more tolerant and respectful of others' contrary views.

I was stunned and offended with personal feedback to me by a "friend" who let me know that my posts were not "OK" as they were not truthful whereas she apparently has a lease on The Truth. I found this arrogant at best. This person even explained that mine were laced with fake facts unsubstantiated by her own news sources? Dah! My information  sources were clearly NOT the same as my friend's and that made them wrong whereas her's were correct? I AM one that takes personal conflicts to heart, and found myself initially shutting down my communication fearing that my "friend" might be right. "Put downs" are "put downs". They sting at best, and when illness already shakes self-confidence, they can indeed be very damaging!

Sadly it shook me to the core before I realized that our two party system is alive and well and many times facts are according to what is believed and not necessarily proven by a supposedly unbiased fact checker. What is true is in the eyes of the believer. "Unbiased authority" likely resides only in heaven, as such earthly unbiased experts don't exist. I came to the conclusion, right or wrong, that perhaps my "friend" and I are NOT indeed "friends" as I had assumed.

She also let me know that I was embarrassing myself, especially when her friends see my postings? My "opinions" would show only my ignorance to her friends? I don't think that I missed the point that I embarrassed her with her friends and I was instructed that fb etiquette has it that I needed to not respond to her posts, no matter how inflammatory they were to me, though she invited me to block her posts. I believe that I was essentially told to f-off? While emailed to me privately, the pain was no less than if I had been told in person "to not embarrass her by hanging around". I learned in elementary school that this in not the way a "friend" treats a "friend".

It is no secret that I lack a few brain cells due to lyme disease and stroke, but believe me, I have many that are still functioning and I processed her message well. Rudeness and arrogance and put-downs don't take a genius brain to comprehend. Her intellectual way of telling me that my views "didn't count" came across quite clearly. Biases and well-substantiated arguments exist on both sides and on all levels. This is still America however where each is entitled to their opinion, but I do have to wonder whatever happened to tolerance and respect for another's views, no matter if they differ? The fact that each of us has a vote suggests that every person is valued and counts.

I know that I literally have "thin skin" physically and emotionally. Eradicating Vitamin D for a long term treatment has indeed left me vulnerable, though I am finding that I am not the only one that apparently is emotionally "thin skinned".  I do believe that humans at large are suffering from internet insensitivity.  I am hopeful that people don't really talk to each other in the ways that they do on-line, but judging by the daily news, I am not so sure. If others have been offended, like myself, I hope they too are making New Year's resolutions to check themselves so as to be more civil, respectful and kind in their discourse with others. Much healing is needed in our country as negative words and insults precede violent behavior and aren't we all getting sick of turning on the news and finding yet another shooting or stabbing. Peace begins with each one of us and our words can wound as well.

Years ago my husband and I sought marriage counseling when some of our ways with each other hit an all-time low.  We were taking each other for granted and needed to be reminded that what concerns one, should be a matter of concern for their partner or friend as well. Not being sensitive to each other's thoughts and concerns is NOT OK. We have "friended" certain people on line and I think we all need reminders to, in fact, "treat them as friends". Human beings are behind every message that gets sent whether it be "a forward" or "hand-written e-mail" or "personal snail-mail card". We may be tired of being so blessed with too many messages sent to us, but then "being kind" is always the appropriate response, IF we truly care about others "as friends".

If insensitivity has crept into our communications in any form, it is then time to step back and appreciate our "overload" and deal with it within our self, rather than be unkind in any way. It is too easy to "let loose" and be "sharp-tongued" and it is no less abusive regardless if it is on-line.

That is my rant for today and for the new year ahead. I had to get in touch with my own use of the internet and political posts, and quit re-posting any that would in anyway diminish another for their political views, and I hope others will do the same. We are fortunate to have freedom of speech, but l believe it is a privilege not a license, and judgement needs to precede our words. I am actively closing down posts that express intolerance. Differing views are always welcome as long as they are expressed respectfully. Putting others down for their views IS offensive. Sadly some are not open to honest, thoughtful and respectful debate and discourse without fighting "below the belt". Name calling, insults and ridicule are abusive and don't challenge thinking or make for change, but just cause others to dig their "trenches" deeper.

To not use the internet to communicate would simply close my mind and heart to issues and people that continue to fill my life with meaning and purpose. I have many new internet friends that expand my thinking and are truly invaluable supports to me and me to them. I will continue to use the internet in a way that I can keep on giving to others and send messages of appreciation to the many friends that support me. I am blessed to live during the internet age, and appreciate how much bigger my world is on its account.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year filled with meaningful communications between you, your family, neighbors and friends. Thank you all for your friendship and thoughts. I am indeed richly blessed with dear and loving friends and family and I hope and pray that each of us makes this world a safer and kinder world! I think that no one should need to buy a puppy to find a warm heart and get attention, though to be sure puppies need warm hearts and homes, families and kindness surrounding them too!  Happy 2017 everyone!