It’s a new year

Lots of good things happening for me this year. I’ll expound on that as the year moves on; some of it I can’t talk about just yet, but you’ll all know when the time comes. I promise.

It’s already almost the end of January. It is just me, or do the years just seem to go by faster now? I came to the blog to just make sure that things were as I left them and realised that I hadn’t posted in a month. There was a time when I posted multiple times per day. I don’t have much of an explanation other than social media is taking over our lives. 😕 I spend a lot of time on Facebook. I am trying to do better at that because Facebook is truly a time sink of the worst kind. I want to spend more time on Medium, or in Pocket, or even reading or writing offline. It hasn’t happened yet. But it is a new year – maybe I’ll manage to discipline myself better this year.

So, Happy 2016 to those of you who still read this blog. I’ve had tons of ideas of how to revamp it but none have really taken … yet. We’ll see what 2016 holds.

Of course, that’s going to be harder than ever what with me getting into USC for a Masters in Social Work. It’s the full time, 4 semester program too. I may not have time to scratch my ass much less blog. We’ll see though. One never knows.

That’s my good news of the month, by the way. 😊 I struggle with the notion that I am too old for a masters degree now and I’ll be paying off student loans when I’m on my death bed. Meh. I’m gonna do it anyway. It’s a calling. One I missed in my youth and one I refuse to give up on again. It might be too late to be a forensic psychologist, but I sure as hell can still be some kind of mental health practitioner. 😊 More on that as the year unfolds.

In the meantime, I’m heading back to my television where I am currently running Criminal Minds marathons.

It’s that time of year again

 

Bah Humbug!Christmas is an odd time of year for me. Traditions and all the cultural nuances make it all so confusing for me that I end up with a kind of conglomeration of ideas about the season and how it ought to be celebrated. If I had to distill it all down into one simple thought, it’d be that Christmas is first and foremost a time for family.

Growing up, Christmas meant a few different things for me. It meant having to get out of bed at 4:00am to get to church for 5:00am service. This is a tradition that has perpetuated in my immediate family for several years – Christmas morning service when we sing Christmas hymns and talk about the birth of Christ as the sun rises in the east and casts an ever-warming glow behind the artfully crafted cross in the east wall of the church. The church was built several decades earlier with glass blocks in the shape of a cross in the wall. On the inside, a wooden cross was bolted to the wall so that when the light hits those glass blocks, the wooden cross on the inside looks to be glowing. Watching that light up progressively on Christmas morning was quite the spiritual experience for the young me. Even if I was pouting from having been forced out of my warm, cozy bed before daylight.

As soon as we got home, Mom would make hot cocoa and I’d open my presents. There were never too many presents for me to open so that wouldn’t last very long. I’d always wondered why I never got a ton of presents. For a long time, I thought it was because we couldn’t afford it. Then I began to understand that my parents were trying to ensure I never got used to getting a ton of presents. That is the route to the dark side and narcissism and entitlement. Thank god for my parents’ foresight.

The rest of the day typically was spent listening to a variety of musical pieces as my father and mother took turns playing their favourite music. The day typically started out with Handel’s Messiah. At some point, Dad would switch that to The Student Prince. If Mom was in an argumentative mood, we’d get a little Nat King Cole in there too. Sometimes, we’d get some Sparrow (calypso) near to lunch time. If Mom wasn’t particularly argumentative, she’d just turn on the radio as soon as Handel or Mario Lanza’s Student Prince was finished, and we’d get Christmas carols for the rest of day. There was no reggae in our house; no-siree; nuh uh.

All of this set a backdrop to the smells of your typical Jamaican Christmas. In the early years, rice and peas, escoveitch fish, brown-stew chicken, roast beef, and ham would mingle with sorrel and rum cake. Dad would drink a beer or two during the day, switching to Vodka later on if friends stopped by for eats. Mom would sip Sherry, switching to a “brown bow” (coffee liqueur and milk) if guests were over. Bonus: I’d get to sample them all.

Over the years, as Christianity took on a more ominous tone for me, Christmas morning 5am service became more about being with my parents for something they saw as important more than anything else and the reality of that cross on the wall morphed into a symbol of the illusion that Christianity and faith actually is. Slowly, over the years, the day became less and less about celebration and music. Less food was cooked, less people stopped by, less alcohol consumed. One of the last Christmas days I remember involved 5am service, Christmas Carols on the radio, escoveitch fish and bammy. We all mostly slept the day away and no one passed by to visit.

I got married in 2008 and suddenly Christmas was this huge deal again. Christmas Eve at one set of in-laws with one set of gifts. Christmas Day with another set of in-laws and a whole different set of gifts. Just as much food and alcohol and company, less religion. It just so happens that 2008 was my first white Christmas too.

Even after a revival of Christmas Spirit as a new member of the Frantz family, the fervor has dimmed even faster in the ensuing years than it had in the years before the wedding. These days, my husband and I “Bah Humbug” our way through what has become a very materialistic holiday. The most one might get out of me this time of year is a “Happy Yule” on December 21st, maybe a small light-returning ritual on the morning of the Solstice, and a quiet day meditating on the return of the sun. And of all the pagan holidays, Yule is the one I tend to observe most because by the time it rolls around, I am sick of short days and dark cold nights. Mostly, we get our food and we hunker down until after the madness.

Today (Dec 23rd) is the last day we will venture out of the house. We’ve got wood, hot cocoa, food, and drink to last us 3 to 4 days and we aren’t moving, unless we absolutely have to, until Saturday. So, Happy Holidays, everyone. Be safe out there. And see you on the other side.

On echo chambers and the stark contrasts that exist among them

I think I sit in a particularly advantageous position of straddling several different cultures and ideologies because of the friends I have on my many social media contact lists. For some reason, I have collected a most diverse group of friends.

Facebook provides the most of this experience because of the nature of Facebook sharing. As a sampling of all the different people on my list, there’s the ultra conservatives (whose posts I have to go searching for because they don’t show up in my news feed – damn that filter bubble), and the staunch liberals, and there are the Jamaicans and the other Caribbeanites, then I have the Europeans (who I also have to go seeking their posts out separately too – probably Facebook’s annoying geographic filtering at work), and the Asians (same – have to seek their posts out) … and then national and political sectioning aside, I see the women and the men, the non-whites and the whites, the religious and the not-so-religious, and the downright irreligious … the point I am trying to make is that there are so many different people in my friends lists that I get to see all different perspectives play out on social media and it is fascinating. Especially when I have these visceral reactions to the things they post. That is usually a signal to me that I need to work on something internally.

One of the ways I know that my list is so diverse is when I see something pop up in my news feed that is just completely outside the rest of things on my feed (… one of these things is not like the other …) and I think, “Well, that kind of doesn’t fit in with the general flow of things”. And then I realise that on their feed, that is likely a post that fits right in. And right there is the whole “oh-shit” moment when I realise just how much of an echo chamber our news feeds can be. If we don’t hear the voices of those outside our general circles, we don’t realise just how insulated we are from the rest of the world. I mean, there’s so much happening elsewhere in the world and we often forget (or can’t handle it) because we are so embroiled in what’s happening within our circle.

I like to seek out as much of the different chambers as I can to get a better feel of what it’s like in someone else’s chamber. I like to keep myself reminded that my world is small and closeted and that there is a whole other world out there to partake of. One that doesn’t resemble my world in any way, shape, or form. It’s humbling and grounding. And something I would highly recommend to anyone.

Medicine isn’t as precise as you thought it was

I never really thought about how imprecise medicine is as a profession until this week. Last week Friday, I went in for a routine laparoscopy with a goal to ease my endometriosis symptoms considerably. We surmised that we would find endometriosis based on symptoms and history. It sounds like we were right (“sounds” because I haven’t seen the doc for the followup visit yet, so not 100% sure what he found).

The imprecise aspect, though, is that this is my second of such surgeries (the first was 4 years ago) but this one leaves me in far less pain than the first one did.  When I think about it, I realise that the first one used lasers to burn the tissue. Thinking in retrospect and logically, that would hurt more. Still, I was so anxious with dread in anticipation of the pain that I was quite useless. Not that you’d know since, in true INTJ form, I let no one know just how anxious I was.  But I digress …

That alone isn’t why I say it’s imprecise. And in fact there are several aspects of this surgery that make me think that. This time around I didn’t get antibiotics to go home with (I don’t know if they gave me a large dose before I left the hospital or not) and they gave me simple Naproxen to manage the pain – nothing too high-powered. Well, not quite true – they gave me Percocet, but only if the pain kept me awake or was too unbearable even with the Naproxen.

On top of that, when I think about how in times past, with my level of pain pre-surgery for as long as I have had it, the procedure I would have undergone was more hysterectomy than laparoscopy. The level of understanding of the conditions affecting women’s reproductive systems and the fatality numbers was just too overwhelming. It was just better to take it all out and reduce the overall risk. As it is, I still have all my reproductive organs – which is a fairly big deal considering.

Incidentally, I gave them permission to take as much as they wanted to for further study of the disease. Honestly, I want women some time in the future to be able to avoid this crap in the first place. Two surgeries for the same diagnosis, two different kinds of after-care and pain levels … and only 4 years apart. Still, what I now know (based on discussions with my doctor within the last few months) compared against what I have learned over the years prior is eons apart. And this is at the foundation of the reason for my post.

What we have learned about endometriosis is stunning in its entirety … yet there are still very few doctors who have access to that body of knowledge. My doctor of 4 years ago in Texas was supposedly the best around – yet he didn’t know much about endo. At least not enough to educate me sufficiently. (Course, chances are that was less about the extent of his knowledge and maybe more about his ability and/or willingness to impart that knowledge to me.)

This doctor here in Washington said one thing that made the whole thing finally make sense to me. He said, “The uterus has 3 openings”.  We don’t think of it that way – we think of it as having only the one opening. The tubes, however, are wide open and give almost complete, unfettered access to the abdominal region; hence the “leakage” of fluid from the uterus into the abdomen. And thus begins the nightmare that is endometriosis. The biggest piece of information I got, though, was that while ALL women have this backwash backflow thing going on, in actuality only a small subset of those women experience the kind of scarring that causes the symptoms I have been living with for decades.

My luck.

Still, it is overwhelmingly reassuring to know that there is information now available to doctors to help me and other women like me. It might take some time for your friendly neighbourhood General Practitioner to get access to that info, but the info is there. And if you are like me, you will ask and ask and ask until someone answers you satisfactorily.

I test drove a Fiat 500 the other day …

The other day, I test drove a Fiat 500; the 2013 version. No, I’m not in the market for a new car. On the contrary, I fall more in love with my SX4 everyday. So much so that when I got a letter from Suzuki international telling me about the recall, I jumped right on getting the information about it so that I could get it done ASAP.

Do you know that because Suzuki no longer has representation in the United States, all the people who used to do Suzuki maintenance figured it was cool to shut their doors to us Suzuki owners? I called all the listed Suzuki repair centers near me and the one closest to me, the one that was like 20 minutes away, told me “Oh I’m sorry. Suzuki is no longer in America.” Just that. Nothing else. When I said, “Yes, but as former dealers, aren’t you still providing service to those who you sold vehicles to?” And there was a pause and then a “Oh no. I’m sorry. We don’t service Suzuki vehicles.”

Uh huh.

So my only other option was the spot I bought the car from in the first place … all the way in Auburn. It’s about an hour’s drive from where I am. So I made the appointment and the mental motivation to drive an hour to care for my baby girl. (That sounds odd … me calling my car my “baby girl” … shivers) So anyway, I pull up to the office. I know it’s Sales, but I don’t know where Service is. Parked right in front of the door is the cutest black Fiat 500 I have ever seen.

A little background for those who may not know me as well … I learned to drive on a Fiat 127. There’s a lot of history in the 127 and just seeing the Fiat reborn just as cute, but modern is more sentimental than anything else. So no real awe at Fiat engineering (although I am sure it’s perfectly capable) and no real fanaticism about the brand either (it has been practically dead to the West for several decades).

While I am eyeing it, one of the sales guys comes out and asks if I’d like to test drive it. I resisted at first … because I don’t like to lie about my intentions. And I have no intention of changing cars. And I told him so. He winked and said “Doesn’t mean you can’t test drive it though…” So I demured.

It’s a cute car. It’s compact and because my sales guy was a little taller than my husband, I was able to see right away the first reason (and probably the only one I would need) to rule out the Fiat 500 for me. After pushing the passenger seat all the way back, this guy was still uncomfortable in the seat. He would be miserable at the end of a hour-long journey.

It wasn’t too long before I realised the second big reason why that car would be a complete no-no for me. We took the car out on WA167 – it’s a 60mph speed limit out there. And it was a fairly windy day too. That car did so much rocking and bouncing at 60mph for the few miles between exits that I just knew that the Fiat 500 is a town car. It’s not meant for the (relatively) high speed motorways.

All that aside … the car is a beaut. If you live in the city, it’s the perfect car. It’ll fit anywhere, the mileage is phenomenal (something like 40miles to the gallon), and it handles like you’d expect a small car to handle. It’s nimble, responsive, and fast. Just don’t expect to take anything with you. There’s no space … not even a decent back seat. I expect that while the trunk might hold groceries, it won’t hold much more than that. (I should have looked, I’m sorry). And the engine compartment … was crowded. They made the car just big enough to hold what it needed and no bigger.

To top off the day, they told me my car would take about an hour and a half to sort out – they were done in 30 minutes. It was a good day. I spent 15 minutes test driving for sentimentality and another 15 minutes munching on snickers and reading and then I could go home. Which is a good thing … because at the time, I was still in the job I mentioned and slowly losing my mind. Which is another story for another day. This story is already over 600 words long. Time to go back to homework.

The “soft skills”

My friend, Jenn, says my “soft skills” are … ahem … what would you say Jenn? They are …. rough, yes? Rough, meaning unrefined and unpracticed. I’m not the most tactful of people. My mother often said to me that I needed to learn some tact that I couldn’t go through life being so blunt.

Which is ironic because after her stroke in May, she’s as blunt as they come. My best friend says “Cam, your Mom has no filters anymore”. Hilarious really since my mother has always been as blunt as they come in private … but somehow she managed to hone her “soft skills” so that she was able to pass as normal. Don’t know how she managed it – maybe working in the secretarial pool at the Ministry of Agriculture for so long and dealing with the sexism and elitism that comes along with that kind of job in the 50s and 60s…

So anyway, Mom said I needed to develop tact. My father and favourite cousin say that we “say it like is or how we see it” and that “people don’t generally understand that” and that “some things need to be discussed no matter how difficult it is to do so”. And so I grew up among people who generally had to cultivate filters in order to not be “that person” in public.

The problem with that, and a problem I believe my cousin has also found, is that we just don’t get it – why coddle people? Why be “nice”? Isn’t it better to say what you mean?

Well, apparently not. Candid and direct are not characteristics that endear you to everyone. And I often find myself questioning how I speak because I sound preachy and supercilious and arrogant because I don’t coat my words with sugar.

It isn’t intentional. I bear no ill will towards anyone. I may sound harsh, but I certainly don’t feel that way. Well … sometimes I do, but mostly I am just being succinct. Which is kind of counter-productive for someone who calls herself a “writer”, isn’t it? (And I have begun to think that that is a bit of pipe dream too, lately).

Still, I have a nice word for it now (thanks Jenn! <3) – the “soft skills”. I love that term. It says everything. It’s not “tact” – which implies white lies and half-truths. Nor is it diplomacy which implies manipulation. It’s “soft” – meaning you hone the edges so that what you have to say comes off less sharp, but true and whole nevertheless.

Oh Mother! How I hope that I will someday learn those “soft skills”. The feeling of always being seen as curt and rude is a little … disconcerting.

When money is more important than everything

It’s ironic. Just a few minutes after I mentioned that profiteering in the academic sector is causing ripple effects throughout society which generally ends up causing people to be oppressive to those who can’t afford education. I get a chance to prove it right from my own perspective.

To cut a long story short, and to protect privacy, let’s just say that I have been benefitting from 100% tuition coverage for this course for its duration. The benefits ran out – which is unfortunate since I have been begging for help from day one to figure out whether they would or not. Part of the problem was asking the wrong questions, the other part is that sort of cookie-cutter approach people tend to have when they are dealing with people they don’t know. Bottom line, it’s last minute and I am about to get bumped from class. Which is perfectly understandable, but what isn’t is the fact that my financial advisor is giving me less than the time of day. First he gives me an incorrect phone number, then doesn’t respond to my email saying the number doesn’t work. That was on Monday. It’s Friday, and I finally get a minute to make some calls. He finally responds with the right number – 4 days after I’d asked for it. Turns out, the finance department at the university and his manager did more for me than he did. In other words, everybody else did his job for him.

Several times I thought – to hell with it. When I heard how much I owe and how much I’ll need to pay to make my next class, I thought to hell with it. But dammit – it’s just 3 more classes! I canNOT give up now. So I called customer service and spoke to his manager who sorted me out in 40 minutes – after never speaking to me before, not knowing who I was, not knowing all my situation, looking at my file and recognizing I am not a typical student, and doing her utmost to ensure I was satisfied. His manager did everything he should have been able to do.

But it’s a pattern. When people stop being able to pay, they suddenly become persona non grata. It is literally the same situation I encountered with that half-assed dentist a little under a year ago. It’s especially heinous that it can happen with education – especially education that is over half done. This is what happens when the money is more important than anything else. And it is sad as hell.

One grande soy cappuccino with 8 extra shots please.

Lots has been happening. Most important of that “lots” is that I’ve been volunteering at the DRC (Dispute Resolution Center) here in Olympia, WA (did I tell y’all about that already? I forget). It’s been interesting, fun, enlightening, edifying, and empowering. And bonus fact, I get to work on my people skills. So, for instance, asking “Who is this?” just now on the phone was so very rude – I had to laugh at myself, apologize, say “oh my – that was so rude”, ask politely if they would mind telling me who was calling, and wait to be forgiven. Luckily, I got someone who either didn’t have time to be upset or who just doesn’t bother to get all caught up in the minor offenses in life. She said she who she was and asked her question again. Nice save. [Heh] At least I have a semi-plausible reason for being so awkward …

School has been brow-beating me dead. I was up until 3am working on a paper that just was not triggering any interest. Zero interest, zero passion, zero motivation to finish. 3am. When I finally got to bed, I passed out cold only to be awakened at 8:30am to rain and the knowledge that hubby drove to work last night without roof or doors on his Jeep. (He’s been on night shift this month, by the way). Of course, once worry or anxiety wakes me up, that’s it for the night – yeah? So, five hours sleep and no chance for more = awkward social skills on steroids.

/sigh

Long story short, on my way into to my shift at the DRC today, I realised I was going to need a more highly potent coffee than I usually get. A barista at my closest Starbucks once told me that the cappuccinos only come with a maximum of 3 shots. So I’ve been getting 3-shot cappuccinos on days like today. Cue today and an empty store, when I said “an extra shot please” and then half-mumbled, “I wish it could be 4”, the cashier was so happy to bellow at me that I could get up to 10 shots in any of my coffee beverages. (And I say “bellow” with the kindest of intentions because it wasn’t so much yelling as it was just speaking far louder than my sleep-deprived brain could handle.) I think my eyes near popped right out of my head at the concept of a 10 shot cappuccino.

One grande soy cappuccino with 8 extra shots please. I’ve had a really tough night.

Instead, I just asked for 2 extra shots. That’s a good thing … because a Starbucks cappuccino with 4 shots tastes like bark.

Ugh.

Nevertheless, I am awake which is more than I would be able to say if I’d only had 3 shots today. I think that from now on, 5-hour-sleeps will require 4-shot cappuccinos – 2 shots for the 2 hours of sleep lost, and 2 for the hours of awake I will need to be. /nod

[I am not a huge fan of cha-cha, but here’s a fairly decent explanation of what 2-shots of espresso means if you were wondering]

Double Espresso

Pondering the nuances of the terms cultural appropriation and cultural assimilation

On the heels of viewing and participating in a discussion about dreadlocks, I am pondering the differences between cultural appropriation and cultural assimilation … there is a difference.  According to Wikipedia, the terms refer to the same kind of activity but appropriation tends to have a negative connotation while assimilation tends to be a more neutral term.  Which is a little ironic … because The Borg.

So anyway, this post started out as a Facebook status update … and then it kind of ballooned out of control. In fact, after I finished typing the *bleuraak* of words that were in my head, I cut and paste the wall of text into my blog post editor and noted that the word count was up to 450 words. Whoa … right? I know. I didn’t even think I could still write blog posts like this, it’s been so long … but I digress.

So my pondering is because of my reaction to the aforementioned discussion about deadlocks. I would do it a disservice by trying to summarise the discussion, and I can’t really link to it here since it was in a private group, and I certainly can’t copy and paste the words either because that would just be unethical. Suffice to say that the discussion started on the basis of opinions and stereotyping associated with dreadlocks; but then it descended into a judgement rant about people because of how their locks looked. I thought it was ironic the the initial discussion topic was posed based on the judgement the original poster thought people with dreadlocks endure but that there was judgement about different people and their locks too. Basically, it sounded to me like “the world should never judge us dreadlocked persons, but some dreadlocked persons are just in it for the looks and that’s just bad”.

Now, the history of deadlocks has its roots in Africa. As a cultural expression, it “belongs” to Africans and those of African descent. Popularised by the late Bob Marley, it is now more closely associated with the Rastafarian faith. I should note here that the original poster found it useful to say something to the tune of “most Africans are doing it wrong”. If anyone is doing it “right”, I’d say it’s them. His whole rant was … startling. Now, I am not disparaging this young man at all. He was speaking most vehemently based on the information he had. There is a lot of misinformation out there on the internet and I can’t fault him for falling prey to some of it. In fact, I remain strangely unemotional about the whole exchange. But it did set me to thinking…

Should I be angry that someone from a culture other than my own is telling me about my culture in authoritative ways? I am not. I am … simply pondering a world in which this happens so regularly that we can’t even recognise it.

At what point is it ok to take on the practices, ideas, traditions of another culture and discuss it in terms that imply you claim it as your own?

We study Tai Chi in several different styles (Yang style, Chen stye, Dong style, etc.). I found the Dong style groups here on the West Coast recently and learned their style is fashioned off of Yang style Tai Chi. It’s not cultural appropriation for Master Dong to form his own school, but is it appropriation for us in the West to form our own schools under his tutelage and claim the schools as our own?

I don’t know where the line is. It never bothered me before – mostly because I see the world differently and I don’t much care that white people are locking their hair. I can lay claim to the dreadlocks culture because I was born and raised in the culture that fostered Rastafarianism. But it doesn’t make me angry that people who don’t look like me are taking it on as their own expression. I don’t know that I can explain why either … other than to say I have never felt oppressed by anyone and so I don’t feel the need to be seen and respected as part of a culture or people or society. Thus I cannot relate to the anger that appropriation causes. I don’t discount it… and in fact, it is that very anger that I am pondering today. At what point _do_ we get angry?

I mean … maybe it should be ok to borrow something from someone else when it works for you. But is it ok to tell someone they’ve been doing it wrong for centuries and now that you are doing it, you can explain the right way to do it? Maybe that’s ok too – because the heavens know how much humanity has gotten stuff wrong over the centuries.

Maybe this “owning” of a culture is restrictive, selfish, short-sighted … archaic. Maybe in this new global world that we live, it is time to let go of that idea that “our culture” is ideally better when that includes everyone. A conglomeration. And speak of sub-cultures or pocket cultures instead. I can get behind that – sure!

But what of those cultures that have been marginalised as sub-standard and inferior for centuries? Do we tell them “Look – we effed up when we said you’re a sub-species. We know it now and we want to make amends. But let’s all share your bounty in the meantime. I mean … I said sorry, didn’t I?”

Sorry

Here’s the tricky thing about granting equality and recognition after centuries of side-lining and marginalisation: when the oppressor recognises their wrong-doing, acknowledges it, and apologises for it, they don’t get to dictate the point at which time can move again. It’s like when you apologise to your husband or wife for betraying them over and over and over and over again …  and they demand some time to think … and heal. Healing takes time and the one who was wounded has every right to say, “Ok. Thanks. Now step back and let me heal … and leave me alone while I do it – thanks.”

To get back to my original point, here’s how I think about appropriation: Sure go ahead and express yourself with whatever you choose, even if it is a form of expression that belongs to some other culture. Be my guest. Chances are, the reason why that thing is so well liked is because it’s pretty magnificent to begin with and its why it is still a part of whatever culture to this day.

Dreadlocks, for instance. We think it’s pretty fabulous and if you think so too, fantastic – we have something in common. But please be careful how you then take it upon yourself to tell us that we’re doing it wrong. We’ve (us and our ancestors) been doing it for centuries and I think that by now we’d have ironed out the kinks. Unless, of course, you’re trying to say that we aren’t capable of working out the kinks ourselves?

Heh … I guess I wasn’t as unemotional as I thought I was, eh?

The point is – borrow, borrow all you want. Just be sure to be respectful while you do it – m’k? And remember that just because you can doesn’t mean you should. Think about it.

It’s a rainy, dreary day in Oly, WA today …

And days like today bring back memories of being back home in Jamaica on a cloudy, dreary, rainy day when we’d be happy for the chill and the wet so we had excuses to drink things like hot cocoa, or more coffee (you haven’t had coffee until you’ve tried Jamaican coffee, if even just once) and cornmeal porridge.

Ah yes. I miss cornmeal porridge. It’s a hot cereal-like meal – it’s made with cornmeal (as you might have guessed), milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. You have to be extra careful with it, though, because if it’s made incorrectly or you let it sit for too long, it can get lumpy and icky to eat. My father used to tell me that cornmeal porridge “put hair on yuh ches’ [chest]” or that it “coat yuh backbone”. Frankly, I think the stuff that put hair on your chest was more of the scotch bonnet (hot pepper) or alcohol (like John Crow Batty – which is an overproof rum that is near enough to pure ethanol that it burns green) type deal than simple, unassuming cornmeal porridge. Frankly, a little John Crow Batty would be welcome about now … a stiff drink is not something I’d refuse today.

Still, despite the dreariness or the potential bad news I’ve had within the last week or so, I am in fairly good spirits. It is odd – I ought to be so down in the dumps that it is difficult to get out of bed. Well … it’s difficult to get out of bed anyway – it’s so damn cold. Not as cold as my Eastern and Central U.S. neighbours, but certainly far more cold than I have been used to all my life. It’s so much more comfortable to lay under a duvet and a fleece blanket than it is to get out of bed … for anything.

Anyway – the reason why I am in fairly good spirits despite all the blows this week … a book that validated my way of thinking for once.

You know how you hear people say “Think positive” all the time? That “staying positive will help solve problems”? That “envision the positive outcome and that is what you shall manifest”? All that drivel. I hear it constantly. And to me it is drivel. Sure I want to think of the positive outcome. It’s what I want to  happen. That sort of goes without saying…. but what happens if what I want does not happen? What then?

Cue the “Oh come on! Be positive!” crap. That doesn’t help me. What helps me is to envision all possibilities so that I can at least be mentally (if not practically and physically) prepared for them all. Apparently, this kind of thinking is called “Defensive pessimism” and there is a book written about it. Yes; there are a few of us on this earth who actually benefit from being negative because it helps us prepare for all possibilities in such a way that no matter what the outcome is, we can take it smoothly in stride and move past it.

Whenever I am faced with a decision, my first question is always “tell me what the worst and best outcomes are?” I only finally got a doctor who understood that recently. Everybody else seemed to think I needed to be coddled and told to “think positive; it’ll work out … somehow”. I want to tell them “Stop coddling me; I am grown woman” but I am too polite to do so. At the end of the day, when the ish hits the fan, I am the one who is going to be able to manage the fallout because I have already imagined the worst and know, in my head, how I am going to tackle it if it happens. Of course, I am also the one who will cheer and celebrate just as loudly with you when it does work out  – because I also know the potential consequences of the best outcomes as well.

I am hoping to read that book so I can see just how much of my own patterns are mimicked by others the world over. I want to know, finally, just how “normal” I am.