It’s Just a Mask

I have frequent sinus infections, some so bad that I do end up going to the doctor’s so I can get some steroids to make me feel better. Sometimes to the point I can’t even leave the bed because I get so sick from them. Pre-COVID, when I would go to the doctor’s office, they would give me a mask while I sat in the lobby and waited to be seen. Why? Because if it’s not a sinus infection like I think it is and it was a more serious respiratory infection, the mask was for the protection of others in the space. Pre-COVID, this measure was merely seen as a precaution and was accepted with no issue. There were other people wearing a mask, presumably for the same reason. Did we judge each other? Did they throw a toddler-level tantrum over it? No. They understood that them wearing a mask was in the best interest of everyone else in the room. It was just a mask.

It seems silly to me that today a mask is a political statement. If you wear a mask, you’re a sheeple that wants to be controlled by the government. As said by the sheeple, who blindly follow conservatives trying to sell this as fact. The problem isn’t the mask; the problem is the extremists on either side of the debate. The worst part is? The rest of us reasonable people are suffering as a result of this. I did the right thing. I wore my mask on the rare occasion I left the house. I sometimes still do, depending on where I’m going. I got the vaccine. I stayed away from family and friends, for my weak-ass immune system’s protection and for my family’s protection. If everyone else did the same instead of making it into some political hill to die on, we’d be out of this mess already. But people so stubbornly hold on to whatever Newsmax/Tucker Carlson conspiracy and MSNBC talking point that they want to. The harder that one side pushes, the other one pushes back.

No. I don’t believe that you’re a martyr for not wearing a mask or getting vaccinated. I’ll still be friends with you and not be an asshole. I’ll stand by my thought that “play stupid games, win stupid prizes”, but it’s a person’s right to play those games. Whether or not they do, not by business. I’ll still be there pulling for you if you end up in the hospital. But you’re not winning any martyrdom prizes from me. I will blame these stubborn ideals for the fact that we’re going to be dealing with this thing forever because people want to take their medical opinions from Google, the same place that turned people into anti-vaxxers that won’t give their kids a measles shot and oh look, what are we dealing with now? Measles. At least that was the talk of the town until a global pandemic hit us in the face.

It’s just a mask. If I go up to an establishment and they say “masks mandatory” or “masks encouraged”, I do what a reasonable human being does and pull a mask out from my purse. It’s just a piece of material that goes over my face, so that all the people throwing a fit about it can just seem my eyes roll, rather than me snickering at their childish tantrum. Will the kids probably need to wear a mask at school? My oldest son’s college already said there was a mandate. I imagine that the elementary and secondary schools will follow. It’s just a mask. My youngest never throws a fit about wearing one. If the parents make it seem normal, the kids follow along easily. It’s just a mask. I really don’t know how many ways to say it or how many more times I need to say it: IT’S JUST A MASK.

Asian countries have been wearing masks for as long as I can remember. They wear them when they are sick and out in public as to not get other people sick. They don’t see it as a political statement. Hell, even if COVID was done by cold and flu season, I was absolutely going to keep going on with the masks during that period to not get others sick and to give some small level of protection for myself. Why? Because it’s just a mask.

We learned a valuable lesson, one that if the survival of humanity is dependent on selfless acts of others, we’re doomed. If people can’t even wear a simple mask to “be of service to fellow man”, how can we expect them to do something more than than?

The Joys of Only Trying to Impress Yourself

As I’m currently slowly losing weight, it’s been a different journey from the last time that I went through this process. Last time, I just looked at the baby weight and felt not really disgust with it, but just general unhappiness with it. I didn’t necessarily lose the weight for any other reason than I just didn’t want to have it anymore. That inspired shortcuts that took the weight off and kept the baby weight off until a series of medication changes and stressful situations caused it to slowly come back. This time, it’s not about not wanting to listen to people comment on my weight. It isn’t because I’m trying to impress my partner; my husband loves me no matter what.

No. I’m trying to impress me. Not really in the sense of that I tie in my self-worth with anything like how I look or whether or not people are impressed with me. I don’t need a fancy ring or big house or perfect body to show off because I don’t care about being impressive. In all honestly, I barely care if the people within my household are impressed with me. Is it healthy to not have this need to be impressive? Does that mean that I don’t have any goals to be better? I do have goals and strive to be the best me that I can be. But I just don’t have the need for praise. I don’t need to show off that I’m losing weight to get the masses to support me. Some people need that for motivation. They need to do what helps them on their journey and they shouldn’t be ashamed of that. However I’m very self-motivated, which is probably why working independently at home works for me. I know what I need to do. I focus on what I need to do. And I get it done. Because I will always do what needs to get done.

My confidence shows in other ways. I don’t call myself pretty, because I don’t view myself as anything other than “adequately good-looking”. It’s not because I don’t have confidence in my appearance. It’s because I don’t care about that. I don’t care if other people find me attractive because my husband does, and that’s the extent that I care about my looks. My current weight loss journey has more to do with my mental health than trying to look hot. I’m not down on myself because of my weight. I just need to be in a better mental state and working out and focusing on losing weight makes me feel better mentally. Didn’t lose any weight or gained this week? I don’t get upset. I just look towards doing better next week. I take the same approach to my weight loss as I do in everything else. I’m going to have bad days. I’m going to have good days. Every day gives me that fresh opportunity to be better somehow. I work out because it eases the stress and just gives me a mental boost when I need it. I eat healthier because I mentally feel better. The goal is to feel better, not look better. I think this distinction not only makes it different than last time, but it also makes it easier to accomplish and stick to. A strong foundation in mental health means that I can be better for my family.

I wrote a post before about how I’d rather be honest than impressive. That’s a motto that I honestly live by now because otherwise, it’s stressful. It’s stressful trying to be the perfect mom that has their kid in a billion activities, has a perfectly clean house, and has genius Ivy League bound kids. That’s never going to be who I am. I’m never going to be someone that is impressive and I’m not going to place that on myself. What I will do is always try to be the best version of myself that I can be because that’s what I want for myself, not because other people expect it of me. When you stop trying to impress others and focus on trying to impress yourself, that’s when you can make the changes that you want to. That’s when you can achieve peak happiness, or at least whatever semblance of it that we can have today.

Women in the Workplace

Prior to going to college and working from home as a writer, I worked in the hospitality industry. It was, honestly, soul crushing work to the highest levels. I did learn some very useful skills while working at the hotel/restaurant. For one thing, I have mastered how to listen without actually listening. This is an essential skill for anyone who works in a customer service-related industry. This is where you can smile and nod convincingly, while catching enough of the Karen’s complaints in front of you to appear that you care and are going to do everything in your power to make things right. You won’t, because you’re a minimum-waged employee that has no real say in anything and just has to bow down to the whims of management and customers. But, at least you’ve convinced the Karen that you’re useful. Interestingly, this is also a skill that is very useful as a mother.

When you’re a teenaged single mother, keeping your job is essential. This puts you at a disadvantage of being young and desperate. You take it when you get your butt slapped while waiting tables, having someone give you their number as a condition for getting tips, or just having people hang around in a sleazy way for you to finish your shift, despite the fact that you’re not finishing your shift because they are lingering around like lecherous predators trying to make a play for a barely legal teenager when you just want to get home so you can try to make it to school on time the next day. I was fortunate enough early on in my hospitality career that my chefs treated their waitresses like daughters. The waitresses were sisters who would watch out for each other. When the chefs happened to be around, you would just tell them what was going on and they’d come out with their dad face and those lecherous customers would disappear fast. Even Grampa Bobby, the MC/Banquet Manager could straighten out anyone who got out of line in protection of his waitstaff.

After I was promoted to the front desk at the hotel, I foolishly thought it would be a different experience. I still had to wait tables/do banquets in addition to full-time front desk work, because single mom and it seemed like less protection at the front than it was in the kitchen. You’re the face of the hotel. The first person that guests come across. Which would lead to frequent conversations such as when I would ask “Is it just you in the room, sir?” and they would respond “Depends, are you joining me?” They would creepily wink as if they were trying to pass off that comment as a harmless joke… unlesssss… I would always raise my eyebrow at them and then program the key, hand them the key, and then say “One key, it is then.” It never stopped getting uncomfortable when that happened. But that was just something we’re told to suck up because it’s going to happen. Women are told to change our reactions, while the men aren’t being told they shouldn’t be lecherous predatorial creeps.

Eventually our banquet manager left and a new one was hired. The kind of manager that if you didn’t want to sleep with him, he wanted to make sure your life was miserable at the workplace. The kind where if you didn’t flirt back, he would figure out ways to replace you with someone that would. You don’t develop a thick skin or a higher tolerance for these things. You just end up accepting things because what’s the alternative? Back then, even 18 years ago, you didn’t really have any options. They instantly fired a male housekeeper that made me feel uncomfortable with his advances on me. But a manager? The manager’s indiscretions were just ignored because he was him? Maybe he was good at his job when he wasn’t drunk, high, or hitting on the barely and not legal staff? Even then, I just accepted my fate of being the target of unwanted advances and the ire that the unrequited nature of them caused.

The final straw came right before I decided to go back to college. Back when we were in high school, there were these gel bracelets that we had. If someone had a cool color, we’d trade one of our cool colors. It was fun. It turns out, in some areas those bracelets were offered in exchange for sexual favors or were used as a coupon for future ones. Not our school. It was just friendship bracelets being exchange for other colors. There was this one that I was particularly fond of that was blue and glittery, given to me by someone who was going off to college while I was going to spend forever working at this hotel. I wore these bracelets to work, because it was the only joy I had some days. I could look at them and remember who gave me which ones. How did I learn that these bracelets weren’t so innocent? A customer came in to check in and saw the bracelets. He goes “which one does this one get me?”, or something along those lines, as he grabbed my wrist and broke my beloved one baby blue glittery one and put it in his pocket. He laughed at me as he let my wrist fall down to the desk and smash because my body went limp in terror. He continued to lurk around the desk for the rest of my shift. But since it was a Sunday, it was just me on site. No manager. No owner. It was a slow day so housekeeping was already gone. It was just a twenty-something year old sitting alone hoping that she was going to be safe for the rest of her shift. I don’t remember if I tried calling the manager about it. I remember just being terrified.

I did end up leaving right after that incident, after serving a few shifts and being completely terrified while doing so. I had to wear a wrist splint for a couple of weeks because my wrist had been sprained. The last thing I signed as an employee there was the incident report that was filled out 2 or 3 days later when I realized that I had to go through worker’s comp rather than my own insurance. My manager, who was the nicest person and who tried really hard to do the right thing, told me that she was going to send the customer (I remembered his room number) the medical bill and a request for the bracelet back.

Why did I tell this incredibly personal story? Because it’s relevant. Not just because of what’s happening to Activision/Blizzard. But because this incident was 18 years ago and still haunts me today, probably to the point that I’m too terrified to work outside of the home because of it. Because these are stories that women today are still telling about their experience working and getting nowhere with it. Because we’re expected to change our reactions instead of having them being told that they need to change their behaviors. Because we’re afraid to speak up because we can’t afford to lose our jobs. We’re victims of having people take advantage of us and our uniquely vulnerable situations. That’s why women not only need to speak and men need to listen, but men also need to speak out. Speak up when they see something. Listen to the stories and offer support so that they have the strength to do something about it. Everyone needs to do their part to make the change.

The Struggle Between Morality and Capitalism

Some people call this “cancel culture”, but in reality, there are more than just the products or services offered by a company that make consumers choose to give them their money. I’m no different than any other consumer. I choose to buy my groceries at Big Y (only the one in my city) and sometimes the local grocery Fruit Fair because I have a positive view of them as a company. The owners of these companies are active in our local community and I’ve never had an unpleasant experience with any employee at either place, which is more than I can say about the misery I feel when I go grocery shopping at the other options in the area. Consumers make decisions based on factors like a positive impression of the brand, positive experiences when working with the people at a company, and whether or not that company’s morals align with theirs.

A company’s morals and how they align with mine is a factor I consider when purchasing items. For example, I refuse to step foot in Hobby Lobby due to their belief system and those are beliefs that I absolutely cannot support. And it’s easy for me because I’ve never had to be concerned with them because there are other craft stores in the area that I can spend my money at. Chick-fil-A is another company that I just can’t support. However, I did eat there a couple of times and then spent an equal amount of money on charities to make myself feel better about betraying my beliefs. Plus, full disclosure, Chick-fila-A is overpriced and nowhere near as good as Wendy’s or Popeye’s chicken sandwiches.

For the most part, directing my moral outrage at a company hasn’t really impacted me because those were typically products or services that I wasn’t buying to begin with. But when the news broke out about Activision Blizzard, I was immediately conflicted. Blizzard games have been a huge part of my life for nearly 2 decades. I’ve met great people and friends through these games. I play Overwatch and World of Warcraft (Classic and Retail) practically daily especially to break up my work and reset my brain. I religiously follow Overwatch League. To hear this news saddens me. No. It destroys me. The fact that companies like that get away with being disgusting for so long is disturbing to me. The wholesome image we get of Blizzcon is shattered. This brand betrayed its fans, especially the female gaming community that love their games.

Blizzard fans that give a crap should feel betrayed right now. The moral conflict is whether or not this is a company that we should give money to, despite the profound impact that their games have had on the community. Are these bad actions something that predates the Activision Blizzard merger? If so, does the ire we should feel reflect on Activision’s games, not Blizzard’s? Do we stop giving money to a company, which causes harm to the innocent developers that make these games that we love? Do we wait to see if they own up to their actions and hand down consequences for these vile actions? At what point do we give up on something that we’ve already dedicated so much to? These are all questions we should be asking ourselves.

We should stand up and fight, but my conflict is rooted in not just my outrage but also my need for routine and comfort. It’s seems like an easy choice: stop supporting a company that causes so much pain. But there’s another side. Especially at a time when people need comfort and stability, these video games offer them what they need. I need the comfort that I’m going to log on and get “Hey Ginger” or “Sup Leigh”. I need the comfort of mindlessly doing things while interacting with others. It’s the break from reality that some people need on a regular basis more than others. But at what cost? What would I like to see? I would like to see them be held accountable for their actions. I would like to see massive chunks of money being donated to RAINN, top suicide prevention organizations, and women’s rights/sexual harassment prevention causes. I’m talking like massive amounts of money. They need to make this right.

This isn’t “cancel culture”. This is deciding if you want your money to support something that you don’t believe in. Sometimes, that decision is much easier than others. But isn’t that what capitalism is all about? The consumers making decisions about where to spend their money? I don’t call it “cancel culture”, I call it “moral consumerism”. And I’m really struggling with it right now.

But I’m Not Really a People Person

During the lockdown/quarantine of 2020, people started sharing memes like “Avoiding people? I’ve been preparing this moment my whole life!” Most people who I saw that shared it, I rolled my eyes. Fake introverts, I joked. Those are people who are always going out and engaging with people. Me? I really have been preparing for this my whole life. Why don’t I really go out on date nights? Because I’d much rather just stay at home with my family and dogs. I don’t mind just being alone with my dogs because I like my dogs more than I like most people. I have friends and family that I cherish, but I’m not someone who really enjoys being out where there are too many people. Maybe it’s the sensory overload that my youngest suffers from. Maybe it’s just extreme social anxiety. Who knows?

I have crafted my life around not being a people person. I work from home and only take jobs where I can just get emails to get my work and then just do my work and give it back to them. I don’t particularly enjoy engaging on the phone. The only engagement I really enjoy “work-wise” was streaming, which hopefully can start again after the kids ship off back to school. But that’s one-sided engagement. That’s engagement I initiate on my own terms. I’m not really a type-A personality. I float somewhere in the middle of the spectrum where I know when to take control and when to concede. Going out to the grocery store? Nightmare for me. People do stupid things and I roll my eyes or make snide commentary that my husband glares at me for. Not because he disagrees with what I said; but because some things are better left in the brain. Hilariously, my knack for just saying what people are thinking but don’t want to say is one of my biggest selling points in the relationship. He even shared with me a hilarious meme: “Quiet boys, why do you like the loud mouth women? Quiet boys: Because someone needs to tell the waitress I ordered mash potatoes and it’s not going to be me.” Him and my oldest son just looked at me like “Sound familiar?”

I do know restraint and can practice it like an art. I know how to put on a show of being a people person, being a charming and witty presence when I need to. It’s exhausting work pretending to tolerate people while you envision something happening to them, like punching them in the face. I even managed to not make fun of this person who was talking on his speaker phone at the grocery store so loudly that you could hear him across the store. That doesn’t mean I always care to do this. I cannot control my facial expressions, such as my eye roll of disdain or my eyebrows shooting up when I think someone is being ridiculous. At least when it comes to cold and flu season and I start sporting the masks again, I can help hide some of these tells.

Is my preference for isolation healthy? Probably not. I’m sure the couch therapists are reading this and have a thorough diagnosis of my mental health issues. But solitude gives me strength. Not having obligations outside of the house helped me to lose nearly 60 lbs. I was happier because I didn’t have to worry about my period problems affecting my schedule because I couldn’t go and do anything anyways. I socialized with my friends through texts, short meetings when one of my besties would drop off the school meals for me, and even a Zoom girls night. I enjoyed being selective in my activities. But I got to stay home with my boys and dogs and that was perfect for me. And I think that’s OK. I think pretending to be something that you’re not isn’t OK, especially when you do it just because of societal expectations. But I’m just going to be me, the person who thinks places are just “too people-y”. The selective recluse.

I Love My City… But…

Okay, that’s probably a lie. My entire life I fantasized about getting the hell out of this town. I imagined myself in a loft, childless, writing and getting paid just enough to make ends meet. My goals were to be anywhere but this city. Then I became a pregnant teen and leaving this city wasn’t going to be in the plans anymore. As a parent and an adult, I see the appeal now. Relatively low crime, depending on where in the city you live. You live close enough to everything. Decent enough schools, especially when it comes to their special needs programs. You didn’t have to pay for trash and still technically don’t if you can manage to fit a week’s worth of trash in those obscenely small bins. (I can barely get away with not having extra in my recycling. Wonder when we’ll get charged for that too.) You get municipal electricity and now fiber, if you’re lucky to live in one of the areas that got it during the ridiculously slow roll out of the program. There were plenty of things to love about this place as an adult.

But I mean, there are plenty of things especially now that annoy me. I’m annoyed that half the time we can’t get out of our driveway because of illegally parked cars that cops just drive by and ignore, despite saying “we know there’s an issue, we just never see it.” I can’t have parking in front of my house because the apartment people hate their parking lot. Our city spends money and we end up facing tax increases because they are incompetent in how they spend their money. I mean, how much money was spent on an auditorium that they aren’t going to use anymore, but yeah let’s give them a raise during a pandemic when people are struggling, but don’t worry the raise won’t take into effect yet. Our teachers are working hard, to get insulted at every turn for how they did things during a pandemic. Who is standing up for them? I certainly don’t see a lot of public officials doing that.

It’s a city that sometimes I wonder if I even want to live in, though I know I’ll stay because it’s familiar and there are/were some benefits to it. But it doesn’t make me happy. Maybe it’s the neighborhood I picked, an affordable part of the Fairview-ish section so my oldest could stay in his current school district and because at the time my youngest would potentially need speech and autism services. So, I picked the same exact school district that my oldest went through because that elementary school is stellar. Many of my neighbors are great and aside from illegally parked cars as the bane of my existence and worrying about people coming over because they have to park halfway down the street to visit me, I like where I am. But I fantasize of something better. I only stay because the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side. That shouldn’t be the only reason I stay here.

I wish that they cared more about the taxpayer and not the rich people that fund their campaigns. But, that’s politicians. They don’t care about the people who voted them there, only the money that got them there. I wish that when a cop car drives by a car parked on a yellow curb that they would stop and do something about it. I wish that I had more encounters with the cops that would make me feel safe/not fly into an anxiety attack about calling them when we can’t leave our driveway because cars are parked on both ends. I wish the teachers got praise for everything that they did this year. I would love the lunch staff to get so much praise for how they’ve stepped up/continue to step up in serving food to the community. Do something to honor them. Not do victory laps because you put up a pride flag during Pride Month or an autism flag for Autism Awareness Day. I’ve always thought mayors were nothing but people who loved photo ops, and I don’t think I’ve been proven wrong yet. Well, at least photo ops at private schools or events for people who support him. I don’t recall seeing our mayor pose for pictures in one of the public schools with students, though I would love to be wrong here. And I’m not counting graduations or one photo op outside of the preschool.

Most importantly, I think I wish that one day I could be proud of this city. Not want to laugh because we make the news for ridiculous things like being the worst Walmart on the planet or because our government officials spend a fortune on something that they won’t even use. Then, they will likely spend even more money for something else to replace it once we forget about our outrage. I don’t want to roll my eyes because we make the news for having an outdated charter that makes it impossible to remove city officials that have no place being in office still. I just want a city that I could be proud of.

The Role We Play Today

Originally I had this blog scheduled for today that I ultimately pulled last minute (which is why I’m late today). As a writer with an audience, I have to be selective about the hills that I want to die on. The original topic was a conversation inspired by an interesting discussion on the local forums about a hypothetical on a school committee member and if it would be acceptable for them to work at a dispensary in the city. This inspired me to discuss my own thoughts on legalizing drugs, which I’m aware is a very controversial stance. But was I passionate enough about the topic to eventually post it? Not passionate enough to potentially argue about it. I believe in my stance, but there are more interesting and important hills to die on, and I didn’t think that was the one.

But in pulling that post, it made me realize that people who have voices play a major role in the world today. An even bigger role in what I would argue has been the slow downfall of humanity. Fear mongering, misinformation, hate, partisanship. Fighting against those things are hills that I would die on over and over again because voices against these things should be enhanced.

There’s a reason why even though there are plenty of political memes that impact me, I don’t share them. Whether I laugh about it or it invokes thought, I leave it. It’s not because I wasn’t entertained. It wasn’t because it inspired me to research the topic and learn more about it, including whether or not it’s a full truth, a half-truth, or a not truth. That’s probably the most important part. Doing your own research rather than getting your news and outrage from memes. I don’t post them because I don’t want to feed into this culture of hate, fear mongering, partisanship, and misinformation. I want people to think for themselves rather than to go off in a world of false outrage. I don’t want to be a part of what’s destroying our culture.

People like Tucker Carlson and Rachel Maddow have made millions upon millions doing that. They make their voices the loudest to get people to blindly follow them without any regard for facts. And the worst part is: People do. People find it easier to just follow than question. They find it easier to just react rather than think. It’s just easier to blindly believe and follow every word of those people that we trust for information. That’s why journalism is nowhere near the prestigious path anymore. Because news organizations don’t care about facts. They know that we trust them for information and they take advantage of that. Whether it’s for profit or to spread their own belief systems like wildfire, we let them take advantage of us with their biased viewpoints. We eat that up with a dessert of cheeky memes that we agree with, sharing it with others to spread whatever propaganda we’re buying into. That’s the role that we play.

It’s time to change the role that we play in this cluster that we’re dealing with right now. Instead of accepting it, fight it. Instead of following blindly, question it. It’s easy to sit back and complain that the world is gone to crap, but it’s another thing to realize the role that we’re playing in this downfall.

It’s Time to Celebrate

In a few short days, we will be coming together to celebrate the hard work of my oldest son. Graduating high school is a major milestone. It’s a massive achievement, especially with his courses to graduate with honors and considering the cluster that the past 2 years were. Graduating high school isn’t easy, especially when the world is stopped in the middle of a pandemic. It does make you pause and reflect on how far he’s come, from being the smallest kid in class to being at least sorta the same size as everyone else. Sorta.

That means it’s time to bring all of the family together to celebrate with him. To share your pride with them in that moment, while also praying that maybe this is the day the apartment people aren’t taking over your entire front of the house so that your guests at least have someplace to park. Not holding out hope though. Apparently they prefer walking halfway down the street rather than in their actual parking lot, choosing to take up every spot in front of our house and on some occasions, even our driveway. (Rant over.)

It’s stressful looking around the house and thinking “There’s no way to get everything done by the weekend while also working”, especially since my husband has been working overtime since last week and my youngest has decided this is the week for sporadic anxiety attacks to take up my time. That’s what you do as a a parent though. You suck it up and just drink more coffee as needed. You plan the menu, get to cleaning and cooking. I’m fortunate enough that I can easily bribe my nephews, one with just pizza and the other with pizza and the promise of sharing his aunt’s precious recipes. I like the company and I like that at least someone has an interest in learning the family recipes. My oldest son does sometimes, but his will to learn recipes is overcome by his love of gaming and streaming.

The most important piece of this puzzle isn’t the food that will be eaten or even the worries of parking or not having the house clean enough for guests. The most important piece is the people coming together to celebrate in this moment. A celebration we wouldn’t have been able to have a year ago. It’s the conversations that people are going to have while they are eating or just sharing their pride in my son’s accomplishments as well. It’s about family, both the ones of blood and the ones that you choose. These are those special moments that you’re going to remember more. I’ll occupy myself with cooking and serving guests, hoping that I don’t just start crying both of pride and of sadness that my oldest will be going away in a few short months.

He deserves this. He deserves the world and the world is now his to take on. He’s going to do great. He’s going to do great things. And I’m thankful for the tribe that helped along the way, ensuring that he was setup for success. He grew up knowing he was loved and supported every step of the way and that matters. That helped create the compassionate, narcissistic monster that we know today. (Kidding about the narcissism, mostly. Kid has an ego, for sure.)

It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Gets Hacked

My son has anxiety issues. His anxiety, while it has slowly started to get better, is still very much present in our lives. His triggers include any blemish on his body (anything that’s bleeding, a scrape, even a bruise), bad weather, loud noises, when something looks “not right”, and tech related issues which he then goes worst case scenario assuming he’s been hacked. Of all of his triggers, the most common and worst of them are cuts and tech related issues. It’s not easy trying to figure out ways to validate his feelings while also trying to calm him down and thinking about ways to prevent a future attack. Especially since sometimes these episodes can be hours long affairs.

I never compare parenting struggles, but honestly there’s nothing more trying of your patience. You need to remain calm as your child is pacing frantically around the room, practically hyperventilating as he goes through all of his thoughts out loud. It’s a helpless feeling knowing that whatever you could say can be misinterpreted and worsen the situation. Sometimes, maybe because I’m a bad mom, I just watch it unfold because I have no idea what to do otherwise and I’m afraid I’m going to start pacing around the room just as frantically because I don’t want to make matters worse and my heart hurts. Yesterday, my son woke up at 7 a.m. from a nightmare that he got hacked and the computer didn’t work anymore. I held him while he calmed down, knowing that when he has his nightmares, he just needs cuddles. But then every flicker or anytime the computer lagged for a minute, he just remembered his nightmare and starts pacing around the house in a panic that he’s just been hacked and what is he going to do and his email has something from Google about compromised passwords and what is he going to do and maybe he needs 2-step authentication or check to see if Linus Tech Tips can help but he can’t go near the computer because of the hack haunting him.

My husband is an IT god among men. Fortunately in his new position at work, he spends most of his time at his new desk. My son called him 4 times in a row before he received a tech answer that satisfied him and he was able to get over his episode. He was fine for the rest of the day and excited when Dad came home to talk to him all about what he learned about computers after they talked. He’s 8 and knows more about computers than most adults I know, myself included.

Every day is different. He could go several days without an episode. He can have an episode every day. He can have several moments in a day. You can’t avoid triggers, because you’re supposed to help him figure out ways of coping. Sometimes getting him to do his breathing exercises works. Sometimes you just put his noise-cancelling headphones on and he’s fine. I prepare him ahead of time that a storm is coming because if he hears the thunder, it’s game over immediately. At least if he knows it’s coming, he lasts until he sees heavy winds, then he starts pacing around frantically reminding himself that Mommy has a plan in case of a hurricane or tornado and she knows what to do to keep me safe and his brother is a certified lifeguard and has his first aid certifications so if something happens, he can help too. How when he gets any sort of cut or scrape he needs a bandage and how Mommy doesn’t understand that he needs a bandage because this scrape is the most important thing on his mind right now. You just let him have the bandage, even when you can’t see a mark.

You never truly know patience until you have to manage sensory disorders and anxiety and whatever other mental health condition can be thrown at you in the form of your children. It’s hard enough dealing with your own mental health issues, let alone also managing your child’s. You always have to walk a delicate line. You get judged or funny looks because your kid won’t go into the cafeteria with loud noises or won’t wear a Halloween costume to a school Halloween function for whatever reason he rationalized and you just go with it because all that matters is that they are happy and participating the best that they can. You treasure those good days more than you normally would because you know just how bad those bad days can be.

But the most important thing is that they know that you love them through it all. Even when they are thrashing around and keep hitting you during an anxiety attack. You just hug them harder. Even when their defiance seems unable to be overcome. Because when they are smiling at you, they smile bigger since they know that you were there for them when they weren’t behaving or acting out or having an anxiety attack. They know that you would fight all of those triggers if you could. You were patient with them, even when you think that you weren’t. You did enough for them when you thought it was impossible to help. They just want to know that you love them and that you are there for them no matter what. Even if you have to buy a 100 pack of bandages a week.

As Pride Month Nears the End

As Pride Month nears the end, I couldn’t help but to consider something. What’s the big deal? What’s the big deal if a gay couple wants to get married? How does that impact YOUR life? No one is saying that you have to be gay and marry your partner; they are simply saying if you can marry the love of your life, why can’t we? It’s a fair argument. What’s the big deal if someone wants to be known as different pronouns or wants to dress a different way every day because they don’t conform to a gender identity? How does that impact your life? The answer is: it doesn’t.

I’ve always wondered, as any rational being would, why some people fight so hard for freedoms and complain about their freedoms being trounced on while they proceed to trounce on other people’s rights. Wearing a mask = muh freedoms! Gay marriage and trans rights being denied acceptance = my religious/moral beliefs are more important than the freedoms of my fellow Americans. It’s a self-centered view to have, if you really think about it. Which makes sense, because many people are only willing to fight if something directly impacts them. Or is told by propaganda media that something impacts them. Then, they will charge into a state or federal capitol building without an issue.

This Pride Month should celebrate how far we’ve come, but it disheartens me to say that I’m not sure we’ve really come as far as we should have. I’m fortunate enough that I live in a state where gay couples can get married and start families of their own through adoption. But not everyone is as fortunate. I wish my loved ones who are in the LGBTQ+ community could experience the life that they want to live, without fear of other people hating them, injuring them, or even killing them. I wish that at least 52 years past the Stonewall Riots that people could live their lives freely without memes mocking trans people for being “ugly wannabe girls” or at least get married without jumping through a million hoops. When I got married, I showed up to City Hall, got my marriage license to be signed by our JP, and called it a day. It’s not lost on me that even interracial marriage wasn’t even federally legal until 1967, and it saddens me that the road for the LGBTQ+ community is so long to get to equality.

We’re supposed to be kind and accepting of others. That’s what the Bible says, if you are religious. If not, aren’t we supposed to be fighting for all Americans to be able to achieve “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as stated in the Declaration of Independence. You spend so much time saying being forced to wear masks infringes on your rights, but does it not infringe on the rights of others to not be able to marry the person that they love? It infringes on your rights to be forced to get the COVID-19 vaccine, but it’s okay that trans people are forced into identities because they have no legal protections otherwise? I’m not sure what the argument is here. Is it that the government must be small enough to fit into the bedroom? You can’t tell me what to do or what I can’t do or be, unless I’m different from “societal norms”, then infringing on one’s rights to live their lives is perfectly acceptable.

We’re not truly free if people keep telling us who’s allowed to have rights and who isn’t. Straight women have freedoms, as long as they don’t want abortions or birth control or equal pay. Straight white men can do whatever they want. Gay men can’t exist and trans people are just pedophiles in disguise waiting to assault our unattended children in bathrooms. Did I get all of that right? It’s confusing to me, so you have to bear with me.

The last paragraph was 90% sarcasm. Pretty much everything past “We’re not truly free if people keep telling us who’s allowed to have rights and who isn’t” was snide commentary, though not snide enough because the hypocrisy is so loud. I say that we just let people live their lives. How does them being happy impact you? You don’t have to change your life. You don’t even have to like it. You just have to accept that others have the right to be happy, and as long as they are consenting adults that are contributing to society in a positive way, what’s the big deal if they are LGBTQ+ or live some lifestyle that you wouldn’t live? Spoiler: it’s not a big deal. You just have to accept that they have the same freedoms that you have to be happy.