As we age, or even just as we get too busy with out lives, there are so many things we forget. There are things we wish we could forget which cling to us with a force that seems unbreakable. Then there are those wonderful things we hope to never forget.
This morning I awoke thinking of something I hope to always remember – a smile. This wasn’t any ordinary smile because the woman of whom the the smile belongs has never been ordinary. When I knew her in person, she was extraordinary; I suspect she still is.
I haven’t seen her in person in nearly 30 years, yet I can still see her smile and hear her laugh as if it was just yesterday we last were together. With the marvels of modern technology, I have seen photos that prove her smile and her exuberance has not diminished over the years. From those photos, it is clear that her family is well accustomed to her smile and laughter.
I don’t know why it was her smile that I saw when I dreamt my last dream of the night. It had been a rough night with unpleasant dreams that I am more that happy to have fade from memory. Upon seeing my friend smile in my dream, I awoke and the unpleasant memories, best forgotten, faded away, replaced by the joy I felt upon seeing her smile.
Just over 30 years ago, around the holiday season, an older gentleman asked me the question, “What do you do to give back to the community?” The question gave me pause, and caused me discomfort. I was a college student at the time with no excess finances to share. For a bit of time I felt pretty low because I felt I had no answer to give… then I began to remember.
I have always been a person who gives of their time and talents, but I didn’t realize until that year how much society values some contributions more greatly than others. Some service is valued as being better than other service, not because of the needs being served, but because of how the service conforms with a perception of what the provider considers valuable. Even the notion of charity seems to have a hierarchy, with some charitable acts being considered more valuable than others, not due to needs being met, but rather with how the charity is viewed by the peers of the one giving the charity.
Three decades have passed since the question was asked of me, and I find myself pondering the sad reality that for many (including the gentleman who asked the question) service and charity is measured by a monetary value rather than a kindness value. There is no rule that says that the two values cannot coexist, but there is a general notion that if the monetary is given the kindness is not necessary.
Consistently giving of ourselves, of our time, of our talents, and yes, even of our monetary surplus when such exists, is how we give back to society, and thereby contribute to a better society in which to live.
When we give with a focus on the kindness value, we need not feel discomfort when asked, “Do you give back?”
As the big crafting season begins, I have been thinking about one of the most important lessons life and aging teaches. Be Kind to Yourself – it is such an important thing to do all year long, but as crafters, it is something we often neglect to do as we scramble to make just one more item before the holiday deadline.
In my latest video, I talk a bit about how bad I am with this lesson life keeps teaching me. After showing of few of my latest projects, I change gears (around the 20:57 mark). Even when I am trying to be kind to myself and not over-do it, the unexpected can happen and force me to slow down even more. Learning to find peace and joy when the brain and body war against each other is not always an easy lesson to learn. It is, however, a worthy lesson to learn.
I hope you enjoy my video – pieces or the whole – I have enjoyed sharing it.
The free pdf pattern for the placemat I share in the video is here for your enjoyment if you wish to download it.
For many years, I have wanted to set aside time, and more importantly energy, for making doll clothing. Since 2020 seems to be a year of change, I thought I would add positive change to the sea of crazy changes this year has brought.
Inspired by a group of costumers on YouTube and Instagram (#historicalhalloween2020) but not wanting to make a costume for myself, I decided to use this inspiration to make a doll costume.
All of this was well and good, but then I decided to take the big plunge and actually talk on video.
Anyone who understands how anxiety complicates regular daily life will understand what a huge challenge I undertook. A keyboard is my friend, but a camera causes all kinds of stress.
Years ago, actually two decades ago this year, I began to understand why I shied away from the idea of being photographed. I had not had issues with the process while in my youth, but things began to change for me as I neared my 30th birthday. Aging was not what concerned me – pain, or more to the point, the photographic record of my pain, concerned me. Despite reassurances from my family, by the time I reached my 40th birthday, I really struggled with sharing any photographs taken of me.
Now as I move past the mid-century mark of my life, I want to do more than just hide the pain. I want to push back against what pain can steal away. I have been doing much better managing life and pain these last 10 years. Management is the important concept since I can manage my health, but I cannot regain the health of my youth (a youth where I was unaware that my pain was not a common thing).
So with my goal of regaining what can be regained, I took the plunge and made a video with me speaking to the camera.
Anxiety was a thick cloud as I filmed myself and then worked with the footage. Even as I regained steady ground, the underlying energy that anxiety causes me would not dissipate. Fortunately the learning curve of video editing with voice-over commentary was steep and I had many, many, hours of work to keep my mind busy. When I was able to finally take to my bed, I was able to sleep.
With fresh eyes, and a bit of rest, I have now uploaded my first “talkie”*
As I was reviewing this before posting it, I was rendered speechless when I comprehended that September is now upon us. In just a few days time, I will pass the 20 year mark on the spine injury that derailed me from the life I thought I would have, and set me on the course to the life I would come to appreciate as being the better one. I did not set out to mark this milestone with a video about making doll clothing, but as I reflect on the last 20 years, it seems rather fitting.
Life gives us challenges, it is up to use to make them into milestones rather than barriers.
*In the days when silent films reigned supreme, the first talking films were known as talkies.
As many other people have stated, the joking banter of an adolescent and the bragging of a man nearing retirement age are not one and the same. However, maybe it is the same if the youth acts upon his banter, harasses young women, and goes unpunished. If society condones or simply does not condemn youthful actions such as these, then society will find that the youth can grow to be an old man who has spent his life preying on others.
Society, as a whole, is made up of smaller units, and whether the smaller unit is a high school or a workplace, there is always someone who reigns over the group. When that person has questionable morals or believes they are above the law, all too often there will be victims of the abuses of their power. Whether the offender is sixteen or sixty, when that individual possesses power or authority, it makes their victimization of others more difficult to halt.
Power and authority are often the main reasons victims compartmentalize and simply try to move on. Feeling a lack of power or feeling that the fight against the abuse will cause them more harm, many victims of harassment and assault decide to exit a bad situation before it gets worse. For some, immediate exit is not possible. The high school student, the wage earner, the person dependent on the financial support of the abuser – for them, the abuse and the victimization may go on for years before an exit is viable.
For many victims of harassment and abuse, their story remains buried and their burden is born in silence until the day when someone finally cries foul and multiple voices begin to join together in protest. Then maybe, just maybe, the injustice that has been done will be heard by society and the burden will no longer be born alone.
Sadly, in these times, the many of the society who did not encounter the terror of intimidation or humiliation of assault will cry out that because it did not happen to them, it could never have happened to any of the others.
While a majority of citizens are never the victim of crime, it does not equate that crime does not exist. For those who discredit the victims of crime, there is often a combined sense of guilt and superiority behind their criticisms. They may feel a sense of guilt as they question whether they looked the other way as the harassment or crime was being committed. Or they may feel superior because they believe own actions and choices prevented them from becoming victims.
This feeling of guilt can lead many to deny the victim’s claims rather than face their own role in the society that allows the abusive behavior. This notion of superiority can lead to a rather nasty conclusion – that a victim is weak and therefore deserves their fate. It is this line of thought that leads to the acceptance of abuse as simply part of the natural order of life. It is also what empowers the bully and the abuser to embolden their actions.
While there are many things people can do to prevent being a victim of crime, too often victimization is simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Terrible things happen to even the boldest and bravest of individuals. Even those most prepared for society’s battles can fall victim. Sometimes it is simply unavoidable and out of one’s control. However, we, as members of society, can control how we respond to the harassment, abuse, and crime that is too prevalent in our lives. We can look away, pretend it does not concern us, and even joke about it in an attempt to defuse our own discomfort. Or we can denounce it for what it is and shut it down before it can spread further.