What does it mean to be a “human being”?

I read a question from a lady on a friend’s post, trying to figure out when a fetus was a person.  To her mind, the moment conception happens, there is now a person, fully protected by law.  Thus, to her, abortion is murder.

The current earliest cutoff date for abortion in some state’s legislation is 6 weeks, which is the point when a fetal heartbeat is detected. This is one and a half months.

One way of thinking about it is viability.  Can the baby survive without medical intervention?

The earliest a baby has survived outside the womb is 21 weeks and 5 days. This is just shy of 5 and a half months. However, babies at that age need extreme medical intervention, which is very costly.  Can the parents afford that? Will insurance pay?

Interestingly, even babies born at 36 weeks (9 months) can experience respiratory distress and need to be in NICU.  They are often not able to survive on their own and need intervention.  The current “full term” date for a child is 39 weeks. 

So at what point is the child able to live without assistance?

Should the fact that children need constant attention from parents or guardians for many years be considered assistance? Children will not survive for the first several years of their life without someone else providing them food, shelter, and attention.

Children are not legally considered adults until a minimum of 16, when they can get a driver’s license, 18 when they can vote, and 21 when they can drink alcohol.

So at what point are they considered legally independent of their parents? Parents are not legally responsible for their children’s actions when they reach 18.

Consider the opposite end of the spectrum, where adults are on life support due to accident or illness.  When do you cease life support? Are they “alive” if machines are doing all the work?

Consider suicide, when people feel their life is not worth living.  Do they have the legal right to kill themselves?

Consider social welfare assistance – food stamps, subsidized housing – are these forms of “life support”?

At what point do you start to be human, and at what point do you stop?

Shouldering

I have been having some pains in my shoulder. I haven’t been lifting anything unusual. I haven’t helped anybody move. As far as I know, I don’t have any physical reason for the pain. So I decided to see what Louise Hay has to say about it. She didn’t have anything for “shoulder” but she did have nearby stuff that seemed applicable.

Back – represents the support of life
Rounded shoulders – carrying the burdens of life. Helpless and hopeless
Upper back pain – lack of emotional support – feeling unloved. Holding back love.

We have a winner. I’ve definitely been feeling unappreciated, and that I’m stuck in a no-win situation. I’m trying to offer advice to family members and coworkers and they aren’t listening. I’m watching them fall and fail, and it hurts. I’ve been where they have been and I don’t want them to go through the same misery. I want to save them as step – give them an express ticket out.

But I also don’t want to see the mess.

So some of it is self-less, and some of it is selfish.

Because I spend a lot of time around these people, their pain is my pain. Sure, I know it shouldn’t be that way. I should remember that they aren’t me. I should put up better boundaries.

Codependency habits die hard.

I started to meditate on the meaning. I believe there is some truth to the idea that you can heal physical problems by addressing their emotional roots. But I also think you can address emotional roots by working on the physical problems.

Every time I’d notice that my shoulder hurt, I would sit up straight and think “I am appreciated and valued and loved”.

And then I started to think – why do I need to feel appreciated? By who? Why do I need to have value placed on me by someone else? Why do I feel that I am not valuable on my own?

So that was healing, and painful. The two are the same, often.

If I’m in an “I’ll love you if…” relationship, then that isn’t unconditional.

Sure, God loves me unconditionally. But people aren’t the same. And people are here, every day, in front of me. Sometimes they are so in front of me they are in my way.

Just thinking about it makes my shoulder hurt.

So I sit up straight, and love myself. It is like giving myself a hug. It seems to be working.

Why he hits. Why she stays.

If you wonder “why she stays” or “why he hits” it is all the same. It is all about power. They both feel powerless.

She doesn’t leave because she thinks she can’t support herself without him. He makes all the money. He knows how to repair the cars and the house. But also he feels powerless. If he doesn’t have her then how is he going to get fed? How is his laundry going to get done? They stay together out of a sense of desperation and powerlessness.

If you want to address the cause of men hitting women and women taking the abuse, you have to address the root of power. You have to teach boys how to cook and clean and take care of the household in addition to teaching him how to use tools and repair cars. If you want to teach women to be strong you have to teach them how to use tools and how to repair cars in addition to teaching them how to cook and clean and take care of the household. Only when there’s a sense of equality will there not be a sense of powerlessness.

Men also abuse others because they have not been taught any other way to deal with their emotions. “Boys don’t cry”, remember? Boys are taught to roughhouse and to fight. They are taught to be aggressive. Anything less than this is seen as weak. If a guy shows any gentle tendencies he is seen as gay. He is excluded from the pack. Thus when guys feel powerless, they will lash out with the only tool they are allowed to use and that is violence.

Part of power is also about giving people a sense of worth and value. They have to feel like they can take care of themselves. This includes being able to get and keep a job. People need to feel like they are needed.

Address these issues and you have solved the reasons why he hits, and why she stays. Teach people how to be independent.

A perspective on self-sufficiency

If you feel like you need other people to praise you or encourage or thank you, then you aren’t self-sufficient. If you need people to say you are OK, then you aren’t. Likewise, if someone else tells you you’re no good and it stops you from doing what you need to do, then you aren’t self-sufficient.

Other people’s opinions don’t matter. They too are struggling with self-doubt, blame, loss, anger, and sadness. They too are just human, and fallible.

Whether they are your parents, or friends, or strangers, don’t let their opinion about how you are living your life stop you, or start you. Whether you chose them in your life or not, their opinion doesn’t matter, whether it is good or bad.

This message is for everyone, but especially for anyone who is disenfranchised such as women and minorities. You don’t need other people’s approval to live your life. Whatever they say doesn’t matter.

You are the authority on your own life.
You are the author of your own life.

Of course you are doing things differently from how they are doing it. You aren’t them.

Be wary of anyone who tries to knock you down, and also of anyone who tries to build you up. If they remove their praise, will you still follow your calling?

Half life

We’ve all been living a kind of half life recently in my family. For the last few days, we’ve been waiting for a member of the family to die. What the nurses thought would be minutes or hours has turned into days.

There is no hope of a cure.

This isn’t life, and it wasn’t one before that.

Life is more than being alive. It is about being independent and about giving back. It is about being generous with your time and your talents. It is about having enough to keep yourself going and more to help others with.

Whether you are old and on your death bed, or you are in the prime of your life, the same rules apply.

I think about the story I read in “All Creatures Great and Small” about the vet who went to put down a farm dog. He’d gotten very sick and was suffering. He’d reached the end of his usefulness. The vet gave him the medicine, and after a day, he wasn’t dead. He was recovered. He needed some time to sleep deeply, and then he pulled through and was his old self again. He was back on the farm, working, in a matter of days.

I think about the person I knew in high school who was miserable and tried to kill himself. He didn’t succeed. He ended up damaging himself just enough that he had to be put into a nursing home. He never was able to take care of himself again. He required constant care. His bad situation got worse.

I think about a lady I know who is pregnant. Her belly is so big it looks like she is carrying a one year old. She should have given birth weeks ago. She’s tried everything to get the process started.

I think about the story I read in “Spiritual Midwifery” about a lady who was having a hard time giving birth. The midwives asked her if there was anything she was worried about, anything that might be preventing the baby from coming. The mother was worried about the father being a good provider. After they had a talk about it, she relaxed and opened up and the baby came. It needed to know it had a safe place to come to.

Why am I talking about birth while I am talking about death? Because they are the same in many ways. They are a transition, and they can’t be hurried. Well, you can give medicine to speed up contractions, and you can do a C-section. But generally, those happen once the labor process has already started, and that you have to wait for.

We’ve all put our lives on pause recently, some of us more than others. It has been a sort of negative holiday. Clothes aren’t being washed. Dishes aren’t being done, cooking happens in spurts. Meals are on the go. Naps take precedence over actual sleeping. Trips away from the house are short, and the phone is always on.

With a baby not coming, with a family member not dying, it is all a huge wait. It is delaying the inevitable. Waiting until the time is right just makes it harder on everybody else.

Maybe it isn’t about her, but about us. Maybe we aren’t ready for it. You never are, really. It is going to be a big mess to undo all of this once she dies. But her delaying it isn’t going to make it easier. If she somehow makes it out of the hospital, she can’t live on her own. She’s proven that in the past few months. There is only so much money to pay for caregivers. There is only so much time that can be taken away from work before they start to think about firing you.

It is selfish of her to hang on.

This sounds very mean and heartless.

In the past few days I’ve really been angry with her for not accepting that she is dying, for not accepting “what is”. Meanwhile, I’ve not been accepting “what is” – because “what is” is what is happening right now. This in between state, this flux, this not going on to the next step, is what is.

Do I want her to die for her sake, or for ours? Maybe a little of both.

Alone, lonely

I was at a restaurant once and a husband and wife were there with their two young children. The mom needed to go to the restroom. The dad was left in charge of the children while my mom was away. The children were fine for about a minute and then they started to lose their minds.

The children started crying and wailing inconsolably. They wanted their mother and their mother had simply gone to the bathroom. There was nothing that dad could do to make them happy. It was as if they had never ever been on their own and they didn’t know how to take care of themselves. It was as if they didn’t know how to live without their mother right next to them taking care of everything for them.

This isn’t limited just to children.

I know a guy whose wife has died recently. She was sick for year with cancer. They didn’t expect her to die. In a way, though, it was an expected death because it wasn’t an accident like a car crash or a tornado. They only knew each other for three years, and she was only 42. It is all very sad.

He’s had all the leave that his workplace can give him, but that never is enough. Five days isn’t enough to process a death, even if you’ve had some time to warm up to the fact that it might happen.

He forgot to eat for three days. His clothes started to smell and are rumpled. His hair isn’t combed.

He reminds me of those children. It’s as if he doesn’t know how to exist without her right next to him. Surely he knew how to feed himself and take care of himself before they ever met. But now he’s forgotten.

I’ve heard many stories of husbands dying or remarrying less than a year after their wife dies. Interestingly, the same isn’t true for wives.

All of his friends and coworkers are looking out for him, but he has to pull himself out of this and start taking care of himself. We can’t rescue him from his grief.

It reminds me of baby birds. Sometimes they can’t make it on their own. Sometimes they don’t have the strength to fly. Sometimes they die. Is it fair to them to rescue them, when they don’t have the ability to take care of themselves? That is only a sort of half-life.

Adulthood – being independent versus being an “adult child”.

I saw a Facebook post recently that I really liked. It said “I think you should pay for your own mortgage, birth control, college loans, food, and cell phones. This isn’t because I’m a Conservative. It is because I’m an adult.”

If you have to have someone else pay for these things, whether it is your parents or the government, you aren’t an adult.

I’ve never identified as a Conservative, but I agree with this.

I feel that people need to take care of themselves, and the more that we do for them, the more we are harming them. The more we let people take care of us, the more we are stunting our own growth.

Remember the phrase “Age is just a number”? That is usually used to say that it is never too late to play. It goes along with “You are only as old as you feel”. These are meant to be inspiring. These are meant to encourage you to follow your dreams and to be yourself.

But they have another side to them. You can be 40, even 60, years old and still dependent. You can be technically an adult and still act like a child – expecting everybody else to take care of you and clean up after you. You can be an adult legally, but a child emotionally.

Now, is that your fault, or the fault of the people who rescue you? If nobody rescued you, you’d have to take care of yourself.

Some important words here –
Codependency.
Enabling.

I know too many “adult children” who use their parent’s library cards because they have run up the fines on their own. I know too many “adult children” who blame everybody else for their own problems. I know too many “adult children” who live at home with their parents.

I’ve met many “adult children” who still use their parent’s address as their legal address. They say “Well, your parents are always going to be there, right?”

No, they aren’t.

I’m starting to think that one of the best things my parents ever did for me was to die when I was 25. It made me grow up fast. It made me have to become independent. If things get hard, I can’t just move back in with my parents. I can’t just quit my job or get divorced when things get hard and retreat back to my old room. I can’t call them up and beg for money when there is an emergency.

I have to plan ahead and look out for myself. I had to become an adult.

And I expect everybody else to do the same.

Survey – the questions are all wrong.

My afternoon was interrupted by a survey call a week ago. I informed the guy that I’m on a “no call list” but he told me that my opinions matter, so I went through with it. In a way I wish I hadn’t. I learned that my opinions only matter if they fit in the boxes he had to tick off his survey.

He said that the survey would only take a few minutes. When it was over, half an hour was gone. Perhaps he was lying about it taking a short time just to get me to do it. Perhaps it took so long because the questions were all wrong.

The survey was about reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil. The choices were using more ethanol or fracking.

I of course am opposed to fracking, for numerous reasons. It poisons the water supply, it harvests yet another non-renewable resource (natural gas), and the product itself is dangerous and hard to transport. Natural gas isn’t the answer, and in order to use it for our cars we’d all have to buy new ones. You can’t get more wasteful than that. What would we do with all the old ones that won’t work anymore?

But I’m opposed to ethanol too. The more land we use to grow corn for ethanol is less land we use to grow food for people. Empty stomachs rate higher than empty gas tanks.

At one point he said as part of the survey that the corn used for ethanol wasn’t the same kind of corn used to feed people – and that it was also used to feed cattle. I had even more problems with that. Cows aren’t meant to eat corn. They develop E-coli in their guts when they eat that. It isn’t how they are designed. They are meant to eat grass. But then, that isn’t even the point. Again, there is a distraction there. The more meat we eat, the more unhealthy we are. Skip the whole issue about feeding corn to cows. Skip the cows entirely.

See my frustration? No matter what he said, it was wrong.

So, what about ethanol? It isn’t oil. We would reduce our “dependence on foreign oil” and “become more independent” as he said. Ethanol isn’t an efficient fuel. For many older model cars, just using it voids the warranty. It is a cheap filler.

So from my perspective, he was asking the wrong questions. Really, if we want to become less dependent on foreign countries by our need for oil, we need to stop using up so much energy.

My husband takes the train or the bus to work. Mass transit is more efficient. It is better to use one vehicle to take forty people to work than forty vehicles. When the weather is nice he takes his bike. As for me, I bought the house close to work. It is a short drive. Not only am I saving fuel, but time.

Both of us fill up our gas tanks only once a month. It isn’t everything. Everything would be not using gasoline at all. Because of how American neighborhoods are laid out, that is nearly impossible. The grocery store is too far away to bike to and get everything. We drive as little as possible, being mindful of combining errands and catching rides with friends if we are going to the same events.

It is something, and something counts. We are reducing our use.

Better than that, we as a culture need to start using renewable resources. Solar. Wind. Water. Oil and natural gas will be used up. Probably not in our lifetime, but does that matter? We need to think about future generations. What are we leaving our children, and their children? An empty husk of a planet? We had the party and left them the mess to clean up.

The guy administering the survey was just reading off the script. I had a hard time with them because they weren’t the right questions. If the choice is get more oil or go for more ethanol or go with fracking, it is still wrong. I argued with the questions in my frustration. There simply wasn’t a way to answer the questions the way he was asking them. I could tell he was trying to shoehorn me. I kept questioning. I kept getting frustrated.

I doubt I woke him up. I doubt he was even listening to what I was saying, because I wasn’t really answering his questions. The call “was being monitored for quality assurance purposes”, but even then I doubt I was able to wake the monitor up and make him think. I’m pretty sure they think I’m another quack who just doesn’t understand the questions. The problem is that I understand them too well.

I’m pretty sure my answers are being tabulated and calibrated and measured and made to fit whatever theory they had before they even started calling people. Surveys don’t prove anything. If you know what you are doing, they can mean anything you want them to.

I wish I’d not even talked to him. I feel like I wasted my time. I feel like my personal space was invaded for half an hour. To let someone talk mindlessly at you on the phone is just as invasive as letting them in your house. It is all space.

House sign

I really like religious accessories. I love going into religious stores of all sorts and looking at the stuff that goes along with various traditions. I’m also amazed by how much of this stuff is available online.

I was considering buying a mezuzah. While I’m not Jewish, I like the idea of a symbol that is a reminder of our shared commitment to serving God. I have found the prayers used for putting it up and all the specifics for how to do it.

So then I started to look around. The simplest place is online, and I discovered that Amazon has several mezuzah cases. Some are quite simple. Some are quite expensive. While looking I found one that specified it was a Messianic Jewish mezuzah. I kind of liked that idea. I don’t want to give the wrong impression to people, and this seemed like a happy medium.

But then I didn’t really like the symbol. There is a menorah, a Star of David, and a fish, all joined together. I liked that, but because the orientation the fish is upside down and at the bottom I wasn’t hot on it. For me, all the symbols have to be equal and can’t “read” as lesser or greater than.

So this was a drawback. Then I thought about the scroll on the inside. It is known as a “klaf” and it has to be done in a certain way and by a specially trained person to be kosher. I figured that even if I’m not Jewish, if I’m going to use a Jewish religious item I should do it correctly. I wondered how I was going to get a scroll. Turns out Amazon has those too. Who knew?

But then I started thinking a little bit more about this. The words will be sealed up inside this case. Even if they weren’t, I couldn’t read them, or at least not yet, because they are in Hebrew.

For the same reason that the Catholic mass is no longer done in Latin but is instead in the language of the land, I should get something in English, and have it visible. Hiding it away doesn’t make any sense for my purposes and actually goes against my philosophy.

So then I switched gears again. Then I started looking for a plaque that said what I wanted, and I could mount it at the door. The simplest thing is something that says “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (from Joshua 24:15) Yes, Amazon has those too, in a variety of fonts and finishes.

And then I stopped.

This is someone who has realized that you don’t need to have a priest to have Communion. It doesn’t have to be blessed by a specially trained or consecrated person. None of the disciples were ordained. None of them had a master’s degree from a seminary. I suspect that many of them were illiterate. Jesus came to take the power away from the authorities and gave it away freely to everybody. Jesus didn’t come to create an exclusive club. Jesus says to everybody “You’re in” and he throws open the doors to the party, much to the consternation of the powers that be.

Not only do you not need a priest to consecrate it, you don’t have to have any special supplies. You can celebrate it with the bread and wine you have on hand, or crackers and grape juice for that matter. It isn’t the symbol that matters. It is what it points to. If you realize this you’ve unlocked a door.

So I don’t need to buy a sign saying “As for my house, we will serve the Lord.” I could make my own.

Sometimes it takes me a while to come all the way around back to myself. Sometimes I get distracted by things. Sometimes the things become more important than what they represent.

alone

I haven’t been alone in a long time. I’m relearning how to do it.

When I moved to my house I planned on learning how to be alone. Then I met Scott and he moved in rather quickly. My planned life of spinsterhood was changed. I’ve not really been alone since, not for any real length of time.

Shortly after we got married he left for the weekend. Literally the weekend after we got back from or honeymoon he left. He drove all the way back to Grandfather Mountain. I cried myself to sleep. It was really hard and it seemed unfair. I’d just gotten him, and then he was going away.

He goes there for working weekends twice a year. It has taken me ten years to adapt to this, to not dread it. Now I’m starting to look forward to it because it means I have more time to work on my painting and writing. I have more time to work on me, instead of working on “us”. I find when we are together, we don’t do our own things. There are a lot of things I am learning I need to do on my own, and I can’t do them with him here. Writing is one. That isn’t a very social action.

Before, when I lived alone in my apartment, I’d be stoned. So I was alone, but not present. I didn’t like being by myself. These days I’m relearning how to be alone but not lonely.

He has to spend time at his parent’s house these days because they are feeble. They really need to go into assisted living. That is a decision for him and his brother. But in the meantime he isn’t around as much as usual. Recently he had to spend the night. I have a suspicion that this will become more and more frequent.

In the past that would have freaked me out. What would I eat? How would I sleep without him there? I’ve gotten very used to him, and I’m kind of using him like a crutch. The more I do that, the less I remember I can walk on my own.

The ability doesn’t leave, or get weaker. We just forget. Not knowing you can do something is more powerful than having a physical disability. If you think you can’t, you won’t even try.

Conversely, if you think you can, you can move mountains.

So I tried. Instead of getting fast food (which isn’t really food) I cooked some vegetables. I had a nice supper and I felt like I had invited myself to a party and the guest was me.

I like that feeling. I’m actually looking forward to him not being here again so I can treat myself again to my own cooking, and have time to craft or read whatever I want.