Lent – In My Opinion, Part 2

In my quest for the next 40 days and beyond, I am trying to keep my unsolicited opinions to myself. Opinions that do not promote thoughtful discussion and often no one cares to know anyway.

After the Valentine’s school massacre this past week, I know I am on the right track in my Lenten pursuit. So many opinions and so much bullying on posts across social media, even from our tone deaf presidential administration, political parties and security officers has set the stage for another tug-of-war on gun ownership and the rights to bear arms.

Ummm, there I go again with an opinionated adjective…. tone deaf.

Noise

It is difficult to draw my hands away from the keyboard because we must have discussions and trade ideas “opinions” that may just help save the next massacre from happening. Yet post after post, interview after interview, and yes, even, silence, from our government leadership says a lot about our inability to communicate with one another on this topic and so many others.

I have been silent because I don’t want to be part of the ‘noise.’ (Unless, of course, you count this blog post.)

Name Calling and Bullying

All we do is talk, and talk, and talk. But all that happens when we continue to talk over one another is we become tone deaf too. We do not listen to one another. Instead of maybe accepting another person’s point of view as legitimate or at least giving them the opportunity to be understood, we entrench ourselves in our opinions often resulting in  name calling or bullying those who oppose us.

I’m guilty not on any media but I am in my head… or worse, in my heart.

Hearts and Rainbows

Some people stay away from social media. Others post hearts and rainbows as though inspirational memes might cause another to pause and reflect. And maybe the silence and spreading the love will work, or does it really mean we are figuratively throwing our hands up in the air and exclaiming, “I give up!”

Not an opinion. Just an observation.

Silently

Who is watching us?

Who is listening to us?

Who is reading what we write?

Our children and young people.

Unless I “see something, say something”  that may just save a life or protect the vulnerable, I will continue to pray that through Lent and beyond that I can become a more thoughtful and respectful person in mind, body, and spirit.

Authentic Self

 

 

Lent – In My Opinion

Lent

My husband, Vinny Sal and I were discussing the topic of the Lenten season that begins on Ash Wednesday, February 14th, this week. In the Christian faith, the Lenten season begins 40 days of “fasting” and often the faithful give up certain thing(s) in their life that replicates the sacrifice of Jesus Christ’s journey into the desert. It is a time of self-reflection and personal development.

In passing, I said to Vinny Sal that I would give up my coarse language or in his words, my “potty mouth.” I never use God’s name in vain, but I can let loose with the “F” word, or the “BS” word, or just “shit.” (When I as five years old, I told someone in my kindergarten class that my dad made up the word shit. I don’t know why I thought that or why I am writing about it now for that matter but I’m sure all farmers say shit for a variety of reasons.)

Vinny Sal suggested rather than giving up something negative to begin doing something positive. “But that’s not the reason for Lent, is it?” I countered. (He was raised Catholic and I was raised a Lutheran. We have these faith-based discussions often.) His reasoning was if I began something positive it may allow someone else to forgo something negative.

Which brings me to the unveiling of the Obama’s portraits

The official portraits of former President Barak Obama and former First Lady, Michelle Obama were unveiled today at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Their portraits were painted by African American artists, Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald respectively. The portraits garnered varying comments and opinions on social media on the artist’s renderings of the Obamas.

In response to someone’s dislike of the portraits a the social media thread, the person posted if they did not like the portraits or took the time to get to know the artists’ work, then viewers should not express their opinion. (I am paraphrasing since the original post wasn’t very kind.) I appreciate art, but I do not have an art education, nor do I know these artists or their works. But their exchange did give me pause as to the matter of expressing opinions.

Is it okay to express our opinions/critiques of an artist’s work or is it best to adhere to my mother’s advice, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?”

I posted this question on my own personal Facebook wall, but in retrospect I was thinking about opinions in general. As you can guess I received differing opinions.

One friend posted that she tries not to give her opinion unless asked. She reasoned that she doesn’t care about other’s opinions unless she has solicited the opinion from someone she knows/likes/respects.

Others stated that if the opinion is given “respectfully,” “constructively,” while others posted that “dialogue is good,” or “try to find a positive way to state it.” In her words, “spread the love not the hate.”

Which brings me back to our discussion on Lent

Rather than give up coarse language which Vinny says is impossible for me…. “Why would you try to give up something you know you cannot be successful in giving up? It’s the same as trying to give up eating sugar.”

I hate to say it. He’s right.

I would fail at giving up my occasional coarse language and my occasional need for a cookie.

But what I think I can do, and what I would like to do is think twice about offering my opinion without being asked.

Let me be clear. Giving up my opinions is different than giving up my values.

In other words, does my opinion further the cause of a beneficial dialogue on a topic? Or am I just offering my opinion because I am disgusted, angry, or worse, feeling hateful. Because let’s face it, there is a lot in this country and in this world that gets me disgusted, angry, and yes, hateful. When the subject challenges my values I cannot remain silent, but I can process the opinion before expressing it.

So rather than just spewing my opinion to someone or vomiting it on a social media post, I’ll think twice and ask myself these questions:

(Hopefully my friends don’t think I do that too often. The spewing and the vomiting, I mean.)

Is my opinion directed at the right audience that can do something about whatever has challenged my values?

If no, don’t.

Does anyone really care about my opinion whether it is valid or not?

If no, don’t.

Has someone asked me for my opinion?

If no, don’t.

Is my opinion beneficial to others?

If no, don’t.

While I did not post my opinions or reviews on the Obama portraits, the commentary of those who did taught me that when I come through on the other side of these next 40 days, I will be more thoughtful in my opinions, in my reviews and in my response to others.

So, what’s your opinion?

 

 

 

 

 

A conversation on retirement… and mothers

My girlfriend, Mary, who is 9 years older and I have occasional discussions on retirement and our elderly mothers. Our mothers were born in the 1925 and 1939; her mother is 93 years old and my mother is 78.

We agree our lives are much different than our mothers. The world has changed a great deal in the way of technology and the pace of life. Our mothers do not grasp technology let alone know how to retrieve voice mail messages from cell phones or how to recharge them (including their hearing aids) or, like my mother who recently mistakenly washed her cell phone in the washing machine.

Yet the one thing our mothers have grasped is the cell phone is always with their children and grandchildren. So why don’t we call more often? “It only takes a minute,” my mother was lamenting to me yesterday about her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

“Yes, it does,” I say, “I’ve spoken to the boys about this several times.” But I don’t defend my sons by saying, “But mom, you get up at 6:00 a.m. (why? you’re retired for goodness sake!) and you go to bed right after dinner at 6:30 p.m. When they think to even call me, their mother, it is well past 10 p.m.”

My sons are in college full-time, have jobs, and homework with small amount of time to socialize with friends. They love and adore their grandmother. They make time to see her just not as often as their grandmother would like.

My mother does not have hobbies. She is a white-glove housekeeper and loves to do laundry although she may only have her and her husband’s clothes from the previous day to launder. Besides laundry, church and trying to find one more wall to paint or change in the house, she does not have any hobbies except perhaps reading.

I love my mother. I do. Every telephone conversation, even after just visiting her ends in “when are you coming down to visit?” (she lives an hour away), or “no one ever calls me” (I call her 1-2 times a week.)

This is not how I want to be with my sons when I retire.

My friend, Mary does not have children. She dutifully calls her mother every Tuesday and Saturday. Mary’s father passed away over a year ago from Alzheimer’s. Her mother is despondent and is also showing signs of dementia. Her mother refuses to participate in any activities, even church on Sunday. She refuses to live in assisted-living facility where she could mingle and associate with people her own age. And no matter how involved Mary and her sisters are in assisting their mother with meals, doctor appointments, weekly telephone and personal visits, it is never enough or good enough.

This is not what my friend Mary wants to become when she retires.

I know one day I will feel as my mother does. I am preparing myself for it. I miss my sons when I don’t see or hear from them as often as I would like. I try to remember when I was there age wanting to be independent, creating a life for myself, and later in life getting married and having children. Life takes over our good intentions. If that is an excuse, so be it.

Preparing myself for when retirement finally arrives.

Writing isn’t my full-time job although I would like it to be. I write whenever I can at night and on the weekends. I have a full-time job during the week with a national mortgage bank.

When my sons ask me why I write and why I like blogging, I respond this is my retirement. This is what will keep me from annoying you when I retire, I say. This is what I like to do and what I must do. I must write.

World Beyond

Writing into retirement

Mary and I agree that retirement is about finally having the chance to do what we love to do. Hopefully, we add that we will still be healthy in mind, body, and spirit for when we do decide to retire.

What I love to do

Am I a good writer? Only my readers can tell me if I am a good writer. Good enough that maybe someday I can sell a book or get paid to do a little bit of writing. But even if I’m not good enough for all that I hope I am not like our mothers whose lives revolve around a cell phone or my children’s next visit.

I love my mother. I do. And one day she will no longer be here asking me the question, “when are you going to come down to visit?” And I know deep in my heart I will miss that conversation.