Posts Tagged ‘youth’

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What I Need to Tell…

2015.December.14

I’ve had a bit of writer’s block the past month or so, not because there’s nothing to tell but because it’s all just a big jumble of rubber-bands — not one of those slick rubber-band balls that you pick up and strip away one swatch at a time, but a crumpled cluster of enthatched rubber of indiscriminant qualities and age.

I told myself it would be easier if I just started posting the topics; whether I followed through was kind of unimportant. I just need a reference point for future conversations, future reflections…

So here are some of the topics that deserve full posts and rigorous conversations (but probably won’t receive them):

Why did I have to go to Washington, DC, for the funeral, and why did I only stay for one impossible night?
Why did I hide myself with the former colleagues I saw there, making no mention of my successful plural relationships, my workshops supporting the same, and my interest in the same sexual and reproductive topics that we struggled to include in our work a decade ago? It’s no different from my crippling identity crisis when I lived and worked there, is it?
Why didn’t I ask them to talk about themselves more when all I wanted was to NOT spend the whole afternoon talking about myself (and doing exactly that)?
How do I feel about the fact that our deceased mentor was the only one of them to stay in regular contact over these past four years of caregiving?

Healing is incredibly hard, and it’s impossible to know how much there will be until things are stable. My self-care and relationships are probably in critical-but-stable condition.
I am exercising restraint and caution when thinking past the holidays. I need openness and flexibility then and rest and low pressure now.
I have got to find a way to break myself of the old habits that became dormant during caregiving.
I really want to get back into reading.
My brain still doesn’t feel like my own. My mood and endurance know great heights, but I still mix up words and drop things as much as I ever have.

I was the first caregiver I knew of my generation, but I am far from last. Already, friends and peers are approaching me to share their accounts of dementia in the family and identify a path forward.
If I expand my umbrella of “caregiving” beyond just dementia/memory care, I realized I know quite a few part-time and full-time caregivers under the age of 30, 40, 50. We are not as alone as we think.
The first piece of advice I’d give any new caregiver might just be “Caregiving is not a spectator sport.”

Also under the category of “not as alone as we think”, I’ve discovered a lot of people were following along my adventures online these recent years who never once spoke up in support or comfort. My loved ones had already helped me understand before my peers themselves did that said peers simply didn’t know what to make of me and my circumstance, but I’m almost as resentful of their reemergence en masse now that I’m “normal” again as I am that they were ever absent. I just don’t think they realize how much of myself I forgot existed, and how many voids little notes and acknowledgments would have filled. I wish any one of them had said, “Hey, you’re going through a rough time, but I can’t hang while you’re going through this; drop me a line when your life isn’t consumed with old man smells and navel-gazing.” But this is literally all I want to ever say on the matter, because I love them all for being there now.

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Don’t Take It Personally

2008.November.3

Campaign work is not for the faint of heart.

Most politicos grow a pretty thick skin to it. When, with stinging eyes, I told our campaign manager today about Barack Obama’s grandmother passing away, he commiserated for about two seconds before saying, “I hate to admit it, but this will probably help him.” He’s great at this stuff, and has all the callouses he needs to go from one campaign to the next in quick succession.

Me, I get by through mitigated intensity. I made sure my contract said I would only be working part time, knowing that it would reach full time and beyond by late October, because it is important to me to maintain an equally intense personal life. I can spare a few weeks without much rest at the height of the campaign, but I couldn’t function at that level for months or years. Wednesday morning, win or lose, I wake up free of obligations.

The wheel-greaser of our office is young; this is her first political campaign and her first job out of college. She often has it the hardest, because while she is the least prepared for the barbs and arrows of campaigning, she receives them most often and most directly. Today, it was a bullying phone call blaming her for something that was 99% likely to not be her fault or even the fault of anyone at our campaign.

I believe she has great potential as a campaigner, if that’s what she really wants. She’s passionate and hard-working, but the unspoken third component one needs is balance. Either you learn to build the walls, like the campaign manager, or you learn to control the spigot, like me. To paraphrase an aphorism, you can give all of your energy some of the time, or you can give some of your energy all of the time, but you can’t give all of your energy all of the time.

But you don’t have to work on a campaign to give too much, and we would all do well to remember that (and remind our friends).

I’ve been the guy who checks the latest polls four times a day, whose office brings in lunch to talk about the election on the day after, then who goes home and talks about it with roommates and family members and friends near and far. Whatever energy you have left on Election Day gets squandered on whining when you lose.

If you follow local elections the way you should, you have a high chance that at least one of your votes is going toward a loss, but I’m not broaching the topic of burnout because I think my guy is going to lose. Like any unnatural high, there will always be a crash after an election, whether or not your candidate wins. You’ve had this siphon of energy and thought you’ve been feeding on a daily basis for weeks, months, years, and suddenly it’s not there any longer.

If your candidate loses, you wonder if it was worth the effort, and feel alienated from your fellow citizens, who voted another way. If your candidate wins, you lose an outlet just when things peaked. If you’ve just given a little, you find yourself wondering whether it was enough – was your sliver of dedication enough to claim credit or too little to avoid blame? If you give everything, you’re left to wonder what is left for yourself as your candidate fades away or forges ahead (and, I don’t know, starts picking a Cabinet).

Politics is both personal and impersonal. We are expected to vote for the candidate most like us, the one we want as a pal, the one who has our best interests at heart. Yet we will likely never meet the candidates or receive a more personal thak you than an email blast with our names pasted in at the top, and it is easy to find your power insignificant when your vote is literally one of millions. The candidate who wins with your vote could not have done it without you and people like you, but does that make it your victory?

Yes and no. You could just as easily ask, could your vote have mattered as much if the candidate had been less charismatic, knowledgeable, or effective at campaigning? Don’t you owe them a little thanks for helping you breathe a little easier over the next two, four, or six years?

The way to keep perspective is to distinguish what is the act of the individual and what is the act of the group. The individual registered to vote, conducted research, possibly volunteered, and cast a ballot. Of these things, the individual can take pride in him or herself. But it was the group that turned out in record numbers, the group that launched a movement, and the group (even if not all of it) that elected the victor. For these things, the individual must take pride in his or her community.

It is with one’s community that victory, defeat, and progress itself must be measured, acknowledged, and learned from (and if you can’t learn from a victory, defeat will find you soon enough). That community doesn’t evaporate after November 5th. Like a long courtship that has reached marriage, that’s when the real work begins.

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