Laughter & the Original Virgin

I try to find a reason to laugh each day. Faith Hill

You grow up the day you have your first real laugh at yourself. Ethel Barrymore

I laugh a lot at myself these days. I laugh a lot in general: I don’t have to find a reason. It just comes.

That wasn’t always the case.

When I was younger and in the grip of depression and social anxiety, I didn’t laugh nearly as much as I do now, and I almost never laughed at myself.

It was too threatening to acknowledge that I’d done or said something wrong or stupid or embarrassing. This was especially true when I was in high school and college.

One day in my college freshman English class we got on the subject of folk songs and on how to determine a particular folk song’s “original version.” Having discovered folk music in high school, I considered myself an expert in this area. I raised my hand to make the point that, by the very nature of folk music constantly morphing and evolving, it was virtually impossible to determine a folk song’s “original” version.

Only my tongue slipped, and it came out “original virgin.”

Now, this was 1963, and we were a little more prudish and private then about language. At the word “virgin,” my fellow students erupted in peals of laughter. My professor was laughing so hard his face turned deep red, and he had to lower his head to his desk until his laughter subsided.

Meanwhile, I sat through all this mortified. Not only had my very important point about the nature of folk music been lost through my slip of the tongue, but also I had said the word “virgin” in public in front of other people who were essentially strangers.

I sat staring straight ahead, stony-faced, dying of shame, pretending I was not hearing all the laughter around me.

That was the way I dealt with making embarrassing mistakes in public back then. Don’t acknowledge it in any way. Hope nobody notices. If somebody does notice, still don’t acknowledge it.

Twenty-two years ago I began taking antidepressants, and my world changed. I found my social confidence. I found my laughter. I especially found how delightful it is to laugh at myself.

If that “original virgin” slip happened today, I probably would be the first one to start laughing. Like my professor then, I might laugh and laugh until my face turned deep red and I had to lower my head to my desk until my laughter subsided.

Joy and Peace, and Always Keep Laughing,

As Erma Bombeck says: If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it. 

Marjorie Beck

.

Speaking of Insensitive Things to Say. . . .

It seems when people we know suffer a loss or a tragedy, a lot of us have absolutely no idea what to say to bring comfort.

For example, when your beloved companion animal dies, friends with no companion animals in their lives may say, “You can get another one.”

Or my personal favorite,

“It was only a cat (dog, rabbit, ferret, parakeet, snake, whatever).”

When I hear that, I want to smash the speaker in the mouth. My companion animals are my family. How dare you diminish their importance.

When I was younger and struggling with my own undiagnosed depression, I was one of those people who did not know what to say to others suffering a loss. I was so focused on my own misery it was difficult for me to feel true empathy for the sorrows of others. I said a lot of stupid things.

Here’s another of my favorite insensitive things to say:

God will never give you anything more than you can handle.

To me, this is total bullpucky.

First, I’m an atheist; I don’t believe in a god.

Second, if I did believe in a god, I wouldn’t believe in some divine puppet master who capriciously flings down suffering on some and good fortune on others just to see how they’ll handle it.

Third, whether or not there is a god, this is a condescending and patronizing thing to say to someone in pain. It doesn’t help at all. Don’t say it.

Through the years I have learned a lot about things to say and not to say to people in times of trouble. Sometimes I still don’t know what to say. In those cases, I’ve learned the best thing to say to suffering people is nothing at all, but just to be with them.

Sit with them. Give hugs. Hold hands. Take walks together. Let your presence show you care and you’re there for them. And if they want to talk, listen. Just listen, and don’t try to talk them out of their grief with platitudes. Just be, and let your presence and time work its healing.

Thank you for reading this post, and if you like it follow my blog and you’ll get notices of new posts.

Peace and Joy,

Marjorie BeckMarjorie Beck

My Earliest Memory: A Night in Tornado Alley

My earliest memory is from six days after my third birthday.

I am with other people in a dark cellar, lit only by a small window high on one wall. Someone is holding me up to the window, where I see nothing but dim grey light outside with shadowy objects blowing by.

It is just a brief image. For years I didn’t know if it was a real memory, or a dream.

I know now it is a real memory.

It was April 9, 1947, in Woodward, Oklahoma. I was with my mother, father, and older sister in the cellar of our house, and we were in the middle of an F5 tornado. My sister has told me it happened like this:

If you have lived in Oklahoma, you know that the wind blows all the time there. All the time. It’s a plains state. On this April evening my father noticed the wind had suddenly stopped. He went outside, assessed the still air, and looked up at a strange, greenish sky. Oklahoma is located in the middle of what is known as Tornado Alley. If you grow up in Oklahoma, as my father did, you come to know what that sudden lack of wind and greenish-colored sky means. He came in the house saying we should go down to the cellar.

So down into the cellar we went. Shortly after, at 8:42 pm, the F5 tornado struck Woodward without warning.

Back then there were no tornado warning systems as there are today. So we did not know that this tornado was part of a series of five or six tornadoes spawned by a super cell in the Texas Panhandle. They made a track up through the Texas Panhandle, into northwest Oklahoma, and ended in southeast Kansas, leaving a deadly path of destruction. The strongest and deadliest of these tornadoes was the F5 that struck Woodward, population 5,500.

To this day the 1947 Woodward tornado is still the deadliest in Oklahoma history, and the sixth deadliest in U.S. history.  It was reportedly two miles wide when it hit Woodward. It reduced much of the town to rubble, killed over 80 people, and injured 1,000 more. All in a town of 5,500.

Our family survived uninjured and our house undamaged. We were just outside the tornado’s path.

That night, after the tornado passed, and for the next several days afterward my father went out with other uninjured survivors to look for the dead and help the injured. As he worked he took black and white photos of the devastated town.

The map and photos at the bottom of this post are from the 1947 Woodward tornado, but they are not my father’s pictures. His photos were a treasured part of our family history, but after our mother’s death my sister and I could not find them in the family albums at the house. We’re don’t know what happened to them.  Our mother was also a native Oklahoman with a strong sense of state history, and we think she may have donated them to the Oklahoma Historical Society. A generous gift from her to the society’s museum, but a disappointment for her daughters.

Since then I’ve found photos of the 1947 Woodward tornado online, and the pictures here are a sample of them. They are mementos of my first memory and a major event in my life’s history, but it is not the same as having the ones from our father’s camera.

Peace and Joy,

Marjorie Beck

Thank you for reading this post. If you like it, follow the blog and you will get notices of new posts.

Path of the April 9 1947 Tornadoes, starting in northeastern Texas and ending in southwestern Kansas.

When You Know You’re Old

I am 74 years old, and I have always looked younger than my age. I inherited my mother’s good genes for youthful appearance.

I was carded in a bar on my 30th birthday.

When I turned 40 one of my colleagues at work said, “You can’t be 40! You don’t even have any wrinkles.”

Into my 50s and 60s I was constantly told I didn’t look my age.

I hit 70 and everything changed.

I woke up one morning and found I had crepe paper skin and a turkey neck.

I hardly have any eyebrows anymore. I have bags under my eyes. Granny hairs regularly sprout on my chin.

I listen to classic country music and classic rock and say of current music, “I don’t know how those kids can listen to that shit.”

It’s been ages since anyone asked me if I qualified for the senior discount.

I can’t fake it anymore. I’m old. And the world is recognizing it.

I live in Eugene, Oregon, and Eugene lives for protest rallies. I attended one recently and as I left I was accosted by two men who saw by an item I was wearing that my political views differed radically from theirs. Two young native American women who were passing stopped and told the men firmly to “stop harassing that elderly woman.”

Wow. An elderly woman. It’s finally arrived.

Now I just have to learn to live with it and “age gracefully.” YUCK. I’ll do it, but I won’t like it.

Thanks for reading my blog. If you like this post, follow me and you’ll get notices when I post new ones.

Peace and Joy,

Marjorie Beck

 

 

 

Warning: Politics Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

I said in one of my early posts I would not write about political topics. I made one exception to that for a June post email to Jeff Sessions. I make another exception now to write about how the current national political climate has affected me personally.

For the past two months I’ve had a problem summoning the motivation and energy to do practically anything, even things I normally enjoyed. My last blog post was September 6. I had lots of others waiting in my queue, but I just couldn’t call up the interest to post. I wasn’t feeling sad; on the contrary, my general attitude was cheerful. I just couldn’t find the motivation and energy to act.

This is a classic sign of depression. I was puzzled. Why would I be in depression if I was feeling cheerful and basically happy with my life? It took me a while to figure it out, but finally it came to me like a thunder clap. It was all about stress.

At some point long ago I came to the conclusion not to get stressed about things I couldn’t control. Traffic jams. Long grocery lines. Home power failures in storms. I followed Erma Bombeck’s advice: “If you can’t make it better, you can laugh at it.” I use humor a lot to get through things I can’t change.

I have been living with things I can’t change since the presidential election of 2016. Humor has been one of my coping tools, faithfully following political comedy on TV and allowing my raucous laughter to carry me through situations that would otherwise enrage or dishearten me.

I thought it was enough. But after almost two years of living in this toxic, dangerous national environment, I have to admit it: I can’t ignore what this stress has been doing to me any longer. I need more coping mechanisms.

I’ve always believed in being an informed citizen. I follow local and national politics. In normal times, that doesn’t mean being subjected to a daily onslaught of negativity. But these are not normal times.

I don’t subscibe to the ostrich theory.  I won’t hide from the bad news. I won’t agree to be uninformed.

Here’s what I will do:

My partner and I enjoy watching some national political commentators in the evening. I won’t stop doing that. But now when I watch I take it in more objectively as information I should have, rather than as the latest political outrage I should worry about. Often I do something else while I’m watching, which helps to soften the impact of what I’m seeing and hearing.

I stay away from politics on social media. I have Facebook and Twitter accounts, but I don’t use them a lot, and I don’t follow political figures.

When friends start talking politics in my presence, I ask them to stop. Although like many–maybe too many–people in this country, my friends and I mostly have similar political views. But I find discussing politics now even with people I agree with still leads to raised voices and shrill opinions, and it stresses me. When my friends and I talk  politics we’re preaching to the converted. So why do it at all?

To better manage my depression in general, I’ve starting using my SAD lamp for 30 minutes when I wake up each morning. I wear an Alpha-Stim cranial electronic stimulator every day for an hour. They are great mood-lifters and energizers.

These are some of the things I’m doing now to keep my depression and stress at bay about things I can’t change.

There is one thing I can do to change things for the better, and that’s VOTE! on November 6. I am a pretty regular voter, but I admit I sometimes have skipped midterm or local elections. No more. Every election counts, no matter how small and local. Every vote counts.

Please join me on November 6 to exercise this most fundamental right of your citizenship.

Thank you for reading my blog. If you like it, follow this post and you’ll receive notice of  my new ones.

Joy and Peace,

Marjorie Beck

 

 

 

 

Continue reading “Warning: Politics Can Be Hazardous to Your Health”

Language Quiz

1. If you were on trial for murder, would you rather the judge were:

A. Uninterested

B. Disinterested

2. If you were giving a speech and you saw most of your audience yawning or nodding off or staring at their smart phones, would you conclude your audience was:

A. Uninterested

B. Disinterested

The answer to Question 1 is B, Disinterested. The answer to Question 2 is A, Uninterested.

Here’s why:

Disinterested means  unbiased, unprejudiced, impartial, neutralnonpartisan. All qualities you would want in a judge trying your case. 

Uninterested means unconcerned, bored, distant, uninvolved, aloof. Exactly what you would not want in the audience to your speech.

Here’s the problem:

Increasingly, Disinterested has overtaken Uninterested as the universal word for unconcerned, bored, aloof, and for unbiased, unprejudiced, impartial, as in “He was disinterested in the magazine article.” In this example, it’s possible the person was taking a neutral, impartial stance on the magazine article, but it’s much more probable he was just bored by it.

Some dictionaries have given up and are now accepting disinterest and uninterest as meaning the same. Do not follow their lead! Stand up for precision in using these two words. Use Disinterested when you’re standing before a judge. Use Uninterested when you’re standing in front of a bored audience.

You’ll be a language pro.

Introversion: The Third Leg of My Three-Legged Stool

It is high time I finished the third leg of my three-legged stool. I wrote about the first leg, Depression (“What’s With That Blog Title?”) on May 9; I wrote about the second leg, Shyness and Anxiety (“My Three Legged Stool”) on June 1. I intended to finish the job long before now. Life intervened.

With apologies to my many followers waiting with bated breath for the third leg of my stool:

The third leg of my stool is Introversion. Here’s what I wrote May 9:

“Depression, shyness, and anxiety are disabilities to be managed. Introversion is not a disability; it is an innate part of  who I am and is to be understood and embraced.” 

I use the term Introversion as the psychiatrist Karl Jung (1875-1961) defined it in his seminal work Psychological Types (1921).  He identified three innate aspects of everyone’s personality:

  • How you get your energy for living (Introversion, Extraversion)
  • How you take in information (Sensing, Intuition)
  • How you make decisions (Thinking, Feeling)

In the 1940s, two followers of Jung, Katherine Briggs and her daughter Isabel Myers, identified a fourth aspect of personality:

  • How you relate to the world (Judging, Perceiving)

They developed an instrument called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to help people identify their innate psychological types. Today the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is one of the most commonly used and best regarded psychological instruments in the world.

I am going to cover here only the first aspect Jung identified, Introversion and Extraversion, because that is the third leg of my stool.

Introversion does not mean you are shy; Extraversion does not mean you are outgoing. There are shy Extroverts and outgoing Introverts.

As Jung, Briggs, and Myers identified Introversion and Extraversion, they are two different ways (or preferences) of getting your life’s energy. You are born with these preferences. They are both good ways of being. You do not change your basic preferences, but you can, at least to some extent, change behaviors associated with them.

Simply put:

Extraverts draw their energy from engaging with other people and their environment.

Introverts draw their energy from within themselves.

To identify which preference you have, you could ask yourself:

At the end of a hard, stressful day, would you rather:

  1. Go out and unwind with friends at a bar,                         OR
  2. Go home, pour a glass of wine, and enjoy a quiet evening with a good book.

Here’s another situation:

You are at a large party, and you know only a few of the people there. Would you probably:

  1. Circulate around the room to meet and talk with new people,      OR
  2. Stay close to the people you know and talk with them.

If you are an Extravert, you probably would pick the first answer to both questions. If you are an Introvert, you probably would choose the second answer.

I say “probably” because for some people those choices might be reversed. Remember, there are shy Extraverts and outgoing Introverts.

I am a shy Introvert. I get my energy from within myself, and in social situations I’m  more comfortable with people I know than with strangers.

Introversion and Extraversion even can be detected in how we move our bodies.

Extraverts, drawing their energy from the people and environment around them, tend to move more than Introverts, Extroverts may tap a foot or drum fingers while sitting, or shift position frequently, or get up and stretch or move around the room. as if they are extending feelers out to their surroundings.

Introverts, who draw their energy from within, usually sit more quietly and for longer periods without much body movement. Introverts also may smile less than Extroverts.

In the same vein, Extraverts tend to listen more expressively than Introverts. An Extravert listening to someone might lean forward, smile, give head nods, say “I see,” or give other facial or body signals that he or she is hearing and reacting to the speaker.

An Introvert may do little or none of that, leaving the speaker wondering what the hell the listener is thinking about what the speaker is saying.

Being introverted, I tend to be a stone-faced listener. That can be a problem with people who don’t know me, and was, early in my city government career.

My boss was the city manager, and I had a lot of contact with the seven city councilors. I had cordial relationships with most of the councilors, but there was one, a very extroverted person, who did not like me at all. The city manager, who understood me very well, took me aside one day and did me the favor of explaining the reason for this councilor’s dislike.

It was my stone-faced listening. The councilor would talk to me and I would give no visible reaction, which the councilor interpreted as indifference or hostility.  (Truth was, such an extroverted, dominant personality intimidated me. And when I’m intimidated, I do shut down.)

 From then on, when I talked with that councilor, I gave lots of listening cues. I leaned forward, I nodded, I said “uh-huh,” and “oh, I see.” Things gradually improved between us. Later, when I ended up working on a project for the councilor that especially called on my skill set, we became friends.

I will always be grateful for my boss’s intervention early in my career on an aspect of  introverted behavior I needed to change. It was some of the best coaching I ever got. I continued working on my listening skills, and in time active, extroverted listening became second nature to me.

This is an illustration that your preference doesn’t change, but your behavior can. I was and always will  be an Introvert, getting my energy from within. But I can change introverted behavior when it’s not working for me.

Growing up, I knew nothing about Introversion or Extraversion. I knew nothing about depression. I did know I was shy and anxious, and that wasn’t a good thing. I knew I liked to be alone a lot, and I thought that  was a good thing. I still do. But now I understand that I do better if I’m not alone too much, as I was too often in the past. Some of my worst bouts of depression came when I lived alone. I’m living with a partner now, and I need that.

Learning about my Introversion also helped me understand why I had difficult relationships wi th my parents when I was growing up. My mother and father were Extraverts; my older sister and I were Introverts. My mother and I clashed a lot over privacy: As an Introvert I wanted lots of it. As an Extravert and a mother she felt I should have little of it. There was a lot of drawer snooping and pocket searching and diary reading that led to anger and raised voices.

This Introversion-Extraversion example of privacy attitudes is extreme, because there were a lot of other reasons my mother and I clashed on a lot of things.  It is true, though, that Introverts and Extraverts may have different ideas about privacy.

Introverts tend to be bad at spreading gossip. That is because If you tell something to an Introvert, he or she  may consider the message intended for him or her alone, not necessarily for anyone else.  Extraverts hearing the same message may consider it interesting information to be shared with others.

I have been burned by this difference several times, talking to a friend about something I considered personal and confidential, only to discover later that the friend told other people. I considered this a breach of confidence. The friend, for whatever reason, did not. I learned from those experiences that if I talk to someone about something I consider private and confidential, I need to say that.

I was not able to embrace the strengths of my Introversion when I was younger because it was so pathologically entangled with my depression and shyness. Now that I understand my depression and shyness, I love being an Introvert. For me, it’s the only way to be.

 

Thank you for reading this post. If you like what you read, you can follow my blog and get notification when I do a new post.

Marjorie Beck