Are We Born Hateful?

Are we born hateful-

My husband, who often likes to buck the consensus, started a conversation with me recently about hate, and if it was learned or if humans are somewhat inclined toward hate at birth. I immediately answered that it’s learned. He rebutted my ease at the answer with thoughts of how animals, and even humans, must fight to survive in many circumstances.  And that even if it’s not hate that spurs us to save ourselves first, there is this innate sense for self preservation

Nelson Mandela had an important opinion on this, stating, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion.” We tend to believe that we are born true of heart, and that hatred, whether it be based on race, religion, gender or any other element is learned. However, I don’t think everyone is taught to hate; sometimes it may be a consequence of sameness.

Looking at my own history and experiences, it would have been easy for me to be hateful and fearful of anything different. I grew up in a rural North Carolina town full of white faces. I never went to school with anyone who wasn’t white until college. In my first 18 years of life, I was surrounded by lower to middle class white Christians. I never met a Jewish person or Muslim person until college. It was by all accounts, a sheltered life. The only thing that made it different was my mother, who engrained in me that people aren’t skin colors or genders or religions. People are the product of their choices, their passions, their actions and their words.

This segregated world I grew up in isn’t from the 70s or 89s but actually the 1990s. There were people of other races in my town, black and also a growing Hispanic population, due to the apple orchards, Christmas tree farms and chicken manufacturing plant. My best friend went to another high school where things were more diverse. And on more than one occasion, girls were transferred from her high school to mine by their families because of their romances with young black men.

My mother may have been inclusive; however, my absent father still said the “n word.” My grandmother whispered the term, “black.” She was not in any way racist, but a product of her environment and life. Thus, in my sea of sameness, I did encounter different thought patterns that ultimately led me to discern what the differences were in each of us, and if they really did matter.

I know I wasn’t born hateful. But I’m not so sure there’s not some truth to my husband’s theory. Are we really pure at birth? Don’t we come with some pre-programming? Babies are born with fear, or at least two specific fears, that of falling and loud noises. They are part of our DNA, in response to the need to survive.

Interestingly, hate is often born from fear. Not understanding or not experiencing anything outside of our comfort bubble may make us more inclined to hate. Is it because we are bad people? Or simply the way in which we perceive safety?

There has been substantial research on the subject with no real clarity. Are these studies biased from the start? I’m not a scientist. My understanding of the human condition is based on my experiences. And those experiences took me out of that small town to other states, cities, countries and continents. My perspective is also tempered by loss. When your entire immediate family is gone by the time you are 20, your identity becomes a bit unstable. Differences, especially physical ones, have no real meaning. Maybe my compassion is greater or my tolerance for ignorance lower.

As I look at the world now, there’s so much conversation of them versus us. Who has the right to be here? Who has the right to marry? And will what is happening now change us? Transform our DNA to be born with more fears in order to survive? Time will only tell if the human race chooses to celebrate diversity or uniformity. Let us please find a way to love the differences.

Do Sh** That Scares You

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Wise and revered First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Do something every day that scares you.” This is good advice even for those who aren’t risk takers. Because doing something that scares you need not be solely concerned with the physical.

Because I’m not a risk taker or an adrenaline junkie. I’m not a thrill seeker. I was never a fearless child. Not that I have many fears. Heights I can deal with except in certain circumstances. While at the top of the CN Tower in Toronto years ago, I could not step foot on the glass section. It’s an area where you can stand and see straight down. It can hold like a herd of buffalo. But my leg wouldn’t stop shaking so I just looked at the view in front of me not below me.

I’m also fine in the dark except that I can’t see. Roller coasters aren’t so much scary as they are nauseating. So I don’t tempt fate on that one. I’m looking out for my fellow riders. I’m also not really scared of death. It’s inevitable so it does little good to waste energy being scared. And that prevalent fear of public speaking doesn’t apply to me. I love it.

But life is scary. It’s scary in that everything can change in an instant. I could walk out my door today and never come back. Accidents, crime, wrong place wrong time and a million things in between can 180 your life in a heartbeat. So why not do some sh** that scares you. If you’re scared of something then you actually do it; you win. More importantly, it takes away the power of fear.

As I’m out there living life with a capital L, I’ve pretty much had fear’s number. I zip lined a few weeks ago. No hesitation, just stepped off and went. It was exhilarating. It’s the closest thing to flying most humans will ever feel. Great experience and would love to do it again.

But I haven’t been really scared in a long time until I went down the Wenatchee River on a raft with four real rafters. I thought it was just going to be a laid back rafting adventure. Then we got there and started getting into wet suits and packing up gear. Then there was the safety review, which I paid attention to like my life depended on it (spoiler alert: it did).

Then we get in the water, and the fun begins. There were multiple occasions where my heart was in my throat, and I was literally shaking. As a city girl, I’m not super outdoorsy. To clarify, I love to be outdoors but I’m just not an outdoor adventurer. My many years of girl scouting or previous rafting experience did not prepare me. I was with people who knew what they were doing so I deferred to them. Even though I did fall in, I received a passing grade from the pros. And more importantly, I did something really damn scary.

So these are examples of scary situations. But I do things every day that scare me just as much, but in a different way. I bare my soul with words that aren’t always easy to write. I’m honest to others and myself. I walk away from circumstances and people that are toxic. I’ve lived every day for 20 plus years without my mom, yeah that’s still scary. I take chances on people and let myself be vulnerable, unimaginably scary. I love people who may disappoint me or leave me. I prepare for professional rejection on the regular because not everyone thinks I’m publication worthy.

So I guess these adventures are small potatoes compared to what I and many of you do every day. Being brave is different for every person and every situation. If you want to feel alive; if you want to feel your pulse, simply do something that scares the sh** out of you. Every. Damn. Day.

What I Learned from My European Vacation – Part One

 

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This is the first in a series of posts about my recent trip to London and Amsterdam. I’ve been obsessed with Europe since I was young. My mom planted this desire in me. I think her trip to Europe in the 80s was probably one of the best times in her life. So I thought of her a lot while I was visiting castles and famous places in London as she had 30 years ago. Traveling with her is just one more thing we didn’t get to share. But I was glad to be there with my favorite person.

For this post, I wanted to talk about logistics and my observations of how Europe just gets it right.

Trains, Planes, Boats and No Automobiles

We were never in a car the entire trip. There’s no need for a car in Europe. Transportation in Europe is really about getting where you need to go quickly and efficiently. In the US, transportation is intertwined with identity. Having a car is not just about getting where you need to go, it’s a symbol of your independence. I, personally, loathe driving and care very little about a car. So Europe is perfect for me.

We took the Underground everywhere in London. Our hotel was a block from a stop. London is a big city and very spread out. It would be impossible to go everywhere on foot. Although we did walk so much and for so long. Even with comfy shoes on, my feet were on fire.

In Amsterdam, we took the bus and trams. Amsterdam doesn’t really have that many cars. It has bikes. This is truly a bike friendly city. Everyone has their lane: pedestrians, bikes, tram and cars. You have to pay attention and stay in your lane. We didn’t see any accidents nor did we see helmets. Justin wondered how safe biking is in Amsterdam so we looked it up. The stats we found stated six to eight people die from head injuries in biking accidents annually. That’s a very small percentage. My take on why there are so few crashes is that respecting bikers and pedestrians is a cultural philosophy. Riders, drivers and walkers understand their responsibilities to each other. Whereas in the US, most drivers don’t have any desire to share the road or yield. They’ll happily run you over, honk at you and flip you off. Such an uncivilized place is the highway.

The Underground was not hard to figure out. The only tricky thing is that some trains go the same path but then split. So make sure to take the right one if your stop is after the split. The trams in Amsterdam were a bit trickier. The basically run in circles parallel to the canals, but it’s not so easy to understand what the stop is. They make announcements but they aren’t always about the next stop. And the trams stop a lot for traffic not just at actual stops. I ended up just standing beside the window where I could physically see the stop name so we didn’t miss our stop.

Getting from London to Amsterdam

We looked at several ways to travel, including by water. I chose a flight because it was quick and reasonably priced. We chose British Airways, as they don’t charge for the first bag. Plus, we were able to fly out of and back into Heathrow, which is where we departed from to get back home. We are lucky to live in a hub city with direct flights to many European cities. That’s what I always say when people ask me what I like about Charlotte. “It’s got a great airport.”

Interestingly, when checking in with American Airlines on our fight back, Justin and I were questioned about our trip. Separately, due the fact we have different surnames. I was asked what we did on our trip, how we would get home and how long we’d been gone. Justin was asked where he works, how he travels to work and where we stayed. But this has become part of the routine in the world we live in so I expect it. We had no issues at immigration or customs throughout the journey.

About the Stairs

Be prepared for stairs. At our hotel in London, we were on the fourth floor. No elevator just for flights of steep stairs. These were “feel the thigh burn” after one set kind of stairs. I only needed to go back up them about a 1,000 times and I’d have some fierce legs. We were on the first floor in Amsterdam so we lucked out.

Being Short is Not a Bad Thing

Europeans make good use of space. Think IKEA. The rooms are small. We upgraded to the double bed. We survived the small quarters. It’s easier to sleep in a smaller bed without three animals. Doorways are small. The subway is compact. So for all my tall friends, you’re going to have to crouch and dunk a lot. Shorties, this is when you’ll be glad to be petite. They make great use of their space.

English – the Universal Language?

English is, of course, the language of the U.K. They do add a u to many words in which the US does not. They also use an s rather than a z. In the Netherlands, you’ll find everything in English (UK not US) as well as Dutch. I feel conflicted about how most any country offers everything in English. It speaks volumes about the US expects everyone to conform to its language (although the US is still own its own with the imperial system). I wish I could speak lots of languages. I took four semesters of German in college and have little to show for it. Dutch is similar to German so I could read some things. But it’s hard to speak. It’s a language with long words difficult sounds. I appreciate Amsterdam catering to its visitors from English speaking countries and in turn apologetic for our ignorance in not knowing multiple languages.

I’ll end by saying I never felt not safe in Europe. We saw a much stronger police and military presence in London. But I was never fearful in any way. Since our return, the U.K. has experienced two tragic terror attacks. It’s hard to know what I can do in these times. I don’t have any solutions to thwart terrorism. I can only say that I love Europe and its people. I’d go back tomorrow and stay if that were an option. These attacks won’t scare me away. There are many more adventures to take! Next up – Italy.

The Adult Card

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Dear Life, I need a break. Adulting is a 24/7/365 type of job. There are no breaks or reprieves. When you’ve been adulting as long as I have, eventually you hit a breaking point. Mine was about two hours ago. Not one thing I needed to go right has in the last week. And most of it is out of my control. As an adult, I know that I can’t change it. But honestly I’d really like to bury my head in my pillow and not get up for two weeks.

Unfortunately, that’s not an option. I don’t have the luxury of taking breaks. I don’t necessarily feel overwhelmed by what’s on my plate. I like most of the stuff on my plate. It’s just the way it’s being served. There’s not enough time for everything to get the attention it needs. There’s not enough money to really make life easier.

Instead there is just the churn of life. The routine of doing all the things you need to do every day to keep your official adult card. Go to work. Pay bills. Buy groceries. Deal with intolerable people. This is what being an adult is. Of course, some of us do it better than others.

Errors have been made that have impacted me negatively in the last week. I’d gladly blame myself, but I’m not the culprit. Lucky for me, those responsible aren’t accountable. So it’s up to me to show up, flash my adult card and turn on my I’m not taking any shit voice. This voice is usually reserved for AT&T, United Healthcare, the HOA, numerous other organizations that I am forced to do business with and occasionally my husband.

I imagine that he can see it in my eyes when I’m about to lose it. Yet, he never does. You know when you get so mad and frustrated that you are literally steaming. Yeah, that’s me right now just waiting for him to get home so I can spew. I’ll reiterate he’s done nothing wrong; my fire breathing is not directed at him. But he’s my person that gets to hear all of it. He signed up for this. I never hid that I was holding on by a thread.

The thread may have broken. It does every so often. Then I have to work real hard at returning to human form and rethreading the needle of my sanity. If any of this sounds shocking then good for you and your commitment to being sunshiny. I just can’t do it. If you asked me right now, “How are you?” I think it would be physically impossible for me to say, “well” or “fine” or any other normal response.

So what do I do when I’m under water and cannot adult any more. I write in the hope that it will make me feel better or at least just get it out of my head. Sometimes just writing words can dampen the fire. Even though I’d like to resign from adulting, that’s not really how life works. I have to get up every day and work and learn and grow. I have babies that depend on me, and people that care if I show up for life. So I’ll keep showing up, and I’ll keep writing.

And I will hold on to what’s to come, including a girl’s weekend and a trip to two places I’ve wanted to see my entire life.

I feel as though I’ve been an adult my entire life. So why hand in this card I’ve worked so hard for? After all, if life was all uphill, what fun would that be? I’m quite sure I’ll never have to find out.

My “Golden” Rules

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I can’t apologize for being real and saying what I think. I do always try to say it with respect and kindness. But I simply cannot be something I’m not.

At this point in my life, I can see no reason or benefit to be anything less than 100 percent real. So it’s very unlikely you’ll find me small talking or blowing hot air.

I’m not perfect, but I am imperfectly real. I strive to lead an authentic life. If you don’t like me, I don’t have any desire to change your mind. And if I don’t like you then that’s probably not going to change either. However, I’ll never be cruel. Instead I’ll do my best to avoid you.

I live by three “golden” rules. I hope they guide me in my actions and decisions. I fall short regularly. But I believe in the power and freedom of self awareness

Rule One: Be good to others

I long for a culture where condemnation and criticism of the choices of others isn’t the norm. I long for inclusion. Whatever your beliefs may be, they are yours. And my beliefs are mine. So if they are different, let’s agree to disagree. Worry less about my salvation and more about your own. So as long as you’re not hurting anyone, it’s not my place to judge.

Being good to others is more than kindness and empathy. I’m not always great at these. I do realize that not everyone has the strength to pick herself up. There are a million horrible things that happen to us in life. You can waste your time with blame, or you can move on. You can’t do both. Choose wisely.

Being good to others is often about saying nothing. It’s about not being a judge or jury. It’s about not discounting the experiences of others. It’s their experience; not yours.

So when I live this rule, it’s not that I’m selfless and full of inspiration. I’m not. I do respect the views of others. So please respect mine. Our differences make us human. So why are they often what tears us apart?

Rule Two: Be good to animals

I’m suspicious of those without pets. Of my inner and extended circle, I can think of no one who doesn’t share their home with an animal or three. Having an animal makes every home better. But my rule extends beyond the domesticated. We have a duty to care for and protect animals. Yet most see animals as something to control or use.

So I worry about the dogs pacing the shelter floors. I worry about the elephants prized for their tusks and nearing extinction. I worry about the bears in Alaska who have lost critical protections.

My ask of anyone is to see the beauty in nature; a beauty created by animals and plants. They do not need man. They were here long before us and will probably survive us. People often say that humans have personified animals; that they simply don’t have feelings. I would argue with this all day. They may not be as complex as we are, which is probably a good thing, but they most definitely feel and grieve and love.

Rule Three: Be good to yourself

The hardest rule not to break, for we are all too often unkind to ourselves. I am my own worst critic. No one has ever been or ever will be harder on me than me. I’d say I’ve called a truce with myself. I try to have boundaries, so that yes I can push when necessary but also let off when I’m hitting the wall.

Someone told me the other day they had high expectations of me, and I answered, “I have high expectations of myself.” I expect to be perfect. As I’ve already told you, I’m not. So there’s this winding trail of disappointment.

I am honest with myself. It took me a long time to get here, to be self aware. It was work, and I didn’t do it alone. It’s peaceful though. It’s calming to know that I control my attitude and choices. Nothing nor no one has this power but me. Don’t ever surrender the power you have to be your own person. It’s hard to get back.

Be patient. Be considerate. Understand that if you are trying every day to be better and be authentic then you are doing great. You’ve survived everything that’s happened thus far, and hopefully can still smile.

One of my favorite quotes is, “Always know in your heart you are far bigger than anything that can happen to you.” I hold this in my mind a lot. Maybe you will as well.

I’m no inspirational leader or motivational speaker. I’m just a woman who loves to write and is sometimes not afraid to be vulnerable and honest. I just have moments of courage, and they happen to come out in sentences. If my words every mean something to anyone then I’ll feel heard; I’ll feel purposeful. I’ll feel I’m following the rules.

This is Marriage

this is marriage

My husband and I regularly have discussions about the bathroom habits of our dogs. Unfortunately, one of our dogs, Fawn, has had several accidents in the last week. So we’ve spent time trying to dissect what caused the poop on the floor. I’m not trying to be graphic, but this is marriage. If you’re unwilling to accept that much of it isn’t very exciting then it’s probably not for you.

We often say our schedule revolves around when they need go out, and that isn’t really a joke.  Along with the regular discussion about dog bathroom habits, there’s the eternal question of “What’s for dinner?” If I haven’t pre-planned the meal then this is the dreaded and loaded question. He likes everything; I like some things. So he always puts the pressure on me to decide. Sometimes though I just can’t make one more decision. I think 87 percent of our “disagreements” stem straight from this topic. So if anyone wants to plan our meals for us, we’re interested. But he is such a saint about it; it’s not easy to have to eat with me and my don’ts.

So, yes this is marriage. Marriage in the end often comes down to who you can stand to have most of your meals with. Because that’s what you do, you eat with the one you love.

The other frequent topics of conversation are the renovations. I’m not involved in the work really; I design and get out of the way. Yet, he likes to keep me updated on all the different problems that arise. For instance, there’s not a wall in this place that’s square. He’s told me about all of them. He’ll often go into detail about how he’s going to install something. I honestly stop listening. It’s not that I don’t care, but I don’t.

I can only take in so much information every day. And the information I refuse to retain is where things are located in Lowe’s. I know my stores; I can tell you where most anything is in the stores I most frequent. So I expect him to know where stuff is at Lowe’s. He does not. I usually have to actually go with him, and every time we do, I remind him, “This is your store.”

This is marriage; pretending to listen, hoping that the other person knows stuff you don’t. He has knowledge in his head, I could never absorb and vice versa. We’re a good team. We even each other out.

Essentially marriage is about really liking someone. It’s different than the love we feel. Love is a powerful emotion that’s rarely stable. It has peaks and valleys. I look at him sometimes and just think, “Damn, I love him.” And sometimes I look at him and think, “Damn, I want to smack him.” However, most every day, I’m pretty confident I like him. He doesn’t get on my nerves very often; although sometimes I’m just irritable, so it’s not really him. I’m a woman, my mood isn’t constant. That would be no fun.

So liking each other, that’s the “secret” to a long marriage. At the end of the day, I like talking to him. I like watching TV with him. I like that he’s prone to be silly and sing me back the end of the sentence I just said. He says this is to indicate he heard me. I think he just likes to sing.

Marriage is not for those chasing big highs or relentless passion. That’s not what happens when you create a routine or a schedule with someone. That’s marriage; less exciting more humdrum. I’m totally okay with that simply because he’s the person I most want to do nothing with.

Happy Birthday, Jen

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Today is a very special day; it’s the birthday of one of my favorite people. This amazing woman has been a constant in my life for over 25 years. I often write about my life and tell stories of my triumphs and tragedies. The story today is about my friend Jen.

Calling her a friend doesn’t really fully describe our relationship. She’s more than a friend, she’s family. The wonderful thing about adulthood is that you get to chose your family. I’m so glad we chose each other.

We met in middle school. I liked her wit and her bright spirit instantly. Our high school days were filled with the kind of memories you only have if you grew in a small town. We had a lot of fun, none of which I can repeat in this blog. Just in case her kids read it. Let’s just say we had many adventures, and we lived to remember it.

I almost lost her decades ago when she was in a bad car accident. Seeing her in the hospital was something I can still recall. But she never felt sorry for herself. We even laughed at our attempt to navigate a Wendy’s while she was using a walker.

Adolescence soon merged into adulthood. And by then I had already been dealt many blows. And she was there. No matter what heartbreak I had, she was there to listen and love me. It’s hard to find someone who always show up for you.

In all our years of friendship, I cannot recall an argument or harsh word. There have been times when we haven’t talked as much because you know, life. But she is someone I could call to be there. I’ve called her in tears many times, only to finish the call with a smile.

She has since grown to be an amazing wife, mother and neighbor. I know this because of how she lives her life, never judging, always forgiving. She is the epitome of selflessness. She’s much more selfless than I could ever dream of being. She makes every room brighter for being in it. Her kids are such lovely boys who love and respect their mom.

I do worry that she doesn’t do enough for herself. I encourage her to take time just for her. She deserves it.

Some of our best times have been lately. We are just so in sync with each other these days. We don’t see each other near enough to suit us, but we commit to making time for each other. I can be completely honest with her, showing her the good and imperfect parts of myself. There’s only a handful of people I genuinely trust, and she’s in that select group.

With her in my life, I’ve had much more laughter and love. I look forward to many more years of adventures with my pal. I’m so blessed to have this beautiful lady by my side in this crazy, amazing life.

Happy Birthday, Jen. I love you!