Giving Blood

CIMG2799 (2)

In a few minutes, I will be taking a calming drug so I can give some of my very popular blood and not faint. Yes, Dr. Bossypants was born a universal donor (meaning I’m O-negative). They love me, but I’m a needle-in-the-vein-phobe. When they begin draining blood out of me, I drop like a stone. And I get very sick when they yank me up from the howling blackness. They don’t like this outcome, nor do I. So, by introducing the magic of a vasodilator, we all win. The first time I tried the prescribed drug, and didn’t faint, I was so happy I bought a chainsaw.

Giving blood is different than giving a kidney, or bone marrow, or part of your liver. It is different than donating sperm or eggs. It is different than making sure your body can be used for pieces and parts after your death. And it is different than sharing your uterus and a lot of bodily functions so a fetus can develop into a fellow human being. But there are similarities. Each of these kind acts can give, save, or improve lives. Each should be a loving, conscious act that involves willingly extending the use of the body you were born with.

Such acts are tremendous and praiseworthy gifts. Sometimes, such acts can be quite painful or inconvenient. But they should never be mandatory. Autonomy over one’s body and body parts is foundational to human freedom and dignity. We are rightly appalled when we hear of forced use of someone’s body for slave labor, sex, or scientific research. Forcing someone to use their body to bring a pregnancy to term should be equally appalling. Yes, people die because we choose not to give in certain situations. Yes, the unwanted fetus’s chance to develop and be born is ended if the use of the woman’s body is denied. But as I’ve pointed out in an earlier blog, I suspect, if given the choice, many fetuses would not wish to be born unwanted. It is never an easy choice.

These profoundly personal decisions must entail adult reasoning and be left entirely to the individual. Even though giving a gallon of my nice O-negative blood would save more lives in the short run, it would be a very bad idea. It would end the source. Giving of our bodies to save or nurture others must be done in the context of our overall responsibilities to ourselves, our families, and our community.  People, we are in dire need of wisdom and compassion. Legislating the use of someone’s body involves neither.

Advertisements

Racehorse Deaths: One Perspective

IMG_1200 (2)

In 2018, roughly 1,000 horses died racing related deaths in the United States1. Likely, many more went unreported. The numbers were down a bit from past years. Media attention may have made a difference. It often does. Even now, dead racehorses continue to get a significant share of air time. These are carefully-handled, expensive horses, bred with deliberation and high hopes, given all the comforts money can buy.

Each year, here in these same United States, approximately 1,750 children die from abuse and neglect2, mostly at their parents’ hands. Like horses, there are more dead children than official reports indicate. But unlike horses, these deaths are generally not a fixation of the media. It’s doubtful that most of these children were treasured or that their births brought their families high hopes. More likely, the severe lack of money and support faced by some of their families contributed to their abuse and death. Unwanted pregnancies sometimes become unwanted children who strain systems and families to the breaking point.

Over the years, Dr. Bossypants has worked with a variety of adults who began life as unwanted children. Some of their lives have been very, very difficult. Others, less so. One woman, a devout Christian, told me her story: “It was no secret in my family. If abortion had been safe and legal, I’d have been aborted. But I wasn’t. And I wasn’t abused or neglected; I was loved and supported, and my life isn’t bad at all.” That was an understatement. We both smiled. This was a very wealthy, successful woman. She went on.

 “I know the incredible costs of unwanted pregnancies. And the risks. I’m grateful my birth did not cause my mother’s death, but honestly, it drastically reduced her options in life. I’m also grateful I wasn’t the product of a rape—only a naïve mistake. And I’m grateful there were many extended family members able to help, especially my grandmother…” She paused and smiled again. But she had more to say.

 “I’ve thought about this. Prayed about this. I’m absolutely clear. If somehow, I could have been given a choice, I’d have happily been aborted. I’d have gone straight to the heart of a loving God. And life for my family would’ve been much easier. I don’t get why everyone assumes unwanted fetuses would insist on developing and being born…”

This woman was not alone in these sentiments. She just expressed them very clearly. To state the obvious, Dr. Bossypants reminds everyone: Becoming pregnant is not always a choice, but carrying a pregnancy to term should absolutely be the pregnant person’s choice. To you who would take away these choices (oh ye of little faith) my clear-souled client would have you realize it’s not your business to speak for a fetus. You are not God. It is not your right to tell other humans how to use their bodies. As a psychologist who has observed the world for a good long time, Dr. Bossypants is confident that if there is a God, this entity does not insist on life at all costs. Rather, it appears that most holy writings speak of a God who insists on compassion.

And as an aside, Dr. Bossypants would add: To those rich enough to breed horses with glass ankles, rich enough to bet more on a horserace than it would take to give thousands of children enough to eat, an education, and a chance in life, let’s work on our priorities. How about we side with life and respect the God-given autonomy inherent in being human? How about we side with life and pay our fair share collectively so that the loved and wanted next generations have a better chance at living safe, positive lives here on this increasingly-burdened earth?

 

1https://horseracingwrongs.com/killed-2018/

2https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/fatality.pdf

The Eyes Have It

Grandma Margaret 001 (2)

There are many philosophies, faiths, and religions that purport to explain the human condition and offer a path to salvations of various sorts. None are entirely accurate. Part of the human condition is that we are destined to understand in part, not in whole. Dr. Bossypants is frustrated by this, but she bravely soldiers on. She would rather have all the answers, and she would very much like them to be correct. However, she manages to meekly accept these limits most days.

Another part of the human condition is for “true believers” to deny the incompleteness of their understanding and jump into a given system with both feet and every available neuron. Dr. Bossypants is horrified and frightened by this. The absolute rigidity of fundamentalism provides a shelter from uncomfortable truths, an excuse for ignorance, and failure to change or repent of actions that cause great harm.

Once, decades ago, when Dr. Bossypants was experiencing anxiety about public speaking, a colleague named Diana shared a strategy for overcoming this fear. Diana said that before she began speaking, she looked out over the crowd and put love in her eyes. Yes. Love. Adoration. Unconditional acceptance. Compassion for every single person wiggling in their folding chair, waiting for the speaker to entertain or enlighten.

Dr. Bossypants was a bit skeptical, but she tried it. It worked. The anxiety abated as Dr. Bossypants tapped into that part of the brain that produces endorphins of love. The muscles around the eyes soften. The lips relax and turn slightly upward. The eyes themselves moisten a bit and draw energy from deep within the brain—the right supramarginal gyrus, to be exact. Empathy replaces self-consciousness. When we will ourselves to emit compassion through our eyes (and face), we change our center of mental gravity. We can get past our isolating and destructive fears and join a larger community.

The astute reader has already made the connection here. The world is filled with people who do not put love in their eyes before speaking. They may be less anxious and more cocky–clinging to the idea that they know the whole truth—but Dr. Bossypants hastens to point out, again, that no human being knows the whole truth. Way down deep, we all realize this and are all a little afraid. We just cover it up different ways. People of all faiths and no faiths, listen. It is time to humble-up. It’s dangerous to believe you have the whole story because this leads you to do things that violate the most basic necessities for human functioning and survival:

  • Compassion (love for the enemy, love for the neighbor, love of our home—the earth)
  • Hope (for the future, for the now, for a better way)
  • Generosity (what goes around does, indeed, come around)
  • Honesty (lying never leads to a better community)

Love is not involuntary. Humility is not involuntary. Salvation has many definitions, and survival is not assured. So what’s a body to do?

Well. Like Diana said, put love in those eyes of yours. Let the muscles in your face surround and enhance your loving eyes. Be brave. Be forgiving. Be honest. Do this as if your life depended on it because as they say, the life you save may be your own.

 

 

 

 

Hatred

Bad, Balance, Balanced, Buddhism, Button, Buttons

Hatred. According to Dr. Bossypants, this is a human experience everyone has. You can ban the word from your vocabulary but you can’t ban hatred from your emotional life. You feel revulsion toward certain foods, people, art, ideas, legislators, and even words. You loathe them. You revile them. You wish for their existential end. In a moment of unguarded, disinhibited rage, some humans try to obliterate whatever they hate. If you manage to amass enough wealth or power, annihilating things or people you hate can become sport, mission, or obsession.

And just as you’ve experienced hatred of externals, you’ve experienced hatred of internals. There are aspects of yourself that you hate. We want and need to be lovable. Our judgments of ourselves can be so harsh, they sometimes go underground and become unconscious. They’re so toxic we have to redirect the judgments outward and hate anything that reminds us of our failings and shame.

You’ve hated. You’ve been hated. It is part of being human. It will not go away. Thus, Dr. Bossypants is convinced that the question is not how to eradicate, but rather, how to accept and manage our human hatefulness. Here are some steps she believes will be helpful:

  • Stop ranting and listen to your hatred.

What does it tell you about your fears?

What does it tell you about your failings?

What does it tell you about your callings and gifts?

Is it a warning? A source of energy? A source in internal challenge? Can you grow because you welcome and understand your hatred?

  • Put your hatred in perspective.

You are a rational being. You KNOW that which you hate has value.

Do not force yourself to not hate. Instead, make room for alternatives alongside the hate.

  • Do not feed your hatred and starve the rest of yourself. Hatred is insatiable.

Whatever gets your attention grows. There are higher satisfactions and lower satisfaction in human evolution. The satisfaction of hating is fleeting and will never be enough.

  • Be civil.

In a civil society, hatred is best expressed by elevating the opposite of what you hate. In today’s climate of rampant incivility, this may seem quaint. It’s not.

Find gentle ways to express your limits, disappointments, aversions, and disgusts, and then move on to notice and support that which is good.

Stand firm. Compassion isn’t weak or easy. You will have to practice.

  • Accept your whole self.

Sit quietly with your hatred, fears, and sadnesses. Know them well.

If you are not aware of hating some parts of yourself, you are dangerous. This is anaerobic hatred—corrosive, explosive, and blinding. Open up. Dig.

Remember you are only responsible for a miniscule portion of the way things are.

In summary, Dr. Bossypants says this: Forgive yourself, understand your hatreds, face your fears, welcome the dark reminders that sadness brings, and get on with being. And by the way, dear ones, you will need to repeat these steps.

Get Real About Abortion

IMG_1813 (2)

For every complex problem, there is a solution that is simple, clear, and wrong.

H.L. Mencken

People, we need to grow up. This whole abortion “debate” is a sham. The realities require compassion, tenacity, and wisdom, not rigid adherence to the idea that the law will save us.

  • Abortion is a political tool used by the far right to get votes. Many of them do not actually oppose abortion. Many have paid for abortions for their lovers, daughters, and wives, and will continue to do so, regardless of “the law.” They are people who see themselves as above the law. They are posers, tricking naïve but well-intended Christians and others who “hold their noses” to vote for them so they can enact legislation that is decidedly un-Christian and immoral.
  • Even if made illegal, abortions will continue to happen, but just as in other domains, we will make very evil people very rich because they provide illegal, but highly sought-after services. Think pimps. Think drug dealers. This is the type of person we will empower and enrich.
  • Some women will lack the resources to hire a crook to end an unwanted pregnancy. They will give birth to unwanted children for whom they cannot adequately provide. These children will often not be welcomed. They will have a very slim chance of having good lives. I would personally choose to be aborted rather than be born in these circumstances. I feel certain my fetal-self would slide right into a better realm.
  • Some women will take desperate measures to try and end the unwanted pregnancy. They will be seriously injured, or die.
  • Many women will get abortions, but they will not be able to be as thoughtful and careful as they could be if abortions were a viable choice–safe and legal. There will be panic, rumors, and unnecessary fear. Some may rush to abortion, but given time and less shame, would have made a different decision.
  • If made illegal, late term abortions will happen less often because of fears of prosecution. Therefore, women will be forced to deliver fetuses that will die in minutes, days, or weeks after birth due to the severe disabilities of the fetus. Some women will die due to the complications of such profound disabilities, or they will die of late-term life-threatening conditions. Often these will be women with other children. We will deprive those families of their mothers.

If you really want fewer abortions, support the availability of birth control. Work to stop unwanted or uninformed sex. Offer compassionate settings for decision-making in the event of an unwanted pregnancy. Stop the shame. STOP THE SHAME. You imagine you are saving the life of an unborn child. You are not. You are forcing a living person to use her body to continue a process that will, over time, produce a baby. It isn’t a baby yet. But the woman in question IS, in fact, a living, breathing human being. You are willing to violate her rights and autonomy, and risk her health, her future, and even her life, for a human-in-the-making. You value her reproductive function more than you value her as an already-here child of God.

Get off your simplistic self-righteous high horses and use your God-given brains to reason through this complex human dilemma. There are compassionate ways to reduce unwanted pregnancies, but we will never end all unwanted pregnancies. There are times when an abortion is the most loving choice possible. We live in an imperfect world and often have to make wrenching choices. If a woman wants to risk her life and her future for the sake of a fetus, and devote her body to that amazing reproductive process, that is absolutely her choice. If she does not wish to do so, the Government should not step in and place more value on a potential life-in-the-making than on the already-here human being. We do not force people to donate their bone marrow, kidneys, or portions of their livers to save existing humans in need of those organs. We honor those who donate, but we do not force them to use their bodies to save lives, even when doing so would not impair their futures in any way. We simply do not cross that line.

We simply do not cross that line.

Dear ones who sincerely see abortion as wrong, you are much wiser to devote your lives and energies to eliminating unwanted pregnancies, offering viable options, surrounding every woman with love and respect, and refraining from cruel judgments. Do not vote for those who promise to make abortion illegal—they are using you, and should it actually happen—it will only bring about great suffering, increased illegal activities, and crippling shame. We can find better ways to reduce the number of abortions, to care for babies born into terrible environments, and to build a better, more loving and sane society. The law will not help us do this. Compassionate will.

Duped

IMG_3333 (2)

Dr. Bossypants has an important fact to share with you. Life is complicated. Being human, and sometimes intellectually or physically lazy, people don’t especially like the work involved in deep thinking or right action. So we latch onto what appear to be simple answers and solutions, and we hang on for dear life. This is not wise. It sets us up to be fooled into making terrible, destructive choices.

For instance, those who vote solely on “moral” grounds, driven by the idea that one “evil” should be addressed by law, are so impassioned that they willingly vote against their own, and society’s, interests in most other domains. They vote for greedy, dishonest people, and they know they are doing this. They justify it because they have a single motive. Let’s take abortion as an example. Let’s say that above all else, they believe we have to make abortion illegal. So they vote as if this will happen.

But guess what? It won’t work. These greedy dishonest politicians aren’t stupid. They know who butters their toast. They KNOW how to trigger “moral” outrage. They know which issues to use to get voted in. Are they going to sew up the abortion issue and make all abortions illegal? Nope. They’ll fiddle with it, gaining some kind of weak restrictions, but they will not really push it. And, of course, they’ll blame the opposition. Why? Because they get a boatload of naïve voters to keep holding their noses and voting for them. If this cause, or similar single-issue causes, disappear, these voters might stop to think about…hmmm…the widowed, homeless, or needy? The disenfranchised? The horrifically lopsided gap between the rich and the poor? Unfair, unjust labor practices? Some very wealthy politician’s pride in not paying any taxes for the common good, while taking huge profits from shady businesses? Embarrassing racist comments? Attacking the free press, the foundation of our democracy? Public lands disappearing into private ownership? Failure to raise taxes so we can pay, together, for the health of our society? Insulting international behaviors? Science-denial?

It makes the brain ache, doesn’t it? Democracy is not a single-issue proposition. If morally-inclined people vote, one would assume they would vote for the broad common good, not their own selfish interests. And what keeps them from doing so?

One could choose among the seven deadly sins, as defined by ancient Christian thinkers: These are: Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth (as in the laziness Dr. Bossypants is decrying today), Wrath, Envy, and Pride!! Well, well. that’s quite a list. Worth another post or two sometime soon. And lest we seem to favor Christian thinkers, here’s another list of behaviors Mahatma Gandhi believed to be morally and spiritually deadly to human society.

  • Wealth without Work
  • Pleasure without Conscience
  • Science without Humanity
  • Knowledge without Character
  • Politics without Principle
  • Commerce without Morality
  • Religion without Sacrifice

Such challenging ideas. Such long lists. And the sad thing is that Dr. Bossypants can’t simplify it very much for you. It just isn’t simple. But perhaps this will help: Forcing someone to stay pregnant who does not want to be is not compassionate. If you could ask a developing clump of cells if it wanted to raid the resources of an unwilling body, and then be born unwanted, it would likely say “No thanks.” It is a very bad single issue. Or here’s another: keeping taxes low is not generous. It is selfish. Refusing to pay your share for the benefits of being a safe, clean, caring, educated, factually-informed society is not moral. Taxes are not a necessary evil. They are a necessary good.

The truth is complicated, often difficult to discern and accept, and sometimes demands a challenging response, but ultimately, as a species, we are built to seek the truth. That’s just the way it is.

Taxes and Such

IMG_4131 (2)

As many of her admirers know, Dr. Bossypants is an astute observer of the human species. The conclusions she reaches may not be shared by the masses, but she remains undaunted in her quest to offer what she sincerely believes are helpful insights and guidances. Her end-goal is the survival of the species, but unlike Ayn Rand, or most Republicans, she does not believe this will be achieved by squishing weak or disadvantaged people like unwanted bugs. Nor will things work out well by draining the poor of the little they have, denying them educational advantages, or keeping workers trapped by inadequate health care, unfair wages, and inferior housing. And of course, no one will ultimately be happy with a trashed planet. Even living under a fancy dome with other rich people will be at best an extension of a miserable end.

Yes, hatred, greed, and paranoia are excessively present in many human personalities. But Dr. Bossypants believes this is a mutation due to trauma—a destructive adaptation—either individually or culturally—that doesn’t work out very well. Greed and paranoia eat away at the fabric of community, are highly contagious, and result in shallow, frightened, hate-filled lives devoted to accumulation of weapons and goods that in the end will only impoverish and destroy. Greed and paranoia must be recognized as disabilities, not elevated as admirable ways to be.

This is why we must pay taxes for the common good, even though we don’t like to. We must pay more taxes and elect excellent leaders. We don’t need less government. We need better government. We need honest elected officials and skilled, caring inspectors who actually understand why you need to wire your microwave a little differently than mind-and-heartlessly-applied “code.” We need advocates for the ignorant, encouragers for the downtrodden, opportunities to advance for those who don’t know how to advance. We need graduated taxes that invite (okay, force) corporations to pay their full share for all the advantages of our infrastructures and resources. We need environmental regulations with big, firm teeth. We need common sense.

People, listen. It is immoral and unwise to pay workers unfairly and get super, super rich from other’s labors. It’s not okay to severely punish someone who steals little stuff from the big guys, but to let the big guys skate when they’ve stolen from all of us. We need a big-boy, big-girl government, empowered to rein in those big folks who run rampant over that which is essential to the long-term health and well-being of people and planets.

Government regulations that are designed to irritate the common person but are sidestepped with a wink and nod by the uncommon rich folks are sickening. They make Republicans out of those annoyed people who don’t have time to sit down and think it through. Countries with little to no government are not happy countries. Countries with robust, moral, transparent governments thrive. Humans need governments able to provide safety nets, limit cancerous growth, and provide equilibrium rather than rampant accumulation.

Bottom line for now: Stop acting like taxes are bad. Demand honesty from those we elect, but be willing to pay for what we need to thrive—which includes educated people not strapped with huge debt, opportunities to advance for all, living wages, adequate health care, limits to extractive, destructive actions that are endangering the planet, resources for scientists, inventors, artists, dancers, thinkers, and care-takers on par with the resources we give money-makers (or money-takers!).

And in the meantime, be careful with each other. We’re all we have.