Sunday, July 22

I'm an emotional fraud, sort of

Mother-daughter relationships are complex. That's an understatement, of course. And I can speak only from the perspective of the daughter.

My mother and I have had a tempestuous relationship over the years. I could go into grand detail, but I'm not really interested in whatever emotion that might prompt. I'll just say this: she hit; I learned to take it or duck, and to lie really well; I got out as soon as I could. In spite of all of that, I was still awed by her for many years.

Here's an example of why she awed me. She decided to learn how to scuba dive when she was 65. That was after she'd beaten breast cancer which required a double mastectomy. Over the years I was surprised she didn't play the "cancer survivor" card more often, but she didn't really see herself as a victim. Anyway, when she decided she wanted to try scuba diving, she went all in. Took the lessons, bought the gear, found a group of people she could diving with pretty regularly. When the dive group broke up after a few years and for reasons I could never fathom (I know you got that), she hung up her dive gear. Whenever she took up something new, she took it on full tilt until it was over and when it was over, that was that. Most of the time, it was over because a particular group of people couldn't or didn't stay together. She was oddly but fiercely loyal to that group.

She was, though, a terrible mom. At least that's my perception. My sister is six years younger than I and no doubt has a different view. My stepsiblings met her much later so they have a view I often didn't recognize. My dad was an alcoholic, though pretty benign in his behavior if he wasn't wrecking a car. Fortunately he hurt only himself and the cars. She was the one who went into towering rages or who simmered with anger until a word or a look or something just made her explode. She did change after they finally divorced, but it took a great while for some of the edges to begin to smooth though we were still often at odds. I do know one reason why and it galls me: we're very much alike in temperament though very different in many ways. I know why that's true, too: I've worked hard not to be like her in many ways so I'm very aware that much of who I am and what I am is because of her, directly and indirectly.

But I don't like her.

When I was in elementary school, probably about 6th grade, she told me that she had to love me but she didn't have to like me. That stung then and for many years after. I've come to understand that. It is, I have found, a sentiment shared by others. In a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, Rocky Wirtz, owner of the Blackhawks stated that he loved his father, but he didn't like him. Given what was shared in the article--in some ways a teaser for a book coming out in October--it seems that Rocky and his father had a relationship much like I had with my mother. Tempestuous. Conflicted.

I don't love her because I have to, but because she's my mom. I know the love I feel for her is different and partially because she's my mom, and that I have all these horrible, painful memories I have to set aside because she's not that person any more.

When I first started realizing and acknowledging her dementia, it was weird, uncomfortable, annoying, frustrating, confusing, perplexing. I was an emotional wreck sometimes. There were times she was the ugly, mean, condescending, spiteful person I knew so well. Other times I could tell she was scared and uncertain. And sometimes that wickedly funny sense of humor and sharp intelligence would shine through. Even as an adult woman, I was still terrified of making her angry so navigating some of the difficult decisions of getting them to move to assisted living felt like walking through an emotional minefield: her emotions and mine. She was in denial, of course. And when there were moments of recognition that things had to change, she was a bit more agreeable but certainly fought to say it would be only temporary. No one goes into that mental darkness willingly.

Even now that funny Mom shows up or that smart, clever Mom makes a comment that startles and amuses me. She is less mean and ugly about people, though I've still seen that eyebrow raised when someone says or does something and recognize that brief look of judgement. 

As with all of us, we have to take the good and the bad with the ugly. All of us are all of that.

Just recently I posted a picture of my mother with the observation that during a recent visit she didn't recognize me and that was the first time that had happened. She wasn't sure of who I was in subsequent visits, but she seemed to recognize a friendly face and I could still make her laugh. I got a number of lovely comments after that and that's when I realized what a fraud I am.

I take care of her because it's the right thing to do. I take care of her because that's my responsibility.

What annoys and frustrates me is that I want her to be comfortable and I know how mad she'd be if she were aware of what's become of her and sometimes I miss that really irritating, ungrateful, self-centered, smart, funny person, but not all of the qualities of her former self. But we can't choose the parts we like and ignore the rest. All of those qualities made her who she was, who she is.

I don't know any more if I don't like her. I can't tell. But I know I'll keep trying to take care of her because it's the right thing to do. And because she's my mom.

Tuesday, July 3

The Power of Information

We live in the Information Age. Some of us survive in the Information Age, nearly or occasionally overwhelmed by the onslaught of a continuous cacaphony of sound bites and spin amplified by the flood of media bits and pieces we get through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more (I don't Snap though I have an account).

In 2016, Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum spoke of the impending Fourth Industrial Revolution. In this article, Schwab spoke of the disruption already being caused by the Fourth Industrial Revolution because of such technology as "artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, materials science, energy storage, and quantum computing." Watch the 11-minute video and be a little afraid, a little awed, a little perplexed. The more technologically complex our world, the more complex and important the need for information literacy.

I don't think there is a simple binary response to what Schwab discusses. It takes some reflection and thinking.

But the point of mentioning the Fourth Industrial Revolution is acknowledging how incredibly fast information is available to us and how MUCH information is available to us. Because there is so much, we each likely tend to find the sources most manageable and often that also means the sources that most appeal to our individual perspectives. Perhaps without meaning to, we shelter ourselves from differing opinions and perspectives. Soon, because of the onslaught, we isolate ourselves from differing opinions and perspectives because it is easiest, because it is less upsetting, because we hear what we want to hear and so we no longer have to reflect or think. We can just be outraged or concur with like thinkers.

The people of the United States like to think our government is a democracy. A simple definition of democracy is "a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives." There are some who people democracy is dying in the United States, that we haven't been a democracy for some time, and that we might still be able to recover a true democracy is "We, the People" can get our collective acts together. (I've before bemoaned the fact that too many people forget that "We, the People" are, in fact, the federal government. So when they wonder why there isn't any change at the federal level, they need to check the last time they actually went to a poll to vote or got involved in any way, shape, or form with exercising their voice as a citizen. Those folks in the White House and Congress work for us and they need to be reminded of that now and then.)

However, for us to get involved and to be truly informed on the issues, we have to do more than listen to our favorite commentators and read or watch our favorite news sources. It's extraordinarily rare that any of them offer an unbiased telling of the news or provide a sufficient context. We have to trust ourselves to do that. And that is why I encourage you to read Vicki Davis's blog post: A Gullible Population is a National Security Issue.

If you're already a bit weary of reading, I'll overlook the potential irony that reading is too much work for you and will attempt to summarize some of her key points, but I exhort you to find time later to read the whole blog post on your time. It is well worth your time.

First, the concept of "weaponized social media" is not new. Vicki notes that cyberweapons have a clear intent. Note her emphasis that weaponized social media seeks to leave people "angry or confused." Think how many times you've seen someone share something through social media and note how outraged they are, and that people have to do something to make sure "it" is stopped. Think about how many times you have simply reacted to that person's outrage without doing any research on your own to test the veracity and validity of the post.

Second, Vicki digs deep into some of the ads that caused such dissent, frustration, and outrage among the American people. As she notes, people responded to some of these ads in very real ways because something tipped in them, some message rubbed an already sore spot or inflamed a sensibility that had been simmering. People simply responded and often, it seems, without thinking and without wondering about the source.

Third, and perhaps most importantly,
information literacy is a massive national security issue.
This makes the work educators and parents do with information literacy and digital citizenship an imperative, not something that would be nice to include if we only had time. It's not just the purview of library media specialists.

It also means that we have to be conscientious in the way we behave with social media. Not liking for the sake of liking, not sharing simply because whatever we saw or read seemed to strike a chord.

A professional acquaintance recently shared something on Facebook by a well-known blogger. I took a bit of exception to what the blogger had to say and I did some research on what he said. I wasn't going to post because, well, who am I? That guy is famous and people flock to hear him speak and share his pithy posts and read his books. I'm just, well, a person who likes to do research and has a healthy dose of skepticism as part of her DNA. But I thought he was wrong or a bit to pithy though, in the end, he made a great point. That made me wonder how many people he lost before he got to the most important point and why he might have lost them, which made me realize that information literacy isn't just about doing research and testing the veracity of sources, but it's about tenacity and being will to hear or read ALL of the words.

So information can be powerful. We can give it more power depending on how we support it and how we share it.

We need to be informed. We cannot be gullible to believe all that we hear and read and see; we must be willing to do due diligence to test the authenticity and veracity of what we hear and read and see. We must be cautious and responsible about what we choose to share and we must be thoughtful about why we choose to share something.