Should you avoid celebrating Mother’s Day?

Writer Anne Lamott recently posted on her Facebook page about how she hates Mother’s Day, something she wrote about that Salon published in 2010. Read the article on either site. She explains why she loves being a mother but taught her son that he isn’t under any obligation to honor her on this one day in May. Among her thoughts:

I hate the way the holiday makes all non-mothers, and the daughters of dead mothers, and the mothers of dead or severely damaged children, feel the deepest kind of grief and failure.

Her opinion has drawn a variety of sentiments that range from “thank you for saying this” to “stop being a killjoy.”

It’s an alternative perspective worth reading for those who are not mothers and who do (or did) not have good relationships or memories of their mothers. It’s also worth reading for those who celebrate motherhood because of another point she makes: Honor those who deliver the caring of a mother figure, but don’t depend on a holiday to do it.

Do you call up mom on, say Oct. 16, just to thank her for having sacrificed so much so that you could have a good life?

Do you give flowers to the woman who did not give birth to you/your child but who does provide love, guidance, time, and sacrifice?

Do you make time for brunch on a Sunday in January or September with someone who has been a positive, maturing influence on you?

Do you teach your children to express appreciation for what is done for them on a regular basis, not just when the “opportunity” of a holiday comes along?

When Mother’s Day marked 100 years as an official holiday in 2014, National Geographic published an article looking at its origins. The woman who campaigned for its recognition as an official holiday, Anna Jarvis, did so after the death of her mother, whose campaigns against war and disease inspired Mother’s Friendship Day gatherings after the Civil War. Herself childless, Anna wanted to encourage individuals to show appreciation for their own mother. She came to hate what Mother’s Day had become, with its commercialism, and ended up fighting to abolish the holiday. She lost money in legal battle, and even her freedom when she was arrested disturbing the peace at a convention. Odds are good she would agree with Anne Lamott.

Things to ponder: In general, what do you think of Mother’s Day? If you celebrate it, what would it be like if you decided to not celebrate it? Do you think society has a wrong view of the generic value of women who have or have not had children? Mother’s Day aside, have you or would you do something to show women who do not have children or who are not close to their mothers that they are valued?

Would your children trust a stranger with a puppy?

A video published recently illustrates how easy it is for a stranger (with a puppy) to lure children away from their parents at a playground. It’s been viewed nearly 4 million times and is a good warning to be alert to danger and to emphasize to your children what they need to do to stay safe.

Children depend on adults for everything, from what they eat and where they sleep to comfort and entertainment. Young children don’t know enough to tell the difference between an adult who is just being friendly and who would hurt them. Keep an eye on your children at all times, as it takes just a short distraction to give a predator opportunity. Child Find of America notes that “most abductions occur within a few blocks of the victim’s home – even their own front yard – when the child is left alone and unsupervised. See the website for prevention tips.

You can also find out information from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Score well in the most important subjects

Fall brings the start of a new school year for many, and along with it comes the opportunity for valuable learning that will linger long after that math quiz or history paper has gone to the recycling bin. Teachers are charged with bringing certain knowledge to students, but some of the most important subjects in the school experience will also be taught by parents, peers, and others they encounter.

Grades, homework, and report cards have a place in the learning process at many schools. However, in striving to earn a good grade, students can focus on the immediate goal and miss out on the more important concepts delivered with the lessons or in the process of learning. They’re trying to absorb information, do the right thing, win the praise, pass the test, so that they can move on to the next subject and begin the treadmill all over ahead. Some will focus on their studies, others on socializing. Both activities are important, for those growing up are practicing skills that they will use later in life.

That’s the point.

Children may be too young to know, or they may need to be reminded, that the purpose of school isn’t just to finish this paper or earn a certain grade-point average. They’re also supposed to be learning information that translates to the real world, from checkbook balancing to the history of the U.S. Constitution and why they should vote. They’re experiencing the insight offered by a story while they’re writing a book report. They’re learning how to deal with boredom and over-stimulation and time management. Students who understand that can come away with a richer experience.

Students are learning how to handle challenges, in general, in the specifics of a term paper or confusing concept. They’re learning how to handle success and disappointment, how to manage conflict, how to practice social skills. They’re working on their reactions to when someone else makes a mistake or succeeds.

It is up to those who do understand that school is both a now experience and contraction of a foundation, including parents and school volunteers, to help teachers nurture the best outcome for students. Offer connections between their lesson and daily life, either theirs or yours. Listen to how they feel about their experiences or let them talk out a problem until they discover a solution. Model ways to handle emotions. If you, as an adult, can’t figure out how to communicate these things, then perhaps it is a good idea to take yourself back to school (through classes, books, support groups, online learning) to learn the most important subjects: fitting knowledge into a life context, using good social and emotional management skills, and making learning a lifelong pleasure. Both you and the child will benefit.

Secrets shared, secrets kept

What if you could share a secret that has been bothering you? What if you could do it anonymously? A community art project built around people sharing secrets has grown into a vehicle for discovery and support.

The site PostSecret, which weekly publishes postcards sent to founder Frank Warren’s Maryland postal address or by email, has gathered more than 667 million views. The idea was first inspired by a dream in 2003, he explains on a related website where visitors can communicate, find out how to attend one of his events, learn about his books, and connect with wellness resources such as hotlines for abuse and suicide prevention or eating disorders. Since the secrets are anonymous, it isn’t possible to know how many of the half-a-million things sent in are true, but he shares some follow-up stories about how lives were touched by a sharing a secret or reading someone else’s secret.

Sometimes, taking the time to write down a secret or create an artistic postcard about it can help the person lay claim to a truth that has lingered inside, unclaimed. By reading others’ secrets, people can learn that they are not alone in their feelings and actions.

Revelations shared on the site range in intensity from what some might not consider a reason for secrecy at all — personal habits or tics — to life-shaking fears about love, work, school, and the meaning of life. Some are confessions of actions traditionally thought of as immoral or illegal, such as deception and theft. Others express regret or hope.

Secrets contain power. They can draw people together through intimacy and trust or breed destruction through self-criticism and unresolved emotion. Secrets are kept for a reason, such as fear of expected consequences such as social isolation and loss of connection, possessions, or freedom. While some secrets feel like an honor to keep — being trusted with a loved one’s email password — others can gnaw at a person. The desire to share a secret may be an important indicator that the weight of carrying it may be too heavy to continue bearing. Keeping the secret may come with the high price of rejecting your yearning to be heard and accepted for who you are or may prevent you or someone else from connecting with help to reach a place of greater happiness and fulfillment.

Whenever you carry a secret, it’s wise to examine the reasons behind not telling and to weigh the feared consequences against the power of liberation. Some secrets are worth keeping. Some secrets seemed necessary to keep at one point, but the reasons are no longer valid. Some secrets can be shared with those who have earned the right to hear them. Others are secret more because of the keeper’s fears than the actual consequences, as some find once they have shared.

What if you could share a secret that has been bothering you? What if you didn’t have to do it anonymously?

Want to read more about the potential impact of secret-keeping on individuals and relationships? Check out the Psychology Today article “The Power of Secrets.”

Raise your hand if your armpit is hairy

Today starts a month dedicated to women growing underarm hair as a way to promote awareness of a condition that can cause atypical hair growth and as a way to promote acceptance of letting people decide for themselves how they will wear or remove hair.

Armpits4August is based in London and promotes donating to or seeking sponsor donors to a charity for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, a hormone-related condition that affects millions of women whose symptoms can include excessive body hair growth and hair loss on the head. It can also cause irregular periods, fertility issues, weight problems, and a number of related health concerns. Learn more about it from the Mayo Clinic.

Medical conditions aside, the movement serves as an opportunity to question your own beliefs about your body and the bodies of others and why you have certain grooming practices or expectations. Does the idea of women with underarm hair bother or intrigue you? Why? What about men with underarm hair? If you see someone with grooming practices that are different from the ones you follow, how do you respond? Do you feel the desire to control someone else’s body? Are you holding onto beliefs that don’t help you treat yourself and others with respect and understanding?

Has complaining sidetracked you or your group?

Are you wasting potential and avoiding improvement by focusing on what is wrong instead of attributes that could lead to more happiness, satisfaction, and solutions? Could you, your company, your organization, or your community benefit from a better balance between identifying or complaining about negatives and imagining or bonding over positives?

A post on The Daily Love asks whether your relationships support your empowerment. Read it here. It provides insight and questions to help you reflect on the relationships in your life and whether they’re helping you. Apply that examination to all aspects of your world, from social groups to City Hall.

It’s common to find fellowship through complaint. You get together to grumble about work, your significant other, your lack of significant other, the government, the economy, something that happened in the past, current affairs, relatives, your weight, what others think of your weight, mutually despised individuals or groups, and countless other sources of irritation and frustration. These complaints can be reasonable, and pretending that problems don’t exist or refusing to talk about them creates a false sense of the world or a blanket of protection for a real issue.

Yes, the government wastes money sometimes. Yes, some corporations put their profits above what is good for their employees or society. Yes, some people are shallow and mean and difficult to understand. Yes, you have valid feelings and thoughts and deserve to recognize them. Sharing your thoughts and feelings can help you gain perspective on how you might change your situation or interpretations.

However, the allure of connecting over faults or problems can work against the best interests of yourself or your community. The binding power of negativity can blind you to strengths and solutions. This is true of one-on-one relationships, of organizations or communities, of businesses, and of concepts that bring people together, such as the Occupy movement or the Tea Party. Show up to the discussion, but then put up or shut up.

If the foundation of your connection is opposing something or complaining about something, improvement of that thing can feel like a threat to your connection. And connection is an incredibly powerful motivation. Having something to get angry about together can create feelings of belonging, but if it also requires that you maintain anger to maintain that belonging, then what you’re really choosing is to become an angry person. Do you really wish to incorporate more bitterness and frustration into your personality?

What happens if your friend changes eating or exercise practices, and you haven’t developed other reasons for the two of you to connect beyond weight loss or body improvement? Or if the person you always talk to about the trouble with singlehood gets into a relationship or decides to make peace with it and stop looking? Or if people develop a solution to the problem that has been stirring you up; do you develop a “need” for a new problem? Or what happens if you realize you don’t have the power to improve a situation: You’re not on the board of a company or you don’t win a leadership role in your organization or government?

How many of the people who are currently in your life would still be interesting or companionable if the thing you complain about improves or won’t improve with your current level of power or action?

You can spend your life dwelling on pain and problems. Complaining can provide the illusion of purpose and connection, but if it doesn’t result in things getting better, then why are you wasting your time and energy on it? If those around you are wasting their time and energy, do you really want to give them a place in your life, to influence your actions?

What are the stepping stones that exist, right now, that could move you closer to “better?” What are the strengths of you, your company, your organization, your community? How could your form bonds of improvement? What prevents you from giving up the negativity habit, and what would your life and world look like if you changed your focus?

I took over my friend’s online dating profile

Inspired by a HowAboutWe.com article where the writer had a friend take over her online dating account, a friend asked me to give the experiment a try. We agreed that we didn’t like the idea of me taking over her account to the point that I was impersonating her in correspondence with men. It didn’t seem quite fair to the guys, and it raised questions about when and how to admit the experiment if a lasting relationship developed. Instead, I took charge of her profile and pictures for two weeks, searched for potential connections, and drafted messages that she could approve (or change) and send. I picked up some perspectives along the way that will change my approach if I ever go back to online dating.

  1. Keep an open mind. I eliminated potential dates based on a few critical elements (no smokers, no one who wants children) and a basic red-flag assessment about the guy’s profile. I knew my vegetarian, animal-rights-loving friend wouldn’t be interested in the guy who posted a photo of himself riding a small goat. However, I realized going through profiles that it’s hard to tell if a man would be a good or bad match for her based on his ability to market himself on his profile – especially if his job isn’t in advertising. And if his job is in advertising, he might do a good job of glossing over his negative aspects. Screening for my friend, I realized how difficult it is to see the full picture of a person in the catalogue format of an online dating site.
  2. Don’t get hung up on someone before meeting. When I was using online dating for myself, I would pour over the details of a potential match, excited about wanting to know as much as possible about him before we met. It is easy to build up the fantasy of a guy based on his profile, then have that image shattered when you finally sit down together and listen to him blather on about his own life, never asking a question about yours, before he expects to slither off to the bedroom with you. You may end up trudging home, disappointed in the evening and in your own judgment.  Or perhaps you create an image of him based on who he says he is and look for reasons to reinforce those perceptions on the date, only to find out months into dating him that his actions are not consistent with his words. Either way, don’t forget that observing actions is the best way to understand a person, and you can do that only in person. Sure, get excited about the possibility of meeting someone, but keep the heavy imaginings in reserve until the guy earns the right to space in your brain. When I was selecting potential dates for my friend, I wasn’t imagining that she would end up with ANY of the men; rather, I thought she might have an enjoyable or interesting experience that may or may not lead to a second date and a third and so on. If she didn’t enjoy the date, I didn’t feel a sense of disappointment; I knew she just hadn’t found her guy yet.
  3. Don’t look for perfection. Some dating websites promote sharing a huge volume of information about oneself. This can create the illusion that looking for someone who answers questions the same way is a good match. In the real world, I know happy couples who have different perspectives on a variety of subjects and different hobbies. What makes it work is that they function according to their rules and their values and their decisions when and how to compromise. Your perfect match may not be nearly as much like you as you imagine. Know your hard limits, things such as smoking or racist jokes, and be flexible on the rest.
  4. Chill. New daily matches! Fresh email! Instant messages! Online dating can inspire or enhance a sense of urgency. The truth is, the person on the other end is someone you haven’t met yet, and he isn’t worth dropping everything you’re doing and instantly responding. Or stressing about. Or chasing down like limited-edition shoes at a one-day-only sale. That was one of the things I found most annoying about the experiment, someone that stood out especially because I wasn’t personally caught up in the find-love frenzy. It wasn’t that I didn’t want my friend to meet someone; I just didn’t have any reason to believe that waiting until it was convenient for me to log in would hurt her chances.
  5. Sometimes it’s him, not you. My friend and I have different tastes in men, different personalities, different interests, different “packages” that we present to potential companions. We’re alike enough that we can have a lot of fun together, but I can’t see us ever competing for the same man. One of the surprises of taking over for her is that she got the same type of annoying behavior and comments that I’ve had on my profiles. Some men don’t read the basics or don’t put much effort into coming up with questions. “What do you do for fun?” is pretty much answered in the “about me” section of any profile you might visit; read yours and see if it’s there. If you’re allergic to cats or hate them, don’t contact a woman who owns them. “Hi” is not a sufficient introductory message because prying an email exchange out of a man is not a pleasant task. Anyone who insults someone who isn’t interested in going out is not worth your bad feelings. Be glad you avoided getting stuck on an in-person date with him. Sometimes, it can be you. You may have an approach to life that doesn’t mesh with others. But don’t conclude that’s the case without running it past people who know and understand you.
  6. Assume he’ll like you. Don’t look back if he doesn’t. I selected several men for my friend to contact, and I didn’t think any of them would not want to go out with her. I thought about who SHE might like when I picked them. I didn’t pay attention to who did not respond because they became irrelevant to the process. I didn’t care why or why not. I know that my friend is going to be who she’s going to be, and if she wants to change something about herself, it had better be because that’s what SHE wants, not because she’s trying to please some unknown stranger based on the possibility that he might pay attention to her. I want my friend to be happy with herself, and I want her to find a good match. I know that isn’t going to be just anyone because everyone isn’t compatible with everyone else. Foremost, I want her to have someone who appreciates who she is and spending time with her and who inspires the same feelings in her. You shouldn’t settle for less, either.

Online dating can be a great tool for connecting with potential companions, but don’t elevate it beyond that. It isn’t a substitute for getting out and enjoying life, and it isn’t a better guarantee of finding someone than a chance encounter or a friendship built while pursing another activity. The goal of the first date is to decide if you want a second date. The goal of online dating is to help you find that potential first date.

Would you ever let someone take over your online dating profile or take over a profile for someone else?

— by Patricia S.