Monday, 17 June 2019

Finding a balance: empathy and open debate

As I mentioned last week, over the last year or so my posts have been developing on a theme. The theme was first mentioned in one of my Gifts of Infertility series, where I talked about developing Compassion and Empathy.

So now, when I talk often about how thinking about my own situation, and about hurtful comments or attitudes towards me because I do not have children, I realise that this process has helped me better understand others. It has reminded me, when it is easy to forget, to be more compassionate to and strive for empathy towards others. I’ve been a bit concerned that my posts might have become a bit preachy, although really, what I have been sharing is how my own thinking has developed. And reminding myself to step back, be open, and be kind.

I've been thinking about this too, because I’m very conscious of discussions throughout society in recent years about increased sensitivity, of avoiding triggers. The questions about freedom of speech* and how far we should go to try to consider others, about how to have hard discussions that are still respectful, and about when it is unkind and unnecessary to do so are not completely resolved. A conversation in the comments of a previous post here were an example of this debate.

I’m trying to find a balance between my own indignation at attitudes about parents and non-parents, or comments that might trigger (a loaded word in itself these days) my own hurt, and my wish to keep dialogue open. I want to keep a dialogue open, because I believe that is how people learn - how we learn about others, and how they learn about us. I haven’t quite been able to reconcile the two in my mind, except for saying that I want everyone to feel they can have open, honest, discussions, ensuring at the same time that these need to be kind, considerate, outward-looking and open-minded.

Wishful thinking?

And have you been able to reconcile this?

* in the broad sense of the phrase, not the US Constitutional definition.

Monday, 10 June 2019

What's funny, and what isn't

I’ve written before about Hannah Gadsby’s special on Netflix before. But I didn’t include a comment that she made that has stayed with me. She was talking about making jokes about herself, and why she wants to stop.
 “Understand what self-deprecation means for someone who already exists in the margins. It’s not humility. It’s humiliation.”
I’ve mentioned before - here, or perhaps as comments on another blog - that I don’t think that jokes about people without children are very funny. I was told, by members of the infertility community, that I had no sense of humour. What they – the women who were now raising their post-infertility children with their oh-so-hilarious senses of humour – failed to realise was that we, the No Kidding childless, are on the margins. Even as they laughed that childless women were "extraneous!" They failed to think that it isn’t funny for the minority to be laughed at by the majority. That they were happily, and willingly, humiliating us. Clearly, it still irks me!

So I think it’s worth stating again for those readers who have come out of infertility with children, or for those who are reading this to learn more about those of us who don’t have children. We get the jokes. We just don’t think they’re funny.

And perhaps again, to continue a recent theme, it is a reminder to me to think before I tell jokes to someone or about someone, or even before I'm being self-deprecating about myself. Is this funny, or humiliation? Would I want someone suffering to hear this?

Monday, 3 June 2019

Our Deep-Fried Brains

As we know, one of the reasons we love fatty foods is that our brains haven’t yet evolved not to crave it. Fatty food was important for survival, and so we find hot chips or buttery toast or chocolate or ice-cream easy to love, and harder to resist. Even though our current situation may mean they are not good for us, and contribute to disease and obesity. And so resisting these foods goes against our nature.

It got me thinking. What else has my brain craved? And, apart from connection, which is still important in our societies and for our well-being, it was the desire to have a child. The world is over-populated, improved health care means children do not die as often in infancy or childhood, and so there is no need for us all – or even half of us - to have children to continue the survival of the human race. Yet we are still hard-wired – many of us – to want children. Our brains haven’t evolved not to crave children either. It was a shock to me to discover this in practice, to go through the desire, and then the grief I had never really anticipated. After all, as we often hear people say, I thought I knew what it was to live life without children. But it was a big difference living the rest of my life without children too.

So we not only don’t get what we wanted. It’s that we then need to deal with the brain’s craving, by reprogramming our brains (as I have always called it) to adjust to life without children. But as I learned how to do this, I realised I could apply it to other parts of my life too. We can adjust. It is possible. In fact, it is essential. It just requires some awareness, some courage, and some hard work.