Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Untouchable Subjects

There are things that you just don't talk about with other people, because you don't want to offend them or you just know they don't want to go there....untouchable subjects.  Sometimes it is to avoid conflict. Some untouchable subjects are permanently untouchable, almost like cultural taboos.  Others are temporary untouchable subjects that eventually get talked about.
And there are things you just don't want to talk to others about because you don't want to feel the emotions that go with it.  These are temporary untouchables.
This blog is about three topics that are totally unrelated except for their different flavors of untouchableness. 

 (My soul mate, Tikvah...You can have more than one soul mate in life and that soul mate is not always a human)

Let me start with why it has taken me a while to visit blogland.  I have not wanted to deal with a personal untouchable topic. I did not want to feel the emotions.  This untouchable subject is now ok to talk about. I have had people writing and asking me how Tikvah's health is (our old dog who had diabetes).  I chose not to write the blog for a while because it seemed terrible to not mention him and too personal and too emotional to talk about him.  Now, two weeks after his passing, I can write about him with fewer tears. He went totally blind in a weeks time and was also completely deaf.  He was so disoriented that he was walking into the kitchen cabinets thinking they were his dog door.  I rescued him at 2 am from a river bank were he was struggling in brush trying to find the path to get back home.  His breathing was labored and I knew he was in pain.  We chose to let him go.  He is now buried next to one of his Maine dog buddies, Paix.  I have not written about him because the sadness still feels close to my most vital organ, my heart.  He was so loved by so many people....the Buddha dog is now free of pain.

Untouchable subject two:
Commenting on how people raise their children is generally an untouchable subject unless they are doing something that is against the law.  So much damage is done to innocent children that falls within the legal realms of parenting.  I recently visited two high-powered wealthy professional friends who have two little girls.  One child is treated like a goddess and given everything she wants.  She has a major earthshaking mind-numbing screaming tantrum every 10 minutes or so when she thinks things aren't going her way.  The other child is a brilliant quiet little caretaker who is pretty much fearless.  She is mostly ignored in the family.  The parents continuously tell the little indulged goddess child that they love her and they call her all kinds of little sweetie lovey dovey nicknames.  The other one, the quiet smart little caretaker has no nicknames and is put down for the one very minor fear that she has in life.  It was painful to watch the extreme inequality in this family during my days there.  I wanted to say something and did not know how to approach it with the parents.  After returning home, I sought the advice of many other friends who do and do not have children.  I wanted to know what they would do in this situation.  100% of the wise council advice I got was the same: There is nothing you can do.  Parents of children and puppies are very defensive about how they raise their little ones and will not take any input.  So, for now, I have chosen to not say or do anything.  And I feel like I am deserting a little being in need.  Not easy for me.

Untouchable subject three:
People's lifestyle choices.  I am not saying that I want to tell people what to choose in their life or that I am always comfortable with people giving me their opinions on my choices.  I am just saying that there is often a giant elephant walking around in the room who we ignore with even our closest friends.  I think that not discussing the elephant effects our honesty and intimacy levels in a big way.  We recently stayed with two very old friends.  One of the friends has never in all our years as close friends asked me about my work.  I know that I am not supposed to bring it up and he never brings it up.  It is a sort of unspoken rule.  I know all about his work, he knows nothing about mine.  I know that my work is threatening to many of his lifestyle choices.  It has sort of worked to not talk about it all these years....but I have to wonder if we will ever really be as close as two friends could be.  My work is not just work.  It is who I am at my core in many ways.  Not wanting to know about this work, is not wanting to know much of who I am.
Another version of this elephant in the room is when friends or acquaintances share information with me that is counter to the exact issues I care about deeply (and my work) and we do not say anything about the contrast to what I do each day.  Instead of telling the truth, as I see it, I stand there and wonder: "Do they know the reality of what they are saying to me and don't care if it is offensive or do they not see the connections?"  But I don't say anything.
A friend was showing me her new purchase this week.  A big wool rug made from New Zealand wool that was shipped to India and made into a rug that was then shipped to New York where she purchased it. I knew I was only supposed to ooooh and ahhhh over it.  Instead, I pictured every photo and film I have seen about the abuse of sheep in the wool industry in New Zealand and the shipping of the wool in freighters going to India and the people making the rug in India for pennies and the shipping of the rugs to New York.  My mind was reeling from the environmental and human and non-human animal costs that brought the rug to her house.  We did not talk about anything but how beautiful it was and that she had two more in other parts of the house.
There are times when all of us make purchases that are not the most conscientious, but I think it is important to talk about the realities of our choices with each other.

Another recent example:
A friend keeps making disparaging remarks about vegans when she is with me.  She makes broad sweeping statements that clump all vegans into one tidy little box for her.  But, like any population group, we vegans are all very different.  We range from junk food vegans who care about animals to those who are in it for their health only.  I am hurt by her stereotyping us, and yet I don't say anything about how hurtful it is for me when she does this. 
While I am not saying that my life is the perfect example of no-impact woman, I just don't know why we or I don't talk about the realities of these things.  I don't want people to be uncomfortable with us visiting because of what the focus of our work is.  I don't want them to feel watched or judged.  But I do want honest relationships.
In every communication workshop I give, I encourage people to discuss the reality sitting right there in front of them and the person they are trying to communicate with.  We work on non-judgemental ways to do this.  Ways of just saying what our personal reality is.  But, I realize how often I don't take my own advice.
I often keep things to myself because they are too emotional (like Tikvah dying) or they will cross some cultural taboo (like commenting on how a child is raised) or it will offend someone who is my friend (like the rug scene).  We walk around with the thoughts and feelings we are unwilling to share with each other.  We all know we do this.  We all know that no one really knows the full reality of who we are and we do not know the full reality of who they are.  We all have a sort of unspoken agreement about this. 
How different would this world be if we spoke our truths?  How different would our communities be if we opened up enough to take the chance to express who we really are and what we are really thinking and feeling?


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  3. My heart goes out your your healing heart for your loss of Tikvah.

    Thanks for being willing to talk about what we're not supposed to talk about.



  4. I'm so sorry for your loss. It's good that you're able to talk about it now.

    You had struck me when I heard you speak in my town as someone who could gently challenge people who were speaking/acting without thinking. I was very impressed with your word choice. But you had been discussing audiences, not personal situations.

    You mention Tikvah as your Buddha dog, so maybe you are familiar: whenever I don't know what to do, I can usually find what seems to be a wise answer in the Four Noble Truths.

    BTW, it is sad for the more assertive daughter as well - as unsympathetic as she appears, she suffers too, and maybe more.

  5. Heartfelt hugs to you, dear one. Thank you for this post. I've read and re-read it. Things with which we all struggle, for sure.

    There *is* one thing you can do for the under-appreciated daughter, though. And that is to let her know she is *seen*. Next time you are there, take her aside. Play with her. Invite her for some one-on-one time. Ask her questions. Get into her world. Let her know she is seen and beautiful and worthy.

    So often we think we are powerless when we are not. SARK wrote of this some time back and I've never forgotten it. She approached a little girl in a restaurant and gave her a note ~ letting her know she was *seen*.

    We never know when a look, hug, comment from us to someone else might be the one moment in which their whole life will change.

    Sending you blessings of love, peace, courage, and faith...



  6. 噴泉的高度,不會超過它的源頭。一個人的事業也是如此,它的成就絕不會超過自己的信念。.................................................................                           

  7. 向著星球長驅直進的人,反比踟躕在峽路上的人,更容易達到目的。............................................................

  8. My sincere condolences on your loss of Tikvah, the whole world is diminished by a soulmate's departure. Thank you for writing and I feel for your grief.