A Case for Counseling: Five Things I Gained Through Therapy

“Maybe later,” I thought to myself as a college professor recommended to my classmates and I that we all go see a mental health therapist at some point in our college careers, even if we hadn’t been through any major trauma in our lives. I also thought, “If I just… don’t deal with any of that it should just go away… yeah… that should work…”

Reader, it did not work.

Discussing and actively caring for our mental and emotional health can be so stigmatized, and I totally understand, and definitely empathize with, people who are hesitant about taking the leap of going to see a therapist. Approaching pain? Baring your deepest self to a stranger? Talking about your feelings? And, not to mention, paying somebody so you get to go through all of that? It doesn’t exactly sound like a winning deal on the surface, nor is it always easily accessible or affordable.

It took me getting married, living away from home, choosing to take time off from school, entering the workforce full-time, moving halfway across the U.S. (all before the age of 23), and an imperfect childhood to stir up a storm of depression and anxiety big enough inside of me that was impossible to ignore. My husband encouraged me to consider going to see someone (bless him) and now I’m here on the other side to tell you that yes, it is so worth it. You might not believe me right now, and that’s okay. I was there, too. Even though it looks like there is so much to lose in choosing to go, I want you to see, too, that there is SO much more to be gained.

Emotional Skills

A huge part of therapy for me was learning basic, foundational emotional skills and concepts. Like a lot of people, I wasn’t taught about feelings growing up at home or at school. I experienced them, sure, but I had no context for the purpose of my emotions or how to manage them in healthy ways. Our feelings are not bad or anything to be ashamed of. They’re simply our bodies communicating with us. Once I learned that, I was able to see my feelings as allies rather than enemies. I learned how to be aware of what I was feeling in the moment, what that feeling was telling me, and how to care for myself in response to that feeling. Those skills became the foundation for emotional coping mechanisms and strategies that I still use to help manage strong feelings as I experience them. Breathing exercises, anyone?

Self-Compassion

Who knew being kind to yourself would be so hard? As someone with strong perfectionistic tendencies, I know how instinctual and harmful it can be to be your own worst critic. This practice has been just as difficult for me as it’s been vital. The best piece of advice I’ve been told when it comes to self-compassion is to talk to myself how I would talk to someone I love, especially when I make a mistake or don’t feel happy. Those words are always filled with more grace, more love, and more compassion, and we are just as deserving of all of those things as the people around us.

Assertiveness

A vital and true equation: Pursuing what you want ≠ selfishness.

Also, saying “no” does not make you a mean person.

When assertiveness isn’t a behavior that’s modeled for you in healthy ways, practicing it can bring about feelings of guilt and discomfort. You feel as if you’ve fallen far on the other end of the spectrum, when in reality you’re probably just approaching a healthier middle. Gaining assertiveness has helped me have tough and necessary conversations, to stand up for my thoughts and desires, and to take major steps in pursuing my education and career. 

Healing

In my experience there’s trauma, and then there’s trauma that I didn’t even know was there until I went to therapy. Nobody’s past is perfect. Nobody’s family or upbringing are perfect. We all have trauma and messy struggles in our pasts, and no matter how big or small they are it’s our responsibility to do the work of healing from them. The professional help that I had through counseling is the only way I would have been able to process my stuff because thankfully, counselors are professionals at this! This is their job! They’re trained to help us! And though healing isn’t a cure for our trauma (is anything really?), what it gives us is a healthy perspective of it. In processing through it the pain often becomes more manageable and is no longer a heavy burden that holds us back or weighs us down.

Empathy & Sympathy

Learning the difference between empathy and sympathy through therapy has transformed how I see other people and the world. (Go ahead and look it up—it’s so important!) Therapy taught me how to express empathy and sympathy in effective and helpful ways. It taught me to see emotions in others and value them just as they are rather than avoid them or try to “fix” them because I might be a little uncomfortable. 

Fortunately, it seems like the stigma around mental health is declining. Conversations about mental health therapy aren’t as taboo as they once were, especially among the Millennial and Gen-Z generations. A short search on social media can lead you to so many different accounts focused on this topic, both serious and even funny (but funny because the content is relatable, not because it’s something to be embarrassed about! See? Progress!).

If anything, I hope you hear this today: Taking the step to see a mental health counselor is one of the bravest, most loving things you can do for yourself. You have so much more to gain on top of this short list. This part of you matters, and though it may not have been cared for in the past, you can care for it now. You deserve it.

Respectfully…

Rebecca

it’s the most wonderful time of the year

We’ve come to one of my fave times of the year!

As is our annual Intramuralist practice, each year in late summer we creatively model one of our most deeply held beliefs…

It is wise to listen to far more than self.

I would not be who I am today if I only listened to me. We would not be where we are today if we only listened to we.

It’s difficult — arguably impossible — to grow in solid emotional, intellectual and spiritual maturity if “we” are our singular source of knowledge and reason.

Sometimes we convince ourselves we actually allow other influence in; however, those other voices are oft pre-approved, with their primary credentials being that we already know they think similarly. 

To be respectfully both blunt and clear, imporous likemindedness serves only as mental insulation and thus an obstacle to growth. On life’s most pressing issues — i.e. Is love, love? What lives matter? How do we show it? What rights are actually inalienable? How big should government be? What do I believe about Jesus? How do systemic impact and individual responsibility fit together? How does one person’s freedom infringe upon another? What’s the wisest response to crime? Who gets to define such? — on these issues and more, if I only listen to me or those knowingly already members of my so-called tribe, I will have stunted my growth by discounting the different experience of another. Friends, our experience — no matter how commonly shared — does not equate to everyone else’s reality.

That said, it is wise to listen to far more than self.

Today, therefore, we enthusiastically introduce our annual Guest Writers Series. What a joy! And what an insightful opportunity.

Over the past dozen years, we’ve had the privilege of hearing from many distinct, diverse, and creatively articulate and passionate voices. Each has had a valid perspective to share. 

Note that I didn’t say “each has had a perspective that I agree with.” That’s not the point. And it’s never been a requirement for our annual series. The point is that each writer has agreed to communicate in a way that is respectful of the entirety of our audience. Respect, my friends, paves the way for better communication. Better communication paves the way for learning and growth.

Some of our 2021 guest writers are repeat contributors; for others, this is their first time wading into the Intramuralist arena. They are demographically diverse in multiple areas, noting especially, for example, that they range in age from the active Zoomers of Gen Z to the strong Silent Generation. They are passionate about varied topics and issues. They have great stories, insights, and words of wisdom. They’ll talk about energy, race, even a contemporary look into the Amish community. The bottom line is they will provide perspective that is different than “me.”

In the meantime, I will engage in a brief respite, a time in which I restfully and intentionally ponder and pray about what we’ll talk about next. One of my greatest growth realizations of the past 5 years is the need to incorporate intentional, regular rest into our days. That’s not wise simply for the older generations who we sometimes think of as having to slow down; that is wise for all — including you and me. I learn more when I slow enough to not be distracted by my daily to do list and responsibilities. One thing I’ve learned, for example, is that one of the sweet beauties of rest is gleaning how important those other, dissimilar voices actually are.

So enjoy this series, friends. These guys are great! They have much to say — starting this Wednesday!

Feel free to engage, comment, and encourage.

Feel free to ask questions.

Feel free to even disagree.

When we disagree and converse respectfully, we grow.

Here’s to this growth-filled series. Believe me… I can’t wait.

Respectfully, always…

AR

Iggy, Swaggy & the biggest beauty

Allow me to introduce two good-natured friends of mine: Iggy and Swaggy…

We’ve only known each other for a year or so, but we communicate regularly — weekly, in fact. And we have great conversations.

We talk most frequently on the weekends, but sometimes during the week, too, when one of us needs a little extra assistance. We reach out via text. It’s short and sweet. There’s grace in the time necessary to respond. But as soon as one of us is aware of a need at hand, it’s immediately addressed. With efficiency and respect… yes, always, respect.

Most of our conversations remain fairly short. None of us are especially verbose, and we each have other priorities in our lives to attend to. But it’s a unique friendship in that we get to the point, make ourselves clear, while listening well and being as actively attentive as our days allow. We listen well to one another; it’s a known, shared value.

We joke around. Laugh a little. We ask good questions of one another. We’re serious, too. Our friendship is good, balanced, and interactive.

Truth told, Iggy and Swaggy and I are great, authentic encouragers of one another.

That’s prob the word I like best there — “authentic.” Even though I’ve had arguably no friend groups quite like this one, our communication is very good. It’s real. It’s honest. There’s a strong thread of intentional selflessness that runs through every conversation.

There are others in our friend group — Liz, Geet, and Fireshark, for example. They sometimes chime in; they are always welcome, of course. We work hard to make sure no one feels omitted in conversation or importance. Granted, Iggy, Swaggy and I do most of the talking.

No doubt the way friendships have formed has changed in the 21st Century. Instead of the days where relationships evolved primarily from those in our surrounding, physical, tangible communities, creative technological advancements have made it possible to develop deep relationships far away — even across the globe. That’s what paved the way for my friendships in this newfound friend group. What a beauty to be in regular touch with my friends — one who lives near in Central Florida — the other far in Kuala Lumpur — each something we only recently realized.

But there’s an even better beauty between Iggy, Swaggy and me.

The reality is that even though we talk and converse most every weekend, even though we actively encourage one another, I really don’t know hardly any physical, tangible details about them. I’ve never seen them. Not even via a Zoom call.

I don’t know how old they are. I don’t know what they do professionally. I don’t know their ethnicity, what they look like, what family entails…  I don’t even know whether they are male or female.

And as I am known by them only by my initials, they know such not of me either.

Iggy and Swaggy and I — in addition to Liz, Geet, Fireshark and about 44 others — met through an online word game. It’s sort of a combination of Boggle and multiple crossword puzzles. I love a good, nerdy word game! I feel like it helps keep me sharp.

Each weekend there’s a tournament hosted by the app’s operators in which teams compete against millions more in an online community, in which players can sporadically enter/exit throughout the weekend — whatever works with their individual schedule. You compete both as an individual and as a team. Iggy, Swaggy, et al. and I are on the same team. 

We get going, check in, ask for clues, boosts and assistance, and actively cheer each other on. We congratulate one another on a job well done. And, on those weekends where we struggle or simply don’t have time to participate, there’s great grace added to a spoken enthusiasm for the next time we will join forces together.

That’s the biggest beauty. None of the details of our lives — none of the descriptions or stereotypes, pre-made judgments or things we supposedly find our identity in — none of them get in the way. We don’t even know those descriptions or stereotypes. And yet knowing isn’t necessary for authenticity to run rampant in relationship.

The biggest beauty between Iggy, Swaggy and me is that encouragement, respect and genuine care flow freely. No matter what.

Respectfully…

AR

do we really believe in free speech?

In 1992 Nat Hentoff penned a fascinating work. It was entitled “Free Speech for Me — but Not for Thee”… an interesting thought, indeed.

“Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech.” That’s Amendment number one.

What does the right to free speech actually mean?

According to Cornell Law School, “The right to freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without government interference or regulation.” 

According to the ACLU, “The First Amendment guarantees our right to free expression and free association, which means that the government does not have the right to forbid us from saying what we like and writing what we like.”

And according to Wikipedia, “Freedom of speech is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction.” 

The First Amendment declares that the government can’t restrict our speech except in specific, substantially-justified situations, such as incitement speech, for example; the government can forbid speech “directed at inciting or producing imminent lawless action.” There is also little to no legal protection for obscenity and child pornography. 

But it seems increasingly more, we begin to wonder whether reining back the right to free speech would be wise for far more than the above exceptions.

Note a Politico Livestream conversation from just last week, in which Facebook censorship board member and former Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said: “How do you moderate content and how do you find that balance between human rights and free speech, which is a human right, but also other human rights because free speech is not an absolute human right; it has to be balanced with all the human rights…”

What else do you hear there?

What other rights are being intruded upon by the freedom of expression?

And what does the social media executive perceive to be prudent in disregarding an amendment which has stood the test of time for the last 230 years?

Nat Hentoff actually keenly questions if we really believe in free speech…

Are we a little hypocritical, friends?

Do we really just want to silence those we disagree with?

Or…

Do we consider what we say to be truth and what another says to be opinion?

Do we deem our harsh words as necessary and another’s to be filled with hate?

And what if speech offends? Is it only ok if I agree?

Allow us to share the complete title of Hentoff’s insightful work. With its subtitle, the book is called: “Free Speech for Me — but Not for Thee: How the American Left and Right Relentlessly Censor Each Other.” Hentoff gives multiple examples of persons on the left and right who change what they think, say, and believe about free speech based upon what is said and who is saying it. 

Writes Hentoff, “Those who created this country chose freedom. With all of its dangers. And do you know the riskiest part of that choice they made? They actually believed that we could be trusted to make up our own minds in the whirl of differing ideas. That we could be trusted to remain free, even when there were very, very seductive voices — taking advantage of our freedom of speech — who were trying to turn this country into the kind of place where the government could tell you what you can and cannot do.”

Again…

“… that we could be trusted to make up our own minds in the whirl of differing ideas…”

I continue to pause, soberly seeing a little more how the First Amendment is less about what we can do and more about what the government cannot.

Respectfully…

AR

while we’re at it, a bias check…

Great conversations this week, friends! I appreciate that we can talk respectfully about tough topics. I know it isn’t easy. It’d be easier to insult… denigrate… stop listening. It’d be easier to rest in our echo chambers, where only the cushioning of our unknowingly, already-padded perspective bounces off the walls. Yes, it’d be easier to never have to wrestle with the aspects of our perspective which may be wrong. It’d be easier to never have to consider the notion that there most definitely exist areas where each of us is wrong.

As said here often, where we stand depends on where we sit. And sometimes we need to move our chairs around.

Timely, therefore, is this week’s updated, concise list from one of the Intramuralist’s more oft-frequented web sites.

As we know, bias exists. Let me be clear: bias isn’t necessarily wrong. It’s also not necessarily inaccurate. Bias, however, is in favor of a singular side. In the news, therefore, varied other potentially accurate perspective is intentionally omitted. We thus often are not getting the whole story; we are often being manipulated.

Such is why All Sides is one of my fave sites. They actively encourage reading across the political spectrum. In fact, they actually state that “center doesn’t mean better.” Allow the editors of All Sides to explain:

“A Center media bias rating doesn’t necessarily mean a source is neutral, unbiased, perfectly reasonable or credible, just as Left and Right don’t necessarily mean extreme, wrong, or unreasonable. A Center rating simply means the source does not predictably publish perspectives favoring either end of the political spectrum — conservative or liberal. A Center outlet may omit important perspectives, or run individual articles that display bias.”

Based on their detailed verification process and research, note their current assessment of how news sources rate:

According to All Sides, in this most recent analysis, FOX News moved from “lean right” to “right.” USA Today moved from “center” to “lean left.”

Friends, I love this tool! Wanting a more comprehensive, impartial perspective — and knowing where we sit makes a huge difference — I recognize I will not be sharp on the wisdom/folly of critical race theory, immigration, how much money the government continues to spend and the like if I only pay attention to FOX, the New York Post, and the Daily Wire. I’m going to have an equally distorted perspective on critical race theory, immigration, how much money the government continues to spend and the like if I only pay attention to CNN, MSNBC, and the New York Times.

Pay attention to those mixed sites. NPR news is thought to be in the center; their opinion page is not. Same with The Wall Street Journal news; their opinion page is also different.

What we pay attention to matters. And what we pay attention to grows.

Our perspective then grows…

Even when inaccurate.

Respectfully…

AR

let’s talk about critical race theory respectfully

One of the headline questions we posed in our most recent blog was the following:

“What Is Critical Race Theory, and Why Is Everyone Talking About It?”

To be clear, “everyone” includes multiple news sources all over the biased political spectrum. For example…

Critical Race Theory Is Patriotic, Not Anti-American

Critical Race Theory Spits on Civil Rights Movement

Setting Record Straight on Critical Race Theory in Education

NEA Goes All-In on Critical Race Theory

The Left’s Critical Race Theory Ruining U.S. Public Education

And that’s a mere smidgeon of the news. There’s a bit more emotion displayed in the headlines…

Private School Expels Children of Moms Who Advocate Against Critical Race Theory in School

‘Panic’ over Critical Race Theory Because White People ‘Afraid They Might Be Complicit in Racism’

Teachers’-Union Head Claims CRT Is Only Taught at Colleges 

National Education Association to Spend over $100K to Promote Critical Race Theory

Largest Teachers’ Union Erases Campaign to Push Critical Race Theory from Website

“Everyone” also now includes the Intramuralist.

Across the country, people have been talking about critical race theory (CRT). Many of these emotionally-charged discussions have come in the education arena, where the question is whether to adopt the theory, teaching it to K-12 students. Is it an accurate lens to teach about race? Is it just a theory — an uncertain belief that hasn’t proven to be either true or untrue? One of the clear challenges of this discussion, no less, is the underlying question as to whether or not people know what CRT actually is — or instead discern the theory’s folly or sagacity based on who articulates concern or support.

So what is it?

Let me humbly state before we begin that a singular blog post is insufficient. As known to active Intramuralist readers, I have now read over 16 books on racial issues in the past two years and still feel there is more to learn. Hence, this post is not intended to provide comprehensive discernment on the issue. It is, however, intended to provide increased insight into why concern and support both exist.

Critical race theory is a term derived by the writings of academics Derrick Bell and Richard Delgado in the 1970’s/80’s. According to Delgado and his wife, Jean Stefancic, CRT is “a collection of activists and scholars interested in studying and transforming the relationship among race, racism, and power. The movement considers many of the same issues that conventional civil rights and ethnic studies discourses take up, but places them in a broader perspective that includes economics, history, context, group- and self-interest, and even feelings and the unconscious. Unlike traditional civil rights, which embraces incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law.”

The basic premise of CRT is that society is divided into two groups: the oppressors and the oppressed. White people are the oppressors; black people are the oppressed. With the existence of systemic racism still in our country — and the even more emotionally-charged debate in regard to what’s systemic and what’s not — it is logical how the bifurcation is attractive to some as a tool to make sense of a complicated society.

Delgado and Stefancic publicly acknowledge that critical race theory builds on the insights of critical theory. Critical theory originated from the Frankfurt School in Germany in the 20s and 30s — an academic institute founded by Carl Grünberg, a Marxist professor of law.

It’s insightful then to recognize that the bifurcated approach of CRT — whether intentional or not — mirrors the teaching of Karl Marx. Like CRT, classic Marxism teaches that society is split into two groups — the oppressor and the oppressed. This oppression, however, is based on class — not race. The capitalists are the oppressors; the larger working class is the oppressed. Marxism contends that capitalists actually desire to exploit the working class for the purposes of maintaining self status and power. CRT makes like contentions in regard to race.

The resulting question we’re left with on this admittedly tough subject is whether in concern or support we are aware of CRT’s origins and parallels. What is the effect of those parallels? Are other agendas knowingly or unknowingly in play? If we could analyze historically and defuse emotionally, all over the biased political spectrum, my strong sense is we’d collectively have a more productive conversation about the wisest lenses to employ in regard to current societal challenge.

Respectfully…

AR

50 questions for summer

As is our practice, every now and then we take a look at the questions the media is asking. We scan the sites; take note of what’s being asked.

Here’s what the country is talking about. For arguably, your briefest assessment of what’s making news — 50 questions — here are a list of what we’ve been asking in the past seven days:

  1. After J&J Vaccine, a Booster?
  2. Biden’s Choice: Progressives or Bipartisanship? 
  3. Bill Cosby is a free man, but is he innocent?
  4. Bill Cosby is out of prison. What does that mean for his dozens of accusers?
  5. Can J.D. Vance Take – And Pack – A Punch In Senate Race?
  6. Can progressive prosecutors survive America’s crime wave?
  7. Can the Left Defend Critical Race Theory?
  8. Can The Phoenix Suns Cap Off A Magical Season?
  9. A Compromise On Infrastructure? What’s Being Compromised?
  10. Could a voter ID compromise be a win for voting rights?
  11. Critical race theory: Who gets to decide what is history?
  12. The delta variant is highly contagious. Do Covid vaccines still protect against it?
  13. Democrats’ New Get-Trump Committee?
  14. Does the Pentagon Take China Seriously?
  15. How can a building just collapse?
  16. How Fast Is The Economy Recovering?
  17. How Is The COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign Going In Your State?
  18. How unpopular is Joe Biden?
  19. How Worried Should We Be About Election System?
  20. If CRT Is Correct, Is America Worth Defending?
  21. Is Biden Declaring ‘Independence From the Virus’ Too Soon?
  22. Is Biden’s Lawsuit Against Georgia Dead on Arrival?
  23. Is Eric Adams Really the ‘Face of the New Democratic Party’?
  24. Is the U.S. a One-and-a-Half Party System?
  25. Now Democrats Are Tough on Crime?
  26. Olympics: Is It Fair to Make Women Compete Against Transgender Athletes?
  27. On the Border, Can Harris Succeed Where Biden Failed?
  28. Right vs. Left: Who’s Smarter?
  29. States deploy police to border. What is their role?
  30. Tropical Storm Elsa nears the Keys — where is it going next? 
  31. What happened to Sha’Carri Richardson?
  32. What Has China’s Communist Party Learned?
  33. What Is China Buying in the Biden Administration?
  34. What Is Critical Race Theory, and Why Is Everyone Talking About It?
  35. What Underlies the G.O.P. Commitment to Ignorance?
  36. What was the unemployment rate when the last stimulus bill was passed?
  37. What Would the Founding Fathers Say?
  38. When are the 2021 Olympics? Will they happen?
  39. Where Can Americans Travel Right Now?
  40. Where does ‘Black Widow’ rank amongst the greatest Marvel heroines?
  41. Who Is Calling the Shots at the White House?
  42. Who Really Wants to Defund Police?
  43. Who runs the Vatican while pope is hospitalized?
  44. Why Can’t the Left Let Go of Slavery?
  45. Why do we celebrate July 4th?
  46. Why does Kamala Harris laugh or cackle all the time?
  47. Why is gas so expensive again?
  48. Will Giannis play?
  49. Will the military make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory?
  50. Would Nuking the Filibuster Really Help Democrats?

The above come via ABC News, American Prospect, AOL, As.com,  Associated Press, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, CNN, Columbia News, Deseret News, ESPN, Five Thirty Eight, The Gatestone Institute, The Hayride, LA Times, MamaMia.com, Miami Herald, National Review, New York Post, New York Times, The New Yorker, News Bytes, NBC, NPR, PJ Media, The Poynter Institute, A Quiet Simple Life, Real Clear Politics, Rasmussen Reports, Roll Call, The Spectator, US News & World Report, Wall Street Journal, Washington Examiner, Washington Times, WVXU, Yahoo!News, and Yahoo!The 360.

Note: if my/your primary news source fails to appear above, maybe they’re not so good at allowing their audience to answer questions for themselves. Maybe. Maybe not. Just saying. Makes me wonder more…

Respectfully…

AR

the 4th

Today we remember our country’s most significant Declaration…

… We hold these truths to be self-evident…

There’s no need to explain; it’s obvious.

… that all men are created equal…

Men, women, humankind — equal in value. There should be no discrimination, partiality, or bias. Let’s be honest; we haven’t always done this well. But we don’t need to erase, cancel, or attempt to rewrite history. We need to learn from it. What will future generations say about us? What errors in our current thinking will they find need to correct? 

… that they are endowed by their Creator…

We acknowledge the great big God of the universe — who He is and who we are not. Some days I wonder if that’s our most grievous, national error… that in our intentional effort to separate Church and State — not wanting the Church to impose its moral code upon all — we’ve enabled the State to believe it’s capable of establishing a moral code.

… with certain unalienable rights…

Indeed. They can’t be taken away. 

… that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness… 

Our existence. Our freedom. And our pursuit of what makes us happy. It’s important to distinguish between the “pursuit of happiness” and “happiness” itself. There are no guarantees we will be happy. In fact, it humbles me to profess that some of my greatest learnings in life have come from the saddest of times. Troubles and trials help us learn perseverance. Perseverance is a mark of the mature.

… That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…

Exactly. The people have a say. No politician needs to be puffed up — to think they are so necessary. No party, either — as last I checked the news, no political party has yet to corner the market on honesty, integrity, and compromise.

On the 4th of July, we celebrate many things — especially now that the days of COVID have at least temporarily waned…

That celebration makes me feel a little patriotic. True, that’s an emotionally charged term these days. People use it for everything from a more nationalist stance to a stance on a podium protesting our anthem.

For me it means being a little more grateful… for truth, equality, our Creator, life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and all the people around me I get to freely do life with and pursue that happiness. 

I support our country not because it’s always been perfect or ever will be; we will always have things to learn. I support our country also not because we’re so good at empathizing and always getting along.

No, I support our country because 245 years ago, we declared what is good.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Happy Independence Day, friends… hope it’s happy.

Respectfully…

AR

Surfside response

At approximately 1:30 a.m. early Thursday morning, the twelve-story, Champlain Towers South collapsed in Surfside, Florida — a town a few miles north of Miami Beach. The definitive reason why the beachfront condominium collapsed is currently uncertain; it may never be certain. As crews continue to carefully mine the rubble, it’s been heartbreaking to watch the details that slowly but meticulously unfold. 55 of the building’s 136 units were destroyed. Approximately 150 people remain missing at the time of this posting. Eleven have been confirmed dead. It’s a gut-wrenching, traumatic scene.

The Intramuralist has tuned into several of the government and rescue team’s press conferences. There is a somberness that makes them hard to watch. But there is one aspect for which I am soberly, deeply grateful. I’ll share from Sunday’s morning presser…

First before the microphones came Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. DeSantis shared a brief account — first, of course, sharing grief with the affected families, thanking the first responders, then detailing the coordination efforts among multiple levels of government, giving insight into the ongoing approach.

Next came FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, who thanked the Governor, let the public know she was there on behalf of Pres. Biden, and then shared details into how federal emergency efforts are more specifically involved.

Following the two was Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, who also thanked both the Governor and FEMA in addition to the rescue teams, and spoke of several more specific developments, such as being able to control the resulting smoke and fire.

The three were joined by Surfside Mayor Charles Burkett, Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez and Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Kevin Guthrie. 

Allow me to expand on the reason for somber gratitude…

The primary presenters hail from varied backgrounds. They represent two different political parties. And in 21st Century America, increasingly more people and party loyalists justify dissimilar party adherence as grounds for uncompromising conflict and disrespect. That uncompromising conflict and disrespect, however, impedes what needs to be done.

In South Florida this week — even with the respective (D) and (R) placed next to the individual names on the bottom of my screen on Sunday — the political party of the public officials was not significant. What was instead significant?

… grieving with the affected families… thanking the first responders… coordinating efforts among multiple levels of government… being there on behalf of the President… controlling the resulting smoke and fire… dealing with the trauma.

It thus makes me grateful to see a diverse group of public officials come together, recognize the effort of one another, thank each other, coordinate, and get the job done. I don’t see any caring of who gets the credit — nor any denigrating of the politically different. The officials are focused on solving the problem — as opposed to seeing the different as the problem.

_____

Epilogue… sort of…

I had originally concluded this piece with an ending acknowledgement that it shouldn’t take trauma to get the job done; it shouldn’t take the gut-wrenching to make us focus on what’s most significant nor to stop always blaming the politically different. As journalist Charles C.W. Cooke opined two days ago:

“Hey, you. Yes, you. The one with his hands arched above the keyboard, debating whether to press ‘Send’ on your Surfside hot take. Don’t. Delete it, step away from the computer, go outside for a while, and reflect upon what you’ve become.

What is happening in Miami-Dade is not Mayor Burkett’s fault. It’s not Mayor Cava’s fault. It’s not Fire Marshal Patronis’s fault. It’s not Governor DeSantis’s fault. It’s not President Biden’s fault, either. Every single one of these people is horrified by the collapse. Every single one is dreading learning the final death toll. Every single one is working as fast and assiduously as they can. This is a tragedy, it’s not an election. For the love of God: stop.

I found myself amen’ing along. Blaming the politically different is putting our focus in the wrong place. We are all horrified. 

Cooke concludes, “Sometimes in this imperfect world of ours, truly horrific things can happen to good people, and there is nothing of use to be gained by trying to weave them neatly into a broader political rationale. Not everything is ideological. Please: Just stop.”

We quietly, soberly amen once more.

Respectfully…

AR

trans Olympians?

Before we begin, let me gently but boldly opine that so many seem to handle any LGBT conversation poorly. So many justify shame for someone. The Intramuralist adheres instead to the Judeo-Christian ethic echoed by author and research professor Brené Brown, noting, “We live in a world where most people still subscribe to the belief that shame is a good tool for keeping people in line. Not only is this wrong, but it’s dangerous.” When we justify subjecting another to shame, disgrace, humiliation, or disrepute — especially by public exposure or venomous criticism — we are not “loving our neighbor” well. Whatever so-called side they’re on. We then look like the ones who most need to grow. Hence, allow us an added encouragement this day… May our passions and opinions never prompt us to justify the cruelty of shame.

With that as our backdrop, one controversy we all knew was coming is now here. Let’s borrow from the headlines…

First, from NPR: “New Zealand Weightlifter Will Be The First Openly Trans Competitor At The Olympics”

In 26 days, “Tokyo 2020” commences (still the official title for marketing and branding purposes). Laurel Hubbard will represent New Zealand, competing in the  women’s weightlifting category for women over 87 kg (approximately 192 lbs.). Hubbard is a biologically born male, who transitioned to being a woman eight years ago. Prior to her transition, Hubbard competed in men’s events, holding national records in junior competition.

Next, from Yahoo!News: “Transgender runner CeCe Telfer ruled ineligible to compete in the women’s 400-meter hurdles at US Olympic trials”

Telfer was also biologically born as a male. In fact, as recently as 2017, she competed in men’s collegiate track and field. She ranked 390th in the NCAA Div. II men’s 400 meter hurdles that year. Two years later, Telfer won the women’s title.

The reason Hubbard is allowed to compete at the Olympics and Telfer is not is due to testosterone levels. According to a 2015 decision by the International Olympic Committee, “Those who transition from female to male are eligible to compete in the male category without restriction.” However, those who transition from male to female and wish to compete in the female category must meet multiple conditions. One of those conditions is a limitation of testosterone level. Telfer’s level was too high; Hubbard’s was not. While the IOC set a maximum level of 10 nanomoles per liter of testosterone, note that such level is four to five times more than a biological woman.

Remember our early encouragement. No person is to be shamed. The shame, disgrace, humiliation, and disrepute some in the transgender community have received has been awful and unloving. None of God’s creation deserves that. Wisdom says we don’t disgrace or discriminate. We want to be honoring and fair.

One Olympic fact highlights the fairness — first acknowledging some significant Olympic moments… Mary Lou Retton’s perfect “10” on the vault… Muhammed Ali lighting the torch… the absolutely amazing, “Miracle on Ice”… Names are forever etched in our memories… Torvill and Dean… Bolt… Phelps… Jenner… Strug and more.

One person we cheered on multiple times was the incredibly gifted Flo-Jo — Florence Griffith Joyner. She dazzled the world with both her speed and her style. She is considered the fastest woman ever alive, holding still-standing records in women’s track and field. She ran the 100 meters in a mind-boggling 10.49 seconds in 1988. And in the past 33 years, no other woman has come close.

However… hundreds of high school boys — non-Olympic champions — have significantly bested Flo-Jo’s time. Hundreds…

Back to weightlifting for a moment… Belgium’s Anna Vanbellinghen’s recent comments have been insightful in this controversy, especially since she expects to be competing against Laurel Hubbard in Japan. “I fully support the transgender community,” says Vanbellinghen. “I am aware that defining a legal frame for transgender participation in sports is very difficult… However, anyone that has trained weightlifting at a high level knows this to be true in their bones: This particular situation is unfair to the sport and to the athletes.”

There’s a biological difference between male and female. So how do we not discriminate against one in our support of another? How do we ensure our advocacy is not unfair?

Just asking questions, acknowledging facts with sensitivity and respect, getting set for the summer Olympics, and craving to handle all well… 

Respectfully…

AR