Tag Archives: compassion

Zones of Exclusion

When I feel overwhelmed, stressed out, or just unsure about life, I tend to retreat into myself, retreat from the outside world, and stop communicating with my family and friends. This isolation is a self preservation mechanism, but it’s also very self destructive. What I want most is to talk to people about why I’m feeling the way I am and get their unbiased thoughts about how to get over the way I’m feeling.

Instead, I draw in upon myself, make my world smaller and enter a zone of exclusion. I don’t do things that I know make me feel better, I don’t do things that I know help me in the long run, rather I turn inward and look to myself for the solution. Sometimes, I have the solution, most of the time I don’t. This isolation is a product of my youth, a product of my upbringing, and a product of who I had to be to survive my childhood.

As an adult, I dint need the same defense mechanisms I needed as a child. I don’t need to push everyone away, rather, what helps is talking to my friends and getting their unbiased thoughts and input.

Why do I still invoke these childhood defenses? I don’t know. Possibly, because it’s comfortable to do so. Possibly because it’s how I’ve dealt with things for most of my life. Possibly, it’s habit. I don’t know all the reasons, but I do know that it doesn’t usually do me much good.

So, I’m trying take little steps to get out if the ZOE. I do little things for myself that I know help. I write, I go to church, and I try and get some sleep. Mass is about to begin, so I’m entering another ZOE. With any luck, I’ll come out of this one feeling a bit better.

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STS-107 – 8 Years Ago Today

On my 25th birthday, the Space Shuttle Columbia launched on the STS-107 mission to do research on myriad topics in low earth orbit. I remember hearing about the launch, but was very involved in my job and didn’t have the chance to watch it. I had a new job and was quickly learning how to do things in a fast paced legislative environment.

Fast forward two weeks, to the evening of January 31, 2003. It was a Friday night and I had dinner with some friends as my wife was out of town. We got in to one of those “Where were you when” conversations.  I talked about the 1989 San Francisco earthquake, they talked about several events that they remembered, and the discussion settled down to January 28, 1986. On that fateful morning, the Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated 73 seconds after launch. My friends and I talked about where we were, how we felt, and how it changed us. We spent a good deal of time talking about these topics, after which, I headed home.

The next morning, I woke up and headed the 60 or so miles to work. About 1/2 way there, I turned the radio on to NPR and they were discussing the landing of the Columbia. I started listening, expecting it to be a routine 3 or four minute broadcast of the landing. It was a snowy day, so I was paying more attention to driving than I was the radio, but it slowly sank in that they were still talking about Columbia NOT landing, rather than the smooth landing I expected. The remainder of the trip, I was glued to the radio, trying to take in all that was going on.

I got to work and turned on the TV in my office and rather than getting any work done, as was my plan, I was glued to CNN watching the story unfold. I remember hearing the capcom, who I think was Charlie Hobaugh, saying, “Columbia, Houston, Comm Check…” over and over again with no response. Obviously, there was something wrong…

I’m thankful for the Columbia disaster in many ways because it rekindled my interest in space and human space flight. I’ve watched every launch and most landings since then and found a great community of space tweeps. I’ve been able to help my son develop an awareness and a love of space. I’ve experienced a launch in person and visited Mission Control in Houston.

Even though a lot of good has come from the tragedy, I find myself down today. I’m reading all these reports from people who work at NASA and where they were on this day 8 years ago. Most of them express sadness, some express hope, but the sadness gets me today. I look over at the pictures of the Apollo 1 crew, the crew of STS-51L, and the STS-107 crew and I feel that we could have done better by them. I hope that we will continue to learn from the mistakes we collectively made that cost them their lives.

I hope that we will be able to live up to their legacy.

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The Intersection of Different Worlds in Tucson

The incident in Tucson that took place on Saturday was a tragic, senseless, needless event. The fact that it happened besmirches the reputation of our nation and should bring the lack of civility in political discourse into sharp relief. In watching my twitter feed on Saturday as the details were becoming clear, I heard people blaming the right, specifically Mrs. Palin and her crosshairs map. I heard other blaming the “liberal media” for putting the blame on the right. Even with the aforementioned debate, the largest chorus of voices I heard were a concern for the families of those killed and injured in the tragic event that took place in a Safeway parking lot.

Regardless of political persuasion or belief, what we should be focusing on after an event like this are the needs of the families affected by this horrendous event.

I titled this entry, “The Intersection of Different Worlds in Tucson” because Saturday’s tragedy took place at a the intersection of several of my worlds and is affecting me much more deeply that I expected it to. First, I am a former legislative staffer and have dealt with the hate and anger that can accompany political discourse. Second, have met the husband of one of the shooting victims. Third, I’m a parent and the loss of a 9 year old child in an event like this makes it even more of a tragedy.

As a former legislative staffer, this event affects me tremendously. I’ve worked numerous events such as this one, directly interacting with constituents. The point of these events was to make the legislator accessible to members of the public, so there was never any security present. I never felt vulnerable at any of these events, but I doubt Rep. Giffords felt vulnerable at this event. In my position as legislative staff, I dealt with my share of crazies, some threatening, some not. Thankfully, I only ever felt threatened twice in five years and I very quickly reported these threats to the authorities, who investigated them. I also spent most of my year working in a district office by myself or with one or two staffers for different legislators. There was no second exit from my office, so if someone had come in the door with bad intent, we would have been at their mercy. When I was in the Capitol, I felt much more secure, but I spent only a quarter to a third of the time there.

The Washington State Legislature, where I worked, prides itself in being close to the people. So close, in fact that legislators only work part time at their legislative jobs. Each legislator is given one, or in rare cases, two staffers. When the capitol was re-opened in 2004 after several years of revonations, there were metal detectors, but they were removed after the first year because of inconvenience they posed to the people, elected officials, and staff.

The second intersection came about because of my love of space. In May 2010, I participated in a #NASATweetup at Johnson Space Center in Houston. After the official event concluded, many of the participants went out for drinks and dinner. At the dinner we were joined by several astronauts, including Mark Kelly, husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was the target of Saturday’s shooting. I spent some time talking to Mr. Kelly and really enjoyed our conversation. I even took a picture with him and his brother (Mark Kelly is on the right). Capt. Kelly is a gracious man and I really feel for him and his family, in addition to those other families who suffered a loss as a result of this tragic event.

The third intersection has to do with the 9 year old girl who lost her life. As I understand it, she came to the event to tell the Congresswoman that she had recently been elected to her school’s student council, a fact about which she was justifiably proud. I can imagine doing the exact same thing with my child if they were in the same position. As a parent, I would justifiably proud of my child for being elected to student council and would let my child know of it. If they wanted to tell their Member of Congress about getting elected, I would make it happen. It’s a shame that someone so young lost their life because of an accomplishment such as this.

On a side note, I work in government and one of my aims is to make the government agency that I work in more accessible to members of the public. I especially work hard to work with children and answer their questions and help them understand government. I hope that Rep. Giffords and her staff would have done the same.

While the events in Tucson have indirectly affected me, the direct effect they’ve had on the people involved and their families is what needs to be focused upon. We need to come together, regardless of our political allegiance or persuasion, and support those who are feeling the direct effects. Capt. Kelly posted a statement on Rep. Giffords web site, summing up the family’s thanks to all supporting them. It’s worth a read, not only because it is well written, but because Capt. Kelly takes time to remember those wo were lost and those who worked to help them. If Capt. Kelly can remember others in his time of need, we should be able to as well.

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Articles on the Tucson Tragedy

NYT – Suspect in Ariz. Shooting Faces Charges in Federal Court

NYT – Bloodshed Puts New Focus on Vitriol in Politics

NYT – A Passionate Politician and a Friend to Colleagues, Bikers and Lost Mayors

NYT – Amid Shock, Recalling Judge’s Life of Service

NYT – Born on Sept. 11, Claimed by a New Horror

NYT Editorial – Bloodshed and Invective in Arizona

NYT Documents – Criminal Complaint against Loughner

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#reverb10 – December 24th – Everything’s OK

the #reverb10 prompt for December 24th was: Everything’s OK. What was the best moment that could serve as proof that everything is going to be alright? And how will you incorporate that discovery into the year ahead? (Author: Kate Inglis)

The moment in 2010 that served at proof that everything is going to be ok occurred in June while my wife was away on a 10 day trip overseas. I was taking care of our then almost two year old son. I’ve blogged about it before, so I won’t go over the excruciating detail in this post, but I’ll give the highlights.

I was feeding my son breakfast, he said he was done and I wanted him to eat more because he hadn’t eaten much. It turned in to a battle of wills, with both of us firm in our positions and not moving. Suddenly, I realized that my desire for him to eat more had changed from a healthy parental thought to an, “I want him to eat more because I’m the parent and I said so” thought. Realizing this, I backed down from the fight and comforted my son. At the time, I didn’t look at this moment as an “Everything’s OK” moment, I looked at it as an “I’m a messed up father” moment. However, as time has passed, I’ve realized that it was the moment in 2010 when I grew the most and proved to myself that everything IS OK.

After I realized what was happening and backed down, I started beating myself up for being a bad father. I had engaged in a war of wills with an almost two year old for mo good reason. I wanted him to eat and he didn’t want to and I had to win because I am the parent. That’s not how parents should act. Parents are there to help protect and nurture their kids, but fight them for the sake of fighting. How could I have done such a thing?

With the benefit of time, I now look back and see not the war of wills, but my willingness to drop my arms and do the right thing. I backed down because I realized that I was in the battle for the wrong reasons. I stopped the war because I wanted to be the nurturing parent, not the irrational one. I ended the fight because I knew better and I was willing to admit that. Putting my child’s needs in front of mine is being a good parent. It’s helping nurture my son and teach him to grow into a caring person.

When I realized that the backing down from the fight was the important thing, I knew that everything is OK. I knew that I had made the right decision for me as a person and for me as a parent. I knew that I had a decent head on my shoulders and was, in all honesty, proud of myself for realizing this fact!

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#reverb10 – December 19 – Healing

The #reverb10 prompt for December 19th was:  What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011? (Author: Leonie Allan)

I was healed this year by two main things. First, knocking a couple of big things off my bucket list. As I’ve written about previously, probably ad-nauseum, I viewed the STS-131 launch from a mere six miles away, which was a life changing experience. I also visited the Johnson Space Center during the STS-132 #NASATweetup. These experiences healed me by allowing me to geek out on an interest of mine and to gain a community by doing so. They healed my by giving me experiences that I will never forget.

Second, I was healed by learning from my son and watching him learn this year. It’s been an amazing experience to watch my son grow into from a baby into a boy. He learns so quickly and watching him do so is an amazing process. It’s healed me by helping nurture my sense of wonder.

The healing has been over time, there has been no “Aha!” moment. I do better with this kind of healing. Small, constant reminders of the good in life and the world help me keep my perspective on the world and what a good place it is to live! In 2011, I hope it keeps the same pace!

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#reverb10 – December 15 – 5 Minutes

The #reverb10 prompt for December 15th was: Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010. (Author: Patti Digh)

The things I want to remember the most about 2010 all have to do with family and community. I want to remember how my family has grown together in the last year. How my wife and I have grown as a couple and how we communicate so much better than we have in the past. How we have helped our son keep growing into a brave, strong boy.

I want to remember the my wife and son’s smiles. Their laughs, the look in their eyes when they’re happy, when they’re sad, when they’re being mischievous, basically I want to remember their eyes. I want to remember the feel of their skin, their face, their hair, all of the things that make them unique. I want to remember their sense of humor and their love of learning.

I want to remember my experiences at the STS-131 launch and the STS-132 #NASATweetup. I want to remember the Space Tweep community that I’ve joined.

There’s 5 minutes!

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