“Challenger Disaster” Gen X Experiences (excerpt from Just Keep Swimming)

Excerpt from “Paradise”, Chapter 4 of Just Keep Swimming (a nonfiction narrative/collected biography of Gen X women overcoming adversities following their shared beginnings in corrosive 1980s rural communities):

For many Generation X folks, the thought of the Challenger disaster brings forth an image of Ronald Reagan, We saw President Reagan’s face a lot in the 1980s. He was there telling us about the Cold War, Chernobyl, and addressed the nation following the explosion. We were in middle and high school these years. These events shaped us, and not necessarily in a good way.  I find those memories interesting when I recall my former husband standing duty at Reagan’s funeral procession while I was locked in traffic on George Washington Parkway in Washington, D.C. years later.

Ronald Reagan was elected U.S. President in 1980. In international affairs, Reagan pursued a hard-line policy towards preventing the spread of communism, initiating a considerable buildup of U.S. military power to challenge the Soviet Union. He further directly challenged the Iron Curtain by demanding that the Soviet Union dismantle the Berlin Wall.

I’ll never forget hearing Reagan’s proclamation to Mr. Gorbachev to “tear down that wall.” We watched this during class as it happened, and I remember being a smart ass and asking the teacher “does this mean we no longer have to do nuclear drills?”

I never understood those drills.  I did understand if a nuclear bomb were to be dropped, I didn’t want to end up looking like those people in that dastardly 1983 made-for-television movie “The Day After” about what would happen in America in a nuclear fallout. Me and my friends, siblings, family, classmates and church people talked, and prayed about this incessantly for so long after this. I had nightmares about losing my hair to radiation sickness. I didn’t want to go down that way. I was much too vain for that. About the time we stopped talking about nuclear fallout or the KGB spies around us, the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, a large-scale nuclear meltdown in the Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union, spread a large amount of radioactive material across Europe, killing 47 people, dooming countless others to future radiation-related cancer, and causing the displacement of 300,000 people.

Nope, I figured it was best if almighty Jesus came for us right in the blast zone.

On January 28, 1986, the NASA Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrated 73 seconds after launch, killing all of the crew on board, including the female teacher. This was the first disaster involving the destruction of a NASA space shuttle. A faulty O-Ring was the cause of the accident. We were watching it in the classroom of our female teacher on a T.V. that was fastened to the top of one of those old metal T.V. carts with the boards beneath that could hold the VCR units. The windows of the classroom were closed that day so the sound of the T.V. rattled on the panes. Much of the school year the windows were kept “cracked open just a little bit”. Big casement windows, in deep window frames, that would swing out left or right on a hinge. They never had screens, and our school was a three story structure. A person could have walked out one of those windows, but to my knowledge no one, not a student or teacher, ever did so.

There was an incident in 5th grade where I hid out behind the shades of one of those giant windows from the teacher. But that’s another story.

I can’t say I was totally engrossed in the watching of the lift-off of the Challenger, but it got my attention real quick when the explosion occurred, and the vibe in the room changed so drastically that it was chilling. This was the first time any of us had seen anything like this happen live, albeit on T.V.

Many years later, the 9/11 response triggered this same feeling in a room full of people, on a college campus. It was a very sad occurrence, and people in Paradise talked for months about it. Eons it seemed. Nobody seemed to like the government too much back then, and NASA was seen as an arm of the government who was involved in the Cold War, raising taxes higher than they have ever been in the U.S., and they had one job to do and they failed, spectacularly.

As we question the ascending generations’ perception of government, liberty, civil steward, and law, let’s discuss how these 1980s events affected our own generation.

So, how did these events affect other Gen Xer’s?

How about Generation Y, and Millennials? – What did you learn from your parents about these events?  Let’s talk!

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Surviving Blizzard Jonas as an ADHD Single, Working Mom with an ADHD Pre-Teen, productively.

Swimming through Winter Storm Jonas as an ADHD Single Mom with an ADHD Pre-Teen, productively.

My preteen and I were snowbound for 6 days. How did we swim through it without me hiding out in my Kia, fussing, or a loss of all structure?

With some ground rules.

They are simple and provided us with some basic expectations for each day.

1.       Expect your ADHD self and child will both need to allow for tunnel vision, and welcome it. Periods of uninterrupted focus can be comforting and often are when we learn depth of an interest, even if our curiosities lead us to distraction.

2.       Choose 1-2 challenging projects to work on together for brief time periods during the day. This helped us to feel connected and productive when it was finished a few days later.

3.       Negotiate the chores. It’s a perfect time to let your child work out his/her way of doing a new task without the time constraints of school days.

4.       Consider implementing a 15-minute per hour movement.  Set an alarm or timer. Move around the house for 15 minutes of each waking hour. Even while stuck in the house, we can connect for a few minutes and be productive together managing the laundry, dancing, cooking, dishes, or other acceptable activity. The reminder is a rescue skill for me when I get tunnel vision.  It provides consistency and prevents the guilt that comes when I realize my kid has been on a screen for two hours. It’s like when your baby sleeps through the night and you awake and feel a panic to check on the child and feel guilty for sleeping-in. Prevent it.

5.       Write-up a menu of food options for preteen’s breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner each day and affix it to the fridge.  This prevents the long stares into the refrigerator and dry-stock pantry with no goal in mind.

6.       Allow for some flexibility with the sleep schedule, but set a firm bedtime with lights out. Bedtime and sleep routines are difficult during holiday breaks and through a blizzard.  It’s rewarding for a child to stay up later than usual on a snow day with school out. However, later nights do not bid well for early mornings; be careful with how late your child sleeps-in; delaying the morning dose of medication can become a vicious cycle of late nights and late mornings -and a rough transition back to school.

7.       Play cards, with a running score for the entire time of confinement. Pick up the game and play a hand anytime restlessness sets in. This helps to refocus and distract, simultaneously. (We’ve raised our limit three times this week –now reaching for 3000 points in Rumi).

8.       Eat dinner together while beginning a movie. When the food is finished, we like sitting together afterwards and I feel less pressure to hurry and clean the kitchen.

9.       Use headphones when working. This prevents the wide range of noises, sounds, and other abstract vocal tics of my preteen to not invade my train of thought every few minutes so some work can be achieved.

10.   Talk to other grown-ups on the phone. Don’t isolate.

We made it through the week with few issues, both of us fed, and some output to show for it.  This is success.

Welcome!

Source: Welcome!

My hope is to form a community to support women in overcoming adversity.

Together, we can strengthen the social capital of rural communities, including the networks of support, collaboration and knowledge sharing between women and their loved ones as well as those whose work and services are aimed to provide a safe, supportive environment for women to heal, thrive, and live healthy, independent  lives.

Will you join me?

Welcome!

Welcome to my blog!

What do you do when you need something that doesn’t exist?

You create it!

I am the sum total of every one I’ve ever met and the interactions I’ve had with them.

You are now part of my sum total and I thank you for enriching my life and the lives of others by following this discourse and sharing your stories of resiliency.

For the past thirty years, across multiple decades and across the millennial divide, I have participated, studied, and observed the nature and nurturing of my life world and that of those around me. I have been a sponge, a reactant, an instigator, part and parcel of an accumulation of adversities and advantages. These experiences are born and bred on the backs of other women and underneath many boys and men. No life exists in a silo and no single life narrative can provide a storyboard for how women do resiliency.

Sometimes we are overwhelmed with stinking thinking that just surviving day-to-day requires us to take a single, gigantic leap and it’s going to take everything you have. Life is a series of baby steps along the way and if you add up these tiny little steps you take toward your goal, whatever it is, whether it’s giving up something, a terrible addiction or trying to work your way through an illness. Sometimes we believe we have to do something that seems so monumental, like the giant leap when really little steps, nuggets of knowledge, and the application of learned skills can come together alter your life’s trajectory.

Resiliency is not something a person either has or does not have. It does not suddenly appear following an incident in the midst of a collective response. Resiliency is something far more malleable.

Resiliency is learned, by default. No one wants to have to be resilient. Resiliency looks great in a role model or mentor, but it only seems to look good in retrospect. It’s never pretty when you are doing it.

There is no right or wrong way to overcome adversity, that’s for sure. That line of thinking is fatalistic and impossible at the same time. Fatalistic due to the notion there is but one successful recipe. Impossible because we are the sum total of everyone we’ve experienced life with and because we are by-products of our cultural environments. There is an infinite number of ways in which any one woman may be resilient.

Our individual life experiences and our life course trajectories are not really uncommon. They are simply unknown. There are so many of us who lived similar experiences of adversity who had to learn to be resilient to just keep swimming day to day. Some days and months and years we are stronger swimmers and we thrive. Other days, we simply tread water to survive. I am interested in helping others understand recovery from and resistance to adversity and this narrative gives emphasis to positive aspects of our lives that have ameliorative consequences.

After all, adversities, or an accumulation of adversities, rarely occur in a vacuum.

Personal adversity occurs in a context of community, whether the community is defined geographically as in neighborhoods; virtually as in a shared identity, ethnicity, or experience; or organizationally, as in a place of work, learning, or worship. How a community responds to personal adversity sets the foundation for the impact of the traumatic event, experience, and effect.

Some community cultures are more likely than others to experience specific types of adversities, or a specific type of trauma.   Culture influences not only whether certain events are perceived as traumatic, but also how an individual interprets and assigns meaning to the trauma. Some traumas may have greater impact on a given culture because those traumas represent something significant for that culture or disrupt cultural practices or ways of life. Culture determines acceptable responses to these adversities and shapes the expression of distress and resiliency. It significantly influences how people convey traumatic stress through behavior, emotions, and thinking immediately following, during, and well after the negative experience has ceased.  Individual and collective responses vary according to the type of adversity within the culture.  Culture affects what qualifies as a legitimate concern and which symptoms warrant help.  In addition to shaping beliefs about acceptable forms of help-seeking behavior and healing practices, culture can provide a source of strength, unique coping strategies, and specific resources.

Communities that provide a context of understanding and support self-determination may facilitate the healing and recovery process for the individual.

Alternatively, communities that avoid, overlook, or misunderstand the impact of trauma may often be re-traumatizing and interfere with the healing process (e.g., an addict being told they only have themselves to blame; a family shunning their loved one because they are gay; or the withholding of support to a person asking for help until they prove themselves worthy). Individuals can be re-traumatized by the very people whose intent is to be helpful. This is one way to understand trauma in the context of a community.

 My hope is to form a community to support women in overcoming adversity.

Together, we can strengthen the social capital of rural communities, including the networks of support, collaboration and knowledge sharing between women and their loved ones as well as those whose work and services are aimed to provide a safe, supportive environment for women to heal, thrive, and live healthy, independent  lives. 

Will you join me?

~Bridgett

JustKeepSwimming@BridgettAugust1