Friday, April 10, 2020

Independence: Use Your Words

Today’s post is a monthly writing challenge. If you’re new here, this is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once. All of the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the recipient will take them. Until now.

Use Your Words, a multiblogger writing challenge | developed and run by | #MyGraphics

At the end of this post you’ll find links to the other blogs featuring this challenge. Check them all out, see what words they got and how they used them.
I'm using: independent ~ please ~ tea ~ working 
They were submitted by Jennifer of Sparkly Poetic Weirdo.

Independent. I keep getting stuck on that word so I guess that means I want to talk about it, figure out a way to get my feelings about independence into words. 

I never realized this before, but independent has situational meaning. I'm not just talking about multiple definitions, but it has always had positive associations for me. My point of reference is that of a woman living in a free country and having grown up in some changing times (progress) for women. Independence has always been aspirational, inspirational. But at this moment in time, the connotation, for me, has changed.

Let's start with the dictionary meanings. First is liberated, as in living in a democratic republic, not controlled by another country. My home, Boston, had a little party involving tea, if you recall your history, that had a little something to do with that. It's also the kind of independence we gain personally as we make our own way in the world, begin working and living on our own.

Another definition is being open minded, independent as in able to think things through based on your own morals and values without giving undue purchase to outside influence. This is a form of independence that we are born with, is to some degree knocked out of us (through training and through peer pressure) but which we ultimately come back to as we mature.

A third meaning is self-reliant. This one is very important to me as a woman. There was a time, not so distant, when women couldn't vote, didn't go to college or work, were expected to cook and clean and obey. There is nothing wrong with a couple dividing responsibilities according to any criteria they choose, but that wasn't always a conversation or an agreement. Women were, and still are, stuck in unhappy and often abusive marriages, unable to extricate themselves. This self-sufficient form of independence can be a matter of safety.

It's the final connotation of independent that I grapple with. This final meaning of the word is associated with being separate from others. I'd always thought of this in positive terms, encompassing the other meanings of the word, being free, being open minded and being self-sufficient, not requiring association with others to define self. It also speaks to character. When you are truly independent of others, reaching out is an active choice as opposed to necessity.

But now, at this moment in time, I see this dissociation, this disconnection from others as a threat, to us as individuals but mostly as members of society, it's begetting a collective narcissism.

Before I explain, just let me say that this is not about coronavirus. What I'm talking about here has been in process long before we had even heard of covid-19. We have not had to, and more and more were not, leaving our homes to shop for food, to purchase clothes, to buy cars, to bank, to vote, to eat from a restaurant, to work, even to renew our license. All can be accomplished online and brought right to our doorsteps. Brick and mortar stores were disappearing. Malls, a place that fostered social interaction, were already becoming ghost towns. I can see a time coming when there are no grocery stores, just distribution centers (at least one local chain already has one) from which our only option is to place our orders online and pick them up or have them delivered. I, for one, need to pick out my own proteins and vegetables. Not to mention the threat to creativity. I can't find new foods by going online and typing in "tomato," bringing up canned tomatoes and soups. I want to peruse the aisles, touch and smell vegetables or fruits I'm unfamiliar with, possibly stumble on a product that inspires me. The decreasing ability to interact when shopping (all shopping) feels mechanical, stifling.

Grilled Crispy Cod Sandwich: Crispy Cod Fingers and Smoky Slaw between a smothered grilled cheese sandwich. | Recipe developed by | #recipe #sandwich

Grilled Crispy Cod Sandwich 
Grilled Crispy Cod Sandwich: Crispy Cod Fingers and Smoky Slaw between a smothered grilled cheese sandwich. | Recipe developed by | #recipe #sandwich

Customer service now consists of pressing buttons in a "trained monkey" response to a computer generated voice, which can either result in a satisfactory outcome, or a frustrating failure which we may have no other choice but to live with. We don't have to look someone in the face or even use our voices to communicate and now, more and more, we just plain can't.

This form of independence has manifested itself as a division in our society, feeling very caste-like, there are winners and there are losers. Manners are now as extinct as full sentences. No more "please" and "thank you" because, outside of our personal circles, we no longer have that kind of relationship with each other. The further disconnected we become on a personal level, the less we see each other as having value (or even rights), the more we lose our humanity, our compassion, and, to go back to the meanings of independence, our open mindedness.

Although "independent" has always been a word of strength and of personal growth, we seem to have swung the pendulum too far. I don't advocate going back to being controlled by another country, of being less woke, or of being unable to change our situation based on our needs, but I do believe that this level of independence from our community and our society will not serve us well. Independence can be liberating. It can also be confining.

Humanity is born of engagement. Progress comes from leaning in. We benefit more from alliances than just allegiances.

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Grilled Cripsy Cod Sandwich      

Printable Recipe

NOTE: This sandwich can be made quickly using frozen fish sticks and/or pre-made Cole Slaw, but is best made using my Crispy Cod Fingers recipe and my Smoky Slaw recipe.

1 TBSP butter
2 slices bread
1 slice American cheese
1 slice smoked Provolone cheese 
1 TBSP Thousand Island dressing
1 piece lettuce
3 - 4 hot Crispy Cod Fingers, you can substitute cooked fish sticks
1/4 cup Smoky Slaw, you can substitute any Cole Slaw

*Make a grilled cheese: place the cheese slices between the bread slices. In a hot skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Place the sandwich in the pan and cook until the bottom has browned, flip over and cook on the other side.
*Carefully open the sandwich. Spread the Thousand Island dressing on one side, then place the lettuce on the dressing. *Top with the Crispy Cod Fingers, then the Smoky Slaw and finally the top of the sandwich. Cut in half and serve.


  1. This is such a thoughtful post, Karen. Being a tactile person, I look forward to the day when I can touch fabrics and pick vegetables out of market bins. Being an introvert with a small but safe circle, I don't get my interactions from shopping. But I certainly understand how people can miss that. I noticed in the last decade or so how there is a loss of words people use when interacting. Huh? Yup. Mmmhmm. More gestures and emojis than politeness. It will be interesting to see where technology and this virus (not to mention political situations) take our relationships with society.

    1. I do feel as though this is a pivotal time in relationships. I too am interested in seeing where we go once we're all allowed out again.

  2. Thought-provoking post.

    I once wrote an essay about independence in college. Or was it "freedom". The prompt made me think of the many things and services we actually depend on in order to be independent: resources (oil, water), technology and energy (once the phone and data lines were cut by accident in our town, people could not get groceries or gas because the registers didn't operate, and neither did the credit card terminals). Morale of the story: be nice to everyone as a society or country. We don't want others to pull our plug!

    Happy Passover!

  3. We are so much less independent than we think and perhaps this is a good thing that will come out of the bad of what we are experiencing now. Our water, gas, electric, food, and so forth, all come from governments and various utilities. We depend on police, fire, health care workers, our internet service provider, our cell phone provider, teachers, and more. Some of these people were so devalued, paid barely minimum wage, had to depend on SNAP and food pantries. Being open minded to new ways and new solutions will be necessary if we are going to survive.

    1. I agree with you, and I think that will, in the long run, be the silver lining to this horrendous situation.

  4. I like you have always loved going to the grocery store, walking the aisle seeking inspiration. Now? No way. I'm at home and having the basics delivered. Which is making my food creativity limits...well stretched to say the least. BUT we are "safe at home" and I am grateful for that. I do feel my independence has been taken away. I'm not a fan.
    Dawn aka Spatulas On Parade

    1. I'm struggling to come up with new recipes not only because I don't get to meander down the grocery aisles, but because when I do come up with something, it has to have ingredients that I have on hand. Way more challenging than usual, but I too am grateful to be safe.

  5. We certainly are living in interesting times! I shudder at the lack of civility I see. I'm hoping that this pandemic will help us realize what we are missing in interpersonal relations. I fear thought that, just as you say, "this level of independence from our community and our society will not serve us well".

  6. Love that last line----well said and so true. I agree--The customer service thing is the worst---I hate these automated responses. Can't get a real live human being on the line anymore. Anyway, your recipe: yummy yummy YUMMY!

    1. Lets see how we all feel when we've been unable to be around others for a long period of time, I hope some of this changes.
      And I really hope you try this recipe for your family. We loved it.

  7. You are thinking along the same lines i am. Thank you!

  8. Now this was a really interesting and thought provoking post
    The Cod sandwich had me as I read God not Cod

    1. Glad you found my points thought provoking. Now about that sandwich . . . can't imagine what you thought the ingredients for that might be, LOL.

  9. I loved, loved, loved, how you phrased this "my home, Boston, had a little party involving tea, if you recall your history, that had a little something to do with that." keep up the creativity karen!

    1. You like the teasing sarcasm in my tone, it's not always easy to get through with just the written word. Glad I succeeded.

  10. I've definitely had to redefine independence for myself since being chronically ill. I think that we can be independent to a fault, and i certainly was. i think as a society it's the same. We've lost community to gain that independence and it shows.

  11. I was hooked as soon as I saw the word cod! I love a great fish sandwich and can't wait to try this out.

    1. So excited you're going to give it a try. I'm making it again myself this week.


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