My Stock Market Took A Plunge

There are dramatic moments in your life you never forget. Most people my age will remember exactly where they were when the Challenger exploded or the planes hit the Twin Towers. Maybe they even can recall, as I can, the elation and sense of possibility they felt when they watched the Berlin Wall come down. I had one of those memorable moments today. I was sitting at our kitchen island working on my laptop when my oldest said, “The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.” I turned slowly to look at him. My expression must have landed somewhere between disbelief, disgust, and dyspepsia because then he followed up with, “They did. I saw it on my news feed a little while ago.”

I knew it was coming. I’ve known for a while now. Still, I was not prepared to have it knock the wind out of me. Nor did I expect the tears would come as quickly as they did.

I know there are women who tonight are going to bed saying prayers of gratitude to their god for this ruling. I know they think this will save innocent lives. I know they feel a wrong has been righted. I know they will rejoice about it in church and with their friends and family. They will celebrate. I don’t begrudge them their right to feel vindicated. They’ve waited a long time for this.

I wish I could find reason to rejoice in this, but I cannot. Tonight I am going to bed with the understanding that a majority on Supreme Court believe a woman’s life is less important than the life of a fetus. And don’t give me chat about how this is just a course correction because Roe. v Wade was unconstitutional and this should be a states’ matter anyway. I get where you are coming from with all that. It’s just different for me. To quote American Idol’s Randy Jackson, “You see, dawg, for me, it’s just the mere concept that the government can determine and force my reproductive choice, or any choice, well, that’s gotta be a big no from me.” My entire life, I had rights my mother and grandmother did not have. I had them when I woke up today and then they were gone by lunch. Poof!

It’s just hard because, while I know my value, I just realized the government has reset my worth.

Being A Difficult Woman Is Actually Quite Easy

Here are a handful of things a woman might do that could get her labeled as “difficult”:

  • Refuse to smile when someone tells her she would look prettier that way
  • Ask for what she wants
  • Insist on equal treatment
  • Express an unpopular opinion (or even a popular one in the wrong company)
  • Say she isn’t interested in sex at the moment
  • Request help around the house or with the children
  • Believe it should be her body and her choice
  • Put herself first or make herself a priority
  • Know her worth
  • Expect appropriate acknowledgment and compensation for a job well done
  • Go against social norms, especially regarding appearance, career choice, or motherhood
  • Exhibit her anger, disappointment, or sadness
  • Call herself a feminist
  • Clap back against a cat call or other uninvited advance from an unknown male

There are, I’m certain, many other things a woman might do that could get her branded as difficult. It’s not just men who would label a self-assured or successful woman difficult. Sometimes women will cast other women in that same light because they are so accustomed to societal norms they don’t see the inherent sexism in them.

I have been labeled difficult plenty of times. It used to bother me. Now I simply see it as my duty. I’m not saying we need to smash the patriarchy to smithereens, but I think we’d do a lot better as a species if we allowed the world to become more balanced. Too much of any one thing is never a good idea, especially if that one thing is testosterone.

Fear, Superpower, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Shakespeare

Photo by Rohan Makhecha on Unsplash

After a long, heartfelt, open discussion last night, I am feeling much better today. Sometimes, you have to face your fears, speak your mind, listen carefully, and breathe through the discomfort of it all to reach a better place. I woke up this morning a little anxious because it’s hard when you’ve opened up and been vulnerable. It’s difficult to know if others were able to see and feel your heart. As the day progressed, though, I became more and more relaxed as a realization sunk in. I’ve spent my entire life giving other people power over me. It started when I was young and I gave up my power because it was a survival strategy. Then I was older and still operating under the rules of that previous paradigm, wanting people to like me, wanting to be fair to everyone else, wanting to be the “good girl” I was told I should be. I stayed in that good girl bubble for a long, long, long time. And then it hit me today. People only have power over me because I have continued to give it away. I can be both a good person and a person who holds her own power. I can help people with love and compassion and not be a doormat. I can listen to and hear people and still speak my truth. I can be and do those things because that is my superpower. So today is a good day because I finally realized I am a goddam superhero.

Now, not everyone is going to get me or like me or agree with my previous statement, and that is okay. Some people may even puke in their mouth a little bit when they read this. And that too is okay. I am not for everyone. But the people in my tribe know my heart and benefit from my light, and those can’t or don’t want to see my goodness may never. And that also is just fine. Whether or not others see my goodness doesn’t determine whether or not it exists. It does. It is always there even when others deny it. As long as I know it, as long as I feel it, as long as I try my hardest every day to be decent and kind while respecting my own choices and gifts and goals, nothing else can touch me. I will make mistakes. I will upset people. I will land in some awkward situations. No doubt. But none of that detracts from who I am. It only proves I am human. But now I am a human with an invisible but powerful cape.

All of this reminds me immediately of Eleanor Roosevelt. She was a brilliant woman. During her lifetime, she dispensed a great deal of wisdom. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you’ll be criticized anyway.”

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

“When you have decided what you believe, what you feel must be done, have the courage to stand alone and be counted.”

And the final quote is the one that inspired this blog, Live Now and Zen:

“Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That is why we call it the present.”

So, put yourself out there. Be vulnerable. Don’t let anyone dim your shine. Own your shit, but own your brilliance too. And if you won’t listen to me, listen to Eleanor Roosevelt or even Shakespeare, who penned in Hamlet:

“This above all: to thine own self be true.”

Go get ’em, Tiger. Or, as my sister says, TOWANDA!

The Happy Homemaker Hallucination

Mad skillz

In preparation for dinner tonight, I was peeling some Gala apples for homemade applesauce. As I was peeling, I remembered something my mom told me when I was growing up. She said I couldn’t get married until I could peel an apple in one, long, continuous, curly strip. Now, at the time, I saw this comment as more of a challenge than anything else. I like challenges. So, every time thereafter when I had the occasion to peel an apple, I practiced the skill of being able to peel it in one piece. And I learned to do it because, well, it’s not exactly rocket science.

Today, though, as I was peeling the apples and my mom’s comment popped into my head as it does every time I peel apples, I recognized it immediately for the load of patriarchal bullshit it is. I imagined a home economics class in the 1950s where some matronly teacher in a prim and demure dress and a pressed and starched apron shared that little nugget with her all-female class. I imagined most of the women in the class, who were raised to believe that being a housewife and mother was the greatest calling a woman could ever aspire to, adopted that mindset and got busy peeling apples on their way to wedded, domestic bliss. I also imagined, though, a couple young women who, while not daring to speak their truth out loud, also decided this was a load of patriarchal bullshit and internally rolled their eyes.

It’s more than a little depressing to realize these little tidbits were doled out throughout history to keep women in line, barefoot and pregnant on the mommy track, and out of the working world. Well, maybe not barefoot in the 50s because women had to be made up and man-ready to meet their husband at the front door with his pipe and slippers in the 50s. I remember being incensed when I read works by Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, stories where proper, young women “improved” themselves by reading poetry and playing the pianoforte and practicing etiquette and perfecting needlework so they could make themselves the most attractive potential bride in the village so they could land a duke or something to elevate their status. In college, that really riled me up. And, I know what you’re thinking. But, but you quit working to raise children and make a home. Yes. Yes I did. Perhaps I sold my career potential a little short with that decision, but at least I had a choice about it, more of a choice than the women in Victorian England or 1950s America had anyway. I mean, I chose not to improve myself by taking home economics in high school because I felt it was demeaning and I didn’t care for the box that class would put me in. It was later on when I was on my own and learned that sewing might have been a useful skill and that weekly meal planning required more work than I had hoped.

So, I guess my point here (and I do have one) is that women have come a long way but not as far as we could have if we’d been given more choices and opportunities. But we still live in a patriarchal world. I mean, here I am on a Wednesday making homemade applesauce and trying to make sure I peel the apples all in one careful motion. We should do something about that. And about the patriarchy too.

The One With All The Memes

They say you can tell a lot about a person by the memes they save to their phone. So, here are some of my favorites. Enjoy this harmless peek inside my weird little brain. You’ve been warned.

This is groundlessness
My first love was an oxford comma
Sometimes Piglet’s inspirational wisdom is just annoying
Cheeses, this one is probably in my top 3
Story of my life thus far, but I am working on it
The hill I am willing to die on
It is possible to be an anxious person but not a worrier
Yes and yes
The older I get, the more this has proven true so now I do the things I don’t want to miss instead of overthinking it
This is so clever…and true
All the feels about this one
If you want to call, you have to text me first
My current mantra
yep
My prayer to the football gods every single football weekend
Definitely true
Hahahahahaha

There are so many good ones, but let’s not go overboard, am I right?

Putting On My Golden Wrist Wraps

I’m a wonder, a wonderful woman, and a Wonder Woman

I had therapy this morning. Yes. I start my week with a therapy session. It lets me recount my weekend and then try to approach the week with better self-awareness. Unfortunately, sometimes it is also exhausting and makes Monday a little more difficult. Today was one of those days.

We did an EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) session. During EMDR, we target a traumatic memory that continues to cause me anxiety decades after it occurred. I focus on that memory while watching light travel across a bar from left to right and back again repeatedly. I start by thinking about the negative memory and with each passing, short session of eye movement, my brain travels through the emotions of the memory guiding me to experience it again in a different way. I often cycle through sadness and anger before my brain at last hits on the reality behind the memory, diffusing it for me. It sounds hokey, but its ability to allow me to reconstruct my thoughts about myself and my difficult past are no joke.

Today we did some work to reduce my anxiety around other people’s expectations. I am a people pleaser. Not because I particularly care about pleasing people but because I was raised to believe that no one would or could tolerate me unless I behaved according to their expectations and wishes. This learned behavior, attempting to ensure others are happy even while I am making myself anxious and miserable, is debilitating. I am constantly watching other people’s expressions and actions, wondering what negative thing I did to cause them and then panicking about how to fix them so the person will accept me again. If a friend asks me to meet her for coffee to talk, my initial reaction is to wonder what I have done wrong rather than to consider she might just want to talk about something in her life and not some slight I have concocted. I end nearly every therapy session by apologizing to my therapist for rambling on and thanking her for listening to me. It’s absolute madness how my mind catastrophizes how other people view me. This type of anxiety is one thing I continue to work on.

At any rate, today I came up with a strategy that might assist me. I understand that I am not solely responsible for someone else’s discomfort or disappointment. Some of it is not a me problem at all. So I have decided that when I begin to feel that anxiety rising, when I start to feel the urge to bend myself into a pretzel to make someone else comfortable rather than letting them sit with their discomfort and placing myself as a priority, I need to put on my imaginary Wonder Woman golden wrist wraps, cross my arms in front of my chest, and deflect their expectations. I am not responsible for making everyone else happy at the expense of my own schedule, personal wishes, or sanity. I am allowed to expect others to be mature enough to handle their disappointment, frustration, confusion, sadness, or whatever. It’s okay for me to cross my arms and send their energy back to them to deal with on their own. It’s not selfish. It’s adulting. And I can also use the wrist wraps to stop myself from spiraling out of control when a friend says they need to speak to me over coffee. I can block the crazy talk in my head and recognize it as part of an old thought pattern that no longer serves me.

I know I am not the only woman who suffers from this affliction. Women are often conditioned from an early age to be pliable, amiable, and selfless. If we weren’t, why would the world constantly be telling us to smile more often? I would like to see more women, including myself, take a different approach, a healthier one. I would like to see us putting ourselves first more often, deflecting the expectations of others in favor of more self-serving pursuits. So, friends, let’s see if we can pull on our wrist wraps and protect ourselves, and each other, a bit better. We deserve the peace that derives from choosing our own way rather than caving to what is expected of us by others. I’d say we should act more like men, but the truth is we can do better. We can act like the wonder women we are and were always meant to be.

A Stone’s Throw Away From Compassion

I’m a little riled up over the continued erosion of the constitutional right guaranteed to women in 1973 courtesy of the Roe v. Wade decision. I can’t believe we are still talking about a woman’s right to manage what is going on in her own reproductive system. It’s 2021, but we seem to be moving in retrograde.

In 1973, there were nine men on the Supreme Court. Seven of them voted in favor of Jane Roe, and six of those men were Republican. But, for the past 48 years, conservative religious groups have made it their steadfast goal to overturn the decision of those men. And each and every year in recent memory, conservative states have worked to make obtaining an abortion virtually impossible despite its legality. From instituting mandatory counseling and mandatory waiting periods to discourage women, to slowly diminishing the number of abortion clinics (six states currently only have one abortion clinic) to create a logistical obstacle, women’s right to choose is slowly slipping away state by state. Outlawing abortion, however, does not solve the problem of unwanted pregnancies. We could greatly reduce the number of abortions in this country if we made reliable birth control widely available and affordable. But since many religious groups also believe any form of birth control is anathema and instead promote an abstinence-as-birth-control stance that simply does not work for most humans at sexual maturity, it seems to me that abortions must remain legal.

At its heart, the current abortion debate centers around the religious views of some being imposed upon all women, whether or not they hold those same beliefs. When Governor Abbott of Texas signed their latest, most restrictive anti-abortion legislation on Wednesday, he said, “Our creator endowed us with the right to life and yet millions of children lose their right to life every year because of abortion.” What does the “Creator” have to do with citizen rights in a country that was built around the separation of church and state? Religious communities have decided that life begins at conception, making abortion akin to murder. As a non-religious woman, however, I believe that life begins when the fetus is able to survive outside the uterus, which falls somewhere after 24 weeks in most cases. And, even then, a baby delivered at 24 weeks will need medical intervention to thrive. If we agree that a fetus is dependent upon the woman serving as host for its survival until it can viably exist outside the womb, then its rights should not surpass the rights of the woman carrying it. In this case, the chicken comes before the egg.

A plurality of Americans support Roe v. Wade, and a minority are pushing to expunge it. That seems undemocratic to me. If you think abortion is murder, don’t have one. No one is forcing you to abandon a pregnancy you would maintain. And unless your religious group is planning to financially support all the future babies it wants to save from abortion, then we’re kind of stuck because it seems the people who are against abortion are also against creating a welfare state or funding Medicare for all so the baby will have guaranteed healthcare or ensuring affordable childcare so women can work to support the life they must keep. Children are expensive.

I believe in the separation of church and state. I would deny no one their right to practice their own faith according to their beliefs. If you follow Jesus or Buddha or Allah or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it’s no business of mine. If your faith says abortion is a grievous sin, you are free to make your sexual and reproductive decisions accordingly. That said, however, I’ll need to you to keep your faith off the body of anyone who isn’t you. You have a right to your religious beliefs, but you don’t have a right to impose them on anyone else, least of all a woman who needs your faithful compassion rather than your judgment. After all, wasn’t it Jesus who said let he who is without sin cast the first stone?

Is There An Echo In Here?

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Which is smarter? Amazon Echo or my plastic IKEA houseplant? 

My husband is a geek. And he is becoming more of a geek with each passing year. In the past, I would never have complained about this because, well, he’s my personal tech support. He’s the geek I go to when I’ve already rebooted and don’t know what the hell to do next. He is the one who talks me off the ledge when my phone is doing that thing again. He totally understands what an HDMI cable is. I simply understand that an HDMI cable is. He’s all about embracing new technology. And, despite the fact that our house contains several plastic bins filled with antiquated tech (my kids tell me that is the correct term) that he still hasn’t taken to the electronics graveyard, much to my chagrin, I have struggled to make my peace with his curious addiction to the latest and greatest invention meant to make life better. At least, I thought I had made my peace with it. That was until the Amazon Echo arrived in our home early in 2016.

It seemed innocuous enough. One day he came home with this curious new speaker thing. I vaguely recall being a little peeved because, as I pointed out at the time, we didn’t need another speaker thing. Because of his tech addiction, we already had four wireless music players. That’s right. Four. This one, he told me, this one was different. You could talk to this one, like you do with Siri. He prattled on for a bit about how this was not just a speaker because this could also turn our lights off and on remotely. While he spoke, I went to my happy place because when something like this catches his eye the only way to get him to stop talking about it usually is to let him have it. So I did. I rolled my eyes, sighed and, like a parent accepting the stray dog her son brought home, told him Echo could stay as long as he took care of it.

Since that night, Steve has been working with Echo to transform our house into what I assume is supposed to be a much more convenient, high-tech haven. He started by adding the special light bulbs necessary and then programming it to operate our lights, at least in the living room and hallway. Then, against my wishes, he persisted in teaching me the commands so I too could turn off our lights by barking orders across the house.

“Alexa (for that is the damned thing’s name), turn off the LIVING ROOM light.”

Emboldened by the success of having this electronic entity controlling our interior illumination, he added more bulbs in our bedroom so we could yell across the room at the thing on the dresser to turn off the lights on our nightstands, a process that takes longer than simply reaching over and turning off the lights by hand. Undaunted, he persevered with his toy. I told him that the technology creeped me out because occasionally, for no apparent reason, Alexa will start speaking, telling me about the weather or giving me some random definition for a word about which I had not inquired. It all feels a bit Big Brotherish to me. He shrugged off my negativity. This is the future. He expects me to assimilate.

Last Christmas, Steve decided our son might be an ally in the ongoing Alexa battle. So he bought a $30 Hue light strip Joe could attach to his bunkbed, presumably so he could read in bed (ha), and he bought him the smaller Echo Dot which doesn’t have its own speaker. Joe seemed semi-interested in the technology aspect until he realized that the light strip made his bed feel like the tunnel between Concourses B and C at O’Hare Airport. Then he too noticed that sometimes Alexa would start speaking out of the blue. Unbeknownst to his father, Joe unplugged the Dot and tossed it into his closet where he found it creeped him out much less.

Undeterred by his family’s lack of enthusiasm for his home automation, Steve continued in his quest. He added more light bulbs to control in his office. He added another Dot downstairs so we could use it as an “intercom” to beckon the boys upstairs when we wanted them. (Side note: It turns out we never do this because we prefer to yield to the more organic and primal habit of screaming at them from the stairs as parents have done for generations.) He programmed Echo to interact with our smart Nest thermostat so we can shriek at her to turn our heat up or down. He set Echo so now if we bellow at her she will play Sirius XM radio on our Sonos system. Most recently, he’s connected Alexa to our home security system so we can clamor for her to turn on our home alarm. Never mind that, aside from the lighting, we are able to do all these things via our iPhones without caterwauling through the house.

Last night, I caught Steve asking to Alexa to do his bidding again.

Alexa…turn off the Living Room light,” he called out.

“Living Room doesn’t support that,” came Alexa’s reply.

Steve repeated the command more slowly and firmly, as if Alexa were a disobedient child who simply needed to be told twice.

“Alexa…turn off the Living Room light.”

“Living Room doesn’t support that,” Alexa replied again, rolling her eyes.

It occurred to me that perhaps Echo’s name is quite intentional.

“Alexa…turn off Living,” I said, remembering Steve had recently changed the command so it included both smart bulbs in the living room lamp.

“Okay,” she said, and the damn living room light finally went off.

“Sometimes you have to wonder just who is controlling whom,” I said and strolled smugly off to bed for the night.

Steve might have an overactive case of Jetsons envy. He longs for flying cars and homes equipped with every possible automation. And I get it. We Gen Xers are experiencing an amazing shift from our childhoods when we tuned in on one of a few channels on a cumbersome television box with a rabbit-ear antenna on top to watch George, Jane, Judy, Elroy, and Astro living in their sky home with their robot maid, Rosie, attending to their every need, to a time when home automation, or some semblance of it, is reality. It is exciting and fascinating, and it’s easy to get caught up in the Jetson fantasy in 2018. Still, my hope for the future is that the speed of advancing tech becomes so rapid that Steve is at last unable to keep up or technology becomes more efficient so I can stop commanding the black cylinder on my kitchen counter to turn off the lights that all three men in my house seem incapable of operating either on their own or with Alexa’s brilliant assistance. I am not surprised Echo was given a female name. If you want something done, you ask a woman.

Hell Hath No Fury Like Thousands Of Women in Pink Hats

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This is what democracy looks like 

Yesterday was one of the most memorable days of my life. It was not my first political march. It won’t be my last. But this one, completed with my husband, sons, sister, brother-in-law, sisters-in-law, and mother all united in this cause with me, was life altering. As we stood in the sunny cold of Civic Center Park waiting for the march to begin, people near us sang. An impromptu band formed when trumpet and trombone players found the tubas in the middle of the park. Signs were ubiquitous and mostly filled with positivity and love. Some were a little cheeky. Some were outright funny. Some displayed beautiful imagery and artwork. My fellow marchers were courteous, peaceful, and patient. The mood was ebullient. As more and more people gathered and the crowd swelled to well over 100k people, we realized were weren’t just witnessing something incredible. We were part of it. We weren’t demonstrating. We were showing the world what democracy looks like.

I’m not sure what I thought the new administration would say about the marches, but I guess I thought they would say something. Anything. My eternally hopeful side kind of thought we’d provided the president with an ideal opportunity to prove what he had said at his inauguration. He wants to unite us and he is giving our country back to us. It was a perfect moment to say a simple, “I acknowledge you and I hear your concerns.” I expectantly turned on the national news and waited. After Sean Spicer spoke bitterly about the dishonest media representation of the numbers gathered for the inauguration the previous day and left the podium without mention about the millions of marchers who had assembled, reality set in. The Trump administration had sent its own message. The president didn’t care about the millions of us who showed up to share our collective concerns.

 

I read a lot of negative responses to the marches during the hours that followed the press briefing. Comments like:

This is a one-time thing. They got their attention. It’ll end here. 

There is in-fighting among the Democrats. They’ll never come together enough to organize a real political movement. 

What a waste of time.

What was that supposed to accomplish? 

Comments like this might once have dampened my spirit, but now they have the opposite effect. Now that the march is over and we know haven’t been heard, now that I’ve had a chance to sort through some of the reactions to our organized actions, I understand how much easier it’s going to be for me to continue forward. I will engage in peaceful protest and political activism because mouthpieces like Rush Limbaugh think it’s okay to belittle women, by referring to us as “broads” and by dismissing our efforts as “nothing but a golden shower.” Because Michael Flynn Jr., our new National Security Advisor’s son, tweeted “What victory? Women already have equal rights, and YES equal pay in this country. What MORE do you want? Free mani/pedis?” I plan to show up regularly at my conservative senator’s doorstep to check in. And I will use my liberal elite education, status, and dollars to affect change because of inane comments like this one too:  “This public display should’ve been called the PMS PARADE  instead, more spot on and pissed off liberals at their most stupid! Poor Trump lit their tampon strings. God Bless Trump and family!” And shit like this and this and, especially, this will keep me fired up and ready to go.

I know there are men and women in this country who found the marches silly, pointless, infantile, and unnecessary. And I respect their right to express those opinions. I just don’t happen to agree with them. So, I took to the streets yesterday with a husband who thinks I’m his equal partner and who treats me with respect and decency. And I brought our sons because there were lessons to learn there about the price and the privilege of being a United States citizen. But I also wanted them to experience firsthand what happens when you marginalize, ignore, threaten, dismiss, denigrate, and in every other conceivable way piss off women, especially liberal elite women, the kind of women they will encounter in higher education and the workplace someday, the kind of women to whom they are related, the kind of women I hope they marry.

If there’s one thing I know about these women, it’s that underestimating us solidifies our determination and ignoring us increases our volume. This was not the end of it. We are not going away. Mock, ridicule, doubt, and chuckle about us all you want because you’re adding kerosene to our fire. As one clever marcher’s sign succinctly put it yesterday…

If you didn’t like my feminism under Obama, wait until you see my feminism under Trump.