Mark My Words

I am on a feminist steak right now. My feminist flame always burns, sometimes it is a bonfire though. This project I am currently working on has definitely lit that fire back up real big.

I was reading a riveting article tonight about feminist history. A lot of the info I was familiar with but I had an epiphany while I was reading about first wave feminism.

First wave feminists were primarily white middle to upper class women. Now this was not exclusively the case but there was an unspoken rule that women of color were not welcome in this movement. I knew this was true but I never made the connection about what this actually means about women’s suffrage.

The nineteenth amendment was ratified in 1920 giving women the right to vote… kind of. White women gained the right to vote in 1920. Women from other various ethnic minorities gained the right within the following years but ALL women did not gain the right to vote until 1965 when the Voting Rights Act was passed granting all minorities the right to vote. women’s suffrage did not end until 1965 and even then there were major issues with access.

So here was my epiphany..  Mark my words that in 4 years there will be feminists, Allies, and women all over America who want to celebrate 100 years of women having the right to vote and I think that is crap. In 2065 let’s talk. It’s not a win for women unless it includes all women. I feel like celebrating in 2020 would be whitewashing history. It makes me think of Soujourner Truth’s speech, Ain’t I a Woman.

I identify as a feminist. I am not perfect, I may not always get it right, I try to be open minded to each feminist’s interpretation of feminism.. For me though, it is not a win unless it results in equality for all gender minorities. It is not a win unless we all benefit. What took place in 1920 was progress maybe but I just don’t feel like I can call it a win for women because it wasn’t a win for a whole lot of women.

mark my words

mark my words1

A Lesson in Communication

How appropriate is it that last night’s class session was all about communication and bridging the gap when communication breaks down?
I mean I thought it was pretty serendipitous considering the communication issues my group was dealing with and the need for us to get on the same page.

So last night we did an exercise in class where you have to get with a partner, someone you do not know, and do the following:

1st: Stand face to face close together – not so close that you are breathing on each other but close enough that you are kinda in each other’s bubbles.

2nd: Close your eyes as the professor walked us through a guided meditation all about our early childhood experiences. We had to think about being an infant and being completely dependent on our caregivers to keep us alive. Then think about being a young child and how everything you are learning about who you are is from those same caregivers.

3rd: We had to open our eyes, look at our partner and take a mental snap shot of them. Then we closed our eyes for another 30 seconds before opening them and going to a sit down together.

4th: Once seated we were instructed to tell one another our perceptions of each other based on our mental snap shot.

The exercise got pretty interesting from here. We processed it as a class once we were done and I think most everyone agreed that this part was uncomfortable.

My partner and I’s perceptions of each other appeared to be accurate. She was wearing accessories that were made of natural materials and the clothing she was wearing was made of comfortable earth tone materials. My perception is that she enjoys nature and seems grounded – she said that was right on.

Her perception of me was that I too enjoy nature, I am a creative/artistic type, and that I like to read – Yep, sounds about right.

As we are talking about our personalities and the activity we are instructed to do different things like one of us stand up while the other stay sitting, then it was turn your back to each other while still talking, then the big one that freaked a lot of people out.. hold hands and keep talking.

My partner and I didn’t flinch. We just kept talking through it all. We were having a really good conversation. The hand holding was kind of intimate but even that led to a great conversation about culture and social expectations.

So after this activity we did another as a class around defense mechanisms. My favorite defense mechanism is intellectualization because it is makes me think of Todd, he definitely leans on that one from time to time. The assignment was that we were to draw a defense mechanism and bring it to class last night then the whole class was going to guess which one we drew.

intellectualization

This is what I came up with. It was a big hit. The professor liked it a lot, I think maybe he leans on that defense mechanism too.

There was some awesome art for somatization and sublimation as well.

At the end of class my group got together to discuss our project and the role play we have to create. I was not looking forward to this but I knew I needed to keep an open mind. I am glad I did. The two guys in my group told the rest of us how they both feel in over their heads. The older one admitted he knew nothing about feminism and that it was a lot to try to understand in a small period of time – I get that, it totally is a lot to take in– the other one seemed a little more in tune with the essence of the theory but still a bit lost.

They were really honest about their struggles and I can have compassion and understanding for that. I explained the roots of theory being in conflict and empowerment, showed them some articles I found about intersectionality, and then the professor came over and between the two of us we gave a bit of a history lesson about the different feminist movements and how they are/were sometimes at odds with each other.

Our group got some important things figured out so we know how to go forward with the project and the guys were given some room to figure things out for themselves which I think they needed. At the end of class it was just the professor, myself, my girlfriend and the younger guy. The guy was saying how cultural competency is really important to him and how he wants to get this stuff right but how it is intimidating at times because as he has been trying to learn and grow he has also gotten his head bit off by a few feminists for getting it wrong.
He was allowing himself to be pretty vulnerable as he shared and I can totally empathize with wanting to get it right but not knowing what you just don’t know. I told him that as a woman I personally appreciate his effort. I told him that he would never be able to understand what it is like from my perspective but to even want to try to understand does deserve some credit and I appreciate his efforts to be an Ally. This led to a deeper conversation facilitated by the professor which ended on a really good note.

I think this exchange needed to happen both for this guy and for me. I was totally a feminist that was ready to bite his head off for some stuff that was happening. I am glad that instead we were able to have a conversation and find common ground. My calling him out probably wouldn’t have done anything to help him grow, hopefully this conversation did. I know it did for me.

Enlightened Men AKA the Male Feminist

femm4

If you remember last summer I had a rather sticky time dealing with a male colleague at school who claimed to be enlightened but repeatedly blasted me with microagression after microagression. From calling me a feminazi after my truth made him uncomfortable to commenting multiple times on my make-up free face and how sick I looked. It was one thing after another with him and for someone so “enlightened” he just did not seem to get it.

The good news is after that difficult summer he and I did find common ground. In fact, we were working towards it all summer I would say. To his credit and my own, neither one of us ever backed down from the discomfort of it all and by the end of the summer I think he “got it” a little bit better and I consider him a friend.

This summer is starting to feel a bit familiar for the wrong reasons. I am getting a very sick “I have been here before” feeling that relates directly to my experiences with this friend.

In my theories class we are working on a group project where we have to do research around a certain theory. One of my friends is in this class with me and we both agreed we wanted to be in the Feminist Theory group. When the sign up sheet was going around someone my friend knows walked over and asked if she would join his group. She looked hesitant and asked which theory he had chosen to which he replied Feminist. She told him that both she and I wanted to work on that theory and there were two spots left in the group so we joined.

I am still getting to know the people in this group other than my friend but what I can say so far is that this guy seems to be taking charge. What I have learned so far about him is that he claims to be enlightened, super interested in social justice issues, and may even identify as a feminist.

The other two people in the group are his friends. One of them made it quite clear that he didn’t care about which theory we covered as long as he was in his friend’s group. I get it, having group members you trust to do the work is important, but I also don’t really like it in this case.

The first night we were getting to know each other this man totally made a joke that generalized all women as moody and emotional. It put me in this uncomfortable place of feeling the need to throw him a noncommittal laugh because I don’t know most of my group members and I want to get along with them.. AND.. wanting to be true to myself and not laugh because that is not only not funny, it is offensive.

I chose not to laugh.

So here I am in a group where I am super excited about the work but kind of unsure of the members, with the exception of my friend.

It has been a week since the group formed. The guy who made the not-funny joke has been radio silent. The other guy has not. He has been saying a lot without saying much if that makes sense. I still have a pretty queasy feeling about all of this.

He sent a message the other day wherein he told us all which aspect of this theory he thinks the group should focus on, he then immediately said that we should all discuss our preferences as a group though and that he is not trying to influence or dictate as that would go against feminist theory. I was kind of impressed. Ok, maybe this guy gets it..

Then yesterday my friend and I, through a group message, were asking if the group was available before class to meet and discuss the project. We both listed what time we were available to see if it worked for the rest of the group. No one responded and that is fine, we would still see everyone in class in the evening. This morning I get up and see the guy who has had a lot to say did respond. He said that he was writing to let everyone know we will not be meeting before class and I have to say the message was kind of patronizing.. It ended with Mmkay? kay. Good.

I am trying to give room for the fact that I do not know him and he might have a silly personality which is why he chose to close the message this way but all in all the whole thing was dismissive. Excuse me sir, last time I checked you do not speak for everyone.

My girlfriend and I still might meet and decide to discuss the project before class. I think what you meant to say was, “I am not personally available to meet at that time”. To dictate that a meeting won’t happen though and speak for everyone? I don’t think so.

So this was kind of a long story leading up to this point, a man can say he is a feminist and that he believes in gender equality but he will never understand gender inequality from the perspective of women/gender minorities who experience it. He will always been in a place of privilege and power and I have yet to personally meet a man who was truly enlightened to these facts.

It is just like how I can want to be an Ally to people of color and the LGBTQ+ community but that is the most I will ever be, a straight white Ally. I will never truly know or understand the experiences of these groups of people, it is not something one can learn from research and reading. You only know by living it first hand which is something I will never be able to do. I can try to be enlightened, accepting, supportive etc. but I will never be more than an Ally at best.

I am not trying to vilify this guy. He is clearly well-meaning and wants to do the right thing, much like my friend that I had so many issues with last summer. The truth is I honestly don’t think people really know what the right thing is sometimes though and even if they do, do they have the courage to actually do it?

Like when his friend made the joke about women being moody and emotional, he could have said something. That would have made him an Ally.

This situation that I sometimes run into with so called “enlightened men” or male feminists reminds me of this article I read last year about well-meaning white people. I at least identify with the title because it is true, I don’t know what to do with “good guys”. Am I supposed to give this guy a break because he is trying? Should I ignore microagressions when I know the person is not deliberately trying to offend?

It is easier to deal with blatant sexism than this kind of “I am on your team but not really because I don’t know how to be” stuff.

He thinks he is an Ally while not realizing his approach thus far is putting the females in the group in a lesser position. He did this by speaking for all of us and by not standing up for us when given the opportunity.

I read something a while ago that I am thinking of now as I write this.. Unfortunately I cannot find it to share it but it talked about why more people (specifically women) aren’t feminist. The bottom line is because it is EXHAUSTING. It is exhausting to live as woman in a patriarchal society, it is more exhausting to acknowledge it, it is even more exhausting to try to do more than just acknowledge it.

I am tired.

I am tired of feeling angry when someone who IS NOT ME tries to speak for me.

I am tired of having to be your (the collective you) teacher.

I am tired of the labels that get applied to me without my permission and without any consideration for if they are ACTUALLY APPLICABLE or not based solely on the way I look.

I am tired of being afraid of the world.

I am tired of politely smiling when I feel scared, or offended, or uncomfortable because I do not know if I am physically safe to verbally express how I feel about whatever is happening.

I am just tired. All the time I am tired.

Here is the thing though, feminism is not a choice for me. I have to trudge forward everyday not just for me but for my niece, for my mother, for your mother, for my future daughter, for my homeless cousin, for my neighbor, for women who live no where near me and who I will never ever meet.. and not just for women.. I cannot be anyone’s Ally if I am first my own and there are populations of people who have far less privilege than I do, who are far more tired than I am, and for them it is not a choice either.

I am not mad at this guy, he is trying, just like I am trying, just like we all are. He makes me tired though, he does not lighten my load with his good intentions. Just like my attempts at Allyship may at times be misguided as well. And it breaks my heart to think that but it is just true.

I guess all we can do is keep trying but acknowledge that sometimes even our best intentions do nothing more but make tired people more tired.

 

 

 

 

Close to Closure

my own book

 

I have written many reflective posts throughout the four years I have kept this blog. A year from now I will be finished with school which means I will be closing the very large chapter of my life that has made up my time as a student.

That is not true entirely I suppose. I will always be a student, informally speaking. I will always be learning, growing, challenging things, philosophizing..

When I started this blog grad school graduation felt very far away, like something that would happen some day but no day soon. That is no longer the case and I am starting to come to terms with what that means. Lately I have been thinking about what that means in terms of this blog I have come to love so dear.

I have decided that when I am done with school this blog will be done as well. I started it with a purpose and its purpose will have been served at that point. This blog has come to mean much more than its original intended purpose but that is life, you plan for one thing and you always get more – for better or worse.

As I consider what next year will look like for me I also consider, somewhere in the back of my mind, what I will do once this blog has seen its last post. Two things come to mind.

One: I will start a new blog or journal. I have always been a writer. My need to write will not go away so I will find a way to quench that thirst. The details will be determined at a later date and shared.

Two: I will make a book. There are websites online that can be used to create a hard copy of your blog. I have decided that feels like the exact right thing to do when this blog has seen its final post.

I don’t intend to have much of an online presence after graduation so as to protect mine and my family’s privacy once I am a practicing social worker. As this blog has never been completely anonymous I think having a hard copy in lieu of leaving up the website feels better to me.

I also like the idea of having something physical I can hold to show for all the hours I have put into this blog. So much of my life lives on its pages, I look forward to being able to touch and turn those pages when I want to relive moments from this time in my life.

I have never made a book before, not even one on Shutterfly. I have no idea how much of a process this will be but I think I will be grateful for the finished product.

It feels funny acknowledging that these days as a student that felt as if they would go on forever are in fact numbered and few at this point. There is not much left, just a few months, so I will do my best to be present, grateful, learn, grow, and write as often as possible.

 

The Healing Properties of Salt Water

salt water healing qualities

My Papa used to say this to me when I was young. So did my mother for that matter but I am sure that was because he said it to her when she was little as well. He and my mother also told me that dog kisses healed wounds. I never knew whether to take this literally or if it was more metaphoric. Either way I believe them, salt water and dog kisses can heal all wounds, physical and emotional.

I guess I should count myself quite lucky that I live so near the beach and have an affectionate dog to cure me between trips to the ocean.

Todd and I will be spending almost every weekend in July at the beach, starting this weekend, and I can’t wait. This week Todd’s parents arrive for a visit. We will spend the weekend at the beach together. I look forward to stimulating conversations with my father-in-law, searching for sea shells with my mother-in-law, eating fresh scallops, and watching the sunset with Todd.

We are going to the beach Todd proposed at. As fate would have it we have visited this beach many times since that trip that changed both of our lives. It is a beach from my childhood. We used to stay at this yellow hotel that had a dolphin statue out front. It is the only hotel I remember from the many beach vacations of childhood, it was my favorite. For years I had not been to that beach but since our engagement we have had many opportunities to vacation there.

So this weekend we will stay at our beach with Todd’s parents. In a few weeks Todd’s best girlfriend from college will come to visit us with her sister and her sister’s husband. The weekend they are in town we will return to this beach with them. Then at the end of the month we are going to a concert near another beach.

I am working ahead on my assignments so as not to fall behind during this busy month. I think all this salt air will do me well, especially right before I start internship.

Siblings

siblings

This made me laugh because that was totally me as a kid. I used to sneak into my brother’s room when he was playing outside and play with his G.I. Joes and Lincoln Logs and then have to dart if I heard him come in the front door. I definitely got pounded a few times for snooping around in his room growing up.

So when Todd and I were having drinks with our friend over the weekend at one point we were talking babies, and family, and siblings. Todd and I are on the fence about how many children to have. I am thinking I could be pretty content with one, a happy little family of three with a dog. We go back and forth though, we have definitely talked about two for quite sometime as well. Todd and I were both one of two, we both have an older brother making us both the youngest. We both have good relationships with our siblings  but I don’t think it is that ideal of “my sibling is my best friend” for either of us.

My friend was one of four. When I was growing up I wanted one more sibling. I had this grand idea that if there was one more of us, preferably a girl, she and I would be best friends and she would always be on my side when my brother and I would fight.. Which was all. the. time.

So I asked her if it was like that for her growing up, would two of you gang up on another one etc.. She explained how having siblings is a built in friend for life. Relationships come and go but here is this person who has known you your entire life and they will always be there. Really good point.

My absolute favorite part of the entire conversation though was when I asked what was the most difficult part of being one of four. Without skipping a beat she said, “never being able to find matching socks”. I laughed so hard. I suddenly imagined her as a child sitting on the floor in front of a laundry basket rushing to get ready for church and not being able to find socks.

I didn’t say this to her but having fewer siblings may not have made a difference in this department. My Mom put zero effort into organizing socks when we were growing up. Socks were washed and then kept in a laundry basket where we could go dig for pairs. This might explain why I opted to go barefoot as often as possible.

Ultimately we will have as many children as we are meant to have. There is a level of planning involved and level of fate. There does seem to be so much societal pressure to have multiple children though and stigma involved in only having one. Societal norms will certainly not a play a role in our final decision, it is a lot to think about though.

The Music My Parents Gave Me

Music my parents gave me

I have my mother’s nose, my father’s teeth and toes, I get my coloring and blond locks from my Papa who also shared with me his crystal blue eyes. One of my favorite hand me downs though is my taste in music. While it has been influenced by friends and romantic partners over the years, I have my parents to thank for my initial introduction into what I now consider “good music”.

I was thinking about this over the weekend. We were at my parents house playing cards and drinking with them and my aunt and uncle. Early in the evening my mom asked that I put on Pandora with no mention of a specific station. As I was perusing her selection I landed on Creedence Clearwater Rival, a favorite of Todd’s, passed down by his parents. I realized real quick that station wasn’t going to work for me so I switched it over to Annie Lennox much to Todd’s chagrin. As I listened to familiar songs from my childhood, often signing along with my mother, I thought about how great an influence my parents both had on my musical taste.

So much of what I love, like really deeply love, was theirs first. In a way this music was a gift from my parents that I get to keep even long after their gone.

Together they gave me A-Ha, Tears for Fears, The Beach Boys, Nat King Cole, Bing Crosby, K.D. Lang, Natalie Merchant, Melissa Ethridge, Annie Lennox, Carly Simon, James Taylor, Willie Nelson,The Beatles, the Out of Africa soundtrack, The Mamas and The Papas, The Zombies, Fleetwood Mac and one of my all time favorites, Simon and Garfunkel.

It is a small thing but the music you listen to at different stages of your life becomes embedded in you forever. My mother listened to strong female artists with powerful messages and folk singers singing about love and peace. My dad listened to old crooners and upbeat 80’s music.

I think, even if just on some small level, this music influenced me. I hope my someday children have as much love for Todd and I’s music especially knowing that some of it will be music we pass down to them from our parents.

How Lucky are We Few Who Grow Up to Chase our Dreams

This weekend Todd and I went to dinner and then met one of favorites my for drinks at a local bar. My friend is leaving tomorrow for Japan and I am so excited for her. I have never traveled abroad but I just feel certain in my soul that you cannot visit another culture and not be changed by it in some way. I cannot wait to see who she comes back as.

We spent the evening underneath the soft glow of twinkle lights sitting on antique and imported furniture talking about life, human nature, and what our city has been through. It was a good night and I was grateful for her company.

Saturday Todd and I got up early and walked into town. He needed a haircut and there is a new juice shop we have been dying to try. He got an almond concoction that was surprising delicious, I got a cold pressed juice that was chocked full of delicious fruits and veggies like cucumber and apple to name a few.

We sat in the shop for a few minutes talking with the people behind the counter. They let us try a shot that contained turmeric, lemon, and I forget what else. It was bright yellow and about knocked us over. It was potent. One would never need coffee in the morning if they had this stuff around. It was good though.

While we walked home from town we passed by the park next to our home and stopped at a bench under one of the laurel oaks for a while. We talked about the next few years and day dreamed together. I think this time next year will mark a big transition time in our lives together. We sat in the shade holding hands, looking out over the pond, and I thought to myself, “this moment is my dreams coming true”.

He is everything, our life is everything, my friends, my family, my education, this life.. is everything. I am so grateful.

Sunday evening we went to the vigil downtown. We arrived early and sat in the grass watching everyone else arrive. The sense of connectedness was palpable. It felt like the night we went to Bernie Fest times 100. Flowers were passed out, there were rainbow flags, and rainbow everything for that matter. Right before the vigil started they played Imagine by John Lennon over the speakers in the park. That was all it took, the tears started welling up in my eyes. As an idealist that song is like my anthem.

The vigil was beautiful. Todd and I did not even realize how many people were there until we were trying to leave. We were so close to the stage we had no concept of what was going on behind us.There were 50,000 people present according to the news and I believe them. It was outstanding.

As we sat there next to the lake waiting for the vigil to start, listening to John Lennon, all I could think is every single person taken from us had dreams just like Todd and I. They had a vision for their future. How lucky are we who get the chance in life to chase after our dreams. How lucky are we few who get to see our dreams come to fruition. My heart is still heavy but I have gratitude for this life and for dreams come true.

dreamerdreamer1

I Don’t Believe in Monsters

monsters

I have spent this week still reeling from the amount of suffering going on around me, my own and everyone else’s. To see the out pouring of love for our community from around the globe is so beautiful but it also makes me feel like the heart of the world has been cracked open and mankind is letting out one collective,harmonious, tragic wail. Not just for us, not just for our tragedy in our community, but for the suffering of all mankind.

I know in times like this people often try to make meaning of it all. It is a way to help cope with something that you cannot understand, explain, or control. But I just can’t.  cannot make sense of violence. I cannot make sense of how little respect is given to life.

When I was little I cried over the death of frogs and lizards that were tortured by horrendous neighborhood boys, I once tried to save a turtle that had been hit by a car and left to die, I cried when I learned the beautiful trees near our home were to be chopped down for road expansion. I have never been able to sit with the kind of suffering that comes from a human being deliberately acting out in violence against another living thing.

I have always believed that there is no such thing as a bad person, not in isolation. No one can be all of one or the other (good or bad), we are all both all the time. Knowing this as my truth tells me that this person who did this and any other person who causes suffering through violence has light in them. There is still room for love here. I think that is what I most want to understand when things like this happen, where is their light? I know it exists. And what happened to them in their life that led them to this destiny? Understanding that, for me at least, helps a little.

I have been a member of HRC for years and one of my favorite quotes the organization coined is, “Love Conquers Hate”. For that to be true that means that we as a human race have to always meet hate with love, every single time. To me that doesn’t stop at trying to snub out this violent act of hate with an outpouring of love and support for our community. To me it means we have to learn to love those who willfully hurt us. That is how love conquers hate. Hate is rooted in fear, only love can speak to that.

I have been trying to find compassion for the man who hurt us. I have not been talking about this openly because we are all still in so much pain and I don’t want to be misunderstood and hurt anyone further. This is how I deal with things like this that I just cannot understand though. I do not believe in monsters. I resent the very suggestion that any human being, no matter what they have done, is any less than a human being. When we call someone a monster we make them into this scary thing that can gobble us up and it just isn’t true. He is not a monster, he is human being who had his own fear and his own pain and somehow it grew so big that for a moment in time his darkness was bigger than his light and he was consumed.

My heart is still so broken, our community’s heart is broken, our nation’s heart is broken, the world’s heart is broken. It was not just this man who broke our hearts, it is every person who has ever and will ever act out in violence against another living thing.

The thing I have to remember to be able to survive in a world filled with this much pain and suffering is that those who mean to hurt us are hurting too. The people who break our hearts have broken hearts too. There are no such things as monsters, only human beings who are afraid and hurting and I can always have compassion for that.

monsters1

Orlando Strong

I don’t know how to write this post. I feel like anything I could say right now would feel small and insignificant. In America everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news about 9/11, I think for those of us living in Orlando we will always remember where we were when we heard about the tragedy that befell our city.

Sunday morning I got up early to continue working on a paper. I had been writing silently in the kitchen, Todd still in bed, for a half hour when my phone went off. It was my brother-in-law in Chicago checking in. I thought this was a little strange. I don’t often get random “checking in” texts from him plus, he is an ER nurse and often works an over night shift so this was a weird hour to here from him as well, he should be in bed.

He got right to the point, he wanted to make sure Todd and I were okay, he had just gotten off a shift and was watching the news which was covering a story in Orlando. He went on to tell me there had been a mass shooting at a local club called Pulse, he wanted to make sure we hadn’t gone out the night before. I told him we were fine and that I had not heard that story ye. I made a comment about how Orlando was getting a lot of bad press this weekend, the day before a signer had been shot and killed after a concert at a local venue near where we live.

We exchanged a few more texts about how school was going for me and work for him and that was that.. Or so I thought.

I went back to writing my paper and about a half hour later Todd got up, it was close to 8am I think at this point. I told him I had been texting with his brother and relayed the info his brother had shared with me.

Up to that point I had not given any of it much thought, I hadn’t gone online to look anything up. We are like any other city, there is violence on the news everyday. I guess I was more desensitized that I realized. I thought, we thought, this was going to be like stories we had heard before about gun violence downtown. We were wrong and in a matter of minutes our reality was flipped on its head.

Todd turned on the news and there was our mayor, our mayor who is our neighbor, we see him around town, sitting next to us at dinner, at community events.. There he was telling us that 20 people had been killed and 40+ people were injured and at ORMC. We were stunned, we just looked at each other, our eyes opened wide, our mouths open. I stopped writing my paper.

Within an hour the number of victims had grown from 20 to 5o… 50.

I watched with Todd in horror for another 30 minutes as more and more of our local elected officials spoke about the attack on our community, more specifically our LGBTQ+ and Hispanic brothers and sisters. Like so many others in my city my heart wailed, it was inconsolable. I let myself cry and then I pulled myself away. I had to finish my paper, I was up against a deadline.

We left the news off the rest of the day only turning it on periodically to hear the President’s address or the latest update. On breaks from writing my paper I would go on FB to share any pertinent information about resources and services that were being made available. The social worker in me took over for a bit I think, I tried to stayed focused on what was being done to help. I deliberately did not read the stories of the victims as they came out, I did no research on the event of the night, or the gunman.. I tried to stay focused on how to help.

Yesterday I watched the news, I let myself hear about the victims, some of their stories.. I cried most of the day. When I got to school I cried in the parking lot for 15 minutes before I was able to go in. Then I realized it wasn’t just me. My friends and I consoled each other, some of us cried. It still does not feel real.

There is a feeling of helplessness. I have heard people talk about this when something tragic happens in their community but have never experienced for myself. We have come together as a city, as a community, to fight against that helplessness. Between the resources made available, blood donation, vigils.. We will not stand idly by.

Tonight I hope to attend a vigil on campus. Sunday there is a candle light vigil being held downtown that Todd and I plan to attend..  I don’t know what else to say. Our city’s heart has been broken and I think we are all struggling together to mend it. All we can do is try to take of each other now.

Thank You Anne Frank for Reminding Me Why I am Here

i am brave

Today was intense. Tonight I got into bed and picked up The Diary of Anne Frank and on the first page I read,

I hope I should be able to confide in you completely, as I never have been able to do in anyone before, and I hope that you will be a great support and comfort to me.

Immediately I put down the book, I knew what I had to do. I went back out to the living room, got the laptop and climbed back into bed so that I may sit here and write about my day.

Today I had my interview with the agency I will be interning with for the next two semesters. I am intimidated, I am doubting myself and my abilities, I feel vulnerable and exposed, I am scared.

So my dear blog that has been with me through these last 4 years of school I hope to be able to confide in you and I hope that I will find the support and comfort that I need as I have so many times before with you.

Today when talking to my Dad he told me I was brave. Brave.. Not a word I have ever used to describe myself. I don’t think once in my life I have thought of myself as brave. I mean, I am always afraid of something. I am jumpy and skittish and easily startled. I get rattled and keyed up and while it may not show on the outside, on the inside I am filled with fear and anxiety.

Today I was filled with insecurity and fear and I know today will not be the last time I feel this way. There is a chance I might feel this way most of my internship, I have really pushed myself outside of my comfort zone here.

The only thing I can say about it right now is that I think I will just have to try to be in tune with these feelings, find out where they are coming from and try to use them as part of my growth. I have a formal support system through supervision, seminar class, and my professors who I can process with. I also have an informal support system in my family, friends, mentor(s), and therapist. I am supported. I am not alone.

I wasn’t going to write about the interview or if I did I was going to leave out some of the parts that made me feel overly vulnerable. Thank you Anne Frank for reminding me why I am here, why this blog even exists. This fear is a really important part of my journey and I will leave no part out. This internship is not going to look like my last internship, it may not be as warm and fuzzy and I am may not be as comfort or confident.. That is okay.

I may be afraid but I am not letting my fear stop me from doing this and that in itself is brave I guess. I can be brave. I am brave. I am brave.

I AM BRAVE.

 

Beauty is Everywhere

bob ross

The Joy of Painting is on Netflix. I remember my parents watching Bob Ross when I was a kid and I hated it. I thought it was sooo boring! And I can’t be certain but I think it got in the way of Saturday morning cartoons or something. My Dad used to watch This Old House on the weekend too and when I was a kid I thought he did it on purpose just to torture me.

I am really glad Bob Ross is on Netflix because I get a second chance now that I am old enough to appreciate why he is awesome. He is such a happy dude, it is so fun and peaceful watching him. I am totally pumped to paint again too. I haven’t painted since graduation, I am ready.

So I mentioned I started to read The Call of the Wild.. That did not work out. Chapter one was rough.There was a lot of neglect, abuse, and abandonment going on and you are inside the dog’s head hearing how he is processing all of this. It was way too much for me. I finally got through the first chapter, I thought I was out of the woods but then it got worse. There was a super graphic dog fight scene and that was it. I called it without getting more than a few pages into the chapter.

I can’t believe Todd read this book as a child. If I can’t tolerate the subject matter there is no way my sensitive childhood self would have been able to handle it.

Anyway, I was bummed because the writing is good and the story is interesting but I can’t handle the level of violence.

So last night I picked up Catcher in the Rye and read a chapter out of it but I don’t know if I am in the mood for Holden right now either. I think I might have to go back to the bookshelf and see what else I have.

Tomorrow is the interview with the agency for field placement. I am nervous not about the interview but about the agency. I deliberately pushed myself far outside my comfort zone with the hopes for major growth and learning opportunities. It is scary though to walk into something completely new and different. I keep telling myself I can do this and I need to just let it be whatever it is going to be. I knew when I made this decision that I was going to feel a real lack of control associated with being out of my comfort zone, I feel like I just need to lean into that uneasiness and let go.

I still can’t believe I am a grad student. At what point does that sink in? This is all happening fast. What a ride this life has turned out to be.

Enjoying the Balance

Book Options

This weekend I caught up with friends I have not seen in a while. Friday I spent time with my two classmates and former professor turned mentor and it was great. I was so excited to see them, it had been a while. We all spent time talking about what we had been up to and we talked about social work of course, it was really nice. I missed my people.

Saturday Todd and I spent the day cleaning for company we were having in the evening.

As an aside, I have to say doing chores with him makes doing chores so much less miserable. We have so much fun, it reminds me of the scene from Mary Poppins where the kids are tidying up the nursery and suddenly doing that no longer sucks. It’s like that.

So, that night a couple that we are friends with came over for dinner and cards. We had a nice time catching up and sharing stories. This was our first time hosting them for dinner and one of our friends mentioned how impressive our collection of books is, he was particularly impressed that we had a copy of The Divine Comedy. I laughed and admitted sheepishly that we have not actually read that one yet, but thanked him for the compliment all the same. We (we being me, him, and his wife – Todd was in the backyard grilling vegetables) started talking about what we like to read and how often we read etc. My other friend, his wife, who also happens to be a social worker, expressed surprise about how much I read. She said that when she was in grad school she never felt like she had the time for leisure reading.

I totally get that. That has definitely been true for me at times. There have been semesters when I didn’t feel like I had the time or more accurately, the time existed but I did not have the energy. Between school, internship, volunteering, studying, writing papers, my personal life.. Whatever it is that is filling my time really.. It can feel like picking up a book for leisure just feels like one more thing to do rather than a means for escape.

Catching up with friends this weekend reminded me to be grateful for this downtime. Downtime to catch up with friends, write in this blog, sleep in, watch a movie with Todd, work on school work during the week rather than on the weekend, go to a poetry reading with a friend, and read a book.

Last night as we were getting ready for bed I went to our bookshelves and picked out a few titles (I couldn’t quite decide what kind of mood I was in). When I got to the bedroom I decided on The Call of the Wild. Todd read it as a kid and told me a bit about it, I was sold when he said it is written from the perspective of the dog.

This week will be busy with interviews, assignments, meetings, and Isaac’s sleepover. Grateful for time to balance all the things I need and want to do.

Inspiration Porn

I read a story this morning that made me want to crawl right out of my skin. It was a person of privilege “trying to educate others about homelessness”. Um No. It was a person of privilege writing a long involved story about how they are such a good person for buying a woman who appeared to be homeless a meal from a fast food restaurant.

There was even a picture attached (of course there was) of the person of privilege embracing the woman in question. You know what there wasn’t, anything that even remotely resembled an educational piece. And even if there had been, this is still not okay.

I am highly offended by inspiration porn (in case that wasn’t already clear) and I know I am not alone in that. I think anyone who shares that opinion with me probably has their own reasons for feeling the way they do about it, here are some of mine..

  1. It is a way for a person of privilege to make themselves feel better about their privilege/life by pitying another person.
  2. It can put undue pressure on a person who is seen as “inspiring”.
  3. It negates a person’s actual lived experience because they are not the one telling their story. Someone else has hijacked their story/life/image etc. and is using it for a “teachable moment” or as inspiration for others.
  4. There are major issues with consent.

Again, there are so many more reasons why inspiration porn is problematic, these are just a few of the reasons I hold issue with it and these reasons are personal to me – they hit home.

There is a person in my life that others have used as inspiration porn (whether this was intentional or not I cannot be sure) and it hurts.

It hurts the person being used.  I have seen it put pressure on this person to perform because now people are watching and they are counting on you to inspire them. It is a pressure not to fail, you are no longer to allowed to have bad days, or make mistakes. You have to wake up everyday and be the hero because that is what is expected of you. And keep in mind, this person not only did not ask for this they did not give permission.

It hurts that person’s support system who then becomes invisible because the message is “this person does this inspirational thing all on their own”. If it was acknowledged that there is an entire group of people behind the scenes helping this person function that wouldn’t pack the same punch, would it?

Inspiration porn romanticizes other people’s life experiences.

Phrases like “Supermom” to describe a mother who appears to do it all, or maybe talking about how a person “pulled themselves up by their boot straps” in reference to a person of color accomplishing something that the rest of society did not expect of them due to a stereotype, or making any other generalization about an entire group of people, or minimizing any part of a person’s existence to “just this piece” whatever “this piece” might be.

It is offensive and it needs to stop.

One last important piece is that of Consent. Consent is an important part of the discussion here. I read a story last year about a woman who decided to take it upon herself to “help” a man in a wheelchair at the grocery store. This man not only did not ask for her help, he actively refused it. But she insisted because she is a good person.The entire story outlined how she completely violated this man’s free will because she clearly saw him as a pitiable object incapable of surviving without her intervention. Um how about Consent!

At the beginning of this post I talked about the privileged person who bought the woman a meal and took a photo for her FB page so she could tell everyone how she is such a good person.. Well in her post she mentioned that she “didn’t even realize that her friend who was with her had taken the photo”. First of all I call bull on that. Second, I am willing to bet the woman receiving the meal did  not know the photo was taken. You have just blasted this woman’s image all over the internet saying that she is homeless and begging for food, the post even talked about how the woman smelled.. WTF about this is okay? Hello?! Consent!

Yeah so that is all I have to say about this for the moment. This issue is much bigger than the fragment I have touched on, here is something I found on Everydayfeminism.com/ that paints a bit of a broader picture.

i-am-not-your-teachable-moment

Happy Endings

happy endings

I was breezing back through some of my posts recently. I do that from time to time. I find it really grounding, especially when I am not feeling super centered. It helps me see my growth, literally, because it is all laid out here for me. A few years ago I know that at times I would lead from a place of judgement, judgement of others but more importantly judgement of myself. A few months ago I took a complete hiatus because sometimes that is what life requires. A few weeks ago I graduated from college, the me who existed before I even started this blog did not believe that was possible. A few days ago I felt completely disconnected but found my way back.

I may say this blog is about my experience as a returning student, and yes that is true, but this blog is about me. It is about my life, my growth, my agony, my joy. This blog is about how I experience the world and how that changes over time.

I think the one constant that remains through all my growth and change is my idealism. I have been an idealist my entire life, it is one of my favorite things about myself. When I feel unsure of myself or the world I always feel like that is one thing I know.

So when I was recently passing through old posts I noticed something. One of the tabs on my blog is labeled How the Idealist’s Brain Works. It is a play on words relating to the title of the blog itself, and here is something I can tell you about how this idealist’s brain works.. I believe in happy endings. More accurately I believe in happy everythings, not all the time, but in general I do. The same with happy endings, maybe not all the time, but in general I do and this blog is proof.

I took notice of how I end so many of my posts..

I am grateful for this minute, hour, day, week, month, year. I am grateful for this breath and the knowledge that in the next everything could change.

As I step back and look at the people I am surrounded by I am so grateful for all these strong, passionate women I get to have in my life. Women who feed my soul. Someone once told me that it will be women who save the Earth and you know, I am inclined to believe them.

So yeah, today was a bit of a mess in terms of cleanliness and neatness of attire but none of it seems to matter when I am sitting in my hub’s lap in a glider eating coconut ice cream.

I am really excited about and grateful for the time we will get to spend with her this summer. I am thankful to have people in my life that I feel excited about, she is certainly not the only one.

I spent my time supporting those I love, allowing others to support me, dancing, talking, hugging, laughing, writing, painting, in quiet reflection, and cloaked in love.

It was a great night. Talking, laughing, listening to music, and creating. Recently I was talking with someone about painting and other aspects of creativity and just how vulnerable being creative can feel. I know that for me it is maybe not something I could do in the company of just anyone, but her company was perfect.

I too am grateful to have found someone who made it feel safe for me to accept love. I am grateful for all the people in my life who have made me feel safe to accept love.

Grateful for my triggers, grateful for my support (within and without), grateful for love (within and without), grateful for this sucky day.

I am grateful for family, friends, a partner to experience life with, the ability to travel, and quiet time for reflection.

I am grateful for the constant change in my life. I am grateful for the last two years. I am grateful for all those who have crossed my path, walked it with me, have given me darkness, and given me light.

I am certainly grateful for good books, art supplies, and the ability to travel.. It all adds color and beauty to life.

I am grateful.

I believe in happy endings. As I read over these endings I see/feel love, support, acceptance, gratitude, light, reflection, more gratitude, authenticity, joy, excitement, more gratitude.

Not every post ends this way because I feel how I feel each time I write and there is no mandate that a post has to end well if I don’t feel well. That would be inauthentic and forced and that is not me. AND THAT is the whole point. Inauthentic and forced is not me. These are my happy endings, they were never forced. I am gratitude, I am love, I am reflective, I accept and give support, I am joy, I am excitement, I accept myself, I am light.

I am an idealist and I believe in happy endings.

 

When Anxiety Attacks

blurred lines

I am just going to put it out there, today has sucked so far. This post is all about this day sucking. Choose to stay if you want, there will be glimmers of light somewhere in here because there are always are but mostly it will be me listing my grievances.

Let’s just get right into it.

This morning was so suck that 15 minutes in I decided to go back to bed for 20 minutes and start over.

Grievance 1: Starting the day on the Wrong Foot

I was not ready to get up, that was my first mistake. I should have stayed in bed a little longer and eased into the day. That is what feels good to me. If I wake up by an alarm or because I feel I have to due to an obligation, I am a completely beast. I realize that is not a nice thing to say about myself but all the fragile pieces inside me know it’s true and are all shaking their head in agreement. I actually am a morning person, I am my best self in the morning – when I get to get up on my terms. I am the best version of myself in general in life when I get to do it on my terms. I think that is a pretty universal truth for people.

So, this morning I got up before I was ready and in a way that did not feel good (pretty much throwing myself out of bed) because I wanted to be the one to greet my parents dog, who is staying with us, and wish her good morning. Todd was already up and moving, I knew this would wake her up, I wanted her to be greeted with a familiar face and love so I got up.

The next fifteen minutes played out like this: The dogs got rowdy, stayed rowdy, fought over food, and Scout (our house guest) pooped on a rug – this was after I had let her out TWICE.

I preceded to handle the poop situation and then throw myself back into bed and pull the covers over my head.

20 minutes later I woke up gradually, stretching and rolling around, doing pretty much anything that felt good and comfortable. I was ready to start over.

The morning picked up from there. I was in a much better frame of mind to interact with the dogs, I was able to have some meaningful time with Todd before he left for work, and overall I just felt better as a human being.

Grievance 2: Dog Problems

Once Todd left I plopped down in the sun room and started studying for some online quizzes I need to take in the next few days. The dogs decided to join me which was fine until they started to become distracting. I could feel my frustration start to build but I was able to focus in and get through the readings.

Once I finished studying for the first quiz I pulled it up to take it, I wanted to get through it while the information was still fresh in my mind. It was at this moment both dogs decided to have a massive melt down. They both started running around the house scream barking at the top of their lungs! Really guys? Realllly?!

Grievance 3: Quiz Error

In the midst of the dog chaos I managed to get through my quiz. However, when I was about half way through I noticed an error on the quiz that impeded my ability to answer the question. It is an online timed quiz so I decided to finish the rest of it and then email the professor about the error. So far the error impacts my grade, I am hoping after discussing it with the professor my grade will be corrected.

Grievance 4: Financial Aid Screw Up

I feel like anyone that has ever relied on financial aid in order to be able to attend college can empathize with the level of shear terror I felt this morning when I realized there had been an error with my financial aid. The error is that it was not disbursed and that my tuition and fees are now over due. I am in the process of working this out with the school and have been assured it will be fixed but I am not going to lie to I flew into a full on anxiety spiral for a good five minutes when I first realized there was a problem. Nothing a good hard cry can’t fix.

Grievance 5: Academic Integrity and Boundaries

This is what ultimately inspired me to write the post. Although looking back on everything now I have to admit the scenario I am about to share really has nothing to do with my day sucking at all, it was just an anxiety trigger on an already tense day.

Anyway, here it goes..

So after waking up in a less than ideal way, going back to bed to start over, managing dog chaos, quiz errors and financial aid hiccups, I was feeling a bit wound up. (Understatement of the year and I know it.)

While I was waiting on hold with the financial aid office (for 45 minutes!) I was also on FB writing a message to a classmate who I knew was having similar issues with financial aid. After I finished the message, while I was still on hold, I noticed a notification pop up telling me that someone had posted a new thread in a closed group I belong to with a bunch of other classmates. Since I was on hold anyway I opened up the thread and was instantly horrified with what I saw.

**I feel like I have give a disclaimer on this next part.. I am not accusing anyone of doing anything wrong, these are just my reactions to the situation and everything I feel/say are being run through my own subjective filter.

Ok so, I open the thread and it is a classmate expressing concern about an assignment we are all currently working on. This is pretty common. We really like to commiserate, I am included in that we. Misery does in fact love company and knowing that you are not the only person lost or freaking out does help one to feel a bit better.

The post from my classmate did not follow the typical pattern of venting a frustration or other emotion.. it went on to essentially say “this is my answer, what is everyone else’s answer?”

This is when alarms started going off in my head/gut. This assignment she is referencing is not a group assignment. It very clearly states that we are not to collaborate in the assignment description.

All I could think was What is she doing?!

And not in a judgemental way, in a scared you could get in trouble and I don’t want you to get in trouble way.

Now I know when it comes to ethics/integrity I can be a bit rigid. That is a protective piece that is trying to keep me safe and I just have to have gratitude and accept that piece of myself. I know that everyone in life is on a spectrum and that some people may not see an issue with this thread, in fact clearly that was the case because people responded to the thread outlining the answer they got etc. I am not here to make that decision for anyone about whether the thread is right or wrong. I am talking about how it’s very existence made me feel.

So while still waiting on hold and in an already pretty extreme state of anxiety because my day has sucked, I started to respond to the thread.

This assignment is really intimidating, I totally agree. I am definitely feeling a bit lost and not super confident in my ability to diagnose yet. With that being said, I think we need to be careful though. I think it is wonderful and super important that we support each other, however this assignment clearly states it is not collaborative. I am concerned that this post is maybe dancing a line.. I just don’t want anyone to get in trouble.

I sat with my response for a moment weighing all the possible outcomes of what hitting submit could mean. Then I had a moment of clarity. All my anxiety from the day and the especially the last 20 minutes leading up to my response dissipated and a wave of calm flooded over me. I deleted my response without hitting submit.

Boundaries. This has nothing to do with me. It is not my responsibility to educate anyone on my definition of academic integrity. This thread existing does not impact my own progress in the program. This does not belong to me so I need to stop trying to hold it.

I care about many of the people who posted on that thread. And personally I think while the very existence of the thread is a problem in terms of academic integrity it is not my job to make that determination for any of these people I care about. They are all adults, they all know the rules, no one forced them to post on the thread, it is not my job to protect any of them, there is no evidence even showing they need protection.

I just had to back up and calm down. It felt like my entire day had been leading up to this triggering moment. Like the Universe was testing me. I think I passed.

While I was writing this post I walked away for a while because a dear friend called. I expended some of my anxious energy processing my day with her and received some validation that I was OK. I had already validated that for myself but I am never above accepting outside love and support.

So everything went along as it was meant to. All fires, real and imagined, have been dealt with. And I have the rest of my day to breathe and recenter. Today I think that looks like cleaning and painting while listening to soothing music.

Grateful for my triggers, grateful for my support (within and without), grateful for love (within and without), grateful for this sucky day.

Our Neurotic House Guest

Oh my stars give me patience and compassion!

My family is taking a weekend trip so Todd and I opened our home to my parent’s adorable pug. She is small with a curly tail and she snorts – A LOT. She is about as cute as a dog could be AND she is one of the most high strung dogs I have ever met.

The last time she stayed with us I had plans for a girls night out that I ended up changing to a girls night in just so Todd wouldn’t have to spend multiple hours alone with her. She is too much. Small doses are better.

She has been here all of twenty minutes and she has spent the entire time snorting around in every nook and cranny of my house looking for dust bunnies to eat. For the last few minutes she has been hacking on the most recent one she consumed.

She does not let you know when she needs to go out, instead she will just poop on a rug.

She gets into everything which means the house has to be on lock down when she is here. She is the dog that would come strolling out of the bedroom with dirty underwear around her neck in front of company. She is shameless.

I love this dog though. She is all of the things above and she is affectionate, funny, playful, and super agreeable.

I know her being here will change the dynamics in the house for a few days but I would always rather her be here than anywhere else when her family is away.

scouty

Music Under the Stars

under the stars

Summer started with a bang. One week between the BSW program and the  MSW program resulted in me hitting the ground running, or maybe more accurately I never stopped running. Either way I am excited that now a few weeks in I have started to find a pace that seems to work.

I am not volunteering this summer which was not an easy decision for me to make. I know Hospice has needs and I miss not only the people but the work itself. Knowing that I only have a few months before my clinical internship starts though I decided I really needed to set sometime aside for me. This semester is already busy because I am taking an extra class, I need time to just be in order to feel ready for what comes next.

So between the reading, and writing, and studying, and actual face-time in class, I have widdled out some time for things that are just for fun.

I have sectioned off time during the week for creative time, be it writing or art, reading or anything else. It is free time for whatever feels good in that moment.

Todd and I have also planned some adventures. One will be with friends. As I mentioned in a previous post one of his best girlfriends is coming down for a visit and we are both excited about that. I know we will go to the beach for a few days while she is here, everything else will be a fun surprise. I can’t wait to see what new recipes she brings with her. One of the first things she usually does is hit up the whole foods store and then she precedes to make all kinds of interesting creations that are far above my level of creativity in the kitchen.

His parents have also said they might visit which would definitely include another beach trip. That one is still up in the air but I hope they lean towards Yes.

We just had Maddie stay with us for her summer sleepover wherein we took her to a farm. It was super fun but that is a post for another day. Isaac’s sleepover is in a few weeks and we are looking forward to having time with him as well.

The big one as far as planned adventures go will come at the end of the summer. Over the weekend we bought tickets for a concert that will be near one of the beaches south from us. I am so excited. It is a band we both have been listening to since middle school but have never seen together. We will sit on blankets under the stars, listen to a great band, then get up the next day and spend the day at the beach. I have done all this before with my girlfriends when I was single, I am glad to have this experience now with him.

The last trip comes right at the end of the semester which I think will be a welcome break before the next semester starts and life really speeds up.

I am grateful for family, friends, a partner to experience life with, the ability to travel, and quiet time for reflection.