The Best Parts of Being a Rule Breaker

best parts

Do you remember an exercise in school where the instructor asked you to make a list of things that would be easier if you were the opposite sex? What advantages do the opposite sex have?

Maybe you never did this exercise. I remember doing it in like middle school and then again in college. I remember some of the males answers had to do with the fact that men won’t hit a girl (that is not true and we know it), girls get things for free (drinks at a bar etc).. Some of the female answers included the fact that men do not deal with menstruation or labor and birth.

There are things I love and do not love quite as much about being the gender I am. For example, I could totally do without breasts. I think they are cumbersome and unnecessary. I look forward to having a different relationship with my breasts when I am a mother one day but until that time I have no need for them. Another example is dresses, love dresses. Comfy ones made of cotton or jersey, it is a whole outfit in one. They are easy and comfortable, dresses are great.

So again, before I go any further I want to acknowledge that dresses are for everyone and not all women have breasts and some men do. This post is about not fitting neatly into a gender box. I do not fit neatly into the box so I hear you. We are all worthy and whole just as we are.

So when I talk about the gender box, that box looks different based on your perspective. I am speaking about the box from the angle of normative white, christian, American culture and in those terms here are some ways I enjoy being a rule breaker:

  • Shaving only when I am in the mood. A guy once said something to me about how another woman’s arm pits that were maybe two days out from shaving were grody. Grody? Really? It was like being in middle school. I am not going to lie I did not meet this remark with compassion. I did not call him in which is something I totally preach about. The truth is in that moment I could have cared less about having that guy as an ally so I called him right out by making a comment about if she was grody than he was straight up filthy! I mean when was the last time he shaved his pits?! Gross man, go get a razor!
    I do not enjoy shaving and I made sure to marry a man that does not police my body. I do shave but like I said, only when I feel like it. I shave for me not for the world.
  • My hair. I have a pixie and it is everything. It is easy and it is easy and it is easy. I have a million reasons why I love this cut and they all come back to it is so freaking easy. When I go to get a hair cut it I get what the boys get. It takes about 15 minutes costs about 15.00-20.00 less (which is total bull) and I am on my way.
  • Bras. Don’t like ’em, don’t want ’em, go without them as often as possible. Now I cannot pretend to be some bad ass I don’t give a crap what other people say in this area. I totally wear bras when I do not want to. I hate it but professional standards are what they are for women and sometimes whether I like it or not I have to play by the rules. I will go out in the world with no bra without shame though.  At Publix, watch out! Therapy, no bra don’t care. Family dinner at a restaurant, my girls are free. Hanging out with friends, I hang out.
  • Domestic life. That is not really a thing in the traditional sense in our home. I do the chores I either like or don’t hate and he does the chores he either likes or does not hate. Luckily he hates to clean the toilet and that is not a problem for me and I hate to vacuum and he could care less. It works.
    I do not bake as we all know by now. Cooking is okay because it is not an exact science but if I don’t feel like I don’t and we either make do or he cooks. Nobody is forced into a certain role based on gender in this house.
  • Make-up. Pretty much not a thing for me. I will wear it if I feel like it from time to time but make-up is rare for me. I do like to paint my nails. I have a rainbow of choices when it comes to nail polish. Again, I keep up with my nails as I feel like it only which means at times I may have nothing left on my nail than a small single turquoise polish chip. My favorite part of my beauty routine is lotioning my face after a hot shower, I look forward to it everyday.
  • Clothes. I wear what is comfy and feels most like the person I am on any given day. That usually results in loose fitting jeans with a tank and possibly a cardigan (bra optional) or a loose fitting dress, or athletic wear. Comfy is key. 
    After reading all this what must your impression of me be? This girl is a total slob! Yeah, maybe, but am I any more slobbish than any of the men in your life who do not wear bras, or make up, or shave their legs or pits, or choose to wear comfy clothes, or hate baking, or have short hair? I am not a slob. I am my own definition of myself, and I do not fit neatly into a box, and the very best part about being a rule breaker is that  I am super fucking comfortable with that. So comfortable in fact that I make others uncomfortable at times, that is for them to figure out though.So in what ways are you a rule breaker? And who are you making uncomfortable with your unapologetic authentic approach to your life? You answer that question for yourself and know that you have a fan in me.

One Step Then Another

today and tomorrow

This photo/quote is the literal inspiration for this post. It is no hidden matter that I am heavily focused on personal growth. I am mindful of my journey at large but in order for me to constantly be changing and evolving I have to  be mindful of my daily strides as well. Little acts add up to big changes.

Here is what I did today that is part of the metamorphosis in to my tomorrow self:

Cleaned out drawers. I went through my sock drawer and got rid of all socks without pairs and all pairs of socks that are run down and no longer useful. I rarely wear socks anyway so there is no reason for the socks I do own to take up so much room. I addressed that issue as well which freed up an entire drawer in the dresser.

While on my cleaning spree I cleaned out my toiletries including old lotions, other skin care products, and make up. No need for old unused items hanging around the bathroom taking up space. It feels good to declutter.

Today I also made time for a friend and met a new little life that was brought into the world earlier this summer.

I wrote on this blog which plays a big role in my growth because it is a place for me process and release anything that needs a voice.

A was mindful of my nutrition.

I took time for creativity.

And lastly time with family, which technically has not happened yet because Todd is still at work. When he gets home though we will walk Lucy, eat dinner together, talk about our respective days, and spend time in the evening together.

I liked this writing prompt because it is all about being mindful and having purpose and intention in action which is so easy to fall away from. Always happy for the reminder.

Summers End

summers end

This weekend Todd and I will be taking our last over night beach trip of the season. We are going to see a band we have both listened to for years at one of the coastal amphitheaters and then going to the beach the next day. I am looking forward to it. We have had multiple beach trips with family and friends this summer, I think it is nice to finish off the summer with a trip for just the two of us.

There will be a little travel happening next semester but nothing compared to what we did last year. I have a workshop in October that will be held at the beach which I am looking forward to. Todd will be traveling to Nevada for work mid semester. Originally we talked about making a trip out of it but the timing is off and it sounds work heavy so he would not have much extra time to explore anyway. There may be another opportunity for travel with work in the future though and if that were to happen we would definitely both be going, it would be a big trip. I am not going to count that chicken just yet though.

We have decided to plan a trip for the fall of 2017 as a way to celebrate my graduation so that is something else to look forward to. We are thinking another mountain vacation but we have not decided yet. We could do Colorado or Oregon or maybe the New England area as well. The possibilities are many.

This week I have been finishing up all my final papers and tests. Next Tuesday is my official last day and I will have one semester of grad school under my belt. Hard to believe I will have just two more semesters!

I am meeting with my mentor next week to talk about post grad school plans. I am thankful for his guidance.

This has been a summer for the books. I can’t really even complain about the heat this year, most of the time I spent outside I was swimming. I also feel like I have grown quite a bit this summer and I think that is largely because I gave myself the gift of down time. The last two semesters I have been so busy that I don’t know if I was fully processing everything that was going on in my life. This summer was a much needed break, I am thankful for it beyond measure.

Congratulations You Have Created a Religion

coercion

I have never considered myself political. When I turned 18 I joined the republican party because that was my Dad’s party and what did I know? I did not follow politics, at most I would listen to my Dad’s opinions about this or that. “John Kerry is a liar”, “Bush is not as stupid as they think”.. None of it meant anything to me though.

I rarely voted and if I did it was for whoever Dad said was best because what did I know? No one I dated was particularly political so no one was challenging anything I was hearing, until my last partner before Todd. I will call him N. N was from South America, he was a citizen but no one in his family was. I watched for years while he tried to help them gain citizenship, it was a process that started before we were together and did not finally happen until years after we had parted ways, for the record he and I had been together for 3 years. He opened my eyes to how other countries view our country, he opened my eyes to other ways of thinking, he was the first person to challenge my father’s ideals, he was the first person to turn on my own political light.

I still did not consider myself a political person but suddenly I was aware of things I hadn’t been and once you see certain things they are impossible to ignore.

I am not here to say what my Dad believed/believes in is wrong, I am just saying I realized it was/is not right for me.

The rest of this story can be summed up by saying I still do not consider myself political in terms of belonging to a certain party in America. There is a lot about our political system that I think is unbalanced and I do not support any specific side as a result. I am registered no party affiliation and vote on the left. Where I do consider myself political is that I understand now being informed matters, who we elect matters, the social justice issues of our country and the world will not be resolved without macro intervention and the political system is a macro system. I no longer turn a blind eye, I can’t.

This election cycle was the first time I had gotten excited about a candidate. I really like the Obamas but I was not politically tuned in when he was running the first time so I was not caught up in the momentum of his campaign. This year is the first time I have been really paying attention, this is the first time I am listening to the messages. I was Bernie all the way. I liked that he fell outside of the party lines, I liked that he could not be bought, I liked his platform in terms of addressing social justice issues and the reform he was outlining.

I would not say I am Bernie or Bust but I can say as much I am afraid of Trump I also do not trust Hillary. Now that Bernie appears to be out I have fallen back to feeling pretty cynical about our options, that is just me and I am allowed to feel that way. If I vote there is a strong possibility I will vote Green Party, I have only just started researching Dr. Jill Stein but at first glance she seems more in line with what feels right to me.

What is bothering me is now that Sanders appears to be out is that there is all this shaming of his supporters going on. This fear mongering of “If you don’t fall in line with Hillary it will be your fault when Trump is elected.” This approach rubs me all kinds of wrong, the pressure, the attempts at control and coercion.. I was reading one such attempt to shame Sanders supporters and in the comments saw something that resonated with me.. The summary of what it said was, this is a guilt trip meant to force people to abandon what they believe in and endorse criminals out of fear, “congrats you have created a religion”.

Personally the only chance I think we have at true change comes from free thinking. Again I am going to reference a Tool lyric, Maynard got it right with “Think for yourself, question authority.”

I do not believe in abandoning what feels right to you just because it is not popular. I do not believe in surrendering to bullies. I do not believe that a two party system is enough to encompass the varying beliefs of over 300 million people.

I may not agree with all of my father’s ideals now that I am more politically conscious but there is one thing he taught me that still rings true. At the end of the day you have to be okay with you. For my Dad this time around that means not voting with his party which I know is really hard for him. For me that means doing whatever feels right for me.

 

 

Courage to Create

One of my favorites and I are going to an event tomorrow at the tea shop near the house. It is a writing workshop, she is the true writer – I just play a writer on this blog. The workshop is a Show and Tell where we are to bring an object, do the show and tell bit and then we will be given writing prompts once everyone has shared. As we are writing we will be given tips on how to improve our writing. I think it will be fun and different and worse case scenario it will give me an excuse to drink green tea.

I was excited to learn about this event, even more excited when I learned my girlfriend was interested in going, but now I am left with dilemma.. What on earth do I bring for show and tell?

Suddenly everything I own either seems insignificant or too personal to share with strangers (I laughed when I wrote that because that is literally what I do on this blog, get super personal with strangers). Regardless, I am now in a pickle. I remember being a kid in grade school and feeling like this about show and tell day, excited but anxious. Is what I bring in going to be cool enough? Will the other kids like it? What is everyone else going to bring? What do I say about my thing?

It is grade school all over. It is anxiety knowing I am going to have to share with strangers and anxiety knowing I am then going to write about it and possibly have to share that with the group as well. Scary! I do consider myself a writer, I write almost everyday, sometimes multiple times a day, and I need to write to feel balanced. I do not consider myself a writer writer though. Am I in over my head going to a writing event? No more than someone who does not consider themselves a painter painter going to one of those paint night events right? I mean this is for rookies, it’s for fun.

I am going to have to take sometime tomorrow morning and think on it.

I am glad I have people I can take risks with. I am thankful for all the creative types in my life, I have a lot as I naturally gravitate towards other creative beings. I am thankful for the time to be creative and have fun. I am grateful to live somewhere that grants me easy access to creative outlets. I am grateful for the courage to put myself out there even when it feels scary.

creativity

What’s Next

I am profoundly grateful to have a mentor on my social work journey. I have a few between my former intern supervisor and a few professors, and I am sure to accrue a few more while in my next internship. One stands out from the rest though because of the role he has played in my growth.

As I ease into the next phase of this journey I am thinking more and more about what comes next. In less than a year I will be an unemployed MSW, I will need a job! When I started undergrad I had a very clear vision of what I wanted to do with my degrees upon completion. Now as I reach the end of the academic part of my journey I realize I am not the same version of myself that I was when I started and as a result my vision for my future, immediate and long term is changing. As I become more myself and am figuring out what feels right to me within the realm of social work I am starting to wonder, where do I fit in?

I recognize that it is unlikely I am going to walk off the stage at graduation and land my ideal job, partly because I do not even know what that looks like right now and partly because I have to get there. Part of what may help me figure out what I want is by figuring out what I don’t and some of my jobs right out of school may fall into the don’t category, I have no way of knowing.

I have reached out to my mentor so we can talk some of this out. I would like to have some piece of mind so I will feel more open when I start applying for jobs in the near future.

I am grateful that I have someone to reach out to who is willing to sit in this with me and who I know will ask me the questions I am not able to ask myself about this right now. I am grateful for all of the mentors and guides and supporters and critics in my life. They all play an enormous role in my continued growth. I know I will land exactly where I am supposed to when I am supposed to get there and I am grateful for having that knowledge. I am grateful that knowing this to be true takes some of the anxiety away as I get closer to my next phase.

 

Intention

intention

I expressed gratitude a while back for the people in my life that make me safe to accept/feel love. Today I took a long hard look at what I need to be doing to be one of those people in my life. What do I  need to be doing for myself to make me feel safe to be loved by myself? How do I define safety?

I don’t have all of these answers yet but I am doing the work to get there.

What I do know is that this work is the key that opens the door to everything for me. I am on one side of a door, safety is the key that opens it, and on the other side of the door is every single dream I have ever had. Everything I have ever wanted, everything I have ever wanted to be, everything I have ever wanted to feel.. It is all right here, the only thing standing between me and everything is safety.

safe

Spoiled with Love and Bounty

spolied

I cannot lie I am feeling completely spoiled today. If only ever Friday could be some version of this.

I woke up early with Todd and watched the news/cuddled/played and joked. I got up as he was leaving for work and walked into the living room to find my soul friend on the couch drinking coffee and reading. I got some aloe juice and plopped down on the love seat in the sun room to take in the morning and talk with our friend.

After a while of conversation we got up, got dressed, and headed off to one of the local vegan bakeries for donuts. We picked out one or two we were dying to try and then rounded off the box we were purchasing with a few for Todd and my other soul friend who will be joining us for dinner and games this evening.

We left the market/bakery and headed over to the garden district for brunch. I rarely eat brunch, I am not a big breakfast/brunch eater, but the time was right and there was a cafe that does quiche so we brunched!

After some quiche, coffee, and kombucha we headed home with our bakery treasures to enjoy the rest of our day. My friend has been doing her musical work in the office while I write and read out in the sun room, in the background we are serenaded by Tibetan singing bowls.

While we were out at the various stops I picked up all the local community papers. I love reading local community news. so and so won the science award at the local elementary.. kale is making a comeback!.. such and such cafe will be hosting a poetry reading Tuesday night.

So here I sit, my vegan pistachio and rose donut (which yet is a total cheat but oh so worth it!), a cold drink. writing, reading, taking in the day, and thinking about the fun times to come.

Tonight we are having a dinner for our friends and a game night. Tomorrow we leave with our friend for the beach. Sunday I am attending a work shop in town.. Life is busy in a very fulfilling way right now and I am grateful.

Sacred Truth

sacred truth

It is no secret that I have been shut down to all matters pertaining to any form of theism for some time.

I have never believed in a God the way it has been explained to me. I enjoy some of the stories of the bible but for me that is all they have ever been, stories. I did belong to a formal religion for many years but my focus was never on the religious teachings, I can tell you nothing about the true essence of Catholicism because I know nothing about it, my purpose was one of human connection and community which I found for a while. I also experienced much pain in this place which I think was an important part of my soul’s journey towards its own sacred truth.

I do not have a name for the things I believe in, they are vast and contradictory at times, and some are still revealing themselves to me. I know things I cannot explain and I see symbolism all around me. The energy of the world directs me which is why I think I feel such a deep connection to my environment, humanity, and have so many life experiences that seem kismet. For now I am calling this work sacred and the truth I am learning is sacred as well.

I am currently studying Humanism, Agnosticism, Animism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sacred Geometry, the 7 Chakras, pieces of Christianity, and my mind is still open to more. Somewhere in all of this is where I exist on a spiritual level but it also beyond this. I find pieces of my truth sprinkled all over the world around me but so much of my truth cannot be spoken, just felt. There are not words for the energy that resonates in my soul.

This is the most vulnerable post I have written to date because there is nothing more sacred than what you believe in, whatever that may be for you. I can talk about my human struggles, the fact that I have experienced pain, and love, and myriad other human emotions but this goes beyond the human realm. I am not talking about the physical experiences of my body but that of my soul and consciousness. Speaking in these terms my body is nothing more than a meat bag that holds the very essence of my being. There is nothing more fragile and delicate than that.

I do not have this all figured out yet but I feel things waking up inside of me and everyday I feel the energy that connects me to the greater power strengthen. I do not know what that power is, nature, humanity, the universe, suffering, love.. all of it.. there is not a word for it because it existed before language.

I have spent well over 15 years calling myself an atheist because it felt like a fast safe way to shut down religious conversation that my soul was not ready for. I know now that I am not an atheist. I do not belong to any specific group except maybe the nameless group that can read this post and understand the language my soul is speaking.

The band Tool has a song, Third Eye, where Maynard sings a lyric, prying open my third eye.  I am not saying the whole song speaks to what I am talking about but that lyric does because that is what I feel happening right now. I feel an energy at the top of my body and everyday it grows stronger. It is as if I am trying to pry (or more accurately) gently open my third eye.

This is a very big part of the path I am walking through my social work journey, my therapy journey, and my journey as a human being. I know there are miles to go and this is not a topic I would typically broach especially when I am in such a vulnerable early stage of my understanding of it all. All I can say is that it was like I woke up with a song in my head this morning that I just had to sing. This post was that song and it needed to be written.

sacred work

How We Help

I feel like the universe has been sending me signs the last few weeks telling me it is time to write this post. It started a week or two ago with my mother, we were in the car running errands together and we saw a person sitting on a curb holding a sign asking for money/help.

This led to a discussion about what we both do in terms of offering help to homeless people we encounter in the world. Personally, I am one of those rare individuals living in this digital world that still keeps cash in my wallet, I give money, usually a few dollars. My Mom seemed surprised by this. She went on to explain how she would rather buy someone a meal than give cash because she is concerned they would use the cash to feed their addiction and she does not want to enable that behavior.
While I am making no judgement about whether her way of handling the situation is right or wrong I will say her answer did not surprise me. I will also say, and I admit this does come with a bit of judgment, I have never in my 32 years of knowing this woman seen her buy a homeless person a meal.
I mean it is a nice thing to say but if you have never actually acted upon it I think the appropriate response to How do you help the homeless? is I don’t.

I know why my response surprised my mother, because she and my father did not raise me that way. They raised me in the judgement place where all homeless people are addicts and we don’t get involved. Furthermore, my mother raised me to be a cautious woman because this world is not a safe world to be a woman in, so I am sure my engaging someone and giving them money scares her in terms of my safety. To that I say I understand her concern but it is my risk to take.

This week we (Todd, myself, and sometimes our friend who is staying with us) have been driving through downtown quite a bit. Our friend’s sister (who we are also friends with) is vacationing nearby right now as well so we have been driving over to her hotel to see her. One night when we were driving home through downtown there was a man with a sign walking through traffic while we were stopped at a light. I did not have my wallet with me.
A night or two later we were stopped at that exact same light and the man was there again and again I did not have my wallet.
This led to a short discussion with our friend about what her church family does for homeless folks which is care packages in the form of backpacks with filled with essentials from what I was understanding. I thought that was a beautiful idea.

I understand not everyone is comfortable giving money, I think a really important starting place in terms of helping folks who are homeless or out on a corner with a sign is not to ignore them as if they do not exist. I think acknowledgement is one small step in the right direction.

I don’t feel like I have all the “right” social work answers to speak to the needs of this population. I have done some work with this population while in school (serving meals at the shelter etc) but this population hits a little too close to home for me and I have not done my emotional work around it in order to feel like I could work with this group without having major boundary issues.

My cousin who was my first best friend growing up is homeless and has been since the age of 18, she is my age now. She is not an addict or a prostitute, she is not a criminal or an alcoholic. She has a mental illness and a long history of trauma. One of the reasons I give money is because every time I see a person with a sign I see her. That right there tells you my boundaries would be a mess, I know I project my own stuff on to this group of people as a whole. At the same time having someone I love and worry about living out in the world, often on the streets or in the woods, makes it so much easier for me to have love and compassion for those who are struggling. I am not passing judgement on this group of people, I just want them to be okay. The only way my cousin has been able to survive this long is because strangers have gotten involved and helped. I have to pay that back anyway I can. By giving money I am taking care of someone else’s loved one just like some stranger out there is getting involved and taking care of mine.

Another reason I give money, this speaks to my Mom’s concern about feeding a person’s addiction, I recognize that the money I give might go towards alcohol or some other substance, I also know that detoxing/withdrawals from alcohol can potentially kill a person, it is not something that a person should be experiencing on the street.

Ultimately when you pass by a person holding a sign you have choices, you can ignore them or engage, you can give them specifically what they are asking for or offer to help in another way. I am not here trying to make determinations about what is right or wrong, good or bad. This topic came up a few times recently and I felt the need to write. I choose to do what I do for very personal reasons in hopes that the energy I send out with this act will some how repay itself in the form of assistance for my loved one. Everyone has their own reasons for their actions and as a result the world still spins.

You Are So Much Just As You Are

capable

Yesterday one of my girlfriends from school texted me with questions about an assignment she felt unsure of. Of course I stayed in my bubble of safety in terms of academic integrity in my responses, what it came down to is that she was just overthinking it and needed some outside validation. I get that. I used to, and sometimes still do, live in that place.

When we were wrapping up or text convo one of the last things she said to me is that I was her “student goals”. I texted her back one more very important validation, You are so capable. I have never known you to get it wrong. trust your gut and instincts, I do.

I am her student goals. That is silly to me, not in a dismissive way, in a You are already there! way. I know she gets better grades than I do. She is in the honor society, I am over here getting regular old average A’s, not the A’s at the tippy top.

At the beginning of the semester I was sitting in a small tucked away lounge reading before class. This is part of my Tuesday routine, it helps feel grounded and focused before class begins. One of my classmates walked up and I waved her over to sit with me. She and I bonded last semester of undergrad over our shared love of working with older adults. We spent a little time catching up, talking about our impression of grad school so far. At one point she said told me how much she admires me and that I am the standard she holds her self to in certain ways when it comes to school and social work. I was flabbergasted. I reminded her of how much life and work experience she has and how much she has to offer a program like this in terms of intellectual contribution.

This classmate is in her 60’s I would guess. She has so much more life experience than I do which will make it feel natural when engaging with clients across the lifespan. She brings so much to the table.

I am flattered and humbled when I hear two strong women make comments like this but I am also a little confused.

My first friend I mentioned is in her mid twenties, is an activist for women’s rights, is intelligent, sharp as a nail, and probably towards the top of our class academically. She brings a lot to the discussion, why is she overthinking? Why is she experiencing the self-doubt?

I already mentioned quite a bit about my second friend. She also appears self-reliant, well-versed in matters of healthcare social work and life in general. She also receives high grades and I have never known her to get it wrong either. Why is she experiencing self-doubt?

I do not have the answer for each of them individually but universally I think we all do. Whatever out truth is it is in each one of us. Sometimes maybe it feels scary to admit that to ourselves though, even scarier to admit it out loud. Admitting out loud I know I am capable, I know my worth, I can do this and anything else, is a vulnerable declaration. What if someone says, You’re wrong. You are not capable, you are not worthy, I cannot do it.

To that I would say, why does that person get to make that determination for you? The only person who needs to believe you when you say I am capable, I am worthy, I can do this, is you. It is your truth, it belongs solely and wholly to you alone.

I do not believe that people would deliberately choose a life of suffering. That means that somewhere along the lines someone else made you feel incapable, unworthy, like you just can’t do it. That message was internalized and now it a toxic narrative you play on repeat in your mind. It is time to take that record off.

I say all of this while openly owning the fact that I still play this record from time to time. I am more aware of it and try to care for myself gently during those times. When I am truly ready to retire that old record once and for I know I will able to. I may not be there yet but I also know each day I am getting closer.

Labels

My soul friend has arrived!

Yesterday evening Todd and I went to the airport and picked up his best girlfriend from college who also happens to be one of my favorites. My soul was dancing inside my body the moment she joined us. We immediately began talking about books, and life, and all other things that felt good and right in the moment.

When we arrived home Todd and Lucy went to bed, he still has to work this week, but she and I stayed up. We talked all night until today became tomorrow and my heart felt full.

Our conversation was everything I love about a good conversation, it was deep, it was authentic, and it was limitless. One of the topics we broached had to do with how labels are problematic and how we both struggle with their existence.

It is the idea that instead of saying someone is a bad person it is often more accurate and kind to maybe say they had a bad moment. You did something bad, that does not mean you are bad. One is probably most compassionate just not to make the judgement at all, to maybe say nothing, or if you must say something let it be some form of I love you.

As a person who has been prescribed many labels without my permission I am well aware of how problematic labels can be. That does not mean I am always as mindful as I  could be though when it comes to placing labels on others.

Last week I deleted two people from my FB account because in my head I labeled them. Here is what is maybe closer to the truth in both of these cases, neither of these people are racists or homophobic, they did express privilege and prejudice that was a problem for me though. It was more than I could sit with. But still it is recognizing the difference between this person is a racist and this person is struggling with prejudice thoughts.  And the truth is maybe they are not struggling with their thoughts, maybe it is me that is struggling with their thoughts.  All I can do is be honest that those thoughts and comments made me uncomfortable on a level that was more than I could tolerate and rather than look at them as a problem I need to look within myself for what opportunity for learning and growth exists in this place of discomfort.

This is absolutely a growth piece for me. I say that in my career as a social worker I am not comfortable with diagnosing clients and that kind of centers around this idea of not wanting to label people but then here in my personal life I may do it without much consideration. I do not know that I will ever be completely without judgement, it is a lofty goal, but it is one I will work towards.

I will try to make a conscious effort to be more mindful of labeling which means recognizing that the men I encounter in life may not be sexist as much as they may hold some gender prejudices, and people on social media who I have previously looked down on as narcissists or vapid ninnies are just regular old people who hold different values than I do.

I guess that is what this really comes down to. People hold different values than I do and for some reason that makes me feel that I have the right to label and judge.

You are sexist. You are a narcissist. You are a bigot. You are homophobic. You are wrong. I am right.

I need to step back from this pattern of thinking. How can I really have compassion for others when I am playing this narrative in my head? I know I have made major progress in this area but there is always room for more growth. I think many of us have room for growth in this area if we are willing to look critically at ourselves rather than remaining critical of others.

I will be honest that this may be an uphill battle for me at times. I am an activist and a feminist and I have a tendency to get fired up and want to call things out. If I can learn to channel that energy in a truly positive way I bet there would be no limit to what I could accomplish.

This morning I grateful for time for quiet reflection, I am grateful for my soul friend and the lesson she brought me last night, I am grateful for time off this summer to recenter, and I am grateful for my ongoing journey.

labels

Thin Privilege

I am not going to open this box all the way. Reason being: I am not versed enough to have a firm opinion. I do think thin privilege is a thing, don’t get me wrong about that, but this particular privilege branches out and goes a lot of different places. I am not versed enough on all of it to fully unpack this privilege all the way.
Another reason for my trepidation, you cannot talk about thin privilege without talking about beauty standards and social messaging. That is a whole other can of worms I also do not want to open all the way right now.

With that being said, I did think about one aspect of the privilege today when I was at the store. This particular piece has to do with class privilege and how the two privileges overlap.

I absolutely have class privilege and I know it. Todd and I are in a position financially to travel, have a mortgage, a car payment on a new car, me go to therapy once a week, go out socially on the weekends, all while being a one income household. The privilege does not end there and I know it but this post is not just about how I experience this privilege.

What I was thinking about today was the intersection between thin privilege and class privilege. Some people benefit from thin privilege because of the access their class privilege gives them to valuable resources. Access to fresh produce and healthy food options, access to the healthcare system, and access to other resources such as gyms or other fitness options.

People who are marginalized in both of these areas due to low socioeconomic status and being considered fat by societal beauty standards suffer double discrimination.

Standards being what they are in America right now I am considered average size for a woman at a size 10. My access based on my class privilege would make it easy enough to lose weight and benefit from true thin privilege if I wanted to. There are plenty of people that do not have that same access.

There are movements right now that wish to upset societal beauty standards, I say more power to them! Beauty is subjective, why are there standards in the first place? If a person is comfortable in their body that is all that should matter. And if a person is not and wishes to make changes (ie: trans folks) we should be supporting them throughout not subjecting them to further marginalization.

That is not how society operates though and as a result a whole lot of people are seen as less than. To be clear this particular truth does not apply solely to this issue (thin privilege). Ethnic and cultural minorities are seen as less than because they do not fit the norm, older adults are practically invisible for this same reason as well disabled individuals. Not to mention anyone who has thin privilege but is nonconforming in another way.

Today I was at the grocery getting all of this health food for this detox I will be doing for the next few months. The fresh pressed Aloe I picked up cost 8.00 for a small container of juice. The coconut oil cost more than the other oil options in that isle. I had the ability to be selective though and pick out exactly what my doctor suggested. As a result I will be able to maintain a healthy diet and experience positive health outcomes in relation to my allergy symptoms. That is privilege.

This issue is bigger than just classism and fatphobia. I did not touch at all on disordered thinking as a result of social messaging around beauty standards. I also did not touch on minorities such as trans folks or chronically ill individuals and how they are impacted by these harmful messages about what beauty is. A lot of people are negatively impacted when you start down this rabbit hole. Which is why I didn’t want to delve too deep.This is maybe not my most thought out post but I had a small revelation that I needed to get out.

If you want more information about thin privilege here are some places to start:

This American Life: Tell Me I’m Fat
Go to http://everydayfeminism.com/ and search for “Thin Privilege”. It is sure to return results to expand your horizons.

Or check out just about anything by the super fabulous Lindy West.

Write What You Can Until You Can Write What You Were Always Meant To

trauma writing

I have new found gratitude for this blog. It has been an important part of my life for the last 4 years or so and this weekend I am looking at it through new eyes.

As a way to try and process some of what I am having trouble processing in therapy I have started writing down some of my trauma stories. It is as awful as it sounds. It is also enlightening, I have had a few break throughs already. It is also scary, it brings up a lot of difficult emotions and I am outside of my therapist’s office so that part is tough. It is helping me figure out how to show up for myself though and nurture the pieces of me that are experiencing those difficult emotions. It is a lot of things and we (we being me, I am not sharing this with anyone) will see how things go.

I have been writing in this blog, the brain work blog, for years and throughout this time I have gotten more and more comfortable expressing myself this way. I have always excelled at writing over verbal forms of communications, my brain seems to communicate much easier with my hands than my mouth. A piece of me wonders if a higher purpose for this blog was to prepare me for the writing I really needed to do in order to heal myself. What if this blog was a place holder until I felt safe enough to write down my real story(ies)? I have been real on this blog, I have gone to real places, but there are certain places I would never go. The luminescence of this space is not great enough to bring light to some darkness.

I find that while this kind of writing (dark writing that I am doing in another space) is difficult because of everything it awakens, it is also easier in a way. There is absolutely no filter. There is no thought to What will people think? Who may this offend? This part is too raw, I should leave it out. I am just writing. It is stream of consciousness writing essentially. I am recalling my stories exactly as I need to in order to get out whatever needs to get out. It is liberating and terrifying all at the same time. Putting words on paper gives them life, I do not want to breathe life back into some of these stories.

I think this is my way of releasing it though. Whatever it is. At the top of the page I write on I keep the quote, I will not self-censor, I will write my dark truth. This is for encouragement and accountability. I have to say it all, I cannot leave any part out. This is hard but I think it may be what sets me free if anything ever could.

Goodbye Old Friend

I mentioned earlier this year that Todd and I were making some changes in our diet following an illness we both had during the holidays last year. What I did not mention is the medical aspect of this lifestyle change.

When we got back from Chicago at the beginning of the year we met with our PCP to go over our labs from our annual check up in December. They weren’t bad but we could be doing better and we knew it. On her advice we made some lifestyle changes. Along with this I went to a specialist for allergy issues who (after putting me through lots of testing) is creating a treatment plan that further cements our commitment to this lifestyle change.

I have mentioned in the past that my immune system is not the best and it lets me down often. This year has been different. By this time last year I had been sick like 3 or 4 times, this year not once. That is a huge improvement. I usually have sinus infections all through the spring and summer and then the flu in the fall and winter. So far so good and according to my doctors diet is a big part of this up swing in my immune system.

I have allergies that are effected by what I eat and since so much of our immune system resides in our gut by making appropriate changes I am helping my body take better care of itself.

Here is the downer.. I just found out that both chocolate and wine are on the No-No List. Friday nights are never going to look the same. There is nothing I love more than starting off the weekend with a piece of dark chocolate and a glass of pinot noir. Now this is not to say I can never have these things again (everything in moderation), but they are cut for the next 6 months as my doctors attempt to essentially put my body through detox. Eventually they will be introduced back in but from now on it will be in small doses, this will never be a weekly ritual again.

Today I was counting my gratitude for my life guides. The physicians monitoring and guiding me towards physical health and well being, my therapist monitoring and working with me towards spiritual and emotional health and well being, my mentors and loved ones supporting me and cheering me on along the way..

I already am a version of myself I could scarcely dream of, the fact that growth is still happening and knowing that as I walk this path things will only get better.. I cannot wait to meet the woman I am sure to be a year from now, and 2 years from now, and on and on..

None of this was easy, there are still hard roads to travel. But a strenuous journey feels manageable when you know you are not alone and the path is lit with light and love.

Summer Days

Today was a day off. Last night the group I was part of presented on feminist theory and knocked it out of the park. The night before we went over personality disorders in psychosocial pathology. Tomorrow and Friday I will spend a little time getting ahead on assignments so as not to be bogged down while our company is in town. But today was a day for me and it was nice.

I woke up, wrote for a while, had some tea, watched some news, did some yoga and get up at my leisure. Then I went and met up with my Mom and the big kids. We went swimming and spent the rest of the afternoon playing games. We played hide and seek, bingo, mother may I, and red light green light. It is always fun getting one on one time with them. When my mom and I were taking them home we took turns telling each other what animals and figures we saw in the clouds, one of my favorite games from childhood – Isaac had a little trouble with it because he is a bit more literal but it was still fun, he thought we were funny.

I drove home with the windows down and sunroof open listening to some of my favorite hits from the 90’s, DMB, Counting Crows, Sarah McLachlan.. For once the weather was temperate with a breeze, it had stormed early which brought down the heat a bit.

When I got home it was still pretty out so Lucy and I went on a long walk at the park. At one point we stopped to give her a break, she is easily overheated and I don’t like to push. I sat on a park bench and so she joined me. I really don’t think she knows she is not a people.

lucy people park bench

We stopped at the dock as we were walking home and saw a bale of turtles. I looked it up and apparently that is the collective noun for turtles. There were eight that we (I) counted, that is the most I have ever seen and the babies were adorable! Can’t wait to show Todd when he gets home. I hate that he missed this walk, it was a good one. Wednesday is flag football night at work though so we will show him later.

lucy turtle watching

I am really glad I decided to keep my schedule light this summer. I have not signed myself up for anything outside of school and it has been a welcome break. This is the first time I have really enjoyed a summer in years. It has given time for travel, beach day trips, pool days, evening walks, concerts, nights out with Todd and with the girls.. I know I will not always have this much free time in future summers, I am taking it in and enjoying every moment.

Pen Pal

pen pal

When I was 14-16 I was part of a theatrical group that would put on musicals every summer. One summer one of the girls I acted with had a foreign exchange student living with her whom she would occasionally bring to rehearsals. This is when I first met Floria, Flo for short. Flo was from Germany and we were fast friends. I spent quite a bit of time with Flo that summer, we had a lot in common like our birthday for example. When Flo went back to Germany we agreed to write each other and this is how I became a pen pal.

I feel like pen pals are not something that exist in the traditional sense anymore. At most you might be pen pals through email but it is not the same as writing out a letter on stationary and sending through the mail. And there is nothing like receiving a hand written letter this way.

Flo’s letters usually came in bulk. She would write me over the course of a few weeks and send them all together. It was easier this way since we lived so far apart and the mail took longer to travel. She had lots of fun stationary and colored ink. She always sent stickers and photos. I did all the same in return.

This went on for about 3 years. Every year Flo would stay up late and call long distance to wish me a happy birthday on our birthday. I looked forward to her call every year, it was the one time I got to hear her voice and catch up for a few minutes by phone.

I still have my letters from Flo, one day I will share them with my children. I think all the progress I have seen in my lifetime is extraordinary although, it is kind of sad when you think of some of the special things that fall by the wayside as a result of progress. I mean I hear they are not even teaching cursive skills in school anymore. I kind of get it, is that skill really useful anymore? I don’t know. Penmanship counted for something during the days of pen pals though.

The “P” Word

proud

The image I chose for this post makes me really uncomfortable. I chose it for that exact reason, this post is about how that statement, “I’m proud of you”, makes me want to crawl out of my skin.

The first time I noticed feeling this way was in a post I wrote a while back about my uncle who is a nurse. He had a meaningful connection with a dying patient and I am pretty sure I said how his actions made me proud. Even then the statement felt condescending for some reason. I did not mean it that way and I think I even mentioned that in the post. I don’t know why this expression does not feel good to me.

In order to figure it out I did some online research, is anyone else having the issue that I am with this? I found these two articles that I kind of responded to.. The first one is more of a parenting article that discusses what to say to your child instead of “I’m proud of you”. I liked some of the points but it still didn’t seem to answer my question about why I am so bothered by this. The second hit a little bit closer to home. It talks about how pride is a growth word and it can feel super inauthentic and patronizing when coming from someone who hasn’t actually witnessed your growth.

I think my discomfort is somewhere in that place.

There is a girl that I was in undergrad with and now in grad school with and she throws this statement around like candy. It makes me super uncomfortable and I admit I kind of give her a side ways eye as a result. She has never said it to me and I am so glad because I think my first reaction would be, Um you don’t me.

My best friend told me she was proud of me when I graduated and was accepted into grad school. That time it felt good.  She has seen my bad, she is allowed to comment on my good. Todd once told me he was proud, but only after I asked. That felt good too. I trust him, he is allowed to say it too. Anyone else though, don’t go there.

Proud feels like a term of acceptance. I like what you did, I accept you, here is some praise over this accomplishment. I only want to here it from people who never put conditions on me in the first place.

I Know No Fear

fear

This week I went to turn in some documents at the agency I will be interning with come August. I have not been back since my initial interview and I am happy to report this meeting was far less intimidating. In hindsight I think a big part of what rattled me the first time I was there was just the absolute newness of it all. I have zero experience with this population or this specific field. I cannot impress them with my knowledge of HIPPA or my comfort with delicate end-of-life issues, none of that really applies. All I have is my character, the social work skills I have learned, and my eagerness to learn more, is that enough?

The answer to that question after my first meeting was I don’t know! I was definitely doubting myself and my abilities. Those doubts have definitely waned a bit in the last few weeks.

I am feeling much better about myself and my skills. I am also feeling more comfortable with the idea of working with this population. This is the population I fear the most which is exactly why I chose this placement, I need to work through whatever this fear is. I really do feel like if I can do this than I can do anything as far as facing my fears. I am staring down a dragon right now and somehow I will find a way to survive.

So this meeting went well. I got a second tour which helped me become more familiar and comfortable with my surroundings. I was able to ask more questions and build a bit of rapport with my new supervisor. I also got to see the facility when it was less busy which made it way less intimidating as well.

When I got home I learned that someone who I was in undergrad with has been placed at this agency for her grad level internship as well. This news put me over the moon. I do not know this person too well, we have had classes together but never worked together. I really like her energy though and have always been interested in getting to know her better. I am so glad I will be sharing this experience with her. I could see myself making a meaningful connection with her as well as the other people I will be working alongside at the agency.

What was anxiety about my future placement has now not only dissipated but completely transformed into excitement.

I am also excited about my classes in the fall term. This is where I will be learning to work with individuals, groups, and families. I am particularly looking forward to the groups and families classes as this will be a new avenue for me the explore.

I cannot believe that in a few short weeks I will be finished with my first semester of grad school. This semester started off heavy but I have my A’s and it is finishing up easy enough. In two semesters I will have my MSW. I will be a college graduate for the second time in a year. My twenty one year old self would not know me as I am now. Gratitude is not a big enough word for the fullness my heart feels.

What fear can’t I conquer? What obstacle can’t I overcome? I am so capable, I know that now.

Parenting Props

This weekend on three different occasions a theme presented itself to me. The theme being whether or not to openly voice opinions about the parenting style of others.

Let me go on record by saying I fall into the “not” category if the question is whether or not to do this. I may have private opinions but I would never make them public, I would never speak out because who made me the expert? I don’t even have kids!

So, here is how it started..

I read a story a local celebrity posted about how they were complimented on their child’s good behavior in a restaurant and how proud that made them. Personally, I was super uncomfortable with the story, here is why:

The specific compliment was how their child was acting like “such a lady”.. I don’t think I need to unpack that one, read any of my feminist posts and it is already covered.

Another compliment paid was how they were good parents because they were not using technology to make their child behave while in a restaurant. The people paying the compliment made it very clear what they think of parents who do this.

  1. You do not know a family’s story. The first thing that pops into my head is a personal example and that is children on the autism spectrum.  Don’t shame a family for using technology if it works, everyone is doing their best.
  2. I recognize that these people were not trying to shame other people for using technology, but rather pay a compliment to this family for not needing it. My thing is, it is not a compliment if it is cutting other people down in the process of trying to lift these people up.

Personally if I was the parent receiving the compliment I think my response would have been Thanks, but no thanks.

The next incident took place at the grocery. Todd and I popped in to get a few things on our way to a pool party.  I was in the deli getting humus when I got to bare witness to what I personally think was some pretty awesome parenting.

This dad was there with his son who was under the age of 5 and his son kept asking him for this and that. The dad stopped what he was doing (picking out potato salad), got down on one knee to be able to be eye to eye with his son, and had a quick talk with his son about it. It was discrete, if I had not been standing right next to them I would not have even noticed it happening, no one else in the deli seemed to. Here is what I liked about it:

  1. He got on his son’s level. He disengaged from picking out his deli selection and turned all his attention to his son who was asking for something.
  2. He explained himself and talked it out. He did not ignore his son, he did not pacify him by giving in, he did not dismiss him by just saying no, there was no tone of annoyance or frustration. They talked, he treated him like a human being, he did not patronize him just because he is a child. Respect, I like that.
  3. He did not make a scene and a result neither did his son. It was a total nonissue.

I was impressed. Did I say anything? Nope. He handled that the same way I would have but so what? That does not make him or me any better than any other parent trying there best. Also, and most importantly, this is none of my business. Just because it is happening in a public space does not mean it should be open for public opinion.

The third occurrence was a bit more involved.

We were at the pool with some friends, it was a public pool at a town home community. It was a busy day at the pool. The adults were on one end of the pool, the kids and families stayed towards the other end. About half way through the day a situation that was escalating on the family end of the pool started scooting closer and closer to us until it was happening pretty much right on top of where we were hanging out in the pool.

There were about 4 or 5 little boys between the age of 6-10 I would say, most on the lower end of that age range, one was clearly older than the rest. The older kid kept pushing the younger ones into the pool and in a way that seemed really unsafe. There were parents right there so while we did notice and were slightly concerned we minded our own business.

Eventually the younger kids were getting tired of it and tried to get away from the bigger kid which ended up with all the kids being right on top of us. That is when one of the dads got involved because these boys were being thrown into the pool in an unsafe way (one hit his head on the side) and right on top of our heads at this point. We moved to give the dad room to handle the situation. It was uncomfortable to watch.

We realized real quick the younger boys were his sons and the older one who was throwing them in and jumping in on their heads was at the pool without a parent. The dad first told his sons to stop playing with the older boy, that didn’t stop the older boy from coming after them. Then the dad escalated telling the boy that if he touched one of his sons again he was going to beat his ass. This still did not deter the boy and again one of the younger boys was injured while being pushed in. Finally the dad came over and told the older boy that if he touched one of his sons again he was going to drag his ass home and speak with his father.

The older boy relented but he found other ways to terrorize the younger boys (holding them under water etc) which resulted in the family with the younger boys leaving the pool. When all the kids were gone from the pool the older boy decided to leave too. This left the pool to all the adults hanging out.

One of our friends went over to one of their neighbors to ask about who that older kid was and why his parents were not with him at the pool. For about 15 minutes there was talk about bad parenting in reference to how the dad handled the situation, and there was plenty of judgement towards the 10 year old’s parents whoever they are because they did not accompany their kid to the pool. Todd and I were radio silent.

The whole situation sucked. That dad was doing his best. His approach may not have been mine but I was not going to have an opinion about that. And who knows what that 10 year old’s story is. Yeah, I don’t think it is safe to let your kid go to a pool alone, I also don’t think it is fair to make other adults parent your kid in your absence.. Still, I don’t know what that was all about. I was not about to say anything.

One of the people we were with had a lot to say about it, and I get it but it doesn’t change things for me. I am sure that dad’s number one concern was his kid’s safety, he was doing his best. And who knows why that kid was there unaccompanied but I am not about to tar and feather his parents either.

I would not pass judgement any quicker than I would pay a compliment when it comes to parenting. When you see a few minutes of an interaction or a snippet of a family’s dinner at a restaurant you are not getting the full story. You might have good intentions with whatever it is you feel the need to say but it is a case of intention versus impact. I just don’t think it is ever a good idea to involve yourself in business that is not yours unless a child or anyone else appears to be in serious danger or something.

I don’t know, I may have this all wrong. I am not a parent yet. This came up a lot this weekend though and I wanted to process it.