Archive for category thoughts

True Feminist View on Motherhood

As the infamous exchange between Gloria Steinem and Jennifer Aniston at the Makers Conference  is getting a lot of news attention I feel a desire to speak out on something I see happening recently in the world of feminism that concerns me.

All of my life I knew that having children was not for me. I didn’t play with baby dolls, I wasn’t a teenaged babysitter and I never dreamed of how many kids I wanted, what sexes or what to name them. This was never something I questioned about myself. That was just the way it was for me. However, 10-15 years ago when I was in my early to mid-twenties and married I began to get the constant, “When are you going to have kids?” I abhorred that inquiry. For one, that’s an incredibly person decision and not something I feel that as a society is an appropriate thing to ask someone. Second, I hate the way it is worded with such certainty. It always felt to me like the real question was, “You’re a woman with a uterus you must fill it, when will this happen?” At first I wasn’t shy answering that I didn’t ever plan to have kids. Before long, the shocked stares, the looks of disbelief and the flat out responses of how selfish that was and what kind of woman was I (yes, someone actually said those words to me) beat me down to become afraid to answer. I started feeling like I needed to explain myself or give an acceptable reason for my choice. I had to frame it in a way that everyone else could approve of my life decision.

However, now, a decade later on the odd occasion I’m asked about having kids. (Unfortunately, people do still ask.) When I express my lack of desire to procreate, I rarely get a sideways glance. Something happened to change the expectation that all women should want and have children simply as a biological imperative. I am no longer being viewed as if something is clearly wrong with me because sleepless nights, breast feeding and diaper changes were never something I was excited about. While it is nice that this societal pressure has been lifted and I should be relieved and finally feel validated instead I’m seeing a new troubling trend.

I’m witnessing a bizarre feminist backlash against women who are choosing to have a family. I see glares of disapproval when a woman expresses excitement to get married and have kids. They’re being accused of not being a “strong, independent woman”. That now somehow wanting to settle down into family life is the death of self. Suddenly, motherhood and marriage are bondage and the sacrifice of the feminist ideals. If your dreams don’t involve world domination than you’re letting you whole gender down and spitting on the graves of those who came before. Why does every woman have to aim for a life less ordinary as if being content, secure and happy are no longer acceptable. You must want more! Why? I’m no more comfortable with this disparaging of women by other women than when I was being told just the opposite.

To me, feminism is about a woman having the strength of character and will to make her own decisions regardless of society’s expectations of them. Whatever those life choices may be, not just what is en vogue. Yes, fewer and fewer of my generation are choosing to have families and the generation behind us are even less likely to do so. However, I feel that shaming those women who do want a family is just as anti-feminist as it was to shame me for my decision not to a decade ago.  Let’s find a way to support each other whichever lifestyle we feel is right for us. Making that choice for oneself against social norms because a woman feels it is right for her is true feminism.

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My Boys

I don’t know how it started but from an early age I noticed that I was more comfortable hanging around with boys. I don’t mean that in any sexual way at all; I was too young to think about that. I was able to be more open with boys and could get dirty and play without feeling weird about it like when I was with the girls. This feeling never left me. But it did complicate my life a bit as I grew older and boys and girls playing together turned into a more complex situation. Regardless of said complications I always seem to be a one woman show in a group of boys. Some of the more cynical people will think that I just liked the attention that comes with being the only girl in a room of boys but that truly was never it. I just always felt like I could breath better around them. I found that they helped me build myself and become a whole person. The group itself changed and evolved few times as people just naturally come into and out of your life but to me they are all still collectively “my boys”. They have most directly made me who I am today; they are my soul.

The first group of “my boys” all lived in a neighborhood called Willowdale. There was Eric, Matt, Aaron, Mike and Seth. This started when I was in middle school and ended about my sophomore year of high school. They taught me how to have fun and how to stay close friends no matter what other drama was going on. They really were always there for me. Two main events stick out in my mind: My family returned home from vacation to find our house had been robbed while we were away. Every one of them called and checked on me, offered to give up their big “sleep under the stars” night and make sure I was ok. This may not sound like much but keep in mind these were middle school aged boys, not generally know for their selflessness. The other was one night while I was on my way home from a friend’s house my dad had gotten sick and had to be rushed to the hospital. They couldn’t wait for me to get home so they just went. Consequently I get home, find out what has happened and have to sit alone at the house terrified. Matt made his older brother drive him over to my house- with a Big Mac- just to cheer me up and hold my hand. These and many other memories of my time with them are so precious to me and still bring warmth to my heart.

The next set of “my boys” I met my sophomore year of high school one night at a party as my current boyfriend dumped me and left my friend and I without a ride home. The tallest guy I’d ever seen says, “We can take you home.” So I asked around about him and his friend and the general consensus was that they were good guys, so I leaped. They called themselves The Four Horsemen in homage to Notre Dame. I still can’t even type that without smiling. (They even had sweatshirts). Max, Alex, Rob and Chris become my constant companions, friends, protectors and the most important people in my life. Max and I each wore half of a ying-yang necklace. One year for Christmas I bought each of them an ID bracelet engraved with their nickname… I wonder if any of them remember that? I can’t possibly express how much I loved them or how much they impacted my life. As close as Max and I were though, Chris is the one that I wouldn’t be the same without. Truly, next to my father and my husband no living soul has played such an important role in helping me grow and making me who I am.

Then in college came Jared, James, Ryan, Steve and Tony. They were the artists who made me feel safe enough to explore expressing my self through my writing. They taught me the importance of being completely honest in my work and loving life, full force, arms wide open. They are the ones I feel I have most let down, the ones to whom I need to apologize. I let myself slip away and get lost when my father died. But it is because of them that I continue to force my self through this and find my way back to the artist within that they found and pulled out.

I have been lost and lonely a great deal lately. I struggle daily with my desire to write and my desire to hide away from the world. I feel unloved and unworthy of love because I know that I am no longer the girl all these wonderful boys once loved. I am ashamed; so I hide. But it is the memories of them and the way they loved me and touch my heart that guide me to what little strength I do have left to fight it. To tell myself that I am worthy and I can be who I want to be not the sad lonely abused little girl life has left behind. I will be the girl they loved again someday.

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Sometimes It’s OK Not to Write

For 7 years now I’ve been trying to sit down and put into words how it feels to have lost my dad. I try to think of a powerful poem or essay. I want it to not only express the great loss I feel but emotionally connect with anyone reading it. I think of metaphors I can use; like the stripped mine that was once filled with gold and is now empty.

I’ve been trying to force myself to pour my soul out onto the page like I have so many other times. I can’t. I just can’t. Is pain is more than words can possibly hope to convey? Am I just not as talented a writer as I think? Am I not ready? What is this roadblock that has been stopping me from doing the one thing I feel most strongly about for 7 years now? Fear. I know that there is no way I can possibly depict in words the absolute horror I felt when he died. The loneliness, despair and heart ache was overwhelming. How do I take all that and try to find a few words to clearly represent it? Then I begin to fear that if I try I will fall short and in doing so I will leave the impression that I didn’t hurt as bad as I did or that I didn’t love my dad as much as I did or that he wasn’t the most important person ever in my life. I fear I will fail, because I will. For 7 years I have set myself up to fail and knew it.

But how, as a writer, do you not write about the single most important event in your life? How can you be honest with anything else you write when you are so obviously avoiding the most powerful emotional experience you have ever had to weather?
As a writer you are taught that these moments are gold. You are to take them and exploit them for every little drop of emotion and create from them a lifetime masterpiece. We are taught as writers that writing itself is the best therapy there is. But I just can’t. Not only can I not write about this I can’t seem to allow myself to write about anything else until I have. So for 7 years I have struggled with this. I have refused to sit down and really write anything because I can’t write this.

I have to allow myself a pass on this one. I have to find a way to say that it’s okay for this one area to be off limits. I have to get past feeling like not writing about him is dishonoring him. I am not hiding from the pain. I am just realizing that words could never do justice to that part of my life and that it’s okay.

Maybe someday. Maybe someday I will be able to pay true homage to him, my biggest fan, but I feel that in the meantime not writing at all is an even greater affront to his memory.

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I, the Athiest

“I contend we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods , you will understand why I dismiss yours.” – Stephen F Roberts

Yes, I am an atheist (gasp). I know what you’re thinking and no; I am not cruel, heartless or evil. I do not cheat. I am not a liar. I am happily married and am faithful. I do not drink or use drugs. I am kind, polite and thoughtful. Someone of which any Christian would approve. That is until they find out I don’t believe in god (s).

As a matter of fact, I used to be one of them. I was raised by Christian parents. I went to church regularly and even decided, on my own, to be baptized at the age of 16.

When I was in high school I was very active in a Christian youth organization. I’ve read my Bible cover to cover more than once. I taught Sunday school and eventually became the youth director at my church. I even attended Ashland Theology for graduate school. I’ve read Mere Christianity, More than a Carpenter and both Evidence that Demands a Verdict. No one could possibly claim that I was not educated or made aware of god, Jesus, the Bible or anything thereof.

Yet here I am a nonbeliever. I’m the type that really drives them crazy. They can’t say I was just never exposed to it or never got the chance to “see the light”. I’ve been there and walked away. It wasn’t easy and it didn’t happen over night. It wasn’t a matter of things not going my way so I stopped believing. My life didn’t get out of control and I was afraid to ask forgiveness. Nothing that a Christian could find “understandable”. I literally thought about it, considered it carefully, I did pray about it, I talked to my minister and other members of my church, and I read my Bible again to find the answers I needed. The simple fact was I couldn’t find enough of a reason to continue to believe and no, faith wasn’t going to conveniently replace my need for truth.

There are many times that I have even thought how much easier it would be if I could just convince myself to believe again. To have the comfort of believing that I will see my dad again, that there is a purpose behind everything, that there is an invisible man in the sky taking care of me but I just can’t.

It was no small thing for me to let go of god and I strongly resent anyone who thinks that I am somehow “lost” or “confused”. I feel as though I have never seen more clearly than I am now. My eyes have truly been opened.

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Anger

Anger is our strangest human emotion. Next to jealousy, it is the most destructive. Now the part that is so strange is that anger pops up and replaces other more appropriate emotions at the most inopportune times.

For some people anger is the default emotion and they walk around all the time with a chip on their shoulder. Those people are easy to recognize.

But then there are people like me, people who don’t seem to be able to handle any other emotion so they allow anger to replace them. Now, I know I am not an outwardly angry person but that doesn’t mean something doesn’t lurk beneath the surface.

Recently I was hurt by something someone I thought was a friend said to me. My first reaction was to cry but as soon as that came I replaced it with anger. Now this wasn’t appropriate because they didn’t hurt me intentionally.

So why is it that I feel more comfortable dealing with anger than hurt?

Maybe the answer is because being hurt by someone implies that they mean enough to you to have the ability to hurt you. You can’t have your feelings hurt by someone you care nothing about- their comments wouldn’t affect you. I don’t want you to know just how much you hurt me because I don’t want you to know that you are that important to me.

Or possibly it is because to be hurt is to be vulnerable but anger feels like power. (I’m am not so naïve as to believe that anger actually is power it can just feel that way.)

Now because this person has forced me to admit that they mean enough to me to hurt me and they have made me feel vulnerable I have to do the only reasonable thing- cut them off. I’m sure it sounds insane but that’s the way I work.

It takes me a long time to get close to people and usually any indication that this has happened at all freaks me out. But the ultimate insult to someone as closed off as me is to open up and let someone in just to have them throw it all in your face by hurting you. It is like having all you worst assumptions come true and reinforce that you were right to be so closed off in the first place and I’ll be damned if I’ll let this happen again. So the exterior gets harder.

This happens enough and you end up like me; Very few close friends and almost no one allowed to be emotionally connected. It is lonely; especially when you are going through something and realize that you have no one to reach out to and no one who cares enough to either know that you are suffering or care enough to reach out to you.

I can’t be bitter about it; it’s my own fault.

Maybe that’s why it is so important to me to reach out to other people as much as I can without allowing them to reach back. I feel like I can give myself some reason to believe that I am a good and caring person. Am I really? I’m always the first one to make sure I show up when a friend needs support. I write the emails of encouragement and support. I go to the calling hours and funerals when my friends lose a loved one. I remember birthdays and anniversaries. I call, I write, I bring over the chicken soup, cheer, listen, bend over backwards to make sure they know that I am the one that will always be there for them. To let them down would be to worse thing I could ever do.

But why? I’m not that great of a person. It is just that I feel like I am not deserving of having someone to do those things for me because I am so closed off. So in order to not be a terrible person I have to be the one doing them.

But lately, after going through the hardest times in my life and not having these same people rally around me; I am getting bitter. After getting so depressed I wish I was dead and not having anyone even notice, I’m starting to reexamine this whole process.

So here I am almost 30 and any of my friends would say how great I am and how I am always the one they call when they need someone. They would say that I am always the one to show up and be supportive. I’m glad I can be that for them and I don’t ever plan to stop but I need some of that back.

I can’t pretend that I’m not human like they are. I can’t go on being the cheerful one, the one with no problems of my own. I can’t always be the stable one who will listen whenever you call.

My world came crashing down on me 3 times in as many years and who was there for me? Who even noticed? I lost my dad, I got very sick and my husband left me for another woman… who was there when I needed someone so much? There was only 1 friend that tried to be there through all of that and she and I hardly even speak anymore.

I guess this is the life I’ve carved out for myself… I deserve it. But it is so lonely and scary to be the strong one all the time.

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Sleeplessness

Sleeplessness, I love that word. I think mostly just because of the sound of it when said out loud. Go ahead, say it… sleeplessness. Feels good doesn’t it? If you don’t stop to think about what it means that is.

I have always had trouble sleeping at night, for as long as I can remember. Nighttime as always been a time when I can quiet my mind and just be.

Well, I have been going through a lot of “self improvement” lately. I started on anti depressents and getting therapy. Part of all that is that they want me to get on a “normal” sleeping pattern. Ergo, my doc has had me on Lunesta for the past month.

Now for the first 3 weeks I loved it. I actually was falling asleep at 11:30 or 12:00 like normal people and waking up before noon. I felt like I was living in a healthier mannor by doing this.

The only problem with all this is that I can’t be on Lunesta for the rest of my life so I have to start trying to sleep without them. For some reason this seems to be impossible for me. I lay awake all night getting progressively upset by the fact that I can’t fall asleep.

So here it is 1:15 am and I’m wide awake even though I’ve been going to sleep by 12 every night for the past 2 weeks. I still can’t seem to get on that pattern naturally.

This is my conclusion: maybe I’m just meant to be nocturnal. Why not? I have always felt more like myself in the middle of the night when the world around me is asleep.

However, upon more honest introspection I think that maybe it’s really because I like the solitude of the night. I feel like I’m not being judged. I feel like whatever I do, think, feel and even write late at night is somehow able to slip past the censors.

I wonder also if this isn’t partly why I have always enjoyed watching others sleep. I can sit and watch my dog or my kitty just sleep. I even watch Dan sleep for hours. When I’m doing that I don’t worry about what he’s thinking or if I am letting him down in some way. I know that for that period of time, while he’s asleep and I’m watching him, everything is perfect. I can’t do anything to screw up or make him stop loving me.

I seem to have an uncanny ability to make people stop loving me. It’s kind of crazy really. I’m not just talking about men, even just friends. People meet me and instantly they just love me. I guess I’m a likeable person.

Usually it seems like they fall completely in love with me very quickly. Every guy I ever dated was clearly in love long before I was and most often much more than I ever was. I mean all of them. I actually got used to the fact that given just a couple dates or even a few phone conversations and I could make any guy fall head over heals in love.

Here’s the odd part. Almost as quickly as they fall in love with me; it stops. It isn’t usually like anything in particular happens, no big fight or anything, it just stops. Without warning. I never know why or how. I can’t count how many of my relationships ended like this, so suddenly, so abruptly. Maybe I just didn’t notice that they were falling apart and that’s why they seem to end that way. I’m really not sure. But from my angle it just seems like people easily fall in love with me and just as easily out of love.

I’ve remained friends with most of my ex-boyfriends so I know it isn’t like they start to hate me, they just don’t love me. I’ve never had the courage to ask any of them about this and I don’t think it’d be fair to do that anyway.

I guess that’s why I like the night so much. Peoples’ feelings for me don’t change while they’re asleep. I don’t have to worry about it. I can just sit there like time is standing still and watch. And be loved, even if just until morning.

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Thoughts on Turning 30

Well it’s finally happened to me. I’m in shock. I can’t believe it. I’m turning 30. You always think this is the type of thing that happens to other people not to you. Ok, that last part might be a bit dramatic but it is how I feel right now.

My husband keeps telling me that it’s just a number but what the hell does he know? But to be honest it really isn’t the number that bothers me. What bothers me is where I am in my life. I think back to when I was 18 and what all I thought I would have accomplished in my life by the time I was 30 and getting married is the only thing I’ve managed so far. Of course I didn’t intend to have done it 3 times now but I guess I went all out on that one. Maybe that’s why I haven’t accomplished anything else, I’ve been too busy getting married and divorced. To be completely fair to myself (which I rarely am) that does set you back a bit.

I also never expected that I’d be celebrating my 30th birthday without my dad. Although I lost him nearly 6 years ago I still haven’t been able to fully pick myself back up from that blow. So I guess that too has had me preoccupied. I also can’t believe that I not only lost my dad but also all four grandparents within a matter of 3 years. I never was able to properly mourn one person before I was turning around and mourning another.I certainly didn’t expect to have to leave a good job that paid well, I was damn good at and I really loved because I could not longer stand to take the verbal abuse of my boss.

One other thing I never thought I would have to overcome in my life is being diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease after months of severe illness and having to have a bowel resection. And have my husband leave me while I was still recovering from surgery. So really, all that did take a pretty good chunk of time out of my life, nearly a year.

Yet somehow in spite of all these things I was supposed to be superwoman, I was supposed to do incredible things. I was supposed to accomplish every dream I ever had for myself. I was supposed to be uncompromising in my beliefs and go out there and change the world. Well, I failed- miserably.

And that right there is where I can’t get passed, That is why I don’t seem to be able to forgive myself. That is why I don’t want to turn 30.

Like it or not it’s happening. So, I have to find a way to deal with it. How do you forgive yourself? How do you let yourself off the hook? Why are we our own harshest critics? I don’t have those answers but I do believe the adage, “Fake it till you make it.“ in honor of that I am going to tell myself that I am forgiven until I am convinced.

So what does the girl who has nothing want for her 30th birthday?

Forgiveness

A better sense of self

Patience

Wisdom

Personal acceptance

To remember how to walk with my head up (I used to know how to do that)

Not to run past the mirror on my way to the toilet or fear my reflection in the screen of my laptop

Humility

Pride to at least have made it 30 years.

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