One Year In.

The Six Month Milestone

My last post (six months ago, almost to the day) was all about letting old identities fall away, making room for the new and unexplored, and how completely frightening that can be. It was about my own acceptance of myself and learning to create a new life, a new identity, and embrace that change. I was struggling with six months of mental and emotional transition, and I was just starting to “get it”.

Little did I know, when I wrote that last post, where I would be in literally six months to the day. I had no idea how quickly things would move forward, and now, with the power of Captain Hindsight, I look back at the struggle of the past year and a small smile creeps up. I really had no idea what was in store.

I Can See Her Face

I am just coming off one of the most pivotal weekends of my life. This past weekend, a group of over 100 hundred professional musicians performed my first commissioned composition. It is a choral/orchestral piece called “I Can See Her Face”, and it was also a collaboration with my brilliant mom. I wrote the music, and we adapted a poem she had written almost 20 years ago as the lyrics. It is a piece about the connections between women, particularly mothers, daughters, and grandmothers. It encompassed so much for me, both personally and emotionally, that I almost didn’t think it was real until it was performed this past weekend.

Now, I’m not only a musician; I’m also a composer.

Six months ago I would have smiled politely at the person telling me this would happen, and not believe a word of it. Yet, I’m sitting here, and I have a program, and will have a recording, to tell me that, yes, this is real, and it happened.

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Enter New Identity Here.

At 33, I’ve decided to completely change my life.

Actually, it’s just my career I’m changing. My life is more mine then it has ever been, so perhaps it isn’t changing. But when it comes to how others see my life, it probably seems that my entire world has changed. It’s strange how we let the perception of those around us determine who we are, rather than what lives inside of us and how we perceive them as being who we are. But that is exactly what it is. When someone is getting to know you, one of the first questions they usually ask, especially in the States, is “What do you do?” And by that, they mean, how do you make money. And that is just such a fucked up way of uncovering who a person is. My mother is a brilliant financial analyst and advisor, but who she is is so very far removed from that that I almost NEVER talk about that to other people when asked about her. Usually I talk about how she is my role model, how she has overcome serious trauma and adversity and is still this beautiful soul, and how she is incredibly talented at pretty much whatever she puts her creative mind towards. So, there’s that battle of external perception.

When I say I’m completely changing my life, I’m not changing who I am. I’m changing what I do with my time. I’ve made that crazy scary leap of leaving behind a “real” career—a career with a solid resume of experience, growth, and production in what could be considered the business world—in pursuit of my true purpose in this existence: creating music. I am, and have always been, a musician.

What I’ve been struggling with for the last six months, since making this decision, is why I’m so scared to do it. Immediately after the decision, I became virtually paralyzed. I had no idea what to do, much less how to do it. All I knew is that I want to be a professional musician, and that was that. I am a singer, so I sing. I’m essentially starting over, but doing something that not only have I done my entire life, but it comes so naturally to me and is, quite literally, my reason for living. Sometimes, during that last six months of this massive transition, I would look at myself in the mirror and think what I liar I was. I’m not touring the nation. I’m not even playing in coffee shops. Hell, I was barely getting out of bed some days. I felt like a total fraud. How could I look at my friends, my family, people I’ve just met and say to them, “I’m a musician,” when they asked me what I was doing? It made the transition that much harder, and the more I felt like I was lying to the people around me, the more I felt like I wasn’t doing anything.

But then, a few weeks ago, something shifted. I started to GET IT. I started writing. I started playing. I started getting in touch with the people I knew I needed in order to do what I want to do. And now, suddenly, I have a producer and we are about to go into the studio to record and I have a band and people want to play music with me that I’ve written and I love my songs and holy shit is this really my life? Suddenly, I couldn’t understand why I had been so hard on myself. Why had I felt so worthless?

I realized that my sense of worth, for so long, had been connected to what I did for other people. What I was struggling with was learning to create my own worth without anyone else in the picture. I was the only person that really mattered, when it came down to a creative life, but I had always lived a world where other people defined my worth: I got such-and-such salary, determined by someone else. I had this job title, created by someone else. I had this degree, given to me by someone else. Everything that I had considered my worth was not really my own creation, and it took me time to come to terms with that.

This identity change was more than just worth-based. What came along with leaving a left-brained world was the hard transition into a right-brained existence. There were no right or wrong answers. There was no set definitive. I didn’t have deadlines, or clients, or bosses, or anyone telling me what to do. I am a bossy-ass person, and it hit me like a ton of bricks that I had no idea what to tell myself to do.

Time. Growth. There are things that time can do that I had lost sight of in this immediate gratification culture. I could edit an entire book in a month, but I couldn’t put a single note to paper.

And so I waited. And I alternately hated myself and loved myself. I feared it, and embraced it. And waited. And one day, not long ago, a little sprout appeared above the ground that I had been staring at for six long, heartbreaking months, and I realized that the entire time I had been beating myself up, something was growing. I couldn’t see it with my conscious mind, but now, it was there! Sweet, and green, and fresh.

It was me. The real me. My identity is truer than it has ever been, and I have learned an invaluable lesson about organic growth, patience, and time. Now, when people ask me what I do, I tell them without hesitation, not what I do, but who I am.

I am a musician.

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Ruminating on Release

It’s been quite a while since I’ve updated, I know, and things have been pretty scattered on this little end of the Internet. I’ve had several contributors writing here with me, and while it has been lovely working collaboratively with other talented, strong, passionate women, I’m going to take it back to a more personally oriented site for a time. It’s reflective of what my life is right now: sitting back, taking time, observing, and moving inward. I will have other writers contributing from time to time, but for now, you are all mine.Or I am all yours.

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

To catch you up on, say, the last 3 years or so: I’ve been intentionally going through a huge internal transition. I have been working tirelessly, but not always successfully, on digging into my inner landscape, observing what is there, looking at what I’ve been ignoring, and essentially cleaning up my “house”. For those of you whom know me personally, this might sound like a familiar refrain. That’s because it is. I am, and have been for as long as I can remember, dedicated to growing myself as a person. Again, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I am some incredibly advanced person with infinite wisdom or insight. It just means that I try really hard to see the negative things about myself and decide whether I want to change those things or not. If I do want to change something, I begin the challenging path of finding the root of why I do those things, and how to change it. Sometimes that means me becoming a nicer person. Sometimes that means I cut people out. Sometimes that means I sit on my floor and cry like a hot mess. I’m learning to be understanding and loving to all those parts of myself, and let me tell you: it has been a long time coming.

Self love is not something we are truly taught in American culture. Selfish love, yes. Ad nauseum. I want a house. I want a relationship. I want a baby. I want I want I want. How often, though, do we think about the things that we need? Truly need? Acceptance. Understanding. Support. Release. Those are not words that are often thrown around by people when they talk about what they need. Especially the last: Release.

For God Sakes, Don’t Be Vulnerable

Personally, release is the hardest for me. For me, that involves giving up varying levels of control, and for a mistrusting, intelligent, strong-willed, I-know-what-I-want kind of woman like me, that is a tough one. Release, for me, is synonymous with vulnerability, and oh how I loathe being vulnerable. It is why I have learned to laugh with people rather than them laughing at me. It is why I have learned to be hard and reactive rather than let people take advantage of me. It is why I have an overdeveloped sense of justice, the need to be right, a bitchy brashness, and all other manner of self-protective things. I hate feeling vulnerable.

I’ve moved pretty far into this whole exploring my world phase, and now that I’m realizing that it is a life path, rather than a destination, it is forcing me to actually deal with my reluctance towards release. Hell, for the last month, I’ve been about as vulnerable as I have since I was a very young child. And I can definitely say, without embarrassment or hesitation that I have indeed been a hot mess. A hot, hot mess. And as much as I would have hidden that from the people in my life before, I’m actually kind of proud to say it now. I’ve grown past the point where hardness is strength, and I’m realizing why people like Mahatma Ghandi and Mother Teresa were so powerful, and could inspire so many. It was because their strength was in their softness, their vulnerability.

And that perspective has changed everything for me. Once I was hard. Once, I was the rock, the mountain: unmoving, unmoved. Now, I am the water: moving around, through, over, under – wherever the path takes me. The banner on the homepage is the visual I use to remind myself of that. To be the child, to release, let go, and let myself give up control, even if it is just for a little while.

So, yeah. That’s the last 3 years in a nutshell, I guess.

Love,
Boo

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Turf Girls Aren’t Easy

 

Football: It’s Not Just For Boys

I’ve known several women throughout my life that have actually spent time in a football uniform—and not from the stands. They were turf girls. These are women (well, they were girls back when) who took it upon themselves to challenge a classic American male model: Football. They tried out for the team, and of course, since there are no official female football leagues in our nation’s public school systems, they had to try out for the “boy’s” team. They dealt with a lot of doubt, challenge, persecution, and misogyny just to play a game.

The women that I know did play the game. They went to every practice. They wore the same gear. They worked as hard, if not harder, just to be a part of the team. My personal acquaintances were, for the most part, kickers. It seems to be the most approachable position for a female, and is usually where they would be placed regardless of their physical abilities.

So I want to stand up holler for a young Florida woman who became, officially or unofficially, the first woman to ever play quarterback in a high school football game. Yes, she’s third string. Yes, she handed the ball of during her two plays. Yes, the other quarterbacks went in ahead of her. But she did it. And her attitude speaks volumes.

Another wonder of wonders in this story is that the head coach is the one that encouraged her to play. That is no small thing, where most head coaches, high school or otherwise, are known for their inability to support what many people would see as the weak links. I applaud him just as much (even though I suspect it could be a publicity stunt).

Hey, it’s a start.

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Breaking Up is Hard to Do: The Facebook Edition

AKA, Why I Deactivated My Facebook Account.

Nope, I don’t like it.

It’s been over two weeks since I deactivated my Facebook profile. I thought it would be like going off of sugar, which for me, seems to be utterly impossible. But much to my pleasant surprise, it hasn’t been that hard. Maybe, like any breakup, that shows that it was the right time to pull the plug. In this case, breaking up wasn’t so hard to do. The hardest part was anticipating the negatives up until I actually did it.

I thought that I would lose touch with people. I thought I wouldn’t hear news about my friends, family, and acquaintances. I thought I would just be out of the loop. But I’m not. I’m still very in touch, if not more in touch, with the people that are most central to my life. I still read the Internet, and get my daily fill of gossip, news, and shenanigans. I still spend more than an inordinate amount of time on my computer.

So the question is, why did I do it? Why did I pull the plug on a site that I frequented multiple times a day, had an app on both my iPhone and iPad, virtually keeping me connected to its life-giving saline drip 24/7? In short, I hit a wall, and this is just one more “relationship” that has ended due to my need for personal reacquaintance and an even-handed exchange of energy.

Genesis…

My relationship with Facebook started at a time when I was in a desk job that was slowly, steadily, becoming more and more frustrating, stressful, and draining. I quickly went from being on Facebook once or twice a week to being constantly plugged in, pulled in by what I might be missing, enticed by new notifications, new friend requests, online games, funny status updates, the drama surrounding people and their relationships, and, if I’m going to be really honest, an intense need to be seen.

A Pretty Hate Machine…

Another reason was this: I found myself being pulled into negative thinking and drama, stresses that, in my real life, I have been working hard to avoid. Here I was, sitting at my desk, smirking about one thing or another, feeling myself get irate over something wholly unrelated to me, checking up on people that I no longer had any contact with, and all of this just to distract myself for a little while from things that I actually needed to do.

Like the Deserts Miss the Rain…

I won’t lie: I do miss it, to a certain degree. There are many people that I am connected to on Facebook that I don’t have real connections with in real life, and those are people that I find funny, engaging, intelligent, and a host of other qualities with which I like to surround myself. And, this isn’t to say that I won’t one day log back in and see what’s happening. But for now, I’m taking a much needed break, and it feels like I’ve gained back a part of myself that I never even recognized as missing.

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Rocking My “Fatkini”

So I have been reading a lot about the “fatkini” lately and it couldn’t come at a more perfect time for me.

For years, as a teen and in my early twenties, I was a victim of having too many flaws to live my life. Meaning, I would put things off always: going out, wearing that shirt, taking that class, doing this or that because of something I perceived as a physical flaw. Because I felt too fat, my hair wasn’t right, my fingernails weren’t polished (seriously, I’m a ridiculous perfectionist). I had jumped off the “perfect wagon” at some point after my mom died and I realized that I was wasting my life waiting on a perfection that would never come.

Unfortunately, lately, I think I realize I am growing older and I am less and less perfect by virtue of growing older (I look at pictures of myself from my early twenties and think “how the hell did I think I looked bad then?”) I am having some of those old issues rearing their ugly heads again. Those ugly heads are sneaking in and gnawing with razor sharp teeth at some portion of my mind, causing me to put things off until some great glorious tomorrow.

Incoming, with perfect timing, the “fatkini”: making me recognize I am being thrown into old patterns again. And what is really behind those patterns? I would be tempted to think it is a fear of what others think of me, but it is more about what I think about myself, how I perceive myself.  It seems to be a fear of becoming the person I have the potential of being. Fear of grabbing life by the ovaries and actually living. Fear of dancing in the rain because my hair might get wet. Fear of building real connections with people, with nature, with myself. Maybe just fear of my own power.

Fuck that.

As women, we are taught we must always be young, have perfect bodies, perfect hair, and perfect nails. All while being the perfect mother, sister, daughter, student, co-worker, lover, etc. You don’t think so? Watch almost any commercial…and think about it.

So I’ve decided that like a bad-ass Amazon I’m going to chop those issue’s ugly heads off while wearing my “fatkini”. Whatever my “fatkini” may be for the day. I’m gonna live my life in that shirt I want to wear, with dirty hair and chipped fingernail polish and a soft, sensuous belly.

What’s your “fatkini”? What are you putting off wearing, and more importantly, what are you putting off doing or being because you’re not perfect enough? Come on y’all: put on that fatkini and rock that shit.

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When You Screw Up, Fix It: 3 Steps to Being a Better Person

An ironic cruelty of life is the discomfort of growth, the pain of evolution. You might think that growth is positive, and thus should feel good. Well, growth is positive, but that doesn’t mean it will feel that way. So my big effort at growth? Owning up to my fuck ups.

One of the biggest life lessons is learning to own up to your mistakes. But one of the biggest growth experiences is learning how to fix it. Like I said, that doesn’t mean it feels good in the moment. It’s all about the long-term, and the journey, right? Hell, just being a better person. A person of substance. A person of realness. So, be a person of substance, and learn how to fix things when you screw up. (I am getting super good at this process, because no matter how good I get at apologies, I still seem to eff things up just as much. Ah well, ’tis the realness.)

Step 1: The Acknowledgement

When you’ve done something wrong, first things first is to take responsibility and acknowledge the mistake. It doesn’t matter whether you peed on the seat ’cause you were a bit tipsy, or whether you maxed out all the credit cards: it is important to admit your fault. Was your fuck up unintentional? Great. Doesn’t matter. Still acknowledge your responsibility. In my experience, this tends to go about 75% of the way towards fixing the problem and making things right.

Step 2: The Sincere Apology

There are the right ways to apologize, and the wrong ways. The right ways usually involve looking people in the eyes, being sincere and vulnerable, and being honest. The wrong ways can be all over the board. Here’s to hoping that, at this point in life, we know the difference between being sincere and not.

Step 3: The Solution/Resolution

Now that we are big girls and boys, and can acknowledge and apologize for our fuck up, we must take things a step further to start the healing process. Yes, that’s right: START the healing. Acknowledging and apologizing are there to stop the injury, but for the most part, that’s where things end, thus leaving others to find the healing on their own. I am a firm believer in “Leave It Nicer Than You Found It” (thanks Pop), so to do that in our personal relationships, we have to find a way to fix what we broke.

Enter stage right: Flowers from a lover, lunch with a girlfriend, breakfast with your parents, and any other common way of showing people that you care for them. These are great, easy starting places for showing the people that we love how much we care. Want to take it a step further? Give deeply of your time and love. Look for solutions that are deeply personal. Do something that only benefits the other person.

Bonus Round: Let Them Vent

It takes a lot to heal a heart. I’m sure most of us carry the hurts and scars of a lifetime on our sweet, vulnerable little hearts, so we can all look at personal experience and know how hard it is to heal a hurt heart. I have found that when I hurt someone, they wanted to vent, yell, and tell me angrily how much I hurt them. Maybe they don’t actually say those words: maybe, instead, they yell at me for being too loud, or intense, or obnoxious. And you know what? Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. But what I’ve learned to recognize is that they are most likely acting out of hurt, not out of spite. So I take it in stride. I look calmly and lovingly on them, and let them be their bad self. I show them with my silence, or my lack of arguing back, that I love them. Maybe, after they’ve yelled it out, I hug them, and tell them I love them.

The most important things in this life we live as people are the people we love. We don’t miss the cars, or the bank accounts, or the vacations when someone is no longer with us: we miss the person, their smell, their laugh, and cling to the memories of our experiences together. So, take a bad experience and make it into something good. Love your people, love yourself.

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Motherless on Mother’s Day

Thoughts on Mother’s Day from a Motherless Daughter…

Okay, so I’m obviously not motherless. I had a mother, a wonderful mother, who died nine years ago. My mother was sort of like the quintessential mother: a true caretaker, a true nurturer. She was the kind of mother that always loved me completely and unconditionally, even when I was a messed up, drug-addled kid.

I was heartbroken when she died. Not even just heartbroken, but like my heart was empty, a hollow, fragile shell of what it had been. I felt lost, alone, weak, scared, motherless. It was like the main peg that held my family together was suddenly jerked out and my family lay in pieces, shattered, all over the place. I lay in pieces, shattered, all over the place.

May is the worst month. My mom’s deathday is on May 5, her birthday is May 18, and then, of course, Mother’s Day. A beautiful day filled with gifts, gratitude, flowers — except for me, it is a painful reminder every year of what I have lost. Of all the moments that are lost. I will never again be able to share inside jokes with my mom, hear her giggly laugh. I will never again eat her amazing cooking, do crafts with her, hug her…

It’s mostly the regret that gets me down. The regret that she never got to see me as a woman.

I have a death altar where I honor my mother. I burn candles, bring her favorite foods. I remember all she was; try to have an honest view of her as person, with all her flaws and perfection. It’s a place where I can feel closer to her, to dream her smile. It never gets easier. I still feel motherless, like an orphan.

But I am grateful I had such a beautiful mother, even for so short a time…I know others aren’t as lucky. You may feel motherless for completely different reasons than me. Maybe your mother was never a mother at all…maybe she was abusive, or absent either physically or emotionally, maybe she withheld love, was manipulative, hurtful, and unsupportive. To whom can we motherless daughters look to on Mother’s Day?

I have a lot of amazing women in my life. Creative, strong, intelligent, honest, hilarious, supportive women. I have two precious sisters who reflect so much of my mother sometimes it hurts. I take parts, pieces from them all, all these amazing women, and reassemble those pieces into a mother. They are all mothers to me in so many ways, forming the person that I am and am becoming. So this Mother’s Day, I honor the woman who birthed me and all the women in my life who continue to birth me. I honor myself and hope to one day love myself as unconditionally as my mother loved me, as everyone deserves to be loved.

So motherless daughters love all your mommas, whoever or where ever they are. Even if you are your only real mother, buy yourself flowers this Mother’s Day. And maybe some wine and chocolates, too.

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Why I Am A Feminist

Why I am a Feminist…

Years ago a friend of mine was dating a misogynist guy who would make those awful “feminazi” Rush Limbaugh type comments. Once while having a fight with my friend (who is a feminist), about the definition of feminism, he decided to just look it up on the internet. A simple Google search for the definition yielded: “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” He got pissed off and said, “Well, that’s not what feminism is, or everyone would be a feminist!”

And that’s just it! Everyone should be a feminist. It’s really that simple. But it is also incredibly complicated.

Feminism: A Dirty Word

A while back, one of my punk-rock co-workers, who is a strong woman and was a manager at my workplace at the time, was telling a story about being disrespected by a male employee because she is a woman. She started out the story by saying, “It’s not like I’m a feminist, but I deserve to be treated with the same respect as the male managers…” And I wonder, why is it bad to claim the title of feminist? Since when is feminist a dirty word that women are afraid to claim even when they are telling a story that clearly identifies them as feminist, as someone who deserves equal rights and opportunities?

I am a feminist because for thousands of years (different lengths of time depending on the location) people have been brainwashed by the patriarchy. We are told to value different qualities in women than men. We are called “bitches” when we are outspoken or ambitious or aggressive. We objectify our sisters and are taught to critique each other’s physical appearance. We are encouraged to lose our curves and shave to resemble pre-pubescent girls. Women are taught to not trust other women, to aim to be “one of the guys”. And on and on. It is a matter of constantly reframing and reclaiming our thoughts. Of constantly questioning.

Those questions certainly abound, like what is natural and what is learned behavior? How much of our behavior is based on gender roles we are forced into at birth? These questions are so interesting to me. The thing is, when considering gender roles, I always come back to the fact that feminism doesn’t just help women to be free, but frees everyone to break out of these learned roles and truly be themselves.

Women’s Rights = Everyone’s Rights

I am a feminist because the rights of women are directly linked to all oppression. One of my favorite books is The Creation of Patriarchy, by Gerda Lerner. Lerner says that women were the first slaves. All oppression stems from the oppression of women, so logically, when women are no longer oppressed, the system of oppression collapses. A review of this book deserves to be a separate post, it is really an invaluable resource. Read this book!

I am a feminist because it is an issue of rights. I have the right to be myself in any moment, no matter what that means or what qualities I am exhibiting. I have the right to speak my mind. I have the right to equal pay. I have the right to love who I love, regardless of gender. I have the right to have good, consensual sex. I have the right to love my body. I have the right to have control over my body. I have the right to be heard and speak my mind. I have the right to be safe no matter where I am, what time it is or what I am wearing. I have the right to be sweaty, dirty, loud, and tough. I have the right to be a leader, to use my strengths. I have the right to eat. I have the right to scream and cry. I have the right to be independent. I have the right to ask for and accept help. I have the right to be a strong, powerful woman. We have come far, but the battle is far from over. This is why I am a feminist.

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Blissability: Play, Children! Play! (Episode 20)

“The cure for boredom is curiosity.  There is no cure for curiosity.”  – Dorothy Parker

Thank goodness!  I don’t want to be cured of curiosity.  It helps us know what to do.  What to do when you don’t know where you want to be, when you don’t know what you want to do with your life.  Or your year.  Or your empty nest.  Or your empty self.

We get so good at being available for others, that we forget to be available for ourselves.  We often subvert our own desires and interests because we feel:

1.                They will be ignored.

2.                They are not important enough. Or not as important as our child’s or partner’s or                 friend’s or dog’s – or partner’s child’s friend’s dog.

3.                They will get in the way of something else that needs to be done.

So here is an exercise to begin the process of finding out what you want to do when you grow up:

Curiosicize (it’s lame, but memorable):

The next time something crosses your field of vision that looks interesting, stop and look!

Decide to try something that you just barely think you might like -

“But it’s no big deal.  I don’t really need to.  I don’t really think that would work for me because it won’t fit into my schedule, it’s too far away, I might not like the people, it’s too expensive. . .”

would you STOP?!

If it comes into your consciousness, try it. It’s not like you’re buying a house or getting your face tattooed. (Or maybe you are.)  You’re just trying it on for size.

When you see an item of clothing that you like, do you try it on?  I hope so.  When you see something that you really like, but think would never work on you, do you try it on anyway? I hope so.  Cause I usually don’t.  My poor sister has to beat me often when we go clothes shopping.

I say, “That’s so cuuuuuute.’

Gwen: “Try it on, let’s find your size!”

Me: “Oh that would look terrible on me.”

Gwen: whap!  “You are SUCH a pain in my ass.  Now go and don’t darken the dressing room door without this on.”

Me: “This is so cuuuuuute on me.”

Don’t worry about whether curiosity killed the cat, worry about whether a lack of curiosity will kill the joy in your life.  Stop suppressing your interest-moments, stop telling yourself to focus on just the practicals, the must-dos, the only-have-time-fors.  Let your curiosity out to play.  It will be like a little Tinkerbell, shining and happily jingling about you as you go through your day.  It will zoom ahead of you and look behind you and find all kinds of things to create a real life for a real girl or a real boy.  Let your curiosity coax you over the next ridge, to see the next country, to meet the next person.

Play, children.  Play!

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Women’s Day: A History Lesson via Lady Gaga

Know Your Roots: the 19th Amendment

Indeed, for a long time, women had a Bad Romance with the American voting system. To be more accurate, a non-existent romance. But, halleluia, holy shit, we got the right to vote. In 1919, Republicans in the Senate led the vote to approve the amendment allowing women to vote, and thus, in 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified, and women became people in the eyes of the American government.

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Blissability: Competition, Winning, and the Ego (Episode 19)

“It’s never just a game when you’re winning.”  – George Carlin

Intense? Feeling driven? Doing something with success is way cool. What about when you start to put others down because of it? Where is the line between enjoying something and obsessively driving to win? There is always that quantum moment when you cross over from “Wow, I’m good at this!” or “I am loving this!” to “Damn if I’ll let her steal my thunder!”

Competitiveness.

It can be so great. It assists us to greater heights. Competition makes you better at your job. It helps keep you sharp.

It can be so awful. Competition can lay on you like a 3 ton stone. It can hurt your soul. It can drive you mercilessly.

Or can it?

What if the thing that lays on you like a 3 ton stone or drives you mercilessly is your own ego?

We live in a world that is, by its very nature, competitive.  Animals compete for food.  We compete for jobs or attention.  So, rather than running away from it, perhaps we are here to learn to live peaceably within this source of power and irritation.

I think the first thing to do is recognize and accept in myself the times when competition becomes detrimental within my own psyche.  That is, of course, easy to write – hard to achieve.

I have been attempting to live in this rarefied atmosphere by reducing distractions, writing in my journal at night before I go to bed to help me process my day, using silence and stillness to assess.  I’ve now gotten to the point that I look forward to my quiet morning when my husband is still asleep and I’m up puttering about.  I look forward to ‘walks and thinks’.  I’ve been identifying where I make the turn from happily achieving something to feeling like I MUST do (for whatever reason my ego dishes up to keep me in line).

I think the next thing to do is create some coping skills; you know, exercise my emotion-muscles.  Being emotionally fragile is not something you want to go through life saddled with if you can do something about it.  I think we often assume that we are at the mercy of our egos or emotions.  I think we forget that they belong to us, we don’t belong to them.  So I try working out ways with each situation that I could move to a state of peace while still achieving my goal.  I often find myself thinking at these times of ways to release my ego and just be happy and enjoy the thing I’m doing.

When I retired from my job, a friend who is an attorney asked me how I could give up the prestige of the position much less the money.  I told her that I didn’t really have an ego problem when it came to making money.  Later, her words came back to me.  Why didn’t I have an ego problem when it came to money or the power that went with it?

So I’ve been thinking about where my ego pops up and acts like a Tasmanian Devil, snarling and slobbering and threatening; and where I’m more like a swan gliding across a lake – free of the chains of my ego.  So far, it seems my ego is more active when I’m doing things that made me special in my earlier years.  When I’m doing things that set me apart at an older time in my life, my ego doesn’t seem to have noticed that and is off somewhere planning its next assault on my activities from teenhood.

It’s interesting and I don’t have a clear answer yet, but perhaps my observations will help you on your way as well.  Where does your ego start to snarl?  Why?

Do the things you love, do the things you’re good at.  Take joy in your skills.  And when you start to feel driven, experiment with stillness and silence.

And listen to what comes to you.  It might the answer you’ve been waiting for your whole life.

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I Challenge You.

I challenge you to read this…wait, no, don’t. I don’t want you to just read it. This is a place of challenge, and just as with change, it can be uncomfortable. Growth, my favorite yogi says, is uncomfortable. So, no, I don’t challenge you to simply read this.

I challenge you to be uncomfortable.

I challenge you to say exactly how you feel, unrestrained by fear of rejection, ridicule, misinterpretation, or dismissal. Be brave in owning your feelings.

I challenge you to stop agreeing to do things that you will never do. Be real with yourself and others. Say no.

I challenge you to be open when it’s hardest. Look on a person that hurts you with love rather than malice. Peel back the wall that protects you — anger, fear, denial, avoidance, and any form of self-destructive behavior — and look at why this protective response is happening. This is a difficult, and incredibly effective path, towards true self-awareness.

I challenge you to act instead of talk. Don’t just tell your mom you love her; do something to show her. Have a complaint? Then take action to find its remedy. Even if it seems impossible. Doors open when you set your intention, no matter how unconquerable.

I challenge you to treat the world with compassion, even when it is spitting in your face. The only true freedom you have in life is in how you respond to every situation, every individual, and every single second of existence.

I challenge you to embrace love. Next time your friend wants to treat you for a drink, your son wants to open your car door, or your mother wants to pinch your cheeks and squeal, open your arms wide with gratitude, acceptance, and love. Receive willingly and let love in.

I challenge you to let go of your baggage. Or at least some of it. Yes, shitty things happen. Yes, they change us in ways we never expect, and they become part of who we are. But accept what has happened and decide if you should carry it with you for the rest of your life. Look through that baggage — deal with it, clean it out, and decide what will be carried, and what will be left behind.

I challenge you to be exceedingly free and open when it comes to telling the people you love how you feel.

I challenge you to look at yourself in the mirror and honestly assess the person you are. Are you who you want to be? Do you even know what that is — what you want to be?

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Blissability: Honor Your True Self, Even if it’s Uncomfortable (Episode 18)

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.”
- Mahatma Gandhi

Oh yes.  Now this is wisdom.  Wish I could do it.

How often do we think one thing and do another?  Like agreeing to have to a 2nd or 3rd date with someone you’re not really crazy about just because it seemed like, well, what the hell?  Or saying yes to volunteering for a cause that wants you, even if you don’t really want it, because you think you ought to, not because your heart cares about it?  Or ingesting, imbibing or inhaling stuff you don’t think is good for you because others are – food, drugs, those last 4 drinks?  ‘Oh, it’s just one cookie. Try it.’ This list could go on and on.

How often do we think one thing but say something different?  Either to spare feelings or spare conflict. Or stay out of a political discussion when we have thoughts or feelings about the subject?  Or refrain from voicing our outrage when someone is awful to another person in our presence?  Or suck up to the boss?

Someone told me that acting adversely to your inner self causes disease.  In my job, I dealt with lots of retirees. Over a 25 year period, I got to watch thousands of people age.  My experience showed me how damaging it is over a long term to act conversely to your true self.

It damages relationships.  Do you really think your partner would leave or your friends disown you if you voiced your true opinions or if you just went ahead and did what you really wanted to do?  You don’t have to be an ass, you just have to say the thing without second guessing, without taking the temperature of the room every time.  Sometimes it’s perfectly ok to just say what you think.  If you have friends or family who couldn’t handle it, then it might be a good idea to begin steering your relationships towards truth.  Have faith in the people who love you to stay and trust that the process will take those out of your life who shouldn’t be there anyway.

It damages health.  I’ve watched time after time as some clients aged early and went into decline long before other clients. One day it occurred to me that many of them had the same personality trait in common – they only expressed their true attitudes about money (my realm) with me privately when spouse or family wasn’t present.

It damages time. What good is it to spend a lifetime pretending?  When it’s over, will you feel you lived a fulfilled life?  Or will you feel you wasted it pretending to be someone else?

My youngest and I have a problematic trait in common, we are both really good at making ourselves actually not want the thing we think others will not want.  We are both really good at saying, ‘It’s no biggie. Don’t worry about it. I don’t really care one way or the other.’  In fact, my daughter is so good at this her nickname is Maybe Baby.  She is a sweet, gentle soul who prefers to avoid conflict with others – I love and respect her for that.

BUT, sometimes conflict is necessary.  And avoiding it can cause more problems than it solves.  Sometimes conflict is there to teach us to firm up our borders and say to whomever, ‘it is not ok with me for you to treat to me like that.’ ‘I don’t agree with you.’ ‘You acted badly.’

‘Moderation in all things’ applies to standing up for ourselves and speaking our true selves as well as all the other things to which people like to attach this phrase.

Homework: practicing peaceful conflict (Ha, just thought that up, and I like it!)

Think of ways to disagree without being ugly about it.  One of my old friends, Peter, a wise warrior and phenome of living a full life, taught me a technique:

When someone says something to which you might disagree, try saying ‘and’ instead of ‘but’.  For instance, when one of your bulldozer friends says, “The WAY to do this is ______!”  You could say, “And you could also  _____.”

You can try silent active resistance.  When someone suggests something you don’t want to do or something with which you don’t agree, you can remain silent. Don’t speak either in agreement or in sympathy hoping to bond with the person.  Just let the comment hang there.  If they are thoughtful, they will notice and may even ask your opinion, which you should feel free to offer.  (I’m not suggesting this for important decisions.) If they are not thoughtful or take advantage of your silence, then you have learned something important about this person that you should file away and remember.

You can practice saying things that are self protective and true –

“I have a different thought about that.”

“We can take turns expressing a preference about where we go.  You choose tonight and I’ll choose tomorrow.”  Then keep your word, don’t wimp out.

Here’s another brain game to play with yourself:

Pretend you are not responsible to anyone other than yourself, that you live alone, that you work by yourself, that others are simply not around.   Now, what would you do if you were happily alone for the moment and had the same decision to make?  Where would you eat?  How would you vote?  How would you dress?  What would your environment look like?  How would you spend your money?  Who would you choose to call and who would you just as soon not speak to? When would you see family or friends if left completely to your own decision making? The answers to these questions might give you a clue as to where you are avoiding conflict.

I’m practicing.  I’m trying out these things and some others.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  If you have phrases or behaviors that have worked for you in maintaining healthy borders, please share.

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There are Days…

There are some days when I’m sitting at my desk, with no bra, and as my breasts rest on my top belly roll, I think: Life is Good.

There are some days when I’m sitting at my desk, no bra, breasts resting on the top roll, and I think: I am such a slob.

There are days when I look in the mirror, and I feel like I can conquer the world with just one little wink.

There are days when I look in the mirror, and I feel like the world has conquered me, and gravity continues to do its best to bring me down.

The difference between these days, I have come to realize, is when I first wake up in the morning. That is when I decide what kind of day it will be.

Today, I’m making it a “Life is Good/I’m the Conquerer” kind of day.

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Girl Stereotypes

This video should definitely be watched with a grain of salt and a sense of humor.  However, it does also raise a few questions. Such as.. how often do you say ‘can you do me a favor?’ in the course of a day? How long did it take that guy to learn how to walk in heels? How’d they talk Juliette Lewis into this?

Seriously, though, this is meant as comedy, but I’m interested to know if any ladies out there see something else here.

Shit Girls Say

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Blissability: Deal with the Bad, Talk About the Good (Episode 17)

“To remember what you once thought life could hold, after telling over with muddied and calculating fingers what it has offered.”  – Mary Stewart

When you tell your story to yourself or others, are you the victim or the hero?  I read that in a great book.  I really liked the idea.  Being the hero of your own story: not in a supplicant, begging way, but in a powerful way.  In a way that raises you up.

When you tell your story, do you dwell on the misfires?  Do you repeat the woundings?  Do you stay in the septic system of the story or do you rise up to the triumphant treeptops?

I’m not suggesting that you avoid dealing with traumas.  I’m not saying don’t talk about bad stuff.  I’m not telling you not to weep for sadnesses.

I’m suggesting that you give voice to the good in your life and thereby invite more of it in.  I’m saying to also talk about good stuff, give way to the glories.  Allow yourself and others to accept those happy events that occurred.

Lately, our culture wants us all to work through our problems, talk about things that bother us, cry it out, don’t let it fester.  I am a strong believer that the feelings you don’t feel are the ones that run your life.

BUT. . . I also found that in my own experience, I needed to give voice to the good to find balance.  Moderation in all things, my children.  Even talking about your traumas.

We are all trying to resist the messages that unless you are beautiful, you are nothing.  Think about another message that’s being delivered, ‘unless you are tragic, you are not noticeable’.

And another, ‘Unless you are unhappy, you aren’t really thinking about life.’

And another, ‘To matter, to be special, you must have your trauma-tale ready to pull out at a moment’s notice.’

And another, ‘It’s not really possible to permanently lose weight.’

And one more! ‘Certain people are hardwired to be happier than others and if you’re not hardwired that way, oh well, too bad.’

I guess my point is this – we get told a lot that appears to be wisdom – at least the wisdom of the moment.  It may or may not be true, so my suggestion is that you look to yourself for your wisdom and take all of the rest of us (Blissability included!) with a big grain of salt.

That said, what would happen if you admitted that you had happy times?  What would happen if you just decided to feel happy just now? for right this minute?  Try it on, try on ‘happy’. Did you lighten a little?

What would happen if you balanced the recounting of the wounds you suffered at the hands of others or of fate with the joys you remember?  What if you don’t have many joys?  Then try balancing the traumas with the possibilities.

What would happen if you balanced your telling of what life has offered with speaking of the hope of what life can offer?

What would happen if you took a deeeeeeeeeeeeep breath. . .and quietly, on the seat of your experiences, walking the line of your life’s history. . . just balanced?

Try balance.  Stop for just a minute right here and feel it deep in you: balance, steadiness.  How you do feel?

Now, one last question –

What goodies are you getting from suffering?

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What Feminism Means to Me

I am a 54 year old woman.  I was a kid in the 1960s and 1970s.  When I went to work in finance, only 2% of the industry was female.  I was told to make coffee.  I declined.  I was made fun of and blatantly sabotaged when I succeeded because the saboteurs were insecure.  I ignored and kept on going.  I was sexually harassed at a time when you just deflected and kept your mouth shut.  I deflected well.  I was in my 20s in the 1980s, when you were supposed to stay in the bad marriage and raise your children to accept it.

Initially, feminism meant feelings of gratitude to Susan B. Anthony, Betty Freidan, Margaret Sanger, Jean Kirkpatrick, Indira Gandhi and many other women who paved the way.  Initially, feminism meant striking out on my own because I could in that changing world.  It meant arguing with the banker who wouldn’t let me open a bank account because I was a single mother and winning because some other woman had the courage to fight that same fight before me and win.

Initially, feminism meant raising my daughters to own themselves, provide for themselves and value themselves.  It meant raising my son to see women as equally intelligent, equally important and equally invested in our world.

I celebrate the courage it took to say no to a man when it was a man’s world.  I celebrate those courageous women.  I celebrate the determination it took to fight for rights when the male establishment slowed down the process, put up road blocks and patted them on the head with a “There, there, you don’t need to worry, we’ll take care of you.”  I celebrate those women who refused to take “There, there” for an answer.

I celebrate that I feel good about my womanhood, that I could provide for my family, that I could live on my own, that I found a wonderful man to partner with who understood and supported my career ascendency in a man’s world.  I celebrate that I have a great partner now, stable children and the ability to provide for myself without feeling indebted to anyone in the world.  I own me.  Thanks to Betty and Margaret and Susan and Gloria and so many unknown others.

Now, feminism means looking back at what I did to build that foundation myself.  It means seeing the world through the eyes of my daughters who do and are more than I have been and rejoicing in them.  It means seeing my son be shocked when he sees a woman treated as second class, because he never would.

Now, feminism means finding balance. Balance between fighting the good fight for women and caring about the unique difficulties of being a man in our culture.  Now, it means being a humanist.

Feminism has led me to humanism.  To care as much about the inequalities faced by white men as by women.  To care equally about the divides of race as I do gender.  To want to create a world in which people are treated without bias.  Period.

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What Feminism Means to Me: The Boo Edition

As a Young Boo … An Awakening

I started life in a religion that told me The Father is the head of the household. But luckily, I had my amazing mother who taught me, rather than told me, right from wrong. As a young girl, to me, girls and boys were different simply because we had different private parts, in the most Kindergarten Cop kind of way: Boys had penises, girls had vaginas. And, as a tomboyish girl, that was fine with me. Friends were friends, whether they were boys or girls. In fact, for my first 7 years of life, my best friends were boys. I couldn’t tell the difference – I just knew that we all liked to play the same games, like war, and wild animals.

It wasn’t until I got a little older when the world started telling me that boys and girls were different for other reasons. Boys were better at science. Girls didn’t ask questions in class. Boys were doctors. Girls were nurses. Boys played sports. Girls played house. Boys could be powerful. Girls should be pretty. Boys had careers. Girls had children. Boys became Men. Girls became Mom.

As a Teen Boo … A Growing Awareness

Then, as a teenager, those differences became more complicated. Boys planned to lose their virginity. Girls planned their wedding dresses. Boys could, and should, have sex with as many girls as possible. Girls shouldn’t have sex with anyone. Boys could drive fast cars and be rowdy. Girls could sit in the passenger seat and look good. Boys asked a girl’s father for permission to marry their daughter. Girls didn’t ask anyone shit.

As a Young Adult Boo … A Warrior

As a young adult, again, those differences were more complicated, but still defining. Men were seen as fiesty and hardnosed businessmen if they mades demands in the workplace. Women were seen as bitches for the same characteristics. Men were the execs. Women were the secretaries. Men got promoted for playing golf. Women got promoted for playing with their boss. Men could be flirtatious and friendly, and it was seen as charming and approachable. Women could be flirtatious and friendly, and be seen as a slut.

Yes, to some extent, these things are stereotypes. But they exist. And despite how far “feminism” has brought women in the last 40 years, they still exist. For a long time, these differences infuriated me. I became hard, and angry, and lashed out at anything that I saw as unfair, because for so fucking long, those imbalances in fairness had not fallen in my favor. I saw myself as A Feminist, a warrior that must wage battle against every gender-based iniquity that befell me or my sister women. I let my anger and my emotions lead me, I let my head tell me what to do. I left my heart out in the cold, and instead, warmed my hands on the fires of fairness.

Redefining My Feminism

Then one day, I grew up. I started to look around and realize that I was oppressing myself just as much as my oppressors, and, gasp, not all of my oppressors were men. They came in every shape, size, color, and, yes, gender. But one thing that they all had in common: They were insecure individuals looking to wield whatever little bit of power they held over others. I opened my eyes to realize that the battle of injustice was not just one of the sexes, but one of the classes, beliefs, and all other manner of defining groups of people. I determined that I was a Feminist, yes, and I decided to redefine what that meant to me. I am still constantly working on that definition, because the more I grow, the more it grows. And now, to me, being a feminist is more about caring about my fellow human beings, and fellow furry friends, than it is about worrying over what imbalances there are because of my gender.

Obviously, sexism is a very real thing. Just as racism, and classism, and any other manner of hating a group of people because of a common characteristic. These injustices are what I rail against. These broad sweeps of the hating pen are what I yearn to erase. With that, I would like to share my ongoing list of what I believe defines me as a feminist. This is in no way a complete list, and it appears in no certain order. Nor does this apply to everyone’s opinion of what defines feminism. This is mine, and I hope that there is at least one thing on this list to which any one person can relate.

Feminism is…

Empowering yourself
Creating your world your way
Respecting everyone’s experience
Agreeing to disagree
Loving for love’s sake
Equality for all living beings
Caring for yourself and others
Living life, not running from it
Trusting your own instincts
Embracing the nurturing qualities of yourself and those around you
Dealing with your emotions, not hiding from them
Knowing where your issues end and others’ begin
Seeking justice
Embracing the power of heart
Nurturing the good in yourself and others
Sharing happiness
Not taking other’s emotions personally
Thinking for yourself
Loving Yourself

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When Speaking Out Helps

You can’t visit any media outlet today without seeing a couple dozen people speaking out against one thing or another. I love seeing people stand up for what they believe in. I love, even more, when those cries don’t fall on deaf ears.

Recently, there was a huge uproar across the internet about “Girls Science Kits.” These were kits sold by various resellers, such as Edmund Scientifics, and created by Wild Science.  These kits were marketed toward young girls, and just screamed of the worst kind of stereotypes. Moving past the glaring fact that scientific exploration has been divided between girls and boys, let’s take a look at what a company like this deems “girly science.” If you click on that Wild Science link, you’re instantly greeted by a very bright, very obnoxious sort of pink layout. Only to find such mind-numbingly ridiculous products such as Beauty Spa and Mystic (KRAZY) Crystals.   Apparently, if you’re a girl and interested in science, you’re limited to knock-off beauty supplies and shiny things.

As ridiculous as this whole thing is, the uproar about it worked. While Wild Science is still marketing this rather absurd line of products JUST to young girls, the vendors who are selling these have listened to the feedback. On December 1st, Edmund Scientifics announced that they will no longer separate these products by gender, and will instead group them under ‘Novelty Kits.’

High-five, Edmund Scientifics. While I don’t think the products should be removed from the market entirely (who knows, someone somewhere will probably have a great time making snow flakes), it is extremely important to impress on young girls that they can split any atoms they damn well please. They are NOT limited to spa products and useless crystals.

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