Simple Pleasures

Thanks to all of you who offered words of encouragement and wisdom in response to my last post about finding success. It was nice to be reminded that living in the moment and finding peace within is always the best approach to uncertainty. This past week I have found some relief from my questioning by applying those strategies as much as I could remember to, and when those stormy thoughts entered my mind, accepting them.

I’ve just spent the weekend with my adorable, lively 3-year-old granddaughter and my precious daughter.  I wish they lived closer but 5 hours away isn’t so bad.  It is amazing how many things one notices when walking with a toddler. The ants crawling on the sidewalk, the scent of a pine cone, and the sounds of a baby bird hidden in a nearby bush.

Today is a beautiful day and the only dilemma I’m feeling right now is how to spend it. Gardening? Hiking? Bike Riding? How grateful I am to have so may choices.

What is Success and Where do I Find it?

I haven’t posted in a long time and I am not sure why. I could say I have been busy, but it is more than that. Busy is such a meaningless word. I have been filling up the hours in my days no more or less than usual.  I’ve been scurrying a long from activity to activity, while intentionally avoiding my blog.  The truth is,  sometimes it seems weird to share so openly about my life, and it makes me uncomfortable.   And yet when I don’t, it feels like there is something missing.  Maybe it is because my only true passion is writing, and blogging will probably be as close as I ever get to being a writer, even if it is for my own enjoyment.  It felt good to take a break, and now I am happy to be back.  Maybe writing again will help me deal with my latest identity crisis, as it seems to have done in the past.

Over all it has been a pretty good year, at least from the outside looking it.  I finally finished graduate school and started a new job.  I am in a loving relationship, and I just came back from a wonderful vacation.  Yet I have been feeling  an increasing malaise recently, and I am trying to come to terms with the reasons why.

The biggest reason I’m struggling is probably internal in nature, and revolves around the question of what defines success. I thought I knew what success meant to me, and now I am not so sure. I moved on from my old job this winter for several reasons, burn-out, frustrations about hitting a ceiling, and wanting a change after 20 years.  As a feminist, I believe that I ought to strive to achieve to my fullest potential and I’ve pushed myself accordingly.

Now I am learning that success doesn’t always equate with job title or salary.  Success is about being true to oneself and liking what one does. Neither of which I am experiencing right now. My new job doesn’t seem to fit my personality, despite my being good at it, and it is causing me a great deal of angst. I know I should give it time, but that’s hard to do when I dread going to work each day.  I miss what I did before, and wish I could have found a way to make it work and have some growth without throwing the baby out with the bath water, as they say. Sitting at a desk now looking at spreadsheets all day and going to meeting after meeting is wearing on me. I thought it was the angst of transitioning but it hasn’t gotten any better so I am starting to wonder.

Now I am holding my hands up to the sky, as if there are answers waiting to be captured as they fly towards me in a gust of wind.

I am going to give it some time to figure out what I want.  In the meantime, I will make sure to fill my days with the things I enjoy, like writing this blog.  I will take it one day at a time and try to remember the hardest lesson of all…

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I’ll keep you “posted” on how it is going.

Why the Word Feminist?

“Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists

How true are these words! I am fighting for the basic rights of females around the world, who have been subjected to all forms of repression, abuse, and exclusion, just because of their gender.    emilie in hawaii

I like to pretend

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Each day when I walk out my back door,

Taking the well-worn path to my garage, where my gray car sits

waiting to take me to my next destination,

Barely noticing the tender buds of the crocus

sprouting up around me,

I like to pretend

I like to pretend that I know what is going to happen that day,

I like to think that I am driving, rather than being driven

That I am accelerating, rather than being accelerated

Breathing, rather than being breathed

I like to pretend that I am working, rather than being worked

That I am choosing a path, rather than a path choosing me

I like to pretend that I am in the know,

Rather than the know being in me

I like to believe I am embracing life,

When in fact, life is embracing me.

Amy Jones

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Keeping our young girls safe

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Image retrieved from NPR.org

I heard a segment on NPR called Teen Girls and Social Media: A story of Secret Lives and Misogyny,  about some very disturbing activities that young girls are engaging in on  social media in an attempt to gain attention and fit in.  If you didn’t hear it, I would highly recommend clicking on the link, especially if you are raising a young daughter or son. If you think they aren’t being impacted by this new trend, I would encourage you to take the extra steps to find out. As parents, we have the right to know about and intervene in activities that may be jeopardizing our children’s safety and well-being.

I am somewhat fascinated lately to hear young women’s take on feminism and how they believe they are no longer faced with the same struggles as the females in my generation. When I was young, sexual harassment was a part of life that we were taught to live with. Even though our society supposedly now denounces these activities, I am not so sure it hasn’t come back with a vengeance, albeit packaged differently now.

It seems like the more powerful women become in our society, the more backlash there is to attempt to undermine that power.  The message that women are now free to express rather suppress their sexuality can be a positive thing, yet now more than ever, there is a tremendous backlash that is fooling our girls into believing certain types of misogyny are okay.

The types of misogyny that are being encouraged by the thousands of over-sexualized portrayals of women our young girls are exposed to each day can have a cumulative effect on their psyche.  Having to deal with too much too early can ultimately lead to feelings of insecurity, self-loathing, and low self-esteem in our young women. These feelings can follow them into adulthood and undermine their attempts to be taken seriously.

As I contemplate the world my 2-year-old granddaughter is being raised in, I am both excited at the prospect of so many more opportunities she will have and fearful of this new brand of hyper-sexuality that threatens to stand in the way of everything women have worked so hard to achieve.

I would like to see more focus on the women who are achieving positions of power through their accomplishments in science, public service, athletics, and academia, and less focus on the one-dimensional hyper-sexualized version of women that we are subjected to each day.

 

My Corner of the Universe – Writer’s Quote Wednesday

UnknownIt has been awhile since I have posted anything, as school is consuming most of my time. I couldn’t resist joining Writer’s Quote Wednesday today, as I have been pondering the concept captured in this quote a lot lately.

I am taking an Ethics class this semester which has turned out to be my favorite class for a variety of reasons, the least of which is that I am faced with ethical decisions on a regular basis in my job. The top reason, and most important, is that I am starting to realize how easy it is to judge others for their actions, while rationalizing and making excuses for my own.

I have become increasingly aware of an ongoing dialogue in my head that puts the people and situations I encounter in real life or in the news and media into two categories of either being right or wrong, good or bad.  This can be exhausting and  leaves me feeling quite disheartened by the end of the day.

I’ve always wondered how nurses  and doctors could have participated in activities that seemed so blatantly wrong like the deception that occurred in the Tuskegee Study,  or the T4 program and other major atrocities that happened during Hitler’s regime.  Upon closer examination of their reasons, it becomes clearer how we all walk a fine line when rationalizing our own choices. Whether we are afraid to stand up to someone for fear of reprisal, we are simply earning a living, or we think are supporting some noble cause, it is often easier to take the path of least resistance.

Last night in class we talked about the dangers of becoming so emotionally detached that we are numb and complacent to the ethical dilemmas we face each day. I really liked this quote that spurred our discussion:

“In our technological culture perhaps the greatest moral danger arises not from sentimentality, but from devaluing feeling and not attending to or nurturing moral emotions. Numbness, apathy, isolated dissociations between thinking and feeling are also moral warning signals…the absence of emotional responses of empathy and sympathy become critical bioethical issues.” Callahan, 1995

I can think of times in my life when I have shut off my emotions in order to go against my own morals, and I see examples of this phenomenon often in everyday life.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t change the actions of anyone else, but I can certainly become more aware of how I make my own choices and what I am putting out into the universe.  I will never be perfect, as that is an elusive term, but I can always strive to do better.

Thawing Out and Letting my Feelings In

IMG_1661I’m sitting on the couch in my pajamas this morning. The sun is shining through the shades next to me, reminding me of a warm summer day, while a cold draft from the large picture window behind me lets me know it is a mere six degrees outside.  This mixture of cold and warmth reminds me of how life can be  good and bad, sweet and salty, all at the same time.

Growing up in a household where uncertainty was the norm, I developed this interesting ability to wall myself off from the painful moments when my mom was having a psychotic episode. I taught myself how to go numb, like a body does when its been in the cold too long, in order to freeze out the terror that was a part of living with a parent who struggled to cope with a difficult to treat,  sometimes debilitating illness  called paranoid schizophrenia. It wasn’t so much her accusations that I was the devil, the shouting at me, or the pushing me out the door that hurt so bad. It was the pain of watching someone I loved descending into a living hell and not being able to do anything about it.

So I learned how to protect myself, first by living in a day-dream world, hidden in my room surrounded by books, colored pencils for sketching my dreams, and  a desk full of pens for writing stories about a better life. Later my body became the subject of my obsessions; restricting, bingeing, purging, all to numb myself from the world around me.

In parallel to this numbing, was the ever-present sunshine in my life, even when hidden behind thick misty clouds or blizzard conditions, it was always there. The people who loved me unconditionally, the music that kept me in touch with my soul, and the tiny glimpses of a peaceful being that I couldn’t quite understand. Most call this presence God. I have found no words yet to describe this divine source of tranquility.

As life went on, winters came and went, and so did warm summers. I learned how to navigate life without some of the vices that had become my shield. Yet, whenever something unthinkable would happen, the near loss of a child, divorce, or the death of someone I cherished, I would find myself going back to my old way of coping, this time without the help of an eating disorder. I found that I had mastered the ability to quickly go numb once the initial tears were shed.

I am certainly not the only one who anesthetizes their feelings in order to cope. I am finding that most adults do to a greater or lesser degree all of the time. It turns out, our emotions seem to be our greatest foe at times, and we will go to great lengths to drown out our inner voices. We use drugs, alcohol, work, relationships, avoidance, sex, religion, gambling, violence, and many other behavioral tactics to keep us from facing our true selves.

The problem with having this ability to numb oneself is that it is hard to go back to feeling anything once the cold has passed. I am working on being able to show up in the moment and open up my heart to whatever feelings come to me, no matter how scary, as that is my only hope of ever being fully alive.  It may take me the rest of my life to figure out how to live in a world that is bittersweet, but slowly I am thawing out and warming up enough to experience the beauty of life as well as the pain.

Judge not….(or Maybe Just a Little)

“When you think yours is the only true path you forever chain yourself to judging others and narrow the vision of God. ”  ― Shannon L. Alder

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Happy New Year! Here is my first Writer’s Quote Wednesday post of the year.

My friend and I were lamenting about how we set this great intention for the New Year to be less judgmental, quickly realizing that no sooner than we had set the intention, we were already breaking it. Much like going on a diet, the more we tried not to judge, the harder it was to stop.

So I’ve decided to take a different approach now, a softer, more compassionate approach, by recognizing that this activity must be serving some purpose in my life. If recognizing this part of myself is the first step to changing the behavior, then perhaps I can slowly replace it with something more kindhearted. Being more conscious of when I am engaging in this one-dimensional cerebration may lead to some greater insights into myself and can be a good indicator about how I am feeling about myself.  Being judgmental of others is often the result of feeling bad about myself and can ultimately make me feel worse.

If I examine my judgments more closely, I realize there is some momentary payback that is satisfying and possibly even comforting.  Lamenting about someone to my friend can be a way to blow off steam and work through my petty grievances without creating unnecessary conflicts with others. When I am dealing with more serious concerns, it can help me to put a little space between myself and the person I am judging in order to think things through more carefully. In the latter scenario, I can run the risk of increasing my frustrations, but most of the time it seems to have the opposite effect, allowing me time to examine my own part in the transaction more clearly.

I haven’t abandoned my quest to be less judgmental, but I am realizing it may be a life-long endeavor to figure out how to manage this part of my personality.  There are plenty of good reasons for me to keep on striving to improve. In its most innocent form, it can be entertaining, and in its worst form, it can be quite destructive and toxic.

We live in a society that seems to revel in being judgmental, and we are constantly seeing posts on social media as well as news and television programs that are all about tearing people down.  I don’t want to get caught up in that kind of negativity, so all I can do is to start on a personal level.

When I am having a particularly difficult time, I utilize an excellent tool from the Work by Byron Katie, called the Judge Your Neighbor work sheet. The goal is not to self-censor but to put my judgmental thoughts down on paper and then examine them more closely. I have found this tool to be extremely helpful in identifying how to make peace with my most troubling thoughts.

I would love to hear how others deal with this aspect of their personality. Do you find yourself judging  frequently? Any good tips?