Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A safe place (sequal to Not Nice)

I've had interesting responses to my post, "Not Nice," several of them by DM. Some say, of course you're nice, because I have experienced your niceness. Others say, I thought you were nice so now I'm worried about wasting your time. Still others say, I'm not nice either, might as well embrace it. For some reason, all three of these responses made me want to clarify where I'm coming from in our relationship, so there can be no mistake.

I love you, I do, and there are some of you that I would go significantly out of my way for, even on something in the "real" world. I love to share your experiences in the moment, offer what insight or comfort or instigation I can, smile at your joys, growl at your frustrations, play with ideas together and spread love and wisdom like a virus. Several times I have turned to this online community for comfort and it was given with generosity and love. Daily, I turn to you for help with my thinking, and you give it kindly and with a kindred spirit. I feel truly alive when I am engaged with you.

You're like the best novel I've read, and it doesn't end, with an ever-growing cast of characters. Because you are real people out there, represented by what you present here, I'm intrigued to get to know such interesting people this way, without bodies to interpret and with the time to have forethought into what is presented and how.

I have a theory, one of many conflicting theories, that the human race is actually a race. We are working, frantically, to capture the totality of the human experience in an unbreakable code housed in an unbreakable atom, before we run out of matter to sustain us. If that theory were to play out, Twitter would be one important key to that capture. So in a sense, you could consider interaction in this world as a spiritual devotion, a contribution to the greater connection and capture of the human experience.

In the real world, social ramifications matter to me, because my work involves influence at the community level. I work hard to find the balance between the guard required to make guarded people feel comfortable with me, and being open and genuine to draw out true spirits from timid hiding places. At home, my family needs my full presence, and I don't get much opportunity to think and feel for myself.

In the virtual world, I go behind the curtain of my pseudonym, and I am free to express and be just as I need to be in the moment. I don't have to be alone in it. If I make you uncomfortable, you are not obliged to respond to me. If I say something that upsets you, you can unfollow me. So I don't have to worry about what you think. I choose to worry about what you think sometimes, but without obligation, our relationship is truly about free choice. Can you imagine what this gift has meant to me?

So when I say that Twitter/Blogging is like Friendship Light, I mean that in the most positive sense. We can interact when it's convenient. We can give only what we want, and pretend we didn't see a tweet we don't care for. We can give support on our own terms, and there are minimal consequences to disagreement. We achieve depth on the essentials by avoiding all the trappings of physical relationships. It's not enough to sustain a person, but it is a significant enhancement in my life, and I think to the world.

So you can't waste my time.

I have many responsibilities in the physical world, but one of the things I prioritize is some time each day in this virtual realm. I like being in the cloud with you - it feels more like home. Thank you for giving me a safe place to rest and be just me.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Not nice

I am not a nice person. There. I said it. I am not nice.

I am on a mission. One life. What, maybe 85 years with decreasing physical capability? This is serious business.

I want to maximize my time spent happy. That requires minimizing time spent on mundane aspects like subsistence and maintenance. Money buy convenience. Convenience yields time with each other to love, learn, communicate and interact. That makes me happy. So for a long time that was the whole of it - spend the time required to earn as much money as possible with my capabilities, and put systems in place to minimize the effort of household management to maximize time for happy. It was enough. Then we added two kids. And a career/life change. The household systems became more and more important. I became much more diligent and stringent.

It's easy to confuse me for a sloppy housekeeper, because my house is messy. I allow much of our household to deteriorate into low-level messiness, as long as the key cogs in my system are working. I like things the way I like them. I want things to run smoothly. I am particular.

Toys get put away with like toys, not just in any bin that's handy. Particular tools we use every day are put away in the same place. Keys on a hook at the front door. Respect for the order of the fridge and cupboards. Use the baskets provided for the various forms of detritus.

I'm not just particular about where things go. I am insistent on certain household standards and processes, as well. Tools are not toys. The milk bag is tied to the refrigerator door when we take out the last bag. The laundry on top of the dryer is clean and awaiting a basket. Clothes that are too small go on top of the dresser until I can give them away. Papers stay in piles by type, not bundled together randomly. Things on the right side of the stairs go up on the next trip. Certain dishes are always kept clean, not put in the dishwasher. Oh yes, it goes on.

I'm about as fun to live with as an efficient manager is fun to work for. But I can't care about that. Because this is how we maximize our time. I don't easily forgive anything that wastes my time.  Every second that I don't need to sell can be put to good use. 

When petty concerns muck up my systems, I feel really irritable. Now I need to spend some of my precious, precious time on fixing a mess, when it's not convenient, while figuring out how to balance everything else. My adrenaline rises.

I also, inevitably, have to let go of a hope, a long-shot at the tail end of the priority list that I might just be able to fit in if everything works the way it should. It's usually something I really, really want to do, like work out, or write. So I'm also grieving, scrambling to see if there's some way to save it today, and wishing, wishing that the system weren't broken so that I didn't have to grieve.

All that makes me mighty unpleasant. I am better at keeping a handle on it than I used to be, but I still have those feelings, very strongly, and I still have a strong desire to blame the situation on the person who created it. I feel that, and it takes me a few minutes to work it through even when I can see it. Seeing it actually makes me more frustrated by adding shame and embarrassment to the mix. I've found myself yelling, "I'm not mad at you, I'm just mad!" which isn't terrible, but I'd rather not be yelling.

I am just not nice. When I feel my time is wasted, I feel it keenly. I sometimes find myself behaving in ways I am not happy with, from freakouts to passive-aggressive comments.  Sometimes I can move past it fast, and others, I can't find it in me. There's a big part of me that feels fully justified in being upset, and isn't satisfied with just accepting the situation the way it is. I want to stop it from happening again, and that's when it's most important to be nice. Just when I'm least capable.

There are lots of other ways I'm not nice. I'll tell you about them when I can. Right now, time's a wasting.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A new kind of creature

Here's one way that I sometimes think about my life:

For some reason, I am operating a piece of bio-machinery that I thought was just a tool and, it turns out, completely controls me in every way. So I'm learning to partner with her, to love her, to respect her own strange nature, and we are finding ways to stumble along this terrifying three-legged-race.

To what end? I can't know. The ultimate of can't knows. There's a part of me that yearns, still, for an incontrovertible and comprehendible answer. I nurture that part.  because I do love her, even her - pushy to the point of obnoxious, obsessive, raw, emphatic little her. She's on a lost cause for justice, and it breaks my heart.

So I berate her, try to shake her out of it. I try to control her with a whip. How long did it take me to understand that my body is not a piece of machinery, not inert and simply inhabited by me? She owns this life and I'm riding along, hopefully influencing the outcomes. I achieve my growth in the place where we come together, body and spirit, and we both need to be willing. 

I wonder if it isn't this - the body is conscious, the spirit is conscious, but the only way to live on this plane is as a new kind of creature, a new kind of consciousness that exists only as this particular body and spirit merge. The body is of matter. What is the spirit of?

My particular incarnation of spirit and matter has never existed before, will never exist again, and I am responsible for it. What if I am the most important person on the planet at this moment? Does that change how I live?

Ah, musings for a Wednesday morning.

The uncomfortable talk

I think "God" may be my "Sex": when it comes to the uncomfortable talk.

I don't believe in God. I own a certain optimistic predisposition that hopes for an ultimate goodness to which we all belong. It's a sentimental quality that I'm growing fond of in myself. Intellectually, I know that I am simply ill-equipped to understand, one way or the other, purpose or chaos or something else (certainly something else?). Yet, this centre in me, this glowing, growing ember, loves to hope.

Lately, I've been questioning the "religious upbringing" part of parenting. I'd never questioned it before. We don't believe in God, so we don't talk about God. Why would we? Sometimes my husband and I will engage in conversation around "what if's" about certain theories of life. The children see this as boring adult drone and quickly start acting up. It's not talking about God.

I worry, though. I recognize that my own religious upbringing was, on the whole, more of an impediment to understanding God than a help. Still, from the time I can remember, I had a close, personal relationship with God. I prayed. A lot. All the time. I felt loved by God when I did not feel loved by my mother after my sisters were born.

I believed that I could influence God - not control him, but influence him and maybe get him on side with me on some important things. I once badgered God for three weeks, non-stop, through classes, through meals, as a constant background process, to make it so I won the walkman at the school draw. When they called my name, I was not surprised. God understood that access to music offered an escape from my noisy family and a path to explore new music. God knew it was important, because I'd let him know, over and over in case he didn't hear.

When I lost my religion, my very concept of God collapsed. There is nothing. Nothing matters. How stupid had I been? Could I really have bought all that shit? Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and Jesus? Maybe I need to START smoking something!

So, nothing matters. It's all on me. Just make my way and survive this place, have some fun, make enough money to enjoy things...now I get it. Fuck you, God! I'm not talking to you anymore. YOU DON'T EXIST! You were a childish fantasy.

I hate you. How can you not exist? You tricked me! They tricked me! How can I trust anyone? Ever? 

(I miss you. No I don't.)

Yes, I do.

I wish there was some way that I could wrap my head around this world that would let me believe, not just "have faith," that there is a purpose to all of this. So I explore that, I give myself permission to have some space to try out my imagination on scenarios of hope. I do so with no expectation, intention, nor (ironically), hope of finding one set of ideas that I can stick with. I just take it in, add it to the soup, smell it and even taste it once in awhile, to see what else might make it better. I will never understand, and the part of me that's not okay with that is calming down.

I believe the core of me that prayed was powerful because I felt connected and tethered in the world, even though I was praying to myself all along. When I rejected an external God, the part of me that understood what was going on was severed - I didn't trust it anymore. I didn't believe in LOVE, and allowed myself only love. Nothing mattered but my immediate present.

As I find my way back to hope, overcoming my intellectual scoffing with the humble truth that I simply cannot know anything for certain, that core in me is the strength from which I draw. It's like putting on a comfortable glove, praying to myself, to the air that touches my skin, to the water and food that nourish my body. I can't live there, but I can experience that sometimes.

So...what do I tell my three and four-year-old?

When I say nothing, I make God taboo. I leave them floundering. They will not build a close personal relationship with God on our watch. I don't want to be a prison guard, keeping that ridiculous notion of God out. But I do feel that way. I've been so afraid of religion corrupting their minds. I haven't thought enough about how to simplify my own thinking to share it, because it's still pretty new to me and I'm not convinced it can be effectively simplified. I'm just starting to explore these ideas with my husband - he needs to be on board for any notions of "God Talk," doesn't he?

I have no code to teach, like my parents did. How do I give my preschool kids permission to build a close, personal relationship with their own spirits, while not giving the impression that there is an omnipotent or separate being of higher authority? What words best explain to a four-year old the paradox of accepting that we can't know and letting that be the key knowledge? What few words convey how trust can let you down, and yet remain absolutely necessary? How do I explain about loving our violent, selfish nature because love manages anger, when they are having trouble understanding not to hit?

Every day, I try to live these ideas, and every day I fall down and learn out loud. They watch, they see. But I don't share the context. I don't talk about the framework. In other families, they are saying grace, or going to church on Sundays, or praying before bed, because in those families, they believe in God. I don't choose those expressions for my devotion to loving life, and I haven't really replaced them.

I am, semi-consciously, trying to spare my children the grief and pain of losing God. In doing so, am I robbing them of the confidence of trusting that there is purpose to the world's cycles and they are an integral piece? Am I robbing them of the capacity to build hope around a dream, an imaginary wish, however improbable?

Sex I can do. God...not so much. 

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Father's Tribute

My husband doesn't like his job. It wasn't always this way, but it's been this way longer than he let on. He's a private guy. Doesn't see the point in complaining about what he perceives can't be changed. Looking to the positive. So then one day, it's too much, and it's clear - he does not like his job.

I don't blame him - I wouldn't like it, either. It's high stress, over-work, in a conservative culture when he's a radical guy at heart. He has to put on his stuffy clothes and an acceptable face, and push himself constantly to do hard and uninteresting things, to be what is needed all day, to earn the nice salary and the lifestyle to which we are accustomed. He does it so that I can continue my experiment in non-profit, earning half what I did to hopefully do more good. He carries the burden without complaint.

I've wondered how he gets through the day. And then, a few months ago, I found out. In a labyrinth of cubicles-cum-offices, I turned a corner into his little soul jar, and discovered...love.

His tiny office is a shrine to us. Kids' artwork crowds for space, photos leap smiles left and right. I saw mementos I'd given him and forgotten about, our wedding photo, my own face smiling encouragement and devotion. Every surface sports it's own tribute. He has built a shrine to our family's love, right in the heart of the dead-zone, to surround and protect him. He knows why he does it, and knowing that is what gets him through the day.

He loves us. He really loves us.

And I love him more than I knew was possible.

Happy Father's Day to the man I picked from among all men as the father for my children. I picked well. You're everything I hoped for, more than I knew to dream of, and every day I better understand just how lucky I am. Just how lucky we all are that you are the man of our house.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

There are no wrong questions, only layers

(I don't have time to edit this right now)

I’m humbled to be here in the perfect life for me, grateful for the repose in a fantasy world of domestic and life bliss. So, I feel bad about resenting the intrusion of other people’s suffering on my respite. I want to enjoy this life, breathe the air, contribute to human knowledge by puttering away at problems that interest me while living my life, my beautiful life that I love and is heaven on earth. I did everything I needed to and built that life, and now the abject suffering of others keeps getting in the way of enjoying it.

Isn’t that what taxes are for? What is wrong with the governments. I pay increasing amounts, and they do less and less about the biggest drain on, not only our economic systems, but the purpose of human life. I don’t know what that purpose is, but I feel very certain that every consciousness moving towards knowing and loving each other can only be a helpful direction. Anything else looks like destruction to me.

The more people have of what they really want, the more space they find for caring about other people. But it’s on a downscaled ratio that only each of us understands. If I have enough money to solve medium-big problems in my life, I’m going to use the slack that buys to do something. Some of that something will be enjoying life, and some of that something will be contributing to the purpose of humanity. Whatever that is.

So I think it’s important that I examine my perception of “security.” All my life I have defined security by judging how big a problem I can easily solve if it comes up. I want  minimal disruption to my enjoyment of life/ability to keep living it, so how equipped am I to handle what I think might be coming? Can I easily incorporate extra costs like a car repair, a meal at a restaurant, a hair cut at a salon, that toy he really wants? If so, I can start to look around and think – okay, now how can I contribute more?

But no, we don’t usually do that, do we? We look for more to consume, more media, more information. Curious, isn’t it? Why do we do that? What drives us?

I thought that “how big a problem can I solve,” which is really, “how much money do I have,” was the question. I realized it was masking another question that was harder to grapple with: what could happen that I could survive and still choose light over darkness? How strong am I of character? When I ask that question instead, I know my fear for what it is.  I am weak. I want comfort. I love my life.

Protecting what we love about our lives makes us fierce. Of course it does. So we ask, “how much money do I need?” It is a masking question. It can consume lives, loves, relationships, resources, until we miss the point entirely and blow the whole thing up. Can we ask instead, how can I best love in this moment? I will spend this lifetime training for that one.

Do you understand what I am saying? Can you tell me what this means to you?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pushing past (musings on finding a doctor)

Today I found us a doctor.

It's been months since our doctor fired us. He fired us because I didn't follow his vaccination schedule after he wouldn't answer my questions about it. He fired us because I once got a second opinion that he didn't sanction. He fired us because I went to a walk in clinic once when he was closed. He fired us because his receptionist only answers the phone for 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon, during which time it's constantly a  busy signal, so I eventually gave up trying to find out when the appointment I'd misplaced actually was, and thus missed it. He fired us because he doesn't like me.

He didn't talk with us about it. He didn't even follow the prescribed guidelines of his own College of Physicians. He had his receptionist send us a form letter with no notice and not reason given, saying that he was not providing care for me and my two kids any more. My husband was excluded from the firing. It was personal.

He is not a doctor I want to work with. He is not a person I enjoyed interacting with. He did not have any interest in partnering on our health care, didn't bother to remember anything about us from visit to visit, and didn't even follow up on tests he himself had ordered. He didn't appreciate questions and actively discouraged me from doing any research on my own. He was impossible to reach, hard to deal with, and overall, just a bad match.

When I think about it, I should have been glad to have permission to find another doctor - you must understand that in Ontario, no doctor is PERMITTED to take you on if you already have a family doctor, period, for any reason. I never liked dealing with him, I never felt that my health or that of my family was cared for. He was not, actually, "better than no one."

Yet when I got that letter, I felt bitter shame along with my anger. I felt like a victim who blames herself. I shouldn't have asked so many questions! Why did I always try to bring up more than one health concern when the sign clearly stated that he would only deal with ONE problem per visit? (surely, problems can't possibly be related?!?) If I'd only taken time off work to go into the office to get the date for that appointment after several days of failing to get through on the phone. It's my fault. Guilty. Bad mother. Bad patient. Bad me.


Not completely. I knew he's not the doctor for me, that he acted unprofessionally, that he made no effort at all for this doctor-patient relationship. Still. Ashamed. And afraid, He had all the power, since there have not been any doctors taking patients in our city for a very long time. And he used it.

I don't think I really accepted what had happened, even when I was sitting in the walk-in clinic for hours with my daughter, even when I found myself without anywhere to turn for my own health issues. I couldn't bring myself to action. I looked up the procedure he should have followed, but didn't issue a complaint. I looked for a new doctor with the local chamber, but accepted the answer that none were taking patients in my area. I did not exhaust every opportunity. I did not start camping on doctors' doorsteps begging them to take me. I did not do anything at all. For months. Except seethe every time I thought about it.

I am a take-action kind of person. And I did nothing. I accepted my role as the victim. I accepted my punishment in the long waits and the lack of care. What the hell?

Yesterday, after a hellish 36 hours of illness, after I managed to keep down a very small meal and gained enough strength to sit at a computer, I looked up doctors in my area. I found a doctor working for a "health network" that sounded promising in their approach to patient care. Of course, they were not taking patients, but this time, I decided to try. This morning I called.

Their message said "Please note this new information - we are pleased to announce that Dr. --- is joining our practice on August 3rd. Registration will be at our office on a first come, first served basis this week only." I'm still pretty sick, but I put my hair in a ponytail, threw on some clothes, and drove over. It took everything out of me today, but on August 3rd, we will have a doctor. It's only Monday, and we were patients 94, 95 and 96. By Wednesday, his practice will be full.

Was it because I was so sick? What made me take action today, when last week or next week the same call would have resulted in the usual "not accepting new patients" answer?

I'm still blocked. I still don't seem able to dig deeper into the fears and beliefs that kept me inert in rejection and almost hateful anger all these months. What changed?

Maybe I'm finished being a victim.

What I do know is this - we will have a family doctor. He can't be any worse. All signs point to better. And I feel sorry for the sad little man who doesn't have enough professional respect for himself to treat an active patient with respect, or any patient as a whole person. I haven't quite let go of my anger, but in taking action, I've let go of my shame. I can begin to move on.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Ramblings of a feverish mind

I'm sick. Oh, yes, so sick I can't ignore it. So sick I can't keep anything in me and the panic feeling of needing to purge while dreading the act is pretty much constant. I can't stand properly. Everything aches.

I had my warnings. I don't have time to be sick, so I ignored my body's irritable poking, treated it like whining. Now, here I am. Laid flat. Reminded just who is in charge here, after all.

My parents came this morning to visit. They were understanding in the way they are - disappointed, worried, wishing they knew so they could have avoided bothering us (and coming to the infectious zone) as if calling them should have been the first priority. My dad couldn't help but blame me a bit "it must be losing too much weight too fast" (I've lost about 15 pounds in the last SIX MONTHS).

My mom asked if I wanted her to stay to help with the kids rather than head to their next destination (they live far away, fit in lots of visits each trip). She asked with her shoes on, my dad half out the door, the reluctance in her voice barely masked despite her best efforts. She means well. She would have stayed. Neither of them gave protest when we said we'd be fine, though it must have been clear that I was not fine, not at all.

My kids don't understand. They are ready to burst into tears at slightest provocation. They keep running to my room while I'm resting to ask if I'm better yet, startling me awake. I try to be there for them but fall back, exhausted; I run from the room for another toilet break. They bang on the door.

My husband is quietly just doing. Doing and doing and taking care of the kids. He would take care of me, too, if he had an idea how, but I can't bring myself to ask one more thing of him when he's carrying the full family burden and we don't even have any food since today is my grocery day.

So it's me. Can I care for myself? After 4+ years of letting my body fall to the bottom of the priorities, pushing my own needs and desires aside for everyone else, can I take one day for me without guilt, without shame?

This time, I have no choice but to do it. It's how I let myself think about it, and how I feel about it, that poses a choice.

I'm working on it. I'm closer than I've ever been. The pangs of guilt around my parents dissipated very fast. The pangs of guilt around my kids, I've accepted and gently handed them the responsibility to try to understand. The pangs of guilt around my husband taking the burden - those are harder, because he would be further burdened by even knowing they exist. But I'm almost there - more grateful than guilty.

This illness is a check-in on how I'm doing with me. I can't give myself an A+, but I can see my progress. Two years ago the mess in my mind would have been as bad as the mess in my body. Today, that's not the case.

The real test will come when I'm slightly better, when I have a choice between treating myself gingerly or pushing always to the limit.

Right now, I think I'll just go back to bed.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Hot Coals

So the controversy in France, and closer to home in Quebec, around the burqa. It keeps coming up for me, even when it's not in the news. And now, Ontario is deciding whether to allow a woman to wear the niqāb when testifying in court about her alleged childhood sexual abuse.

I feel a fundamental need to protect my sisters' right to wear what they choose. I also feel disrespect for their choice. I do not want to feel disrespect for the choice of another human being. I try to think my way out of it, and I often can, but only by putting aside my own values. That feels exploitative to me.

What values of mine can possibly be challenged by the choice of another person?

I hold as true that every human being is a conscious entity who deserves equal respect and the right to self-determination. For me to give a woman who chooses religious covering the respect she deserves, I find myself forced to support what I see as a visible symbol and direct continuation of a system of oppression.

My ethical dilemma today: in order not to oppress, must I tolerate oppression?

It is the worst kind of irony. It is walking on hot coals.

The dilemma becomes immediately entangled in the blatant but almost unspeakable likelihood that some portion of women wearing a burqa or niqab do not choose it, or choose it because they have been conditioned to require it to feel safe.

We may drive ourselves mad attempting to navigate the rapids where the Culture and Choice Rivers converge.  From the outside, cultures where women are required to cover themselves appear to me to celebrate maleness and isolate femaleness while exacting servitude from half the population. Systemically, cultures shape thinking to favour the existing system to promote stability.

Regardless, what is clear is that even a very strong spirit in primarily Muslim countries must overcome outright oppression, or its softer sister, discrimination (political, legal, social, religious), to claim her right to self-determination. I'm sure many fail to reach their potential.

My perspective is ego-centric. I value the right to self determination for all humans. I want to stand up against systems that hold the female in respect as an excellent servant rather than a peer. I want to stand up against systems that violate people's right to equal treatment and opportunity. As long as that remains fundamental in me, how can I respect systems of belief that oppose it?

How can I not respect people's right to those beliefs?

To me, the burqa and niqab represent the very height of oppression - you may not have a face. Only your eyes may speak for you. You may not share your smile. You may not connect your being in a meaningful way with people of your choosing.

At the same time, it also seems to say that males can only be held to the lowest possible standards of thought or behaviour. It lets them off the hook for overcoming primitive urges to become productive citizens side-by-side with the opposite sex. It represents another way that women must take responsibility for men so that they don't have to worry about taking responsibility for themselves. It has the side benefit of providing a constant reminder of subservient position, both to the women and those of us who see them.

People range in their capabilities, but by and large, in my workplaces we have developed strength when it comes to treating the opposite sex as fellow journey people, not just as possible mates. I acknowledge that some in every culture sit just above chimpanzees in their thought and biological disciplines. Yet I have known many men who are able to work with women as equals, not engaging their sexual drive when it's not appropriate to do so.

Shouldn't a society encourage men to develop those strengths, rather than setting up every system to protect them from their own and each others' weakness and inappropriate competition? Desensitizing men to women's bodies seems like a good idea, in the greater scheme of things, and shapeless covering only serves to make the sight of an ankle, breast or chin that much more of a shock to the biology. I don't see how it's helping anything.

By continuing to completely cover, I'm afraid women are letting men off the hook, and as a result, there is more violence. Again, a cursory internet search for data supports the theory that "feminizing" the perspectives of power structures leads to increased cooperation, more respect for the emotional aspects of human nature, and less aggression in various types of environments.

I don't claim anyone has figured out how to address the growing biological and intellectual disconnection in human evolution. I just think we need to expect each other to treat every person with the respect of equal consciousness and potential. I expect it from men, from women, from every person to every person. Systems that require women to submit to harsher and more difficult rules than men are oppressive.

If women support and encourage structures that accept male weakness while also leaving males in charge of decision making, I can't help seeing that as a negation of responsibility. To me, it's like not asking my child to clean up after himself because he makes a fuss, so it's easier to just clean up after him and let him dictate what we do when.  He'll never learn.

I have a hard time respecting that choice, even while I understand that those choosing likely have an entirely different set of reasons in mind.

Where does that leave France, Quebec and Ontario? Is western society ready to make a solid statement that they will not tolerate symbols that validate oppressive systems? Will they choose to prioritize the accused's right to face his accuser, or the alleged victim's right to religious freedom? Will they validate the idea that any symbol is okay, no matter how offensive to others, if it is religious in nature? What would I do faced with the power and responsibility of the decisions?

Hot coals. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch.  (jump off!)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

My secret surprise

I’ve been working on a birthday gift for myself. Shhh. It’s a secret.

I’d like to give myself some appreciation for my birthday, and it’s been really tough. Every time I start the process of creating appreciation, I somehow get wind of my audacious plans, and shut things down immediately with guilt and shame. So I’ve been building this appreciation in secret. I'll never guess where.

Perhaps I should demonstrate why this level of security is required.

Let's try appreciating how far I've come with asking for what I need. This morning. I wanted a compliment. I asked for one. I got five. We all felt happier than before I asked. I basked.

Twelve years ago I probably would have hoped for a compliment, and then engaged myself in increasing dejection through the morning as no compliments emerged, in the end accepting that I did not deserve a compliment, and/or feeling irritated that I DID deserve a compliment and other people were too obtuse to see it.

Eeesh. But that’s how I learned to think, and I’ve had to spend a whole lot of time and energy unlearning it. It’s hard to rewire an entire brain!  Twelve years into intensive self-led practice and I’m still working on holding competing potentials in harmony.

It’s easy to look at 39 and say, wow, you wasted your energy, your education, you sure were clueless, you hurt people and created your own hells, you you you you  me me me me  I did those things, me.

See?!? See, that’s what I do. Every time. That’s what I do. Appreciation must be carefully guarded until it's fully baked, or that soufflé is falling.

There was a time I was so protective of my inner self that I took on behaviours, language, attitudes and thinking that were abhorrent to me and I came to dislike myself. I haven’t completely forgiven myself.

For the first half of my adulthood, I spent my talents cultivating behaviours that I deemed safest to get me ahead financially and with power. I earned proficiency through errors, effort and attention, and over time felt proud of my progress. I checked off boxes. I became highly adept at assessing how much of what type would impress most broadly, and gave slightly more. I was a fully functioning simulation of a highly competent human.

When it started crumbling down, I thrashed. I didn’t know what the gnawing dissatisfaction signalled, and I certainly did not welcome it. I hadn’t spent my time thinking about purpose beyond my own success or failure. I’d lost my religion long ago, had stopped thinking about why and focused on how. So I looked for my Whys in the Hows for a very long time, determined not to abandon my sunk costs despite their irrelevance to future decisions.

I’d maxed out what I could do from behind the fake, and I was not willing to accept that. It was all I knew. It was what I’d built.

I was stubborn, strong, capable and proud for layers and layers before it suddenly gave way to shivering and scared. So much strength guarding so much weakness! But here's the thing. I had every right to be proud. I built that. It won me a great deal of what I was looking for. It was a fortress. I protected me so that I could get stronger.  And I am stronger.

I can now deal with the idea that it was all for nothing, and it was all for everything. I am who I am, and I did what I could with what I had to work with at the time. Actually achieving what I was going for shows my capacity for self-development, despite the goals having turned out shallow. I gave myself time and a perch from which to observe.

I’m not always ripped and torn bloody by failure anymore. I can breath through and pat my anxiety on the head until it calms, much more quickly and effectively than I ever could.

So it’s easy to look at 39 and say, you were a young, headstrong faker but man, you did it RIGHT, girl! You were fast and strong and totally focused. You won awards, degrees, promotions and quadrupled your earning potential in just 10 years. You got out of the nowhere relationship and built one that's respectful and loving and solid. You grew and gave birth to two of the coolest humans on the planet and saw to their all-important early formative years.

You did a very good job of building me a foundation. 39? Wow. You ROCK! Thank you. You you you you me me me me  I did those things, me. Thank me.

See, see how clever I am? I grew the appreciation inside gratitude, wrapped in admiration, and hidden behind forgiveness. I knew I’d never look for it there. Surprise!

Happy birthday, Cheryl.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

@adamslisa list

Here is installment 2 of the "Mixed Tape" saga  (http://mrs-which.blogspot.com/2010/02/mixed-tapes.html). Ms. @adamslisa , who regularly kicks my ass in the nicest way, is the lucky recipient, and you can enjoy it too.

Here's the link:
Lisa's Mixed Tape (unfortunately, Grooveshark removed a few of these songs since 2010, so below is the original list)

And here's the list:

Jane Sibberry- The Life is the Red Wagon
Tool - Parabola
Enon - Come Into
Cibo Matto - King of Silence
Bruce McCulloch - 40 Housewives
Pixies- Dig for Fire
Kate Bush- This Woman's Work
Sloan - Coax Me
Boston - Peace of Mind
Badly Drawn Boy - Stone on the Water
REM - Stand
Sarah McLaughlin - Fear
Trooper - Raise a little Hell

p.s. if you missed installment #1, see @obsrvationalist's list