What is respect?

I have a vague memory of being a tween and having an authority figure snap at me, “Don’t disrespect me!”

I remember that I wasn’t sure what they meant. I didn’t see anything wrong with my respect for them, but they obviously did. I tried to ask what I was doing that was disrespectful, and they couldn’t articulate it to me. I just resolved to avoid this adult authority figure who didn’t have clear expectations for my behavior.

It wasn’t until I embarked on a style project that I found a definition of respect that made sense. The lesson was about attitude, self-esteem, and self-respect.

Respect comes from being personally and socially responsible. You build respect for yourself by behaving well. Behave well at work, with your spouse and children, with strangers and when no one us looking and people will respect you, and you will respect yourself. Part of behaving well is listening to others, and being polite.

Though this was a style project, about helping me dress better to be professional at my internship, it became an important marriage lesson. I began to realize that when I got angry at my partner, I did not behave well. I behaved badly. I tended to have a temper tantrum.

This was an embarrassing realization. I was not doing my part to bring respect to my marriage in the face of conflict. In fact, I usually place all the blame on him and whine about how I was wronged while throwing said hissyfit. Wow, that is hard to admit. This kind of behavior made it hard for my husband to look at my hurt honestly and help me heal

Respect is not throwing a hissyfit when your husband signs a card in a different space then you anticipated. (Just did that one…sigh, lesson not yet fully learned.) Respect is picking up trash even when it isn’t yours, our wiping down the wall where your toddler smeared ice cream. Respect is responsibility to yourself and others, socially and professionally, and behaving well.

What do you think? Do you have a better actionable definition of respect? This new found definition of respect connects to other things I have been thinking about.


Thinking About Communication: We Should

How many times do you turn to your friends, family, and partner and say something along the lines of, “We should have a party”?

Tim and I have been saying it a lot to each other, as we try to navigate having a small child. “We should do the dishes.” “We should change her diaper.” “We should get food.”

It’s a really interesting statement, if you think about it. First, it identifies a need between two people or a group, or a desire. Second, it completely abdicates responsibility for that need or desire by the person making the statement. “We should” do something often means “you should” do it. (Sometimes, it really does mean “we” — but that requires someone taking a leadership role and taking point on collaborating.) And because no one is taking responsibility, whatever need or desire that is aired doesn’t happen.

Listen to yourself as you talk about household responsibilities with your partners. How often do you say “we should” do something, instead of asking your partner directly? How often does the thing you say “we should” about not happen at all?

#reverb 10 – Dec 27, Ordinary Joy

Two small children kissing.

Image via Wikipedia

Prompt: Ordinary joy. Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year? (Author: Brené Brown)

I would like to put two moments out there for consideration, both involving my partner.

I love locking eyes with him, feeling close to him that way, trusting him enough to maintain eye contact where so many others might look away. This is something I look forward to doing with my child, especially as he or she nurses.
My partner and I cuddle often. We often hug, we often brush lips, we spoon in bed, but sometimes we forget to kiss — to really kiss, deeply. It is thrilling to remember this kind of kissing, for our tongues to touch, when we have fallen out of this habit, when we have forgotten about the sensation.

#reverb10 – Dec 18-20. Try, Healing, and Beyond Avoidance.

December 18: Try. What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it? (Author: Kaileen Elise)

I want to join a CSA and shop more at farmers markets in 2011. This was something I wanted to try in 2010, but due to the fact that Tim and I were commuting in different directions, it made CSA membership impractical. There was a local farmer’s market in August, but we always had plans that day. The consequences of not doing this were minimal — just some mild guilt. In 2011, I will have an infant, which will complicate things, but I think that joining is still something I’d like to do.

December 19: Healing. What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011? (Author: Leoni Allan)

I wish I could say that I reconciled with someone, that we healed our relationship together. I wish I could say that my mom and I are entirely on the same page, with her truly respecting me as a person and as a daughter and an individual, leaving me feeling welcome and loved. That I knew more clearly what she expected from me, and that I could meet those obligations. But that is not the case. I would love for this to be the case in 2011, but I am afraid that becoming a parent myself, and my mother a grandmother will complicate things further.

I wish I could say that healing for me was a revolution, a single moment, but it has been and continues to be a slow evolution. Healing for me began in February when I followed the advice I gave my husband and found a therapist, who directed me to the psychologist in the practice, who found that 20mg of Prozac worked for me. Healing continued when I found a new psychologist to treat me while I am pregnant and will be nursing, and I dropped the therapist that caused upset in planning to go to her sessions. I think I perhaps need a new therapist, one who is feminist, and pro-balance in life, but I think I am mostly healed depression wise, though anxiety sneaks in, especially in medical situations.

I want to say that 2010 was a wonderful year of physical and emotional and mental healing for myself. So that I can be a whole, adult being. I want to be healed as a daughter in 2011, if I can figure that out.

December 20: Beyond avoidance. What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?) (Author: Jake Nickell)

It occurs to me that this time in 2009, Tim and I were terrified that we were pregnant, and this year, we are. I fully suspected that 2010 would mostly be a year of again, avoiding pregnancy because we were scared, despite the fact that we wanted to start a family. Tim and I had talked about beginning to try to get pregnant this December, but I wasn’t entirely sure we would be emotionally ready. Turns out, we are, and now we’re 5 months or 22 weeks pregnant. In 2009 we were too scared to add to our family, and in 2010 we started the process.

In 2010, I suppose one thing I have been too scared to do is to try to reconcile with my mom, to break down the walls in our relationship and rebuild them. On some level, I want to blame her — she would have to cooperate! On the other hand, I know that sometimes in relationships, if one person tries, sometimes the other person responds. I fully believe she is a “difficult” mother — not abusive, but certainly hard to live with. Will I do it in 2011? Probably not. But I think being aware of this as a wound is important.

#reverb10 – Dec 16, Friendship

Vector image of two human figures with hands i...

Image via Wikipedia

Prompt: Friendship. How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst? (Author: Martha Mihalick)

If I have to name one friend who changed me or my perspective on the world this year, it would be Jeff Lakin. Jeff and I were classmates in college, floormates, and we dated for a while. We broke up, it was messy, and recently we’ve been able to reconnect.

Jeff and I struggled together this year. I think I ended up in counseling first, and encouraged Jeff to look into it. Jeff discovered mindfulness meditation, and introduced me to it. We were both very anxious people, full of worries about what people thought of us — Jeff, more so in social situations, me, more so in professional ones. We’ve both taken steps to take care of ourselves, to set boundaries in our lives, and to be generally healthier people. And I don’t think that would have been as easy or as possible without Jeff being on the other side of the instant message screen.

I’m going to name a second friend, because I think she has been just as important, in terms of support and steadiness. That would be Patti Nelson, whom I have known since high school, and kept in touch with with varying degrees of frequency.

Patti was the first person to substantively congratulate me on my pregnancy, and her congrats were complete joy in me taking a step in my life that I had been talking about for some time. Patti has no interest in kids, certainly not children of her own, and she doesn’t believe in marriage (the last I talked to her), but she’s there to celebrate weddings, and now she’s there for me as I’m becoming a mother. She treats me like more than an incubator– she has been encouraging my applications to grad school, talking to me about feminist and race issues, she’s been helping me see that living by my principles doesn’t mean comparing myself to anyone else. I’m super glad that she’s there, and that she’s excited for me, even though it’s not a step she wants to take herself.

Good friends for 2010, who changed my perspective, and helped me be me.

#reverb10 – December 12 through 14

December 12 – “Body Integration” This year, when did you feel the most integrated with your body? Did you have a moment where there wasn’t mind and body, but simply a cohesive YOU, alive and present? (Author: Patrick Reynolds)

I turned this prompt into a manifestation for next year — my intentions for childbirth. It wasn’t long, but I’ve shared it somewhere more private. I hope you understand. ❤

December 13 – “Action” When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step? (Author: Scott Belsky)

I find this prompt perplexing, because it seems to think that there is only one thing I could be doing to go from idea to fruition, only one idea in my head at a time. The next thing for my grad school applications? Send them in, which I did today for the University of Michigan. The next step for moving? Pack up more stuff tonight, and each of the next several nights and move on Saturday. What’s next for being pregnant? Looking for a doula, signing up for a birth class, and my midwife appointment next week.

I am not a monotasker, I can’t seem to dedicate myself to one thing and one thing only. I am a sampler, someone who strives for a balanced life.

December 14 – “Appreciate” What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it? (Author: Victoria Klein)

I saw the tweet retweeted by @reverb10 about someone looking for a creative answer to this, because so many people chose family and friends. I chose my husband, but I wrote him a love note on 4 and a half inch square cardstock, and put it in his coat pocket, so that when he went out to the car to bring in moving boxes, he had all of my appreciation and gratitude for the last year with him as a gift.

He put the note in his treasure box.

#reverb10 – December 7, Community

Prompt: Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011? (Author: Cali Harris, reverb10.com)

I think for me to fully talk about the idea of community, I have to back to a community that I haven’t fully let go of — I don’t think I’m bitter anymore, but I think that I haven’t let go because to me, the community I built the first semester freshman year of college, and that continued for about a year’s time, that community is still, in many ways, something I wish to emulate.

We called ourselves “The Midnight Society,” ironically after a television show from our youth. We did meet up at midnights on Thursdays into Friday mornings, a time where we all knew would be relatively free of interruptions. We all sat around in a circle, eating pokeystix and talking about “intellectual” questions. We all lived in the same dorm, shared most of the same classes, and as a result, we learned to take care of one another. I know that I personally benefited the morning I slept through a class where I was supposed to turn in a paper — and they came and woke me up at the end of it, so that I wouldn’t be penalized. I broke up with my boyfriend in sophomore year, and let him have my friends in the break up — but the rest of the group turned rather insular, and it seemed that I was not as important to them as they were to me.

I understand that this kind of community is hard to replicate for a lot of reasons. One, we aren’t always so lucky to live in such close proximity. Two, we aren’t always so lucky to have so much in common. Three, there are always going to be division points, as I found — but they don’t always have to be so permanent.

In 2010, I had made community one of my goals. Perhaps you embiggified the giant list that I brain dumped last January, the one I included on my “letting go” prompt, and you saw that community was one of the things I listed — or perhaps I lamented the lack of community. I didn’t look too closely at the picture before I posted it.

I think my attempts at finding and building community in 2010 were mixed. 2010 was much more about becoming comfortable in my own skin, in my own home, in finding routine, about fixing myself before attempting to support others. And 2011 may turn out that way too, with a baby arriving about a quarter of the way in. But that is not to say that community did not turn up.

Actually, I’m having a much harder time writing about community than I thought I would. I think I hold community in too high a regard, set too high standards on it. I think, perhaps, that perfectionism is rearing it’s ugly head again. Maybe I’m thinking about community as spontaneous displays of affection or getting together, or always hanging out. But maybe I can lower my standard here — connect, always connect.

I connected with my old classmate Katie F nee J in 2010. We ran into each other at a conference in 2009, and again in 2010 and for a few months, we were doing lunch every month. She invited my husband and I to her wedding, and I think that we built a small community to talk about the stressors of being twenty-something and seeing the big picture of how the world is imperfect and broken and wanting desperately to fix it — and knowing that we only had so much power individually.

I connected with a writing group, which originated in NaNo2009, particularly with Sarah, and her husband Matt. It hasn’t been the easiest connection to make, as both Sarah and I are more the introverted types, who worry constantly about if someone wants to be friends with us, really, or if we’re being too pushy, or etc. But we’ve slowly been building up a rapport. Sarah takes care of me on Saturdays when Tim is off playing D&D with his friends, and we chat online. As writers, we can cover a lot of different topics — from awesome movies and TV shows, to awful books, to questions about existence and religion and church. I’m going to be part of her group blog, come January, and we’re going to be awesome Geeky Wives together. 😀

I reconnected with my friend from college, Alex, who introduced me to the people she grew up with at her childhood church: now, young adults, spiritual seekers, people willing to become our friends and be understanding of our plights. These young adults, in turn, introduced us to the wider church community at Central Woodward, and as a result, Tim and I joined the church this past Sunday. It seems like a good place to learn, and grow, to explore my relationship with God — and to continue to have supportive people surrounding us, including two other couples expecting children in the first half of next year.

In 2011, I want to reconnect with Katie F. Even if we only get together every other month, I think we can be good buddies about career stuff.

I want to spend more time cultivating the fraternity community — my husband’s fraternity and those men’s wives, and their children. They’re great people, a lot of fun, and they seem to accept kids just fine.

I want to become a contributing member of CWCC, and for the Young Adult group to take off and become really community oriented. I’ve volunteered to become the “point person” for the community, so hopefully I can use that unofficial position to my advantage in making sure the community continues and gets stronger.

#reverb10 Day 5: Let Go

Prompt: Let Go. What (or whom) did you let go of this year? Why? (Author: Alice Bradley; reverb10.com)

In the early days of the new year, I had something akin to a panic attack — my anxiety spiked to near epic levels, and I was filled with dread and indecision for the new year. I hadn’t reflected and planned as #reverb10 seems to be allowing me to do, and so I was driving myself crazy trying to do everything, be everything, be independent and part of a community, to figure out how everything goes together.
I filled up the white board in our office with everything that was on my mind:

The pressure I was putting myself under ended up with me in counseling, talking to a woman I didn’t quite like, but was good enough. At one of the first meetings with her, she said to me, “It seems like you’re a perfectionist.”


You see, I had spent some time fighting perfectionism already — one of my personal philosophies was that perfect is the enemy of good, perfect is the enemy of done, and perfect was not something to be striving for. I didn’t want to perfect my writing in this sense, and I had given up being a perfect housekeeper, and forcing Tim to make it so that together we would be perfect housekeepers.

But still, as Laurie the not-so-great therapist pointed out to me, I was expecting a lot out of myself. I was expecting to get up the same time every day, despite being depressed. I was expecting myself to be perfectly efficient at work, despite the fact that I was getting good reviews and everyone goofs off a little, I was expecting myself to regiment my free time and never relax and always be achieving…

So, one thing that I have let go of is perfectionism in 2010. It isn’t a perfect process, but it is a process of doing exactly what I don’t want to do (overloading my schedule, thinking I have to do it all) and then slowly backing down from it (Promised to do a book drive, but don’t stress about writing a novel.) and providing self care (Buy yourself the clothes you want. Relax in the evening).

I don’t want to do it all, anymore, despite the fact that there is a lot that still is worth doing. I want to do what I can. One of my resolutions for 2010 was to declutter our home. Rather than do a half hour each day, I try to do one project in about a 4 hour block, from identifying the clutter to buying the containers to organize, to putting everything back together. It’s certainly not finished, but making it a goal, and continually persuing it — Tim and I have accomplished a lot this year. Perfectionism would demand I be angry or sad that I didn’t do it in the first three months of the year that I wanted, or that I haven’t finished by the end of the year, but when it comes down to it? I have done a lot.

I’ve tried, slowly, to get rid of perfectionism. It isn’t perfect — and if it were, it would defeat the point.

#reverb10 Day 1: One Word

Prompt: One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you? (Author: Gwen Bell)

My word for 2010: Ground

I chose the word “ground” in the sense of “earth,” in the sense of a “ground wire,” and maybe a little in the sense of “grinding” because 2010 was about growth, but more importantly, about building the groundwork for an ordinary life lived extraordinarily. Tim and I got the help we needed personally to make sure we were ready to support one another, and we’ve begun moving towards improving our communication and teamwork as an ongoing, growing project. In my professional life, I went back to basics, and was able to find some fulfillment and productivity that works for me. We worked on decluttering a lot of our life, worked on adding processes so that we can communicate better, especially our schedules. In my life as an activist, I was able to think deep thoughts and make a difference, at least in getting a story out there. In my personal, spiritual life, I have gained a lot of insight from yoga, and meditation, and mindfulness, and an Emergent Christian theology. Our community is growing, our support network is solidifying, and life seems like it’s on a pretty steady set of circumstances.

Word for 2011: Thrive

I want our baby to thrive. I want to become ever more connected to our community, and church, and support network — and do some of the supporting ourselves. I want the next big thing in my career (be it grad school or a job) be something I can embrace whole heartedly. I want my marriage to become better than ever. I want to continue to be living vibrantly.

You can join the reflection and manifestation too:

Good Marriage Day

Yesterday was a bad marriage day. While I sat on the couch, worrying about all the stuff that Tim and I were committed to – our unborn child, a trip to DC, getting ready to move, a project for a family wedding. And as I thought, I got more and more grumpy. And I started a fight, because I was feeling overwhelmed and tired, and wanted Tim to take some of the burden.

And so, rather than articulate the problem, I accused Tim of “never” doing “anything” that I asked him to do in a “timely manner.” He got defensive, and the fight escalated. I turned into a giant bag of snot, tired and overwhelmed.

Compare that to today, where Tim and I discussed our options to solve a problem in a mature and organized way.

I called a perinatal psychologist recommended by my midwife, and found that he does not take insurance, but makes it easy to bill your insurance yourself. Okay, cool. I tell Tim, and he takes the ball to call our insurance to make sure we wouldn’t be out of pocket. To make a long story short — the insurance company says they won’t cover him, the doctor’s office has patients who do, in fact, get reimbursed.

So, now we have to make a decision. I don’t know why it occurred to me, but I put it in terms of this: we wanted to go to this doctor because he is considered an expert in mood disorders in pregnant women, and therefore he should be able to minimize the risk to baby of anti-depressants, while still taking care of me. What do we risk by not going to him? What are we risking by going to this psychiatrist?

Tim put it this way: “By not going, we are risking your mental health, and baby’s health.  By going we’re risking spending a lot of money each time we visit.”

So there are the variable in this situation: my mental health, baby’s health, and money.

Knowing the variables, we can talk about our options. Baby’s health can be protected by not taking anti-depressants at all. But that could be disastrous for my health. My mental health can be improved my changing my doseage, which means getting a new script from my doctor. However, how these drugs effect fetuses is a big question mark. Both of these options minimize our potential financial risk.

So, what risks are we willing to take? Now, we haven’t quite figured it out. But I am thrilled that this discussion has played out the way it has — with rational discussion, and weighing our options and the risks.

That is a good marriage day. While this could’ve gotten really heated and emotional, we talked like a team. I’m proud of us.