Beautiful Lessons of 2012

I love the Leonie Dawson Create Your Year Workbooks. One of the questions asks you to think about the lessons you’ve learned in 2012. Here are mine:

  • Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional (a lesson from 2011 that I’ve kept learning!).
  • I work best with a glass of water, a mug of tea, a meal just eaten or a snack at hand, and a timer. It also helps to have a list.
  • My fears and anxieties are my responsibility.
  • I feel better when I don’t judge my feelings, and instead accept them and forgive myself.
  • Look for God in the details of everyday life
  • Pay attention to how feelings feel in my body
  • The Holy Spirit is the Universe that everyone talks to, and vice versa.
  • Problems are a normal part of life, and worthy challenges to be met.
  • Manifesting = discernment
  • Intelligence is malleable — I can get better at something by trying at it!
  • I can define success for myself.
  • I spend money is an (usually) ill-guided attempt to be prepared.
  • I should take control by making decisions to influence outcomes.
  • Relationships are about interdependence.
  • Committing to something meaningful is important.

Shame and the Mommy Silo

Important Background Information: My daughter loves to wipes surfaces. She likes to wipe down the whiteboard, getting rid of all the

Industrious, this one.

marks. She likes to wipe tables,

pretending to clean up. She likes to do this with boogie wipes, disposable baby wipes, and if she has to, a tissue or other dry cloth.

The story: My daughter had pooped. I put the changing pad on the floor so she could have some agency, at 20 months, in the changing process. I wiped her, and put on a clean diaper.  I got her dressed for bed. I went to wash my hands. She still had some time before bed, so I let her play by herself, not worrying about where she was.

The next thing I know, my daughter is wiping surfaces. I didn’t give her a wipe, so I go to investigate, and find that she has taken a wipe out of the diaper I had stupidly left on the floor. I had made a parenting mistake in my haste to wash my hands. Oops. So I take the old wipe away, wash her hands, give her a clean wipe, and wash my hands. I’m a little concerned, because I can’t find the diaper where I left it, but it doesn’t bother me — it’ll turn up. I post on Facebook about it because I feel it’s right to be honest and vulnerable about the mistakes that you make when you’re parenting, especially when you tend to share the stories that you find inspiring and beautiful, like I do. (And sometimes you complain. It’s a continuum and balance.)

All the comments were about how disgusted they are. Someone sticks their tongue out at me, someone says they puked a little in their mouth, another that it was TMI. And I felt shame. I was ashamed that I had been absent minded, that my daughter had some something unintentionally disgusting. Shame is silencing.

I deleted the post. And then I got mad. I ranted to my friend (and cousin) Scroogy. She reassured me. And then I wrote this post.

All parents make mistakes. But we don’t talk about them. We don’t talk about them because we’re afraid that our mistakes will make us unfit parents.  If we’re honest about

them with other people, we’re being vulnerable — and the people who commented did not respect my vulnerability.

The Moral: Shame and fear put us into silos where we feel all alone as mothers and caregivers. We constantly worry that we’re not good enough. I feel a sense of responsibility to share my experiences so that people don’t feel that they’re alone, but it is so hard. It is so hard when people who are supposed to be your family and friends, your supporters and cheerleaders, decide that your reality is too much for them.

I’m saying no to that.

I’m going to tell you about my depression, in all of its darkness and worry and anxiety and fear.

I’m going to tell you about my mistakes, in all of their grossness and pain and horror.

And I’m going to tell you about the beautiful things in life, and the ones that make me proud.

Because you know what? My daughter picked up her diaper off the floor and threw it away. That’s why I couldn’t find it, and that’s how she found the wipe — she was cleaning up after herself. I am damn proud of that, even if the pride is wrapped up in the embarrassment of a yucky thing she did.

I am going to keep telling my vulnerabilities, so other people out there don’t feel so alone. I hope you do too.

Make the most of small moments

I just read some marriage advice to define your relationship by the positive moments, not the negative ones. And the Reverb prompt for August is to write about a moment in July. Both of these things have me remembering a coffee date my husband and I took.

We both ordered our usual from the Starbucks in the downtown we loitered in as high school students, a downtown we dated in during high school. After we had our drinks, I said, “Let’s walk to the fountain in the park!” So we did, holding hands.

When we got to the fountain, we followed the sidewalk around the fountain, and then started walking away from it. I said, “But I thought we were walking to the fountain!”

“We were walking to the fountain,” said Tim. “Now we’re walking somewhere else.”

“Where?” I asked, sipping my mocha.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I’ll decide where we turn next. And then you can decide the next turn.” And so our walk turned into a collaborative adventure, where we negociated rules and took turns. We played a game of our own making, like kids on a playground. It was social, therapeutic play – taking turns at inconsequential decisions, but deciding together our destinations.

I want our marriage to be defined by moments like that, where we play, where we lovingly hold hands and wander old stomping grounds.

Discerning Purpose

I have been working through a book called Generation WTF: From !@#$% to Fearless, Tenacious, and Wise, which is a book that is skyrocketting up my recommendation list. The first chapter is all about discovering your purpose in life, based upon what you value, and the life you want to live, and I have discovered that there is a certain happiness in knowing your purpose and living it out.

What is my purpose, you ask?

My purpose on a daily basis has been to be a mother to baby Rocketship, and a partner to my husband, taking on the majority of the homemaking tasks.

This of course isn’t my only purpose — I would not be starting graduate school in the fall if this were the case — and it is a purpose I can say that I chose freely and with an open heart. However, being a mother, being a wife and a homemaker did not used to bring me happiness.

I fought those purposes tooth and nail, and it brought me a lot of angst. They were, after all, life paths that my feminist forebearers had slogged without much joy, and had worked tirelessly to lampoon and deconstruct. They worked hard to give me options, option which included not marrying, and not bearing children — but it seems that our feminist discussion labels those who choose marriage and to bear children as less than feminist, thus limiting options.

I am writing from a place of privilege. My socioeconomic class is populated by males who have not been incarcerated at alarming rates; they have college educations and jobs, both which bode well for a sound marriage. For many, marriage is not a viable option, and marriage may even limit their access to essential services like Medicare and Medicaid. I have access to birth control, and in the case of accidental conception, I have a choice between an abortion funded by employer-provided health care and prenatal care to carry the fetus to term. I can afford non-familial child care. For many women, reproductive justice like this simply does not exist.

But, because I am privileged, I have a real and true choice to marry, and to have children. The result of this real and true choice? I chose yes. But in choosing yes, I have felt like less than a feminist for perhaps the last half decade (I can’t believe I am old enough to write that). I have resisted the roles that I have taken on, and been unhappy for it.

I am happy to be a mom and partner, and a homemaker this summer. I am happy to have them as my only roles as I try to become more emotionally stable before school begins. There is nothing wrong with being happy, nothing wrong with a choice fully chosen. After all, there is a certain simplicity and triumph of achievement in a sleeping baby and a dinner on the table at the end of the day. But, importantly, they are not my only roles.

There is still justice to seek — both economic and social, as well as reproductive. Seeking those justices is my other purpose, one that I am willing to sacrifice much for.

Repentance, Guilt and Anger

The nine-pointed Bahá'í star

Image via Wikipedia

I’m participating in a 7 week workshop course with my church called “Faith and Politics: Liberty and Justice For All,” which has a sub-subtitle of “Helping congregations learn to talk about faith and politics without judgment.” The course is made up of about 15 people, four of whom are under 30, and the rest over 50.

Each session is prefaced with a DVD segment/lecture. The first lecture was by M. Scott Peck, who died mere days after this final interview. He had the idea for this workshop, and was the inspiration behind it, and he got the idea from the study groups which were the nascent beginning of the Anti-War movement during Vietnam. One of the purposes of the groups in churches may be repentance, as he said, “I am repentant that I have not taken any action until now.” The discussion question says, “No matter where you presently are in your life journey, what political or religious issues, if any, cause you to feel repentant? What does this feeling of repentance suggest to you?”

Guilt does not absolve you of your responsibility to act; I am uncomfortable of the idea of repentance in this instance. The lay definition of repentance speaks specifically to your own actions; to cover the actions of others, especially in a a historical context, you’re usually speaking of restitution.
Wikipedia offers me this, on repentance in a religious context:

Repentance is a change of thought and action to correct a wrong and gain forgiveness from a person who is wronged. In religious contexts it usually refers to confession to God, ceasing sin against God, and resolving to live according to religious law. It typically includes an admission of guilt, a promise or resolve not to repeat the offense; an attempt to make restitution for the wrong, or in some way to reverse the harmful effects of the wrong where possible.

On the other hand, I think there’s a huge difference between guilt (which is what I see implied in repentance) and responsibility, as elucidated by the impeccable Tim Wise in the following Youtube clip (and transcribed on the Society Pages website):

His initial answer was, “No, you should feel angry. And you should feel committed to doing something to address that legacy,” which certainly speaks to that Wikipedia definition of repentance — restitution and reversal of wrong doing. His answer further says that you should not feel guilty, as guilt is a result of personal action, but you should feel responsible — and this is the kind of repentance I can get behind.

But it’s the anger I struggle with.

I’m angry about a lot of things. I’m angry about the rape culture, about male privilege, about white privilege, about inequities in medical care, in access to food, and in access to education. I am not personally guilty, but there is a responsibility to address these things — but they’re overwhelming; they’re not something I can address on my own.

This is where the apathy of the Millennial Generation comes into play — we desperately want to take responsibility, but if we take responsibility for it all, nothing will get done. And being asked to choose one injustice is like being asked to choose amongst our children.

And so I prefer not to be angry; I would prefer to not be apathetic, either, but one cause at a time seems silly and slow.

At 24 years old, I’ve only really had personal political agency as a voter for 7 years; my political awareness doesn’t start much before that — I am not guilty, but I can be responsible, I can redress and resolve past wrong doings.

#reverb10 – Dec 15, 5 minutes

December 15 – “5 Minutes” Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010. (Author: Patti Digh)

You’re loved. Tim loves you, and is your partner, and you don’t have to be sad or anxious, because he’s there to back you up. Also, don’t forget that mental health is important.

You’re pregnant. It was kind of a magical moment when you peed on a stick and it was positive, just as you suspected it was while Tim was telling you that you just had a cold. And the fetal movements are magical and special, and you wait for them as you go to sleep, and stay in bed until you feel the first one in the morning.

Your sister graduated from college, though she won’t walk until 2011. She’s fierce and lovely and when she doesn’t need care, she is good to bounce ideas off of and have her take care of you.

You went to DC this year, and had a lot of fun there for three days. You walked a lot, saw the Capitol for the first time, and had a tour by your friend Jeff, who was a Page there back in the day. You wanted to write a novel about Pages, a young adult political thriller, but NaNo exhausted you this year. It doesn’t mean that you can’t ever write this book though, you’ll get there.

You did a writing workshop! You had strangers critique the first twenty pages of the book you wrote for NaNo09, and they liked your characters, the set up, they encouraged you, however, to focus on stories for both of your characters, and to use the set up that you provided. It was am important and humbling step towards your pie in the sky dream job as a writer.

You’re growing up. You’re moving into a Condo you’re going to own, you’re applying to grad schools, you’re working on your marriage and team work. You’re taking care of yourself before others; you are growing up. It made 2010 a magical year, even though nothing big like weddings or births happened — transition, foundation, but a magical year.

#reverb10 – Dec 11, 11 things.

Prompt: 11 Things. What are 11 things your life doesn’t need in 2011? How will you go about eliminating them? How will getting rid of these 11 things change your life? (Author: Sam Davidson)

1. Illness v. Health First I was just thinking that 2011 needs to be, and should be, morning sickness free. But then I reflected that while Tim and I weren’t physically ill often in 2010, we did deal with some mental health issues. And we can’t discount colds and such as we will soon have a little one, and hopefully I will start grad school. In 2011, I would like to be prepared for the common cold with a well stocked stash of otc meds, be brave enough/have a good enough relationship with medical professionals to ask questions quickly, and continue to maintain our mental healths.

2. Commuting v. Community. I hesitate to put this on here, because I think that commuting will be a part of my life for the foreseeable future. I currently commute 140 miles a day by car, all alone. This will continue until the first week in February. Hopefully, in September, I will start commuting a smaller distance to grad school. But for about 7 months, I want to get rid of commuting completely and learn to live in my community. I want to identify local businesses in our new home, walkable parts of it, make friends. In metro Detroit, this might mean familiarity with several towns, but I want to find farmers markets and community supported agriculture and what makes Farmington Hills and its surrounding environs unique.

3. Perfectionism v. Mindfulness. So, perfection was something I learned to let go of in 2010, it stands to reason that 2011 needs none of it. I think this is especially important to remember when you consider the impending arrival of my first child and the potential return to school. To address this, I am going to still research and plan, but forgive myself if things don’t go according to plan.

4. New Things v. Satisfaction. Tim and I tried an experiment for The Compact for about three months between August and October of this year. It was spurred on by a gluttony of new purchases: a new car, new smartphones for the both of us, etc. So, we decided to buy nothing new except for underwear and edibles. It was a pretty successful experiment, overall, to the point where, often, we didn’t realize we were doing it anymore. We’re going to have to acquire some things here in the near future, the necessary equipment to take care of a baby, but I think we’ve pared down the list to a point where it’s manageable — and hopefully some of it can come from the second hand market, instead of new. But, I’d really love to make our family motto, Make it work, use it up, make do, or do without.

5. Expectations v. Mindfulness. Expectations set us up for disappointment. Mindfulness lets us be in the moment without judgment. I want to live 2011 with few expectations. Plans, yes, intentions, yes, but also an understanding that there are things outside of my control. I plan to have a healthy baby, I intend to do what I can to make that happen, but realize, ultimately, that the outcome is mostly out of my control; if it is not perfect, I can still be happy.

6. Clutter v. Ordinary life lived Extraordinarily. Tim and I managed to clean up a lot of clutter in 2010. We pared down our kitchen, we pared down our stored stuff, cleaned out closets, and generally made our lives more functional. But clutter is something that is constantly cropping up, and will especially be so with baby stuff (thinking mostly clothes).

7. Dual income no-kids-hood, to be replaced by a young family of three. What it’ll mean to have one income for seven months or longer, to take fewer financial risks, to save. To take the rhythms of our family, and apply it to three, to celebrate traditions and create new ones.

8. Being bullied and pushed around by our parents and family, and instead working on constructing appropriate boundaries.

9. So many electronic distractions. Tim and I were listening to an episode of Being with Krista Tippet, which was talking about food — ethically, sustainable produced food. One thing the guest said, which stuck with both of us, is that we’ve allowed a lot of feature creep into our lives — we’ve “found” four hours a day to watch TV, and “found” four hours a day to be on the Internet, and we complain we don’t have time to cook. So, Tim and I discussed a designated day of the week to be a digital sabbath, from sun-down to sun-up. A designated day to coo at our baby, cook a complicated meal, talk, read, craft, and listen to music.

10. Sexual Harassment. I was having a hard time thinking of two more things that I didn’t need in my life, and I suppose I need less Sexual Harassment in my life in 2011, but more so, this is an intention I want to spread to all of reality. 2011 needs less rape, less assault, less harassment. I’ll keep blogging against it, keep supporting my family and friends against it, and doing my best to make this a reality.

11. Poverty. Ditto. 2011 needs less poverty — it needs less suffering. I will be intentional with my time and treasure in 2011 to lessen suffering, and work on the underlying issues of justice that cause poverty to be perpetuated.

#reverb10 – December 10, Wisdom

Prompt: Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out? (Author: Susannah Conway)

The wisest decision that I’ve made this past year was, once I was pregnant, to drop the psychiatrist I was seeing, and instead see a Perinatal Psychiatrist.

The psychiatrist I had been seeing found out I was pregnant just as I was exiting the first trimester, during which time I had continued to medicate myself with the 20mg of Prozac that had been originally proscribed to me. About a month before this, I had forgotten to take my pills for four days, and immediately began feeling physical symptoms of depression, again, including cloying sleep. This psychiatrist decided that for the safety of the baby, that I should be put on 10mg instead — which led to a return of my depression full force.

I remember sitting in the lobby of the Kellogg Center, as I called my new psychiatrist’s office for the first time, hoping to get an appointment. I was nauseous (from morning sickess), exhausted (depression), anxious (worried about miscarriage, still), numb (depression, again), and needed help. This psychiatrist ended up costing us $300 out of pocket, but he was the wisest decision I made (in conjunction with Tim) all year.

The new doctor said that my old doctor obviously was more afraid of law suit than he was brave enough to read published papers; that by halving the dose the amount in my blood wasn’t changing much, but obviously effecting my mood greatly; that it was insane that I had to advocate for myself like this. So he gave me back my original script, and told me to call if I still experienced symptoms, because blood volume increases and dilutes the instance in the blood.

There is a 2 in 1000 chance of our child having Pulmonary hypertension, instead of a 1 in 1000 chance. But without me being medicated then, and now, there was a chance of low birth weight, premature labor, and an increased likelihood of post-natal depression and/or psychosis — I couldn’t be there in the way I want to be there for my baby once ze’s born.

The bottom line is this, and I offer it as wisdom to all people out there, and then I’m going to qualify it for pregnant women.

Everyone: If you’re suffering, you deserve help. If you’re sad, if you’re worried, if you’re drowning in regrets — get help. Find someone who takes you seriously, and get help.

Pregnant women: The best thing you can do for your child is to take care of yourself. If that means steroids for your asthma, take them. If that means anti-depressants, take them. If that means lithium for bipolar disorder, take it. Find a doctor who trusts you to know your problems, and one who isn’t scared to treat you — because if they don’t treat you, if you’re not okay physically, how can your baby grow inside of you?

#reverb10 – December 6, Make

Prompt: Make. What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it? (Author: Gretchen Rubin;

The last thing I completed was a handmade book that was filled with the cards given to us by well-wishers at our wedding. I had started it a long time ago: I sewed the cards together in bundles of five or so, stacked them, bound them together with duct tape instead of proper binding glue, and put some cardboard for the front and back covers. This past Saturday, when I had a lovely craft day with my college roommate Caitlyn, I completed it by putting a craft paper cover on the cardboard cover of X and O print. It looks like a real book now; a little fragile, perhaps, but it puts a collection in a place where it can be enjoyed, instead of in a box in a closet.

I am in the middle of a lot of creating a lot of things, I find, as I made a mental catalog to put together this list. I’m working on a scarf for my sister’s Christmas present, I’m going to put together a cookbook for my sister-in-law’s Christmas present, I’m plotting a date for my husband for Christmas. These are all things that I’ve been making that I know will be completed in due time.

However, is there something I want to make that I need to clear space for? Yes. I’ve been collecting t-shirts for at least the past 10 years, shirts for groups and events and projects, shirts that have a little bit of nostalgia, shirts that are cool colors, etc. At some point in the past year, I cut most of those t-shirts into 12″ squares, with the intention of turning them into two twin-sized throw quilts. A few more t-shirts have come into the collection via Tim cleaning out the clutter he left behind at his parent’s place in Ohio. I haven’t yet made that quilt, but I am looking forward to doing so. It should be a great conversation starter, a great way to talk about things we have done and things we like to do, places we’ve been, another collection on regular display.

Oh, and in terms of collections on display? I want to make a gallery wall of our wedding pictures for our bedroom, and get a photo album of our wedding pictures to go next to the book of wedding cards. I want to do something with the box of proofs, too, even if it is just putting them in a box that is easier to flip through than they are right now.

And, and! (Apparently there’s lots I want to make.) I want to decorate our apartment; Tim and I half conceived of the idea of our living room as a “travel lounge” decorated with postcards and pictures and such. I want to put together a nursery, even if all that’s in the nursery to begin with is a changing table and a lovely mural. (I go back and forth about the nursery also being an office until Rocketship is ready to have hir on room.) I want to make a home, make it so everything has a place. I made a lot of progress on that this year, but soon we’ll be in a new home, with new places to put things. (Yay linen closet! Yay laundry room!)

Grindhouse Theater Feminism

In Ohio, Tim and I made it a priority to hang out with his sister Grace and her boyfriend Charlie. Tim was in charge of making plans, and so he was texting Grace and relaying what she had to say to me. Grace mentioned that Charlie wanted to see a movie, and so we set it up.

We went to Studio 35, the oldest independent cinema in Columbus, Ohio. When you walk up to it, it has one of those old-style marquees, with the horizontal white rectangles for show names and times, and the vertical neon sign announcing the name of the theater. The front has two doors, one on either side of a narrow bubble glass ticket booth, which was not personed when we arrived.

As we walked in, the previews were already playing. You could see them through the windows in the lobby that looked into the theater, and you could hear the audio clearly (though not perfectly) while we ordered our tickets, our popcorn, and opened a tab for their drafthouse brews.

The movie we saw was Will Ferrel’s “The Other Guys,” which was, in some ways, three different movies.

The first ten minutes or so were pure cop-movie satire, in which Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson were super bad-ass cops that everyone wanted to be. The kind of guys who cause 12 million in property damage to pick up a bunch of punks with an ounce of pot.

Then, there is the typical buddy-movie plot-line. Will Ferrel plays a forensic accountant who just wants to stay at his desk and do his job, but he’s partnered with Mark Wahlberg who desperately wants to get out into the streets and become the next big famous detective. This plot-line revolves around Will Ferrel making condescending and hurtful remarks about his wife (saying she’s fat and ugly, and unstylish) and Mark Wahlberg trying to hit on his partner’s wife.

And then there is the “thinking” part of the movie — the main characters stumble upon a corporate malfeasance crime, involving poor scaffolding permits, a loss of several billion dollars, and a conspiracy to cover it up using retirement funds and the public take of the state lottery. It did a pretty good job of making it clear that while these kinds of crimes aren’t actually all that exciting, they are important to the safety and well-being of the public.

However, the movie mostly rested upon it’s buddy-movie laurels, and as such the level of humor was despicable. The movie did not pass the Bechdel test, it relied upon jokes making femininity an insult, was abusive towards women, and belligerent misrepresentation of homeless men.

As far as I can tell, there was only one joke which was actually in the manner of anti-oppression. Part of Will Ferrel’s character’s background was that he was a pimp in college. He kept insisting he wasn’t a pimp, but his partner keeps making it clear to him that he was a pimp, and he does this in a way that makes it clear that he does not approve. And, later in the movie, Will Ferrel “reverts” to his pimp-self with his wife, and she throws him out for being abusive. That, at least, makes it clear that violence against women, especially in the context of sexual slavery, is wrong.

But for the most part, the movie made it clear that it hated me and my vagina. I started with a soda at Studio 35, but then I had to get up and get a cider, because I ended up toasting the screen every time it added to the oppression of one group or another. Grace joined in, and we toasted each other too. She told me that she appreciated what I was doing — it allowed her to realize that there wasn’t anything wrong with her for being offended, there was something wrong with the movie itself.

As we left the theater, a line was forming outside. Once a month, Studio 35 shows the Rocky Horror Picture Show. People were gathering in costume, including many men wearing grass skirts and coconut bras, proudly strutting around in near-nudity.