When everyone around you is wrong, the odds are high that the problem actually lies within you.
Reflect. Identify. Resolve.
When everyone around you is wrong, the odds are high that the problem actually lies within you.
Reflect. Identify. Resolve.
When we embrace the parts of ourselves that we feel are the worst elements, the ugliest pieces, the parts we ignore because they are so painful to acknowledge, once we look at them and wrap our arms around them in unconditional acceptance and love, that is when we truly find freedom.
The spaces between us
Pile up with words
The silence collects them
Filling the room
None pass our lips
They accumulate in time
From our hearts
From our brains
Fear and circumstance
Leave everything unsaid
For every word that’s unspoken
Lies a matching response
They stack up in pairs
Nouns verbs all their mates
Full sentences of expression
Longing for breath
For the fullness of speech
Tangible in the
Never being voiced
In its purest form
No fear of reaction
In-between meetings today, I saw reports that the suspects in the Paris massacre were killed, just as they hoped to be. They had stated they wanted to die “the martyr’s death.” As I have done my entire life, I consulted the dictionary, because I have sat here muttering at my computer screen that these acts of terrorism have nothing to do with a deep sense of strength or pride, or the Muslim faith, and everything to do with cowardice, fear and a cult-level brainwashing.
The first two definitions are:
1. a person who willingly suffers death rather than renounce his or her religion.
2. a person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause: “a martyr to the cause of social justice.”
There are two additional definitions of being a martyr, both defining one in that insufferable way, where you just want to tell someone to build a bridge and get over it (“it” usually being themselves.) That’s not what we’re talking about. You either suffer for a greater good, as an icon in society, or you believe so deeply in your faith that to do anything else would be a dissolution of self. But are these people, with their AK47s, killing people because they draw blasphemous cartoons, are they adhering to a religion? (RELIGION?) Is terrorism a religion? Because when I think of someone who died as a martyr, I think of Benazir Bhutto. A woman who knew she would die, just as her father did, but felt so compelled to help the people of Pakistan and bring them greater freedoms, that her ideals could live on, long after a bomb tore her body apart.
So I only ask that you think a little longer about it, and when you hear the reports that these men died as martyrs, to consider that those were their words, not necessarily the definition of martyrdom. Because – it is my opinion – this is the face of a martyr, a woman who gave her life to make her part of the world a better place, not through murder or destruction, but cared to the point she was willing to die if necessary so she could continue to work for the people of Pakistan. And her sacrifice should not even be in the same stratosphere as the terrorists who died today.
Tonight’s World Series game is of utmost importance. In order for the Royals to stay in it and to have a chance to win it, we must win tonight. Game 6. We’re nauseous.
Plenty of people around town are filled with excitement, enthusiasm and yes, even a little queasiness. Because we’re from the Midwest. Yes, we’ve trumpeted and written and shouted, “TAKE THE CROWN!” with all the gusto you’d expect from a drunken NFL fan. But what it really comes down to is this: we just don’t “take” things. We’re too damned polite.
Growing up in Iowa and my post-college years in Minnesota, I observed the humorous behavior around offering dinner guests dessert: It actually requires offering said dessert three times before it becomes ok for the guest to accept.
“Piece of pie?” your hostess trills.
“Oh gosh no, I couldn’t,” you politely respond. (We don’t want to create more dishes to wash, overstay our welcome, or in any other way inconvenience you more than our presence already has.)
“No, no, come now, you have to try a slice!” your hostess then will exclaim.
“Oh no, I am so stuffed on that amazing dinner! I can’t imagine another bite right now,” you murmur, because the second offering means the first one was genuine, and now you’re shifting in your chair and wondering if there’s whipped cream.
“I insist. Just a small slice? Say you will!” she says, and you then acquiesce, because now you are actually helping out, you have been offered pie three times now, so you know the sentiment is genuine, and you are ready and excited for pie, and sure you’ll have a cup of coffee if you’re making more.
This is us. This is Kansas City. We are proud of our city, proud of our roots in agriculture and industry, proud we finally got an IKEA and proud of our teams. But never TOO proud. Of course we recognize injustice and bias. We rant and rave and rage at the Joe Bucks of the world, the announcers who seem to equally marvel at and ridicule our cowtown baseball team, and seemingly heap adoring praise on the other team’s players. The sportscasters who mildly mix up Alex Gordon with Eric Hosmer (HOZ!) but don’t bat an eye while they recite reams of statistics about Madison Bumgarner’s history and pitches. But we’re nervous. If we don’t win, will all these people who seemingly look down their noses at us, for being less “Cosmopolitan”, for being less “Coastal”, will this just prove them right? Well, no, but it won’t help us prove them wrong, either.
And we WANT this. We want it so badly. We don’t want to wait and we don’t want to lose. We want to win. Because we exist in flyover country every single day, we know the metropolises on either side of the country don’t think about us and our contributions, that our fields provide food for the world, the fact our hustle and bustle doesn’t have high-speed trains or subway systems. Oh sure, we’ve got our foodie spots and our microbrews and we even have sushi. But we’re used to not hearing a lot of ringing praise, and truth be told, a whole lot of praise can make us look at our shoes and shuffle a little bit in embarrassment. And this is why we’re queasy. Because underneath all of this, we WANT THIS. We want it so BADLY. It’s attention but it’s also redemption and it’s validation of all the things WE know to be true and believe in.
So maybe we won’t TAKE the crown, in the sense we ride up on an Arabian horse, snatch it & gallop away, but we sure as hell want to EARN the crown, because our pride knows no bounds when it comes to our team and our city. GO ROYALS!
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so they say. Does that mean we can “behold” ourselves, clearly and rationally? I don’t know. For me, the answer is usually, “No,” since I’ve got more than half a lifetime spent with criticisms and measurements and definitions of beauty that only revolved around a number on the scale, which can really torque with the way you define your own sense of worth in the world.
The conversation has been rolling around in my head ever since someone posed the question, “What if I have an ugly baby?” It was semi-in-jest, semi-serious, as the person has a friend with a pretty grizzled up baby with – as they say – a face only a mother could love. Is that really possible, though? And if you had the proverbial Ugly Duckling, wouldn’t you still love it with all your heart?
Growing up, I got a lot of, “Well…you’re ok from the neck up and the knees down,” or just an easy sort of shorthand, “You look fat.” I suppose now, I see if people will love me in spite of my copious extra adipose, or if they, too, will use it as a bludgeon and a barrier, a blight against me. Truth be told, I often find myself looking at myself and thinking I have a bit of a drag queen in me (maybe it’s my attitude seeping through), if only because I see my father’s features and having only known them as masculine, it’s hard to make sense of them on a female face. All I know is that it’s rather exhausting, and yet I still wish to be… pretty? Attractive? Somehow acceptable on only the surface, while rejecting the notion that surface definitions are the most shallow, that count the least, that in the form of rejection shouldn’t hurt, shouldn’t haunt, shouldn’t resonate with the old stuff I’ve pushed far below, because to have it out and riding shotgun is a horrible way to live.
The conversation at work grew painful, because my own upbringing, combined with that Upper Midwestern stoicism that tells you any semblance of vanity and self-worth are terrible character flaws, leave me feeling like the proverbial ugly baby myself, and I get defensive, because going through life having people eyeball you for being the fattest person at the nail salon or have kids point at you at the grocery store tends to eat away at the Teflon armor. It was even more challenging because my crankiness came off as fishing for compliments, and let me tell you, Upper Iowa Minnesota Jen wanted to run into traffic to escape, it was that horrifying. Anyway. I think we have to draw our confidence and self-assurance from more than just the mirror, but not necessarily to the exclusion of the mirror? Somehow throwing the ugly baby out with the bathwater feels like overkill.
So as the clock continues to tick, and the wrinkles around my eyes deepen, I’m sure of only one thing, and it’s that I have to be ok with me. As I am, as I was, as I will be. I may color my hair, use some products that promise to defy aging and peer at my face as I see my father’s eyes staring back at me, looking for what new mark of life’s process is stamped upon my skin. I actually surprised myself, because I was trying to figure out how in the hell my laptop camera actually took a picture and unprepared, I got one. This is me. Minimal makeup, no gigantic smile. Just… puzzling and thinking. I think a lot. Sometimes too much, but I still like doing it. And most days, I like me. Despite what all the old voices – and sometimes new – may try to tell me. Because the Beholder doesn’t always care, even if they should.
Well, that might be overstating things, but yesterday at lunch, my co-worker relayed the story of his friend who will be engaged soon, and the fact that her sister spilled the beans after shopping with the fiance, and then told the not-quite-yet-bride-to-be that the ring choice would “grow on her.” Because the sister is a royal fucking cuntbitch (CB), as I was quick to point out, and the sister has been jealous and sabotage-y of NQYBTB throughout the relationship because she wanted a boyfriend and SHE wants to get married first and SHE never obviously grew up listening to Marlo Thomas and Friends singing “Free To Be, You and Me” in which we learn that bitches who insist on “Ladies FIRST” and behaving really selfishly will ultimately get you eaten by tigers. or Lions. Or something, but it would be a horrible, mauling death. With the exception of Queen Latifah and her awesome song “Ladies First,” because nobody fucks with Queen Latifah.
So after hearing this story, I ripped into the CBSister, because that is some lame shit, putting your own insecurities and problems with the world onto someone else’s joy, and how lucky she is that I’m not CBSister’s sister, and he could only respond with the fact that NQYBTB is just hoping she can grow onto this ring whenever it happens and she’s not mad at her sister. To which I responded, “NQYBTB is a HELLUVA lot nicer than I am,” and was met with vigorous nodding.
I’ll own it. I will say, in my defense, I do not like hurting people and I work hard to be diplomatic and empathetic. But the flip side is that I’m blunt as hell and unafraid to call people on their shit, if they’re being extra shitty. Guess that just means it takes a strong, secure person to be my friend and stay in my life! I think Queen Latifah and I could kick it for sure. AND Monie Love. Where did she go? I loved her.
Someone posted one of those pictures everyone likes and shares – a stack of cell phones, sitting on a restaurant table. The type over the picture said something to the effect of, “First one to check their phone picks up the tab.” A funny, if not completely enforceable, reminder that the whole point of connecting, staying connected, and building connections has everything to do with being present, in the moment.
I first encountered the Horrid SmartPhone User in a former boss, who would look away from every conversation to check his phone whenever it beeped or buzzed. Not an actual incoming phone call, mind you, but an email notification or a text message alert. Entire meetings could pass while he kept his nose pointed at his phone’s screen, and while one can argue in every meeting there are times your contributions aren’t required, it’s different when you’re in a one-on-one meeting, and you continually send the unspoken message, “Something else might be more important than you, right now, and I’m going to disrupt what we’re saying by allowing this device to interrupt us.”
So in those days, and because I have a tendency to wander forward in my brain, anticipating the next steps, or the next 20 steps, or what might happen, I would mentally stop myself and say aloud, “Be here now.” It doesn’t mean I don’t also fall victim to my phone’s siren song of buzzing and chirps, but I try to be acutely aware of the fact that if I’m sitting at lunch, or dinner, or in a meeting, or having a one-on-one conversation with someone, I want to put them first. Just as I want them to put me first. Just the act of glancing at one’s phone’s screen is an interruption, a distraction, it is the equivalent of the pause button. Don’t even get me started on the people who are talking or texting at the movies, good grief. Seriously? Rent a movie and stay home. Nobody wants your inability to sit still, your need to multi-task encroaching on their enjoyment of being completely engrossed in the sights and sounds of a good story.
I’ve chided people who give their attention to their phone in my presence. “Are there three of us here right now? You, me, and all the people in your phone?” Because I just want to make sure it’s clear that our time is being shared by an inanimate object. If it is, maybe I’ll get out my phone, start giving semi-distracted responses, too. It’s fine, if the stage is set beforehand (I’m waiting to hear from the client, I am waiting for their response to an email, I need to make sure they got XYZ.) I suppose it’s technically fine if everyone’s on their phone, though I fail to see the point of being together if you’re going to all be absorbed by your 3″ screens. And again – I’m guilty of it myself, but I’m working on reviving that mantra, Be Here Now, because if we’re not Here? We’re slowly forgetting how to converse, how to engage, how to be polite and respectful, how to immerse ourselves in the world around us.
Your friends will thank you. Your employees will appreciate you. Your brain, which doesn’t need to do 20 things at once, might actually breathe a sigh of relief. And you will not miss anything. You might actually get even more than you expected.
The older I get, the more my palate changes, widens, deepens. This past summer, the Wo and I went to Plaza III for happy hour (he had gift cards, woo!) and I decided to try a Manhattan. I’ve never been much of a bourbon drinker, but I determined I liked it, and this past weekend, decided to make one at home. It’s very simple, a classic beverage – 2 parts bourbon, 1 part sweet vermouth, dash of bitters and a maraschino cherry. Stir, serve over ice, enjoy. I dug through our liquor cabinet, because I knew we had vermouth (but it turned out to be dry vermouth) and I discovered a bottle of bitters. My only association with them was that at some point in time, 10+ years ago, I used them in something and HATED them. I unscrewed the top, sniffed, and determined they smelled rather appealing. I used Makers Mark 46, and it was a nice adult beverage, the kind you sip and savor.
What I want to write about isn’t so much about booze, or beverages, or even palates, but how we evolve and change and sometimes completely reverse our thinking on things. And the fact that what I want to say is going to be read by some as that of a bitter, uncharitable person. Truly not how I would describe myself, but I know that whenever you run perpendicular to people who are committed to doing SOMETHING or believing SOMETHING, those who don’t agree become easier to dismiss when we put negative labels on them.
In the wake of the shootings in CT, the knitting community sprang into action. Groups were formed, for knitted (and crocheted!) items must be sent to the children. The families. Hell, let’s send things to the whole town, everyone who was touched by the tragedy. And the former YES LET US KNIT FOR THEM in me showed up absent. No. I don’t want to knit a toy for the child who shut their eyes as they were led past the bodies of their classmates. That will not fix this, and no matter how much love and tears I pour into a project like that, in the end, that process is for me. Not them. And we all are trying to find our way, I get it, and what happened was horrible, mind-boggling, devastating. We seek answers and comfort in the familiar and in service. But I kept finding my brain wandering back to something I’d learned about the Jewish faith years ago, the notion that the highest form of tzedakah (charity) is a gift that is given with no knowledge of the donor, in such a way that does not denigrate the recipient. In other words, anonymous.
And that led me to another branch on the thought tree, and that is the concept of anonymity and its ever-dwindling presence. In the days of social media and Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, we are encouraged to share the most mundane of thoughts, rewarded in our Skinner-box with the clicks of “Likes” and comments, how many people will like my picture? And I don’t think there’s anything categorically wrong with it, we are human beings who desire connection, no matter how many electronic devices we own, we still crave the most basic togetherness, to be monkeys in the tree tops, grooming and petting each other, looking for fleas. The internet lets us have something parallel, in a non-touching cyberspace, where we can find more like-minded folk, hobbies and politics and interests uniting faces that would have lived entire lives without knowing each other fifty years ago.
So what do all these random thoughts mean? I’m not sure. I don’t mean to tear down the well-intended, because 15 years ago, that would have been me in spades, leaping into some sort of action that would soothe my raw heart. But in my head and heart, I now find myself uncomfortable, unwilling to participate. And certainly, what is a blog if not an indulgence in one’s own narcissism, the idea that the words I string together are worth someone else’s time to read? That somehow I might change someone or improve their world with my humor or musings? If anything, this is more of a self-observation, that over time we can change how we express ourselves, how we choose to process things. And our experiences, too. I participated in a big afghan donation project several years back, only to learn later that the blankets were received more with a shrug and a “hm, ok,” than an outpouring of appreciation for the effort that had gone into every stitch. We project our love of our craft onto others, and expect (or at least hope) they will cry with delight and admiration that we took the time to make this for them, because we know how much went into the item. The love in every loop, the skills honed over the years to create something beautiful and unique. Some people? Really just drive around the parking lot, with the windows down and the system up & just don’t give a fuck, to paraphrase Eminem.
In the end, I return to the tzedakah, and ask you to consider what charity means to you. What it means to you in the middle of the night, when you are alone in your head, there’s nobody watching, there’s no internet access, no “like” or “agree” buttons. And then do what you need to do, because some of these nights have been very cold and dark of late.
So a ton of people are reading the jaw-dropping, eye-opening, no-he-di’n’t statement that wannabe-Senator Todd Akins said in an interview over the weekend. It’s all over Facebook, Twitter, and just about every single news source in America has posted on it. (here’s the exchange with the interviewer, in case you missed it:
“If abortion could be considered in case of, say, a tubal pregnancy [which threatens the mother’s life], what about in the case of rape?” asked KTVI host Charles Jaco. “Should it be legal or not?”
“It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare,” Akin said, referring to conception following a rape. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child.”
Argh. When will the people who want government to stop meddling in their lives fiscally take a lesson from their own playbook and stop trying to impose their values, beliefs, morality and religion on everyone else? Not to mention maybe doing some scientific research before gum-flapping complete bullshit rehetoric that suits your platform?
But really. Anyone who knows me or has read this blog over the years knows that I am a feminist, I wear that label proudly, and I support a society with reproductive rights as upheld by the Supreme Court of our great country. So you knew the whole thing would make me a bit…frothy. But this time, it was less about defending a woman’s right to choose, it was the giant concrete block of the word “Legitimate”.
Um, what is that? So many beliefs, attitudes and prejudices just rolled all over me with those two words. Because the opposite (“Illegitimate Rape”?) makes you think that sometimes rape isn’t…rape. Just…. roughhousing? Are we really going back to the infamous line from Claytie WIlliams, “If it [rape] is inevitable, just relax and enjoy it”? But in this case, it would seem that might be at cross-purposes with our magical built-in uterii’s uncanny ability to eliminate pregnancy if we’re really being raped.
Twenty-four years ago, I sat by a woman’s bedside in a hospital in Des Moines, Iowa. Tubes left her body, transporting bloodstained urine, draining wounds from the stabbing she’d received days earlier from the hands of her rapist. Her will to survive made such an impression on me, that it was the first thing I thought of when I heard that quote from Akin. She had been raped, sodomized, stabbed and left for dead in shed near a cornfield. She begged her attacker to take her with him, because she had enough presence of mind to realize if he left her, she would die that night in the cold darkness. She promised him money, just take her to an ATM, she’d give him the number when they got there. And when he left the vehicle to get that cash, she dragged her body across the parking lot and got the attention of a truck driver, who rescued her from the nightmare that would now be forever in her memory, part of her Life Experience, the curse of her will to survive that she would also have to bear those memories for the rest of her days.
The crisis counselor murmured, “You are so, so brave. So brave.” I barely spoke, because I was the art major doing an internship, who wanted to help people with my sympathy, caring, and understanding. Be the change you wish to see in the world. I just never knew how terrible the world could be.
Doesn’t it always feel a little bit different, when you put a face, or a story, or a name on the unthinkable? That maybe our black & white thinking doesn’t always apply. That an extreme stance on anything means taking someone else’s rights away. I would never tell that woman we needed to review just how legitimate her rape was. Or that she’d have to carry that evil shit scum’s baby to term. Could you? Todd Akin thinks he could. And for that, I can’t forgive him any “mis-speaks”.