Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Day 82: Hamilton Makes the Best Parodies.

Today, we're accepting that I'm childish.  Cause I wrote this, and it's totally childish, but I'm too gleeful not to share it.

If you're not familiar with Hamilton, this isn't gonna make any sense.  Fair warning.

Anyway, various and assorted gentle folk, I present to you my "You'll Be Back" Parody, written for our soon-to-be Commander in Chief.  *Edit: I'm still not a dude, but I gave it my best shot.  The sock puppet was a genius inspiration from my friend Brown.  Enjoy. 

I'm in Charge
You say
The price of my wall’s not a price that you’re willing to pay
You cry
Over each foul remark that I make, and each grandiose lie
Why so sad?
The founders created this system which leaves me in power
And it’s making me mad
That SNL doesn’t respect my ascendent hour…

I’m in charge, don’t you see
All you little folk belong to me
I can do, as I please
Watch me bring the country to it’s knees
Oceans rise, but I ignore
All the science that has come before
And you rich, you’re in luck
Cause I’ll help you screw the country over good, just to make another buck

Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da
Da da dat dat da ya da!
Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da
Da da dat dat da…

You say I am destructive and it can’t go on
But I know you’re just bitter because I won
And no, I don’t like data
Cause facts are just for haters
It’s true because I say it
And you’re all gonna play it
This game I created, you’ll play it because you can’t help it

I’m in charge, you’re all mine
And I like the situation fine
It’s not fair, it’s not right
(But we know that I can fix that with might)
I’ve got plans, soon you’ll see
The Bill of Rights will be history
Cause when push, comes to shove
Civil rights and equal treatment, social justice—they just are not things I love

Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da
Da da dat dat da ya da!
Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da
Da da dat—
Everybody!

Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da
Da da dat dat da ya da!
Da da da dat da dat da da da da ya da da da da
Dat dat da ya da!




Sunday, December 4, 2016

Day 81: When Someone Shows You Who They Are...

...believe them the first time.

This quote has been flying around online quite a bit, mostly as a response to the "wait and see" folks in regards to our new President-Elect.  But this past week I've been thinking about it in it's original context, as I've thought about my own life and talked to my friend quite a lot about hers.

I don't know why we, as people (possibly as women?  Although I'm not sure it's limited to women) have such a hard time believing in the reality other people choose to show us. 

Is it a biological trait, to focus on the hints of good even when we can see the glaring bad? 
Is it something socialized into us, by the fairy tale mythology of every story we're ever told, where if you love someone hard enough--either as a lover or a friend or a parent--you can save them from their own internal demons? 
Is it simply laziness?  Do we abhor the idea of trying to go out and form a new bond so thoroughly that we'd rather pretend our current bondee isn't a total asshat?

I don't know.  I don't know the cause.  But what I do know is that Maya Angelou was right.  People will say all sorts of things, but when someone shows you who they are, you should believe them the first time.  It will save you a world of pain.



People don't change because you care about them.  You do not have magical refining powers to draw the perfect diamond from a lump of coal.  It is possible for a person to change, but only if they want to.  Not because you want them to.

So, when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.

It really is better that way.  I promise.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Day 80: Don't Apologize for Her Feelings


Grrrrrrr...

Can I just take a moment to acknowledge the biggest bullshit phrase in all of emotional communication?  Raise your hand if you've ever said this:

"I'm sorry you feel that way."

Now, if you meant "I am expressing sympathy that you feel something horrible" you can go ahead and put your hand down.  But if what you meant was "you've just told me about a series of actions I engaged in that were directly responsible for you feeling awful, but instead of apologizing for the actions which were callous and hurtful to you I am going to regret that you had FEELINGS ABOUT THEM" then you can just go ahead and take that upraised hand and slap yourself upside the head.

 Yeah.  That's pretty much how I feel about that.

Human relationships are complicated.  We're all responsible for our own feelings, and yes, sometimes a person will feel bad even when no one has done anything wrong.  I'm not suggesting that if someone says "hey, you walked through that door.  I didn't want you to walk through that door.  How dare you do such a hurtful thing!" that you should feel any kind of regret just for making an entrance. 

IF, on the other hand, you have done genuinely hurtful things, and rather than accepting your own actions and taking responsibility for said actions you choose to apologize for the feelings your moronic behaviors engendered then you, oh misbegotten remnant of humanity, are a complete and utter shit.

Try apologizing for something that has to do with you--that you, yourself are responsible for.  Like, say, your actions or your words. 

Don't apologize for her feelings.  (A) they aren't yours to take ownership of and (B) they don't require any apology.  Her feelings are a pretty natural response to the crap you pulled.


Your bullshit, on the other hand, will need several apologies filled out in triplicate.  Submit the originals to the main office, and I'll make sure they get filed appropriately.



Thursday, November 24, 2016

Day 79: Life Doesn't Discriminate...

Today is Thanksgiving, and many of my friends have been posting on social media, saying what they're thankful for.  The lists are sweet and touching, and I want to post something similar, but the truth is that I can't find that place of gratitude this year.  

Don't get me wrong.  There are things in my life that I love beyond reason, but as 2016 draws to a close I find that I am not capable of simply appreciating what I love.  Instead I am filled with the desperate need to cling to what is dearest to me.  To arm myself against whatever might come along to snatch it away from me.  I do not feel grateful this year.  Instead I feel ferociously defensive, like a wolf mother crouching over her cubs, snarling at the world that threatens them.

In Hamilton, an American musical, there's a song sung by Aaron Burr called Wait for It.  I've got a lot of complicated feelings about that song, but I cannot deny that I get chills every time I hear it.  The chorus resonates so strongly with me that it makes my heart hurt.

Life doesn't discriminate
Between the sinners and the saints
It takes and it takes and it takes
And we keep living anyway
We rise and we fall
And we break
And we make our mistakes...
 
It's true, isn't it?  
 
I know I'm not the only one who has been feeling the impact of how impartial life is.  We have watched so many of our iconic artists die recently--some far too soon.  We have watched a string of incidents in which innocent people lost their lives at the hands of the police.  We have seen a rise in hate crimes among the population in just the past few weeks.  We have seen a Neo-Nazi group with a fancy new label actually join mainstream American politics.  We are currently watching state governments unleash deadly levels on violence on peaceful protestors in the name of the almighty oil dollar.  And that's in addition to the traumas that are, perhaps, more normalized for some of us, but no less painful.  The family members who have grown sick.  The friends and loved ones who are struggling against too many trials.  The wars, the diseases, and the never ending list of freak accidents that we hear about and pray never to experience.

Life does not discriminate between the sinners and the saints.  It doesn't care if you're good or evil, if you bring joy or sorrow, if you are alone or surrounded by people who love you.  To be alive is to be constantly at risk--constantly on the verge of losing everything you love.  I am too aware of that verge to be grateful.  Gratitude is an emotion of comfort, and I cannot find comfort anywhere within me.

This year, I am not grateful

This year, I am not counting my blessings.

This year I am full of a screaming defiance for the whims of a life that gives and takes in unequal measure and with no regard for merit.  I know that my insignificant human denial will change nothing, but it's all I have left to cling to when the specter of loss seems to loom over everyone and everything.  

It isn't really acceptance.  But at least it's better than despair.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Buckle Up

I wanted to mourn.

I woke up before dawn, and I couldn't sink back into sleep.  Instead as the sky grew lighter I watched my children's faces, thinking of their next four years.

They were at peace, but I was not.

I thought of how my son will start middle school under an administration that wants to cut the Department of Education.  Of how my daughter will be shaped by a country that willingly elected a man who has no respect for her rights to her own body.  I thought of these things and I wanted to mourn--to cry out and give voice to the fear and sorrow so many are feeling.

But I can't.

Because for me to mourn would mean that I have given up hope.  It would mean that I believe we are well and truly beaten.  And I don't believe that.  I don't believe it at all.

We are not done yet.

And I will not mourn.

It's true there are too many Americans who are willing to see Donald Trump in the White House.  It is a fear inspiring fact.  But don't forget, he may have won the electoral college, but he lost the popular vote.  Yes, there are many, many people who voted for him.

But there are still more of us.


You are one of us if you believe a woman has a right to say who can and cannot touch her body, and that no one, no matter how powerful or wealthy, can take away that right.

You are one of us if you believe that people of all ethnicities and all religions deserve fair and equal consideration in the eyes of the law.

You are one of us if you believe in compassionate support for those fleeing dangerous conflicts in their own home countries.

You are one of us if you believe that the children in our own country should have enough food to eat, clothes to wear, a warm place to sleep, and a decent chance at life.

You are one of us if you believe education is the path forward, and that access to education is one of the best gifts we can offer future generations.

You are one of us if you believe that climate change is real, and that we must alter our headlong trajectory into making our own planet unlivable.

You are one of us if you believe that facts and evidence are more important than rhetoric.  If you believe that rational discussion is better than abusive attempts at control.  If you believe that there is room for understanding and compassion even between people who disagree.

There are many of us.


Some of us didn't vote yesterday.  Some of us voted for another candidate.  That's in the past.  We can't change it.  What we can do is reach out to those all around and remind ourselves that we are many and that there is power in that.  The most effective movements towards justice in our country have always come from the populace, not the government.

We speak.  We make our voices heard.  We do not give up.

So I will not give up.

Buckle up, folks, cause it's going to be a bumpy four years.  You know what's coming down the pike.  There are going to be fights over Roe v Wade.  There are going to be fights over national health care.  There are going to be fights over immigration.  There are going to be fights over education.

Don't mourn.  Don't roll over and accept it.  Buckle up.


Climate change is a deadly calamity.  We cannot allow Congress and the President to ignore it.  Nuclear war is not an option, and we must make that clear.  There must be accountability among our law enforcement for the actions they take while wearing a badge, and if the states won't act to enforce that then the country must.

The words engraved on the Statue of Liberty still read "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."  If we dream of being that nation--if we dream of being a refuge and a beacon of hope--then we must speak out again and again.

Don't mourn.  Don't cave.  BUCKLE UP.

This is a struggle for the soul of our nation.  Be ready to show up.  Not just on social media, but in the real, live world.  Learn the route to DC from your hometown, and figure out how to get there when we need to turn out in force.  Join the mailing lists for the groups you support, and when they have a rally drag yourself there so that your support can be noticed.  I know you have a life.  We all have lives.  That's why we have to do this--because the lives of all our future generations will be shaped by what we allow our country to become.


Write your Senators.  Write your Representatives.  Write our new President-Elect.  Let them know you haven't given up.  Let them know that we, the majority of the country, are still here.

Let them know that we are prepared.

Buckle up.

***

Below you will find a links to organized groups that are trying to effect change in some of these areas.  These are by no means the only groups available.  If you have a suggestion of a link to add, please let me know.


Injustice Boycott

350

AWID Women's Rights

National Organization of Women (please note the NOW website is currently busted)

Stand for Children

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament

Refugee Council USA

Healthcare--Now!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Day 78: The Names We're Called

 
I've been called a lot of names in my (almost) 38 years.  I was sitting here, trying to come up with a list, and I realized I probably can't even remember them all.  Isn't that amazing?  I've had so many labels and slurs applied to me that I literally can't remember every single one.  Here are just some of the ones that made an impression:


Bookworm
Know-it-all
Weirdo
Show-off
Fatty
Teacher's Pet
Attention Whore
Drama Queen
Bitch
Slut
Control Freak


Those are pretty good, right?  I mean, they cover a decent selection of qualities.  And I could go into a lot here, about how maybe I never would have heard some of these if I'd been born a man, or how quick we are to turn on those that are outside the norm, even if they're outside it in a positive way.  But that's been discussed ad nauseum, and I think we all know the reality.  Anyone different gets bullied about their differences.  It's one of the less attractive features of being a pack species.

At any rate, I don't really want to talk about the names we're called in an attempt to hurt us.  I want to talk about the names, labels, and titles we're given by people that mean no harm.  Sometimes even people who love us.

And how very damaging those can be.

*deep breath*


Once upon a time I was in a relationship with someone, and they were very important to me.  I loved them very much, and so, when they told me something was true about myself--when they named a part of me--I tended to believe them.  When the mean kid in school had called me a bitch, I knew better than to believe her.  When everyone in college called me a slut, I knew where that rumor came from, and--although it hurt--I didn't let it sink into me and claim a piece of my identity.

But when someone I loved told me "oh yes, this is just who you are.  I'm not saying it because I'm mad, it's just true about you." I had no defense in place against this kind of announcement.  I didn't think I had to defend my sense of self against the opinion of someone so close to me.

"Surely," I thought somewhere down in my subconscious, "if they are saying it then it must be true.  Because they love me, and they would not lie about who I am."

Perhaps they would not have lied.  But that didn't make what they were saying the truth, either.

 Living as a version of yourself that is defined by someone else 
is like being a painting that someone has colored all wrong.

I spent years believing things about myself that were untrue.  Every time some part of me would try to refute the lies--to rise up and remind me that this wasn't really who I was--I would explain it away, dismiss it, refuse to listen to the inner voice that insisted that I was living inside a facade that wasn't really me.  I loved the person who had named these parts of myself, and I thought if I rejected their explanation of who I was, I would be rejecting them as well.

It never really dawned on me that, by accepting their labels, I was still rejecting someone.  I was rejecting the me I really was.

Eventually that relationship ended.  There was a cataclysmic fallout.
I was unhappy for a long time.
I was angry for a long time.
I was mourning for a long time.
Both the relationship and its ending left marks on me that will never fade.

But one day--one random day, with no particular significance--a piece of me that I had been denying for a very long time decided to come back and give it another go.

And that--that was a joy.


They've come trickling back.  Some of them are tiny things.  Some of them are bigger.  Some of them are life altering.  But having each one return is like having a long-lost family member walk through the door and announce that they're home.  I greet each one--big or small, good or bad--with such relief and affection.  I should never have let them go.  Now that they are back I will accept them as they are, because to accept them is to accept myself.

Not all of me is great.  But all of me is me.  And no one else--friend or foe--should decide what "me" means.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Day 77: It Took Over A Week...

Warning:  The following post contains discussions of sexual assault.

It's taken me over a week to write this post.

Partially because I've been busy.  Voices of Hope had our big fall Gala this Saturday, and life was sort of a whirlwind leading up to that.  But, if I'm being honest, the fact that I was in tech was just an excuse to put this off.  For once, I actually don't want to write something.  I'm not chomping at the bit to share my opinion.  I feel sick, and sad, and I kinda wish I could skip it.

But I can't.  I can't skip it because it's lingering in the back of my mind, and I don't think it will go away until I write something.  And I can't ignore it because I know that the more we talk about these things--the more light we shine on them--the harder it is for them to continue.

Still.  I don't really want to write this.  Bear with me.

 Bottom left, I'm five or six in this picture.

I was probably five the first time a man touched me inappropriately.  I don't really remember precisely, I was little enough that it's one of my earliest memories.  Certainly, I was little enough that I couldn't reach into the rabbit pen at the local pet store and pet the bunnies.  And I wanted to pet the bunnies.  That's why, when a stranger offered to pick me up and hold me so I could reach them, I agreed without hesitation.
I always trusted adults.  There were so many in my life, and they were all trustworthy.  So I assumed it was an accident when his hand--instead of staying safely on the outside of my little jean skirt--found its way beneath the hem and between my legs, hoisting me up in a very intimate grip.  I didn't like it when his fingers slipped under the edge of my underwear, though, so I squirmed until he put me down.  I remember thinking it took a long time to get him to put me down.  Then I ran to find my mother, and tried to forget about the man. 

And I almost did.

But not really.

On the right, about ten.

I was in first grade the first time an authority figure ignored what was going on, right under their nose.  There was a boy in my class--Jeremiah--and everyone knew that he didn't keep his hands to himself.  Our teacher assigned our seating, and always arranged us boy-girl-boy-girl at our little clumped up desks.  Why, I don't know, but she was adamant about sticking to it, so when Jeremiah ran his hands up the girls' legs and they complained she would just move him to sit next to another little girl.
It was warm out when he was moved to sit next to me, and I liked to wear shorts.  Jeremiah would reach out and stick his hand between my knees, sliding his sweaty fingers all the way up my inner thigh until it reached the edge of my shorts.  Then he would squeeze, and breathe hard.  When I complained to the teacher she told me there wasn't anything she could do about it.  She'd already moved him all around the room, and the end of the year was so soon.  Couldn't I just tolerate it for a few weeks?  I spent the rest of the year sitting as far away as my desk would allow, with my legs pressed tightly together.


Eighteen.

I was nine the first time someone pinched my ass on the bus.  I was twelve the first time a boy grabbed my boobs without permission.  I was fourteen when my Sunday School teacher told me he didn't hold with rape, but if a woman was mowing the lawn in a bikini then clearly she was asking for it.  When I was sixteen a guy I disliked just announced he was my boyfriend, and started showing up places when he knew I would be there.  When I was eighteen a male friend took me to his friend's house and basically offered me up like a host gift.  We walked through the door and he said to his friend, "Here, I brought her for you."

Twenty

I have thirty-seven years of stories like this.  My entire life's memory is peppered with them.  I have grown up with these incidents as a facet of my life. 

Some of them are truly frightening--like the time a man followed me from the parking lot late at night in a rest area on I-81, and was waiting when I came out of the bathroom.  He followed me back towards the car, and I started to panic, not knowing what to do.  I will be grateful to my dying day to the friendly man that saw him and stopped to talk to me, refusing to leave until the guy following me finally gave up, got in his car, and drove away.  Thinking about that still terrifies me. 

Some other stories are more commonplace, like the guy who commented loudly on my ass while I was doing some grocery shopping during the heat wave this summer.  Apparently he liked my short shorts.

Twenty-two


All of them--every single one of these stories--are about a man who, in some way or another, treated my body like it wasn't mine.  Like he had some sort of right to it--the right to touch, the right to pass judgement, the right to offer it up.

When people defend the culture of treating women like property, it makes me sick.  I don't care if it's a presidential candidate, or a movie star, or a guy at your office.  When we say "that's just how guys talk" or "he didn't mean anything" we are reinforcing the idea that it's okay for men to think of women this way.  And it isn't.  Even if most of them wouldn't act on it, the perpetration of the thought alone makes it more acceptable for those who want to act on it to do so.

Charlotte, age six.

My daughter has already been kissed without her consent.  She's six.  It's just starting.  She will have a lifetime of stories to tell, as well, and it makes me want to scream and punch things.

Screaming and punching won't help, though.  Instead I will tell her simple truths, and hope they sink in.

Your body belongs to you, and no one else.

You alone have the right to say who can touch you.  You alone have the right to say what you will do with your body.

Enjoy sex.  Laugh at bawdy jokes.  Flirt with people.  None of those things takes away your right to have the final say.

Appreciate the men who ask if they're crossing the line.  Who tell you to let them know if they do.  Those are the men you can trust.

Never be afraid to tell someone when they've crossed a line, even if they don't ask.

Don't judge other women for internalizing this cultural lie of being public property.  They've been misled their whole lives.

Don't be afraid to say no.

Thirty-seven

I will tell her these truths.  And I will tell her all my stories, so that, as she grows, she knows what to look for.  So that she doesn't assume it was an accident.  So she doesn't sit quietly and press her legs together to not make trouble.

I will tell her so that she knows she's not alone in the experience, and that she doesn't have to be ashamed.  So she knows that she didn't do anything wrong.

So that, even if I can't help her learning to accept that this shit happens, at the very least she won't start thinking it's okay.  

It's not okay.