Tuesday, November 7, 2017

NOT HOLDING MY BREATH

It's election day for local races in our area. There is a woman I'm supporting for Mayor and a young man I'm supporting for City Council.  They are both progressive, with ideas for moving past the stodgy good old boy network here and bringing new life and vitality to city government in our city, which is growing in exciting ways, full of urban challenges, and still in some ways stuck in the last century.  I hope they will win.  And I'm not holding my breath.

A year ago, I was dressed in my Pantsuit Nation pantsuit, planning my election night victory party.  About this time in the afternoon a year ago I was euphoric about what I knew was just hours away...our first woman president and a woman I supported and admired at that.  We all know how that turned out.

There are days (OK, every day) when I am still suffering from shock.  I feel like my life turned inside out last November.

Everything I believed about my brother/sister Americans was proven wrong: Millions of them are perfectly OK with a sexual predator, racist, money-grubbing, corrupt, malignant narcissist in the White House.

What I thought I knew about my country was proven wrong: Patriotism doesn't extend much beyond flags and songs; voting is optional and some citizens bothering to educate themselves to be informed and not influenced by obvious media manipulations is rare.

The idea that even if lawmakers disagree on policy, but will definitely come together for the good of the nation when our ideals, norms, and even laws are disregarded to the detriment of the majority was a naive belief:  Partisanship and donor-pleasing is way more important than democracy.

No more starry-eyed optimism for me.  The past year has been a daily horror show of disappointment, disgust, and dismay.

So, I identified myself with the Resistance and wrote my letters, made my calls, marched in my marches, waved my signs, gathered with other activists for encouragement and strategizing.   I did as the Resistance instructed and got involved locally in races that actually effect my everyday life in my city and county.  But dirty political shenanigans have turned up here as well and I have to wonder how many will not bother to seek the truth, will buy the line of bull they see online, will just sit this one out.  (Voter turnout for the Primary for the election today was 24%.  Yep.  24% bothered to care a whit about who would run their city for the next four years.)

I'm going to my Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction meditation class tonight (read all about it on my Yoga blog) and when I get home, I'll flip on the TV and catch the election results from across the nation and in my own backyard.  I hope the good guys win.  But I'm not holding my breath.

At least, that's the view from here...

P.S.  I WAS WRONG!!!!!!!  Tuesday Night's election results were heartening and even joyous in many races across the country in cities, counties, states north, south, east, and west.  Get this...
women ran and won -- including a woman who decided to run when (and she beat him!) an incumbent Tweeted that he hoped all the women in the women's march would be home in time to make dinner.  B-bye, asshole.  And a transgender woman won, beating the guy who introduced and touted the "bathroom bill" which outlawed a transgendered person from using the public restroom of their choice.  Another transgendered woman won in her race, a Sikh man (first ever) won in his race, black men and women won, an anti-NRA, gun safety advocate beat a pro-gun guy.  Seattle elected a Lesbian mayor, and Washington flipped the only district where a Republican gave the Statehouse a majority, and now we join Oregon and California to form the "Blue Wall" on the west coast of states who have Democratic Governors, Statehouses, and Attorneys General.

In my local races, alas, my first-timer City Council candidate lost, but my incumbent won.  The Mayor's race is still too close to call, the two women separated by a mere handful of votes.  The worst result was a neighboring town electing the Trump equivalent as Mayor over an imminently qualified, experienced, and fine woman who happens to be my friend and yoga studio owner where I practice and write my other blog.  She has been on the Council for years and has served as Mayor there and it stymies me how his lies and innuendoes and dirty campaigning won the day....reminiscent of last November. Still...overall, my pessimism was proven wrong in a sweep of national activist voting.  Resistance Rising!

At least that's (the morning after) view from here...©

Thursday, November 2, 2017

GROPING AND GRABBING IN THE HEADLINES

There's suddenly an epidemic of sexual harassment and assault!  Hollywood and Washington DC, especially, seem to be headline-blaring hot beds of lust-crazed men groping and grabbing.

Or...wait...maybe there is a slowly building, hopefully not short-lived, tendency (I can't make the parallel "epidemic" argument) toward people believing women (and some men) who are accusing men of harassment and assault.  It's been a long time coming and I have to wonder what caused the tipping point right now.

Could it be the collective disgust that our current president so brazenly bragged of the same harassment and assault and was still elected president?  Did the nation grow a conscience?

I swear, I don't know.  I'm stumped as to why, at this juncture, we are hearing of decades-long behaviors among prominent men and that there is some "news" in this.  Are we supposed to be shocked?

I'm not.  A handful of well-known men do not represent an anomalous cohort.  What's truly epidemic is the prevalence of this behavior and what any woman can tell you is, it happens all the time.  Studies show 1 in 3 women is sexually harassed at work; 1 in 5 sexually assaulted in college;  1 in 10 (fewer in some studies) raped in their lifetime, most often by an intimate or known partner.  So, yeah, there's that.

I did a little life review in light of all this recent revelation.  My journey of harassment and borderline assault started in junior high, grades 7-9.

I walked a mile to and from school and many times was whistled at, lured to get in vehicles, and followed by adult men.  My best friend encountered a man exposing himself sitting in a car near her home every day for a week.  We told our parents; they said to be careful and/or take a different route.

An 8th grade math teacher was known to leer and encourage girls to bend over in front of him to pick up an 'accidentally' dropped textbook.  We made a game of avoiding him.

A boy in my 8th grade science class leaned over one day in his stupid Madras plaid shirt and said "You're not much from the chin up, but from the neck down you're gangbusters!  Nice tits!"  I gotta think he heard or read this somewhere, but still, I took it to heart and from then on believed that my body was my only asset.  I can still hear him...and from that day I believed I was not pretty.

I was groped in the city swimming pool one summer almost every time I went.  I stopped going.

In high school there was more of the drive-by luring/jeering behavior (by adult males) as I walked every day to a friend's house after school to await my parent pick-up.  I don't even count the times teen boys grabbed and flirted and made suggestive comments and invitations, because that was so commonplace as to just be "normal" for the late 60's.  I started to feel like a target and started to feel afraid at times.

One school dance date night I found myself pinned to a sofa (after many, many rebuffs on my part) being told "I love you" and "let's do it" over and over.  I pushed him and kicked at him and he finally stopped, but was mad at me.  So, I apologized.  Then went to dinner, which I didn't eat, then jumped from his car in my driveway and cried myself to sleep.  I was disgusted, afraid, and furious.  I had no idea how to handle something like that.  I never told anyone.

At an after school job I worked in a small office with one older woman and three salesmen.  I typed and took dictation (poorly).  One day the woman was not there and two of the men wanted me to take dictation and laughed at me when I couldn't keep up.  When I stood up to leave they commented on my short skirt and "great legs".   I cried all the way home, embarrassed and ashamed.  I quit the job.

After high school,  I worked in a large office, as an assistant to a product buyer, where a man from a different department routinely walked around flirting with all the young women.  One day he came to my desk to chat, and asked me to stand up and turn around so he could see if my outfit would look good on his wife.  I did it, and then he laughed and said his wife wouldn't fill it out like I did.  I was humiliated and embarrassed, knowing the whole thing had been a ruse.  I avoided his future approaches.

I worked later in a small clinic where I learned to process x-rays in a darkroom.  The boss took many opportunities to supervise my work, leaning over me from behind, his body touching mine as I tried to squirm away.  I needed that job.  I put up with it.

At the community college I attended nights, I once found myself in a stairwell with a male student, who chased me down the stairs and grabbed my butt before running on ahead of me.

I recall going to a party with my husband where one of his medical school friends asked me to dance, then groped my breasts.

At the medical center I had a boss, an MD, who told me stories of his "open marriage", asked questions about my marriage and sex life (I didn't answer), tricked me into undergoing a bogus physical exam, lured me to a hotel room, and belittled me for rebuffing all his advances, then told me I should thank him for proving to myself that I loved my husband by not going along with him.  I told my supervisor and others, who were sympathetic but passively patted me on the back and shook their heads.  Nothing happened.  I quit that job.  (I've written about this in more detail in a previous blog post).

My mid-20's feminist awakening empowered me.  I was less naive and more savvy.  I learned to protect myself with street smarts and intuition.  But, still, too often I  felt like a target and I began to feel that any man was a potential rapist.  I was afraid too often, always searching for safety in my surroundings, how to get help if I needed it.  This is no way to live!

In my 30's, with motherhood and age, all of this seemed to calm down.  My life was lived mostly in groups of women and children and decent men who were respectful.  Later, my career in social work was in a female-centric workplace.

I guess I am lucky I was never truly physically injured in an assault, nor was I ever raped.  (I didn't go  away to college, but completed my undergrad degree over many years as an adult, so I don't have that experience to add to my story.)  But psychologically I was wounded just the same.  For much of my late girlhood and young womanhood, I felt like meat, like I didn't exist or have value beyond my body, that I was always in jeopardy, that my breasts were my best asset, that my sexuality was for the pleasure of men.  And that I was a prick tease, because flirting seemed to imply consent,  but I could not be promiscuous.  I still had a modicum of respect for myself, that finally feminism celebrated.   Feminism was such a relief.  And if I was angry a lot, and hated most men as a gender for awhile, that was a necessary part of healing the wound too.

So, yeah, I'm delighted all these guys are getting their comeuppance.  But it's a drop in the bucket.  Ask any waitress, Target checker, secretary behind the desk, schoolgirl, nurse, doctor, lawyer, teacher, writer, baker, executive....you get it.  Ask any woman anywhere.

We've all got stories to tell and there won't be any headlines or multimillion dollar settlements for us. And most of our harassers will never pay any price at all for the damage done.  They might even be elected President.

At least, that's the view from here...©

Photo Credit: REX.Shutterstock Harvey Weinstein.






Monday, October 30, 2017

DON'T SHOOT!

Friday night Hub and I went to the first play of the season at the theater company here in town.  We love that we don't have to commute to Seattle to experience excellent professional musical theater.  The show was "Into the Woods".  I was disappointed not to love it, but regardless of the plot and book; I have to praise the actors and stage/lighting designers.  Top notch every time.  We didn't leave the theater until nearly 11:00 -- pretty late for us these days.

Driving home, we noticed our street was filled with cars and a few people walking around.  "Party", we both said, and just kept going.

I was tired, so I went to bed shortly after getting home.  Hub decided to stay up a bit longer.  I had fallen asleep but not deeply so, and at one point I heard Hub talking.  It was disorienting.  Who in the world was he talking to on the phone after midnight?!?  I called down to him from upstairs asking if he was OK.  "Yes, just called 911. I think I heard gunshots!"

What?!?!  That woke me up fast!  Immediately I heard sirens.  Hub came upstairs to our bedroom where we have a good view of the street and we both watched as police, ambulance, and some sort of armored truck (SWAT team, we thought) converged on the corner 1-1/2 blocks from our home.  Hub said he'd seen people running down the street and cars peeling away shortly after the gunshots.  Now we saw people milling about as the police cordoned off the street 1/2 block from us.  Shortly, two officers raced by our home on foot being led by a police dog on the scent.  It was all quite surreal and we had no idea what was going on.

The neighborhood email list serve immediately lit up and I followed the comments of other neighbors who had heard the shots and called 911 also.  They said a partygoer had shot another and the shooter was still on the loose.  Nervous Nelly that I am, this was not welcome news.  We continued to watch for awhile, but really couldn't see all that well.  Hub got tired and came to bed, soon falling asleep.  But I was awake until after 2:00 a.m. watching the red lights flash on the walls of our bedroom until eventually I dozed off and awoke around 3:00 to a quiet street, all evidence of the police and the incident gone.

In the meantime details have emerged that the party was at an historic house originally belonging to a lumber baron back in the day, but has had several owners since we've lived here.  Currently it is owned by a development company seeking to subdivide the property and build more homes there -- not something we are happy about since it will destroy the historic nature of the property and the stately mansion will be surrounded by modern homes, but such is progress I guess.  In the meantime, it is being rented to some college students in their mid-late 20's.  The mother of one of them lives here in the neighborhood too and vouches for them.  Her son has written an account of the incident to the neighbors on the list serve.  He says it was a gathering of friends and co-workers that was going fine until an uninvited group showed up and started to cause a disturbance.  He told them to leave, which they did, but once in the street, shots were fired.  He said none of his original guests were involved, only the group that showed up and were unknown to him.  A 15 year old boy is in serious condition at a Seattle trauma center hospital.  The shooter is still to be identified and taken into custody.

It's all very unsettling, but plausible.  Parties have a way of getting out of hand, I know, when people spread the word and strangers show up.  I'm sure my sons were at plenty of college parties where not everyone was known to the host.  As to those who showed up and ended up shooting one of their own group....what's up with that?

What's up with any of it really?  I am sickened by how common gun violence is.  I could go on and on about my abhorance of guns and the prevalence of guns and our lax gun laws...yes, on and on.  It's a national tragedy.  Maybe I'll devote another post to this topic, but for now, I am stunned that this happened so close to home....and at the same time I have no illusions that any of us are safe from gun violence no matter the relatively affluent, historic nature of our neighborhoods.

We try here to be good neighbors. We keep our houses painted, our lawns mowed, watch out for each other, helping when we can, staying in touch on the list serve...AND lots of folks have alarm systems and security cameras.

I woke up scanning the thickly treed greenbelt behind our home, wondering if the shooter may have taken temporary refuge there.  Into the Woods, indeed.  Troubling times.

At least, that's the view from here...©

Photo Credit:  Pixabay.com

Sunday, October 29, 2017

CROSSROADS

Last weekend Hub and I joined the other 10 friends in a group we affectionately call "The Tribe" at our second annual weekend retreat.  We've been meeting together monthly since February 2016 for socializing, a potluck, and intentional sharing time in Circle, where we sometimes have a topic to explore that allows us to be self-reflective, and sometimes just a time of sharing deeply with each other about what's going on in our lives.  It goes beyond small talk by creating a safe and trusting space to be vulnerable.  Hub and I generally facilitate this since we have done this type of "personal growth" work in our own lives and have some experience facilitating these discussions.  But we also participate fully and gain as much from the time together as anyone.  It's a gift of love that gives back.

We planned a retreat for last year and we all loved it so much, we decided to do it again.  This time we rented a huge and beautiful home in the mountains on the edge of a little town that is very touristy with a Bavarian theme, but is surrounded by natural beauty.  The home sat on the edge of a river lined with trees in full fall regalia.  It looks like a fake photo; it's not.  We were in awe all weekend as all the windows of the communal rooms faced this view.

Our theme this year was "Crossroads" as we explored what our gift might be that we desire to bring forth into the world, but for whatever reason have held ourselves back from realizing.

We identified the "gift" and we studied and had fun with a personality construct called "The Enneagram" which is similar to Myers-Briggs in identifying certain characteristics of personality types.  Then we did a process which Hub masterfully facilitated for 11 people (and me for him), over the course of 5 hours.  To hold space and energy for emotional work that long is exhausting...he was a rock star!  But aside from my pride and awe of his facilitation skill, was the deep appreciation I had for each person stepping into their lives deeply and with great reverence.  As each walked the timeline of their lives, identifying 2-3 significant events, Hub was able to guide them in seeing how their life experiences and their personality types had both shaped their gift and also perhaps held them back from sharing this gift widely.

As each reached the "crossroads" they could take a step forward, recognizing they are already on the path and just need to take the first step into making their gift to world manifest.  Or they could veer left or right, realizing the path they were on needed to detour into a path more suited to their desire.  Every person stepped forward.  All realized they are already living their gift in some ways; they just needed clarity about the next step.

At the end each was given a slip of paper where I'd written the sentence describing their gift and the next step they will take within the next 30 days.  A duplicate of this was drawn anonymously by another Tribe member to hold that person "in the light" until we meet again and reveal who had been their Champion for the month.

Creating this experience was work, fun, interesting, and enlightening for Hub and me.  It was based on something Hub has done with his men's groups over the years, but was new to me.  I added the identifying the gift part (through a guided visualization) and the Enneagram stuff and we are delighted at the result.  Everyone seemed to gain from the experience.

This work of the heart and soul has always been important to me, and more so as I grow older.  Too often we assume we've done everything there is to do; "can't teach an old dog new tricks"; "it's too late to change direction" or to follow that heart-dream we've always had.  This limiting belief system is so detrimental to our psyche!  In growing older there is still room for growing.  

As for me?  My Gift Statement is "I find creative ways to connect and communicate with others to inspire and empower them to live confidently and boldly."  It's always a bit grandiose to state a gift or life mission in such confident terms, but looking at my adult life, I see this is actually exactly what I love to do.  I've done it in so many ways, successfully and less so, and it continues to be my passion.  I think it is especially dear to me because it's a gift I also give to myself.  I too want to empower and inspire ME by being in community with others who value this work as well.

Right now, I'm hoping that I can empower and inspire through my writing.  So my "first baby step" is to commit to sitting down at my computer two days a week with the sole intention of writing...no FB scrolling, no email answering, no newsfeed reading -- just working on a writing project.  My blogs will always be priority and I'm looking at other avenues for writing for connection as well.

What is your gift to the world?  What holds you back?  Are you on the right path or are you at a Crossroads?  Now is the time to take the first step...

At least, that's the view from here...©