The Jig is Up

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My facebook feed is lit up with women storming the gates of misogyny, non-consensual sexual behavior, and the culture of submissiveness women have been cornered into for….well, forever.

Finally, we are blowing up the culture of “I’m ok with that” and calling out stuff that is and has been common to many of us: unwanted touching, unwanted groping, unwanted humping, unwanted comments, unwanted pressure, unwanted visuals of man-parts standing at attention. And the crazy, unacceptable normalcy of  boyfriends, bosses, friends, colleagues, doctors, or whoever ignoring the word “no,” passing through it like a small town without a coffeeshop, assuming “yes” is just on the other side of it, or hidden within somewhere (she just doesn’t know she wants it.)

I feel like half of the American population is staring at the other half shouting, “The Jig is Up!  Come out with your hands where we can see them, fuckers.” And thank God for this because what a relief. Please, oh please may this be the end of times where women are cornered into needing to be submissive, sexy, attractive, docile, good-natured, roll with the punches- when our instincts, bodies, and voices are shouting the opposite.

In a strange way, I think #45 tugged us right into this, like a steady little insensitive, unevolved tugboat. Every woman who voted against him, and visualized the first woman president, fell so hard when he somehow tripped his way into office, that it felt like a personal violation. It was too far. And from that point forward, any single damn teeny tiny violation of respect in our everyday lives or any assumption of our willingness to go along with a status quo that felt unequal- it all had #trumpwon attached to it. It was already too far. Dirty dish in the sink your man expected you to wash for him after your long-ass day? Too far. Interrupting your much-needed ladies’ night to tell you to come home? Nope. Someone saying you look “cute?” Hell, no.

So this whole me-too thing, (which, by the way, me too) is such a relief because I finally can locate a valid reason for this rage I’ve been feeling since I was a little girl. It’s all clicking into place as I backtrack through the years, seeing not just glaring violations, of which there were a few, but also all the mini, many nearly invisible times my feelings and spidey-sense were sounding alarms that had nothing to do with sex and everything to do with knowing I was not standing on equal ground. All the times I felt less than or unheard accumulated and internalized until I believed the culture, not the truth. Album covers of girls in lingerie, movies where men talk more and women talk about men, health care that doesn’t cover things like tampons, less than adequate morning sickness solutions, Beyonce on the cover of Time in a leotard while her colleagues wear tuxes, out-of-reach childcare expenses, pink baby onesies that say “Daddy’s Princess” held against blue ones that say “Daddy’s Champ,” uncomfortable shoes marketed so your legs look good, wrinkle creams, age creams, cellulite creams, not being able to identify my favorite female celebrities because their faces can’t move, the fact that my favorite swear word has the word “mother” in it, unequal pay, and all of it. Like the whole culture was somehow pressing its big, phallic thumb down on me and I deep-down knew it, but didn’t understand how pissed, like really pissed, I was. About what was expected but not spoken, obstructed but not admitted, accumulated exponentially over decades and, looking back, centuries. So to finally have this whole culture evolving, bringing it all up to the surface-it’s so wonderfully liberating.

Translating this to home life…..If you talk to my husband, he can tell you I have been deeply concerned about having my voice heard in our marriage and being treated with respect on every level. He has handled my rage quite well, I think, when it’s all said and done. Because he is a strong man who can handle women being strong.

I am at home with our 3 kids and am inspired by what I’m seeing around me, the women in the workplace who are speaking out…..and it has me wondering now where the action is for those of us who don’t work outside the home, like me.

So, I thought amidst the amazing voices rising up, I’d throw in mine to the mix of practical things we can do in our daily lives, as moms, as wives, as ex-wives, as daughters, as parents, to contribute. I practice these things and am sometimes astonished at how unnatural it feels to place myself willingly into a position of power, emotional and energetic power. But unnatural or not, we must practice until it becomes habit. Here are some ideas…

  1. Stop asking permission for things you do not need to ask for. As in…”Can I use the bathroom?” at the doctor’s office or “Do you mind if I chew gum?” at a teacher conference or “Can I have the last bread roll?”
  2. Stop apologizing for other people’s feelings.
  3. Stop apologizing for your own feelings or display of emotion. Women feel. There’s not shame in it.
  4. Stop apologizing for bumping into people, interrupting, etc. Either say nothing or say “excuse me.”
  5. Stop moving out of the way for men on the sidewalk. Stay your course and see if they move.
  6. Take the armrest.
  7. Make statements without lilting your voice up at the end like it sounds like a question.
  8. Stop discounting accomplishments of yours by saying “but,” as in “I have my degree but it’s only Liberal Arts.”
  9. Stop saying “I’m just….” as in “I’m just a stay-at-home mom.”
  10. Consider how you feel before you consider what others’ feel.
  11. Stop apologizing for your feelings.
  12. Stop trying to predict how your true-to-you actions will affect your spouse.
  13. Stop editing yourself based on what you anticipate will be a negative response.
  14. Expect equal contributions for housework if you and your partner live in the same house- the things anyone would need to do if living alone.
  15. Sit where you want to sit, eat where you want to eat, watch what you want to watch- it’s ok to take turns but make sure you’re not sliding over your own needs to make room for someone else every time.
  16. If you’re unhappy with your partner, tell him/her: Start with “This is what I feel. This is what I need.”
  17. Stop having sex when you don’t want to.
  18. Wear what you want, cut your hair how you like, wear what makes you feel strong, not pretty.
  19. Shop for your babies in non-gender conforming ways. Shop for your girls in the boys’ section and your boys in the girls’ section. And let them choose when they’re old enough to.
  20. Express appreciation and respect for what has traditionally been seen as feminine qualities: empathy, intuition, nurturing, nourishing, non-hierarchy, feeling, circles of support and conversation, inclusion.

What about you? What steps or practices do you take to place yourself in a position of equality?

Strength vs. Guilt – Battle of the Fourth Trimester

I have a friend who just had a baby and is adapting to her new role as Lord Ruler of All Things Baby-Related. The boundaries she sets for visitors, for instance, are clear.  If you want to interact with her baby, you must be a close family member, your hands need to be washed, and you need to have received a pertussis vaccine. It’s her home, her baby, her rules. She is finding herself surprised at the strength of her desire to protect her family bubble for the first few months. Equally surprising is her guilt for wanting people to stay away unless they are fully on board with her style of parenting. It’s the classic inner battle for women: strength vs. guilt.

When I gave birth to my oldest, it was a surprise to find that I had a Mama Bear instinct. I was floored at how strong it was. I felt, for the first time in my life, that my own intuition and feelings about what I wanted for my family trumped what other people might feel or think about my choices. The most important views about what was best for my baby belonged to me and my husband. I had never felt that important before. Hello, power.

Photo by Lea Wolf

Lea Wolf, my doula for my that birth, was essential in helping me understand that the first few weeks after birth are yours, your baby’s, and your partners. They belong to no one else and no one else can claim them, though they may try to. I understood this rationally, but not emotionally, with my first and made some mistakes in not creating a month-long safe space to honor that fourth trimester bond, find a rhythm, and heal from the birth.

It can be hard and foreign to explain our instincts to others in the face of their sometimes different expectations.   We need to start with our instinct as the starting point and create space for it. If we can find the strength to create that space, we are rewarded in so many ways. Because as we maintain our truth, it grows bigger and stronger. Crucial!

Your inner, intuitive voice may ring so loudly and strongly after baby is born, it may take your breath away in how certain and solid it feels.  Following that inner voice is the most blessed actualization of mother’s intuition.  It is as real and valid as your five senses, developed over generations of our ancestors fine tuning their ability to love, guide and protect their children and themselves.

So when an un-nurturing neighbor knocks on the door two days postpartum and wants to see baby, and you hear that inner voice saying “No.” — that “no” is there for a reason. So that the word can find your lips: “No.” It’s not right for you.

Social expectations can push up against this instinct and try and sway you toward a “yes.” You might think “It isn’t polite” or “I want to be nice” or “I don’t want them to think I don’t appreciate them.”  Part of listening to yourself is knowing that when you choose what’s right for you, it is quite likely that you will not please everyone all the time. And as far as I can tell, not pleasing everyone all the time, staying true to yourself, and accepting yourself for it…. is just the beginning of motherhood.

You are doing a great job.

 

From time to time, I listen to a meditation cd from a local energy healer, Mary Preuss Olson at Magnificent Living Institute.  It’s great for centering, collecting all bits of my thoughts and energy back to where they belong, clearing away what I don’t want, and enhancing my state of being. It feels good to this- I like the whole meditation. But my favorite part of the entire cd is where she says,

You are doing a great job.

It melts into my bones when I hear it.

You are doing a great job.

I know that she means it and I know I deserve to hear it. And so do you. Because it’s true. This is a phrase that mothers (ok, and everyone) need to hear and, most importantly, believe. Knowing this statement to be true calms every fiber in our energy field, especially when we are in a place of really being able to absorb its meaning.

I try not to argue with it, try to burn through the shadowy mental response of “But….” But I didn’t get the dishes put away. But we don’t make enough money. But my kids has peanut butter in his hair. But I don’t make freezer meals. But I never went to grad school. No buts, no coconuts.

You are doing a great job.

You might not hear these words from your kids. They might not know you want to hear it. It’s ok to tell them that it sounds good to your ears, and that you like hearing it. You might not hear it from your partner either, unless you tell them it will make a difference in your life if they say it every now and again (and only when they really mean it.) What matters most is not who says it to you, but that you feel that it’s true in your bones.

You are doing a great job.

It’s true. Know it. Say it to yourself, especially when the wheels have fallen off the bus. There will always be unanswered questions and uncertain choices. There will always be more on the to-do list. Maybe it’s not actually your job to answer every question and be certain about everything. Maybe it’s ok to not know.  What preschool is the best. What size your kids will be in next fall. What toy they’ll take to. Maybe it’s ok not to be certain. I’m not sure if this music class will be worth it. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to pay off our debt this year. This car seat we bought might not be the best choice.  I don’t know.  I don’t know. And not knowing is totally ok. What a relief.

You are doing a great job.

I’m saying this to you now and I mean it. If you are keeping up with things and sometimes not keeping up, if you’re self-loving enough to take a moment to yourself to read a mom-blog, if you keep your kids breathing and fed, if you know how to cook a hot dog, if you notice things your kids might like, if you manage to shower when you need to and maybe even find time to shave your armpits, if you think about things like whether cloth diapers or disposables are more responsible, if you read to your kids, if you kiss them on the forehead before they go to sleep….

You are doing a great job.

(If this is not your child, you are doing a great job.)

 

Grocery Shopping with a Toddler and Preschooler

It started with pee and ended with screaming. In between there were samples of veggie chips, taquitos, and “granola bars” that were one layer of caramel away from being a Snickers. Also, a very convincing demonstration of a space-age blender by a man with a performance headset mic like Beyonce wears. (I’m pretty sure you could put some dandelions, a deck of cards, and a popsicle into that Blender and you’d somehow end up with a green smoothie.) There were also not one, but two trips through the understaffed checkout lines. And there were birds- including a red-tailed hawk- flying overhead. I’m talking about our trip to Costco today, of course.

 

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This photo from Tom on flickr. See more like this at RoadsideArchitecture.com

 

Now that my kids are 4 and 1 1/2, the mental preparation that needs to happen in order for me to take both of them grocery shopping is equivalent to whatever prep Serena does before Wimbledon. Serious focus is needed. I should have a shopping coach, really, and get a trophy every time I make it back to the car with both my kids AND our food. Really I’m lucky if I make it through half my list.

Most trips start out smooth in the beginning. We are excited about the carts. We talk about our list. We love being in America where every time you visit a grocery store there is a new type of cracker you have never heard of before, made with things that normally don’t go into crackers – like kale or lentils.*

Today was Advanced Grocery Shopping because it was at Costco – where the enticement for my 4 year old, Braden, to run out of sight are tripled (ice cream samples! cool toy aisle! massage chair!)  but I was prepared for the risk.

As soon as we had our cart and were focused into shopping mode, (already had a lifejacket and beach towel in it) the inevitable statement, “I need to go potty” comes from my four year old.

You can’t take items past the checkout at Costco unless they’re paid for. Now comes the philosophical question of our generation. Do you want to take your cart to the bathroom for the benefit of having your toddler strapped in, but go through the trouble of emptying the cart?  Or do you want to take your toddler out of the cart and try to contain him in the stall for who knows how long?  I opted to dump the beach towel and life jacket and go for the strapped-in toddler benefit. Smart choice- and we were back out shopping in no time, until I noticed Braden picking at his pants. Turns out his pants and underwear were sopping wet because his pee had sprayed all over them instead of into the toilet.  A rookie would have just gone home. But I was not going to abandon this shopping trip for a change of clothes, and thankfully we were at Costco where you can buy a replacement for virtually anything that gets broken, lost, or peed on during your shopping experience.  So we threw a pair of pajamas into our cart, waited in a line that moved So Slowly, bought them, returned to the bathroom again, changed his pants, threw the pee-soaked clothes into the cart and got things underway again.

Already, I deserve a medal for this shopping trip and we haven’t even bought food yet.

By the time we actually start shopping for real, it’s been 20 minutes since we walked through the front door. This is already too long of a shopping trip for my kids.

On most trips to a normal grocery store, 20 minutes is when things start to break down. Today was no exception. My 18 month old, Wyatt, wants to eat everything I put in the cart and tells me this by shrieking and pointing. He can’t look at food without wanting to eat it. So I end up opening packages as we shop to keep him quiet so I can stay focused on our list. Gatorade- yes, Wyatt-here, take it. Goldfish crackers- yes, Wyatt- here, eat them.

Braden then gets tired of sitting in the cart and getting swatted & elbowed by his brother. He wants to “walk” next to the cart and “help” me shop.  If I let him walk next to the cart, he keeps his normal pace which is a slow sprint. Will I have to jog with the cart to try and keep up?  Will I lose him around a corner and find him carrying 3 mammoth peanut butter tubs in his hands?  Who knows?  If his listening ears aren’t on, it’s over. Store lock-down, my kid is fast and doesn’t care how far away he gets from me. He wants to help and I want to let him, but sometimes his help involves adding things to our cart that we would never eat in a million years-beets, orange sodas from Mexico, prune juice- anything from the bottom shelves is eligible.

Around this same time, Wyatt has turned completely around in his seat and is reaching for the foods I have intentionally placed away from him. (Once, I walked away from the cart to grab something and when I stepped back to it he had 2 eggs in his hands that he was starting to lick.)

When things get squirrely like this, I then have exactly 5 minutes to get out of the store before the wheels fall off the bus.  Game on. I race to try and get the last few things on our list like I am in a shopping game show, then panic and start grabbing random things off the shelves on the way to the checkout. If I did have a shopping coach, she’d be running next to me shouting, “Leave it! Just leave the guacamole! Go for the bacon! The bacon!”

When we make it to the checkout line, the lines make me cry. Why are there 17 registers and only 3 cashiers?! Why?! I open at least two more packages for my 18 month old. Yes, pretzels and applesauce pouch- here you go. We inch our way toward the register.  Up to this point, I have managed to hide the berries from him, which is essential. His passion for berries is unquenchable. But when we get to the register, as soon as I grab the blueberries from the cart to place on the moving belt, he spots them- and the shrieking begins. Shoppers at the far corner of the store look up and wonder if there is an orangutan loose by the registers. The cashier avoids eye contact and scans things as quickly as she can. Customers that, two seconds ago, were smiling at my kids and making googly eyes now shrink back in horror. “That woman’s cart smells like pee, her kid is wearing pajamas for some reason, she’s opened every package before she bought it, and her baby is louder than a bullhorn and covered in blueberries.” If I don’t start feeding Wyatt blueberries, the shrieking will just grow louder and louder until all our brains explode and our ear drums burst.

Once he sees the blueberries, he can’t not have a blueberry in both of his hands and his mouth. What he really wants is to hold the blueberry container and either push his mouth into the container or grab fistfuls at a time. But then even the gigantic Costco size tub would be gone before we get through the checkout and nobody wants that.

Finally we make it through the checkout leaving a trail of blueberries on the cement. Braden is squishing them unknowingly as he jogs back and forth, asking for a “sugar stick,” his word for churro.  (Um, no.)  The cashier is asking me something. Yes, I want that shit boxed. Do not spend one second telling me about the premium membership. My kids’ brains are melting into a pile of goo!

We push out into the fresh air, finally, feeding Wyatt blueberries the entire way. Braden is crying because I didn’t buy him a churro…But by God, we made it- and with almost half our list.

I am a great fucking mom.

 

lyd011-lydias-organics-green-crackers_1

Ingredients: Sprouted sunflower seeds* collards* carrots* celery* Kale* spinach* zucchini* arugula* radicchio* lettuce* Parsley* basil* tomatoes* sprouted flax* onion* garlic* original Himalayan crystal salt & ♥.*Organic

*

 

 

Do you like my hat?

During my stay here in Florida I’ve been keenly aware that my self-consciousness has been slowly receding. I can tell because I walked around all day today wearing a ridiculous hat I bought at the grocery store and aviator sunglasses like Tom Cruise wore in Top Gun, while my sunburned neon face and legs literally shined a light onto anyone who came within 2 feet of me.

 

Photo on 5-26-14 at 5.26 PM #2

 

I was keenly aware that I looked like a ridiculous tourist and I absolutely did not care. Yes. It’s happened. Either I’m middle aged and I’ve finally reached the point where I don’t care what others think of me, or I’m officially a “mom” and the benefit of what is practical in any given clothing situation far outweighs what is attractive.

 

The voices of judgment and fear of being judged have grown so quiet during my time here, that I feel my sense of humor sprouting up and actually growing back. Like a lot of women I know, when stress gets me down, I tend to really get in my head. My sense of humor disappears. Everything is worrisome. I can’t do a single thing without wondering if it’s the right thing. Wondering what people are thinking about it. Whether I look (or am) ridiculous or sad or out of my element. I feel hyper-aware of what I’m saying and doing.

 

So I was psyched to find today, as I walked on the beach, that the critical, worried voice in my head had faded.

 

If I were starring in an HBO sitcom, the narrative of my walk on the beach would go like this:

After gathering seashells on the beach for hours, I started to realize that I was my own worst enemy. So much of my own energy was being wasted in wondering what others were thinking of me. I had been dampening down my actions or changing my course all together so as not to offend or distract the people around me. I picked up a pink shell and threw it into the waves. A young couple walked by and I listened for the voice in my head…that self-conscious flag alerting me to others that might be watching or noticing me, and what they might think of me.  I reached down to pick up a black shell with a small chip on the side- imperfect in the most beautiful way- and noticed the voice was gone. All I could hear was the sound of the waves breaking on the shore.

 

OK, so that’s sort of what happened. In reality, I could still hear the voice a little. I am not a tv show character. But after spending 3 days alone, crying my eyes out about my dad, and soaking in every drop of healing the ocean offered, I noticed that the voice was quieter, sitting way in the back row balcony of my self-talk.

 

Surprisingly, I did discover a new voice emerging to the forefront. This one is sassy as hell. When I walked on the beach past a hot middle-aged, string bikini-wearing woman with thin, toned, legs and long blonde hair, and boobs that were naturally still at boob height…this voice immediately snarked in my head “Well, congratulations.” But the difference was that I wasn’t wishing to be more like her or wondering what she thought of me and my grown-ass-woman-wearing-an-ugly-hat self.

 

So that’s something.

The Mom-cation: You’re next.

I am writing this post while sitting in a tiny Florida cottage on the Gulf Coast. I am by myself and have been by myself for 56 hours now. I can hear the clock ticking. I have spoken no more than a handful of sentences since I’ve been here, except for the times I talked to my husband and kids on the phone.

 

Let this stock beach photo inspire you.

 

I came to this place to visit the spot where my sister and I sprinkled my dad’s ashes into the ocean 2 years ago. I came here, too, because I need to stare out at the ocean once or twice a year…if I don’t do that, then something undefinable is missing in my world. I came here because the routine of my daily life was starting to feel like a routine of stressors. I was tense all the time- enough so that a yoga class or a walk in the woods wasn’t going to make me feel better. And I ain’t no dummy. I’ve been down the road before where a little slip turns into a long slide and there you are suddenly wondering about how to change your whole life when really all you may need is one small change. Like maybe a vacation all to yourself.

 

I firmly believe that time alone is healing for most people. I encourage you to give it a try. You never know what you might discover.

If you’re ready to explore the Mom-cation, here is how it goes:

Pick a place you would like to visit. Not a place your kids would have fun visiting or your partner has been talking about going to. A place YOU would like to visit. Maybe it’s been on your mind for months. Maybe you’ve been thinking of it for years. You know the place. Start short and sweet if it’s more comfortable. A car ride and an overnight. You don’t have to jump into a week in Thailand just yet.

Find a moment to get online. (The next time you are supposed to be taking a shower, turn on the water, close the door and sit on the toilet seat lid while researching trip options.)

Bolster you nerve. Yes, you can do this: Number of travelers: 1.

See if you can make it happen financially (where there’s a will there’s a way.)

Tell your partner or support system that you need this. The kind of need that is non-negotiable. Like I need to work out. I need 4 hours of sleep. I need a haircut. Tell him/her that you will help arrange for extra support for the kids if needed and will return the favor in kind when he/she needs time away. If a partner is not in the picture, try your closest friend or relative.

Pick a few days that will work with your calendars. Yes, the kids can miss preschool. Yes, relatives can help out. Yes, you can miss your book club meeting.

Book your trip.

Go. You deserve it.

 

 

Who Are You Now?

Two nights ago I had a dream about a bald eagle hatching. Most animal dreams are significant and I try to pay attention when they happen. This one, in particular, jumped out at me as containing a relevant message, particularly because eagles are such a powerful animal and have represented major spiritual concepts to many cultures throughout history. Powerful medicine.

I’m lucky enough to know a man who does shamanic work here in Madison (and around the world, as well.) When I told him I was planning to do a little research to find out what this dream’s meaning was, he said he believed it was that a deep dream of mine was “hatching” or about to be realized. Sweet!

Then I got to thinking…What are my dreams these days? I am so intimately absorbed in the day to day life with my kids and husband, do I even have dreams that go beyond getting a full night’s sleep, going to Target by myself, and getting in a good workout a couple times a week? That feels so lame, somehow, but is really indicative of this time of my life. Family life, man, I’m deep in it.

But to honor the parts of me that might be holding steady to some of my other dreams I may have lost sight of, I sometimes revisit questions to bring those dreams back into my awareness. To find my location and spiritual coordinates on my life map.  I encourage you to answer some of them for yourself. It’s often surprising what you don’t know about yourself. Here are a few….

What makes you laugh?
What scares you?
Where do you most want to travel to alone?
Where do you most want to travel to with your family?
What is your favorite color?
What are three things you would like to spend more time doing?
What are three things you would like to stop doing?
What are three life goals you have already achieved?
What are three life goals you look forward to achieving?
What is a goal you have that you don’t think you can achieve? What if you could?
What do you love about your home?
What do you not like about your home?
What do you love about your town?
What do you not like about your town?
What makes you feel happy?
What makes you feel lonely?
What is your favorite song?
What is some new activity you’d like to try?
Where do you see yourself in five years? Does it make you smile?
What is your favorite piece of clothing?
Who is a good friend to you?
Whose friendship are you letting go of?
What do you feel guilty about?
How can you celebrate who you are today?