G’day mates! We’ve been back from down under for nearly three full weeks and I think I’m finally fully un-jetlagged. As much as every bit of me really, really dug the amazing vacation, my body certainly did not love returning to real life… worth it!
So, of course you’re dying to know how it went… because who doesn’t love hearing about other people vacations in agonizing detail???
I kid, of course! I’ll be quick.
We flew to Sydney, Australia, where we stayed in a fancy hotel on Sydney Harbour and hung with Nemo and Dory.
The next day, we put on our AMAZING matching shirts (in red, we saved blue for Vanuatu) and boarded the Voyager of the Seas.
Where we spent 12 amazing days wining and dining, reading and relaxing…
… and seeing some of the most amazing sites in the South Pacific.
Also, Seth smiled. And smiled. And smiled.
Finally, on my way home — I saw my friend Sarah (originally from Hoboken, NJ… now a resident of Melbourne) after more than 15 years AND my friend Jessi (who lived two doors down from me in the dorms at Michigan Tech and was my very first college friend) after more than 10. Insane.
It was incredible. Every second of every day. The experience of a lifetime.
But really, that’s not what I want to talk about. Or rather, what I think you want me to talk about. Because the last time we talked, it was all about the reset… the big reset. The new job, big vacation, letting go of the infertility battle.
I’m in love with my new job, the vacation was amazing, I felt legitimate relief to let go of motherhood.
And then last night. It all caught up with me. The truth came out in an explosion. Tear-filled and snot-soaked.
I can’t stop saying yes at work and I’m completely overwhelmed. As amazing as the vacation was, I felt immediately un-relaxed the second I stepped off the plane in Wisconsin. And “letting go” is a process that doesn’t happen quite that quickly — my heart is still broken and I need a lot more time and space to let it heal than I thought I would.
Damnit. I really thought I’d be fixed. And somehow, I am legitimately surprised that I am not. Yes, I am ridiculous as I sound.
One night on the cruise, while having drinks in a super fancy lounge on the tippy top of the ship, I got a *free* blog consultation with the one and only Chris Lema. I’ve never priced him out, but I’m pretty sure he charges regular people like $7,918 an hour. Approximately.
The gist of the consultation: (1) Blogging is good for you. Do it. (2) Consistently. (3) And use consistent themes.
Except Chris always tells a story, so the message was a lot longer, funnier, more interesting. You know. Lema-ish.
So here’s the deal. I can’t guarantee that I’ll be super consistent (I’m very busy and important), but I’m going to be a heck of a lot more focused. Coming soon — a legit About Me page including “best of” and all that jazz PLUS Mental Health Monday, Women Rock Wednesday, and Fertility Friday. What do you think? Are you excited? I kind of am.
Actually, I am. And not just because I have lots of post ideas, but mostly because blogging… sharing stories… is probably the single healthiest thing I do on a regular basis. When I don’t do it on a regular basis, I have nights like last night. Tears and snot. It’s good for the makers of Kleenex and producers of alprazolam… but no one else.
I love to hear other people’s stories and I love to share my own. It’s healthy, it’s healing… it’s cathartic, fun, and relaxing. It’s who I am. Maybe I didn’t change my life, really reset it like I expected, but Chris did point me home. To where I belong. Even better than starting over. Thanks, Chris.
My friend Kacey, fellow blogger, displaced Ypsilanti-ite (Ypsilantian? What do we call ourselves?), and Lincoln-lifer, recently called me out on her blog. She said, and I quote, “Hey, Rachel — post something, loser!”
Or maybe I’m actually paraphrasing via my self-deprecation filter. Ahem. It was probably more like a gentle, personal, encouraging call out suggesting I write a little something something in the month of December.
The truth is, I’ve written lots and lots and lots of words since my last post. They’re all sitting there as drafts. Four, pretty much complete, thousand word drafts. So it’s not really writer’s block that I’ve got going on. Rather, it’s more like writer’s disdain. I’ve got lots and lots of words — I just hate them all.
Writing has always made me feel so good and it’s still cathartic, but not the positive release I’m used to. The words I’ve put down on the page don’t feel together, with it, insightful. They don’t feel funny or clever. Not even clear. That makes me exceptionally sad. Depression and grief have taken so much already — my light, my exclamation points. My words too? It’s too much!
So Kacey is right. It’s time to put something back out there.
Here’s a list of all the things I wrote about with all those unlikable words:
I went back to the fertility clinic for a post-IVF, post-miscarriage, here’s-what-we-learned consultation. The verdict: the chances of us having children, even with IVF, are exceptionally low.
I am devastated.
So… in some sort of desperate attempt to control my body and overcompensate for all the things I/it cannot do, the things I’ve lost, the panic I’m feeling, I signed up to run the DC Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon in March…
… and the training has been going really well. Running is so good for me…
… also, I emailed my girlfriends in DC to see if they wanted to run or just hangout while I’m there to run and they were AMAZING. I’m so lucky to have them. They are so good for me.
Then the day before Thanksgiving, my grandfather, my dad’s dad, known to my young self as Papa, passed away unexpectedly. We went to Marquette for his funeral on Monday and it was beautiful — full of light, literally and figuratively. A beautiful service in a beautiful church…
… and I was reminded that no matter how much my anxiety/depression tells me I don’t want to be around family, that I’m not good enough, pretty enough, pregnant enough to even deserve to be in their presence — I freaking love them and it was really amazing to spend time with all those Voncks back in the yoop. My grandfather passed away and I was so sad, but his legacy, the family he built on rock, is a good and beautiful and powerful thing.
Seven relatively brief points. That’s better. Delete, delete, delete the drafts. That’s what’s been going on and I’ve mostly just been feeling down about all of it, even despite the good bits — the family and friends, support and love. Because depression is kind of like that.
Then, yesterday, after I saw Kacey’s public slam (except not really), I was talking to my friend Marie and, because our conversations always take wild and weird turns, she told me about a super bitter guy who never got over losing half of his hand in a factory accident and I instantly imagined him as Nicholas Cage playing Ronny in the movie Moonstruck.
I love the movie Moonstruck so ridiculously much — I mean, it’s kitschy (Marie’s perfect word!) and ridiculous and Cher-filled and perhaps Nicholas Cage’s poorest acting ever, but OMG, I cannot help but LOVE it. And my little chat with Marie and the knowledge that Seth’ll be out and about policing the good city of Marshfield Friday and Saturday night settled my plans to stream Moonstruck at least once over the weekend, probably with popcorn and some cider and a pup to snuggle me. Yes, this sounds quite good.
And then as I was scrolling through Facebook last night (took it off my phone, but I cannot completely kick the habit), my friend Sandy posted about watching Moonstruck. Of all the random 1980s movies…
“I lost my baby! I lost my family! [Every single other woman my age] has her baby! [Every single other woman my age] has her family! You want me to take my heartache, put it away and forget it?” in a self-righteous pity party many bitter years in the making. Just like the movie, except considerably less likely to lead to a tumble between the sheets, amazing wolf-based monologue, and a bloody steak for dinner. Because (1) Seth isn’t super turned on by my crazy, (2) he’s really not really much for metaphors, wolf-based or otherwise, and (3) he doesn’t generally do the cooking. Instead, he’d probably just shake his head, suggest I make an appointment with my therapist, and leave me be for another 5 – 10 years. No makeover, no opera, just real life and bitterness… because life is not a movie, no matter how much I love Moonstruck. (Although — basement bakery, babe? Let’s please consider that for seriously someday…)
I don’t want to be that person. I really, really don’t want to be that person — spending the rest of my life bitter over my missing limb.
Granted, depression, sadness, grief… none of that is the same as bitterness. But I think it could be a gateway, so to speak, if I don’t keep working on myself. Keep looking for the positive, finding ways to expose myself to light and love and goodness, to let it come in through the cracks. Bitterness would probably be easier, born of non-action, but it won’t end as well for me as it does for Ronny. I choose to work for the alternative, even when it’s hard.
And maybe that’s what the commitment to 26.2 miles is, the email to my friends even though many of them are the “every single other woman my age” that bitter-Ronny-me could end up ranting and raving about, the time spent with family despite the panic in my chest on the way. But it’s also gentleness — because life is hard right now, I did lose a limb, and that doesn’t heal overnight. I can only bend so far without breaking, but even slow progress is progress. Or so my yoga instructors tell me (that’s point 8 — it was another thing I wrote about).
In the spirit of advent, my friend Dawn recently reminded me of a Leonard Cohen quote:
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Turns out, he wasn’t the first one to say something like that. Ernest Hemingway said, “We are all broken, that’s how the light gets in.” And Sufi mystic Rumi said, “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” That’s a lot of pretty wise people — Muench, Cohen, Hemingway, and Rumi. My job, as a person full of cricks, cracks, and crevices then, is to expose myself to as much light as possible, even when it’s hard, when it’s blinding, and when it’s faint, if I want to avoid the bitterness that can creep in otherwise. Right now, that means running and yoga, family and friends with self-respecting gentleness, and, as Kacey was right to point out, Under the Tapestry too. thanks for hanging in there with me and for being a source of light, always.
Congratulations on making it all the way to the end of this post! You’ve earned a bonus photo!
A friend of mine from back in the day (Y-town for LIFE) recently posted an interesting entry on her blog and it got me thinking for days. It just kept popping back and back and back into my head. I loved what she said, but I also had a million alternative thoughts about the topic floating around and kind of wanted to write a rebuttal. It’s one thing to just come out here to this space and point-by-point rebut someone like Matt Walsh whose goal in life seems to be to get people riled up (and is he ever good at it!), but it’s different when it’s the musings of a friend… so I asked her what she thought.
I hemmed and hawed about it for a while because I didn’t want her to think I was some sort of jerk, but I just felt like I had so much to say and I wanted to discuss… here… with you… I finally got up the courage to send her a message while I sat on the runway in Lacrosse waiting to be re-fueled and re-flight planned and was just about out of things to do so I messaged Kacey. Her response was so excellent! She was totally cool with me running with her topic du jour (she’s kind of just cool like that in general) and so here we go! (Let’s check real quick on the jerk thing… Kacey? Or perhaps we should wait until the end…)
Kacey’s basic premise, and please forgive me if I’m misinterpreting, was that social media platforms like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and the like, tend to be self-centered and focused on a culture of “look at me!” … that the desire for shares and likes and comments and such is really a desperate need to be acknowledged. And that that’s why many of us do it– to get the like or the comment or the share, to be acknowledged.
I don’t necessarily disagree, exactly, my rebuttal is more the notion that, at least in my mind, that all of that is ok. It’s ok to ask people to acknowledge you. (Hence the large number of times I’ve actually used the phrase “ACKNOWLEDGE MEEEEE!” both in this space and in real life… it’s like Kacey was speaking directly to me!)
It was so interesting to me that Kacey and I could do the same thing (blog) and use the same types of social media and ultimately take away such a different message from it. I was fascinated by that and I kept turning the notion of WHY that was over and over and over in my head until I think I finally stumbled upon something when I received an email reply from my long lost friend Lotisha who is Pauly-Shore-style in the army now. Literally.
Lotisha and I were labmates back in DC and I just adore her. She’s the tiniest person with the biggest attitude and after I got over being terrified of her I realized that I actually looooved her. And one of the things Lotisha and I loved to do together (besides give mice gonorrhea) was take fitness classes. Mostly through Montgomery County. And it was with Lotisha that I took my first ever yoga class. Hatha Yoga with Rudra.
I went into yoga class expecting a workout with emphasis on strength and flexibility. Rurda, however, was a sweatpants-wearing, afro-haired, Costa-Rica-yoga-retreat-bound man who was way into yoga as a practice, not just as an exercise, and during our first class he taught us what the word namaste meant.
According to Rudra, saying namaste to someone else or even to yourself was equivalent to saying “I salute the inner light within you.” I of course looked it up after that and it’s hard to say if that’s true exactly, except that it is widely acknowledged as a respectful greeting or goodbye. Regardless, I like what Rudra said. A lot. (Now. Then I was all “oh snap, this is weird, I don’t think I like it,” but I was wrong as I so often find myself to be.) And I think, to me, the “like” button is really more of a namaste button– a way to acknowledge the “inner light” of another person’s activity, selfie, food choice, witty quip, photo-of-babies-doing-baby-stuff, whatever. The thing about it, whatever it is, that resonates with me.
Of course like any other living, breathing human, Facebook also infuriates me at times. It incites major jealousy, constantly feeding my little green monster (30-ish? on Facebook? there’s LOTS of babies, of which I can have none). And, although this may surprise you, this big square head of mine doesn’t often photograph very well and the pictures I do end up posting tend to be the very best chin down, tongue-to-roof-of-mouth, least squinty eyed, minimal frizz, good angle photos that happen. When given the opportunity to paint yourself, why not paint your best self… the self you feel most comfortable with? Leave the dirty laundry for the old blog.
The important thing, for me anyway, is the attitude I choose to approach it with. I can’t possibly be the only one painting my best face out there… which means other people probably aren’t always as gorgeous/happy/un-double-chinned as they appear. Right? (Although I suspect the babies are for the most part real. The monster! So green!) The thing is, I see these perfect posts, these lovely brush strokes on social media because I choose to and because I enjoy it. I am apparently totally cool with voyeurism and I love to see what people are up to. I also love that it keeps me connected with people I otherwise wouldn’t be connected to. Like Kacey! And her blog!
Even amongst the perfect pictures and the happy statuses though, we do still catch glimpses of the truth. And when we recognize those things, those little winks that were meant just for us, we can acknowledge them in another way altogether– it’s the behind-the-scenes connections that might be a little more meaningful.
Because of Facebook, I re-connected with Dawn. Erika recognized my hurt and cheers me on day after day. Kacey and I are blog buddies. Nicole and I became friends, like real friends, long after college.
Because of Twitter, I got a couple blog posts re-tweeted by theChris Lema and traffic, traffic, traffic on account. It let me keep up with my friend Dr. Kanth on his interview journey.
Because of Instagram, I get to keep up with #ohellabella and to see a #dailydoseofaddisyn. I also get sneak peaks into Mindy Kaling‘s life (yessss!).
And because of this blog, regardless of whether you like it, read it, share it, comment on it… or not… I have an outlet. I can share my words with anyone who happens to stumble across them. I share my ideas with people who are free to agree or disagree. Read on or roll their eyes. Whatevs.
That’s the beauty of the internet. It’s let’s us connect.
Or keep scrolling.
How about now, Kacey? Not a jerk, right? Just more rambling along the same lines. We’re all friends here 🙂
I started working in the Michigan Tech Writing Center when I was a sophomore in college. I loved it there SO much– more than being an RA, more than rowing crew, more even than my actual major. I only worked 8 – 12 hours per week, depending on the semester, but those 8 – 12 hours were much more formative for me than any 15 – 20 credit course load I ever had.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s good that I learned chemistry and physics and math (except differential equations– what a waste! I couldn’t even get a date out of that class, though I tried…) and such. It’s probably even good that I learned some things about myself by being an RA (which super sucked, but led to meeting my husband, so…) and rowing crew (which made my back, arms, and legs crazy strong for the year I did it, but just ended up being too much– let’s be honest here, I’m no athlete). Those are the things that made me look different from the outside, paid for my room and board, and filled in the bubbles on the GRE, but I’ve got to tell you, they are not the biggest things. The most influential things.
The most influential thing was absolutely, hands down, 100% for definitely sure the Writing Center.
The Writing Center. At an engineering university? That caters almost entirely to the most technically-minded of the nerds? In the middle of no where? I mean… the edge of no where?
Yes. The Writing Center. At Michigan Tech. Which is all those things, but such a hidden gem. (I should really recruit for the Huskies, I love that place so much.)
I’ve talked a little bit before about my boss in the Writing Center, Sylvia Matthews, and how absolutely amazing she was (is, to be sure). And I really think that it was she, Jill Arola, and Nancy Grimm and their ridiculously insightful ways of thinking, living, and educating that made it the special place that it was.
You see, in the Writing Center, it wasn’t so much about the grammar and the punctuation and the sentence structure and all the other technical aspects of writing that tend to give the vast majority of people either a headache or a panic attack. It was about understanding and being understood. About using words to do that. And the things I learned. Oy.
As part of working at the Writing Center, all of the coaches had to take a small, one credit course in which we discussed pedagogy and techniques and experiences and the like. At the end of every semester of “work,” we all wrote reflections about our experiences and what we had learned. I saved a couple of them. Not sure how exactly… they’ve definitely survived several major paper purges since I graduated in 2005, but listen to this one:
I can’t help but feel like this shows the the Writing Center is the place where I am supposed to be and the work I’m doing is important.
That was in 2004!
Pablo Picasso once said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.”
Words, communicating with them… I think that’s my gift.
It’s not what I expected my gift to be. Nor is it what I thought it was or what I necessarily would have hoped for, but here we are. I think I finally found it.
It’s not like I just woke up one day in the recent past and liked writing or thought I was good at it.
My “gift” found me a long, long time ago. The Young Authors thing-a-ma-jig at Lincoln (who remembers that big book? how good it felt to have your story “published”?) was always awesome for me in elementary school. I loved the Independent Study in English I did with my cross country coach, Mr. Moran, my sophomore year in high school… and even now I’m still proud of the essay I vaguely remember writing about Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles… no idea what it was about, but guys, it was good.
Later on, in college, I got this rave review on a biochemistry report:
Yep, kept that too. It made me feel awesome!
And I loved the writing center so so so much.
Yet, my brain, my logic, my ACT results and aptitude tests and interests had me convinced that it was science science science all the way. Science would lead me to success. I would cure something, help someone, do sciencey things and make the world a better place by being noticed, by making a big impact.
A little piece of me must have known that wasn’t true. Because if it were, I’d be a chemist somewhere… working at 3M, inventing polymers and interpreting spectra and such, because I could have done that after college. But it didn’t seem right. Something wasn’t fitting and I wasn’t happy. So I went to grad school… where I wasn’t happy… and tried to go to med school… but I realized that was a very expensive path to continued unhappiness… so I stuck it in grad school… and came to the end… and still wasn’t very happy with my options.
It took all that time for me to admit to myself that I didn’t want to be a bench scientist. I didn’t want to run a lab. I didn’t want to come up with new ideas and new ways to test them.
So what did I like?
Talking about it. Always. Telling other people about science, about medicine, about dinosaurs, about whatever.
Thankfully, the universe, powers that be, whatever, know better than I do… and ultimately I ended up where I am now, as a scientific research writer at a big clinic. Back in what is, essentially, a post-collegiate writing center! I’m finally in a place where I use my gift on the regular.
Well, half of it anyway.
The other half was definitely this blog.
An illustrative example for you…
At work, I say “epistaxis as a result of digital trauma…”
On the Internet, I say “nosebleed because you dug too deep. Get your fingers out of there. Geez.”
A different way of saying exactly the same thing. One gets published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings (hopefully) and the other makes someone laugh, but get it while they’re laughing.
And that’s the other half.
The things that makes me the happiest about writing now, at work and on the internet… and the thing that made me the happiest then, in the Writing Center… was the impact it had on people. And on me. Equal and opposite forces. An action and a reaction. Both things leaving the encounter changed.
At work, I help people make their science understandable and accessible. I cannot tell you how rewarding it is to see something in print, to get a funding notice for a grant… but most of all, to have an author I’ve previously worked with come back an improved writer. That’s the best best. (I’m talking to you, Dr. Kanth!) I learn about crazy things like deformed pancreases and what a vitamin D deficiency really does to your body (it’s not just rickets, yo)… I take that away, and someone takes something completely different away from me. A better technique for incorporating literature into a Discussion section, a modified sentence structure, a new way to format a table. Some little piece of communication.
It always happened that way at the Writing Center too. There was this kid one time, a freshman that I coached, and a professor made him cry in front of his entire class during the first week of school when he pronounced a word incorrectly. My heart broke for him. Absolutely broke. There was little I could actually do besides listen and encourage him and help him to communicate better. And seriously, by the end of the semester, he was volunteering to speak in front of the class. I’m not trying to say that was necessarily because of me, but I do know that he and I were both changed.
Here’s what I said about it on December 7, 2004 (Writing Center reflection style, again)–
I have been continually impressed with Jason this semester. He has determination and work ethic like no one I have ever met. I can say with confidence that having been faced with the same situation, I would have become very apathetic toward my work, sure that I could do nothing to please the teacher. I would have been very angry, but Jason never was. As much as I feel like I helped him to come out of his shell, he showed me the way that a person can handle difficulties gracefully. Through all of these difficulties, I am really glad that I got to be Jason’s coach.
And I think that maybe, just maybe, that’s what Picasso meant. When you give your gift away, this intangible gift that is the purpose of your life, you don’t lose anything. The little space you opened up is filled with something even better, something different and new and exciting. A new facet on your perspective. And the person who took that little piece of your gift away? They grow it– they grow it into something completely new, and different, and exciting inside themselves. Like planting a seed, or rooting a plant cutting.
At least, that’s what Picasso said means to me.
Communicating with words, erudite and crass, is my mission and my jam, my calling and my thang. I can do it for science, I can do it for life, I can do it for the twisted workings of my brain, and I can do it for others.
For others though, that’s my favorite part. I can brag about my sister-in-law if she’s having trouble doing herself (she’s always have trouble doing it herself– Sister Doctor just got the biggest honor you can get in all of medical school and tells people it’s “just” an organization thing. Sigh.). I can proofread and format a resume for someone who has lost a job. I can fix up a poster when someone panics a week before a conference. These are the things I can do. The gifts that I can share. Always something in return, of course, even if it’s just the satisfaction of having been able to do something when I would otherwise be helpless. And I like that so much.
The Writing Center helped me to find my special purpose… not the same special purpose that Steve Martin came across a little prematurely in The Jerk (Trista, let’s watch that this weekend! trip to Family Video!), but a special purpose in the sense that his mom really meant it. I couldn’t have done what I do now if I hadn’t pursued all of the sciences, so I’m glad that I did the chemistry degree and the grad school with all the STDs and the like, but at the time, science was always the goal. Not so, it turns out! The Writing Center was to be the place I circled back to, in another form, yes, but the same idea. I work with authors with all ranges of education levels, backgrounds, accents, talent and skill levels on far more topics than I could ever possibly fully understand, but regardless of all that– I help people get their words out, to be heard, to share, and in return, I am constantly changed.
It’s funny that way back in 2004, I worked so hard with other Writing Center coaches to present on what we called “The Ripple Effect” at a writing center conference… but only as an abstract and beautiful thing that I mostly hoped would happen. Good news: it did. It does. Always.
Well… this is awkward. I go searching to find a link to take you to the Writing Center website and find out it’s now called the Michigan Tech Multiliteracies Center. Makes sense. Still in Walker 107. A rose by any other name, I guess! More importantly, M for Multiliteracies is basically just an upside-down W for Writing… so… we’re good.
Guys! I’m so crazy sad about my sweet puppy girl right now. I mean, I’m happy that she finally made it to Madison and is first up on the schedule for surgery tomorrow morning. That’s a good thing– this is necessary and if there’s even a chance it could fix my Curly girl’s leg, it’ll be totally worth it. But then I think about her down there in Madison without us, not understanding why we left her, and it breaks my heart. I can’t stand the thought of her being sad!
At least we did everything we could to make her last couple days before surgery awesome. She had three extra long walks yesterday (with a sling, of course) and got to play in some fresh snow (thanks, Wisconsin). Plus, Seth brought her down and picked up a surprise guest in Mosinee on the way down to Madison– his dad. And Curly loves her grandpa more than anyone else, so I’m sure she was absolutely thrilled about that. (Plus, I was super glad Seth had company for the drive.) I was so sad to leave her and go to work this morning, though. I made her hug me for like 10 minutes. (She hugs on command, btw, it’s so cute.) I’m pretty sure she thought we were having a battle, but I’m ok with that. Felt like a hug with growling to me 😉
No one was here to greet me at the door when I came home, there was no little nose fiercely sniffing up at my bowl of chili as I carried it to the table, and my house is so so quiet– so squeaking, no chewing, no pitter pattering, just me. My Curly girl is gone for now, but when she returns this weekend, she’ll basically be a robot. At least that’s what I envision the fixator is going to look like. I like robots… and I love Curly, so I can only imagine that this is going to be awesome. Just a couple of days.
Sigh. I can’t even imagine having to do all of this with a human child. There are some really amazing parents in this world! Parents to humans, I mean. Like my friend Aimie, but we’ve talked about that before.
Crazy news: Seth just got home. Apparently, the surgeons practiced Curly’s surgery last week on a cadaver. I guess that extra week may have actually been a good thing. You can never have enough practice. Especially when it’s my pup in your hands. Always a silver lining.
New thought: silver linings are kind of like brief glimpses at the top side of the tapestry, don’t you think? I truly believe that everything, even the things that seem super duper crappy at the time, has a silver lining. Recognizing the silver lining is like getting a brief and amazing glimpse at the way the threads all come together to make that tapestry I named this blog after. Remember that? Am I mixing too many metaphors here?
And if not a silver lining, a silver platter at the very least, eh, Chim Lee???
I am a liberal feminist. I am one of the women to whom Matt Walsh’s recent open letter was addressed. And I’d love to respond. Not point-by-point, because I don’t think the letter deserves it. Rather by making one important point:
YES, Mr. Walsh. Liberal feminists, such as myself, AGREE WITH YOU.
Boys in our society do have it rough– very rough, in many ways. There is no question that boys are often inappropriately labeled with psychiatric or emotional disturbances, that they are more likely to successfully commit suicide, that they are more likely than women to transgress in ways that are legally unacceptable and subsequently end up incarcerated. All of those things are true and concerning and very worthy of attention.
But here’s the thing… Mr. Walsh seems to believe that by addressing any problem, real or perceived, in girls and young women, we somehow dismiss these very real problems that plague boys and young men.
I don’t think that’s the case. And I think what Mr. Walsh fails to realize is that this is not a competition. To recognize and address a problem that primarily affects women does not take anything away from folks focusing on recognizing and addressing a problem that primarily affects men.
I am a liberal feminist and I am intrigued by the “Ban Bossy” campaign. I read Lean In and I understand that it’s a call for awareness– to be aware that we may be calling young girls bossy when the word bossy isn’t warranted. Similarly, we may be calling young boys aggressive when the word aggressive isn’t warranted. My logic takes me from point A (ban bossy) to this point B (think about the words we use to describe personality traits in girls and boys). Mr. Walsh’s point B seems to be something very different.
I am a woman and I am a liberal feminist. I do not consider feminism a dirty word because I know that to be a feminist does not automatically make me anti-male (or anti any other gender in between, for that matter, because what is feminine vs. what is masculine is, truly, a comparison of the average in a way that doesn’t recognize what really may be more of a continuum… but that’s another point entirely).
I don’t know Mr. Walsh except to know that he is a passionate and articulate man. I surmise, based on his two most recent anti-ban bossy, anti-feminism blog posts, that he is mired in a state of comparison that’s not necessarily doing anyone any good.
I’ve talked about comparison before– I truly believe it to be the (square) root of all evil. (Remember that sweet math joke?) I’ve also talked about the notion of promoting what you love, rather than bashing what you hate. As conceited as this is going to sound, I think Mr. Walsh could be much more effective if he embraced these two principles.
By jumping to a place of comparison, Mr. Walsh assumes that to promote something good for girls and consequently women is to bash something good for boys and consequently men. To promote an ideal of leadership rather than bossiness in young girls, as well as in their male peers, is not an emasculating thing… because the point is not comparison. All of Mr. Walsh’s concerns about young men are not only valid, but important and timely. They are worthy of attention and of intervention. Especially as they point to systematic problems with our educational system and a lack of appropriate behavioral health services. But before I could even think rationally about the importance of those things, I had to suppress my anger about the bashing of other things I think are important. And that made the whole article hard to stomach. I imagine a lot of people, a lot of liberal feminists, won’t even note the important points he does make as a result of all the bashing.
I would suggest that instead of using his time and considerable talent to bash the tenets of feminism, Mr. Walsh instead focus on bringing awareness to the problems that are clearly plaguing young boys.
The title of Mr. Walsh’s recent post is this:
An open letter to liberal feminists: girls don’t have it any worse than boys
To Mr. Walsh, I say: or course not. But just because girls don’t have it any worse than boys doesn’t mean we don’t have issues that need to be addressed for the sake of the future of young girls. And just as many issues ought to be addressed for the sake of the future of young boys. It’s not about comparison. It’s about improvement and progress. For everyone. Regardless of gender.
Matt Walsh has a popular blog. He discusses controversial things and more often than not, he seems to be looking to get a rise out of someone. That’s fine, that’ll get you readers, it’ll get you shares, views, clicks, and likes. But will it make life better for anyone? Perhaps that’s not his point… but dang, he could do it. He knows his facts about ADHD and over-medication, about suicide and incarceration. That’s awesome– he should talk about that, do something about that.
I also believe that Sheryl Sandberg and her organization, Lean In, know about the psychological impact certain ideals can have on young women. And that’s what they’re talking about, what they’re doing something about.
It’s so sad for me to sit down at my computer and to log in to Under the Tapestry only to realize that all those ingenious blog posts I wrote in my head never actually made it onto the computer. Fevers’ll do that to you, I suppose. I don’t know what I had and I feel terrible for spreading it (so sorry, my darling, Michele!!) (not sorry for licking the door handle), but I’m finally feeling considerably better. With the exception of the bits of liquefied brain that are clearly trying to leak out of my head through my sinuses, I’m feeling pretty good and my grossness is significantly diminished (P < 0.05).
So onward and upword! First things first: you guys are SO freaking awesome for giving me such a positive response to my STD news. I mean… STDs, right? Ew and stuff. But you totally clapped for the clap anyway and it was awesome! Thanks for that!
But today, what I’d really like to talk about is dinosaurs.
I don’t have enough material for a real dino-focused post at the moment, but I did see a seriously sweet dinosaur hat on a little boy last week and it got me thinking…
At what age do you become “too old” to dance in and out of buildings wearing a dinosaur hat?
I passed a family headed into a building one day last week. It was a family of three. A mom and two sons– one a sullen teen or pre-teen, tall, gangly, peach-fuzz mustache, and permanent scowl. The mom looked beat. But the younger boy? He was grinning and spinning! He was dancing and flailing his arms and having a good old time on his way to the building.
He’s the one who made me light up. It was adorable!
But then I came to my question above. Because had the older boy been doing the same thing, I probably would have affixed my scowl and thought something rude about his immaturity or whatevs. Could he have done anything right? I mean, I was annoyed with him for his scowl in the face of his brother busting a move… but I’d have been annoyed if he’d busted a move himself. He couldn’t win! I was being too much a judge-y jerk!
And I thought about how that made me a total Rachel… like Rachel from Friends. And not in a good way. Rather, in the way she was in the episode where she and Phoebe go running together– Rachel taking little perfect strides, breathing in time, while Phoebe ran all arms and legs akimbo, just having fun with it.
I’m such a Rachel sometimes! (Not in the enviable hairstyle kind of way, more the stick up her backside kind of way.) It would probably suit me to loosen up a bit (I know you’ve been saying that since I was like 8, mom, I know)… perhaps to drop the -el… yes, I think it’s the -el that’s weighing me down.
More Rach! More dinosaur hats! More fun! Less judgement!
But baby steps. Because I am not ready to rock a dinosaur hat on my head any more than I’m ready to bust a move on the skywalk between the Lawton and the Laird. (Busting a move in the office hallway? Maybe… so long as I’m not doing it alone.) It is something important to think about though.
Because, clearly, there’s no doing right by me when you’re an awkward teen. The thing that should probably change? My attitude. Less -el. More blog posts 🙂
Fun fact: I went through a brief period from approximately consciousness through about 8 or so where I hated, hated, hated anyone calling me Rach. And I would totally correct people. Now I totally love it and consider it a sign of natural and unforced intimacy. My sister calls me Rach. My big in grad school (because I sometimes pretend grad school is like a really effed-up sorority) calls me Rach. Some of my super sweet new Marshfield friends call me Rach. I just love it! Granted, I cannot fault those who have known me much longer for not as, to be fair, I would have ripped their heads off over it once upon a time. But now you know.
Not-so-fun fact: I had the same two teachers for sixth and seventh grade– Ms. Fisher and Mrs. Johnson. I adored those two and they had nicknames for everybody, probably because they were absolutely brilliant at making you feeling like you were welcome and loved in their classrooms. They used to call me “Ra-cha-cha” (got to admit, I didn’t love it) and sometimes it would get shortened to just “Cha” (better because my friend Em always called me Racha from the time we were like 2 and 3). One day in science class, we were reading from the textbook out loud in class and Mrs. Johnson was announcing the next reader by name. I heard her say “Chaaaaaa” so I started reading. Loudly. Confidently. Like the nerd I was then and am now.
And it was awkward… super, crazy awkward… because she said “Chaaaaaaad”, which is not even kind of my name, and rather, the name of the boy I’d been crushing on since the moment I’d walked into the Miss Dimitroff’s fourth grade. The horror! I remember the mortification distinctly, the desperation of my hurried explanations in a tiny voice (I thought you said Cha…?) and the extreme desire to disappear.
Fun-ny fact: Chad was not worth the crush. The more you know 😉
Have you seen the movie Little Shop of Horrors? It’s an excellent musical comedy that makes some very important points about accepting others as they are… and the dangers of feeding carnivorous plants. And don’t forget about the dentist. This dentist:
But really, isn’t the job of any dentist to inflict pain? All I had this morning was a cleaning and my mouth and ego are still sore! My mouth because of all the scrippity scraping (ugh, hate that part) my ego because despite brushing, flossing, and mouthwashing religiously (more than religiously even– I only go to church once a week, after all) I still get chastised for not doing well enough. Do you think a dentist has ever said to anyone, “great job! keep up the good work, pearly whites!”?
And please don’t tell me that your dentist does. I can’t handle the jealousy right now.
But seriously, criticism always kind of hurts and for a long, long time, I have had a notoriously thin skin.
Last week I reached a major blog milestone: first criticism! (Out loud and to me, anyway, who knows what else has been floating around out there?)
A friend of mine (and really, a friend, I’m not being sarcastic this time) gave me my first dose of criticism.
He had two issues with my blog: 1) tapestries are for women and 2) I am spending far too much time writing far too many words when there are clearly better things I could do with my time.
Fortunately, my response to the two-fold critique was a pleasant surprise, especially to me! Let me demonstrate.
My response circa 2005 (assuming I would have screwed up the courage to start a blog in 2005– ha!): Dang it! I picked such a lady name! Tapestries are totally for women and I turned off half the population by making it something so girly! And all of my posts are way too girly too… who wants to hear about women’s issues anymore? What is wrong with me?! And why am I spending so much time on this thing?! No one reads it, no one likes it, no one likes me, and I should just give up.
Sigh… that person was annoying.
My response circa 2013 (because I did screw up the courage to start a blog in 2013– ha ha!): Really? Tapestries are for women?! What does that even mean??? And perhaps I should mention the fact that it was a man who brought the under the tapestry analogy to my attention in the first place! And don’t even get me started on the fact that the things that are “women’s issues” are really just issues that affect women and should matter to everyone. And the choice to spend time writing this blog is just that– a choice made by me, for me, on how to spend my time. I enjoy it, it’s cathartic, and it’s fun for me and my friends! Don’t like it? Don’t read it.
Granted, what I actually said to my critic was a bit more toned down. I talk a big game here, not so much in real life. Also, all that may have been considered unprofessional 😉
Notice the difference in the tone?! Ahhhh… that. feels. good.
The things is, what other people think of me is really none of my business. And although it’s cliche, the negative things that other people say to me, or about me, really say a lot more about them than they do about me. Perhaps my critic has misconceptions about gender roles and related insecurities. Perhaps he also has some very strict ideas about how time outside of work is best spent. Whatever it is– those things are not my problems. What a relief!
So, congrats to me on surviving… and THRIVING… despite the criticism!
Although, I have to admit, I am a good flosser, and my feelings do still hurt a bit about that…
I know you’ve been reading along since that first post because you couldn’t wait to find out how this blog is a silver lining… haven’t you? Well, the wait is over, my friend. I’m about to tell you that story.
I love my job. As I’ve mentioned before, I really didn’t even know such a job existed, but I also don’t know that I could have come up with any better of a fit for me if I tried. (And I mean legit job, things like beach bum and pina colada tester don’t count.) As this is my first real job out of school, I was a bit unsure how to react, though, when things got tough. Not the work itself, but the interpersonal dynamics of working in a team environment. (I know, could I be anymore vague? Just seems like a situation in which I ought to use a bit of discretion, putting it out there on the Internets and all…) Long story short, I took action, the poo hit the fan, things got craaaazy awkward and tense around the office, and a professional third party was called in to assist. I was pretty sure my life was over and work would be crappy forever and ever after. And that was the truth, for about 5 minutes.
The third party came in and I was resolved to keep my mouth shut. (Yeah, it’s like I don’t even know myself at all.) So naturally, when things got silent and awkward, I filled that space up with WORDS.
ALL OF THE WORDS!
My mouth was like, “Ha ha! Things may still be awkward, but at least that awful silence is GONE!” But my brain couldn’t respond because it had totally checked out. Yeah, this is a problem for me.
Except in this case, it really wasn’t. I talked. (Ok, let’s be honest, I suffered from a severe bout of verbal diarrhea. At least it was just the verbal kind.) But the good news is: it was contagious! (Again, it’s cool, it was only verbal.) And we all started talking and we had an honest and open dialogue and it was good. Even more importantly, my favorite third-party-man told me about an article he’d read in Time Magazine about Sheryl Sandberg and it sounded interesting to me so he routed it over the next day. Alarm bells went off all over in my brain (it had come back at this point)—I was excited! I logged on to Amazon, bought Sandberg’s book Lean In, had it shipped overnight (seriously, Prime, best thing ever), and then devoured it.
I highlighted the book. I called my mom and my sister and my friends from grad school and I made them all read it too. I read passages out loud to my brilliant sister-in-law and I forced everyone in my office to borrow my copy when I was done. I became an absolute Lean In zealot because I honestly believe it’s that important. It’s empowering to know that even the brilliant and successful Sheryl Sandberg feels many of the same insecurities that I feel. And she challenged me to do the things I would do if I weren’t afraid. This blog is one of those things.
So, as usual, I’ve rambled, and a recap may be in order:
Work. Trouble. Awkwardness. Third party. Dialogue. Lean In. Blog. Silver lining. Boom.
In addition to resulting in the conception and ultimate birth of this blog (waaaa!), I am grateful for the whole experience for several other reasons.
1) I am an extremely sensitive person by nature and this whole experience really thickened my skin. I endured a lot of crap in grad school and always expected that I would eventually develop that tough exterior, that I would stop taking things so personally, but I never did. Until now. My skin has grown so much tougher. (Of note: my skin has literally grown thicker. Just ask the nurse who did my IV before my endoscopy/colonoscopy. I believe her exact words were, “Oh! I’m sorry! Your skin is much thicker than I expected!” Totally worth the extra pinch to hear that!!)
2) My confidence in the work place has sky-rocketed! When I started, I was, to be blunt: mousy. (Which isn’t that cute on a girl as big as me…) I deferred to the opinions of others, rarely weighed in, and kept my head down as much as possible. I don’t feel the need to do any of that anymore. I express myself as calmly and professionally as possible, but I make sure that I am heard. (The THREE of you I called “nerds” today at work may disagree; that probably wasn’t a very professional thing to say. But you deserved it and you know it.)
3) I demonstrated to my co-workers that they can count on me and I know that I can count on them. We all went through this craziness together and although it wasn’t the ideal way to do it, I’d consider it a pretty good team-building exercise. I work with some seriously amazing people and I love them. I don’t know how I got so lucky!!
4) Finally, I learned that there are a lot of different ways to make things better– even when the system is fundamentally broken, and that’s an important lesson for me. Even when you can’t fix the problem, you can change your attitude and approach. And sometimes that’s enough. (At least in my limited experience, n = 1.)
So I guess my point is this: readLean In. And then do it– lean in, you won’t regret it!
(And by “you won’t regret it” I mean: you probably won’t regret it. Who would have thought cloning dinosaurs would be such a bad idea? Not me… but that guy leaned in, and perhaps he should have leaned back. I think we can all agree that that’s a pretty extreme scenario.)
My husband and I have some extraordinarily (and I mean EXTRA-ordinarily) generous friends and were recently gifted Jawbone UP bands. It’s basically a bracelet you wear that tracks your activity and sleep patterns… and it’s awesome. (Well, mine has been awesome. The hubs seems to keep breaking his over and over and over again. Perhaps he’s too active or something. I haven’t had that problem.) Anyway, when you first get it you have to sign up for an account and when you’re all done signing up, this is what shows up on your screen:
Boom. Sexy data. I LOVE THAT! What a clever thing to say!! (And seriously, I’m so excited that I get to show off that screen shot right now!!)
And the best way to think about data??? GRAPH it! Everybody loves a good graph! (Don’t pretend like you don’t. Graphs are the bomb-diggity and you know it.)
My UP band graphs all sorts of things for me and it’s super fun to see patterns in my sleep and number of steps and such. (Apparently, I’m a bum on Fridays, but I go way over my daily goal when I mow the lawn. Good to know.)
So, when I started blogging my cousin Steven (well, he’s my mom’s cousin, my second cousin, but he’s an excellent blogger regardless) recommended the WordPress plug-in Jetpack to help me do lots of blog-like things, including… TRACK DATA! Yay!! More data!!
So, I’ve been watching visitors and views and clicks and searches and such over time, and I noticed an interesting pattern over the past two weeks:
(Yes, I removed the axis labels. Number of views is on the y-axis, date is on the x. The numbers themselves are irrelevant, but the pattern is interesting, isn’t it?)
Clearly, views are cyclic and they seem to decrease considerably on the weekend. I totally get that, I rarely check in on the virtual world from Friday night through Monday morning because I’m too busy interacting with the actual world (read: vacuuming my house, getting my laundry done, and sleeeeeeeping and sleeping and sleeping…) so based on these* data, I thought I might do well to change up my blog format just a touch. I’m thinking that I will focus on posting my primary material Monday through Thursday and then I’ll check in over the weekend with photos, short notes, and funny things.
BUT, I’ll save the real thought-provoking (and hilarious) stuff for during the week. Deal? Deal.
*You know you’re a scientist when… “these data” — not a typo 🙂
PS: I could have sworn there was a PhD comic at some point about how to get out of trouble with your advisor by making a graph. Did I imagine that? I couldn’t find it, even with the Google… anyone else know what I’m talking about?