What I see from here

I'm not sure what this blog is going to be about. It may be about something really silly, or about a recipe, or something that pisses me off, or about something I read or something I think about. I just don't know, because, well, that's how my mind works. What it will be is stuff that occurs to me whether I'm in my apartment in Portland, Oregon or driving around from one place to another, or sitting in a meeting letting my mind wander because the meeting is boring and/or stupid. So, our commonality is that neither of us knows what it will be about. But, hey, stick around for the ride, put on your seatbelt, and we'll see what happens. Oh, and p.s. there may be curse words. Deal. Peace ya'all.

March 18, 2015

"It's impossible, said pride. 

It's risky, said experience. 

It's pointless, said reason. 

Give it a try, whispered the heart." 

Oh fuck NO, never again said my brain. I'm standing by experience and reason.

A Woman's Voice

I wrote this in 1999 and unearthed it because in these 15 years nothing has changed for the better. In fact, in too many cases, things have become worse, especially for poor women and women of color. It is more important than ever that women become involved and men become our allies.

***

How can I write this without talking about women I have known and women I have only read about, but whose actions brought change to my life either directly or indirectly? These women all with their own clear voices ringing out in such a world as ours. Our voices are not just a reflection of us, but of so many intricately woven moments, each different, each important and with a different meaning. We are blessed indeed to have women who use their voices to help encourage those who do not.

A woman's voice is a spectacular and powerful force. It can be the power of Faye Wattleton battling politicians, wielding only her sheer belief in her position, or the power of Melanie finally telling someone what her husband had done to her. It was heard in the sound of 1500 Silent Witnesses standing before our nation's capital, and the silence of Rosa Parks when she sat down on the bus in a section that said "Whites Only." It is found in the hopeful words of a mother willing her child back to life, and a mother giving her child encouragement and hope when faced with a task as simple as tying her shoe. It was in the song of Margaret Sanger, fighting for the reproductive freedom of women everywhere, and in the song of Vicki making the call that saved her life. It is there in the passionate sounds of a woman making love, or in the passionate plea of Jody Williams campaigning against land mines.

These voices, all joined, carry tremendous meaning for our world and our children. We must begin to teach our daughters especially about their voices. Just as surely as they will learn what we teach them about their power, they will learn silence and weakness if we keep our voices down.

Society has taught us that it is a woman's job to give strength to her husband, or the boss, or the son, or the chairman - but not to speak out for ourselves. When Hillary Clinton began speaking out in public, many people rallied against her, saying that she was too outspoken, should give up herself and her voice, and stay in the background. She was accused of being too forceful and was told to go back into the House. Thankfully, she did not give in to those demands. It is interesting that while women have made so much progress, we are still a threat when we don't do what is expected of us. When we stand our ground and speak our mind, men shudder. Surely a woman who "doesn't know her place" is a dangerous woman.

What is a woman's place, and defined by whom? Should we remain quiet and submissive in the background? Should we not demand that our rights be ours, that a job be done as expected, that a wrong be righted? If we are to grow as a world and as humanity, should that growth not be achieved with over half the world's population contributing and being acknowledged for that contribution? Are we to remain forever in fear of the "good old boys", with our voices lodged in our throats?

It is imperative that we stop taking for granted those who stand up and begin to stand up with them. It is not just our right it is our place. When we do this - when we stand together as one instead of sitting down as crowd - then we will have defined our place. When we women finally take our place out front, without fear of retaliation, without being called 'bitch', or 'ball-breaker', or 'femi-nazi', or worse - then we will have claimed our place as equals. When violence against women no longer costs lives or causes great circular waves of damage to everyone, we will be able to look out upon a healthier society. When we can walk at night unafraid of being attacked, we will know, victoriously, a safe place made by us, for us. When our legal right to make decisions regarding our own bodies is no longer insecure, we will have accomplished that which is our own. When not one more person questions our right to think, decide, or act on our own and with our own voices, our place in this society will be exactly where and as it should be, with no definition set by anyone but ourselves.

These things can happen, but it takes a multitude of voices. It takes strength, and courage. It takes supporting someone who is right, but who is being destroyed because people fear her courage and her honesty. It takes recognizing that while your immediate silence works for you at this particular moment, it only does long-term damage to you and everyone else.

My daughter and I were once discussing an issue at school, which she felt was wrong. I encouraged her to take action. She said, but Mom, I am only one person, what can I do? I would say to anyone, the same thing I said to her – alone, you are one person, but, 10 or 100, or 1,000, or 10,000 one persons together make a group of people that cannot be ignored. The greatest people that have come into our world have been only one person, but they ended up with the voice of many being heard beside and behind them. When we take a moment to take a stand - all of us as just one person – we will make a place for all of us.

Each day there is an event in our world that needs a voice. Whether the act is small and seemingly insignificant or greatly publicized and recognized, it will be have more value when a woman's voice is heard. Add your voice - every day and every place. Find your voice, and your place will be there.

February 27, 2015

Life, Death, and Fear

Lately I've been thinking about fear and how it seems to have grown exponentially over the past few years. People live fear-based lives: someone wants to kill us; someone wants to commit a crime against us; someone wants to take what is ours; someone wants more than we think they deserve, and that will cut into the money and stuff we grasp in our needy fear-induced fists.

We load our children with fear using dying as a threat: don't do that, you could die; don't trust them, they might kill you; don't go there, it's too dangerous and it may mean death. We need more guns because there are people who want to harm us, so we have to be prepared to harm them first. Thus we enact stand-your-ground laws and defend cops who volley dozens of rounds into citizens, the citizens and cops alike claiming "I was afraid for my life." We have to limit where we go and what we do and who we associate with because, fear.

People live in anticipation of death, which I find incredibly sad, and that's what this is about.

I don't recall worrying much about death or letting fear guide my decisions throughout my life. That is not to say I've not been afraid of things, because I have. But aside from the basics, like something happening to my loved ones, my fears have been limited to two things. The first - and this will surprise those who know me (except my sisters) -  until recently I have been afraid of the dark. Of course there's a reason, but this is not the place for that examination. Suffice it to say that mostly I was afraid of things I could not see. Things that go bump in the night. It's why I was no good at camping. Because walking at night in the absolute dark that is the woods I could hear things that I could not see, which meant having no control over my own safety. I have a vivid imagination and there is quite literally is nothing I cannot imagine (which is one reason I don't watch scary movies; and trust me, you do not want to know the things I've imagined in my life). I don't need the big screen to show me what my mind can conjure unbidden.

The second is love. I was always afraid of love. I was afraid I wouldn't be good enough, that I would make a mistake, that I would not have control, that I would trust the wrong person. Worst of all, I was afraid I would be hurt. I knew that if I invested 100% of me in that venture, the pain that would come should it not work would be deep, dark, and unending - like trying to measure the very end of nothing and everything.

Beyond these two fears, I wasn't really afraid of anything. Not of change, of moving, of cities, of strangers, of people in authority, of authority in general, of speaking up, of losing a job, of losing a friend, of being lost. People have always called me brave, but I don't see it as brave. It is simply that I am unafraid, and those are two very different things. What happens when you are unafraid is that you do not fear death. The fear of being killed or dying from a disease has no control over you, and you no longer let fear keep you from living.

Driving away from Seattle Tuesday I spent time considering these matters, and what occurred to me was something new that I've seen back there in the recesses of my mind in the past five months but no looked at, like seeing a box under the bed that you have to put effort into reaching, so you just leave it there until the time is right. When I opened the box and peered in, what I saw is that along with not being afraid of dying, I am now not afraid of anything at all. As I analyzed the contents of the box, what I realized is there is a connection between my newly found complete lack of fear and the fact that I was proven right about love. You see, someone convinced me that I didn't have to be afraid of love, that giving 100% of myself instead of my typical 85 - 95% was okay. I now know that it was in fact something that I was justified in fearing, but what has been confirmed for me as a result is that I can control that by simply not engaging. Love is something I never have to do again, so there is nothing more to fear.

And that brings us to my no longer existent fear of the dark. You see, once you've faced even one of your worst fears and lived through it, you no longer care about the other worst fear. Why? Because you care even less about dying than you did before. So if I'm out walking in the dark and a murderous raping orcvampwerezombie gets me, so be it. I will be dead.

This lack of fear is freeing, really. Does it mean I'm going to be careless and stupid? Of course not. Why? Because although I am not afraid of death, I also do like living, and I would like to see my grandchildren grow to adults and have children of their own. I would like to live long enough to see my work in areas of social justice make a difference.

As for things that go bump in the dark - bears, biting dogs, monsters (both human and imaginary), men, and all that other shit? Frankly my dear, just like my friend here, I don't give a shit. 

However, I understand that the majority of people do in fact give a shit to the point of being afraid of so many things and possibilities, so here's what I would like to suggest. Perhaps you could start looking at your fears, one at a time, and begin unraveling them. Try to discover why you hold on fear. Is it founded? Now, ask yourself these questions: Can you control it? Can you address it without using fear as your primary approach? Will worrying incessantly make your fear go away? If you answered no to all of these, consider making change in how you view the world through a fear lens. What you might find when you let go of your fear is a lighter heart and mind, more freedom, and more opportunity.

Now, ask yourself this question: have I missed out on anything, or do I have any regrets because I let fear make my decision? If you answered yes to this, consider letting go of your fear so that you can begin to embrace life and discover those things you've been missing while hiding in your fear box.