“You Push Back Too Much.”

I was told that at work the other day. Have you ever noticed that men are rarely told such things? When’s the last time a man was told,

  • You’re being hysterical.

  • You’re rocking the boat.

  • You’re overreacting.

  • You have strong opinions.

  • Just shut up and take it.

  • I’ll tell you when you can speak.

  • You’re taking things too seriously.

  • You’re too emotional.

Men are allowed to defend themselves. Their anger is tolerated. They can interrupt. They can explain. Their opinions are welcomed. It is assumed that they’re intelligent, rational, and have earned their confidence.

No matter the injustice that is dumped upon the head of a woman, she is expected to be quiet. She is always getting just what she deserves. She was asking for it. She is mentally off for being angry or upset about poor treatment.

Just for having the nerve to defend myself, I’ve gotten all that push back and then some. And I’m the one who pushes? I’m so pissed off right now. But that’s probably because I’m a girl. Perhaps I should just lie back and think of England.

Anger

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Forgotten Bruises

I bruise easily. So easily, in fact, that I think my sister worried for a time that I was a battered woman, when I truly wasn’t. I’m just a pale-skinned klutz, is all.

Quite often I can’t even say what caused a bruise. Many times, when I bump into a door knob (or whatever happens to be the offending solid), I say to myself, “I should write this down, because I’m going to be black and blue, and I’ll forget why.” But I never do. (Write it down, I mean. I pretty much always forget why.)

It kind of makes me wonder about the other forgotten bruises in my life– namely, the emotional ones. I know I’ve earned the right to be cautious in relationships, for example, but do I really remember all the causes for this caution? How will I ever know for sure?

Maybe that’s a blessing. I doubt many of us want to dwell on all the slings and arrows we’ve experienced in our lives. And I am grateful that I’m still willing to take a chance when a wonderful person crosses my path.

But on the other hand, it might be helpful to know why I’m overreacting in a certain situation, or why I’m making a choice that even I can see isn’t particularly rational. The bottom line is that we are all a product of our past experiences. The better you know yourself, the easier it will be to understand your gut reactions.

But I’m beginning to think that maybe it wouldn’t hurt to sometimes take that x factor into account: the forgotten bruises. They made an impact, too. And while it would be great to always know what makes you tick, the honest truth is that you won’t. Not always. That’s what makes us human. So be gentle with yourself, dear reader. Just do the best that you can.

bruise

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Dear New Tenants

When you rent a place that you know has been a rental property for many years, you tend to think of it as having no emotional history whatsoever. It’s easy to assume that it’s just a space that has been occupied by a long line of non-owners who came, paid their rent, and then moved on. Maybe I’m unique in this way, but I like to think that the house I am in has been a home, and I’m just continuing that tradition. With that in mind, I’ve decided to write a letter to the people who are about to move into the place I’ve just vacated.

Dear New Tenants:

Welcome to your new home. My name is Barb, and I have lived here with my dogs for the past 3 years. It’s hard for me to leave this place. I’ve loved every minute of my stay here.

I came here from Florida, and I didn’t know a soul. I had never been to the Pacific Northwest before, and it was all very new to me. It’s kind of scary to start over when you’re in your 50’s, but that’s what I did.

As I struggled to get used to a new job and make new friends, and as I attempted to grasp a completely different culture, this house was my stability. I looked forward to coming home each day. In the warmer months I would sit in this wonderful back yard and eat my dinner while my dogs played, and the wind blew gently through the trees. I’d watch the birds and bask in the peaceful solitude.

When feeling sad or lonely, I’d take a nice long bath. And I’ve always felt safe here, so I was able to sleep better in this place than I have anywhere in my entire life. I’ll miss cooking in the kitchen and gazing out the window. I’ve made plans here. I’ve laughed and I’ve cried here.

Paula and Kevin and Jackson next door have become very good friends to me, and I will miss knowing they are only a shout away. I’ve had many delightful conversations with them as they stood in their back yard and I looked down from my bedroom window. If you have any questions about the neighborhood, I’m sure they would be happy to answer them for you. Also, if you have any questions specifically about this wonderful house, they know how to contact me.

I have bought a house down in Xxxxxxxx, simply because I knew that rent in this area would be going up each year, and would quickly get too expensive for me. If not for that, I’d have stayed here for the rest of my days. I will have tears in my eyes when I lock the door for the final time.

I hope you come to love this place as much as I did, and that you continue to fill it with happy memories. I wish you well.

-Barb

welcome home

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When Someone Has a Sad

Many years ago, I came across a woman who was crying. I didn’t know her. I didn’t know the reason for her tears. It didn’t really matter. I just knew she was sad, so I gave her a hug. Sometimes you just need a hug.

She clung to me like I was a life raft for a minute. And I actually felt her emotional pain pass through my chest and out my back. It was the strangest thing. It was palpable. I’ll never forget that.

I could tell she didn’t want to talk about it. We didn’t. She just gave me a weak smile and we went our separate ways, both of us, I hope, feeling a little better about ourselves.

Quite often when we need comforting the most, we are hesitant to ask for it. We don’t want to impose. We don’t want to be a burden.

But I submit that allowing someone to comfort you is like giving a gift to the comforter. It feels good to be helpful rather than feel helpless. It’s as nice to give love as to receive it. It’s wonderful to think that this gesture will be reciprocated if the situation is ever reversed.

I remember another time when I had a disagreement with the person I loved most in the world. We lay in utter silence, marinating in the tension, and I felt like my heart would break in two. Then, out of the darkness his hand reached for mine, and it felt as though life flooded back into my body. We hadn’t resolved our conflict. We still had work to do. But that gesture reassured me that it could be done, and at that moment, that was all that mattered.

Comfort, either given or received, is the most wonderful feeling on earth.

having a sad

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A Few Thoughts on International Women’s Day

First of all, happy International Women’s Day! It’s nice to be recognized and celebrated. I’m glad that organizations throughout the world will be using this as an opportunity to speak out about equal rights. I’m thrilled that this will open up dialogues that many people wouldn’t otherwise have thought to have.

But at the same time, it frustrates me that we still need a day like this. Aren’t we women every day of the year? Don’t we deserve basic human rights all year round?

Recently I was sitting at a table with 15 other women, so I took an informal survey.

  • Raise your hand if you’ve ever been touched inappropriately without your permission.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve ever been cat called.
  • Raise your hand if anyone has ever discussed your breasts, behind, or legs without your initiating that conversation.
  • Raise your hand if your opinion has been dismissed as trivial.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve heard a man singing the words “bitch” “slut” or “ho” along with the radio.
  • Raise your hand if you yourself have been called a bitch, slut, or ho.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve seen nude women calendars in public places.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been interrupted by a man who insists on explaining something to you that you already know.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been treated like an idiot by a mechanic.
  • Raise your hand if men have assumed that you’re not intelligent.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been rejected based on your weight, age, or shape.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized because of something you were wearing.
  • Raise your hand if people have assumed you need to ask a man’s permission to do something or go somewhere.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been accused of not being feminine enough.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been accused of being too girly.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been told you do something good, “for a girl.”
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized for not having children.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized for having children.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized for working.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been criticized for not working.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve ever had to drive behind a truck with naked women mud flaps.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been paid less than a male counterpart.
  • Raise your hand if men that you’ve trained have been promoted above you.
  • Raise your hand if a man assumed you needed his protection when you didn’t.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been told something was women’s work.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been accused of being emotional or hysterical.
  • Raise your hand if you’ve been physically, emotionally, or sexually abused.

Try giving this survey the next time you’re with female friends. It probably comes as no surprise to anyone reading this that in the vast majority of cases, every woman at the table raised her hand. And that’s probably the most outrageous part of all – that it comes as no surprise.

The only reason that this happens is that we are not in the exclusive group of humans who sports a penis. That simple fact makes “us” not “them”. As far as I can tell, that appendage does not endow people with superior abilities of any kind. It just means we get to be easily identified as being on the other team. And society has arbitrarily decided that our team gets to be the losing team. It’s not rational. It’s not just. And it’s not acceptable.

I for one am sick and tired of being treated to micro-aggressions every single day. Case in point, I looked at my supply of Graphicstock pictures to see which one to use for this blog entry. This, below, is their idea of a good image for Women’s Day. Because we all should be depicted as naked, sexy, thin, with long flowing hair and luscious lips, arching our backs while floating with our heads in a flowery cloud.

Happy Women’s Day, indeed.

happy-womens-day-greeting-card_m1nzs5do_l

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Why I Could Never Be President

Whenever I see Donald Trump make a stupid, insane, divisive, ignorant and/or racist remark on camera, I tend to shout at the screen, “That psychopath should never be president!” It actually terrifies me that he’s even gotten this close. I don’t understand how it’s possible. It feels like there’s no more rationality left in the world, and that’s shaky ground on which to stand.

But today I’m feeling generous. And honest. And because of that I have to concede that I should never be president either.

I, too, lack tact and tend to say what I think with no filter. The difference is that on most days I’m not mean spirited, hostile, or willing to incite violence. But I’m definitely not diplomatic, and it tends to get me into trouble.

I’m also emotional. I cry when I’m frustrated. For the life of me, I don’t understand why this is viewed as a weakness. I have emotions, and they come out. But many people, particularly men, seem to feel this is a flaw.

I’m also too intelligent and have too strong of a moral compass to look the other way. If you are trying to screw over the people or the planet, I wouldn’t be able to compromise with you in any way. I wouldn’t want my back scratched by you, and I certainly wouldn’t scratch yours. I don’t suffer fools gladly. So nothing would get done.

And then there’s the fact that sometimes I just want to get into my jammies and cave for a day or two. I need time by myself to recharge. “I vont to be alone.” I would not thrive under constant scrutiny.

So I admit it. Donald Trump is not the only one who is totally unfit for the presidency. But at least I’m not on the ballot. You’re welcome.

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Outing Your Abuser

What I’m about to say is probably going to make a lot of people angry or upset, but as a sexual abuse survivor myself, I think I’ve earned the right to form strong opinions on this subject. Believe me, having this particular opinion makes even me uncomfortable. Nevertheless, here it is.

I have known many people in my life who have been abused in one way or another. The first thing I try to tell these people is that the abuse was not their fault. I point that out because no one bothered to tell me that. I had to figure it out on my own, and it was a good decade before I reached that point. A decade of thinking I had done something wrong, something to deserve such horrible treatment. That’s way too long. Even one day is way too long to have that kind of thought in your head. No one deserves that.

If you have been, or are being abused, you don’t deserve it. You didn’t ask for it, you don’t want it, and you shouldn’t have to experience it. But here’s where it gets controversial. Here’s my upsetting opinion. Even though you never wanted this role, even though it was thrust upon you completely against your will, you now, unfortunately, have a huge responsibility. You have to speak up. You have to out your abuser.

The reason I say this is that I know several people who experienced abuse and kept relatively quiet about it. It’s painful. It’s humiliating. It’s awkward. Speaking up can break apart families or even cause jail time. Speaking up means being publicly outed yourself, for something you didn’t do. You will be judged harshly by many.

But here’s the thing. Abusers aren’t going to stop abusing just because you’ve “aged out” of their emotional prison. They’ll most likely move on to someone else. And whether you like it or not, your silence enables them to do just that.

From an adult perspective, putting several puzzle pieces together, I am fairly certain that my stepfather must have abused his own daughter before he abused me. If she had spoken up, my life would be much different. I wouldn’t bear the scars that I bear.

Fortunately, that man has long since slithered off to hell where he can no longer hurt anyone, but when he was alive, I spoke up. I spoke loud and I spoke clear. Because one day I saw my two year old niece toddling over to his outstretched arms, and I wanted to make sure he would never, ever touch her. Ever. Unfortunately the adults in my life never stepped up once I spoke out, so he never got all the justice he deserved, but he also never got the anonymity on which he thrived.

So if you have survived that sort of evil, whether it was sexual, physical or emotional, I’m profoundly and truly sorry. But you have to speak up. For all the victims that are in line behind you. You are a survivor. Now it’s time to also be a savior.

speak up

Why Are We Shocked?

As more and more women come forward with rape allegations, it’s becoming increasingly impossible to maintain any warm and fuzzy feelings for Bill Cosby, America’s favorite dad. There’s nothing worse than having an icon fall from grace, but there you have it. It happens all the time. Not only are none of us perfect, but quite a few of us are, frankly, despicable.

And Mr. Cosby certainly isn’t helping his case by showing not only an utter lack of remorse, but a litigious response to the scandal. But that shouldn’t shock us, either. This is a pattern that most scumbags follow until the pressure becomes too great. That’s why I never take remorse seriously. It’s rarely a natural and sincere reaction.

And then you have the Honey Boo Boo scandal. There is a reason I never watched that slow motion train wreck of a show. But to hear the allegations that her mother is dating the man who sexually abused this child’s older sister makes me sick. But again, why are we shocked? A certain percentage of mothers are horrible. They put their own misplaced desire for love ahead of the welfare of their children every single time. It has been forever thus.

We’d like to think that the human race is civilized. No one wants to believe that the veil between us and violence is wispy thin. We want to maintain that illusion of morality and decency. But rape and abuse happen. As a matter of fact, I haven’t known a single female who hasn’t been abused, either physically, sexually or emotionally, at least once. The actual chaos in which we live is obvious if we only care to acknowledge it.

On some level, we all know that. And yet no matter how often we see human beings behave deplorably, we can’t quite seem to get used to it. I kind of wish we would, though. As sad as it would be if the entire world became more cynical, I think we would be more apt to take appropriate action if our utter shock did not dull the edge of our outrage.

falling

[Image credit: jakkijelene.com]

Taking on Extra Passengers

Yes, I’m traveling across country. No, I’m not picking up hitchhikers. I’d never do that. I want to live. But as the miles of asphalt roll beneath my wheels, I’m ever mindful of all the people I have pulling for me on this trip.

There are the many people who have contributed to my Indiegogo Campaign, or were kind enough to spread the word about it on their Facebook pages. So many of them are people I have never met face to face, or whom I haven’t interacted with in decades. But their support is more than just financial. It’s a vote of confidence. It says to me, “You can do this. With a little help from your friends.” I am forever grateful for these acts of generosity, and I vow to pay them forward someday.

There are also the friends who couldn’t help financially, but were there emotionally. That’s priceless, too. In the midst of melt downs, when I despaired of finding a place to live, when I lost my car, when self-doubt crept in, they kept me grounded.

Then there’s my amazing sister, who has gotten to see me on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and has chosen to make me laugh instead. She also gave me her car. Again. And money. Again. And is helping me move. Again. None of this would have been possible without her and her husband. Nothing I do in life to thank them will ever come close.

Then there are all the people who are helping me along the way by letting me sleep on their couches. And there are the many friends-to-be out in Seattle who have given me advice on how to effectively live out there. One person even looked at the house I ultimately chose to rent. A total stranger. Just because I was in need. And there’s the employer who chose to hire me sight unseen.

All these people, every single one, is with me in spirit as I drive across the continent. I can feel them urging me ever onward, encouraging me forward. Because of them I am not alone. It’s an amazing feeling that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.

But you guys will have to pay for your own hotel rooms. Just sayin’. A girl has got to draw the line somewhere.

Beary good friends

[Image credit: parentlink.cc]

“Toughen Up”

On the heels of my blog entry “Having Your Heart Broken by a Career Choice” I got a lot of comments from people in the Dental Lab industry, many of which were very constructive and informative and have greatly influenced my concept of what I need to do as I move forward. But just as many were along the lines of “Waa waa waa,” “Toughen up,” “You need a thicker skin,” “You’re too emotional,” and “You sound like a crybaby.”

Comments of that nature, regardless of whom they are directed at, never fail to amuse me. Yup, I am an emotional person. When something makes me truly happy, it can bring tears to my eyes. When I hear tales of horrifying abuse or injustice, I may also shed tears. And most of all, when I’m angry I tend to cry, which can be confusing because it may elicit sympathy when none is needed.

But what I am not is someone who throws tantrums, tries to get attention, incites drama, is manipulative or expects pity. I don’t pick fights, take delight in being cruel, intentionally push people’s buttons or insult others. I set great store in being respectful.

I also don’t view myself as a victim. Yes, sh** hits my fan, and as often as not that isn’t of my own doing. But I have a clear sense that everyone has a fan, so I wipe mine off, do what I can to prevent it from being soiled in the future, and move on.

I have emotions. I own them. I express them, more often alone or amongst friends, of course, but that’s on a case by case basis, and it isn’t a function of some type of fear of others’ reactions. I’m not afraid to be open and to feel what I feel. There’s no shame in reacting to experiences. I don’t give emotions a score, as if some are more worthy or valid or appropriate than others.

The point is I don’t view emotions as a weakness.

People have to be taught to suppress their feelings, and it’s been my experience that those who learn those lessons too well are generally more prone to being unable to communicate effectively, are often incapable of making healthy social connections, and are plagued by a variety of mental and physical health issues.

They are also more apt to have outbursts way out of proportion to the situation, and expend more energy on a slow burn. Emotions are like the steam in a pressure cooker. If you don’t let them out, they will find a way out in a potentially unhealthy manner.

I’ve found that it’s much better to feel what you feel when you feel it and then carry on. People who do this seem infinitely more trustworthy to me, because I always know where they stand.

I laugh a lot, too, by the way. Mostly, though, I’m just in neutral mode, taking things in, seeing what the world has to offer in terms of life experience. I don’t expect anything from anyone as a result of my laughter or my tears.

My question is, why on earth would it bother you if I express my feelings? What do you think will happen? What are you afraid of?

Maybe you should toughen up.

emotions

[Image credit: facebookemoticons.com]