Move your mind, Move your body, Move your soul.
I thought I wrote a post last year about how I don't get to define you and you can't define me. i was reflecting on how sometimes people can have different experiences of the same person. This was especially challenging for me in 2018 when I was going through the yoga studio "break up." And now, this week, the theme of definitions/defining each other and ourselves has been coming up. Actually, came up a few weeks ago when I met my new co-workers (yes, I left that terrible job!) and noticed how people defined themselves for the group - as a way of "getting to know you."
Toni Morrison said “Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined." Which says so many things to me: 1. any definition you come up with is about YOU not about the person you are defining; 2. we spend our lives categorizing ourselves and each others; 3. often these definitions really serve the person who is creating the label.
My son is learning about gender in Middle School. They are talking about pronouns and how people have pronoun preferences. He didn't get why they needed to learn about it in school. "I will call someone what they want to be called" he said, "but I don't know why I have to learn about it in class." It opened up a whole conversation about definitions and brought me back to the quote. He also asked if his (self-identified as) queer sister was queer before she met her queer friends or if her friends being queer led her to define herself that way. "It's a good question" I started. Although part of me was shriveling inside and I wondered what right wing media outlet is preying on him through TikTok.
All of these definitions can help us when we are trying to feel like we belong (oh my god the belonging story again). We define ourselves so we can put us into these groupings. We find groups of people who like the same things we do and immediately we feel like we fit in. But even the idea of "fitting in" means that theres a not fitting in. When there's an in group, there's an out group. And I hate that.
So son asked about what my husband thought about pronoun preferences and about my daughter identifying as queer. And I said - You could ask him. And the last time we talked about it, he thinks everyone should just do what they need to do and we should all leave each other alone about it. And that love is love. And if we really believe that about our kids - wouldn't we also then believe it about other peoples' kids?? I mean, if we are able to accept the sometimes your partner/parent/kid is shitty, annoying, ungrateful, crabby and also loving and kind and amazing and incredible -- couldn't we then also extend that multi-faceted humanness to people that we don't know. Or people at the grocery store or ... gasp! online?!?!
We are so quick to call someone out, disregard them completely because they identify differently than we do.
And then I listened to Africa Brooke and her perspective on cancel culture etcetra. She talked about it in terms of collective self-sabotage. And about the need to identify your personal values in order to not be swayed by the masses telling you what you should think, what you should be angry about, and how you should (therefore) define yourself.
It's an echo of another message I heard this week that our beliefs change over time. And that's ok. We're allowed to change. We are even allowed to change our values. But as Africa asked - do you even know what they are? Do you know what you hold so dear that it is important to you that lines are not crossed? Do you act in accordance with these values?
What are the values you live by?
Things are not going well at work.
For years, I have talked about, journaled about, cried about the fact that I work in a very sexist/ableist/racist industry. Healthcare is predominantly run by men. Usually white men.
I have experienced sexism at work since I joined the corporate environment in 2008. I didn't experience it as much during my first 8 years in the labor force, likely because I worked in non-profits. And most non-profits are run by white women. Still lot's to unpack there, for SURE, around racism, but today I focus on my personal lived experience and so today that is sexism at work.
I've tried sending emails, talking to HR, talking to people directly about their behavior in the workplace. I've even tried not caring. (The trying to not care one doesn't ever work for me. Shocking.)
I am experiencing a new group of men at work who are displaying all of the classic behaviors of sexism in the office. Telling me to schedule his meetings and take notes for them. Assigning party planning to a female Senior Director. Re-stating what their female colleagues have just said (i.e., mansplaining). Assuming that my family life will curtail my work and travel abilities ("I know it is difficult to travel because you have a family at home").
It is infuriating. I left yesterday wanting to just quit outright. I'm done. See ya. Good luck! It infuriated me twenty years ago and it infuriates me now. And maybe especially now because I am over forty, have been in the industry 20 years, and have witnessed so many of my male peers getting promoted while I have stayed at the Director level (in healthcare) for a decade. And now, a new crew, with fewer years in the industry are mansplaining that industry to me and asking me to go grab them coffee.
Thankfully, I woke up to a new day and reminded myself to write it out. Process it. See what you can do, what you have done, and what you can learn and share from others who are in this same position. Because here's the thing. This is not just a personal situation of mine. This shit happens ALL THE TIME. And I really don't want it to happen to you, too.
So What Can Be Done?
1. First and foremost, know your own worth. This is not about you. This is a system that is perpetuated by people who want to hold onto their power. You are not being "picked on" because of anything you have done. These guys (and not always guys) are trying to cling to power, make their mark, whatever whatever. Not about you.
2. OK, Second. Set boundaries. Be clear about what you will and will not do. This one is HARD because we want to be seen as "team players" and helpful. I am personally unsure how direct to be in any situation. I tend towards direct communication and that doesn't always work out for me. :/
3. Enlist support. Chat with HR, confidents. Think about people you admire - those who are grace under fire - and how they would respond in a situation like this.
4. Do something. Maybe that is writing it out, talking it out, being direct, being indirect. But do something. You are in charge of your life. You get to set your boundaries and stick to them!
If you have ideas.... please comment below. I could use a few more in my pit crew of support!
The last month or so has been rough, people!
So much coming up in my work life, home life, relationships. Where do I even begin? Reminders that life is sacred with some family health scares and a colleague committing suicide. Having a high BP reading at the dentist. Not sleeping well. Feeling tired. Feeling meh.
Old family stories coming back to haunt me in the form of guilt and shame. Putting up boundaries and still feeling like crap because the situations that "trigger" us ("you are just _____" -- it's not good, BTW) only do so because we believe the sentiments are true ("I really am _____"). Ouch. And also, meh.
Wanting a particular job that didn't want me... but wanted my former boss and she got hired instead. Trying to remind myself of divine timing and if it's for me, it won't miss me. But I feel like I'm trying to convince myself. It was a job more in line with my personal mission and values to ease the suffering of people around me. And I'm mad at health insurance and the whole industry and kind of want out (and mental health felt like a good lateral shift). Back to the questions of how I can live my values/be me no matter the place of work AND ALSO that it's you not what you do. Again, meh.
My new boss thinks I'm his administrative assistant and I put up a boundary and re-directed him to an actual administrative assistant. I'm trying to influence him positively, but with my workbestie leaving (and many co-workers leaving as well) I feel meh here, too. Meh Meh Meh.
My FaceBook and IG were hacked and the hacker put up terrible photos that don't abide by community standards and so my accounts are disabled. A reminder that I don't own that profile. Anything we put out on those platforms is not ours anymore! -- I do own this website -- so I am here to do my "work" and posting in the world.
In the last two weeks, I have witnessed people at work "calling out" the facial expressions they see their colleagues wearing.
"Look at your face, Pam!" my new boss said to my colleague, "I promise, this is actually going to be fun."
I wasn't sure what she meant. Pam asks really good questions and she looked, to me, like she was thinking & processing what my new boss had just said.
It is not just her. On multiple occasions lately, I have heard:
"I can tell by Janet's face that she doesn't want to talk about it."
"What do you know? I can tell you know something."
"If you are ever feeling like you need a laugh in a meeting, pan your camera to Amanda's face."
It is not funny.
Some might say that these are harmless comments, bringing some levity to a heavy business conversation. But when I talked to those who were "called out" - for their faces, no less - what they heard was questioning their competency, their interest, their dedication, their self-awareness.
They heard: You're negative/pessimistic. You're not on board. You're not trustworthy.
What may have been presented as a joke really isn't funny at all. It also is not accurate.
It is not True.
There have been many studies and articles discounting this practice. Two were recently published this spring as some companies are attempting to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to identify emotions based on facial characteristics.
The long and short of it is: emotions (which are varied and not sufficiently understood) can be expressed in all sorts of different ways. Expressions can be informed by social and cultural norms.
The Atlantic article notes that the assumption that we can "read" others' faces for emotion is biased, often upholding the systemic oppression of BIPOC, women, and other communities. Black people are deemed angrier, for example, or certain people are happier than others.
All this to say, it feels as if it's become the new "Smile, honey" and I'm not up for it.
I am grinning that my title for this is "Teen Life", like the old magazines of my youth - Teen Bop! etc. Not quite sure how to wrap words around it, so "Teen Life" it is.
I have always felt pride in the fact that I haven't really be-moaned the passing of time. I have made every effort to be present with my kids in their lives and to take each phase in stride.
I haven't wished moments away or tried to "stop time" or any of that. I welcomed in each new year and said good bye to the old. Well-meaning parents note that once they go to college I might feel different, or once the youngest is gone, or or or. They may be right. But I haven't felt that pang of loss until recently.
I've worked from home since before it was cool (and before COVID made it mandatory). I have loved being here to greet them off the bus, to be the one who is able to make all the sporting events, the one who can drive the friends around. The one who is here to hear about their day as they grab the after school snack.
The COVID-year changed things, of course, and there were plenty of moments when I wanted to be alone, when I struggled with meetings while "home-schooling", when it was too loud and there were so many emotions (from all of us). Moments when I just wanted to be alone.
And now that my kids are all vaccinated and they are going back into the world - and it's summer, which means no school structure -- well, I'm feeling it, parents. I'm feeling like all of a sudden, they have left me alone.
They are in and out in scattered timelines. I don't always hear about their days. I don't hear what's going on with friends. It does seem like just yesterday that I knew when they last ate, pooped, had class, saw a friend, etc. I used to go on their playdates with them, for goodness sake.
And now - they are all just-- OFF. In a million directions.
I almost feel silly or stupid writing these words for all to see. Like OF COURSE they are off. One is almost 18, another 15, and the youngest 13. Their jobs, friends, phones are much more exciting than I am. Their friends encircle them with warmth and acceptance. It is age appropriate. I am grateful that they have strong friendships and are having fun after this past sh*t year.
I want to make these summer memories and they don't have any interest. The swims at the river - I head down alone. "Want to go to the beach?" "Not really." I ask what they DO want to do and it's see the same movies at the same theater with their friends. Go biking. Do henna. But not with mom. So I go to the river. I bought myself a mountain bike. I go to the beach. I'm still here when they get home in the hopes they will tell me about their day.
I am glimpsing it though. The fact that it goes by so incredibly fast. And it's a daily reminder to cherish it all.
I use the word "story" a lot. I think about the stories I tell myself. I recognize in others- the stories they tell themselves. I see identity as story. I see perception as story.
The other day, I also saw forgiveness as story - or... the releasing of a story.
We can get trapped (or liberated) by the stories we tell.
I know that the stories I most want to hear are the most vulnerable. The one's where I marvel and say/think "Wow. How did s/he/they handle that? How is s/he/they do brave to say the words out loud?"
I strive to be vulnerable myself. And man, it is scary! When I think about what holds me back from sharing my story - it is other people's feelings. I am so worried about hurting others' feelings.
And I think this is why my most recent story is the one that needs telling the most. Because in the midst of it, I was accused/called out for "not caring" about someone else when I was voicing my truth (my story, my reality). My story was minimized, gaslit, and misunderstood.
So today, I am writing that story, because I believe that writing can be healing. And I so want to heal. I want to release my fear of hurting others. My fear that being myself will hurt others.
I saw a quote of Pema's today (I say "Pema", like we are on a first name basis). It was about the open-endedness of life.
Sometimes, when we are in the very thick of it all, it's easy to forget that life is open-ended. At least, for me. When I am feeling agitated or worried or anxious, my whole world gets very, very small and specific. That conversation, This job, This phase of life, This year, That exchange.
I am worried these days about my J-O-B. I have never been a part of a reduction in force, and I might be. We are going through an aquisition/ trnsition and I'm not sure where I will land. I am reminded to Trust that anything not aligned with my highest and best will fall away. It's hard though. It's hard to Trust that. Trust is hard in general.
The truth is, we don't have control over what happens. We have control over our energy and harnessing it in the direction(s) we choose. We have control over our focus and our attention.
Full Moon in Scorpio this past Monday. And holy hell! Anyone else?!?!
The last couple of weeks have been full of ups-and-downs. My kids are clearly teenagers now. We are talking about all sorts of taboo subjects! This has always been one of my favorite things - and yet, now - I worry that my words don't suffice. Growing up is hard. This world we live in is hard.
My daily walks help. Having access to nature helps, too.
What's helping YOU these days?
I feel called to share that I am fucking TIRED of all the ascension condescension.
All of these enlightened folks who are superior, clearly awakened, and know more than anyone (who disagrees with them). PLEASE. STOP. Go back to your books, to your Akashic Records, to your past lives and listen in to the Source. Love, compassion.
Over the last 6 months, I have blogged multiple times about re-writing our stories. My most recent re-write (before this week) was around rejection. Changing my story around to be unconditional-love-centric.
A couple of weeks ago, I saw this video by Sonya Renee Taylor (love her).
She talks in the video about how we sometimes have these old stories that continue to block us from living our lives.
And then, the Marianne Williamson podcast crossed my path. Her most recent episode with Gabor Mate (love him).
I do believe that we draw in what we need to hear at the moment. We call in the messages we seek. Dr. Mate talked about, among other things, how our society is constantly looking for distraction, and for external forces to heal and internal “hole.” The hole in the context of this conversation was around trauma.
These elements, both listenings are integrating in me today. Because the story that I began to pull apart yesterday – th story that needs to be re-written for me – is around money.
The money thing has a long history for me. It started before me and before my parents. It started with poverty, with “outsider-ship” of non-english speaking immigrants. My father was the first in his family to go to college.
My parents struggled financially when they were young. My dad over-worked himself, often working 6 ½ days a week – my whole life. My parents did not talk about money when the kids were around. I’m not sure they talked about money when we weren’t around.
So since we didn’t talk about money, I didn’t learn about money from my parents. My parents taught me two things: 1. don't spend, and 2. save. Spending money definitely had shame and judgment attached. Spend on “smart” things, save for retirement, etc.
The Old Stories
I have stories that my parents think that I mis-manage money. That I don’t make enough, that I don’t know how to manage money. That I make bad decisions with my money.
Money is tied to my job, to my chosen profession. So I also have some stories around how I make money and whether or not that is “good” or “bad.” I receive messages from my family of origin that my profession is “bad” and that they would never work where I work. I carry guilt around the amount of money that I make for doing the work that I do.
I have a limiting belief that I could never make enough money doing what I love. I proved myself right when I owned a yoga studio for three years. A decision that I am still paying off, three years after we closed.
I hold stories about wealthy people that are negative, and yet – I want to be a wealthy person.
As I write these words, I realize there is so much to say here. So much unravelling to do. Sonya likened this to moving boxes in the closet. There are a lot of boxes to move.
Money Does Not Equal Worth
My money story is also very tightly wound with my worthiness story. Am I worth investing in? Is this a "pipe dream"? Do I deserve new pants- or do I only deserve them once I lose 5 pounds? Is my work “worth” this paycheck? Is my contribution valuable? Am I trying to fill a hole with money?
From my parents’ saving lessons, I feel challenged when I spend money. But is there more to it? I am scared there won’t be enough money. I worry that I will mis-manage and not have enough to pay the bills. So there is a security/safety thing for me. If I have money I won’t be homeless and on the street. I will be accepted. I will be able to participate in life.
I went through all of the places (there may be more) where I feel my money hackles go up: clothes, education, luxury/vacation/rest, bill paying, saving, retirement.
I asked myself, Why?
I am going to practice going point-by-point. Is this the “right way”? No idea.
Do you have a story around money that needs re-writing?
You gotta feel it to heal it.