The Great Divide(r)

Recognizing Microaggressions

Are you on Twitter?

If so, put “grocery divider” in the search bar and take a scroll through the results.

Go ahead. I’ll wait. (But if you want to save keystrokes, click here.)

The thread appears to have begun here:

Recognizing microaggressions

It may have been a joke, but the 1,700 comments and 48,000 retweets, not to mention the 261,000 “favorites” show the staying power this idea has.

Although the thread has some laughs (this tweet is from 2011 but it seems appropriate for the “humor” part of my post) …:

Recognizing microaggressions

…it mostly has references to the idea that the use of a grocery divider (especially the rush to get the thing down as quickly as possible) is a microaggression.

Microaggression 101

I’m not qualified to give a microaggression primer, but here’s a bit of background.

Merriam Webster defines a microaggression this way:

a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority)

There are some evocative examples here (chosen by me partially so I could give a shout out to my former employer, Fordham University!).

And Psychology Today breaks microaggressions down into three categories: microassaults (read more about those from Sailing Rough Waters), microinsults (more on those here, also from Sailing Rough Waters)  and microinvalidations (more on those in this Teen Vogue op-ed).

Why I Use The Grocery Divider

Perhaps I am speaking out of both sides of my mouth by saying what I am about to say. Maybe it’s hypocritical to argue that it’s silly for one Tweet to “stick” so deeply with so many people yet spend an entire blog post writing about it. But writing is how I sort things out (and try to encourage others to think critically), so here goes.

The use of a grocery divider on my part is just that … a lifelong habit grounded in an attempt to be courteous, informed by my high school experience as a grocery cashier and driven by the fact that I am ready to get out of the store. 

That’s it. End of story. Not intended to be a microaggression.

But I Can’t Stop Thinking About This and Neither Can Many Others

Here’s how things have gone since I first saw a tweet about The Great Divide(r):

First, I think about this every time I am at the store.

I had a conversation with a cashier about this at Publix the other day. This is how it went down:

Me to cashier — as I am putting the divider down (see “lifelong habit” above) even though there wasn’t anyone in line behind me — “I guess it was pretty silly to do that since no one is behind me.”

Cashier: No comment, neutral reaction.

Me: There’s all kinds of talk on Twitter about how ridiculous it is to put the grocery divider down.

Him: It’s just what people do to separate their groceries. No big deal.

(Cue angels singing. I am white, the cashier was black, context that I find important for this post.)

Second, isn’t it crazy how the grocery store is the microcosm that puts our behavior in perspective?

It’s insane (and possibly a sign that I could organize my life better) how much time I spend at Publix. I’m there multiple times per week.

(I imagine, somewhat related to these stories, that anyone who shops at Vineyard Publix would agree it’s an overly courteous place — shoppers and workers alike — we fall all over ourselves apologizing if we almost collide while turning into a new aisle. We are a collectively polite group for the most part. This includes the divider question.)

I was buying six shrimp at the seafood counter at Publix the other day and the associate jokingly said, “There’s a seven-shrimp minimum.” I told him that would be fine. He said, “I’ve only had one person in my entire time here be offended by that ‘minimum’ joke.” At the same time I said, “who could be offended by that?” I also said, “But years ago I had a sobbing breakdown in the cold cut section because of something another shopper said to me, so grocery stores really do bring out something emotional in us.”

Third, the divider is a practical matter.

Here’s an homage to the power of the stupid divider. At my former employer, we had an auditor require us to make our corporate credit card procedures more stringent. (There had been some overreach, a story that won’t get told here.)

When I was buying supplies for a business-related occasion while using my corporate American Express card, my daughter put a fountain drink she had gotten at the deli on the belt, and it was accidentally with the business items vs. our personal items.

When it was discovered that I had spent $1.75 (or whatever) on a personal soda, I had to repay the $1.75 (fair enough) but the card was also locked up in the CFO’s office and I had to check it out every time I traveled on business (which at the time occurred frequently). The only solace is that the same thing happened to one of our most senior leaders, because he accidentally paid for his Firehouse Subs lunch with this corporate card, which was located next to his personal card in his wallet. Side note: neither of us works there anymore.

Fourth, it isn’t just Twitter.

I found a blog that started off discussing Pet Peeves (not the grocery divider) that ended up in The Great Divide(r) land in the comments. One person said they wouldn’t put the divider down because they don’t work at the store (this “don’t work at the store” idea applied to at least one justification for leaving the cart in the parking lot instead of returning it too). And this may have been in the Twitter thread vs these comments, but there is also a “use self checkout if you have an issue with the divider” camp too. (I personally feel like self checkout is REALLY a way to do the store’s work for them, but that’s for a different day I guess.)

Fifth, it’s hard to talk about these types of things productively.

I thought I could ask a question about this topic (of the idea that using the divider is a microaggression) in a private group I’m in that contains an amazing, diverse assortment of people committed to discussing race, how white people can be aware of white privilege (and address it), and many other things.

As the thread progressed, most responses were in the “it’s common sense” camp, but I was asked/told:

a) why I hadn’t only asked black people because doing otherwise just gave the white people in the group the opportunity to justify themselves

b) why I hadn’t asked the tweeter (my response: because many of the responses to him had been attacks and I didn’t want to join the chorus/I also said I thought the group was a safe place for this type of thing and hoped to take advantage of it to feel out this topic)

c) told I was making the problem worse

I deleted the entire thread and spent the rest of the evening wondering about the set of interactions and wishing we could have finished the discussion. I DM’d the person who challenged me, explaining why I had taken the thread down (basically, that I didn’t want to alienate anyone) and have not heard back from them.

Ultimately, Respect for Each Other Matters

In writing this post, I worry I will undo any good I did (if there was any) by writing We Have to Talk About White Privilege.

If you are someone for whom use of the grocery divider feels like a microaggression, I respect that.

I have read someone I respect a great deal, Shay Stewart-Bouley of Black Girl In Maine, say that the work of coming to terms with racism is both internal and external. I wholeheartedly agree.

I like what Cheryl Strayed had to say about the internal work:

You don’t have to relinquish your heritage to be an ally to people of color, Whitey. You have to relinquish your privilege. And part of learning how to do that is accepting that feelings of shame, anger and the sense that people are perceiving you in ways that you believe aren’t accurate or fair are part of the process that you and I and all white people must endure in order to dismantle a toxic system that has perpetuated white supremacy for centuries. That, in fact, those painful and uncomfortable feelings are not the problems to be solved or the wounds to be tended to. Racism is. – Cheryl Strayed

And although this piece isn’t technically a guide to doing internal work, this one line by Morgan Jerkins in How I Overcome My Anger as a Black Writer Online somehow seems connected to the importance of internal work, while it is also a bit of a segue to the external:

My therapist taught me that before I spoke to an audience of thousands or millions, my first audience should be myself. – Morgan Jerkins

And about the external work, again I am no expert here but I think it begins with ceasing our silence when we see racism. Michael Harriott wrote “…silence in the presence of injustice is as bad as injustice itself. White people who are quiet about racism might not plant the seed, but their silence is sunlight.”

In Closing

When I rush to put the divider down at the grocery store, my intent is straightforward: I don’t want to accidentally pay for someone else’s items (the budget is tight) and I don’t want to add stress to the cashier’s job.

Why eat up extra minutes having a transaction voided when I could better spend my time and efforts trying to do something that really makes a difference?

Recognizing microaggressions

I am linking up with Kat Bouska, for the prompt “Share something that entertained you this week, can be an article you read, video you watched, someone’s FB share…whatever!” Although, to be clear, “entertained” isn’t exactly what this topic did for me this week.Recognizing microaggressions

Five Minute Friday: LOVED

Five Minute Friday

Today’s Prompt: LOVED

I’ll be honest, readers. I am feeling disconnected from this prompt.

As any of us (all of us) writers know, however, writing is among the best of the methods of finding connection again.

It would be easier to write about things I love, but things I loved or times I personally felt loved seem elusive right now.

To tackle them one as a time, though.

I was reminded of something I loved today when I saw the modifications someone had made to New York City subway and mass transit stations to honor Aretha Franklin (especially to (appropriately enough) the Franklin Street station). I mentioned to someone on Instagram how that made the millionth (roughly) reason I love New York City so much.

It reminded me of the day after the Pulse Nightclub shooting, when all of a sudden rainbow hearts and memorial messages appeared on ad panels. Within 24 hours of a tragedy, a city I love (see, NYC will never be just “loved” — it will always be “love” applied all its artsiness and awareness to show solidarity to another city experiencing its own crisis).

Five Minute Friday

Times I felt loved …… I suppose a tangible way to point that out is this laptop I’m typing on. My son somehow tracked down a refurbished laptop with faster processing speeds and a blessedly large 17-inch screen for Mother’s Day. On his college freshman budget. When he surprised me with it, I felt loved.

*** end of 5 minutes ***

Love now, loved then, to love in the future. Thank you, writing (which I have always loved) for doing what you always do — getting me closer to my true self.

Five Minute Friday

 

If God’s Keeping Score, I’ve Fallen Way Behind

What did you do the summer after you graduated from high school? Take a vacation? Go to summer school? Work a summer job?

I spent the summer hours away from home, serving as a Southern Baptist Convention summer missionary. I was 17 and felt called to save the world*.

Here are some things (from the perspective of 35 years later) that I no longer am:

  1. 17
  2. A recent high school graduate
  3. Southern Baptist

As a 53-year-old with a few more degrees and a certificate (somewhere) verifying I am a confirmed Episcopalian, this is what that summer looks in retrospect:

Door-to-door is an introvert’s worst nightmare

First, let me say that I think the definition of “introvert” has become a bit contorted as it has taken hold in the public mindset (although I trust most everything Jennifer Kahnweiler has written about it). For me, the most salient part is the fact that I recharge more by being alone than I do with being in room full of people (this is the case with my husband — ask me how it works out when two people in a marriage recharge in different ways!).

Despite the fact that my religious beliefs at the time and my concern for my fellow man led me to apply to be a summer missionary and to accept an assignment in Fort Pierce/Port St. Lucie, FL (hours from home), that hunger to serve did not make it any easier to knock on strangers’ doors and try to get them to accept the gospel.

I would stand there at the door, playing mental games with myself (“If they don’t answer by the time I count to 10, I can leave” … that kind of thing). 

Staying at host homes is an eye opener

Staying in host homes was probably a burden for the homes (and a joy, I know), but it was one of the most growth-inducing parts of this summer experience for me. I had a lot of growing up to do, and figuring out how to function in other people’s homes helped with that.

I’ve lost touch with most of my hosts, but am still in touch to this day with one. Her daughter was 3 then and she has her own kids now. Time moves on.

Lack of clarity about roles

Something happened during my summer as a missionary that has repeated itself in other areas of my life subsequently.

One of the churches (we moved around — I think we were at 5 churches in 10 weeks — also 5 different host homes) was sending its puppet ministry to a workshop in Orlando. I asked if we could go. I am pretty sure they hadn’t budgeted to send two summer missionaries to this workshop, but they let us go.

We weren’t *this* creative but here is an example Christian puppetry at its finest — in the form of BETHLEHEMian Rhapsody:

The reason I say this repeated itself later is … I was presenting to our board at Healthy Kids once. I was situating the screen so the presentation’s graphics could be shown and I was angling it toward the audience. Our Executive Director somewhat dramatically indicated that the screen needed to face the BOARD not the audience of hangers-on there to observe the meeting.

It’s always important to think through hierarchies in organizations and to understand your place (not that there aren’t some times it’s worthwhile to push a bit to be seen/heard (or to learn how to properly coordinate a puppet’s mouth movements with the spoken audio)). 

There’s no scoreboard for salvation

One of the biggest memories of that summer has to do with a day that we were out knocking on doors (sigh…) with a minister. I think this particular home visit consisted of the minister, another missionary and me. We talked at length with a woman, discussing her life and her spiritual needs.

She said she had a void in her life, and the minister walked her though confessing her faith in Christ and accepting Him as her savior. (The follow-up steps would ostensibly be her seeking out a local church and following through with baptism.)

When we got to the car — no lie — this minister pumped his fist and said (paraphrasing a bit — it was 35+ years ago!) “YES! IT’S BEEN A LONG TIME!” It became clear that he was keeping count and (more importantly) that as a minister he felt there was some type of quota he was expected to reach.

Now that I have more life experience behind me, I see in that woman’s “void” something maybe a little less spiritual and a little more human — she was a woman isolated in a suburb of Orlando (because yes we had driven to Orlando to expand our soul-saving activities), needing someone to talk to. We offered companionship and a promise of more warm fuzzies, not to mention eternal security.

I can’t say denominations don’t hold their clergy and evangelists to “scoreboards.” Any business, even the business of providing religious support/education/worship, runs on metrics. But something about that moment in time —- he was more excited to have another tick mark than to know that she had had a genuine change that would benefit her —- has always stuck in my head.

Keeping Score

I have peeked into some deeper evangelical things and …. I’m glad my path went a different direction

I can’t say that the things I was exposed to this summer were the first time I experienced some of the activities that are more aligned with expressions of evangelicalism like speaking in tongues, talk of demonic influence and being afraid of secular influences. I still can’t listen to “My Sweet Lord” without hearing the hour-long audio lecture I heard in a high-school Bible Study about backmasking and that “My Sweet Lord’s” insidious Hare Krishna messages.

We went skating once — most of the summer missionaries and the children of our host family — just to have the mom come back about half an hour later to make us leave early, “convicted” that the secular music we were listening to at the rink was somehow corrupting us and leading us astray.

That summer was the first time I saw the fear of demons be manifested in an actual demon exorcism (picture a middle class living room and a chair, not anything you’ve seen in movies).

And although I think this actually tracks back to some camp I went to, and not my summer missionary experience, that time in my life definitely carried a heavy (very) set of messaging around purity. Even “fingerprints” (ahem) were to be avoided (more about how I evolved past that particular phobia here).

Faith evolves…and did I mention there’s no scoreboard?

There’s also no script.

Don’t get me wrong…I know there are “scoreboards.”

And I know there are scripts. I scored a 100 on my “Certified Witness Training” test (this was after the summer missionary period, to be clear) that demonstrated I knew exactly what to say to try to get someone to recognize their “void,” the verses to parrot to help them know Jesus is what they needed to fill the “void,” and the steps to take to notch another score on the “scoreboard.”

However, I have evolved as a human and a person of faith.

It would probably take a whole separate post to explain that evolution (although this post from 2011 details a slice of it).

In a nutshell, at this point I think the way I live my life — including trying to work my way out of messes and mistakes and the times I’ve offended others — says more than any script I’ve ever memorized. God will choose whether that added to His (or Her) scoreboard, not me.

Does faith ever call for a pause?

This is a bit of an abrupt diversion from talking about me (but YAY LET’S PLEASE MOVE ON FROM ME…..).

One of my favorite writers (and humans … and people of faith) is Sarah Thebarge, author of The Invisible Girls and Well. Sarah is more than an author. She is a medical professional, a cancer survivor and a Compassion International spokesperson.

Sarah is also, as she discussed in If Your Gospel Isn’t Good News For Everyone, It’s Not Good News For Anyone: Why I Signed #PledgetoPause, someone who has chosen to sign the #PledgetoPause.

The #CallToPause was created by Lisa Sharon Harper. Among other things it posits that, “Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination poses grave danger to the rights and protections of historically marginalized communities.” This is what Sarah writes about it:

Dozens of high-profile evangelical leaders have joined the #CalltoPause.  And hundreds of others have signed the #PledgetoPause, committing to fasting and praying for American Christians to return to what God’s called us to: kindness, mercy, compassion and love.

While I don’t plan to sign the pledge (I’m too pro-choice to be comfortable doing that), I have to admire the people who are. They may have spent a lifetime in the environment I encountered during my 17-year-old summer, telling people there was only one way to avoid a life of damnation and being scared that a note of music or pursuing any hint of personal pleasure was a failing. And yet they are willing to confront “why the right-wing culture wars began in the first place: racism.”

In my opinion, talking to each other about a middle ground and placing more emphasis on “kindness, mercy, compassion and love” is the kind of thing where it would be fine to keep score, as long as the scoreboard goes to infinity.

Keeping Score

I have linked this post with the Kat Bouska prompt “Who needs a vacation when you can spend your summer doing this…”

Keeping Score

*I suppose some would argue I still feel compelled to save the world. Hopefully my attempts these days are a little less heavy-handed.

Five Minute Friday: WOMAN

Five Minute Friday

Today’s Prompt: WOMAN

There is a woman I don’t know out there who is getting her classroom ready for the 3rd graders she will start teaching Monday.

Because the school system doesn’t give teachers their classroom funding (such as it is) until school starts … and because it is her first year teaching, a mutual friend asked several of us to contribute books.

One of the books I am contributing is Glowstone Peak. The authors (Karin Hurt, David Dye and Sebastian Hurt) sent me this copy for review purposes. Once I am done reviewing it (soon!), I am going to pass it along to this woman for her classroom.

I read a brief excerpt in the video below:

I may not know this woman, but I know who the woman I have been for all the years my kids were in school (my son graduated in 2017, so I had a student in Leon County Schools from the time Tenley started kindergarten (2001) until Wayne Kevin graduated in 2017).

I may not know *this* woman starting to teach 3rd grade, but I know what it’s like being a woman who hopes her child is being encouraged, enriched, disciplined when needed, and allowed to enjoy a safe and fulfilling childhood.

Because I work at home in the early hours, I watch the bus go right past our yard, right past the spot where it used to pick my children up. Recently, I watched it make practice runs in advance of the beginning of the school year. I may not have literally teared up, but a little bit of my heart tugged every single time and it probably always will.

All those years, praying and hoping school would be a happy page in the books of my children’s lives.

That is why this woman (me) is giving that woman (the new teacher) books.

She is helping lots of minds, full of potential, write their own stories. I hope Glowstone Peak and the other books will encourage her as she starts her first year as a teacher of other women’s (and men’s) children.

Five Minute Friday

 

Book Review: What the Eyes Don’t See

What do you do when your kid is dirty?

You bathe them, right?

Flint Water Crisis

What would you do if your pediatrician said, “there may be a problem with the water. It would be a good idea to start making your baby’s formula with bottled water. Also, don’t bathe them in your water — it may not be safe. Use bottled water instead.”

If you’ve ever bathed an infant, you know it’s a messy, physically involved process. Adding the complications that come from being unable to just run water from the tap is not on any parent’s wish list.

Compound that with the challenge of being a single parent, of being on a budget below the federal poverty level, of struggling to meet your children’s basic needs much less track down enough bottled water to bathe them in it.

The Flint Water Crisis

That’s what Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha told a parent when she first started becoming aware that there may be excess lead in Flint’s water. This was before she tried to get the attention of public health (and public works (the distinction is important)) to let them know children were potentially at risk after the city switched its water source from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River.

In Dr. Mona’s book, What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City, she describes her role in discovering the problem, trying to get the attention of leadership, and advocating for a solution.

It’s important to note that she also weaves in her family’s history, because their immigration to the United States and their roots in Iraq, including the genocide they witnessed, contribute to her commitment to doing something about environmental injustice.

A Reminder to Speak Up

This book reminded me of the importance of speaking up, and of continuing to ask questions if the first “no” or “that really isn’t an issue” just doesn’t align with reality. I’m not always a person to fight (okay, that may not be true for things I’ve written, but it’s a skill that (for me) is a work in progress).

Effective advocacy often requires trying more than once and dealing with rejection. It also requires having iron-clad facts, lots of them, but conversely being able to boil them down into a one-pager (or one sentence if needed — time with elected officials or their staffs can be fleeting).

How to Help an Advocate

I was struck while reading this book at the toll Dr. Mona’s (she prefers being called that, by the way) advocacy took on her personal health and mental well-being, as well as on the life of her family (she has two young children).

Therefore, straight from my head, here are ways you can support someone who has taken on a massive cause without personally having to confront a hostile or uncooperative elected official:

If they are a personal acquaintance, help with child care or meals

Provide behind-the-scenes support —- write letters to officials, share advocacy points on social media, make phone calls

Give them an ear, just an ear. They may need someone they trust in whom they can confide, someone to say, “yes, it matters — I get it”

Check in with them long after the most high-pressure moments have ended; such advocacy certainly has positive effects, but post-crisis life can be a big adjustment

A Note about Senator Stabenow

Michigan’s Sen. Debbie Stabenow was certainly not the only elected official to advocate for a thorough resolution and long-term arrangements for Flint’s recovery, but her involvement had a personal meaning for me.

I type Sen. Stabenow’s name often, because I have a role in preparing a newsletter about agricultural issues (she’s in the most recent issue as a matter of fact). But now I know that she has a background in social work and that she played an active role in the Water Infrastructure Improvements for America Act and other measures to help Flint.  It was signed by President Obama in December 2016 — #ThanksObama.

What We Can Still Do

Flint still has challenges: This article details where things stand on the testing of the current water supply, on the entities that are still donating bottled water since the state stopping doing so in April, and the issue of plastic accumulation due to all of the bottles. I recommend reading it to remain informed.

The Flint Child Health and Development Fund, created by Dr. Mona, supports “a myriad of interventions proven to promote children’s potential: home visiting services, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, mindfulness programming, literacy efforts, play structures, and much more.” Donate here or buy the book, since a portion of the proceeds go to the fund. 

We can speak up in our own communities, states, and the nation (the world, too, of course). There are plenty of problems to solve in our world, some of them exacerbated by people who hesitate to speak up for fear of losing their jobs. If you don’t know where to start, look into an organization like RESULTS, which as domestic and international outreach and does a great job of helping people learn to advocate in big and small ways.

Flint Water Crisis

My incredible advocate friend Yolanda, at the RESULTS conference.

Because, honestly, using dirty water is no way to bathe a baby, much less feed him or her.

Flint Water Crisis

Source: Democracy Now

**Note — the picture above is alarming, but it’s important to note one of Dr. Mona’s main points: even “clear” water can (and did, in Flint’s case) contain dangerous amounts of lead.

**Note #2 — this isn’t so much a review as an attempt on my part to deal with how furious these types of things make me, and to encourage you to join me in the fight(s).

I am linking this post to Kat Bouska’s site, for the prompt “write a post inspired by the word ‘dirty.'”

Five Minute Friday: ANNIVERSARY

Five Minute Friday

Today’s Prompt: ANNIVERSARY

Trash talk.

That’s what my husband wants for our 26th anniversary on August 8.

Perhaps I should explain.

Our trash is usually picked up on Tuesday mornings.

This past Tuesday, I was working in the other side of the house. It’s odd enough for me to have him home during the day (this is probably a hint for how a retirement could go, although I don’t have much faith that we’re ever going to be able to stop working at the rate things are going….). I like the house to be perfectly quiet while I work, because it takes concentration and has strict deadlines. He was home to take care of a few tasks.

BUT … I hear him: “Hm, that’s weird.” And he’s clearly perplexed.

He comes to talk to me: “I know you’re on deadline but did you perhaps forget to pay the trash bill?”

This is a perennial issue in our home (because it happened once before). I think we have auto pay. It turns out either we don’t or some complication happened because I didn’t give them the new number when our debit card was re-issued after being compromised, or something.

I put off the resolution until my deadline was over.

When I had time, I called WastePro. I emailed WastePro. Nothing.

I finally did reach them the next day.

(Full disclosure: I did have one paper bill that I received a while back, but I disregarded it because of the auto pay I apparently didn’t have….)

Customer Service: “Okay, pay [amount] and we’ll get you set back up.”

I give them my routing #, etc., to pay.

She comes back on the line: “Oh December’s payment didn’t go through either.”

Another round of routing and account number. Rinse and repeat.

***end of five minutes***

The WastePro rep said we would have our bins back in 3 business days. Yay.

Meanwhile, Wayne and I were discussing dinner plans last night. He wanted a plain ham and cheese sandwich from Publix. BUT he wanted me to check our mustards at home to make sure there was one that had not expired. He planned to heat his sandwich at home so didn’t want Publix to put condiments on there.

I arrive home with his sandwich.

When he finally goes to heat it up: “What was the mustard situation?”

via GIPHY

Yes, I had forgotten to check the mustards (turns out we had one that was fine, by the way).

Two strikes.

When the trash can situation occurred, he was more amused than I was.

“You should blog about this,” he urged.

“Not in the mood,” I said. “Why don’t you do a guest post about it if you find it so funny?”

I guess one thing about being married (almost) 26 years is that you learn there are times your spouse just wants you to acknowledge that you heard them and gave their idea consideration.

Well here you go, Wayne, a little anniversary trash talk.

(This is the text I sent him with the good news that our trash bins had been returned to their rightful place at our curb.)

Five Minute Friday

 

Curiosity, Generosity, A Tear or Two – Achieving Midlife Goals

Here’s something that is hazy in my future plan that needs to be much, much clearer: the status of the book I haven’t written.

Here’s something that was crystal clear when I was talking about that stalled dream when talking with Caytha Jentis and Artist Thornton about disrupting myths about aging (for example: at a certain age you shouldn’t bother trying to write a book): the way they vigorously shook their heads in disagreement that it is too late. (See for yourself at the 0:22 mark in this video.)

Besides the incredible bond the three of us developed over a few emails/Facebook messages/test videos and the actual video here, I gained several takeaways that apply both to my book-writing goal and to this stage of my life in general.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Curiosity

Curiosity is one of the qualities Caytha mentioned during our talk. She’s right. I’m sure that’s one of the factors that led her to produce movies and create The Other F Word (check it out on The Girlfriend!).

One of the mental barriers I have had (ridiculous as it is) to writing this book is this: I envision it as an Unbroken-type book: meticulously researched yet beautifully told. I doubt my research skills (but feel I could take a crack at the beautiful telling part….). My internal dialogue has been for years “but you can’t do it like Laura Hillenbrand.”

A bit of reading led me to find out that (voila!) Laura Hillenbrand has succeeded wildly as a writer by being curious, even though her health limitations made it difficult to do field study of her topics. A Flavorwire article about her approach, How ‘Unbroken’s’ Laura Hillenbrand Writes Her Epic Nonfiction, says this:

What you need is endless curiosity…

Rejection is Inevitable, But How Crazy is it When We Reject Ourselves?

Caytha has experienced her share of rejection in the challenging world of production. Artist is making a go of it in a competitive New York restaurant scene with his place, SpaHa Soul. Neither industry is exactly gentle on dreamers.

“If you don’t try, you already have rejection,” said Caytha (i.e., what do you have to lose from trying?). That led me to say “you’re essentially rejecting yourself.” I’ve done my share of that and I don’t recommend it, people.

Cry, then move on

One of my favorite parts of our conversation was the segment about overcoming obstacles. When I asked Caytha about that, I expected her to say something along the lines of “I overcame them because I’m a badass!” yet her first response was “I cry.”

I can’t say I cry over rejection but I do something equally destructive and insidious: tell myself “of course you didn’t [insert goal here] because clearly the other people who do that are better. Really, why did you even try?”

However, beyond the crying is the boxing match. You heard me right: the boxing match.

via GIPHY

Embrace rejection and look at it as a boxing match, Caytha said: go the full round. Not every idea is to be executed — that’s valid. I had a business plan and had to be crafty and find ways to make things happen. Once I went to midlife bloggers, figured out there was an audience, learned how to engage them and tapped into the power of working together as entrepreneurs, it’s like we become part of a larger thing — squaring not doubling – it’s how we become strong and viable.

Be generous

This is my personal soapbox and I will espouse this viewpoint/approach, always (even though I execute it imperfectly). During our discussion on Facebook live, we talked about how we tend to be more generous by this stage in our lives; we have figured out that is where the true power lies.

I will admit this is a struggle for me, because my competitive nature is always right under the surface, sometimes undetectable, and the insecurities that plague many of us lead me to worry about losing out on many opportunities, employment-wise and life-wise, I know that ultimately lifting others up always lifts us up too.

(The Facebook Live I share above is a perfect example of that. I sought out many other people in the process of looking for someone to participate in a FB live about midlife and busting myths. I specifically wanted to make sure LGBT issues were addressed. While I certainly accept the fact that some people just didn’t get back to me at all — we are all bombarded with “opportunities” and can’t do everything, I am giddy with happiness that Caytha and Artist said yes, even though it was a little crazy figure out how to get three people on a FB live at once (thank you, BeLive.tv, for making it happen). These are the people I was meant to do this with, and their generosity of spirit showed throughout the whole thing.)

Back to Laura Hillenbrand

I’m glad I found the article I referenced above, which links to a longer New York Times Magazine piece. Reading about Laura Hillenbrand helps me realize that there is no “one perfect way” to write a book. When her illness forced her to stay home almost exclusively, she had items brought to her so she could understand them (such as World War II bombing artifacts).

I love the idea in the Flavorwire article that Hillenbrand “excels in a particular sort of intimacy, and that intimacy drags you into the story.” It’s certainly one of the many qualities that led me to love Seabiscuit and (primarily) Unbroken — which tied in my love of the running community and Louis Zamperini’s heroic story as well as the World War II theme.

She wrote her book. Her way. With intensive effort and creative workarounds. Maybe this is possible for me also.

Keep Dreams Alive

Throughout my post and Facebook Live about Disrupting Myths, I’ve used the “keep dreams alive” idea consistently but there’s something about it that never sat perfectly with me. For me, it’s not that the dreams need to be kept alive (because they just won’t die….) but that I need to give my dream (the book) structure and priority.

Although I went to great pains in my last blog post on this topic to convince myself that I don’t have to be Laura Hillenbrand to do this (that, in fact, the more important thing is to be *me* with my passion about Camp Gordon Johnston), I was struck by this comment by Jonathan Karp, who bought the rights to Seabiscuit for $100,000 when he was with Random House (extreme diversion to a barely related side note here — I spent a few years as a freelance proofreader for Ballantine Books, which was the Random House paperback imprint at the time).

Anyway, Karp said this: “I keep waiting for somebody to do what Laura did.”

Although doing “what Laura did” needs to be done with my individual touch, maybe once the haze clears, it’ll be me.

Achieving midlife goals

I linked this post to the Kat Bouska site for the prompt “write a blog post based on the word ‘hazy.'”

Achieving midlife goals

The Facebook Live that led to the video I embedded here was done in conjunction with Women Online and AARP. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

Five Minute Friday: THIRTEEN

Five Minute Friday

Today’s prompt: THIRTEEN

I have never seen a yoga mat like the one my teacher used Saturday at community outdoor yoga. (I’ve been doing yoga for nine years, so I’ve seen my share of mats.)

It was round rather than rectangular. It was similar to the one pictured below (and I think this is the brand too).

Source: Mandala Yoga Mat

For the record, she was also wearing a top over her yoga gear that was like a sheer overlay thing — it was ethereal and flowy — and I heard her telling someone that when it is uncinched, it is square. How odd, because it seemed to have no edges except the hem.

The mat fascinated me, though. When I talked to her (Rachel) afterwards, she said it is good for teaching, because when you are teaching yoga, you need to take many different positions and angles, and the round mat enables you to do that while also being protected from the floor.

It seemed like the kind of thing that would give a yogi thirteen options — so many more than a rectangular mat.

With a rectangular mat, if your arms or legs go too far afield from your core, there is no safety. Not that a cork floor in a yoga studio or the grass at outdoor yoga (or faux grass as it were where I have been going this month) is dangerous exactly, but it is a change, sometimes an unexpected one (and sometimes you collide with your neighbor.

It got me thinking that sometimes, in order to teach others, we need to ensure we have a solid cushion underneath us, emotionally or physically, that helps is feel empowered to share without hesitation.

What is something you need to share with someone else? How can you build the protective space you need to feel prepared to do so?

Five Minute Friday

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)

 

Keeping Dreams Alive

I only know of one way to physically become younger. Sorry to break it to you all, but it’s pretty complicated, involves significant risk, entails a significant selection process, and only happens to people named Scott Kelly.

Scott Kelly is an American astronaut who started his 11-month stint on the International Space Station in 2015 as an individual six minutes younger than his twin brother. He came back six minutes and 13 milliseconds younger because, as Kelly explains, “my telomeres, basically these things at the end of our chromosomes that shorten with stress and age, actually ended up longer than Mark’s.”

Mark and Scott Kelly
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Becoming younger isn’t an option, so am I going to keep feeling young?

Participants in a British study reported a self-perceived age of 56.8 years even though their chronological age was 65.8 years. The same study found that participants who felt between 8 and 13 years older than their chronological ages had an 18-25% greater risk of death over the study periods.

I don’t know about you, but it’s easy to let small ideas erode our sense of wellbeing nudge that perceived age upwards. The thing is, some of these small ideas that grow into large threats are not even true! They are myths, and they deserve to be busted.

Here are a few examples, courtesy of the bloggers participating in the #DisruptAging campaign:

Bren Herrera, reminding us it’s never too late to do what we’re missioned for.

Lisa Leslie-Williams, the Domestic Life Stylist, who shared that your best health doesn’t have to be behind you.

Laura Funk of We Got the Funk and her take down of common misperceptions about early menopause, such as it must mean a woman is aging more rapidly.

What if you have a big (really big!) dream? Is it too late?

Many of you who know me or have read the blog know that I want to write a book about Camp Gordon Johnston. I’ll admit to the voices in my head nibbling away at my confidence about that (they mainly say “you’re no Laura Hillenbrand” (I love her writing and research)) while I know that the world doesn’t need another Laura Hillenbrand. The world (and the legacy of Camp Gordon Johnston) needs me (okay that sounds egotistical — but my point is other people besides Laura Hillenbrand can do this story justice. She should be my model, not my barrier.

Join me for a myth-busting Facebook Live!

Thursday, July 26, at noon ET, I’m going to be chatting with two people who are making their dreams happen. They can encourage all of us. My friend Caytha created the awesome series The Other F Word, which was just picked up by The Gilfriend. And Artist Thornton has opened his own restaurant. In “world’s colliding” moment, here’s a scene from Caytha’s show in which you can meet Artist at his restaurant, SpaHa Soul.

Join us Thursday; we’d love to hear what myths you’re trying to bust and support each other as we knock them down (or get started at least!).

Keeping dreams alive

 

Five Minute Friday: WAY

Five Minute Friday

Today’s prompt: WAY

My mom loved her acrylic nails. I think it was about 15 years ago that she started getting them done. After that, she was fastidious about getting them done regularly. As my dad tells the story, she would cut his hair, then he would pay her $15 (or whatever) and she would use that to get her nails done. Sounds like an arrangement that worked well for them.

Mom was not a flashy person at all, but having her nails in great shape was a way, I think, to feel just a little more polished (pun intended!). As a side note, she had a pet peeve about people who always looked completely put together (imagine her voice here) “except they had a quarter inch of slip showing out of a piece of hem” or “their hair was never quite in place” or …. some little thing that kept the image from being perfect (and I wonder where I get my pickiness about words from …. maybe it’s an offshoot of that).

The nails were a problematic barrier during her two months in the hospital. It was hard to get a good oxygen reading. I saw them use a pulse oximeter on her ear one time when they were having trouble getting a reading (that didn’t work out that great either…). Yet they stayed. I guess none of us could figure out how to go through the rigmarole of getting them off there in the hospital. I think we also all thought that her recovery was imminent and she would be able to take care of it.

For her funeral …

*** [end of five minutes]

… I tried to replicate exactly the color she had had over those months. Almost everyone who visited her in the hospital had complimented her on her nails. My dad kept saying, “they didn’t expect someone that old to have such great nails.”

Her hands were a mess after she passed away.  I remember talking to Kaleb at the funeral home about them …. and I think the point was they were too bruised from all the procedures to look right, so they were concealed.

I vowed to always keep my nails done as long as I could afford it in tribute to her (and as a bit of self care).

The time has come, until we get this house sold and some other things fall into place, to hold off.

BUT there is another way. As my income situation keeps coming together, I am also picking up transcription work during spare moments. It may not pay for a professional manicure, but it’ll pay for a bottle of polish.

I’m pretty determined (so was my mom, about many things), so I’ve found a way (for now) to honor her my doing my nails without further breaking the bank. I think I know what I’ll be thinking about as they dry.

Five Minute Friday

Five Minute Friday

Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.)