Thursday, June 27, 2013

Leaning into the journey...

Whew. Since my last post, the past few months have felt like a whirlwind. Work afforded me more special projects on top of my regular responsibilities. My son’s first year in high school brought added busy-ness when baseball season hit. I had to start taking more drastic steps to deal with an aggravating knee problem – which finally got diagnosed as tendonitis. I started working on a new workshop about building contentment in one’s life … AND then, somewhere in the middle of all of this, we moved!

Yes, as if life weren’t stressful enough, we had to move in the middle of the school semester. Thankfully, we were blessed to find a reasonably-priced home in a decent neighborhood, but this cute little fixer-upper ended up needing more fixing in the beginning of our move than anticipated – more unexpected change.

On many occasions, I reminded myself that this was just temporary...taking comfort in the fact that the pain associated with change eventually passes. But there were plenty of times when the pressure of managing it all had reached a boiling point, and I really was feeling overwhelmed. Despite being a general optimist in life, reality was reminding me that this is oftentimes easier said than done…thus, when life takes you through rough patches, the real test is “are you who you say you are?”

SO, here was the universe, taunting me: “Ok, lady who likes to live with a positive attitude that everything will be alright…let’s see how well you walk the talk. Let’s see how your new found ideas about building contentment are supposed to work now?” (universal sarcasm)

Shit…I had no answer…it was a humbling process indeed, but a much needed one. What I thought I knew as some “helpful” tools to help deal with life’s challenges, turned out to be recognition that I really didn’t know how to put them into play when I needed them to. However, with lots of reflection and soul searching I came to realize a couple of things:

(1)  Many people have a lot to offer in terms of wisdom, advice, living strategies or tools – just look at all the self-help books and popular psychology books out there. Everyone has an idea about “what works.” But only you can determine which belief or system resonates strongly for you…there is no singularity of “truth” on how to be or how to live your life. How you choose to live it is as unique as the individual heart and soul.

(2)  We all think we know how things are supposed to work, but the real adventure in life is the not knowing. So many times when life deals us a strange set of circumstances, it’s easy to become anxious or resistant to seeing where things will go because we want a particular outcome – a positive outcome. We want things to work our in our favor. But the outcome is invested in the adventure itself – how do we handle it? Did we resist what was coming our way? Or did we just sit back (with a twinge of excitement and nervousness) and just let things play out, as nerve-racking as that process can be? The bottom-line: What can we say we learned about ourselves in the process? 

(3)  It’s always easier said than done. Perhaps that is a truth, lol…despite my own level of assuredness and faith that all things happen for a reason, I have to admit that it’s often easier to resort to doubt or rely on past ways of coping than to stick with a more evolved approach. I am reminded of Pema Chodron’s words, “…when you see the storm approaching, lean into it, and let it pass through you.” When you’re about to reach breaking point, those are hard words to swallow, lol, but indeed, she is talking about acceptance about our situations. And I’ve come to realize that by doing a quicker assessment of the type of storm or storms approaching, I’m better able to prepare myself for the leaning-in that will be required of me. I’ve also noticed that by not holding expectations or setting time constraints about how quickly a storm should pass allows me to just stay present and focus on experiencing the here and now.  

It’s been a wild few months for me and the kids, but I’ve come to appreciate them for their wealth of teachable moments…in fact, as of this posting, we are still riding the waves (blog material for later posts J). So for now, it seems appropriate to acknowledge the learning thus far... For the constant reminder that life is not a simplistic journey but rather a process fraught with unpredictability, familiarity and the unknown.  

Despite its dissonance and whimsicality, I am grateful to be on this grand adventure called life…and ever mindful to keep leaning in every step of the way.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Can You Consent to Rape?

My 22 year old daughter came home excited the other day about some news. “Did you hear about it, mom?” she asked, “did you see the video of some reporters’ and how they were commenting about a rape case?” I feigned ignorance, even though I knew she was talking about the rape trial that had been going on in Steubenville, OH. I wondered if she’d had the same impressions as I did… and she did. “I can’t believe they said it!” she exclaimed. “I can’t believe they acted as if the boys didn’t do anything wrong! And what about the victim?”

The troubling broadcast she’s referring to is CNN’s live coverage which aired on March 18th. (If you haven’t caught it yet, the link is provided below at the end of this post). So here’s what’s disturbing about the broadcast: the reporters are acting as if the boys just received punishment for a crime they didn’t commit! The depth of sympathy portrayed for the rapists was akin to likening their circumstance as victims of some unfortunate accident…Really????!!! (steam rising from my head)

And what about the victim? Sadly it’s a full six minutes before the victim is even mentioned…and a statement from the victim’s angry mother about the sentences the boys received. Gee, wouldn’t you be angry if your 16 year old daughter was raped AND pictures of her rape were posted all over Facebook by her rapists???

There’s such an emotional disconnect here: sympathy for the rapists and intolerance for their victim’s anger. It doesn’t make sense.

And where’s the consideration for the victim in all of this? What about the lifelong scars that she will have to deal with? As one blogger aptly noted, rape carries consequences with it that only the victim alone must bear. Three years in a juvenile facility seems inconsequential compared to the life sentence that was given to this young victim.

But wait… this gets more tragic.

My daughter then described to me how the news was hitting the proverbial Facebook fan. I listened… and I listened intently, because what young people think is always telling in terms of how far as a society we’ve evolved. Amidst the mix of responses, one discussion was particularly disturbing to me because it was a reflection of the “blame the victim” mentality. In sum, the comments concluded that: yes, rape is wrong, BUT the girl was partly to blame in that situation (for her own rape) because she had allowed herself to get too drunk. She should’ve known better.

Wow… that’s not new news to me, but I have to admit I was taken aback by it. This was someone my daughter knew, and who was also a college student. But this comment, like so many others in the she-was-asking-for-it camp frequently touts that women are to blame – at least in part – for their own rapes because: they dress too provocatively, act too sexually seductive, are in the wrong place at the wrong time, are high on other substances, etc. Somehow these victims are inviting rape based on what they wear or how they act? If that’s the case, I guess we should tell people to stop driving cars that will make them targets of carjacking or tell folks they should stop using their credit cards lest their credit and/or identity get stolen.   

That sounds ridiculous right? So why doesn’t it sound as absurd when we say a woman asked for it? Why can juries believe that a woman who is drunk and provocatively dressed consented to being raped? Or better yet, that she knew or should’ve known that she put herself at risk for that to happen.

The sad tale is that we have much work to do in helping folks – especially our young men - understand that rape is about forcing yourself, your will upon the victim. It’s not about sex, it’s about power. It’s about violating and subjecting another person to what you want, without their opinion or despite their protests. There is no consent if the other person is intoxicated or under the influence of something else…and NO, you aren’t allowed to presume that there is consent just because they can’t tell you “NO.”

Despite what you believe about whether a victim can or cannot consent to rape, this issue reminds me that the specter of double standards still looms. So here’s another double standard we can add to the list (sad but true):

“When a woman is intoxicated and is assaulted, she is often blamed because she was drunk and she shouldn’t have been.  When a man is intoxicated and assaults, he is often forgiven because he was drunk and didn’t know better or couldn’t control himself.”

I feel sadness for Jane Doe and her family… and am saddened even more that we as a society, still have a ways to go when it comes to things like this. I wish it didn’t take public tragedies like the Steubenville rape to raise the discourse.

what do you think?

Link to CNN video:


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Ho-hum…Just Another Valentine’s Day

Another Valentine’s Day has come and gone…sigh. There’s something about this holiday that makes it seem “exclusive”… like it’s a holiday only if you happen to be in a relationship that day – for people flying solo, you need not apply because this is a holiday for lovers! Lol..

For lovers… or for love????

You would think that with all the hype and commercialization that goes on around this time of year that retailers would’ve got smart by now and realize that they’re missing out on a huge part of the market: singles. Sure, they’ve got a sweet deal going on by creating valentines for kids give to out to each other…and it helps of course that the schools require kids to bring enough Valentines for every member of your class. But what about single adults? There are plenty of them out there – just look at the myriad of dating websites that exist. There are sites for the young and the old, the millionaires and the not-so-rich, from Christian-specific to any religion, and of course, even ethnic specific. Singles come in all types of shapes, sizes, and belief systems and yet Valentine’s Day retailers have failed to capitalize on this. What does this say to us? That singles are somehow unlovable???
There’s something about being solo and a mid-lifer that lends itself to seeing the day differently. I’ve been able to enjoy Valentine’s Day in a different light – without any feelings of sadness, self-pity or loss. Sure, I may not be in any relationship with a “lover” but there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be enjoying the day as a celebration of LOVE, period.

Growing up, Valentine’s Day was always a big deal… in large part because my dad really enjoyed the holiday. Without failure (and even up to now), my dad would buy us kids a heart-shaped box of chocolates accompanied by a Valentines card that in so many words said, “I love you.” As an adult, I have always appreciated the gesture and as a parent, I have continued my father’s tradition by bestowing a box of my kids’ favorite chocolate on this day. But as a single person, you can’t help but feel cheated (at least in the earlier years of singledom) by this holiday because of its overemphasis on couples and couple-hood.

It’s bad enough that being single does bring about a certain amount social stigma from time to time. When you’re young and still quite attractive, it’s not such a big deal… it’s easy to deflect the “why aren’t you married yet?’ queries with excuses about the lack of good dating prospects. It’s quite another story when you’re a mid-lifer. I’ve observed at least three things about this status:

(1) People tend to assume there’s something “wrong” with you because you’re still single;

 (2) People think there’s something “wrong” with you if you are genuinely happy without a significant other in your life OR they doubt that you could be genuinely happy without one; and

(3) If you’ve ever been married before and are now happily divorced, people presume you’re damaged goods…and therefore probably not good relationship material either.

AND all of these stigmas get magnified ten-times over if you can answer “yes” to any of the above on Valentines Day.

For example, this year for Valentines Day I treated myself to a lovely lunch, bought myself some wonderful new shower gels at the local Bath & Body Works store, got dressed up and went out salsa dancing. While at the nightclub, I was in conversation with a newbie to salsa when he asked me, “So, did you get a lot of chocolate and flowers today?”

Hhhmm…the question caught me completely by surprise, and I wasn’t quite sure how to answer that. Immediately, a number of other questions began to swirl around in my head: If I tell him that I didn’t, will this person think less of me? Will I somehow be perceived as “defective” because I don’t have a special someone to give those to me? I entertained several such questions for about five more seconds before going with my gut.

I then replied with a large smile, “Why no. I believe it’s all about loving yourself too. Valentine’s Day isn’t just for couples; it’s about LOVE, and loving yourself as well. So I treated myself out for Valentine’s Day.”

I think my answer came as both a surprise and a reassurance to him – as if he realized that there was no sin or crime for being single…and that Valentine’s Day need not be a painful reminder of the past. I later learned that night that he was still dealing with a fairly recent divorce… and he was feeling the shame and stigma that can often be felt when you have to explain away your marital status, i.e., single status at midlife.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that Valentine’s Day (like Christmas) should be celebrated every day! If we truly see it is as a celebration of LOVE, then the special things that we do or say should be happening each and every day with all of our loved ones, whoever they may be.

Happy V-Day