Rallying Cries for Women Throughout History

27 Feb

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I am, I am, I am — Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

I am, I am. I am, still. — Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale

And Still I Rise– Maya Angelou

I’m a keep running cause a winner don’t quit on themselves — Beyoncé Knowles

Nasty woman (About Hillary Clinton)

Nevertheless, she persisted. (About Elizabeth Warren)

 

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Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, and Our Teenage Diaries

25 Feb

I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets may say. They are not brave, the days when we are twenty-one. They are full of little cowardices, little fears without foundation, and one is so easily bruised, so swiftly wounded, one falls to the first barbed word. To-day, wrapped in the complacent armour of approaching middle age, the infinitesimal pricks of day by day brush one but lightly and are soon forgotten, but then–how a careless word would linger, becoming a fiery stigma, and how a look, a glance over a shoulder, branded themselves as things eternal. A denial heralded the thrice crowing of a cock, and an insincerity was like the kiss of Judas. The adult mind can lie with untroubled conscience and a gay composure, but in those days even a small deception scoured the tongue, lashing one against the stake itself.

Rebecca, Daphne du Maurier

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In Carrie Fisher’s final book The Princess Diarist, she includes exercpts from the diary she kept in 1976 while filming Star Wars. It’s almost exclusively about Harrison Ford.

Carrie and Harrison had a three-month affair on set when Carrie was 19.

It was intense.

In many ways these passages are my favorite thing she’s ever written.

Oh sure, Carrie is an excellent writer and everything I’ve read of hers is smart, but it’s also polished. It’s edited. It’s thought-out knowing an audience will read it.

Her diary, on the other hand, is simply the hurt of a teenage girl in way too deep with an emotionally unavailable man. Also known as All Of Our Teenage Diaries. She says, “If anyone reads this when I have passed to the big bad beyond I shall be posthumously embarrassed. I shall spend my entire afterlife blushing.”

And then, forty years later, she chose to publish it.

Here are some of my favorite bits:

One could never call me a quitter

I take something right and see it

Through until it’s wrong

Auctioning myself off to the lowest bidder

Going once, going twice

Gone

Sold to the man for the price of disdain

Some are sold for a song

I don’t rate a refrain

I knew right away that he was a find

He knew that you  had to be cruel to be kind

Given this, he was the kindest man I’d ever met

Back came my sense of worthlessness

And my long lost pangs of regret

I was my old self again, lost and confused

Reunited with that old feeling

Of being misunderstood and misused

Sold to the man for the price of disdain

All of this would be interesting

If it weren’t so mundane.

I was sitting by myself the other night doing the usual things one does when spending time alone with ourselves. You know, making mountains out of molehills, hiking up to the top  of the mountains, having a Hostess Twinkie and then throwing myself off the mountain.

I gave you far more credit than you were actually due

You see I thought I was only seeing half the man

But that was all there was to you

I can’t focus on the good things. There are good things going on all around me, but I don’t trust them, I can’t make use of them, don’t have the time for them; I’m too preoccupied with my precious panic.It seems to be demanding almost all of my attention. My own personal private collection of panic.

I’ve got to stop fooling around with all these human beings and fall in love with a chair. It would have everything that the immediate situation has to offer, and less, which is obviously what I need. Less emotional and intellectual feedback, less warmth, less approval, less patience and less response. The less the merrier.

Chairs. They’re always there when you need them and while their staying implies total devotion they still manage to remain aloof, noncommittal and insensitive. Immovable and loyal. Reliable and consoling. Chairs it is. I must furnish my heart with feelings for furniture.

It’s very dangerous to have someone like you, because one day he’ll find that you are not the person he thought you were. He’ll end up someday having only one thing in common with you and that’ll be a shared sense of contempt and disgust for you. Of course you knew all along how foolish and worthless you were, you just hoped that if you crouched down behind yourself enough he wouldn’t see it. But one day when your guard is off-duty you see him see. You both catch you at yourself. Catch you behaving. And then you’re lost. No. You were lost all along.

I started with snacking on the inaccessibility of random silent jerks and seem to have arrived at making a full meal of it. Now I’ve had more than enough. I want the check. Waiter?

Call his indifference mystery

Call his arrogance intellect

All you’ve got to lose is your heart

And a little self-respect

I suspect that no matter what happens I will allow it to hurt me. Eat away at my insides, as it were–as it will be. As it always has been. Why am I so accessible? Why do I give myself to people who will always and should always remain strangers? I have always relied on the cruelty of strangers and I must stop it now. I am a fool. I need a vacation from myself. I’m not very good at it lately.

I can’t think about it anymore. It makes my head hurt. My mind works overtime trying to rationalize it, categorize, it, define it until it no longer means anything.Put it into words–you can’t feel words. I think that if I could give a name to what I feel it would go away. Find the word that describes the feeling and say it over and over until it’s merely a sound.

It’s a shame it’s not Mark–it could’ve been. It should’ve been. It might’ve meant something. Maybe not much, but certainly more.

We often assume that when the surface offers so little the depth must be unfathomable. Whatever is inaccessible must be worthwhile.

During the long stretches of silence one can study him, eventually filling him in to suit one’s likes or dislikes. (The satisfaction of one’s fantasy.)  I have filled him in to be unobtainable, disinterested, attractive and bored with my company. My ideal mate. Someone to endure, never to enjoy. I am totally at his mercy. ..I am frightened of the power I have given him over me and how he will almost certainly abuse it, merely by not being fully aware he has it.

I call people sometimes hoping not only that they’ll verify the fact that I’m alive but that they’ll also, however indirectly, convince me that being alive is an appropriate state for me to be in. Because sometimes I don’t think it’s such a bright idea. Is it worth the trouble it takes trying to live life so that someday you get something worthwhile out of it, instead of it almost always taking worthwhile things out of you?

But after all was said and almost done

I was playing for keeps and he was playing for fun

Trying relentlessly to make you love me, but I don’t want the love–I quite prefer the quest for it. The challenge. I am always disappointed with someone who loves me–how perfect can he be if he can’t see through me?

Here I am again

Making the same mistake

Instead of learning my lesson

I just establish a new record to break

I do not want to take part in my life. It can just go on without me; I’m not giving it any help. I don’t want to see it, I don’t want to talk to it, I don’t want it anywhere near me. It takes too much energy. I refuse to be a part of it. If you have a life, even if you get used to it ruining your sleep, spoiling your fun, requiring your somewhat undivided attention, what overwhelming relief one must feel when it finally skips town.

I wish I could go away somewhere but the only problem with that is that I’d have to go, too.

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My Life Flashlights

21 Feb

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Anne Lamott essays

A kind comment on my writing

“Me too”

Putting words to paper

A universal story

Shavasana

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Some Female Artists To Follow On Instagram

21 Feb

Maybe you’ve been following all along, but my life has exponentially improved in the last few months as I’ve started to watch this pack of bright female artists.  They are in the business of translating real life into relatable, digestible art and its inspired me in so many ways. I tried to draw the other day! You won’t be seeing it!

But maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe I’ll post some poetry sometime? Eeeeeeekeeeek.

Poets on Instagram. That’s another story.

Here are the artists and some of their best stuff:

Gemma Correll

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Lucy Knisely

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Sarah Andersen

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Emily McDowell

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Ann Shen

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Kate Bingaman-Burt

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Liana Finck

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Mari Andrew

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Julie Houts

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The Good Things Text

19 Feb

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A couple years ago a friend and I started a daily “here’s what went right” text. At the time, she was going through some really difficult things and naturally, a lot of our conversations revolved around everything challenging and frustrating.

It got exhausting, though. For both of us. It’s exhausting to live life focusing on all that is bad, all that is wrong, all we are upset with. I do it very naturally, with or without difficult things going on.

And so we started the text.

It was hard at first. Some days I would announce that I had combed my hair and that was all I could come up with. Other days she would say she took a shower. Sometimes it felt stupid or ridiculous trying to come up with fake good things when all I wanted to say was TODAY WAS HORRIBLE, FEEL BAD FOR ME.

Eventually though, like any muscle that’s exercised, finding the good things got easier.

My friend confessed that she was doing things just so she could share them. I started to look for what was going right, even the small, fake things.

Over time our lives utterly transformed.

Today that friend is a Buddhist monk, who travels the world sharing how she found inner peace. She’s a multimillionaire self-help author…

Oh wait! Wrong friend!

In truth, that friend and I are still bumbling through life.

We continue to do the “good things” text every day, now with a few more people involved.  It isn’t as urgent as it once was, or as difficult as it once was. She’s in a much better place, as am I. I think the text helped her. I know it helped me. And we may not be Buddhist monk level of acceptance, but my goodness are we closer.

Desmond Tutu talks about this in The Book of Joy with the Dalai Lama. He was asked how he stays positive, even during difficult times like his cancer treatments. He says,

I think we ought not to make people feel guilty when it is painful. It is painful, and you have to acknowledge that it is painful. But actually, even in the midst of that pain, you can recognize the gentleness of the nurse who is looking after you. You can see the skill of the surgeon who is going to be performing the operation on you.

It is put another way in the wonderful, wonderful children’s book All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook. Perry was raised in a minimum-security prison and there learned tricks for surviving any experience with a measure of grace and optimism. One such trick is the “Win-Win.” 

The first ‘win’ means you count all small good things that happen to you every day. The second ‘win’ means you do things that bring victories to others. I’ve heard Big Ed say that at least a hundred times, ‘No matter where you live, you have a community of some kind. And you can be a contributor.’ New intakes sometimes roll their eyes at all of this. But the ones that try to follow his advice, well, it just goes better for them. I’ve seen it a hundred times.

“It just goes better for them.” Isn’t that what it all boils down to?

Life, prison, cancer treatments, it just goes better if you notice and count those small victories even when they seem stupid and fake AND FEEL PITY FOR MY TERRIBLE LIFE.

Tonight I’ll get off of work and likely get Jack in the Box tacos for dinner. I’ll come home and crawl into bed and text my friend all the good things that happened today.

“I wrote a blog post!” I’ll say.

I wrote a blog post and I helped someone choose out a great book and hey, guess what

Today I combed my hair.

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It’s So Simple It Sounds Absurd

17 Feb

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The walk from my car to the yoga studio is about five minutes. Over the river and through the woods. I scale down a hill, pass the pool, make my way through the alley…you get it.

Typically I’m on my phone this whole time, texting and checking and I don’t know. Whatever you do on a phone.

This last month, though, I decided to leave my phone in the car.

It’s so simple, it sounds absurd. Ten minutes a few times a week where I put my phone away. Where I just walk and feel the breeze and say hi to the palm trees and think about whatever I want to think about.

It’s made a difference, though.

The last thing before I step into the yoga studio isn’t an Instagram post, and the first thing when I get out aren’t missed (unimportant in the scheme of things) texts. I have 10 more minutes just to myself. Ten minutes to notice the world around me.

It’s so simple it sounds absurd.

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Hope, According to the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu

15 Feb

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I’ve talked about the struggle for hope and peace in the current world climate on this blog. I’ve talked about it so, so minimally to how I’ve thought about it. I worry that therapy for the rest of my life will focus on how to cope with these times, how to forgive so, so many people.

Oh I’m bad at forgiving.

The Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, however, they know. Well, I suppose they know most everything–they are calm, centered, peaceful people. But they especially know this. The Dalai Lama is a refugee in exile from his own country. Desmond Tutu lived through the South African apartheid. These men know on a level I never will.

And so I turn to them.

Every morning I wake up and read a chapter in The Book of Joy, the book the two of them contributed to. This morning’s reading was so powerful, so timely that I thought maybe it would take years off of my therapy forgiveness if I could just grasp it, just internalize it. I started to compose texts to all my friends full of quotes and thoughts when I realized other people might want this insight too. I might need to reread this insight every day.

So here we are.

Some insight:

Desmond Tutu on difficult world times

What can you do to help change that situation? You might now be able to do a great deal, but start where you are and do what you can where you are. And yes, be appalled. It would be awful if we looked on all of that horrendousness and we said, ah, it doesn’t really matter. It’s so wonderful that we can be distressed. That’s part of the greatness of who we are–that you are distressed about someone who is not family in any conventional way. And yet you feel distressed, equally. It’s incredible just how compassionate and generous people cane.

Desmond Tutu on the world getting better

Yes, we do have setbacks, but you must keep everything in perspective. The world is getting better. Think about the rights of women or how slavery was considered morally justified a few hundred years ago. It takes time. We are growing and learning how to be compassionate, how to be caring, how to be human.

Also related

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice,” Theodore Parker

The Dalai Lama on empathy and forgiveness 

During my meditation, I actually visualized some of those Chinese local authorities and did one of our practices, called tangled, literally meaning ‘giving and taking.’ I tried to take on their fear, anger, suspicion, and to give them my love, my forgiveness. Of course, this would have nonphysical effect on the ground. It would not change the situation. But you see, mentally it was very, very helpful to keep a calm mind. It was a good opportunity to practice forgiveness and compassion. So I think that every person has the same sort of opportunity, this same capacity.

(I need this I need this I need this.)

Desmond Tutu on the nobility of people

It is also good to recognize–speaking from our struggle against apartheid–how incredibly noble people are. You know human beings are basically good. You know that’s where we have to start. That everything else is an aberration. Anything that swerves away from that is the exception–even when now and again they can be very frustrating. People are remarkably, remarkably, remarkably good, incredible in their generosity.

The Dalai Lama on watching the news

When we look at the news, we must keep this more holistic view. Yes, this or that terrible thing has happened. No doubt, there are very negative things, but at the same time there are many more positive things happening in our world. We musth ave a sense of proportion and a wider perspective. Then we will not feel despair when we see these sad things.

Desmond Tutu on optimism v. hope

Hope is quite different from optimism, which is more superficial indelible to become pessimism when the circumstances change. Hope is something much deeper…I say to people that I’m not an optimist, because that, in a sense is something that depends on feelings more than actual reality. We feel optimistic, or we feel pessimistic. Now, hope is different in that it is based not on the ephemerality of feelings button the firm ground of conviction. I believe with a steadfast faith that there can never be a situation that is utterly, totally hopeless. Hope is deeper, and very, very close to unshakable. It’s in the pit of your tummy. It’s not in your head. It’s all in here.

Despair can come from deep grief, but it can also be a defense against the risks of bitter disappointment and shattering heartbreak. Resignation and cynicism easier, more self-soothing postures that do not require the raw vulnerability and tragic risk of hpe. To choose hope is to step firmly forward into the howling wind, baring one’s chest to the elements, knowing that , in time, the storm will pass.

To choose hope is to step firmly forward into the howling wind, baring one’s chest to the elements, knowing that , in time, the storm will pass.

xo

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Kristan Higgins And Romance Novels

14 Feb

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The very long, very hot summer I lived in Arizona, I interned for a women’s website. Every morning as part of the internship, I scrolled through news for the day, reading articles and seeing how things were done. One day I came across an article about a romance writer named Kristan Higgins.

Here, I found it for you.

Look at me, providing props and links and things!

The article discussed Kristan’s latest book and how she loves to write “strong female characters.” Remember when that was a catchphrase? Before we all moved on to just saying “human beings?” I don’t know if we’re there yet, but I hope we are. I think we’re getting there.

Well, actually 2016…

NO, JILL. FOCUS.

I was intrigued enough by the article that I checked out the book. I swallowed it whole and then made it a mission to read every single Kristan Higgins book available in the city of Tempe. At the time, she had published about a dozen romance novels, all with very similar themes. The lead was “strong” and had her career and life together–except for her love life! She lived in a tiny New England town (often her hometown). She loved animals, particularly dogs. Lots of local flavor and charm. Humor! Awkwardness! Love! Always love, with a handsome, flawed, wonderful, wonderful man.

I was hooked.

Kristan’s first-ever book was set in the town on Cape Cod where Rob’s family has a home. I found out that Kristan’s family also has a home there.

It was a sign!

Kristan’s favorite book of all time is Gone with the Wind. In fact, that’s a whole plot for one of her characters, this love of romance and Scarlett O’Hara.

Another sign!

I gobbled Kristan’s books up and then started reading her back blogs. That’s when you know it’s serious, when I’m 2009 deep reading about her firefighter husband. For of course Kristan married a firefighter (McIrish) and lives in her Connecticut hometown, a town with a great ice cream stand.

For of course.

Eventually I got through everything Kristan had offered the world and put her next book on preorder. I then decided I should email her.

I had never done something like this, reach out to an author I love. Write a goopy fan letter telling them they had changed my world and oh hi, you can write back but only if you want giggle giggle. But this was big. Kristan had brought some air conditioning into a very oppressively overheated time in my life and I wanted to truly thank her.

And so I wrote a goopy fan letter.

Giggle giggle.

She responded!

Within a week!

She responded within a week and said, “So great to hear from another woman ruined by Rhett Butler!”

I knew then what I had always known. Kristan was a soul mate, one of the true good people on this oppressively overheated earth. She and I, if only we lived in the same town, would be best friends. We’d shop for shoes and talk writing and in some other universe she was living a version of my life.

The version of my life had I been born in Connecticut. Had I married that firefighter (I never met.)

I still pre-order Kristan’s books every six months. She produces two a year like clockwork and when they show up in my Amazon Prime box I smile a bit and clear the night.

Kristan is Arizona’s air conditioned gift to me.

I’ll take her.

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Where I Thought I Would Be At 29

5 Feb

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This week I finally set up my sewing machine.

I bought it something like eight years ago, at a time when I had more money and no student loans and was living in a much cheaper place. A time where I saw a sewing machine for sale at Costco and thought, “Sure! Why not?”

A time where I knew people with Costco memberships!

It sat in storage as I used my mom’s and grandma’s machines when I needed them.

This week I said no more! No more piling up of my flea market dresses, torn and old, needing repair. No more waiting for my mother or grandmother to step in and save me.

It was a grown-up moment.

Later I fixed my garbage disposal on my own. Hands in deep, with noodles and black beans and corners of carrots coming up. I fixed it and reset it and it’s working and I am an adult.

I’m saving myself.

Someone asked on Instagram today if we are where we thought we would be in life at this age. The answer is no, of course. Is anyone where they thought?

Even the people I know who had a very specific plan and who look like they’re on the road to that plan, have had enormous setbacks along the way. Unanticipated illnesses, pains, relationships much more terrible than they could have imagined.

No one is where they thought they would be.

And when exactly were we doing this thinking?

Was it when I was a young girl, when all I knew of the world was my mother and so I assumed my life would be just like hers?

Was it when I was a teenager and sure I would join the Peace Corps or run a Fortune 500 company, something Dramatic and Intense and Important?

Was it when I was first in love and positive I would get married and have children, support someone else’s dreams, but somehow maintain my own. The somehow the unanswered question.

There are so many versions of who I thought I would be and where I thought I would be at 29.

Many of them included marriage. Some included children or book deals or millions of dollars.

I have known what I’ve wanted and then I haven’t. I’ve known that I wanted Something More, the Belle complex. I’ve known that the somehow was important to me. That it was really the only question.

So no.

I didn’t think I would be here at 29.

I didn’t think I would be in a tiny apartment in a tiny beach town and have a really nice, writer boyfriend of three years.  I didn’t know we would spend date days going on walks and eating his pasta.

I didn’t think the idea of being a librarian, something so attainable, would give me so much joy. I didn’t know that writing would be so hard or that I would experience so much rejection. I didn’t know how much I would work on my mental health. How much I would like yoga. That I would give up pants. And bras.

I didn’t know I would love my hair or make smoothies for breakfast. That I would fix my own garbage disposal and sew my own clothes and it would still suck, even at this age.

I didn’t know how hard it would be to find my place in this world—geographically, emotionally, professionally–but that the fight, the fight to figure myself out would be the thing that was worth it.

Of course I didn’t know.

Thank heavens we don’t know.

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The Six Types of People in Trump’s America

31 Jan

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There are some truly terrible things happening right now and I do not want to minimize that or ignore that. Every day I am trying to balance being informed and taking action and not letting anxiety rule me. I am still working through what this current climate means for my writing and this blog, but I wrote this in my attempt to understand how we are all coping right now. I have been most of these people at different times, sometimes within the same day.

I am trying my best.

I believe the vast majority of us are trying our best.

The Six Types of People in Trump’s America

 

1. The avoider

“I just can’t bring myself to look at the news right now. It’s too much.”

2. The hysteric

“ALL I CAN DO IS LOOK AT THE NEWS AND THEN EAT AND THEN LOOK AT THE NEWS AND THEN EAT AND NOW I AM A SNARLED MESS OF A HUMAN AND NOTHING WILL EVER BE RIGHT AND THE HISTORY IS REPEATING ITSELF WHY ISN’T EVERYONE SEEING THIS AND HOW DID WE GET HERE?”

3. The fighter

“F*** this s***. Where’s the protest? Where are we meeting?  Not on my watch!”

4. The yogi

“There are three aspects to the ‘yoga of change.’ First is ‘tapas’ or giving yourself a new challenge. Second is ‘svadhyaya’ or self-study and reflection on what you learned. The last is ‘isvara pranidhana’ which is letting go of thinking you can control it. If you’ve done the first two, you now must let it go.”

5. The religious

Psalm 37:37 A future awaits for those who seek peace.

6. The willfully ignorant

“It’s kind of funny to watch everyone freak out haha. Please! I burned my tongue on my drink, Trump’s fault!”

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