What Does It Mean To Be An Ally?

Yesterday we all woke up reeling to the horrific news about the worst mass shooting in US history. Yesterday I mourned, cursed, and cried. Today I continue to mourn but am also wondering what it means to be an ally.

I haven’t changed my Facebook profile picture. I haven’t posted my feelings about this tragedy. I haven’t publicly offered my sympathy to the victims or their families. No one directly impacted will read my status so who would I be offering those thoughts to? Would it just be to make myself feel better? Would it be a token of solidarity to my LGBTQ friends or would it be another example of someone in a privileged group co-opting a cause? And if I say nothing does that give the impression that I don’t care? Does that impression matter in the grand scheme of things?

As much as I want my LGBTQ friends to know that I understand how horrific and frightening this is what I really want to express is that I *know* this isn’t about me or how *I* feel. I am an ally but that doesn’t just mean that I speak out for the rights of others. It also means, sometimes more importantly, that I listen. I listen to my LGBTQ friends and their families. I listen to the stories of the victims. I listen to leaders in the equality movement and *their* suggestions for what I can do to be a true ally. This group does not need another straight, white, cis woman, who has never questioned which bathroom to use or if it’s safe to hold her partner’s hand in public, to speak on their behalf. There are plenty of people already speaking for themselves if we only listen.

FedEx, Delayed Gratification, and Building Paradise

A few days ago a FedEx delivery man came to my house with a package. We exchanged pleasantries as he handed it to me and then he turned to leave. As I was closing the door he turned back to me and declared what a beautiful home we have; he seemed especially enamored with the flower beds in front of the house. He actually gushed, asking where we got our pavers, the types of flowers, all the while looking at it all with a bit of wonder. I answered his questions, thanked him and he was on his way but his words, especially the enthusiasm behind them, stuck with me and caused some contemplation. 

When I was a little girl my grandmother had a beautifully landscaped yard with old growth trees in rows, trimmed hedges, and not one but two bench swings. I thought it was paradise. She’s since passed away but I still drive past her house multiple times per week (it’s on my route, I’m not stalking the house!) and I still love that yard. And now I realize, thanks to the gushing of a stranger, that although the details are different (roses instead of hedges, woods instead of trees in rows, etc.) we’ve built our own beautifully landscaped, albeit modest, yard. 

It’s taken a long time, we built this house 14 years ago and it’s only been in the last couple of years that the yard has started to come together.   For a long time after we moved in we didn’t do much, we were tired from the arduous task of building the house ourselves and busy raising kids. Then, as the kids grew older, we started doing small projects. A pergola for the deck, a structure for the wood furnace, a bedroom in the basement. And, slowly but surely, landscaping for the front yard. I’ve often chastised myself for not doing well with delayed gratification; I’m easily frustrated when the rewards aren’t coming quickly enough. But now, thanks to the FedEx man, I know that I can follow through when it really matters to me. When the desire is pure and runs deep. 

We sit here a lot,on the front porch where I’m writing this, to catch up on the day, laugh at the hummingbirds, and just relax but now I’m trying to imagine what my (far in the future) grandchildren will think of it. They won’t know that the bird bath and bench, which look like they’ve always been in the front yard, were actually bought the first year we were married and moved multiple times before they found a home under the hickory tree. They won’t know the years of shoveling mulch year after year until we could finally, FINALLY afford to put rock in the flower beds. They’ll never sit on the uncomfortable chairs bought on clearance that had to do until we saved up for the outdoor furniture we have now. It won’t cross their mind that I once sat here admiring the yard before some future feature, yet to be imagined, even existed.  They won’t understand, like I didn’t swinging in my grandma’s yard, that these things are built over a lifetime. But I do think (hope) it will be a place of wonder like my granmother’s yard was for me. Their idea of paradise. 

Yep, I’m Unfriending People

It’s been over a year since I’ve posted to this blog. Life has been busy. I write but don’t polish so nothing sees the light of day. But I find myself increasingly frustrated with election season and I need an outlet so I’m back. 

The main source of my frustration is Facebook. Too much misinformation and half truths floating around. I could just scroll past it but every time I do have a little voice inside me that challenges me for not speaking up. And when I speak up I’m anxiety ridden because I hate conflict. My business requires I spend some time on social media so walking away completely isn’t really an option either. It’s a no win situation. 

So, here’s the deal. In an effort to maintain my emotional and mental well being I’m unfriending and hiding people (some family members hound my mother when I unfriend them so hiding makes things easier for her). Not everyone. Not for sharing political views that differ from my own. Just those who post vitriol, lies, and/or illogical memes, articles, and rants. If you think that’s a cowards way out, you may be right. But I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do so I’m not walking around constantly feeling anxious. I may miss some posts I’d really like to see of kids, vacations, promotions, etc. but again, I’ve gotta do what I’ve gotta do. 

And for those who share opinions without shaming, lying, and falling for logical fallacies, thanks. I’ll see you on Facebbok. 

Forty Firsts #6: Bridal Expo

Last weekend I had the opportunity to participate as a vendor in a local Prom and Bridal Expo. 



Multiple vendors offering goods and services for weddings and other formal events gathered together to meet (mostly) brides. Each guest had a “passport” that had to be stamped by each vendor for them to be eligible for door prizes which meant each and every bride came to my booth where I was able to talk with them about honeymoon destinations and the advantages of using a travel agent. I’ve never been a vendor before and I’m very introverted so I really appreciated that the organizers of the event set things up this way. 

I was the only travel agent present and, in addition to having a lot of fun, I felt like I made some great contacts. I haven’t actually gotten any new clients yet but that’s okay. It was a fantastic experience and over the course of the day I fine-tuned my message which will be helpful as I move ahead with my business. I was able to let people know that not only are my services free but that they are VALUABLE. 

The more I said this aloud to others the more the idea was reinforced to me. Sometimes I need the reminder that people aren’t doing me a favor by utilizing my services. We are entering into a mutually beneficial relationship as agent and client. I’m only beginning this year of firsts and I can already see that it isn’t just going to be about new experiences but new understandings. I’m ready. 

Practical

I consider myself a pragmatist. I don’t really care if a glass is half full or half empty because quibbling over the semantics doesn’t change how much water we have to work with.

Water if we're lucky, I suppose.

Water if we’re lucky, I suppose.

I see no point with hand wringing and worrying about things which we can’t control or change. We move forward from where we are with what we have. This is pretty much how I approach everything in my life from health concerns to financial issues. So, after my first Katy Trail walk I realized that I needed to adjust my plans.

There is simply no way I’m going to finish this before my 40th birthday. It would entail a level of training I simply can’t sustain. I would be walking a section of the trail the length of a half marathon or more on a nearly monthly basis. This would require hours of walking multiple times per week to keep myself conditioned for the task. I didn’t really anticipate that when I began and I simply don’t have the time or the energy for it. This doesn’t mean I’m giving up, it simply means I’ve let go of the arbitrary deadline of my 40th birthday. Instead of combining sections of the trail I’ll do one at a time with more manageable distances and increase those distances more gradually. I’m pretty happy with this new plan because this challenge is supposed to test my limits but not break my spirit in the process. And the prospect of another walk like the last one simply wasn’t something I was looking forward to repeating on a monthly basis for a year and a half. So, I adjust and I make no apologies for that to myself or anyone else. I look at what I need along with the new information that presented itself and I shift accordingly.

Don’t get me wrong. I was disappointed and I had to talk it out with my BFF to wrap my brain around giving up on the image of a big celebration after my last walk to mark both my completion of the challenge and my 4oth birthday. I was frustrated but then I just stepped back and made a new plan because it was the only practical thing to do.

Tapestry

summer-vibrations-susan-rienzo

I sometimes go for long stretches without posting on this blog. Not because I have nothing to say but because I SO MUCH to say and I can’t seem to narrow it down. My mind feels a bit like that tapestry pictured above; rich hues woven with subdued undertones, vast and varied, complementary and contradictory at the same time. How can pink and orange belong in the same space? This is what I ask myself when a post about unschooling earns me several new followers but the next day I would rather write about Health at Every Size; do these really belong in the same space? Won’t I alienate or annoy people if I’m too broad in my postings? Is the fact that I can’t seem to commit to one passion the reason I so often feel like I’m struggling to find my place in the world?

Ah, there it is. The thing that’s really bothering me. I’m almost 38 and I still feel myself struggling. In many ways I’m content and feel I’ve grown into myself but I’m still easily bored, easily frustrated, easily distracted. I see a few people around me who have One Big Passion, something to really sink their teeth into and build from. Their work, their community, their life is all connected to the that Big Passion. They have that bright red tapestry that catches everyone’s eye, makes us ooh and aah, and gives off a vibrancy that is contagious. Their Passion, like any bold tapestry, is the focal point of their life with everything else in their metaphorical house complimenting it.

red tapestry

 

I see still more people with One Big Passion alongside other passions thrown in the mix that seem complimentary. Their tapestries are beautiful arrays of blues and greens with just enough contrast to create interest but enough commonality to remain a binding focal point.

index

These types of tapestries are what I’ve longed for and tried for too long to recreate as my own. Much the way a piece of art can bring everything in a room together it seems so can a Passion. Or if not a single Passion at least a few that seem to compliment each other.

But HAES has nothing to do with unschooling. Unschooling has nothing to do with geek culture. Geek culture has nothing to do with self improvement challenges. None of these have anything to do with me waxing nostalgic about my kids. And yet here I am, talking about all of them. I can’t pick one. I’ve tried. (That’s a link to my first, abandoned blog because I got tired of writing about just one thing.) Even this blog began as self improvement challenge but I couldn’t sustain that so I changed it and now I’m a bit all over the place.

But I suppose that’s okay because I am the common thread for all those interests. I am what weaves them together into one tapestry. I am that array of colors at the top of this post that sometimes contradict each other. It’s time to accept that I’m not bright red. Or even complimentary blue and green. This is sometimes a struggle because it lacks focus which can feel isolating and also make it difficult to find a path. But it is who I am and it has it’s own strength and beauty which has to be is enough.

Carole-King-Jpeg

 

 

 

Worth It

In my last post I mentioned that I rarely spend money on myself but for this challenge I have. That’s actually kind of a big deal for me. When I spend money on things I want, and sometimes even on things I need, I feel selfish and indulgent. Intellectually I understand that isn’t true (or perhaps more accurately, it is true but it’s okay to be selfish and indulgent once in a while). But knowing and feeling aren’t often the same thing. So, it was with a lot of anxiety that I bought some things…

keep2A guide book, some comfortable clothes for walking, headbands, a backpack with a water bladder for the longer walks, and some money set aside for new shoes as soon as I get to a store with people to help me find the right pair for my needs. Not much (but still a significant amount of $$ for our budget minded family) and yet I’m feeling the need to justify these purchases, to reassure myself that it’s worth the money I’m spending. And one of my justifications is giving me pause.

When I’m being completely honest with myself I acknowledge that little voice in the back of my mind that is patting me on the back for being a “good fatty”. For those not familiar with that term it boils down to this… A lot of people are raising their voices to promote size acceptance and some of those people like to break down the stereotypes that fat people are lazy, have difficulty with physical activity, aren’t athletic, have high blood pressure and cholesterol, etc. It’s an important message but has created a bit of backlash because now some people think that overweight people are worthy of acceptance only if they defy these stereotypes. A recent viral blog post (which I’m not linking because it doesn’t deserve it) was supposed to be inspirational but was really very condescending in this manner. The thin runner was “proud” and “inspired” by the fat runner, upon whom they heaped heavy doses of stereotypes. This went viral because other thin people couldn’t understand why I person of size wouldn’t be flattered to be complimented on being considered good and worthy of admiration by people who are obviously superior. (No one says this outright but it’s in the subtext; kind of the way some men are flabbergasted when women aren’t flattered by catcalls or some white people still think articulate is a compliment.)

So, you can see why it bothers me, a loud proponent of size acceptance, to find myself feeling proud of being “good” in the eyes of other people. Yes, I’m excited about this challenge and have a lot of sound reasons to be proud of myself but there’s also a tiny little part of me that is proud for a really dark reason. That dark little part was one of the reasons that made me feel better about spending money on myself. Not because it made me happy, would improve my health, would help me have more joy (which are ALL true) but because other people would see me being a good fatty. Ugh.

claire-danes-the-nineties-shk-jared-leto-my-so-called-life

And then I remember, as my angsty teen self learned so long ago, that I am not a toaster. I’m not just one thing. I am a confident person who is accepting of myself and my body. I am also a person who lives in this world full of size stereotypes and has faced discrimination and judgement as a result. And I have feelings and thoughts that reflect both of those (and a multitude of other things). And true self acceptance is acknowledging those dark corners of yourself without judgement. I see that this is something that is still an issue for me, that I still have some work to do. But then I remember how far I’ve come in this journey and I know that darkness is a part of me but it is not all of me.

So, I lace up my old walking shoes, put on my new clothes and walk. A little bit in the interest of being “good” and “worthy” but mostly because it feels good and makes me happy. And I am definitely worth that.

keep