“I Will Be Blessed” by Ben Howard
Heaven is a place we hold.
Heaven is the arms that hold us
Long before we go
If you’re there
When the world comes to gather me in
I will be blessed
Heaven is a place we hold.
Heaven is the arms that hold us
Long before we go
If you’re there
When the world comes to gather me in
I will be blessed
The last post that I wrote was over three months ago.
I’ve started a few posts, but haven’t been able to finish them.
Partly because I haven’t really had an hour to breathe since mid-February.
Partly because I have nothing to say.
Partly because I have so much to say that I don’t know where to start.
Truth be told, this time of year always gets me a little down. Every year since my dad passed away in June 2014, a general malaise and “I’m-so-done-with-this-whole-life” attitude sets in around Memorial Day and doesn’t lift until mid-June (which, sadly, is always when Father’s Day happens).
There are still a few hundred others things I should be doing right now (and as I type this, I’m falling further and further behind), but I am utterly burned out, and WHATEVER, I need to do this.
In the mood for some rambling?
Here we go.
Three months. Three funerals.
One, a lifelong friend who has known me since I was 8. Her death, expected, but still difficult.
One, an acquaintance, whom I had only met only a few times. Husband of my colleague. Father of four. His death, sudden and unexpected, the last page of his story, ending in mid-sentence. Tragic, confusing, and unbelievable.
One, someone whom I have never met, but whose words created a new space for me in the Christian faith. Writer. Theologian. Mother of two young ones. Her death, also unexpected, tragic, confusing, and unbelievable.
The lifelong friend that I lost was the mother of a close friend, the kind of person who knew everything and anything about how you grew up, who you were, and what kind of person you are still becoming. Her funeral was the only one that I had any time to process, a full “luxurious” nine hours to speak at the funeral, cry, and rest with a coffee cup in hand while hearing and telling stories. (Thank you, babysitters.)
And then there were three tornadoes that tore through my hometown, though mercifully not through my neighborhood. On the morning of Tuesday, May 29th, I got texts and messages and emails, “Are you okay? Let me know.” Our community’s tragedies, front page national news.
This is the tough part of Life.
When you have to keep doing all the responsibilities, all the work, the chores, the parent-teacher conferences, dentist appointments, birthday parties, oil changes, groceriesgroceriesgroceries, not to mention all the future-focused, long-term plans (Should I go back to school? When? Change jobs? When? What kind? Where? How?)
Do all of that, while you’re reminded over and over again that:
We will all die.
Our children will die.
The homes that we build and the things that we acquire will blow away, burn, or crumble.
The great achievements that we work toward and glory in will fall into ruin and be forgotten.
Even if what we do amounts to something on this planet, Earth is still in the midst of the Milky Way, which is spinning towards Andromeda, and billions of years from now, all of this will explode in another fiery end.
What does it all mean?
Okay, right, obviously it does matter to my children that I teach them how to love and show kindness. That I live my life in a way that I want them to live.
Of course, yes, that matters.
I guess what I’m wrestling with is the truth that,
the plans and aspirations and goals that I have in my life… aren’t really that important at all.
What does it matter if I never have a boss that can appreciate my competence rather than be threatened by it?
What does it matter if I’m never paid enough for the work that I do?
What does it matter if I never make another creative thing–a book, a post, a video–that other people enjoy?
Why does it matter so much to me that I be productive, that I continue to achieve… because all of things that I’ll make and achieve are really just dust.
Or, more likely, bits of data, easily erased or buried.
That truth is the same for all of us.
But perhaps what is different is our conclusions about that truth and how we let it affect our lives.
And then there were these words from Nadia Bolz-Weber at Rachel Held Evans’ funeral.
While it was still dark.
So I guess there is something that you find at the bottom of the pile of grief, that continues to grow because there’s never time to process it all.
There is some measure of peace in knowing that it’s okay.
Whatever I do.
Whatever I don’t do.
Whatever I plan to do, but am never able to accomplish.
All is well.
On February 15th, NPR’s Morning Edition ran a segment on “Singles Awareness Day,” focusing on how single people shouldn’t feel so alone because everyone else, apparently, had such an amazing Valentine’s Day.
Here’s how Valentine’s Day went down in this house, where two kids and a marriage of 13 years reside.
Wednesday, February 13th: Spent the day at home with the toddler because of a diarrhea bug, which was mercifully mostly over by Wednesday. Lost time for grading and planning.
(Calm down: This is the extent of the day’s romance.)
The Day’s Redemption: I achieved not one, not two, but THREE full sleep cycles.
So, let’s dispel all those myths that married people / people in relationships are having amazing Valentine’s Days.
Because at the end of the day, what married couples of so many years with young kids really want is SLEEP.
This is going to be quite the year.
That has been the feeling for at least the past 12 months, since the youngest child started becoming mobile. In the back of my mind (as I’m transferring clothes from the washer to the dryer or moving dry dishes to the cabinets or dirty dishes to the dishwasher), I’ve had this nagging feeling that…
Perhaps, it’s all over.
“It” being my ability to reclaim any empty moment for myself.
If, by some miracle, an empty moment finds me during the day, and I choose to use it for myself, I’m overwhelmed with the feeling of Oh my God, you should be doing something else right now! You are so far behind!
But then, the thought: Behind who? Behind what?
My pre-child self? Because she’s been dead for quite a while. And the hope of her resurrection is pretty much gone.
But then there’s the realization that, There is no end to this.
At least not for the foreseeable future.
This is my life now.
Moving from task to task to task to task until the day is done.
My life has become an endless treadmill of tasks that begin at 4:00 a.m. and pull me along, chug, chug, chug, until I throw in the towel at 6:45 p.m.
I don’t mind being busy. Sometimes, I even revel in being busy. Instead, what pulls me down is when I feel like I’m not growing or changing for the better. If I’m not pushing myself to learn more or grow, boredom soon sinks in. And that makes it harder to find joy and purpose in what I do.
So with that in mind, here are a few things that I’m trying out this year, as a way to grow and change.
The rationale here is…
I’m afraid of math. And I’m tired of being afraid of math.
So I wondered, What it would be like to learn math without being afraid of failing? What if I could go at my own pace and see how far my limits take me?
It’s also great preparation for taking the GRE (I may or may not be thinking about a Ph.D. program in the future).
Again, this is something that I’ve been afraid of. Maybe because it’s mostly a male-dominated field? But it seems like learning how to code is becoming not only useful, but necessary as computing power doubles, triples, quintuples.
This is unabashed escapism. I’m okay with that.
Some mothers have daytime TV.
Some have romance novels (I never could get into those. Too formulaic. Too many one-dimensional characters.)
I’ve got fantasy fiction.
So, Fellow Parents, gather your provisions and your fortitude, and breathe deeply.
It’s going to be a Long. Long. Journey.
The glory of our driveway.
a.k.a. the Site of Endless Driveway Turnarounds.
This is also the reason my husband staked two steel trellises on either side of the driveway. Which, yeah, are continually knocked over by people who don’t know how to stay on a driveway.
So. A lemonade stand.
Good thing our daughter wants to be a “Lemonader.”
Rocking my almost two-year-old son in the rocking chair.
The humidifier steams. The white noise machine zzhhhhhhs.
Faint lights from passing cars travel across the walls.
With his soft breath against my shoulder, I rock back and back and back. One year. Two years. Five years. Ten years. As many Christmases as I can remember.
Plenty of happy ones.
Plenty of ones filled with tension. (Growing up in a house with four teenagers will do that).
Plenty of forgettable ones in my 20s. (That limbo between getting married and having kids.)
Now, we’ve entered a series of Christmases that no longer mean comfort and joy or the most wonderful time of the year.
There was the Christmas of Nausea (2012), when I grasped for ginger candy and Sea Bands or whatever anyone suggested that might help me ride the waves of first trimester nausea. From December until mid-January. (Truly a delight, let me tell you.)
And the 37-Weeks-Pregnant Christmas (2016), when I told myself that I only had three weeks left to go. (It turned out to be another five weeks. Yeah.)
And all those fun Christmases of Illness (2014, 2017, 2018). 2017 was by far the worst, as the baby’s diarrhea stretched on for a few weeks, taking us all down into its shitty vortex.
And the downright sad Christmas (2015) when the baby’s heart stopped beating. After I had a D & C on New Year’s Eve, I sat in the parking lot of Whole Foods while my husband bought me a slice of apple pie. I listened to “Long December” by the Counting Crows and cried.
And it’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell myself
to hold on to these moments as they pass
But if I’m really thinking about the Christmas when everything in my life changed direction, when I started plotting a course that brought me to this rocking chair, with this child in my arms, while my oldest sleeps in her bed across the hall, I always end up traveling back to Christmas of 2002.
It was Christmas Eve. 11:00 p.m. At Wal-Mart. And I was standing in the card aisle. Looking for cards for a few friends and my boyfriend. I had no trouble picking out the cards for my friends.
But I was having the hardest time picking out one for my boyfriend of three years.
Forever and always. My one and only. Meant for each other.
I couldn’t even pick them up to consider them.
Because I understood, suddenly and completely, that I couldn’t see a future for us anymore, the way that I used to.
What was our future? It was his vision for what we would become. A married couple. A house. No kids. I could be a teacher, but did I really need any more education than a Bachelor’s degree? Why did I want to travel when he was the most important thing in my life? Wasn’t a life with him good enough? And kids? Why have kids? They just ruin a good thing.
And for a long time, I thought, Yes, of course. You’re right. You are the only thing that I want in life. I couldn’t possibly want anything else. Right. I don’t want kids. Nah, too much work. We’d be much happier by ourselves. Living our life together without kids getting in the way.
But I did want more. Much more. And in time, conversations about the future brought me back again and again to a realization that I could not ignore.
We had come as far as we could together, but now there was more pulling us apart than was keeping us together.
And although my heart had been feeling that way for some time, I didn’t want to give up. I had poured so much of myself into making it work. I wasn’t a quitter. I didn’t want to hurt anyone. I liked his family. I didn’t want to make life more difficult or more inconvenient for anyone.
And above all, I didn’t want to believe that although love can bring people together, sometimes it wasn’t enough to keep them together. No one makes movies or songs about the power of finding someone with compatible values and goals for life, or someone who trusts you and works with you to resolve conflict. It’s not sexy enough. And if I’m being honest with myself, I didn’t have the vocabulary back then to even articulate the problems.
I just remember thinking, This isn’t working.
I thought that a lot.
And yet, I was like the women in my family who came before me: devoted and long-suffering, servile and contented.
To end this relationship was not within my repertoire. At all.
But I also couldn’t lie to myself.
And therefore, I wouldn’t lie to anyone else anymore either.
I paid for the cards for my friends, got in my old car, turned the heat up, and flipped on the radio. The voice of Stevie Nicks reached through the speakers and the tears rolled.
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
I don’t know.
Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
Because I built my life around you
But time makes you bolder, children get older
And I’m getting older too
I didn’t realize it yet, but when I left that store that night, I had changed the entire trajectory of my life.
Because the very next guy that I dated became my husband.
Three years later, we were married.
And we had two kids.
I know. I know.
It’s what we’re tempted to believe: That all the decisions–good and bad–that we’ve made in our lives have brought us to a point for which we’re ultimately grateful.
But, had I made different decisions, would I have ended up somewhere else, where I would be equally as grateful?
But what I do know is that I did something extraordinary on Christmas Eve of 2002.
For years, I imagined my future, married, but no children. Never kids.
But on Christmas Eve of 2002, I allowed myself to imagine a different future.
A life in which, someday…
I might have kids.
It turns out, as it is with a lot of things, the biggest steps that we take all start with a thought.
The simple willingness to imagine a different future.
That ability to imagine a different future has taken me far beyond the original course that I had plotted for my life. It has helped me imagine that I could get a Master’s degree. And travel overseas. And change my political and religious beliefs. And write a book. And lose forty pounds. (Three times, yeah.) And relearn algebra. (It’s true.)
And, yeah, it has helped me to imagine a life that includes kids.
And, with endless gratitude, it has helped me imagine a future moment in my life when my children won’t always need me every moment that they are awake. And a time when we won’t have to pay for babysitters. And a time when we can travel with them without losing our minds.
What about you?
What different future do you imagine for yourself?
And what will you do tomorrow to help you get there?
While I normally LOVE to be productive and useful, the past few days, I have done little else besides completely veg out.
This is what I do to myself: I do ALL THE THINGS. For months on end. (I won’t even list them out. I’m sure you have your own list of ALL OF THE THINGS).
And while I’m doing all of those things, I think in the back of my mind, When I finally have some time to myself, I’ll do X or Y. (And X or Y is usually a second-priority item from ALL OF THE THINGS that I just don’t have time for).
And then I hit a wall.
And then I do NONE OF THE THINGS.
(Are you like that? I can’t be alone in that.)
I don’t do skirts or pantyhose. Or makeup. I “sleep in” until 5:30 or 6:00. (Sad? Meh. It’s tolerable.) It’s the fluffy pink bathrobe around the house (most of the day, at least). In this week before Christmas when I’m not teaching, without a shred of guilt, I send my beautiful children to daycare.
And I am finally alone.
And what do I do?
Let’s start with what I DON’T do.
I don’t think about upcoming presentations or writing that I could be doing. I (mostly) don’t write. It’s not because I don’t want to. It’s simply because after so many months of giving pieces of myself to everyone else, I’ve got to have time to turn inward and fill my own cup.
Instead, I watch movies and shows. I read books. I listen to podcasts or read articles that I’ve been meaning to read for months. I exercise when I want to. I send the cards, I dole out the Christmas bonuses to every lovely daycare teacher that deals with our kids, and I stuff the stockings.
In fact, I kind of love that part of Christmas. Because it gives me time to think about the people in my life for whom I’m grateful. It takes a village, right? Damn right, it does. And I want my village to know that I’m grateful for every blessed day that they take care of my kids so I can continue to pursue my own goals.
I also get the few gifts that we’ll give our kids. (Don’t tell them, but it’s a few small games, some Play-Doh, hand puppets, and some winter clothes.) We don’t really do many gifts at Christmas. My husband and I don’t exchange gifts. Seriously. What’s the point? Instead of gifts, what we’ve said we’re going to do for each other is give the other person a solid day of not having to take care of the kids from sunup to sundown.
(Merry Christmas, BG. Love you.)
Love my kids.
But I also enjoy such privileges like, I don’t know, setting my own agenda. Or making a decision based on what I feel like.
Guess what I discovered over the past few days while my kids have been at daycare?
7:00 a.m. is the perfect time on a winter day to go for a run. The sun is just starting to come up and the frost is still crisp on the fallen leaves. It’s light enough to easily spot patches of ice, but the sun isn’t high enough yet to blind you. And in that perfect light, your breath comes out in fluffy white puffs, momentarily adorning the air.
And I love lying still on the middle of the living room floor, eyes closed, no damn phone in my hand or notifications calling for my attention, for a solid 30 minutes.
And laughing about South Park’s Buddha Box.
And crying with PBS’ newest version of Little Women.
And thinking about Black Mirror’s Hang the DJ.
And reflecting on how much the kids have grown this past year.
So this Christmas, I’m happy to Bow Out, Sign Off, and Check Out.
And be happy to do None of the Things.
Hoping you all find your own Time and Space and Peace.
Because I have pretty much no time to write lately due to a combination of factors and because I feel like, Come on, it’s been a whole month and you’ve written nothing…
Totally expecting to find only memes related to the infamous Clerks’ line of “I’m 37!?!“, I was surprised to find that googling “I’m 37” led me to a several humorous tidbits that have helped me to celebrate my 37th birthday this year.
2. Monty Python: I’m not a lover of Monty Python (though my husband is). Still, this made me laugh out loud.
3. “37 Things I’m Thinking about Now that I’m 37” by Casey Lewis.
Please enjoy this gentleman’s thoughts because I really don’t think I could have done any better in explaining where I’m at in work, relationships, and reckoning with my place in the world.
And here are some birthday artifacts that I’ve found particularly humorous. Kudos to my birthday buddy, Cate, on her clever birthday cake ideas.
She’s also great at picking cards. (We’re also Game of Thrones buddies.)
Cards from my husband (respects my love for puns) and daughter (practicing “cursive”):
My daughter’s first “Writer’s Workshop” in her kindergarten class. The teacher interviews one student a day and records their ideas on paper for the whole class to read together.
Lately, most days pass by in a blur of responsibilities with barely more than 10 minutes at a time for me to catch a breath and retreat into much-needed alone time.
And then I remember:
Oh, sweet Lord.
Here we go.
I can still see you holding my three-week-old daughter in our living room, rocking in the glider. You offered to stay overnight at our place and help out with the night feedings on occasion, and we gladly took you up on the offer.
You cradled her in your arms, your gaze landing on her tiny face, your hands tracing her tiny hands. You said, “Oh… This is the best.”
“Really?” I asked, thinking of how unbelievably sleep-deprived I was. “The newborn part? Not when they were older?”
“Well…” You paused for a moment, before breaking into a wide grin, “Actually, it was all pretty awesome. But this… I just have such fond memories of my nursing my boys.”
I smiled. You rocked.
“But honestly,” you said. “I really loved it all. Every moment of it. I’d do it all over if I could.”
We talked for a time about your health, as you had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer several years earlier.
“I remember praying to God,” you said, “And I said, ‘Well, if this is my time, then it’s my time…'” Then you broke into that same wide grin, “I thought, ‘But, I sure hope it’s not!’ Turned out it wasn’t yet, and now I’m just grateful for every day I have here.”
After the initial shock that you had recently passed wore off, I combed over my memories of you. Things you had said to me first as a student, and then later as a kind of occasional life mentor. And I arrived at a common refrain:
I’m sorry I couldn’t see what you were trying to show me.
I remember all those times when I was your student and I was working through physics problems. Rather than teaching the laws of physics deductively without fully understanding their application, you used a clever, inductive reasoning approach to help students discover the laws for themselves.
I didn’t realize how clever of a method it was. I just knew it was making me think. A lot. And because I didn’t trust my own logic and judgment, it made me nervous.
When I’d come to you with a set of questions or completed problems, ready for you to approve so I could move on to the next module, I remember thinking…
I hope I got the answers right.
I hope I don’t look stupid in front of you.
I hope I don’t let you down.
I remember you gently asking me to consider, once again, what was the difference between acceleration and velocity.
You knew how to talk to a fragile overachiever like me. You didn’t tell me I was wrong. You just asked me to “tighten up” my understanding.
You were also merciful to the class as a whole. I remember a time when our entire class failed a quiz. You stood at the room, your right hand clutching the frayed edges of notebook paper, and you said somberly, “Well, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The bad news is…everyone failed.”
A brief moment passed to let that information sink in.
“The good news,” you continued cheerfully, “is that you can take a second quiz to replace that awful grade!”
For you, there was never failure. There were just more opportunities to try again.
For you, it was never about arriving at a destination.
It was always about the journey.
I wish I could have seen it that way. I wish you could have brainwashed me completely into seeing the world as full of wonder and possibilities.
It makes me sad to admit it, but I held myself back in your class.
I wish I could have let go of my fear of getting a bad grade in order to really embrace the deeper mysteries that this universe holds.
But I was young and insecure. I defined myself by what I achieved. And if I didn’t achieve, who was I? What did I have to define myself?
And so, I wouldn’t allow myself to imagine a future in which I was uncertain of whether or not I would succeed. I wouldn’t take the risk of pursuing a career in science or math. Because I was convinced that eventually, people would realize that I was an impostor. It would all catch up with me and I would fail.
So instead, I would carve out a path on which I wouldn’t fail.
Because, after all, what was worse than failing?
I was young. I was insecure.
After high school, I stayed in touched with you because your son married my good friend, Linda. I saw you over the years at get-togethers at your house or Linda’s house, and each time, you were the same: smiling, laughing, joyful.
You still peppered your speech with intonation and emphasis that made a lot of what you were saying into either Great News! or A Good Joke!
You were always interested in what I had to say, no matter what I talked about. You were that way with everyone, I think, and it’s why people loved you. You cared about what people said. You didn’t just listen–you heard people. Maybe this was because you found joy, real joy, in the happiness of others.
This is partly what made you such a great teacher: You were able to see me as a whole, complicated, unique person, someone more than just the scared-of-math-and-science teenage girl sitting on the left side of your class from August 1999 to May 2000.
But your willingness to being authentic with me also helped me see you as a whole, complicated, unique person.
Reciprocity like that is rare. And it is powerful.
Last night, I had a dream. It was one of those recurring dreams that you feel like you’ve had hundreds of times before (and it’s a mystery to you why you’ve always forgotten about it in your waking life).
I was walking a perfectly paved path, high in the most beautiful, lush mountains I’ve ever seen. But it wasn’t cold. Even the highest peaks had no snow. As I walked that path, I was completely free of any responsibility that I’ve ever had. I was so untethered, I felt like I was floating.
I was so, so full of joy.
And the music. If I knew how to compose music, I could have written out all of the notes when I woke up this morning. But that memory is fading.
What stays with me from this dream is my certainty that I was coming back.
I had been there before. Many times.
And I was home among something beautiful and wild that had missed me as much as I had missed it. And my joy was coming from the realization that I had been away for so long on a journey that had taken me everywhere but here. That everything I needed to do and everything that people needed from me was completely finished.
But it was the journey that made my coming home so joyful. For how can you be as joyful to see something that you never left?
It was all those moments spent with my own students, from countries far and wide, who first awakened my own curiosity in other ways of seeing the world. The same ones who helped me open my mind to the fact that (shockingly) there were so many ways of seeing and living in the same world.
It was all the times I thought well, this well definitely be the thing that breaks me… and then it wasn’t.
It was all the happiness, the stories, the hugs, the missed chances, the blatant mistakes, the fights, the kisses, the stress, the doubts, and all the uncertainty of the journey…
That made coming home so joyful.
What happens when we die?
I used to be so certain of the answer to that.
I used to be so well-educated on all things spiritual, particularly in my senior year of high school. I had answers, and those answers were supported by carefully selected Bible verses.
But I’m being a lot more honest with myself these days.
And I’m willing to say, I don’t know.
What happens when we die?
During my morning runs this week, I thought about this over and over again.
If we are more than body, what happens to us? Where do we go? Do we travel to some higher dimension that we can’t possibly imagine with our three-dimensional brain? Will I return to this heaven in the mountains, some strange place that calls to me for reasons I don’t understand? Do we review our lives in retrospect, weighing everything we’ve done? Do we wait between worlds until we feel ready to move on? Are we re-united with the ones we’ve lost? Or do we lose all sense of self and join a larger, higher consciousness? And what would that even be like?
I thought a lot as I ran.
And then clarity hit me.
I was finally doing the thing that you were trying to teach me.
I was wondering.
I was in wonder.
I was allowing myself to not have the answers. To allow myself to live in the space of uncertainty. And I was doing it without thinking of myself as a failure.
Isn’t that what you were trying to teach us the whole time?
To wonder? To think?
To allow yourself to not have the answers, but by God, to think about it.
Sometimes, clarity hits you in odd ways.
Sometimes, it comes to you as you think about a loved one passing.
Sometimes, it seems almost supernatural.
Because when I slowed to a walk during one of my morning runs, I looked over at the sign for the apartment complex down the street. Lots of things around here are named “Normandy.” Normandy United Methodist Church. Normandy Elementary. Normandy Ridge Road.
But in that moment, the sign of the apartment complex was partially covered.
And all I saw was,
It was my honor to have met you in life. I hope we meet again, if that’s what happens when we die.
If you see my dad (You can’t miss him. He’s about 6′ 3″, mostly bald, and he’ll be wearing a short-sleeved dress shirt, tucked into his swim trunks, which he calls his wrestling todds), please tell him that I’d give anything to listen to one of his annoying political rants, even if it meant hearing the words Make America Great Again hundreds of times–as long as he makes me his Famous Thresherman’s Breakfast when he’s done.
After this last month of news that American women have had, I think I can safely say…
I haven’t always been interested in space travel.
Truth be told, I’ve only recently found the idea very appealing.
I’m pretty sure the strong desire to leave this planet is emanating from a deep sense of doubt in humanity’s ability to overturn–or at the very least disrupt–rampant systems of oppression.
I could go on. I won’t. I’m sure you’re familiar with the issues.
And so. Here we are. Women are told to vote (assuming our vote makes a difference–it doesn’t always). We are told to run for office (assuming we have the means and support to do so).
Sure, I’ll vote. I always do.
But in the meantime, if I’m really being serious, I have more faith that you can get us off this planet than I do in the American electorate’s ability to consistently move our country forward. Climate change is happening fast and if we’re still having arguments about whether or not it exists…
Is that sad or cynical? Maybe.
Or it could just be a logical estimation of the possibility that enough people who disagree with the direction of the country will actually be motivated enough to travel to a polling place and cast a ballot.
Societies are slow to change.
For most of human existence, patriarchy has been systemically and structurally embedded in society after society. (Precious few have managed to organize society differently.) Now that many of the factors that originally led to the necessity of patriarchal societies have been altered (division of labor, access to education, etc.), those same underlying assumptions that supported patriarchy are being either called into question or actively fought against.
Yes, societies are so, so slow to change.
Unless, that is, the people in those societies are taken out of their cultural context–and planted somewhere else.
This is one of the reasons why New Zealand and Australia were the first nations in which women gained the right to vote (1893 and 1902, respectively). European settlers (or invaders, from the indigenous people’s perspective), removed from their previous cultural context and banding together to build a life in a new land, were suddenly very flexible on the issue of women’s rights.
Women were, in fact, key to building these societies.
The same happened in the United States.
Women in the U.S. first gained the right to vote in…Wyoming.
And so, Elon, it’s not so crazy to believe that hitching my wagon to your star is, ultimately, quite feminist.
Might I suggest that our new civilization have some political structure where 50% of positions of power are necessarily occupied by women?
Just a thought.
I know people have called you erratic for smoking pot on Joe Rogan’s show…
Really? That was the main takeaway?
You talked about so many more interesting topics than that, like your vision that AI could be used as a tertiary level of cognition. And the fact that everything we put on the Internet is “a projection of our limbic system.” (Mind. Blown.)
I watched the whole thing (in 10-20 minute snippets over the period of a whole week while I folded laundry, graded papers, and ate lunch at my desk while simultaneously answering emails…).
I think you’re magical.
PayPal wasn’t your passion. It was just a $100 million thing you did so you could sink money into what really interested you: developing real plans for getting humanity off this planet (since we haven’t mustered enough political will to seriously try to figure out how to stop completely trashing it.)
You create electric cars that can drive themselves.
You build rockets that can take off–and land back on Earth.
You dig holes to develop a futuristic hyperloop that someday might take us across the country in like, 10 minutes, or something obscenely fast.
You create solar panels for roofs and electric semi-trucks that can haul the entire weight of a diesel truck–Uphill.
And you talk about the future with not only hope, but confidence.
I dig it.
You’ve made me a believer.
When I saw Interstellar, I thought, “Okay, if I were living on a spaceship that is basically a moving city, I could totally be sold on the idea of leaving Earth.”
Let’s leave behind a world that makes fun of science and learning and instead, embraces curiosity, courage, and the path less traveled (or never traveled, as the case may be).
Let’s try once more to make a different world where systems of oppression don’t emerge because of our lack of resources, tribalism, and ingrained patriarchy.
Let’s colonize, Elon. (#commassavelives)
Maybe you can’t tell, but I have a celebrity-crush on you. One of those crushes that you have for famous people that you’ll never meet in real life, but somehow you still think that maybe there’s the very minuscule possibility that our paths could cross… And if they did…
You probably have a girlfriend. That’s cool.
I’m married. To a very great man, at that. He is extremely smart, too. He had me at his tattoo of the Golden Ratio.
(Can he come, too? Oh, and maybe my two kids? I swear I’m raising them to be decent human beings.)
Your achievements have come up in conversations among our friends, many of whom are engineers. I’m pretty sure my husband’s words were, That dude doesn’t care about money and he’s just crazy enough that he might actually succeed.
Admittedly, I am not a scientist or engineer. I did well in high school biology, physics, and chemistry (I excelled at balancing formulas.) I struggled in algebra, but I loved geometry (Proofs were fun.) But science and math were really not my thing although I have tons of respect for those who live and breathe those fields.
But your new world is going to need more than scientists and engineers who can help take us into the future.
It’s also going to need people who can make sense of our past.
And I am full of stories.
I have other qualities that make me a good addition to your “space-bearing civilization.”
My special talents include:
Thanks for giving me hope that as a species, we may not be doomed to a future in which misogynistic, narcissistic, entitled men are necessarily destined to rule this planet indefinitely, to the detriment of the vulnerable and voiceless.
People like you make me remember that there are many people in the world who are trying to improve the planet and preserve the longevity of our kind.
P.S. Can we please leave Mitch McConnell and his ilk behind? Much appreciated.
And oh, and this is AMAZING.
And for those of you who didn’t immediately get the reference in the title…
A few warnings:
I kind of ramble in this post. Forgive me for that. It’s very hard to create any coherent stream of thought in regard to this thick web of issues that have become impossible to disentangle as we talk about today’s current events.
If you prefer not to read a woman writing in an “unladylike” manner, now’s the time to close this page.
Call me bitchy. Or unladylike. Whatever.
Like many other women my age, you can’t shame me for not being ladylike.
Because we have seen that being the good girl often doesn’t get you ahead and it sure as hell doesn’t get you heard.
So if you’re still here, allow me to bitch away.
You’ve got a problem. With women, specifically.
You do realize that 50% of this country is women right? You do realize that women vote, don’t you? You do realize that younger women (a.k.a. the future electorate) are more likely to believe that women are not to blame for their own sexual assaults, right?
I don’t think you do. I think you’re still banking on the idea that there are enough people in this country that aren’t completely offended by your support, nay, your approval, of a man who has been accused of sexual assault by three different women.
But why should it matter to you?
After all, 19 women accused Trump of sexual assault and harassment, and “the American people” still elected him.
Your political calculation is pretty clear to me.
You have been so, so very eager to get to the godly business of making sure that women can’t have abortions. Ever, if possible.
(At least, that’s the cover story. I’m fairly certain your fervent support of Kavanaugh has more to do with your expectations about how he’ll rule on matters of political finance and other much more boring, but far more pernicious, topics that don’t captivate the attention and ire of millions of Americans.)
No. You are very eager to “protect the unborn.”
That’s still what all of this is about, right?
Protecting unborn life is the reason that you’re willing to promote a man who is accused of sexual assault by three women to the Supreme Court.
(Excuse me for a moment: My brain just threw up…)
That’s why millions of us watched Christine Blasey-Ford’s worst nightmare come true on live TV. That’s why we all tuned in to see what Brett Kavanaugh had to say about the accusations.
We’re in this political maelstrom because Judge Kavanaugh may be the deciding vote on future court cases that may overturn or severely chip away the protections of Roe v. Wade.
In short, what you, Republicans, are saying is that the rights of the unborn are decidedly much more sympathetic compared to the rights of women who have been sexually assaulted.
But today, many young women see attacks on Roe v. Wade as what they really are: attempts to control women’s sexuality and their bodies.
Maybe you’ve noticed lately that women in their 20s and 30s and 40s are not so easily shamed anymore by the old, “You don’t want to be a bad girl, do you?” playbook.
That has to be hard: to know that the women are becoming more impervious to the blows that knocked previous generations down far quicker and for far longer.
Today’s women get up much faster. They speak out much more.
And we aren’t going away.
Let me lay it out for you in the simplest terms possible (because I assume you are skimming. You’re busy. I get it. #MomLife)
(Probably because so many of you are Men-Who-Cannot-Imagine-the-World-Through-the-Eyes-of-Women.)
This is what is so frustrating about the Republican platform. Your campaign messages champion upholding family values, strengthening the economy, and keeping government small, but your political actions aim to create a very different reality for all of us.
Republicans, your track record is awful. Let me count the ways.
You hurt women by admitting that Blasey-Ford’s testimony was heart-wrenching and credible… but she still must be mistaken about who her attacker was.
You hurt girls by insisting that sexual assault committed by teenage boys is just “horseplay” or “roughhousing” and that men shouldn’t be accountable for the actions that they commit in high school.
But let’s not forget all of your…
Favorite Hits of Ways to Hurt Families:
You hurt families by cutting spending on education and forcing teachers into unspeakable working conditions. And then appointing Betsy DeVos. (Sigh).
You hurt families by cutting Medicaid even though most of your constituents depend on it.
You hurt families by cutting food stamps or raising the work requirements for those receiving welfare.
(Haven’t you heard unemployment is at an all-time low? What’s wrong with you? Go get an $8 an hour job to support your four kids, you Low Life! In fact, go get three of those jobs just so you can make ends meet and never see your kids. What? You can’t get enough hours in one place to qualify for health insurance? Guess you should have thought about that before you had four kids! Why didn’t you use birth control? Well, whose fault is it that you can’t afford it? It’s not the government’s responsibility to make it affordable for you to have birth control. Just stop sleeping with your husband or make him wrap it up. That shouldn’t be too hard, right? Take some responsibility for your reproductive powers!)
…is the message that seems to come together in a person’s brain when they consider the barrage of “typical conservative things to say in an argument.”
You hurt families by saying nothing when the leader of your party allowed children, toddlers, and babies to be taken from their parents’ arms when they came to the border seeking asylum from violence, blamed Democrats for the problem, backtracked, refused to accept responsibility for his actions (does he ever?), and then left our government bureaucracy to clean up his mess. (Oh, right. Sorry. Immigrants don’t count as “real families,” right? Feel free to disregard this point.)
But, remember, you also hurt the working poor by applauding Trump’s efforts to “blow up” Obamacare, even though it’s providing crucial health care for dying coal miners.
But what hurts the most today, in this moment, is that you hurt families by using women’s bodies as a political weapon.
And make no mistake–chipping away women’s rights hurts families.
Does it scare you?
The very noticeable fact that…
Who are we?
Women who work full-time, part-time, all-the-time.
Women who still make less money then men who do the same work (thanks to the cultural dilemma of gender in salary negotiations).
Women who pay taxes.
Women who still don’t have any nationwide guaranteed parental leave after giving birth.
Women who give birth in a country with unreasonably high maternal mortality compared to other developed countries.
Women who spend half of their salary on DAYCARE just so they can go to work. (Citation: Me).
Women who raise kids by themselves, with their with a partner, with cobbled-together daycare and babysitting, with parents, with friends when the sitter is sick.
Women who are routinely passed over for promotions based on the assumption that, because they’re mothers, they’re probably “more family-focused” at this point in their careers. (Never considering that those same families would probably benefit greatly from their mother’s promotion.)
We’re women who run PTOs.
And women who run for political office.
Women who do the grocery shopping, the oil changes, the doctor’s appointments, the RVSPs, the thank you cards, the school pictures, the flu shots, the pharmacy pick-ups, the fundraisers, the endless permission slips and photo releases and medical forms.
We’re almost always the ones that get called at work when a child is sick. And we’re often the ones who end up staying home with them.
Educated. News-watching. Well-read. Thinking. Talking. Podcasting. Blogging. Campaigning. Running. Voting. Women.
Republicans, you’re the first to talk about how expensive universal preschool would be or how un-American subsidized daycare would be, or how much guaranteed paid parental leave would hurt business…
In short, you sure know how to make women feel unusual, unwelcome, and burdensome.
But you’re welcome–for giving birth to your future tax-paying citizens.
(Can we please not pretend that our birthing and raising of children has no economic value? Since, apparently, that’s all you seem to care about. Oh right. No. You also care about “protecting unborn life.” And “born life?” That’s my responsibility. I’ve got it. Thanks for the clarification.)
I watched both of their testimonies.
And I believe her.
I. Believe. Her.
I think it’s clear that Ford is not some manufactured pawn in a widespread liberal conspiracy.
I also believe that Kavanaugh is furious that his family and his credibility are being raked through the mud now. (Maybe he grew up over the years? Maybe he’s different? Maybe he’s the same aggressive drunk that he was in high school? Hard to say. Maybe the hard-won FBI investigation will help clarify?)
And I believe that Kavanaugh is furious that Christine Blasey Ford is so credible and that his big chance of having his greatest dreams realized is coming crashing down all because he acted like a giant douche in high school.
Is that really so hard to believe that Brett Kavanaugh may have done these horrible things to girls and women?
Not for me, it isn’t. And I don’t think it’s hard for many women. We all remember guys just like him in our high schools. We remember similar jokes circulating in school about boys who joined the “Name of Girl” club, as a way to mark their sexual conquests.
We remember the college parties where some entitled, rich White guy drank way too much and thought shoving his penis in women’s faces was funny.
The more we’ve heard about Kavanaugh’s yearbook and the nicknames, the more we remember how small and dirty we felt when we received the jokes, the taunts, the “innocent” slaps or pinches, the touches.
And for some of us, we remember the groping. The assault. The rape.
All of us remember the shame, the shame, the shame.
I hope it’s all worth it to you, Republicans: the loss of confidence, indeed, the complete betrayal that women all over this country are feeling right now.
(And the women who don’t feel betrayed are still playing by your Good Girl playbook.)
But that’s not what angers me the most.
What angers me the most is that you hurt of all these people…
Because, apparently, they believe that everything else is secondary to the primary goal of…
…protecting unborn life.
God works in mysterious ways…Who’s to say that Donald Trump isn’t a vessel that God is using to accomplish his purpose of ending abortion in this country?
… is a maddening rationalization of every abhorrent thing that our president has ever done and will do.
As a former evangelical Christian, this reasoning doesn’t surprise me.
But as a progressive Christian now, this logic absolutely disgusts me.
And it’s embarrassing for you to claim that you do.
But what do you care?
You’ll still be able to pay for an underground abortion if your wife finds out at 16 weeks that her baby has anencephaly and she’s already grieving for her child and you don’t want her to continue to carry the pregnancy, give birth, and watch her child die in her arms.
You’ll still be able to secure an abortion if, one day, your daughter really needs one–because she doesn’t want to raise a child with her prom date just because he didn’t have a condom and you thought she wasn’t old enough for the pill yet. (And the whole experience puzzles you because, it’s weird. Your daughter isn’t usually the kind of girl that gets in trouble like this. It’s not like she’s a slut, like the girls that this usually happens to. Right?)
But for me, you have crossed the point of no return on this.
Oh, it’s true, I was pretty sure that I’d never, ever vote Republican again after Trump was elected even though the entire country heard his raspy, old codger’s voice saying, grab ’em by the pussy.
But presidents aren’t elected for life.
So, never again.
You will never win my vote back. All because of your lack of empathy and foresight.
Because for you, the possibility of overturning Roe v. Wade was such a juicy prize that you were willing to steamroll right over the bodies of dozens of women and their claims of sexual assault.
But I wish you had courage to say what you really mean.
(Courage: Maybe you are familiar with the concept? It’s what Blasey-Ford demonstrated when she talked about her trauma, live, in front of a national audience.)
So, yes, I wish you had the courage to say what you really mean:
Deep down, maybe you think women are conniving, manipulative, back-stabbing, selfish, and left unrestrained, whorish.
(Not the ones that you know, of course, but other women, definitely. You see it happen all the time.)
Deep down, maybe you think women need these laws to stay in place. To keep them from sleeping around and being sluts. Deep down, maybe you think that these laws will actually stop abortions from happening. Deep down, maybe you think that these laws will actually stop women from having sex with men with whom they don’t intend to have a family. (Or being raped by men with whom they don’t intend to start a family.)
Just kidding. Women can’t get pregnant by a “legitimate rape,” right?
But let’s be real.
Outlawing abortions won’t stop them from happening. Did Prohibition work? Nope. Instead, we got mafia and bootleggers. Did making marijuana illegal work? Nope. Just ask Jeff Sessions.
Or let’s turn to guns, your other favorite issue. Did making the AR-15 illegal work?
Oh, right. Just kidding. We would never dream of making a semi-automatic rifle illegal. That’s our constitutional American right. Right, Brett Kavanaugh?
But the right for women to control what happens to their bodies?
Nah, that’s not theirs to decide.
Unless she’s assaulted by a future Supreme Court nominee.
Then what happened to her body is the business of the entire country.
It’s our right to be able to judge for ourselves how traumatized she really is.
It’s our right to be able to compare ourselves to Blasey-Ford and insist that we would definitely report a real sexual assault and speculate about the gaps in her testimony.
It’s our right to be able to hear all the details of the assault from both sides and decide that, ultimately, we’ll never know who’s telling the truth (and an FBI investigation would just take too much time and the Blue Wave is coming…), so let’s just quickly vote on this guy (even though we blocked Obama from having his SCOTUS nominee) so we don’t lose our chance to…
…protect unborn life.
I think I’ve got it now. Thanks for listening.
It all makes so much more sense now that I’ve written it out.