Raising My Standards

I’ve been thinking a lot about a term I’ve heard more and more in the last several years: Microagressions. It’s usually used in terms of how we slight members of marginalized communities. How we’re all a little racist or misogynist. Since that term has entered my vernacular, I’ve noticed a lot more subtle bigoted behavior. This has heightened my awareness of these small behaviors that are often just subtle way to be…well…mean.

Most of us probably look at ourselves as good people. We come forward with donations when a community member needs support, we offer condolences when someone experiences loss, we suffer sleepless nights after global tragedies. And I do believe all of this is good. I know that by those standards I’m very good. But…the more I have looked at my life the last few years, the more I have noticed my own tendency towards small slights of other people (these microagressions) – and it’s making me take a harder look at how I define “good” in my world.

I think the rise of social media and the ensuing surge of stories of terrible people has allowed us to excuse ourselves more and more for smaller slights. I mean, I haven’t gone on a racist rant in the middle of a store and told a person with brown skin that Trump is going to kick them out. But I’ve seen no less than three similar videos of other people doing that since the election. I mean – that asshole is a TOTAL RACIST. And because I see that type of behavior shared out regularly, I have defined that behavior as “bad” and by default myself as “good” without recognizing the smaller negative acts I may commit daily.

You know how we all have an increased fear of kidnappings because our media allows us to spread stories of kidnappings regularly so we feel like they’re common? I feel like the same phenomena is happening with “evil” behavior and we are now looking at these videos of terrible people doing terrible thing and using THAT behavior to define “evil” and by default the rest of us are “good”. But you know what? When I really think about microagressions or small slights, I think I’m doing a disservice to myself and to others by setting the bar so low to be considered good.

So I’m taking time to think about things like my retweets. That’s probably an area where I give myself the most “buffer” area to be mean. I don’t usually use my own words to slight others, but I sometimes laugh at the words other people use and therefore retweet them because I think they’re funny. And somehow – even though they’re mean – I remove any responsibility for them because they’re not mine. Sometimes there are tweets insulting Trump supporters or Christians and they kinda hit home to me and make me laugh so I retweet them but that’s kinda dickish, you know? I mean, do I get to absolve myself of the harm they do because they’re not my words?

I mean, it’s no secret that I dislike Trump and I’m trying my best to be proactive in fighting his agenda. But I think that can be done without being mean. And let me clarify: I DO NOT THINK ALL CONFLICT IS MEAN. I think it’s important in the scope of history and change not to tender-step all of our conflicts. But I do believe there’s a way to be “mean” that isn’t remotely productive and sometimes I retweet that type of stuff because – I’ll admit – it makes me laugh.

If you can’t see that image above it’s a tweet I retweeted that says: “Seriously. Donald Trump addressing Congress feels like a fever dream I had after I had my gall bladder removed.”

And it made me laugh. So I retweeted it.

But then I started thinking about how when people posted stuff like that about Obama I got my feelings hurt. I mean, it’s one thing to say, “This policy is terrible and here is why:_____________” But it’s another thing to say, “This guy on my TV doing his job is giving me terrors…” Do you see the difference?

I’m not saying because I retweeted that I am somehow evil or mean. Or not “good” by some definition. I’m just saying that I am not really looking at my actions alone because compared to the greater scope of the internet…I’m freakin’ Ghandi!

And I know this is the time where a lot of people like to say, “Don’t be so hard on yourself!” And I’m not beating myself up over it, it’s just a new perspective I’ve been adopting lately. And honestly? It started with noticing small microagressions from other people that hurt my feelings. Small slights/jokes people make against liberals and their “snowflake” status, or about atheists, or Obama supporters, or feminists. Those tiny comments from otherwise “good” people that prickled my sensitive heart. My reaction to small slights from other people just heightened my awareness of it, and am trying to think about how words have power, not matter now “small” they are.

Just because you’re not standing from a rooftop screaming, “Liberals are ruining America!” doesn’t mean you’re “accepting” of all different political views. Just because you’re not changing your Facebook Cover photo to “F*CK TRUMP” doesn’t mean you’re helping mend the political divide in our country. I just feel like I’m letting myself get away with snarky behavior because it’s not as bad as some, but when I’m on the receiving end of that same behavior? It stings. So I’m reevaluating how I define “good” in myself.

And it’s not even just: “IS THIS MEAN?” It’s also, “WHAT IS THE POINT?” When I leave a comment or make a tweet – is there a point? I mean, it’s okay to just be silly, half of the shit I write online is just silly. But sometimes I find myself playing the, “Me too!” card in a moment that belongs to someone else. Like if someone writes a Facebook status about something difficult and instead of providing them comfort, I take the open door to talk about MY OWN similar problem…what is the point? Is this what the person was hoping for? No. They wanted comfort. Sympathy. How can I provide that without making it about ME?

I’m trying to remember that words have power, even if they belong to other people. I’m trying to remember that being “good” is a spectrum and just because I’m not on the “evil” side, doesn’t mean I’m 100% on the “good” side either. I want to go to bed at night proud of who I’ve been and not worried that I may have hurt the feelings of someone I respect. I want to be confident that I put more good into the world, than bad. I want to feel like I did my best at being kind.

I want to raise my standards.

The illusion of difference.

Nikki and I have been talking body types a lot. I talk about how I’m not in my “race day body” right now – but as I pick up my miles that body will make an apperance. However, I also talk about how there are things I’ll miss about this body – like how I really like my boobs at this weight. She knows I love this body for some reasons but that as I run more I’ll thin out again for my big race, but I’ll never get TOO thin because that’s just not my body type. I talk about that, how my body is best for running at a certain size, but never as small as some of the runners we know and that’s fine. That’s THEIR body. I talk about how some clothes fit better on THIS body but won’t fit right on my race day body. And that the trick with ANY body is to find the clothes that make you feel GREAT about your body and wear the shit out of them.

There’s a certain dress style that I love but the waistline hits me weird and somehow makes me feel shorter than I am. I use that as an example, I’ve even tried one on before to show her what I mean. But a high-waist/empire-waist dress? Those make me feel SO TALL, and I love those dresses. I explain to her, that when we’re shopping for clothes she needs to feel GREAT in what she chooses. We do not need to shop based on what her FRIENDS look great in, but what she FEELS great in.

And a lot of this works. She really seems to grasp that not all of us have the same body and things that look great on women we love, don’t necessarily work on us. And that there are outfits you will find that you look at yourself in and think YES! THIS IS THE PERFECT OUTFIT! But then your friends might try on that same outfit and it doesn’t look as good. Or vice versa – you could borrow clothes from your friend and it won’t quite look the same on you. I guess I’m trying my best to lay the groundwork so she doesn’t unfairly compare herself to others or expect clothes to look the same on her as they do her friends.

But all of this has been hitting me as incredibly futile lately because…EVERYONE ON TV LOOKS THE SAME…EVERYONE ON THE MAGAZINE COVERS LOOKS THE SAME…EVERYONE IN THE MOVIES LOOKS THE SAME.

Yes, there are anomalies, but for the most part every face she sees on TV, in the theater, and on magazines is attached to a long, lean body. Maybe it’s been photoshopped, but for the most part they are ALL THE SAME. So while I’m home trying to provide real-world examples of the variety of beautiful bodies in the real world, she turns on the TV and everyone is lean and perfect.

And this is the part I struggle with.

She sees our friends and family and gets that there are different bodies but she turns out our favorite superhero shows and all of the girls look the same. Long and Lean. “Perfect” bodies to the eye of an 11-year old.

This is the same with older women and the beauty industry’s hatred of wrinkles. No one puts wrinkly faces on magazines or on TV shows or in movies except when they need a grandma-aged character. But if you need/want a middle-aged woman? She’s not showing wrinkles so we start to think wrinkles are not normal and suddenly everywhere I turn there’s ads for $250 anti-wrinkle “systems” that we’re supposed to be using.

DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY DONUTS I CAN BUY FOR THAT MONEY?

We all live with two realities. The one that we see around us every day in our sisters and our coworkers and our friends and family: Many beautiful bodies in many beautiful shapes and sizes.

But then we turn on the TV or look at a magazine and every female body looks the same: Long, Lean, Perfect Skin.

It’s very easy to see how we all get such distorted ideas of beauty. Women hate their wrinkles because no one on TV or in the movies has them. Girls hate muffin tops because everyone has flat bellies on magazine covers. Women are ashamed of rolls under their bra strap because no one on TV has extra pounds ANYWHERE. We see the beauty of variety in the real world, but not in the world that sells us clothing and food and cars. That world all women have the exact same body: so of course we think any variation is bad.

I don’t really have a point other than just expressing frustration that no amount of coaching at home about the different kinds of BEAUTIFUL bodies can erase the fact that the media we all ingest is homogenized. We can all name the same actresses that don’t fit that standard mold, but how many of those women have been cast with that body because that body is part of the punchline? How many times is the bigger women used as the source of comedy?

Hollywood tends to cast gay men being gay, black women being black, and fat people being fat. What we need is gay characters that could also be straight, or black women being cast in parts that allow them to be something where “blackness” is not the story, or fat women being cast in a roll that could be just as funny being played by a thin women. If the comedy REQUIRES the character be fat, then we’re not normalizing anything.

We are all complex in our beauty and our flaws. And the older I get, the more frustrated I get that the media we consume – more often than not – only casts outside this mold if the story is about how the character does not fit the mold. Let’s see more characters that don’t fit that unrealistic “beauty” standard, and then just go on living their normal lives. I want to see a character in a main storyline that is gay, or has brown skin, or does not have a lean body…and I want to see that character be involved in a story that doesn’t relate to ANY OF THOSE THINGS. I want to see a Melissa McCarthy cast in a roll Jennifer Lawrence could have played and it not changed the story. I want to see Jennifer Hudson cast in a roll that Emily Blunt could have played and it not changed the story. I want the main character in an action movie be gay and the only reason we know that is the background shots of his family portraits featuring his husband.

It’s just hard to convince my child that our world is a mosaic of differences when she doesn’t see it reflected back in Hollywood. Hell, we don’t even see it reflected back in our government. Our representatives are more overwhelmingly straight, white, Christian men…at a much higher percentage than our actual population is.

I’m just discouraged lately, I guess. I’ll keep delivering the messages but it sure would be nice if the people who choose magazine covers and movie leads and TV cast would back me up once in awhile.

Back To Reality. Again.

Coming back from vacation is hard. ESPECIALLY when you made a point to disconnect for an entire week. But we came back Friday, I left for Knoxville on Saturday to visit my aunt in the hospital, she died that night so I came back on Sunday to work for ONE DAY and close on my house and then I left again on Tuesday to go back to Knoxville where we had non-stop services and time with family and then we left to come back home yesterday and I woke up this morning having no clue about what day it was or what time it was or what city I was in or what time zone I was in and WHY IS THIS DOG SNIFFING AT MY FACE?

Oh yeah. I’m home. I have to walk my dog.

We all curled up on the couches last night to catch up on our Superhero TV (Flash and Supergirl) and so I stayed out of the world of “reality” for a little bit longer. I’m not entirely sure what’s going on in the news or even in my friend’s and family’s lives. I’ve opened social media just enough to share out photos of family so other family could see and to update everyone on where I was. I was going back and forth so often, no one could really keep up with where I was.

So today I need to spend time tethering myself back to reality in some way because I’m very out of touch. I’m not sure the best or most organized way to do that. I had a routine before two weeks ago: News, politics, blogging, work, home, etc. Now I’m just frazzled. Part of me almost wishes it was Monday because I’m going to start the “re-tether” process and then BAM! it’s the weekend.

But I’m back. It was so great to see family and I wish we had more happy occasions to celebrate so we didn’t just gather at funerals. It was great with cousins and with aunts and uncles and most importantly: I got to see my brother and his wife and kids who drove 22 HOURS to Knoxville. WITH TWO SMALL CHILDREN. CAN YOU IMAGINE?

And it was also great with Nikki. She wanted to go with me. She actually went with me to visit Marie in the hospital last Friday and then I came by myself Saturday and she came back with me to the services. It was great spending that special time with her. She heard a lot of family stories and memories, she experienced a Catholic Mass, she met a WHOLE LOT OF NUNS, it was great.

The one BIG BAD thing that happened was in the chaos, she left her pillow pet at the hotel when we checked out and when we called they didn’t have it. I guess someone stole it? We know that’s where she left it (it was pretty soon after we checked out that she remembered) but they don’t have it anywhere and she is DEVASTATED. And dude – I get it – I still have my “animal” from my childhood and I’m 41. I’d be broken-hearted it if disappeared. She’s too old to “trick” with a new one and hers had been loved too long for a new one to suffice. We’re going to try to get a replacement SOMETHING, but we’re not sure what. But even that idea isn’t appealing to her.

So – please send thoughts out into the universe that the hotel finds the pillow pet and calls me. I’ve lost hope as it’s been several days. And think of me re-tethering, my anxiety is such that it snowballs when I’ve had too much chaos in my life and I can feel myself at that brink now so I need to re-connect to the people and the obligations and the things that keep me grounded as I feel like I’m floating away amidst a whirlwind of travel and sadness and memories.

Here’s to settling in to normalcy. It’s been awhile.

The End Of A Long Saga.

I don’t remember when we first started talking about selling our house. That house was supposed to be our “Forever Home” – we were going to fix it up (like we did our old house) and have maybe one or two more kids in it. But my last miscarriage made us decide maybe we’d had too many losses and we were sick of trying, and we started putting our time and money into doing endurance training and E showed every indication that he’d be getting out of Alabama AS FAST AS POSSIBLE upon college graduation. All of these things meant we had to accept the house was not going to be our “Forever Home” like we had planned. I think we finally had that discussion about 3 years ago.

Long story short? We finally closed yesterday. We no longer own a home.

This has been such a weird stretch of months. I’ve been dealing with a lot of new anxiety following the election in November and then the home sale and 2+ months of delays and now my aunt has died during the month that is ALWAYS terrible because it’s the month my Dad spent in hospice and – OH YEAH – my kid graduates from college in May and he’s trying to find a way to live/work in NYC immediately afterwards. So, you know, he won’t be a weekend drive away any longer. And I’m not sure I’m okay with that.

I’m not sure I’m okay with any of it.

I plan on life settling back down this weekend. I’m driving to Knoxville (again) today for the funeral services for my aunt and then driving back to Alabama (again) on Thursday and THEN! Then I can finally get my shit together and maybe shake off this funk. There’s always the post-vacation funk but add that to the funeral-funk and Month Of Grief funk on top of the Political Anxiety Funk and HOLY SHIT, I HAVE A LOT OF FUNK AND NOT AT ALL THE GOOD KIND.

Sidenote: Speaking of the good kind of funk, I saw George Clinton and the P-Funk Allstars back in 1995/1996 at Montevallo. It hit me that it was in the same theatre where I just watched E do his stuff a few weeks ago. THAT WAS A VERY SURREAL REALIZATION.

So here’s to being free of a mortgage for a little while. And free of cleaning my home. And free of worrying about all of the things that come with all of that nonsense. After the last “delay” of the closing Donnie said, “I don’t want to every buy or sell another house ever again.”

AND I KINDA AGREE.

The only thing keeping us from staying in this apartment forever is the fact that A) We’re sick of walking the dog and B) Nikki would really like to sleep in a room with a door.

So we’ll pay off our student loans (Yes. We still have student loans.) and then we’ll start looking for a MUCH SMALLER home. One that we could actually maintain with our current level of time and money. I’ll avoid travel for a little while (I HATE TRAVELING. I HAVE BEEN DOING SO MUCH OF IT.) and get my schedule back on track.

No mortgage. We’re going to sit on that a bit.

Watch For Falling Rock

My aunt (“the nun” is how I refer to her often, because I have a lot of aunts) was a regular reader of this blog. One of my “token” Aunt Marie stories that I tell is that I would forget she was a reader until she would email me about something I had written here. Once, when I wrote about taking your family to a Pride Parade, she emailed me a quick sentence saying it was lovely and she was going to send it to friends with children. When you are in the middle of several large Catholic families and the nun validates something you wrote about gay pride? It does wonders for making you feel like your gay family is accepted.

I have many memories of road trips with Aunt Marie. I’m not entirely sure if it’s because she would go hiking and camping with us often, or if it’s because she was in our car for 30+ days when we went cross-country camping in 1989. Either way – it is her that I remember teaching us the road games like Finding the ABCs on signs or keeping lists of states on license plates. She also taught us songs (Like “Doe, a deer…a female deer…” which I didn’t know was from a movie until later in life.) and other ways to pass the time in the car.

I also hear her voice in the car at night explaining to me how the “BRIGHTS” setting on headlights worked and she casually said something like, “You want to make sure you turn them off when another car approaches so you don’t blind the driver.” Which – of course – I took very literally and spent a long time – even into driving age – flinching when I would look at a car with their brights still on…fearing losing my eyesight.

But specifically, something I’ve been thinking about a lot this weekend, is her telling me one story when we were weaving on a mountain road and had just seen a “Watch For Falling Rock” sign. I don’t remember the specific details of the story, it was a long time ago. But the general gist was that an American Indian Father had posted those signs after he lost his son: “Falling Rock”. There was a story of how the son got lost, which I don’t remember, but I remember she told the story with a “Legend says that…” air to it that made it feel mysterious. It was as if these signs, and her sharing the story, inducted me into some sort of folklore and I now also shouldered some of the responsibility for looking for this lost son.

Sister Marie Moore, my “Aunt, The Nun,” died peacefully Saturday night after complications from a stroke 2 weeks ago. I was able to visit her Friday and Saturday afternoon and say my goodbyes. I had also visited her several months ago when she was in the hospital following a heart surgery and that visit was good as her health was improving. I’m very glad I made that trip now, it gave me a recent memory of her to cling to when she was unresponsive this weekend.

I could write for days and not list all of her professional or personal achievements and accolades. I couldn’t begin to list the lives touched or souls counseled. To say she lived a “life of service” is an understatement. I read one article written about her in 1967 that mentioned her “14-hour work days” like it was just what you came to expect from her. And up until her heart surgery this last fall, she was probably still working that hard.

Just know she was amazing and she will be missed. I’ll be heading back to Knoxville for services again as soon as I know when they are. We had a great trip to Asheville which I’ll tell you about later, but today I wanted to pay tribute to Sister Marie Moore. She is the standard by which I hold everyone who every says they’re praying for me. She carried her prayer list around with her when she would visit patients in the hospital and if they were sleeping or unresponsive she would sit and pray for them, and then pull out her list and pray for those people as well. She didn’t say, “You’re in my prayers…” casually like I feel many do. She meant your name would be on her lips and delivered to God’s ears as long as she felt you needed it.

One more story:

In 2011 I went to her 60th anniversary celebration of when she took her vows. The priest at her church – a new church in Knoxville – told the story that he would get up and go to the rectory in the early days of the new buildings and Marie would be standing on a ladder and painting trim. Or working in the flower beds. SHE WAS 78. And she was working her ass off to get that church open and ready for business.

She did not mess around.

Love you, Aunt Marie. I’m sad you won’t get to hear about my trip to Asheville, but I also know a life where you couldn’t work would not be a life you enjoyed, so I truly believe your soul is at peace now.