Pro-Choice Legislation for Once

I was very pleased to learn that U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) introduced the “21st Century Women’s Health Act” today! It is a bill intended to protect and expand access to reproductive health care.

Please contact your Senators and urge them to support this bill. It might not hurt to do the same with your Representative in the House. Hopefully, with enough public pressure, this bill might actually get passed!

source: Female Senators Introduce Pro-Choice Bill to “Fight Back Against Those Who Miss the ‘Mad Men’ Era”

 

Take Women’s Health Care Out of Employers’ Hands: The Hobby Lobby Problem and the Single-Payer Solution

I really love the underlying point made in this post: “healthcare is an essential and public good.” In the US there’s too much focus on individual economic growth; I find it kind of terrifying that healthcare is a for-profit sector people (well, the small percentage who still have extra resources) can invest in for their own private economic growth. This article is great because it reframes healthcare as something we all as citizens can invest in for the health and well-being of ourselves and each other. That’s what a single-payer system should ultimately be: not putting healthcare in the hands of a nameless, faceless “government” that is ultimately run by big business… but taking it out of the hands of big businesses (including private, for-profit insurance companies) and back into the hands of we, the people.

Finally…

content notes: specific functions of self harm, suicidal thoughts

I’ve been hearing a lot of things from both inside and outside my head. Messages that I will get through this and be okay. I’ve been through difficult times in relationships before; however this ends I will not only survive, but come out stronger.

I was also so tired today I thought about killing myself just so I wouldn’t be so tired anymore; I needed to scratch myself to stay focused on driving. The pain was so helpful, it brought me back into my body; these are my arms, I’ll scratch them if I need to and now I can feel them again!

I felt like my final guitar lesson of the semester was a disaster because I couldn’t focus on finding notes/chords in different positions on the fretboard. It became easier with time and when my teacher stopped doodling on his guitar to ask guiding questions such as “what note is your pinkie on?” Then I struggled with the rhythm exercises he gave me to do.

I’m really worried that all the time I’ve spent feeling miserable and thinking about my relationship with Fox and how much I’m hurting is interfering with my cognitive abilities (such as focusing on a task that involves memory and analytical reasoning). I also couldn’t sleep the other night; last night I slept fairly well but today I still felt completely worn out. I’m worried that soon there will be nothing left.

Mom and I went to a women’s group / life coaching session… thing. At first I was thinking, “This so isn’t for me, I don’t know what I’m going to say because I don’t belong here at all…” But I stayed and listened to the women’s stories and even felt empowered to come out as having depression and anxiety. I also shared that I’m not happy with my marriage and I feel like I’ve lost all my focus on who I am and what I want to do. Having that heard and accepted by the group was very healing.

I didn’t talk during the rest of the group time, but listening to others share their experiences and especially solutions was very helpful. For example, I’ve decided that I’m going to pretend I’m the best professional in my field at interviews; hopefully that will help me find an internship (and jobs).

At the end of the session we did a guided meditation that involved everyone connecting to each person individually with beams of light. It was really cool, especially when it was my turn and I got to just bask in the positive energy everyone was sending me. The best part of it, though, was learning I could be connected to others and send out positive energy to them, even in the midst of my depression.

Unfortunately, near the end of the meditation the life coach said someone had a blocked chakra that was disrupting the energy and asked if anyone had a headache. My skull felt like it was being crushed, so I thought she was talking to me. “Oh no, I’m ruining the energy for everyone else, I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have come here!” I wanted to withdraw until I disappeared; it killed the whole sense of safety and belonging I’d found so healing.

In the end it turned out to be someone else; the life coach told me, “I know it seems like it’s you, but it’s not.” We talked a bit and I got to talk to a couple of other group members, who were very supportive. Talking to one in particular (who’s been divorced twice) helped me to clarify how I feel and what course of action I want to take for the near future.

To be honest, I’m not convinced Fox wants it enough to do the work necessary to heal our relationship. If that’s the case, nothing I can do will make it livable for me.

I can’t just walk away from our marriage, though, because to me it’s supposed to be sacred. I need to feel that I’ve done my part: that I’ve communicated my needs and feelings to him, worked with him to try and make things better, been responsive to the needs he’s expressed, etc. Who knows, maybe he’ll “step up to the plate” and we’ll have a really good relationship. I want to at least allow for the possibility of that happening.

If he doesn’t, my first priority needs to be my own well-being. I can’t spend my whole life in a relationship that’s keeping me from being a productive member of society, fulfilling my dreams, and most importantly feeling like a whole person.

Mom said a lot of really awesome things to me today; I wish I’d recorded them so I could replay them when I need a pick-me-up. I’m not sure of the specific words she used, but the gist of it is this: “You deserve to be happy. You’re important. I will stand up for you.”

Redefining Beauty

I’ve been seeing a lot of great articles and videos redefining beauty – the means by which we measure a woman’s worth. The new definitions make it more inclusive: you don’t have to be extremely thin, you don’t have to have perfect skin, you don’t have to be white, you don’t have to be able-bodied. You don’t have to measure your worth based purely on physical appearance. You can include attributes such as compassion, intelligence, determination, physical & emotional strength, etc. – basically, any characteristic one may find desirable in a human being can be included in the definition of beauty. They’re all valid ways to measure a woman’s worth.

One thing I find especially beautiful – or, to be more specific, inspiring – about women is their ability to redefine ideas in their culture that, to an outsider, appear to be oppressive (and may be, at least the way they are defined by the mainstream of the culture). It is an indispensable means of self empowerment in a world where a select minority are far too keen on keeping all the power for themselves. I want to applaud the people (men included) who are working so hard to redefine beauty to the point where they’re essentially telling all of us: You have worth. Whatever characteristics you have, something in there is of value to society. Be proud of who you are. Nurture and love yourself. I hope people will continue to do this because it’s a message we all need to hear, as frequently as possible. You don’t have to conform to the standards of beauty you see in the mainstream media. You have worth.

I can think of 2 lines to complete that message. The more commonly accepted one is probably: You’re already beautiful. The one I resonate with, though, is: You don’t have to be beautiful.

In other words, you don’t have to measure your worth, and you don’t have to prove it to others. You can just be yourself. You may have characteristics that are undervalued by our society, or things you’re not so good at, or even things you want to change about yourself… and that’s okay. You can still be fully who and what you are in this moment – and hold yourself in high esteem. No one has the right to treat you as anything less than their equal. (You don’t have the right to look down on anyone else, either.)

Using the words “beauty” and “beautiful” oversimplifies the way we talk to and about women. It limits our ability to acknowledge the impact women have on ourselves and on society. If I call Lupita Nyong’o’s speech “beautiful,” all I’m saying is that there was something I liked about it – for all you know, it could be the sound and rhythm of her voice or even just her physical appearance. But what if I said she made me more aware of a privilege I have as someone with light skin, because that aspect of my appearance is held as a standard she – an Academy Award-winning actress! – could never hope to attain? What if I said she is encouraging girls of color to focus more on being compassionate than on their physical appearance, particularly the darkness of their skin? What if I called her someone to look up to? An inspiration.

We don’t have a nice convenient word like “beauty” to use when talking about men. We have to be more specific. He is very charismatic. He knows everything there is to know about computers. He’s a firm but compassionate leader. He knows a lot of good jokes and is great at delivering them. He is very dedicated to his family and takes excellent care of his children. He’s the best composer/musician/writer/artist/etc. that ever lived. He’s an openly gay professional football player.

By describing specific characteristics of a person, we acknowledge their ability to influence us, and by extension to shape social ideals. We make them the acting subject who can change the world.

In contrast, all calling someone “beautiful” does is let others know we have a generally positive attitude toward them. It objectifies the person; this vibrant, complex, active human being becomes the object of our evaluation… and all we have to say is that they do indeed have worth.

So I’m going to ask people to take the redefining of beauty a step further, to make the most of an awesome thing women around the world have been doing to empower themselves for centuries. Let’s define beauty as a means of evaluating objects – art, music, architecture, machines, etc. – and not people. Let’s make a commitment to describing specific characteristics of and actions by women whom we admire. And more importantly, let’s collectively decide that everyone has inherent worth and treat each other with compassion.

Just For Me

At the end of the music therapy session I described in my last post, Wakana told me to make a list of all the things I’m doing “just for me.” She often gives me homework without holding me accountable for doing it, but this time I want to make an honest attempt at it.

I feel the need to justify doing anything “just” for me; to be honest it feels kind of selfish. I’m not sure if that’s the gender training talking (“women should put everyone else first”) or the depression; they’re most likely interrelated.

Whatever the case may be, and as much as I may struggle to believe it, my justification is this: everyone needs to do things that are just for themselves, it’s a vital part of self-care and all-around health / wellness. Doing things just for oneself does not reduce or limit the things one can do for others. On the contrary, it helps one to be more capable of helping others.

I can’t really help others while I’m hurting myself – especially not as a therapist. Even (especially!) with my mom, she asks me for help all the time and I try to help her, but I resent her and end up doing something to hurt her in my attempts to reestablish some kind of boundary (or just as a reaction). Ultimately, it’s not healthy for either of us.

If I want to help people – if I want to do anything! – first I need to take care of myself. That’s what this post, and ultimately this entire blog, is about.

Things I’m Doing Just for Myself

  • Writing this blog
    • As much as I hope readers benefit from it, too, it’s primarily a safe place for me to process my experiences and feel seen and accepted.
  • Receiving music therapy as a client
  • Playing, listening to, and composing music
  • Playing video games
    • I might spend unhealthy amounts of time playing and thinking about them, but I also enjoy them for the story, strategy, and as a means of self-expression. If Fox and I are playing the same game, I need to play at my own pace, make my own decisions, and remember that I’m playing the game for me.
  • Watching awesome TV series
  • Reading
  • Trying to eat healthy food whenever possible
    • I only get one body (in this lifetime, at least); my body is me. Taking care of myself means ingesting things that will benefit my body me as much as possible and hurt me as little as possible.
    • I focus on eating minimally-processed foods free from weird chemicals, and on trying to balance my diet. Chocolate is a delicious treat to enjoy every day, but I need much less of it than I do vegetables, fruit, protein, grains, vitamins, minerals, garlic, and healthy fats.
  • Cooking
    • Cooking is a fun and often social activity that helps immensely with trying to eat healthy food. It’s also a great opportunity to try new things and be creative.
  • Exercising
    • I feel much better on the rare occasions when I do exercise (usually taking a walk); it’s beneficial to my body (me).
  • Meditation/Relaxation
  • Receiving massages
  • Sleeping
  • Maintaining personal hygiene
    • Showering, brushing my teeth and hair, moisturizing, applying deodorant, and wearing clean clothes all help me to feel good. I can go out in the world and do things – if not confidently, then at least without worrying about how I smell.
  • Cleaning
    • Cleaning gives me some control over my environment and makes it more pleasant, which helps me feel good. Fox and I are both responsible for cleaning.
  • Having pets
    • Pets are a huge responsibility; you have to spend a lot of time, energy, and resources taking care of them – even when you don’t feel like it or have other responsibilities. But they also bring a lot of joy and comfort, sometimes just by existing. I try to provide a good home for my pets where their needs are met; other members of the household may benefit from their presence, too. But I have pets because I benefit immensely from having cute warm fuzzy critters to hold, pet, talk to lovingly, be groomed by, teach, feed, watch, build box forts for, take walks with, etc. They are also most excellent at getting me out of my head and back into reality.
  • Learning
  • Developing adaptive software for people with anxious depression and other mental health issues
    • I have ideas for a program (or possibly several programs) that would help me take better care of myself – if not to overcome my anxious depression, to at least have an easier time living with it. If I’m successful, I want to share the software with others at low-to-no (preferably no) cost to them. But my primary reason for developing the software, the reason why I thought of it in the first place, is because I need it. I need the software to help me function and do the other self-care items on this list more consistently. Perhaps more importantly, I need to actively create the software for the experience of identifying a problem and working toward my own solution – taking active steps to meet my own needs.
  • Choosing to live

Preventing Violence through Courage and Compassion

I was so inspired to read about Antoinette Tuff, who prevented a mass shooting at her school by talking to the gunman – both trying to understand him, and trying to help him relate to her. She was terrified, but she did it anyway, and saved over 870 lives. Meet Antoinette Tuff.

copyright Every Joe / Antoinette Tuff

copyright Every Joe / Antoinette Tuff

I Don’t Need to Be “Beautiful”

This random guy tried to call my attention to him as I walked down a busy street the other day. He said, “Hey, beautiful,” as I passed by. My first response was to feel harassed, but I tried to talk myself down from it: “Feel good – he thinks you’re beautiful!” “Maybe he wasn’t even talking to you. He was probably calling someone else beautiful.”

The thing is, I don’t want or need to care what a random stranger thinks of my appearance. I just want to go where I’m going in peace. That’s what it all comes down to: people just want to go about their lives without being subjected to everyone else’s (observable) appraisal of them. Half the population is (generally) able to do this. But the half with boobs (or the ability to grow them) are subjected to it so frequently it’s considered “normal.”

Even just having one’s attention drawn to one’s appearance is invasive: it distracts from more important thoughts such as where one is going, what’s going on in one’s surroundings, whatever else is on one’s mind – such as thoughts related to one’s job or family life or important social / political / economic issues, etc. In my case, I went from feeling confident and happy about the task I’d just completed to questioning whether anyone could possibly consider me “beautiful.”

Why should I care? That’s his opinion; they’re his thoughts. They have nothing to do with me, my strengths and weaknesses, what I’m doing with the rest of my day, my interpersonal relationships, my career, etc. Let his thoughts stay with him. I have enough thoughts of my own, thank-you-very-much! And, frankly, I have enough mental health issues to work through, without being plunged back into the insecurity about my appearance that plagued me in high school.

Why do men do this? The only answer I can think of is that they want that “beautiful” woman to pay attention to them, even if only by making eye contact for a moment. Why? To inflate their ego? To feel powerful?

But it’s not really fair to blame the man who does this on the street. Yes, he should choose not to do it, but he’s just repeating what society tells him is appropriate. He might not know about the potentially harmful aspects of what he’s doing. He probably thinks he’s paying me – or the woman behind me – a compliment.

The real problem is much bigger than he – or his ego! –  will ever be. Why is this man’s self-esteem dependent on a “beautiful” woman paying attention to him? Is his social, political, and/or economic power so limited that the only way he can feel powerful is by expressing his opinion of and demanding attention from women? Why does he feel entitled to solicit attention from a random stranger by breaking the usual unspoken rule: let people go about their day in peace!? Okay maybe he wanted to be friendly – there is certainly a place for that. But it’s better accomplished by saying “hello” or “good day” – some greeting that is appropriate between beings who regard each other as equals. There is no need for one such being to give hir opinion of the other, especially not regarding something as shallow as physical appearance.

And then we come to the other side: Why are those of us who have boobs programmed to feel flattered by the word, “beautiful,” to seek it out, to respond automatically when someone applies it to us? I know I am smart, creative, resilient, determined, compassionate, etc. Why should I need or want to be “beautiful,” too? All “beauty” does is make me – or a moment of my attention – desirable to someone who knows nothing about me. I don’t need that! Why would anyone want to draw that kind of selfish attention to zirself?

If I care that you think I’m “beautiful,” then I am acting as a mirror for you! I’m reflecting that your opinion of my appearance matters more (at least in that moment) than everything else that’s going on in my life. No! I’m not a mirror, I’m a person! I have places to be, people to interact with, things to do, thoughts to think, masterpieces to create, a royally fucked-up world to change. If you need a mirror, go buy one at the dollar store.

I don’t want to be “beautiful” and I don’t need it, because I’m already powerful. That is, I have a lot of personal power – my social and political power are limited by the structures of inequality that privilege the few at the expense of the many. But I can use my personal power to work through my difficulties, to weaken the foundation of those structures (e.g. cultural values such as “beauty” which limit one’s ability to tap into personal power), to empower myself and others, and to live a life that I find meaningful.

Marketing Domesticity

I highly recommend reading Nursing Clio‘s most recent post, Marketing Domesticity. It sheds light on an area of privilege that’s still relatively invisible: having someone else to clean up after one (whether it’s a sanitation worker, “cleaning lady,” or one’s spouse). Of particular importance is the gendering of domesticity and housework: especially in advertisements, women are always the ones (happily?) doing the cleaning. I also really love the song lyrics quoted at the end; my (someday) children might grow up knowing “Housework” by heart.

This sounds really awesome! Who *doesn’t* use Wikipedia? Making women, people of color, and others who are typically marginalized more visible in *the* online information source is some excellent activism. Thanks for the info & opportunity!

Love for Women Everywhere

This is an ode
To women around the world
Who have chosen this day
To Rise

My sisters who refuse to be seen and treated
As a commodity
Who demand that their rights
To their own bodies
Be Respected

Who have suffered abuse
Raped, beaten
Underpaid, hidden away
Their sexuality and their lives
Taken

NO MORE!!!

This is an ode
To the Women who Rise
And those who are afraid to

Women bound by the chains
Of mental illness:
Depression, anxiety, eating disorders
Borderline personality disorder, codependency, substance abuse
And too many others to name

Women forced into the sex trade
Constrained to motherhood
Kept out of the public sphere
Their voices silenced

NO MORE!!!

This is an ode
To the Women who Rise
And the men who stand with them

Love for women is not
Chocolate, roses, romance
Respect is not a pedestal
Or poetry

Love for women is Rising
Against violence
Hypersexualization
Devaluation
Forced conformity

Love for women is having courage and strength
To question society
And talk about the things
That scare us into complacency

NO MORE!!!

This is an ode
To Women Around the World
Those who Rise
Those too afraid to
And the men who stand with them

onebillionrising.org

in response to today’s prompt from The Daily Post:

It’s Valentine’s Day, so write an ode to someone or something you love. Bonus points for poetry!