Temporary

So now it’s November.

Nearly the end of the year. But – for me – so much closer to getting to see my polar bear love again!

You never really forget your first, right?

Things are just as crazy and overwhelming today as they have been lately. I’ve made a few tiny shifts in hopefully the right direction, but for the most part, I’m still struggling. I don’t even talk to my friends about most of it, let alone feel inclined to post anything on here. I’ll figure it out, though. Tiny shift by tiny shift. 🙂

I did write limericks for/about some of my coworkers today, too. That was fun!

I’ve been keeping more quotes from the book I’m currently reading, so I’ll continue to write a bit about them as I go along, too.

Like this one, which is kind of apropos for a day like this: “I stared at my phone, wondering whom to call to ground myself. The truth is, I’m not good at close friends. I’m great at casual, at meeting up after work and bringing lasagna to the potluck. I’m excellent at being friends with (her boyfriend’s) friends. But not at exchanging numbers and calling up just to talk.”

I haven’t brought lasagna to the potluck as of yet…though I could. Usually I just go for something quick and easy and pre-made, though. I mean, that’s how my everyday life is, at least when it comes to food. Why would a potluck be any different, really?

I remember when I was in school I felt like my friendships were temporary. They could be so intense and present and fulfilling for a time, but as soon as we weren’t in the same class anymore, and didn’t see one another every day, it became more difficult to sustain; to nurture. Nothing had happened to push us apart, yet the connection was weakened, and we’d each move on to the next thing.

I think I came to view all friendships – and thus relationships – as temporary things. I’d still try to hold onto them, but the further apart we’d drift, the more difficult it was to maintain any sort of grip. Physically, emotionally, mentally – the distance between us would grow no matter what I did to prevent it. The friendship wouldn’t be over, of course. Just different.

Outside of school, the majority of my friends have come through the workplace, which makes them just as temporary in their intensity as the others. People move on. It’s what we do.

And I’m not sure there’s anything wrong with that, or that I wish it was any different.

Most of the time I don’t even notice. Just those moments when I want to talk to someone who can help me ground myself, and I don’t know who that person is at that point in life. It’d be nice to have one who was constant.

On the other hand, though, maybe that’s the too easy solution – to just have the answer without having to keep growing and changing and adapting and meeting new people and forging new things.

Maybe constants make us lazy!

Search For Equality

Had a chat recently with  a friend about the experience of being a woman in a man’s world.  About being anything other than a straight white guy, really.  Although there are a billion differences between people, there does seem to be at least one similarity that both unites and divides us – the inability to express this experience in a way that will be understood:  without emotion.

I’ve tried writing about this before, and likely will again.  I feel like it’s something that most people either try to discuss, or pay lip service to, but it’s been so entrenched in our global culture that I’m not even sure how aware any of us are of our own responsibility in perpetuating it.

The thing is, I’m not sure there’s really a way to change it.  Not really.  Even if it were possible to do, it would take unfathomable effort on everyone’s part, and continuous effort at that.  And who wants to do that?  We’re comfortable.  We’re mostly comfortable.  It’s much easier to accept the status quo than it is to demand change – especially with no plan or idea of what it would look like – and then have to live up to that change.  Take responsibility for it.  Own it, the change we brought about in the world.  Do we want equality – true equality – enough to battle that hard for it?  For the rest of our lives, and expect the generations that follow to fight for it, as well?

What if we take a step forward, and fail?  Would that prove that whoever put straight white guys in charge of running the world right in having done so?  Isn’t it easier to just let them make all the mistakes, instead?  Besides the fact that we can’t even talk about any of it without getting upset and sounding like fanatics.  I can almost feel the eyes rolling as I write this.

Here’s the thing:  I’m not a feminist.  At all.  Nor am I a…humanist, or whatever it’s called when someone feels all people should be treated equally.  I don’t even really like people. If we lump all other species into it…all life…then that is closer to what I am.  Whatever -ist or -ism that ends up being.  Maybe there isn’t a word for what I am.  Maybe there isn’t language for what I want to express.  Maybe there is just the sense – the unshakeable certainty – that something is very wrong.  That our balance is way, way off.

From the treatment of and language surrounding women in politics, to the awards show fiascos of late, to…why is breast-feeding a thing?  Haven’t people been breast-feeding since, like, there were people in existence?  How is it even remotely an issue?  There are far more behaviours that people should be ashamed to perform in public beyond feeding a kid.  Like urinating and spitting.  If guys in particular could control their need to spew their bodily fluids all over the place, we’d all be much healthier.  But that’s another conversation.

When I was practice teaching, I did a unit on discrimination and the like, and there was one class – a group of amazing Grade 7’s I adored – that I had the most powerful experience with.  Or ‘with whom I shared the most powerful experience’.  Whatever.

Anyway, I started a class discussion about the topic, without telling them that I would actually be discriminating against some of them based on some completely superficial element of their physical appearance.  I think in that particular case I chose children with blond/light-coloured hair.  Most of the class and I had a lively conversation, while I ignored the kids I was “biased” against.  I watched their eager little faces change to various expressions of frustration, sadness, confusion, hurt and anger.

It sucked.  But it made a pretty powerful example for our topic.  I let them (and myself) off the hook after a few minutes, because scarring the poor kiddos was not my intent.  Together, we sorted out where I’d chosen to place my bias, and even then, some kids railed against it.  “My hair is BROWN, it just looks blonder in this light!”

Sadly, however, it’s my perception that matters.  It doesn’t have to make sense, and it’s not something I need to explain.  If some quality about you fits my undefined biases, then I shall discriminate against you.  I don’t even need to know why.

That’s how discrimination works.

Now, it wasn’t a perfect example, to be sure.  I was acting differently with them than I ever had before – interacting differently with them.  Some who had been used to receiving my attention suddenly found they weren’t, whereas if I was truly discriminating, I would have been ignoring them the whole time.

As well, I hated doing it.  Of course I have ridiculous biases of my own – some I am aware of and some I’m sure I haven’t even noticed yet.  But since this was a careful decision I made on my own – a choice – knowing I was potentially hurting feelings and causing all of those other emotions – WATCHING the effect my behaviour was having on people I actually liked – was truly one of those “this hurts me more than it hurts you” things.  At least, I hope it was.  I guess I’ll never really know for sure, but things did seem better once all the cards were on the table.  The playing field had been levelled, at least as much as it ever was, and we moved forward together with new insight.

There’s an impossible amount of history to sift through, and no simple bandaid solution will suffice.  Yet, maybe there isn’t a way to fix it at all.  We can say children are the future, and that things will improve bit by bit with each generation, but I think that’s problematic and lacks a certain…taking of responsibility.  We all carry with us the effects of our upbringing, of our understanding of the world based on the experiences gained throughout our lives.  Each generation is, in many ways, a product of the generations that came before.  None of us exists in a vacuum.  In that sense, children are also the past.

And we can’t change the past.  We have very limited effect on the future.  So all we really have to impact is the present.

I have no real idea how to do that.

But I’m trying.  I’m trying to find words to express myself, my truth, my outrage, my hurt, my joy, my love – my heart, my mind, my soul.  There will be many times when it’s so clouded with emotion and a myriad of conflicting thoughts that it won’t make a lick of sense, even to me.  This post itself is all over the place.  It’s not the first such post, and it won’t be the last.

And that’s okay.  That’s what struggle looks like.  And so long as I continue to fight to find my voice, there is hope of finally gaining that sense of equality I’ve been looking for.

Because in the end, the beginning has to come from me.

When I Grow Up

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I wanted to be a cowboy when I grew up. Not a pretty frilly cowgirl. A cowboy.

For, like, a year or so, anyway. I wanted the jeans and plaid shirts and boots and hat, but most of all, I wanted the horse. I really had no idea what cowboys did other than ride horses, so I figured that would be an excellent occupation for my adult self. I don’t really dig any part of it but for the horses, anymore, anyway.

I had a book when I was little – like a memory/keepsake book for each year of elementary and high school. There were pouches to put things in, and I had to fill out who my friends were and favourite subjects and stuff, for each year. There was also a spot to put what I wanted to be when I grew up.

The first year, in Kindergarten, I remember choosing “nurse” because I thought that was the only one of the options presented in the group of choices that seemed like something a girl would do. I was five. It didn’t occur to me until later to that I could not only pick anything I wanted, but if what I wanted wasn’t already listed, I could just write it in.

So there was nurse, cowboy, writer, actor…I think that’s about it. Writer and actor took up most of the years, back and forth. I can’t even remember if I ever wrote anything else in there, or if I just stopped trying to choose and/or write it down. I definitely don’t recall ever writing “English major” or “Work In Retail”, but hey – life doesn’t always go as planned. Or ever. Haha

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There was also a spot for school photos, and of course the class photos all went into the pouch, too. Has anyone ever noticed that every class photo looks pretty much the same? I’m not even entirely sure that it matters which decade the thing was taken in. There’s always a kid looking the wrong way, there’s always at least one girl who is too tall to do anything but stand in the back with the guys, and no matter how good our parents wanted us to look, by the time the pics were taken, we had ruined the illusion of propriety.  

Man, little kids have huge heads.

As I write, I am thinking maybe all class photos don’t look the same, after all. I mean, they DO, but I think maybe the decade or at least within a certain range of each decade does make a difference. Each decade’s photos look alike. I see pictures on Facebook all the time of class photos from schools I’ve never heard of, and still…there we all are. The same, but different. Pretty sure my parents had class photos similar to one another’s, but different from my brother and I. And the ones my niece and nephews have are likely different from ours.

I feel like things were easier then, in a lot of ways. But if that’s the case, then things are harder for kids now. And if THAT’S the case, then what’s the world going to be like when THEY grow up?

I am totally getting my butt kicked at work again today. I’ll write better another day. Gooder, even! 😉

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Thought vs Respect

The concept of respect is a bit of a weird one to me.

I feel like I extend it pretty much all the time, because there’s always an argument to be made for why an individual deserves my respect. Maybe they are older than I am, or have letters after their name, or have been working in the same or a related environment. Maybe they do a job I can’t possibly do, or have a skill I’ll never acquire. Maybe they are really good at a sport. Often the measure of respect is doled out in relation to my view of myself – a person has something I don’t, and therefore deserves my respect. Sometimes we’re on fairly equal footing in a particular area, and I extend them respect because I know how difficult it was for us both to get to that point. Sometimes it’s just because everybody deserves at least some measure of respect, and so I give them some of mine by default.

I just really have no idea how to earn it.

I definitely feel it should be earned, but my inner criteria for what that means is skewed somewhat. I rarely feel like I’ve earned it in a given situation, but then I have a high expectation of what “earn” and “deserve” actually mean. Oh really? You have a buddy in head office who hired you based on no experience while I’ve been here for over two years and now I’m supposed to respect you because you have “Manager” written on your nametag? All while you leave most of your duties to me, anyway, because you don’t know how to do them and don’t care to learn because you’re getting paid, regardless?

Dude, the fact that you’re WEARING a nametag suggests you haven’t really climbed the corporate ladder all that high yet. How’s aboot you extend me a little respect, too. Then we’ll get along just fine.

What was I talking about?

Ah yes. I have high expectations, but I feel like I hold myself to them, as well. Which I why I never really demand respect. I’m never all that certain that I’m deserving of it. Also, I think it would probably come out sounding really whiny and childish and look at cute little raging Sue, and thus backfire in a huge way.

We throw around words like “deserve” and “earn” and “rights” a lot, but I wonder if they’ve lost their intent a little over the years. A bit of their glimmer and shine. Like, if everyone deserves everything, then what’s the point of trying? Is an award still special if everyone wins it? Congratulations – you are the same as everyone else.

There is totally such a thing as mutual respect, of course. It need not be exclusive nor one-sided. I just feel like it IS very one-sided more often now. Either that, or I just notice it more as I get older. It seems to me, for example, that those who rush headlong into things – without planning ahead and getting all the information they need to make a decision – seem to get ahead faster. They get things done. It’s not pretty, and perhaps could have done with a little fore-thought, but they make things happen. They are doers, not thinkers. And that gets rewarded – and respected – because it gets results. Thinking does not. Or when thought does lead to results, it takes way too long.

My problem is that I think before I do. And there is not much to repect in that, because you can’t measure results on thinking.

I’m the person that thinks before she speaks (most of the time), so I always have brilliant responses well after the moment has passed. I remember in elementary school, French class in particular, I was constantly getting in trouble for not raising my hand. The teacher would ask a question, and I’d think about the answer before putting up my hand, because I wanted to be right. And I wanted to know I was right before I got called on to answer; certainly before I offered an answer of my own free will. The teacher knew I knew the answers, but had a hard time calling on me because I never put up my hand. I wasn’t being stubborn, exactly. It’s just that the class had moved on to the next question by the time I was ready to answer. Someone else had been called on already because their hand had gone up right away.

I once traced my hand onto a piece of paper, cut out the outline, and taped it to the end of a ruler, with the words “Sue’s Hand” written on it. But I never raised that, either. I was never ready in time.

I feel like that’s a theme in my life, really. Not being ready in time. How many of life’s experiences does one miss out on because they are waiting until the right time; until they are ready?

If the answer is “too many”, then is it possible to learn to put up one’s hand without having the answer ready? It feels SO RECKLESS, I must admit. I would have to decide if that’s really the kind of person I want to be.

Guess I’ll have to think about it first, and go from there.