Saturday, December 3, 2016

Navigating a jackassed world

*TRIGGER WARNING: Post about motherhood and the Beats ahead. For those not in a place where they want to hear about small children and encounters with other mothers, PLEASE skip this. As always take care of yourself first. 

It was a simple incident. One that happened so fast that I find myself questioning it. Did it even happen? Does it truly matter? And yet it's been sitting with me all afternoon. So I might as well get it out.

This morning, as Grey was out running errands, I walked with the Beats down to a local shop to buy a crepe for them for lunch. In an effort to avoid the busy main streets, we walked through the neighborhood. Coming back from the shop, we encountered a woman you was pushing a stroller towards her car parked in front of her house. Eying me and the Beats she said hello before swinging the stroller in next to her car. Seeing that she had loaded a young boy in the stroller and I looked back to see if she would be heading our direction. Knowing I had two small kids on foot, sharing the sidewalk wasn't going to be much of an option.

Once it became clear that she was heading out direction, pointing her stroller directly at us, I stopped the Beats and informed them that we needed to cross the street to make room for the stroller. Looking both ways, we hustled across. As soon as we got to the other side, I heard this woman ask the boy if he wanted to cross the street at the exact location we had vacated. In seconds, she was behind us.

"Can I get by?" she asked sweetly. Looking around, the only option was for me and the Beats to step into the road. Yet she insisted. Looking at her, I pointed out that we had literally just crossed the street to avoid this issue. To which she responded "Oh! But he wanted to cross here." She then pushed passed us, narrowly missing both kids, and proceeded ahead of us.

"Why did she do that Momma?" He-Beat asked me as soon as we were back on the sidewalk. Both shocked and angry, it took me a second to recover before we turned the corner to make our way home.

"I don't know baby," I answered. "Sometimes people do selfish things."

Two weeks ago, Mel and Lori both wrote tandem posts that talked addressed the human selfishness. Lori's post about a driver who parked insanely close to her car, prompting her later reflect on her continuing to think about that incident has been on my mind all afternoon. After all, I was allowing this incident to affect my mood, which wasn't a good thing. But I've been countering Lori's insight of jackassing ourselves with Mel's question about whether people are actually good.

The bow on this inner turmoil is a documentary I recently watched about why people lie. Dan Ariely's work on irrationality isn't new to me, but what stuck with me is all the mechanisms we natural put into play in order to defend behavior that only gives us a slight advantage. We cheat because others are doing it, or we have some sort of inherent right, or because it's only a small fudge and won't really hurt others. Equally striking was how quickly that can all be torn down when people are reminded of their moral code. Ask them to swear on the bible or recall the 10 commandments (even if they are atheist), or simply ask someone to sign an honor code before a test or situation where they have the potential to cheat and cheating/lying disappears. When we are faced with our morality, often it wins.

I recently had my own encounter with morality. I believe in free speech and that conflicting opinions should be heard. Even when I don't agree. Because of this, I have approved 99.9% of comments that have been posted by actual humans to my blog (spam aside, of course). On Wednesday I got my second ever troll comment from LydiaofCO.  A new commenter with an account I can't access. The post was simple: "What a great night the election turned out to be! Remember, you preach love, open minded and tolerance. Practice what you preach!" My gut was initially to delete it. After all, who would know. But my moral code had me hold the comment, asking me if doing so was somehow silencing an valid opinion that needs to be heard outside the echo chamber. After all, this is someone who clearly has different views from myself.

At the end of the day, I won't be posting LydiaofCO's comment. I'm not interested in my comments section becoming a forum for others to scream nonsense at one another and, frankly, she doesn't express anything that adds insight to the conversation. But what it did do is provide the final piece to the puzzle today. One of wondering whether a similar exercise for the stroller mother would be useful.

During nap time, I wrote the following letter.

"Dear battling mother,

Today you had an encounter with myself and my two 3 years olds that presented a safety hazard to my kids. We were walking home after a trip to store when we encountered you pushing your stroller out to your car to load your son. In an effort to accommodate you, I crossed the street with my kids so that you would not be burdened with having to walk behind two toddlers. I found it interesting that you decided to cross at the exact same location, knowing full well that there would be two toddlers walking directly in front of you. When I pointed this out, your excuse was that your son had requested you cross there even though witnessed you stopping your stroller and then asking him and being aware that we had just done the exact same thing.

Three weeks ago, we learned how deeply divided our country is and how filled with hate so many of our citizens are. There has been a call to build community both to weather the pending storm that is coming but also to help foster the next generation. After our encounter, which left myself and my kids very shaken, we had a long conversation about selfish behavior and putting ones wants over the safety and security of others ends up costing us all. Though you may not see this, your decision effectively was one that forced my kids off the safety of the sidewalk and into the dangers of the road. This could have easily been avoided all together given that you could easily have pushed your stroller on the other sidewalk for a bit and then crossed.

What followed with this conversation was reasons why people who see themselves as inherently good make such decisions. We talked about the fact that you could have been having a bad day. Or that you were sad for some reason. Given how interested you were in these two, it’s possible you may have had a bad encounter with another mother who also had toddlers and felt a need to punish us for someone else’s wrong. You could also be sad as you may be dealing with secondary infertility or having conflicts with your partner about growing your family again. Or you could have just felt a need to pick on someone who seemed foreign to you. After all, there’s no reason you would ever see us again, so why treat us fairly?

So in a way, I do have to thank you as this encounter has been the start of a life-long discussion my husband and I will be having with our kids. About how we need to model our moral values and hopes for the world. Because the interaction with you today demonstrated the negative impacts self-centeredness and pettiness have on us at both as individuals as well as at global level.

I am sorry that you felt the need to act the way you did. In the end, everyone lost in that situation. Even your son as you modeled for him that it is okay to treat others poorly in order to get something you want. It’s so sad because this mentality only leads racism, xenophobia, bigotry and general fear. It’s a hard way to go through life. I’m even more sorry that you felt the need to act this way towards a stranger. That though you and I will likely never cross paths again (I can’t risk exposing my children to you again as their safety is my primary concern), you felt a need to treat two toddlers who are significantly smaller than you and their caretaker in such a manner. "

Just writing this letter alleviated a lot of the pent-up negativity. The question now is whether to send it as I have her address and can easily mail it. On the one hand, am I just adding to the negativity, causing more harm than good (a fear I generally have). But on the other, after living in a world where people block any perceived negative feedback, would the shock of this letter actually benefit? We are living the direct consequence of so many putting their heads in the sand, ignoring the plight and insights of others as it makes us reevaluate ourselves.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Square peg, round hole

Last Tuesday evening, just as I was packing up for my commute home, I got an email thanking me for my application to a position and asking if I would be available the following morning to meet to talk more about it. The offer to meet that evening with such short notice gave me pause, but I wrote this person back telling her I could meet the following morning.

It was the beginning of a whirlwind I wasn't expecting.

The following morning both my graduate advisor and a former colleague contacted me to let me know they had unexpectedly received urgent requests for letters of recommendation. Following my morning meeting, I was contacted by the interviewer informing me that one of the professors who lectures for this course wanted to video conference with me. Could I do it that afternoon before the break? Then came the request for me to set up another video conference with another one of the course professors. Oh, and she wanted me to also talk with her consultant prior to our meeting. Could I fit both in the Tuesday after the holiday break?

By last evening, after riding the interview rollercoaster and experiencing some highs ("we're really excited!!" and "your letters are impressive . . . you have fans.") to a big low (the last interview was filled with me making a lot of mistakes), I found myself curling up on the front stoop at home to allow for a few tears to shed.

Because though I started out utterly pissed off that I was agreeing to meet last minute for a teaching position, potentially throwing me back into the crazy destructive pattern that comes with lecturing in academia, I also allowed myself to get my hopes up and see not only the possibility of what this could offer but also the potential path forward.

All of that tumbling down with 12 hours of silence and me convinced that I fucked it all up.

It goes without saying that job hunting is insanely hard. Networking has become a second job, with me following leads and reaching out for potential opportunities that may not even exist. Applying for positions without an advocate feels utterly useless most of the time, due to the blackhole that is many an HR department. Yet all of it is necessary to get that one hit, that one lead that will lead to the next opportunity.

The problem comes in that a lot of the time I feel like I'm trying to fill a round hole with a square peg. There's also the combined factor that many, many people have advice on how to reshape that peg, but often it's to turn it into a triangle or an oval. Hence a lot of time is also spent listening, trying to glean what advice is helpful but also knowing often the most important part of networking is connecting on some level so that further connections and possibilities can come.

Given all of that, I'm still feeling pretty down. I knew it would take at least a year of solid searching to find a job following this postdoc, but I'm getting tired of the "no"s or "not quite"s. In a way, it reminds me a lot of dating, selling yourself to the other party as someone who could be a good addition to their life. After all, you get dressed up and spend a lot of time putting your best foot forward. Problem is, I wasn't very good at dating either.

Last night I texted Martha to update her on the interview and how it all felt like it was terrible wrong. After the high from last Wednesday where it sounded like a done deal, I needed to confide in someone about my failure. It didn't take long for Martha to help me feel better as she sent this.
Trust. Trust. Let yourself fall back into the arms of the Universe. There is a spiritual side to this too. That is the "necessary" part. That it matches your heart. Maybe it is your heart telling you to be careful. Say the feeling you have today were most of the feedback you would get from her. If she offered the job would you want it knowing that? You were interviewing her too. . . . You are here and that is the "perfect." More things will open up if this doesn't. So the hunt is on. Let the games begin. I know rejection and disappointment are not fun but if that is to come to pass you can handle it.
And Martha is right. I need to stop assuming that this rejection is somehow solely about me and instead look at it as a process. Easier said than done, especially as I'm still feeling pretty down. But then again, I knew I would have to kiss a lot of frogs. I'm just bummed because this one looked like it could be a pretty awesome prince.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

MicroblogMondays: Observations during the commute

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

From the walk to the bus stop:

To the ride on the train:

To the bus ride home:

Combined with the articles coming into my inbox, it's been overwhelming how much anger is being highlighted in the world at the moment.

What is missed, though, is the dog on the train who makes everyone in the second car smile as she greets them. Or the people who readily offer an older woman their seat. Or the young man who is teaching two children how to make turn their handprints into turkey on the condensation-rich windows of the bus, afford a mother a few moments of rest. Those small acts of kindness that bond us together, despite the many reminders of what divides us.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Where to begin the explaining

It started with me combing his hair. Ignoring protests, I place He-Beat in front of me so I can untangle some strands. It's in that moment that he begins to whimper, crying out "No!" before turning to kick, pinch and punch.

"Do you need to find your calm space?" I ask.

At which point he completely melts, tears streaming down his face.

Giving him a minute to calm down, I kneel so that I'm eye-to-eye with him and tell him that he's loved. As he collapses into my arms, She-Beat comes over to offer him a hug. In an instant Grey is there too. Wrapped in a group hug, I can feel the shudders dissipate.

"We are family," Grey tells them. "We will make it be okay."

One of the hardest things about this past week is figuring out how to explain all that has happened to the Beats. To children in general. There's been the old advice to leave adult matters to the adults, sheltering them as best we can from all of this. But having grown up in an era where this was the norm, I know this tends to have the opposite effect as children are much more aware then most people give them credit for. 

So the question becomes what exactly to tell them. How to explain what is happening in a world we don't fully understand ourselves. And that is where I'm at a loss.

The truth is, I'm terrified of what is to come. I struggle to fully understand how we found ourselves in the situation at hand. All the news coming in at the moment continues to leave me reeling and as much as I want it, the added salt in the wounds has inhibited any healing from happening. There's the additional factor that emotions are still extremely high with a lot of infighting. Combine this with acts of violence and we've got quite a storm.

The past few days I've begun hunting for some sage advice about all of this. Trying to find something that I can use as a foundation for starting these conversations. A recent post by Shreve Stockton has helped. Particularly an email she shares from a friend.
"Several weeks ago my partner said she saw Trump as a heyoka (Lakota clown who mirrors the dark side). The heyoka’s role is to illuminate the shadow and ultimately help the people. In my prayer this morning, in despair at the election, I got back immediately that you do not engage the heyoka. You stay seated on the ground and you do not give into the fear that the heyoka creates. Stay in your prayer. Stay out of speculation. These just feed that kind of energy.  
I got very strongly that the best medicine for us as a people is to keep our homes peaceful and calm, to engage in our community, to do all the small things that make up a good life, to remain kind and thoughtful, to stay in our prayer. We are part of the nurturing, and we have no idea how many of our small acts are helping other people, who go on to do other small acts. Strong community, strong neighborhood, strong households."
On the heels of this was a post from Lisa about her email to her daughter.
"My job is to set an example for you and teach you to be a good person.  I will stand up for you, your dad, and others whenever I can.  I'm not entirely sure what that looks like right now, but I hope that by the time you are reading this you can tell me I'm doing a good job.  I'm not going to lie, I'm scared.  I'm an introvert and I hate confrontation.  It makes for an interesting combo. "
Grey also reminded me last night that we've already been doing this. For almost 10 years, I haven't felt safe in my own home. Cyrol has been a big factor with this, but so has living in a neighborhood with active prostitution and crime (our parking spot was a favorite for the girls to take their clients, evident each evening by the used condoms). And there's the fact that we also lived next door to a man who was convicted of raping his 16 year old daughter. Until this past year, I could not answer "yes" to the question "do you feel safe in your own home" that my health care providers routinely ask.

Given all of this, I'm slowly starting to piece together that all of this is going to require baby steps. That there are going to be days that I fuck up royal if not flat out fail. And yet, not trying is not an option. Too much is on the line. The Beats need me to be a model and to create something of a foundation so that they too can do the work that is required of them.

Still, there are many moments I wish we didn't have to do this. That I could instead go back to assuming that the majority of the world isn't as scary as the bubble I believed I solely lived in.

Monday, November 14, 2016

MicroblogMondays: Silver Linings

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

"We are the silver lining in any and every dark cloud we could ever find. There is no need to go looking for the light when you bring it with you." ~ Tyler Knott Gregson

The past few days have been hard. The shock of the presidential election results combined with election results from other races has made clear that we are a deeply divided nation. It has also shown how out of touch both political establishments and the media are with the silent majority that voted as well as those who chose not to vote (this lowest in 20 yrs). Adding to all of this is the fighting. Either through the protests or people screaming into the online world about who is worse and why they are right with their choices. We are a grieving nation, waffling between denial, anger and sadness.

Slowly the call for unity has been becoming heard. The reality is these attacks aren't going to unite us has started to sink in. And we are a country that desperately needs to be united; finding peace in compromise and recognizing that none of us approaches anything from the same point of view.

The question many are asking is "what now?"

So simple and yet revealing a road forward that is very complex.

Grey woke me at 4 am on November 9th with the news about Trump winning the race. Lying in bed, I immediately felt the familiar burning tingle that comes with grief. Over those morning hours, we both cycled between the numb, the sadness and the anger. The next day we would throw in schemes of bargaining. But like with miscarriage and loss, we knew deeply that there was no going back. Despite picking apart all that had gone terribly wrong, the reality is that one can't undo the damage of the brick through the window. Like with infertility, the scars are going to be too deep.

So in addition to asking "what now?", a mission has emerged. Embracing that call to unity has also come the call to promote the change and values we want to see. Starting within our family and those we love, but expanding outward unapologetically through a manner that embraces love and empathy. Already Grey has been better at this, reaching out to loved ones and dear friends through emails and texts, letting them know we are thinking of them and will stand by them. I've been slower with adding my voice as my mind has been racing and foggy (all due to grief). Still it needs to be done. The factor I've been considering is how do I start.

This morning while the Beats were eating breakfast, they excitedly pointed out all the tiny rainbows that filled the living room due to prism I had attached to the window. And in that moment as they played with those rainbows, it dawned on me: I need to start by finding the slivers of hope. The silver linings

Three weeks ago was my 5th blogoversary. When I started this blog in the fall of 2011, I naively believed that to be happy in life required finding one, solitary silver lining to the trauma that was a recent diagnosis and losing my family. I believed that a baby would help heal the wounds, helping me find my way back to being whole. Going through the first part of 2012, I held onto that belief even after our first loss. It wasn't until my second loss, the one that broke my heart into a million pieces, that I began to rethink this definition. In my grief, I began to see how wounded and battered I already was coming into this journey, but now the facade I had generated in an attempt to cover those flaws had been stripped away. And so as Grey and I began to explore adoption, recovered from the failure of our 3rd FET and focus on healing ourselves and our marriage, did I begin to see that the silver lining wasn't singular and nor was it a person in the form of a baby. And it wasn't something external, created only from perfection and one defined version of beauty.

This idea expanded even more following a post by Keiko Zoll where she wrote about being grateful for her infertility. Published just I was starting Lupron for my final FET, I remember being shocked at first from reading that anyone could be grateful for this life-changing disease. At the time, this post was a hard one for me. Whereas other post-infertility posts, like this one from Tertia, certainly rang true, the whole idea of being grateful for the heartache, the losses, the pain and the rage seemed a bit over the top.

Yet these posts stayed with me. Making me think more and more about my own journey, not only through infertility but life in general. It stayed with me through my pregnancy, a difficult delivery, time in the NICU and through the past few years as I've navigated my way through learning how to parent and a major move. And now again with this election.

In a weird way, as terrible as infertility is, I've been finding many many reasons to be grateful for that journey into the land of being the worse case-scenario. There was so much needless pain and suffering that came, along with isolation and separation. And yet, without having traveled this path, spending my time in the trenches, I would not have learned some of the most valuable lessons that have radically changed me on so many levels: personally, professionally and even spiritually. 

In short, though originally I was looking solely for one silver lining, instead I've found (and continue to find) many. 

And I think that even though the worlds seems like a dark and scary place, those slivers of light are still shining through. In some ways, far more intensely than ever. 

So how does one begin, especially when all seems so hard and painful? Maybe it starts with emails of love and unity. Maybe it starts with mobilizing those around you at the local government level. But maybe it also starts with finding that reason to smile again. Finding those tiny bits of wonder that exist in the world. Because once we find our inner light and give it permission to shine into the world, the rest can come. Finding those silver linings despite a trauma allows us to build for what we want in this world. 

And there's no better time to start than now.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The worst case scenario

*I've been drafting this poem in my head for a couple of months now. Afraid to share it as I'm far from a poet. But today it seems fitting. 

No one wants to be her: the worst case scenario
The sadness in her eyes is telling
An undesired outcome
A dream that was lost along the way

No one wants to imagine the life she leads
This worst case scenario
Grief a familiar shroud;
Myths and misconceptions surround
Assumptions of a regret for an unobtained goal

But if you ask her, this worst case scenario
About her journey along the way
If you listen carefully to the words that she'll say
Though she'll tell you of loss
The sharp pain felt so dear
She'll, too, tell you for the joy she's felt
The battles won
The moments and lessons that have shaped her now
And who she will become

Because the greatest stories all involve
A worst case scenario
It's just that it marks a new beginning
Not a permanent end

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

When puppies say it best

Somehow I got it into my head that watching election results return was a good idea. . . .
On the left: Oscar; representing how I want to feel. On the right: Grace; how I'm actually feeling

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