On Taking Solo Walks

Bay and bridge view

 

Sometimes when I’m walking I feel as though I’m standing in place. The joggers whiz by at their pounding pace; cyclists careen past, occasionally with an “On your left,” but generally just the sudden sight of the cyclist in front of me, already receding into the distance. Then there are the people coming toward me, once I notice them, it is as if we switch into slow motion, the distance between us closing like molasses, slowing down until, somehow, there is the nod and pass. Looking down at my feet and the path beneath me (which I do when engrossed in my thoughts or a podcast since Poops passed away in December, so that now I am no longer a part of his sniff-and-pee style of walking), I miss much of the scene around me.

Is there always a trade-off: being introspective or being observant? Do I need both close-to-home and look-at-that! solo walks to maintain my equilibrium? Probably, since we learn over time, don’t we, how to regulate our lives so we can be comfortable in ourselves.

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The first walks that I took by myself were, ostensibly, to find a place to read outside, but as I realize now, they were just to get out. An un-understood drive to wander, to be in the fresh air (NYC-fresh that is), to be unconfined, to be alone—unreachable.

While there were plenty of benches and greenery outside of the apartment building I grew up in, there was no privacy. If there’s anything an introverted, self-conscious, bookworm needs, it’s not to be noticed. And sitting outside reading would not be noticed with great admiration from the neighborhood kids, especially the bullies who always seemed to be around. So onward I went.

Perhaps if I had grown up in a house where I had my own corner in the garden I might not have needed those walks; I might have been content to sit on my stump to read and daydream. I don’t think I regret that loss; how much of a homebody would I be if I were content to just sit on my balcony full of potted flowers and herbs overlooking a church and a graveyard?

There was a bay (Little Neck Bay) about a mile from my house. I generally went there on my walks. Having a view without cars and buildings and people is what, I realize now, propelled me there. While there was the Cross Island Parkway on the other side of the path, I could keep my eyes focused on the water and the sky, and I could pretend that the sound of the cars racing by were waves and wind. It was the vista of space that I needed. My destination could have been to wander my neighborhood and nearby neighborhoods, examining homes and gardens with their distinct personalities, but that suggestion of people wasn’t what I needed. It’s fascinating how we uncover what we need—and how, sometimes, that thing stays with us. I needed a water view with its hint of distant worlds. I still need a water view. It is for me a glimpse at whatever is divine in the universe; my visual connection with the immensity of existence.

Once I learned how to drive, I would drive to Jones Beach. Depending on traffic (a phrase anyone from a city uses to preface driving information), it took about 40 minutes to get there. But it was worth the drive. I wouldn’t go in the summer when the traffic was crazy and the beach towel-to-towel, but off-season to walk, to be. The waves broke and the wind blew ceaselessly off the Atlantic Ocean, drawing me both in and out—wondering, and I was at peace. Not an acquiescent peace, rather a peace that inspires a foundational confidence that the future would hold more than the present.

When I lived in Israel I had my walks along the Mediterranean Sea, which often combined with a swim and a drive. They were not solo, they were a part of my relationship with my ex-husband, and they helped to establish our rhythm and belief that we were in sync. Maybe if we had stayed close to those shores things might have unfolded differently?

Now that I live in Northern Virginia I have my walks along the Potomac River. Although they don’t match the drama of walking along a bay, a sea, an ocean, my life, too, is more sedate, like a river. While my occasional Potomac walks settle my need for a water walk, the closeness of the opposite shore, so like where I stroll, hinders me from being inspired. That shore keeps closed something within me.

The nearest ocean walk is three-hours away, and there is always traffic.

Maybe I need the frustration, the thwarting, to stop my settling into a creeping capitulation. Maybe I don’t know what I need anymore, so accepting have I become of what I am. Maybe I reached a high tide, hoarding what I have, flourishing in my waters, expecting low tide, wondering what it will leave and what it will take.

 


Morning Waves of Envy

June 2017 Bronx Botanical Garden
Rose Garden, Bronx Botanical Gardens

 

I’m trying to figure out if I’m envious of my colleagues and friends who have recently entered into serious relationships, or if I’m just a good friend who’s happy for their happiness. The of-the-moment me, before my me-me-me thoughts intrude, jumps up and down for joy, echoing their abandon and confidence. Who could deny the sensuous pull of new love?

The cynical part of me, though, feels as would a woman in a long-term relationship (I had been in one of those; 21-years) who looks on with a haughty, bemused expression, thinking back to her own romantic beginnings and where they had led her. Wondering, as the weight of her accumulated grievances bring her down, how could anyone be so naïve.

But the part of me that’s a tad uneasy about being alone in the somewhat-distant future, when I start to fall apart inside and out, wishes that envy were at my core, driving me to actively seek out someone whom I could love for making me feel protected and adored. A stroke to the ego and a helping hand can’t be the worst things in the world, especially when I can imagine regret tearing at the edges of my days and a wobble as I steady myself for standing.

My bitter divorce (10 years next month!—unbelievable how time zooms), my brief manipulative relationships, and various bland dates should have cleared me from harboring envious thoughts, but, I realize sadly, they have not. I really do wish my thoughts were untainted, but, unfortunately, they aren’t. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to act on them, though, because my envy-penetrating walls still offer more comfort than unease.

As I see picture after picture of couples enjoying summer baseball games at stadiums around the country, I wonder, as I sit at my dining/writing table, about missing the opportunities that paired life seamlessly present. Again, envy prickles, because isn’t that, still, what I’m supposed to want. It’s hard to look past the social norm that summer vacation is to accumulate shared experiences, especially with a partner.

For a while now my purpose has been unmoored from that base, though still tenuously tethered to that ill-fitting norm, hence the creep of envy. But what if my purpose has morphed to ensure that I always have solitary breathing time and space from which the thoughts that nourish me propagate, and not for the activities and chatter. Perhaps the envy surfaces to force me to continually re-assess my stability and happiness. Perhaps it is not to unnerve me and push me toward abandoning my path, but rather to check in, to see if this is still right for me.

Looking at those paired smiles I need to invite the envy, not fear it, for I want my life to remain vibrantly my own. I need to anticipate that my perceptions may change and not shut them out, beyond my walls. For now, envy quickly fades back to sympathy, signaling that, for now, I am right where I need to be.

 


Balancing Act

Morning on Naples Beach  July 2017

 

It’s been a while since I’ve written, and it’s been a longer while since I’ve written anything other than from a solid core of disgust, anger, and disappointment. I’ve been trying to figure out how to function in this early-stage dystopian world that is pulling us down, but I haven’t succeeded—perhaps because I refuse to concede that this is our future. Still, it’s impossible to look away (even for two days at the beach in Naples, Florida), to pause in the cycle of read, react, watch, rant. But I’m finally getting to the point when I must let other thoughts and ideas develop and be sustained. It is not an abdication of my duty as a citizen. Rather, it will enable me to continue the drumbeat of resistance without being drawn into the silence of despair and inertia.

I’m doing my part, getting involved as much as I can within the limitations of my personality. I tried stretching myself, but there’s just so much elasticity in desire. Still, I am trying to rise to the horrible occasion of so much self-serving dishonesty and greed, and a monochromatic palette of hatreds. I know I don’t have to explain anything to anyone, but I feel I must, especially since my writing mind generally veers into the personal, the contemplation of my life to understand myself and my world, and to, hopefully, help others along their contemplative paths. Since my guiding understanding has always been that if something interests me, concerns me, fascinates me, other people have those same curiosities; therefore, I feel I must state that just because my writing is not an endless howl at the pile-on of treacheries, that is not to say that I have acquiesced to acceptance. I am becoming the actions and voices that will enable me to resist and persist.

Alligator at rest


Weekend

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Along the Potomac River, between Mount Vernon and the White House

A nap,

A walk,

A piece of pie,

A slice of cake,

A pint of ice cream,

A bottle of beer,

A glass of wine,

A drama,

A comedy,

A documentary,

A novel—

It is never enough

There are never enough

Distractions

To forget.

 

How can I let myself

Even for a moment

Forget this man/these men

This ego/these egos

Their actions and policies

That destroy.destroy.destroy

With glee and arrogance.

 

My mind

Has become fraught

Aghast

Grieving, yet

Hoping

for a rationality that is more than

beseeching supplication.

 

When will it end!?

 

There are only momentary respites

From this reality.

How hard is it to live in a time

Of circus mirrors where everything is

Wrong/opposite!

 


Marching to Save the Climate on a Hot April Day in DC

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The Sign was not in the signs

So insightful, humorous, painful, so

Purposeful and planned.

The moment that transcended

Sharpies, poster board, and paint

Rolled up Pennsylvania Avenue

In our voices: our voice.

Conviction is a sound.

The boom and cry that is the voice

That connects each heart.

It came up the street like a movement of air

Pulsing through the thousands.

Connecting each to each.

 

The beat of Mother Earth in our souls.

 

Moments later, at two o’clock,

We were told to sit and

Make the sound of a beating heart.

clap-clap-CLAP, clap-clap-CLAP.

But we had already lived it through our howl

That flowed like a river from the Capitol to

The White House (empty, he could never

Feel that force anyway),

Before we lived it through our hands.

 

We Protectors of Justice,

Creators of Sanctuary

Builders of Democracy

Guardians of the Future

Defenders of Truth

Keepers of the Faith

Reshapers of Power

Strugglers for Our Home

Given a moment of beauty,

within the connective web

That unites our hearts with the wind.

 

Commitment is a sound:

A joy-

ous movement;

A por-

ous moment.

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I Am Irked

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#JusticeforJuan Rally

Sometimes I forget that I’m stressed because of the racist, sexist, anti-environment, anti-knowledge, anti-all-but-the-rich, let’s just say it, deplorable administration and think that there’s something wrong in my life. But no, all is well. Well except for this persistent discomfort; kind of like the feeling you have when your stomach starts to signal its opposition to your eating choices. Or maybe like the feeling you have when you drink tainted water or breathe polluted air. There isn’t good; there are just degrees of bearable.

It’s certainly not just me. In just about every conversation I have the name t- comes up, followed by that person’s litany of his latest offenses. There’s no stopping these discharges, and I am certainly as guilty as anyone—and as strident (okay, more). As much as I want to resist going there, it seems impossible not to. This is the rage that cannot be stilled or contained for long. It’s not conversation, it’s a back and forth release of the thoughts that have collected and solidified in each of our brains since learning the latest news since the previous release. This outlet is essential because the outrages are continuous—and the build-up of tension cannot just keep growing. Between the sharing of the hit list of offensive offenses and marching (Yeah, Earth Day marchers for science! I went to protest ICE deportations) we have each been propelled to defend a moral and ethical compass. We will not be swayed or manipulated by the scales of hate, greed, and ego.

But my goodness! The imposition that politics can have into and onto one’s psyche. The horror of being faced with policies and people that represent the exact opposite of what I value leads both to that constant ache as well as a powerful need to protect and defend. There is no escapism. How do you escape from your conscience? (Thank goodness there are so many of us with consciences that encompass compassion!)

I know that throughout human history there have been times of trial, and this, unfortunately, seems to be our trial. It is not on the scale of the degradations people have faced—and are facing in other places, but faced with the potential of worse to come, it is uplifting to see that the rage simmers within so many of us. The rage that cannot let our minds rest. The rage that is a paroxysm of openness opposite one that confines. This is the time when we must answer our pull to make a positive impact on our world, in whatever ways suit us. This is the time when frustration and anger need to be converted into the acts that will define each of us, and which, together, will create a groundswell for good.

We need to create a world of individual Venn diagrams that overlap in wondrous layers where we interconnect, interact, and stabilize—ourselves and each other—to resist that dark vision, and to create one that glows with hope and potential.

The potential to transform our stress into engines of growth that outstrip his/their push to suppress is the truest driving force. A transformation that (fingers crossed) happens before we all have nervous breakdowns.

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Upriver from Mount Vernon, George Washington's home and farm

Getting True Strength

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Spring blossoms

People have been wondering why white women voted for t-boy, as have I. Until I started thinking about being teased growing up. Then it sort-of kind-of made some sense: this voting for a bully thing.

I lived in Queens in a fairly typical six-story, ten apartments per floor, red brick building with an identical building across a joint parking lot, making it a little enclave. Between the two buildings there was a large playground/play area. This was my immediate neighborhood and the kids who lived in the two buildings, until we were old enough not to depend on proximity for friendships, were the kids I hung out with. These included two girls a year older than me, two girls a year younger than me, and about the same number and age range of boys.

Memories of my childhood include name-calling about how ugly I was and not being chosen for teams. These two, shall I go out on a limb here, were linked. The teasing and the non-choosing were done by the boys, while the girls, especially the two younger girls, acted as if they didn’t see or hear a thing, and took their places on the teams they had been picked for. They were the cute girls. The two older girls generally acted as if they were too old to play games, besides they were too tough to be teased, and their older brothers and parents were far more intimidating than mine. Which left me as the outlet for the bullies. Lucky me!

For years my mind would revisit a scene where a pack of those boys on their bikes turned to me and told me that I couldn’t follow them, that I wasn’t wanted. Another scene that replays is being ignored when choosing teams on the improvised baseball field and my desperate retreat straight to my bedroom in our first floor apartment (where I could still see and hear them).

In all of my brief, then hastily re-buried, remembrances over the years, it never occurred to me that my friends didn’t defend me. There was no “her or us” ultimatum. There was no sacrificing themselves for me. (Were they saving themselves from being teased too?) Or, they didn’t notice. Or, they didn’t take the ignoring and teasing seriously. Or, they didn’t care enough about me. Or, they didn’t care about anyone but themselves. Now I know that they were not friends: there are no good reasons to ignore others being hurt and bullied, especially a friend.

When I was going through my divorce, I used to note how cruel my daughters could be to me, siding with their father against me. But what I finally understood was that they needed to do that to preserve their relationship with him. They saw what he did to someone who he no longer loved; they saw and heard the cruelty of his actions and words toward me. They knew, in the way we know things without being cognizant of them, that I would never seal off my love from them and treat them as unwanted outsiders, as he had done to me. Siding with him was the only way they had of trying to keep the love of their father. What a choice, even if an unknowing one.

Perhaps my friends didn’t react so that they could preserve their status as valued and protected girls. Perhaps that is what some of the white women who voted for t-boy and his ilk, did. They get to remain within that protective circle, even if it means being demeaned and demeaning themselves. For them, being protected, even by their abusers (for what else is a person who devalues you?), is safer than being on their own, with no protection. Research on abuse shows that it takes a woman seven times of leaving to finally leave her abuser. It’s hard to break a cycle of abuse; it’s hard to create one’s own sense and space of safety and security.

My friends stayed outside to play, while I retreated to my room.

I wonder now who was really safer?

Do we really wonder what happens to women who are deferential, who allow themselves to be physically comforted but morally contorted?

We must defeat those who will diminish our independence by recognizing that some modes of self-preservation do not protect the core, and that one’s moral fiber can become thickly woven with dissatisfactions and anger, rather than fulfillment and purpose. We need to recognize how we can twist ourselves to appease the internal distress that comes when we act against ourselves. And act against ourselves we do when we join with those who debase a person’s essence.

All of us—women and men—need to recognize the place within that concedes, appeases, and fears. We must crowd out those hesitations and use that internal struggle to learn to vie against those who seek to hurt or weaken any of us. Strength is not a show of force; strength is overcoming fear so that we can act in compassion for me, for you, for us all.

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Spring blossoms: the beauty of more

 


Eating with Women

 

IMG_1989

 

A meal without a woman.

Who knew that’s a thing?

Grabbing them by the p*ssy.

Who knew it was ok?

It’s all too much for me. I want to be snarky and witty, but I’m too angry for that.

Apparently, the non-eating with a woman alone thing is standard practice with Evangelicals and other Conservatives, which, I guess, would be merely mind-boggling if those guys weren’t directing the government, as in instituting policies that affect women who they refuse to see as their equals. (Unless it's equal to temptation.) They subscribe to the “protect them for they’re too weak” and “protect us for we’re too weak” outlook of gender. It’s clear that Thing 1 and Thing 2 have absolutely no respect for approximately 50% of the population. It’s hard to believe that minds don’t progress. Men and women who believe in Patriarchy have taken the reins, and are using them to undermine and belittle those of us who have no patience any more for their War on Women.

These guys are simply a suited version of the guys in a construction site who think it’s grand to grade and degrade women as they walk by. These men may not be catcalling, but they sure as hell don’t have a more sophisticated outlook on women. Maybe that’s how we have to perceive them: a bunch of immature bullies. Gosh, isn’t it fun to tell a woman what she can do with her body.

But we know, in spite of their hold, that the world was not set in motion to continually stroke men’s egos.

Clearly, there is no talking to people who are incapable of seeing a woman as anything but a giant apple on a tree. And you know what, their presence frustrates, it does not intimidate. We are still on the march.

This afternoon I went to a meeting of the organizers of local groups who are actively engaged in Virginia 2017 elections and beyond. There were about 40 women and 8 men present. These are not women who are waiting for someone else to take the reins and make decisions. These are not women who are asking for help from a party or an organization. These are women who are creating and redefining themselves—and our world. Self-preservation is a powerful motivating tool. We are in it, forming whatever it is, because it is not futile to fight for the future. The only thing that is futile is defeat and there is no way that any of us will acquiesce to misogyny.

 


Ordinary Day in Extraordinary Times

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It’s split personality time: half of me is doing my work and keeping the stove and washing machine busy, while the other half remains obsessed with the news and the latest outrages. It’s darn exhausting, but the groundedness means that I can’t get too overwhelmed, and that I don’t lose my connection to optimism, however tenuous. That optimism comes from the unshakeable belief that nevertheless, she persisted is a positive trait within enough of us to push back against the obscene absence of basic humanity in t- and the repubs who push the papers around that punish people for not being them.

Not being them. I fundamentally reject the attempt to reinforce the superiority of one group of people over the diversity within each of us. The insidious drive to undermine the independence and equality of the other never seems to be quelled, quieted perhaps, but not permanently conquered. What is it within man that finds it so difficult to share and try things at the neighborhood pot luck?

Yes, I admit, it’s scary to realize that there are situations wherein you are not the expert, and you are not in charge. It’s called maturing and, perhaps, developing compassion, a backbone, and experience that, if contemplated, can morph into wisdom. Is it really so hard to comprehend that some people have different customs and habits than you, and that that’s okay? You would think that it’s a natural part of growing up. These guys seem to have heard FDR’s statement that “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” as a call to give in to your fears, rather than to conquer them.

How hard is it to look someone in the eye who doesn’t look like you? That shouldn’t be on the fear scale, that should be on the hospitality scale.

I’m trying to understand fear that has long ago morphed into ugly hatred because what else can be at the core of their incessant campaign to cut away the rights of any other. But maybe I need to stop doing that. Maybe I need to stop giving hate space in my mind, and focus instead on the encouraging enlightenment that the resisters demonstrate. Let me switch my focus from those who prefer to deprive sustenance to those who thrive on providing succor. Let me remember the faces flush with promise at the Women’s March and not the berating scowls from behind podiums of testiness.

This in no way means that I will ignore the unfolding horrors, because I turn on the news and read the news, but I will rejoice in the emails of petitions and meetings to collaborate because we have our guiding sentiment: “Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have” (Margaret Mead). Caring cannot be debased into supporting corporations over people and the earth, nor the already supremely entitled to have even more entitlements on the backs of those who are burdened.

This call to action that so many have answered is the valid response of the compassionate; it will not be debased by commenting that people won’t accept the outcome of the election. As we call out at rallies: “This is what Democracy looks like.” It is not disgruntled; it is enlivened by the lives of this and future generations, not the transitory glee in defeating those who have already been pushed down. It is, isn’t it, the all too present battle of the haves and the have nots, the survival of the fittest, the law of the jungle. It is those jabbing the jugular vs. those living heart-to-heart. It is those who know all the answers vs. those who cannot know until they have heard, seen, felt, and learned.

At this time we each need to act, to not be bystanders who either know not what they stand for or are unwilling to defend or protect those beliefs, because silence is easily perceived as acquiescence, and the world that is thundering in threatens to still far too many of us.


Dress Like a Woman

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 Dress like a woman. The head reels from the insults of the little man in the White House. It should be hard to believe that a man still feels he can tell women to wear skirts and dresses, but we’re talking about a man who’s friends with guys who want to forcefully put an ultrasound wand up our formerly private parts and he wants to go there without a wand—and he’s buds with guys who think a rapist has more rights than the woman he raped. We’re talking about a man and his guys who know better than us weak women what to wear and what to do with our own bodies. What’s with the insatiable need to control people? Can they all be so very insecure and consumed with their own importance that they can’t give a woman a smidgen of respect?

UGH.

This rant is on a loop.

Dress like a woman. The images in Twitter of female scientists, astronauts, doctors, soldiers, Supreme Court justices, and simply women walking are inspiring. Ah, the biting humor. Reminds me of the Women’s March on Washington two weeks ago, and those signs, which, clearly, didn’t have an impact on the small-handed/minded man. Or maybe it did. Maybe he needs to lash out to make sure that at least he can control the women in his little sphere, because outside of the White House (which, by the way, is ours) none of us is putting on panty hose or spanx for him. (Maybe he wants to wear them himself?)

Dress like a woman. Growing up I had to wear dresses all the time. Dressing like a girl back in the 60s and 70s. How I hated tights and the suffocating feeling of my body being encased in plastic. Dresses just made me uncomfortable; I’m naturally of the Pantsuit Nation. Is it that a woman appears to be submissive when she wears a dress? Or is it that she’s conforming to a norm? Enough already. Its 2017. Conformity has taken a hit.

Dress like a man. What’s with mean man telling the men who work for him that they need to wear a uniform: solid color suits and ties, and (this must be a rule too) white shirts. (Are brown shirts next?) Is no one allowed to be an individual around him? Does he need to subvert all sense of self to himself?

Dress like a woman. Which is doublespeak (finally America has an official second language) for act like a woman. Why? What’s in it for me? I was married to a man who knew he was smarter than me and was always trying to tell me what to do. (I thought we had discussions; I was delusional.) When I couldn’t take it anymore and finally said NO, he was stunned. But the mutual shock of that moment flipped the order of things. I was in control (okay, I won’t exaggerate four years of agony after that moment), but it stopped the fall of my self-esteem. This is our NO moment. We have taken it for far too long to back down now. There is no place to go back to. It’s not safe there because it led us to here. Only ahead, into the future we create may we each find what we need. We tried to play the game, we played nice, too nice, but we have been stymied at every turn—and that last glass ceiling that’s been cracked and artificially held in place, that’s temporary.

Dress like a woman. I have a friend who wears the tiniest of thongs. I’m partial to cotton briefs. Is she more of a woman than me?

Dress like a woman. When you figure out that women are individuals intent on being their own selves and not a prop for your ego, you can find me in my hot pink sweats.

I know there are other offenses that have been tweeted, spoken, and signed this past week, but this insult to women is such a button to me. The verbal appeasement of Vlad and the throwing under the bus of every American who has tried to protect this country is so astonishing that it’s hard to figure out what to grasp onto other than: this man is his ego, and that’s not a solid thing. For all his bluster, we must be relentless—until he begs us to take him to the place where they have a nice pair of solid-color fuzzy pajamas with very long sleeves waiting for him.

 


Just Let Us Be

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I am sick of seeing the bland, pasty faces of middle-aged white men making seething-red decisions for us women. This has got to stop.

I know we marched, and we’re energized and mobilized, but underneath that power is the sickening, demoralizing sentiment seen in some signs at the Women’s March: “I can’t believe we’re still protesting this sh*t.”

Right now, after seeing the scotus pick, I need to howl and howl and howl, and howl some more until these boys without b*lls turn and look into the eyes of us women.

How I wish we could mean nothing to them so they would just leave us alone. I don’t want to be an object of desire and projection, I don’t need protection by / from them, just let me be.

We don’t need you. Deal with it.

Stop the pandering, the pampering, the patronizing.

Just stay in your boys’ club doing boy things and let us be. Let us get on with our lives and I promise we won’t make jokes about, well, you know.


I Marched for Women in DC

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"Hello 1955? Please hold for the Republicans." 

What a day of celebrating women, especially our feistiness! You’ve got to love the creators of the clever signs and hot pink pussy hats that turned the streets of DC Amazonian. Ladylike subtly had no place on those streets that reverberated with pent up frustrations of women of all ages, and the men who respect us. We might have burst out in smiles and humor and camaraderie against the sexists we’re fed up, but underlying it all was the giving and taking of support and understanding for what we have put up with to reach this point. We are fed up and fired up! Our votes weren’t enough, so now it will be our actions, starting today, as so many of the speakers stressed.

At 8:00 Saturday morning when a good friend and I met up with a woman I worked with this summer to register voters in Northern Virginia and a close friend of hers, we were two pairs of friends. Six hours later, when we hugged goodbye at the same Metro station where our day had begun, we were March Friends who stuck together through the chill, the confusion, the crowds, and the certainty that this was an historic moment we were proud to be part of.

At various times through the day, one of us was cold and needed to sit, tired of standing in one spot and needed to walk, wanted to get closer to the speakers to hear clearly, and just wanted to go home. We were a team that took care of each other, balancing our needs so that we each had the march we needed. It wasn’t just being nice, it was true womanly solidarity, and it came from how we helped each other, and how everyone around us supported each other too. There were hands to help us climb over barricades when we couldn’t enter into the mass of people in Independence Avenue and there were shared cheers that helped momentarily expel the gnawing shame and pain of the new president. Those cheers! Apparently, I have quite the voice to be heard, as my newest friend in the group noted during one early rising wave of cheers that rolled down the avenue. I heard no beginning and no end. It kept rolling.

When it was time to go home, we walked quite a bit (making it another part of the march) to find an open Metro station. But just as we were about to go down the stilled escalator, a Metro rep said that the station had just been closed. A woman called out to ask him what was happening and when would it open again. No response. He was mute, taping away on his phone. Then, when a man called out and asked the same question, there was a response. It could have been the timing, and it could also have been the fact that the officer's ears were attuned to hearing a man’s voice and answering it. The woman who had asked, all of us women, was having none of his dismissiveness—not on our day! Feet away from a march for women and the same ole was happening. We know why we march!

It’s funny in a sad, way-of-the-world sigh that as I sit here thinking about the day, I realize that there wasn’t a moment when I felt unsafe walking around the march area or when I felt that I couldn’t look directly into a person’s eyes without being assessed, ranked, rated, catalogued. My goodness, it was ennobling not to have to look down or away after meeting someone’s eyes. We could meet and be met heart-to-heart.

My first realization of this insight came when we stood jammed on the street waiting to go down to the Metro. I said aloud, to understanding nods, that I didn’t have to worry (about being groped or pushed against—we all knew what I was talking about) with so many women crowded together as I would have been if there were more men around. So that’s what men must feel every single day: unintimidated and unsexualized. A feeling that all women deserve to experience every single day. A powerful reason to march and keep on marching!

The march certainly was in stark contrast to what we’re fighting against, which was pretty darn clear in the signs: a misogynist, p*ssy grabber who would have us go back to the 1950s when white men ruled the roost, from home to House. But we are not going back there! Didn’t you see us march around the world in protest to that!

We March Friends, the four of us and beyond, will not be divided from our mission. Our hopes for our first woman president were stolen from us. We see that we have each other to depend on—and we need to act on that, and reach out to the women who could not envision what a positive thing a sea of pink could be. And you know what they say about women: their place is in the House and Senate, and White House too!

Onward, marching to action.


It Really Happened

 

At noon today, inauguration day, I heard a jet fighter shudder through the air above my apartment in Northern Virginia. It was, I immediately realized, the ominous sound of bitter reality: the inauguration of t- was happening.

I am sad, angry, disappointed, and shocked that that man has become president. But I don’t want to punish/push myself deeper into a depressed daze by thinking of all the negatives that led to this moment, or about the repulsive bigot-in-chief, or about the devastation coming. All the blaming and hostility I will leave to people who can accomplish something with those insights and outrage. This will be a moment to reflect on how I can filter my thoughts and hopes into reverberations that might join with others to turn back this tide propelled by blindered, arrogant egos.

From within my woman’s brain and my “we are a village and we must take care of each other” perception of the world, is my strength, which was, ironically, strengthened through my divorce from a man with one of those narcissistic egos. An essential lesson from that marriage-divorce experience is that persistence in the belief that I would not put up with being directed or belittled (once I realized what was happening), and once I adhered to that I was able be the safe, content, and unimposed woman I am today.

Which is, it seems, where we need to start our perceptions with t & co. These are not leaders who deserve respect for their grasp of an issue, or even their compassion and desire to do right by people and the earth, even if we disagree with them. These are people who bully and order others around, unconcerned with damage and destruction as long as their will is done. The “my way or the highway” types. They are the bullies and they will push us around, as my ex did to me. But I didn’t remain limp: we didn’t even start out limp! As people have rightly done, we need to rise up. Each in his/her way. Raindrops coming together to create a storm, a river: movements.

By relentlessly believing in our causes, pushing back, pushing against, refusing to surrender is the way to win back democracy from encroaching authoritarianism and t & co.’s desired erosion of our rights.

We cannot be bystanders.

I might not be up to running for office or leading an organization or group beyond myself, but I can be one of those voices that rises up to create thunder sonorous enough to drown out a fighter jet.

Yes to calls and emails and petitions. Yes to visits. Yes to questioning and investigating. Yes to mocking! Oh, how those big egos hate to be mocked—to not be perceived as above us all. Yes to continuously saying NO!

YES TO VOTING in every available election. The system, we see, must be changed from within. From within us.


Women Marching

 

Where is a place of stability

within this swarm of anxious fear?

I need a rock to stand upon

so I cannot dig into myself

finding blame for what I tried to change,

drilling into good intentions,

hoping to find a fault—

wishing to find a simple reason

or cause other than

not being heard

not being heeded

not being enough, somehow.

 

When will we ever be enough?

Perhaps when we recognize that

you, man, men,

are naked beneath your

bleak, blustering bitterness,

but we, we are always

pink,

fertile crescents each and every

one of

us.

 

We will no longer be conquered

above or below

the belt.

We, together,

will create a bedrock

for each of us, all of us, together us

to

be

free

and sure and

safe.

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Women's March on Washington

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I'm going to the Women's March on Washington on January 21, the day after the inauguration, to proclaim that I will not stand idly by as my rights, and the rights of other women and men, no matter who they are, are imperiled by this administration. 

For more information on the march go the Women's March page, and for information on marches across the country and world go to the sister marches page


Done with Make-up

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About a month ago, I stopped wearing make-up. It wasn’t as if I threw away an array of bottles and tubes, and then rethought my look and retooled my morning routine. Nope, I threw out one tube of mascara, one blush compact, one eye shadow compact with eight shades of brown and beige, and one green eye shadow compact. It wasn’t even done as a protest against make-up (kind of obvious with the number of items I had; anyway, I had already made that protest in my teens) and how we women are made to think that we cannot be without adjustments and alterations. My act was to prevent even more chemicals seeping into my body. In the month since that act, I have become surprisingly relaxed and comfortable about my appearance—and this from a woman who had already been pretty relaxed. (What a joy to be middle-aged!)

I’ve stopped leaning into the mirror to critique myself. I’m not looking to find what needs to be hidden (except the “occasional” chin hair to be plucked), even with my minimal tools, or to declare the dullness of my looks, casting a pall upon my mood even before my day has started. Nope. I’m not looking for—and, of course, finding—signs of age, stress, lackluster features, a general discontent reflected back at me. Getting rid of make-up has helped me to stop worrying about interpreting my visual self and then to, seamlessly, infuriatingly, depressingly, impute that upon my internal, unseen self. And, if I’m not worrying about how I look, then I’m not worrying about what other people think about how I look, and so I can simply prepare myself for my day.

That ease has transferred to my clothing. As my make-up was utilitarian, so too are the clothes in my closet. Thinking back on this past month, I find that I have focused more on how I want to feel, and, logically, the weather, rather than on how I want to present myself. I’ve cut myself loose from external guidelines and expectations, and it’s been darn good. It’s as if I’m living my internal life externally.

Perhaps this has been my reaction to the election: my discomfort with the world and this pervasive sense of doom and uncertainty have led me to strip away the non-essentials. Perhaps a world that seems focused on the external, the barely thought, the quick assessment and denigration of others, is one in which I can protest simply by centering within and honoring myself, and use that as a deep base from which to face those perceptions. Perhaps this is a way to not allow the ugliness in; to protect myself from words and demeanors that degrade. Perhaps this non-compliance with a norm is a step in undermining its weight—I will not allow external entities to evaluate me.

This is the way forward.

This protective action that, for me, seems to be a proclamation against the misogynists and people who “simply” think men are more/better than women. I continue to stand against their misguided interpretation of strength, independence, interdependence, and what it means to be beautiful.

And I call out to women and men to join me. Each woman should take a step in/out that affirms that she will not be defined or sidelined. And each man should look in/out for echoes of thoughts and actions that belie a paternalistic interpretation.

It’s absurd that we’re still at a point where pernicious, belittling attitudes toward women hold sway. It’s absurd that men still let themselves be bridled by a confidence that is not theirs, but on which they ride.

It’s time to cast aside prohibitive stereotypes and embrace feminism, for it seems that our well-being and that of our world depends on it.

Yes, all that from not wearing make-up. 


Hanukkah, or Defying a Government that Oppresses You

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Potato latkes and jelly donuts might be the oil-soaked foods of Hanukkah celebrations with a hefty side of chicken soup and brisket, and dreidel may be the game of choice (who doesn’t want to win chocolate gelt), but in essence this festival of lights (WOOHOO!, the oil lasted eight days instead of one which enabled the temple desecrated by the Romans to be rededicated nice and pure again) is another Jewish holiday that celebrates the Jews surviving an attempt to suppress us and our religion, and if that didn’t work, well, then, let’s try to kill all the Jews. It’s a We Survived holiday!

At around 168 BCE, the Jews survived this onslaught brought about by the Syrian-Greeks and their Roman overlords.

And then there’s Purim, when we survived the ancient Persians. Let’s send gifts of food, eat hat- or ear-shaped cookies to celebrate the defeat of a very bad bad-guy, Haman (noisemaker noises here), and drink too much in celebration of surviving!

And there’s Passover, when we survived the ancient Egyptians. Let’s recount the miraculous slavery-to-freedom story and then eat plain matzah, matzah balls, and fried matzah for eight days in celebration of getting out!

Then there are the non-celebrated cycles of expulsions and pogroms from here, there, and everywhere. Existence itself is the bittersweet celebration. Thank goodness for heavy post-survival recipes from pre-assault days to dull the memories!

We live. We suffer. We pray. We rebel, we refuse, we relocate. We survive. We thank God. We eat.

It’s a horrible cycle that had seemed as if it was coming to an end. It seemed that, somehow, people had risen above the visceral hatreds—after the ultimate display of hatred—that stoke the dank recesses of the soul. Yeah, no.

But I’m not thinking only about antisemitism now, now in this time of rising anger against any “other” (including, of course, why not, the Jews) but rather of the stokers who live to incite and reap (what? what do they reap?). I’m thinking of how we can heed history as it has been forced upon Jews and how we can help understand how not to be crushed by history.

Emperor. King. Pharaoh. President. Sovereign. Tsar.

They have all taken power from us, the hands that feed them. We, the human trampoline, from which they yield so much fun fun fun in the guise of power and property.

Can we Jews be a lesson to the world about the everlasting survival from—and, unfortunately, of—Fear and Hate in their tightly wound package that explodes to suppress all resistance to the complacent uniformity it demands so as to filter out and renounce respect and compassion—and with it the hope for something more than timorous survival. Because that’s what I see here: the rise to power of those who serve no one but the self, as opposed to those who find power within the communion of people for the good of all. This Them versus Us is the rise of I KNOWers versus We THINKers.

Why can’t the lesson from the cycle be to try to prevent the pain of survival? Why not try with all our concerted efforts to prevent the destruction from which, we pray, survive?

I refuse to cede mind or future to people whose passion is acquisition of control and usurpation of rights. This is not tikkun olam, improving/repairing the world, this is destroying the world—what entity could sanction or reward that? They want to take away education, healthcare, financial security, clean air and water, freedom of speech and religion, a woman’s sovereignty over her body. This is not disagreement, this is attempting to supplant my right to live—to breathe freely (physically and psychically). We must try to prevent the need to rise up from the ashes; we need to thrust against plans and ideas that mangle bodies and souls. We must be the true majority: the People who believe in and live with compassion. We need to call on and out all supposed leaders, demanding that they refuse to compromise or placate or play the politics game on our backs. This is not wait and see, this is learning from history that rulers do not share unless forced to.

I don’t want a special treat (I envision, though, a long-cooking stew with a dollop of bitter cream and a garnish of crumbled Bugles) and game (find the hidden treasure, only to find it composed of things the other players took from you and each other during previous rounds) to celebrate survival. No, I want our voices rising and our votes cast from now until this travesty has been declared an impotent failure and a sign of all that is wrong, and then to keep calling out until we are the government that is of, for, and by we, the people whose concerns are for each of us and not the feigned righteousness of a few.

The Woman’s March on Washington on January 21 is a start. I’m going and will be helping out. I hope to see you there: Women's March on Washington. And if you can’t make it to DC, think about joining a local march. Voices rising!


Let Shrillness Ring

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This is for my student who wrote “rape won”;

for my daughter who thought sexism was dead;

for the girls who deal with boys being boys;

for the sluts we are for having a woman’s body.

 

Let our shrill voices rise and spread until they are heeded directives.

Let our bitchiness thrive until it is the norm that is no longer placated and silenced.

 

Don’t try to soothe us: we are beyond appeasement.

We don’t want your condescending advice dictated in superior tones.

We are not the vessels of your perverted visions;

We are

Not of you

We are of ourselves and the people who respect

Our bodies

Our minds

Our moods

swinging

Our stubbornness.

 

We are the pinpricks of conscience you feel, but don’t acknowledge.

You don’t know this, but

we mock you and your need to control and limit—

for we rise and thrive past your oppression,

but you, you are tied to it—constricted by the emptiness of your own binds.

 

Each of us is

a fountain that cannot be contained;

a decision that banishes naysayers;

an emotion that unites;

propelling us forward—past the misogynists

and into the respectful reality we envision for ourselves

and each other.

 

Ours is a vision that cannot be crushed:

united together

woman women.  

 


Sharers and Shearers

Animas River

I have no plan; it seems, though, that this is the time to join with others who are planning to resist and resist and resist. I will sign petitions and send emails. I will gather to stand for our rights not to be trampled under the feet of the arrogant. I will be part of wells of justice that counter walls of hatred. I will not be undermined by wallets stacked with bills of perversion. I will share what comes from my place of strength. These are my intentions.

In the middle of the night I awaken with my jaws clenched. I am trying to understand, but I ache and cry tears of fear and disgust.

These are my pronouncements.

I am proud to be a woman who cares about other women and their ability to support themselves, and take care of themselves and their children.

I am proud to be Jewish, raised on a foundation of working to make the world better and safer for Jews and all oppressed people.

I am proud to have come from New York City, where we respect each other and understand that we have bonds that join us and create interdependence even if they are forged in the steamy subways of summer.

I am proud to be part of the tide that has turned Northern Virginia from red to blue—still—and where the immigrant population has made this a restaurant haven where we appreciate new flavors and ways of interpreting the world.

I am proud to teach in a school were students generally see differences, not as dividing lines between people but as something to respect and be curious about.

Call me a bleeding-heart liberal. Call me an out-of-touch coaster.

SO

I feel for people with no plans or prospects.

I feel for people who want the past to be the present.

I feel for people who agonize over the choices women make for their bodies.

I feel for people who are discomforted by same-sex love and gender fluidity.

I feel for people who rage over their lost foothold on the societal totem pole.

SO

It’s hard to care when in return your ideals get trammeled.

BUT

Right now I have no desire to understand or excuse people who live lives distorted by anger, shame, demands, or bitterness and won’t accept another person’s reality. It should not be you or me, there should be an overlapping space of compassion where support is understood to be better than destruction.

Perhaps I cannot accept a worldview in which people are only concerned about themselves.

I don’t want to comfort myself by saying this seems to be a battle in the eternal war between the sharers and the shearers (together with those who serve the shearers even when they themselves are being sheared).

This is my call and cry to myself, to those who sing in my choir, and to those who have not heeded our songs.

No to hindering and bullying. No to oppression and suppression.

This is my constructive call to action to honor each person’s desire for fulfillment and purpose. This is my plan.