We carry on

C came home the other day and said, “You know, we shouldn’t laugh at Donald Trump, even though he’s a bully, because he’s the president.”  That one sentence made me realize that these are indeed the times we’re living in, when a 4 year old can understand the concept of integrity and decorum more than the most powerful head of state in the world.  The reactions to the Women’s March also got me riled up so I feel like the following needs to be said.  This post basically wrote itself.

I was not at the Women’s March but I would have been there in a second.  I couldn’t attend because C had his skating lesson and T naps at that time of day so there I was, at home.  But you know, I knew that these women would understand that my commitments to my family prevented me from driving into Boston and standing with them.  If anyone would “get it” it would be these women.  So, I was there in spirit and was so appreciative of their efforts to bring attention to the fact that we are not going to be still and watch by as human rights and any sense of decency slowly gets burnt down.  You know why we are so attached to these rights?  It’s because the women, men, and racialized people who all took part understand the struggle and sacrifice that was paid to attain them in the first place.  So, the people turning their nose up at such a demonstration of strength and solidarity need to wake the fuck up.  I despise people who want the liberties but don’t want to continually safeguard and work for them.

Do you know when I woke the fuck up?  When I took gender studies classes in undergrad in my early twenties.  The department was called “women’s studies” at the time and even people in my family wondered why the hell I was bothering.  With those professors, writers, theorists, and activists I learnt that the misogynistic shit that we endure is not “normal” and it’s not “right.”  My graduate studies was on the conceptualization of home at various scales but one of the most painful aspects was learning about all of the violence within that space.  Of course there’s physical abuse and the scars they produce but what about the emotional ones?  What about being told constantly that you are a lesser person, that you are stupid, incapable?  Sure, it might not bother you but you know, staying is partly inflicting that violence on yourself.  This gets me to the concept of choice.  Though I fully respect the right to have spiritual beliefs, my religion is founded on the laws that grant me my rights and freedom.  My religion is feminist theory and the people who continue to build it.  So, no orator, religious text or government official is going to sway me in my belief that women have the right to choose.  They lawfully have the right to choose what to do with their bodies, where to walk at night, their occupation, education and when to end their romantic commitments.  There may be danger that comes with these choices but as whole human beings they are able to make them.

So I’m going to end this in a positive way because if we let every little thing in this current state of being get us down, we wouldn’t get out of bed.  Life is beautiful.  I truly mean this.  The most beautiful thing in this life is that even in the most difficult of circumstances women, men and children begin their days and do the best they can.  They work hard to have a life they are proud of and are kind to those in their community.  So let’s all do our part to be respectful and protect what we all rightfully deserve.  In solidarity.

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Drive Part 2

The holiday season always makes me a bit more reflective.  Maybe it’s because a new year is upon us and I think that most of us would agree that 2016 has been one big (your choice of expletive language).  But even amongst those moments of disbelief that so many things could go wrong in one year, there were also sparks of utter joy.  My general approach to life is to try to see the good.  The more cynical individuals will argue that it might rob me of a certain depth to not wallow in that pity.  Sorry, but being smart and miserable are not one and the same.  I would argue that you’re missing out too.  Life can be one long dinner party with excellent conversation if you choose to be a good guest.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for every single blessing I have.  But that’s not to say that Andrew and I don’t work hard for every single thing we have.  There I said it, I work.  That word is probably the only word I have trouble saying with any semblance of confidence when trying to define where I stand in this world.  It was much easier when I was working towards a degree.  It was even simple when I was weeks away from defending a 200-page document that encompassed much of what I cared about for a few years.  But then, you reach a point when you can no longer define yourself so easily within a society that values certain markers of success.

A few weeks ago I heard Andrew tell our son C not to worry too much about “stuff” and to think more about who he is because that’s something that no one can take away from him.  Those words hit me hard because of the simple truth in it.  Is that what we all are building ourselves for?  It’s true, no one can take away my years of education and doctoral degree.  I know, that those “things” don’t go away even if you haven’t found a place for yourself with the credentials you’ve earned.  As a feminist I should be even more critical since I can see through everything that devalues what I do each and every day and the care I give someone else.  Like my mother said, maybe T was meant to grow up with me for a few years.  The bond I have with my son that I’ve forged by being there for him, day in and day out, is also not something that you can rob from me by placing me inside a box, or perhaps more appropriately, within the home.

I think this struggle with ourselves is just how driven, competitive women are built.  It is part of our muscle and sinew to want to be better, the best, to always want more.  The trouble is that sometimes these inner workings can make you a shadow of a person.  Empty people are not present because they’re already 10 years ahead of themselves.  Sometimes it it much healthier to practice some self-acceptance and to offer ourselves the kindness we try to offer others.  Thinking that “it is written” is not defeatist or lazy.  In some ways it allows you to take things in stride.

I know that there are so many women who are working through defining where they want to sit amongst this brave new world that allows us to have whatever we want.  Some of us have made choices but somehow placing the career ahead of so many other possibilities is sometimes seen to be more noble than being “good” in other, smaller, ways.  Smaller, not small.  Being a good mother is the hardest job I’ve ever done and trust me, I once worked in a restaurant hauling dishes up flights of stairs.  I am no princess.  The truth of the matter is that family members may believe that there are a million and one things that you should be doing.  Others worry that “women like you” will be destitute in the case of a divorce.  To these people I respectfully, and with the utmost care tell them to take their need to judge everyone out on some adult coloring books.  Also, newsflash is that many of us would probably marry again, or maybe, just maybe get back to our careers?

At the end of the day, if I know that I’m still trying to find my place in the world, I’m good with that.  Try is the operative word.  Believe it or not, most of us still wake up each morning hustling to reach larger goals.  And to the backseat drivers offering their pert opinions and concern, kindly get out of my car.

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Finish line

Well folks, I am back and it’s story time.  I once saw the end of a race.  The cyclist had just completed a long and arduous course and was going to come out on top.  As a result, he begins to raise his fists with joy.  Unfortunately, while he is busy celebrating his impending victory he falls off of his bicycle and the competitor behind him wins.  Really in these types of situations do you laugh or cry?  In my case I get a take-home lesson without having to feel the heartbreak myself: you shouldn’t relish something you haven’t quite attained yet.

I’ve stayed away because I didn’t have the mental energy to write any posts.  I had to put all of my effort and focus into completing the last revisions and defending my dissertation.  Well, it is done and surprisingly does not feel nearly as satisfying as you would think.  Of course I’m happy and relieved but also hungry for my next challenge.  It is never enough.  I also had another baby a month after defending and he is a sweet little bun.  I am in a house filled with boys and people always say that it means that I’ll always be taken care of.  Being adored sounds pretty good to me.  I’m back but I’m also sleep-deprived.  While the thoughts are still there getting them down on paper takes a bit more effort and it doesn’t sound quite as sharp.  But onward right?  If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from the last time it’s that the fatigue lifts, the body rebounds and the mind becomes quick once more.

That cyclist’s fate reminds me of why I continually try to practice restraint and discretion.  In my mind there is nothing worse than revealing every little part of yourself.  What some people consider friendly I call boring.  Musings from Lainey and Kristen Stewart of all people support my point.  Lainey’s sound advice is that “you light it up when you’re done.”  This is a great reference when you’re working hard and making sacrifices to meet your objective.  At one point during the revision process the frustration was starting to get to me.  Really, you can only re-read a 200 plus page document so many times without just being over it.  I once told Andrew that if my diss became a person and knocked on my front door I would slam it in her face.  That’s right I became so crazy that my thesis gained a gender and legs to come visit me.  But this is when you muscle through it because giving up on all of those years you’ve invested is not an option.  Giving up would be a disservice to not only yourself, but to all those people who have helped you in the past and believe in you still.

It’s also tempting to use your bragging rights much too soon and in this instance I paraphrase Kristen Stewart.  She says that till you’re on set with those giant boom mics above you and you’re actually filming, you don’t talk too specifically about a future project.  Because here’s the truth, life is full of so many factors that you can’t account for.  So, until you are actually in the midst of it all why talk about it?  Hell, I don’t even want to talk about it sometimes when the job is done.

The truth of the matter of is that you only gain this type of perspective when you are finished.  So when things are not so pretty in the middle that’s when you keep working at it.  All that I have gained from my graduate degree from the intellectual development to being a resilient person would not have been acquired without all of the trouble.  You just don’t grow unless you’re a bit uncomfortable and challenged to be better.  Being in grad school taught me to be critical and not buy all of the ideology that society is trying to sell.  That in my opinion is worth everything.

It’s great to be back friends.  I’ll be seeing you.

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Particularities

One of the very best things that maturing as an individual offers you is the practice of mindfulness.  Put simply, you start to recognize when you’re being difficult, whiny, indulgent and you change your behavior accordingly.  For example, it simply puzzles me how certain people need to take a survey of everyone else’s opinions before making certain life choices.  Aren’t you the one using the mortar/pestle, dress etc?

Similarly, when you’ve been exposed to certain theorists in the social sciences, your eyes begin to pick up on certain aspects of everyday life and think of them in novel ways.  For example, when you’ve learnt of Bourdieu you can never really go back.  Of his many theories, the one I find most relevant in my life is the one of “habitus.”  To summarize very broadly, it just means that our upbringing, values and past experiences all shape our current socio-cultural outlook and outcomes.  In the larger scheme of things it matters because there are also practices in play that impact the process of social climbing through the accumulation of wealth and privilege.  Face it, we all want the best and are a part of the game, whether we are aware or not.  So, this is helpful in two ways: one, if you want to take part and win a little, you can actively take on endeavors that will help you reach your objectives for success; two, you are able to understand people’s motivations with a bit more compassion because, habitus comes into play for all of us.  Now, it is important to remember that the best players make it look effortless.  Everyone tries but some come off a bit desperate.

Taking this into consideration, I can better understand certain aspects of my own character.  My love for fashion did not come out of nowhere but was initiated by a mother who taught me from a young age that it matters how we present ourselves to the world.  God, you should have seen some of my outfits as a child, she has impeccable taste.  It is from her that I learnt the value of clean lines, well-cut tailoring and how our styles can reflect our sense of self.  When you love fashion, it’s easier to engage with these principles when you have a body that you’re comfortable in.  Life’s too short not to look and feel great and obviously everyone defines this for themselves and on their own terms.

Secondly, I am particular when it comes to aesthetics, not just in fashion but also the material world.  This type of need for perfectionism also carries through to my love of the culinary arts.  There is nothing that feeds the soul more than good food.  Yes, you can still indulge in this realm while setting limits on portion size and using some common sense.  And god, if you do have a treat don’t waste it by feeling guilty.  You would have done better not eating it at all.  Being particular means that I’m also a control freak who tries to not ask for help.  Therefore, when you come over to my house my answer will probably be “no thanks” when people graciously offer their assistance.  It’s no slight to them, I’ve just been raised and surrounded by perfectionists who have thoroughly frustrated me.  When someone takes you up on your offer to help out, but nit picks everything in the process, you kind of want to say, WTF, do it yourself.  Therefore, knowing this, I do it myself.  And, if I do ask for help I relinquish control and try my best to keep my mouth shut so that the person gets to feel the full satisfaction of getting something done.  Really, you can change it when the individual goes home anyways to not hurt their feelings.

Thirdly, control freaks are infamous dissectors and this often gets worse when they become parents.  Especially in this day and age when there are so many books available about various methods, it’s easy to become too mindful of your actions.  My very blunt PhD supervisor, who is also a mother, once said to me “hey, as long we’re not locking our children in closets and beating them, we’re doing pretty good.”  So, a little common sense comes into play.  Love them, be there, and do your best but give yourself a break.  There are so many critics already, do not add to the noise.  It is also pretty likely that with any social interaction, we will crash into each other in the best of ways.  Habitus demands it.

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Game on

I have a strong dislike for football.  I know that most sports are physical but there’s just something about having a position that solely consists of running through other bodies and dealing with the damage that doesn’t sit well with me.  Also, sitting on a commuter train with a hoard of Patriots fans on Super Bowl parade day didn’t exactly endear me any more to the game.  So needless to say, my husband and I are going to discourage our son from playing this sport in the future even though he will be growing up in America.  Andrew takes a stronger stance and says that “C will never play this sport.”

My perspective softened slightly after the Patriots won the Super Bowl and I started to listen to some of the media interviews.  I only really became interested because of the Malcolm Butler story.  Come on, who does not love the underdog triumphing in every way imaginable on game day?  One soundbyte that was quoted frequently basically involved Malcolm saying that it doesn’t matter where you came from, but it matters what you do when you get there.  This is a scrapper who did not give up.  Fuck, that’s inspirational.  If you watch the interception you notice that he sort of puts his shoulder in front of the other player to get at the pass.  You get that grit from having to fight for a spot on literally the last train that was going to come for you in your pro career.

Many other players also spoke of how what ensued on the field was nothing special because these were the exercises that they performed each and everyday.  What they achieved did not happen because of an exceptional event but instead was the result of the time they put into their craft.  That is such an important message to any young person who may be looking up to them and hanging onto their words.

Never having been particularly sporty, other than excelling at swimming, I wished that I had had this sort of influence for most of my life.  This type of work ethic and determination can positively impact so many other aspects of your wellbeing.  I’m happy that my son has an athletic father to grow up with who can nurture this part of his development.  My husband is not cocky, loud or boisterous, in spite of both his intelligence and talent in various athletic endeavors.

Through his immersion in learning to ice skate each Sunday, my son’s current idols consist of hockey players.  A few weeks ago a young player was practicing on the ice with his full gear on.  As he’s making his way off the ice, C points out to his dad that there’s a real hockey player.  This thirteen year old kid, with Ashworth on his uniform, smiles and comes over to say hi and gave my son a high-five.  Later on, when C takes a tumble on the ice Ashworth comes over, helps him up and even demonstrates for a bit how to skate, and man, he was a great skater.  I was amazed that at a such a young age he was so humble, nurturing and sweet.  I’ll take these type of hockey stars over Spiderman or Batman any day.  Play on player.

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Imagine that

Before I even turn the first page of a novel, I have to find the appropriate actor or actress to fill the part.  So many screenplays are now adapted from best-selling novels, so a trip to IMDB often suffices.  Why do we need those individuals in our mind’s eye?  Lets be honest now, they aren’t hard to look at either.

When I first read “Fifty shades of Grey” they were still casting for the roles so I was lucky enough to have my own image remain intact.  As many of you know, the book started as a fan fiction that was written for Bella and Edward from Twilight.  Well that’s easy then because you just have to imagine Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson playing some emotional and physical games.  Done.  As soon as the trailer for the actual movie was released though, my illusions were shattered and I knew I would never see the film.

First off, I personally do not know what the big scandal is with consensual BDSM.  To put it bluntly, it’s just what gets you off.  Some people like to be called sweetheart, others, well, prefer something else.  As long as it’s between two consenting adults, it’s none of our business.  We clearly have two very public instances of when it’s not alright, like when you slap a woman on the side of her head because you’re a quasi Canadian celebrity, or when you drug women to rape them.  That is not okay.

Returning to “Fifty shades” though, the casting was particularly disappointing because of the aesthetic.  I don’t think I’m being particularly superficial here since film-making is built on the principle of finding representatives to tell a story; part of that is how they look and carry themselves.  As soon as Jamie Dornan came on the screen I knew that he was too attractive and well, Dakota Johnson was a bit too sweet.  The appeal of Robert Pattinson is that he’s slightly dirty and disheveled but can still pull off a suit better than most men because he of his edge.  His history of participating in the underground London scene with all that it entails, including the substance abuse and complicated sexual pairings, somehow just is part of his physicality.  Similarly with Kristen Stewart, she doesn’t look like every other girl that you went to high school with.  Her features and personal style are a bit more unusual and couture.  She’s different and has an infuriatingly bratty attitude that you know would attract a damaged control freak like Christian Grey.

Though the writing is obviously not going to win a Pulitzer, the novel has its own market and appeal.  For all those people assuming that it’s only stifled housewives who are buying it, your thoughts are sexist and demeaning towards individuals who raised you.  Their free labour is in one of the hardest and most under-appreciated sectors in society.  Secondly, everyone has fantasies and it doesn’t make them a bad person.  There is nothing to be ashamed of.  A high-horse on the other hand is nothing to be proud of.

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Bend it

Whatever would we have done without our 20s?  Those glorious days when we had the opportunity to be bad, chase boys, be irresponsible and then make our way home.  All within reason of course.  Initially I was going to say within the limits of not hurting people but who are we kidding, we hurt plenty of people in those days.  Most of us just attribute it to the process of growing up and I’m pretty sure that no one is holding onto those slights.  I would hope that we are all over it.

But seriously though, how can you possibly make your way towards being a semi-whole person without that time to falter a bit while still trying hard to be good?  How can you determine what your values specifically are without testing the boundaries?  How do you know what you will and will not stand for without witnessing first hand what you and others are capable of?  How do you function without the ability to not be a judgmental brute?

And you know what, maybe those who never participated were always more sure of themselves than the rest of us.  I’m pretty sure that they were busy winning awards and their names were honored at convocation.  Seriously, congratulations on working so hard.  No, seriously, that type of discipline is often more valuable than actual talent.  But I do hope that you were just not afraid of what other people might think or what punishment you’d receive for breaking the rules.  Because if that is the case, you might have missed out on an integral life phase too.  Judging by the careers of my friends and peers we made it out alright too, non?

You know when you need this “wild” time the most?  You need it when you’ve learned to reign it it, or as my favorite blogger and media personality Lainey would say, when you’ve learnt to “sit down.”  Because there will be plenty of occasions in life when you have to be the more honorable person and behave with grace and dignity.  There will be times when you’ll be called on to be selfless and put the well-being of your family above your own.

These thoughts and others are what I ruminated on a lot when I was in the early months as a first-time mother.  The lack of experience with babies drove me, a perfectionist, absolutely crazy.  I like to be prepared and sorry to say that this is the one time when you kind of just have to learn as you go.  I also have always liked to have my own space and my own time, which are the very first things that go.  Suddenly, you have someone who depends on you all the time.  Funnily enough, when my calling came to give it all, I thought about the times when I was the most selfish.  As strange as it sounds, this integral phase when I had to diminish my wants, at least for a little while, was made easier because I already had had that time to be free.

So many people are petrified of raising girls.  I’ve heard it said again and again, about how a girl would be nice but they would be so much harder later.  As many of you know, I grew up mainly with women since even in a large family where both my parents had four other siblings, everyone inherited daughters but one.  I say that we are blessed.  Observing all of my cousins I am proud that we are so different but all found a way to use our talents to callings that we love.  I’m so honored to be amongst women who stayed true to themselves.  So, I don’t fear raising a daughter.  I think she could do worse than a woman who was trained academically and by life to be a feminist.  Because, due to my politics I believe in her gender equality.  Part of that gender equality is faith in her personhood and belief in my chance to help instill good values that she can always return to.  I have the best parents.  Trust me, we always come back.

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