Monday, December 31, 2012

Failures of Old

I told my mom this morning that I feel like a directionless failure of late.  A bright and sunny way to start a post, no?  

Unfortunately, I feel trapped lately.  Equal parts trapped and unwelcome.  I worry that coming to the East Coast was yet another bad move, but this time one that I should have seen coming.  I did not have a good Christmas at home, though friends saved me on Christmas afternoon/night.  And work is always good - loving my job is something that has not changed.  Though being sick so much has gotten in the way of that, not to mention aiding in the utter failure that was December's NaBloPoMo for this blog.

My mom, being as awesome as always, recommended that I sit down and set new goals.  It sounds self-help-y a bit, but it really is a good way to leave past failure behind.  Look forward to the new.  Face new challenges head on, instead of cowering in a corner wishing the past hadn't happened.  Always moving forward.  Not letting the failures of old spook you into giving up altogether.

Anyway, here's what I've got so far:

Sign up for January's NaBloPoMo on BlogHer - for reals this time.

NaBloPoMo January 2013


This means not only trying to post every single day on the LostGirls blog, but putting LostGirls on the BlogHer site for others to check out.

Set reading goals for 2013. 

Inspired by this post from Sassymonkey Reads, which I found on BlogHer.  It got me thinking about my reading habits (which is to say, I read a lot but it's really random) and how I might be able to get inspiration from other places, instead of relying solely on my mood at the time of browsing for a new book.  I am particularly interested in the "I've Always Meant to Read that Book!" Challenge and the Foodie's Read Challenge.

One I've already started, by accident...

This would be not putting up with crap the way I have been for the past few months.  When diplomacy fails because it isn't welcome, what are you left with?  Bitchiness, evidently.  Maybe one of my goals can be that I won't allow things to get so bad that I start to despise people.  And that part is less about their welfare, more about not compromising my own standards.  Other people's passive-aggressiveness drives me batty.  But becoming combative is not appealing.  I'm less concerned with them liking me than with me still liking myself.

I also know that if someone can't be convinced to discuss a single problem with you, to actually hear you out and be heard, then there's no relationship there.  It does, in fact, take two - regardless of the type of relationship you have: family, friend, significant other, arch nemesis...

Sometimes leading a better life means snipping out the bits that simply aren't working.  It's very sad, to be honest, but sometimes there's less of a choice than you want to believe.  And it doesn't have to be permanent.  Sometimes you just need time apart.  Sometimes it's lots of time.  Like years...or ya know...millenia...

In any case, those are my goals thus far.  And, unlike New Year's resolutions, I can keep adding to the list as I go along.  But for the rest of tonight, I'm going to listen to Billie Holiday and Bill Withers (I swear, they go great together) and drink ginger ale and have a night cap of NyQuil so I'm fresh for work in the morning.

To you and yours, have a very Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Friday, December 14, 2012

NaBloPoMo Writing Prompts for Days 12 - 14: Done in 15 Minutes

I'd say it's cheating, only I'm not sure there are any rules to what I'm doing here.  In any case, I've been either working or asleep the last few days and I'm about to pass out again, so I'm committing myself to writing something for each of the prompts I missed for Wednesday through Friday of this week.  But I'm tired, so I'm going to do it all in 15 minutes and may they not suck so much, for your sake, if not for mine.  Here they be:


Wednesday, December 12, 2012
What do you think would be the hardest job for you to do?
Anything involving emergency services.  I've tested this out.  I was an Emergency Dispatcher for several months and all through my call-taking training I felt like I was going to die.  The way people who suffer from panic attacks feel like they're going to die even though their rational mind should be able to tell the difference between anxiety and actually having a heart attack.  I could handle the compartmentalizing, which you can't survive the job without.  I seemed to soak up the knowledge reasonably well.  But the idea of someone else's life possibly depending on my decision making...I did not deal with that very well.  There are occasions when you need to decide for your own health as well as for the lives of those you are serving that you are simply not the right person for the job.  It was hard to walk away from some aspects of it, but I absolutely felt that leaving was the right decision.
That said, I will forever be proud of myself for getting a high score on the county test for that job and having the guts to try out something that was so completely different from anything I'd done before.  Still scares the hell out of me to think of it, though.

Thursday, December 13, 2012
Are you happier when you're working or when you're relaxing?
Oooo, that's a hard one these days.  I really love lazy days spent reading or watching movies...but I also really love being at my job.  I leave that place with a huge grin on my face every night, so...it's a tie.

Friday, December 14, 2012
Do you think you're yourself at work, or do you think your co-workers don't know the "real" you?
I think my co-workers are unfortunate enough to have to deal with the 100% pure and true version of me because we work for a company that encourages a strong sense of self.  I'd feel bad for them, but I know they're just as loony as I am.  This is the first job I've had in a long time in which I really feel like I can be myself, to the point that I'm realizing how much I was trying to tone down my personality previously.  I'm not saying it worked...

Note for Saturday, December 15, 2012:  On this day I will be working early, then going to see The Hobbit with my brother.  If I have the time and/or energy to post anything, it will probably be some kind of lunacy and should not be read by the public.  Enjoy your weekend!



Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Day 11: Someone else's post

As I said in my last post, Day 11 did not happen for me.  That day was a swirl of sleep-deprived, over-caffeinated unawareness of all things.  I got up, I went to work, I worked hard, I came home, I went to sleep.

I feel better now.

Since I don't have anything interesting for you to read from Day 11, I want to offer you a post I just read on BlogHer that I found amazing.  I don't often think about "rape culture," I recall hearing about the issues with a Daniel Tosh joke, but I think I've become numb to a lot of it because it really is always out there and so many people do find it acceptable.  This post is so smart and well-written - the blogger who wrote it is so self-aware and even found a fabulous example of how the subject can be dealt with in comedy in a brilliant way.  I can't just NOT share it with you: Rape Jokes and The Oatmeal from The Belle Jar.

Day 10: Just In Case

(Here I am on Day 12 and I just realized I neglected to put up the Day 10 post that I prepared...ugh.)

I know there will be a writing prompt waiting for me on the BlogHer site, but it's late, I'm tired after a long day at work and not sleeping enough the night before and I just want to make sure that I actually get something decent posted in a timely manner.  So this is my backup post.  More than a sentence, though not a whole lot more...

I've been thinking a lot about the way I used to spend my days off from work.  I'd basically hermit it up.  Stay inside, in my pajamas, watching TV and eating too-large meals, most likely unbathed.  These days, if I don't take a shower first thing in the morning, it's because I'm planning on spending part of the day cleaning the house or rearranging furniture and I know that showering or taking a long bath afterward will be a wonderful reward.  

And if I don't go anywhere, it's because I'm trying not to spend too much money and I'm planning on doing something constructive at home, maybe even get crafty (or?).  Being happy at work and looking forward to being there has made quite a difference for me in my personal life.  And since I no longer work a desk job, I have more energy and can actually afford to be a little lazy when I'm not there.  Probably not as much as I am, but still.

As much as I enjoy the material in life, I value my day to day enjoyment of life in general more than the thrill of shopping or owning nice things.  I'm going to be grateful for this as long as it lasts.

(In case you're wondering, I was working then sleeping on Day 11, so I have nothing for that day - fail.)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Friday, December 7, 2012

Day 7: "What is the best way to relax after a hard day?"

My first thought was, "Booze."  So sorry.  Bad influence and all that.  This might be what happens when everyone you work with is in their twenties (you remember, back when hangovers weren't guaranteed or long-lasting). 

In truth, the first thing I do to relax on a daily basis is change out of my work clothes and wash my face.  I put on comfortable clothes and slippers.  I remove all traces of makeup.  I take off my watch and earrings.  Then, most of the time, I read.  I love to have an actual book in my lap, but I'm fine with my Kindle, as well.  The one thing I do not want to do when I get home is talk.  To anyone.  I love what I do and who I work with and our customers, but we spend the whole day being excited and happy and it's only after we've left work that we realize just how much energy we've exerted.

On those days when I am particularly weary, I take a bath.  I toss a Lush bath bomb into the water and all that weariness melts.  Sometimes I toss in a Lush bath melt and use part of a bubble bar as well, but I'm usually too tired to be creative.




Thursday, December 6, 2012

Day 6: "How hard do you think you work?"

I think I know my limits and stay within them as much as possible.  I strive to be a good worker, to be valuable, and to make my team happy to have me around.  But I'm aware that there are times when you just need to slow the hell down before you do damage to yourself (which would render you utterly useless to everyone).  I'm sounding a bit clinical here, so I'm going to include something on zombies to make myself feel better:



Now that I've got that thought process out of the way...

Reserving energy during slow periods so that I can be back at 100% when I'm really needed is key, though there are times when I get so involved in a project that I forget all about that.   I also have a job that I love and I work with fabulous people, so most of the time there is such a flow that it seems effortless.

With the holidays, things have gotten a little more hectic, so that balance will be harder to find, I imagine.  I asked for advice from a coworker last week and she told me that she will sometimes set a goal for herself at the start of a shifts.  This is such excellent advice and so simple to do, it's a bit ridiculous of me to have not been doing it already.  I know, from being a bit socially awkward, that baby steps must be taken to overcome fears or make improvements.  Setting a goal for myself means that I can make it any size goal and I'm accountable to no one but myself for attaining it.  Unless I blab about it and my boss finds out, and then I fail to meet it...I'm just saying.  (A very unsarcastic thanks to K., by the way.)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Day 5: "Do you enjoy teaching others?

While I don't want to be the leader in general, I do love to teach people.  Training was my favorite part of my last job in California.  But it's not just about teaching/training/mentoring other people.  As a trainer, you are constantly learning new things because it's your job to know everything you can.  And there is a lot to be learned from a fresh perspective - your trainee.  There have been countless times when a trainee asked a question I had never thought of or pointed out a flaw that I was subconsciously glossing over.  

 Training also teaches you a lot about yourself.  I realized, belatedly for some trainees, that I sometimes had unfair expectations and that my frustration showed.  No one wants to be on the receiving end of that and really, it isn't appropriate to put someone who is trying to learn in that position.  But becoming aware of it really helped me become a better trainer and a better learner, odd as it sounds.  A good teacher is aware of their students strengths and weaknesses, as well as their own.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Day 4: "Do you feel most comfortable being a leader, a follower, or a collaborator?"

 This will probably make a few people giggle, but I actually don't like being the leader.  If it's needed, I'll do it and I'll do my best, I'll even enjoy aspects of it.  But I would so much rather collaborate.  I thoroughly enjoy collaborating on posts for this blog, whether the other person is doing some of the writing, helping me edit or just brainstorming.  One-person brainstorming isn't nearly as fun and my friends and family really inspire me.


I'm at the bottom of the totem pole at my current job, but I never feel that way.  Virtually everyone I work with treats me like an old friend and a part of the team.  And even though I'm the oldest person in the store (by a long shot, in most cases), we're all hilarious degenerates, so age really doesn't matter.  No, really - we're all there to work, but we're also there to enjoy it and to be ourselves.  And we're lucky to work at a place that not only allows us to be ourselves, but encourages us to do so.  


I must admit, I'm not so good at following someone blindly.  Makes me a bit of a pain in the ass, I know.  But I like to have a say in what happens around me, I like to fully understand what is going on, I want to be aware of all the pieces moving.  And, most importantly, I want to help if there's some way that I can.  That said, I've never thought twice about doing anything I've been asked at my current job - that's what being part of a team is all about.  That is collaboration.  And I work with people who deserve my respect and give it in return, so why should I hesitate?  I feel very lucky.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Day 3: "What Do You Consider Yourself a 'Pro' At?"


Um...being mediocre?  I enjoy learning knew things, but I have a tendency to drop them here and there.  I've been writing since I was 15 years old, but there has been the occasional hiatus - more so in my 30s than any other time in my life.  There are times when I haven't written because I didn't feel a problem could be worked out.  And writing about it just made me more aware of the suffering.  This was subconscious, of course - had I sat down and really thought about it, I probably would have written out a positive solution.  I'm far more stubborn than I give myself credit for, I guess.


So if the question is what I'm a pro-fessional at, that would be nothing.  I am fully capable of acting in a professional manner, but I don't really want to be what I classify as a real "professional" because it can so often imply a level of cold.  I prefer to do things with heart.  While I am able to make decisions without my heart getting in the way, I think there is value in considering both heart and mind, instead of letting just one decide my course.  

But if the question is about what I feel I'm good at...  


I sometimes feel a bit socially awkward, but it turns out that I really like talking to people at work.  It is an aspect of my current job that I sometimes have a hard time with, as not every single person I interact with wants to be...interacted with, I guess.  I was speaking with a coworker about this the other day and she commented that I am very genuine with our customers.  I was thrilled to hear it, as that is exactly what I'm aiming for.  Working retail does mean selling things, but there is a difference between pushing things on someone and actually trying to figure out what will work for them.  And thank you, I. for telling me that - made my day.

A little later that same day, a customer basically asked me how he could trust something I vouched for, because wasn't that my job?  The answer I gave (and stick by) is that I can recommend things that don't work for me because not everyone is the same, but I never vouch for a product that I haven't tried and genuinely liked.  In the case of products that aren't appropriate for me personally, I ask friends and family to volunteer as testers so I can see how those things work and get feedback from people I trust.  And then I tell the customer, "Well, I have combination skin, so that face mask isn't quite right for me, but my friend Sarah has very dry, sensitive skin and she swears by it."  Which reminds me, Sarah I tell people all about that mask you love because I loved hearing you rave about before I even worked for this company.

This leads to the other thing that I think I excel at: customer service.  Part of this is being a bit anal-retentive - I like things to get done right the first time and I know that I can always help others achieve the same ends.  I work with a fabulous group of people, but we all have different styles, different strengths.  I feel lucky to work with people who not only grasp that, but welcome it with open arms.  As I was saying, I love to do the job right.  I actually enjoy going out of my way for people and making their day brighter.  I have worked a bunch of customer-service type jobs, both in retail and civil service.  The only hard part about this is that I was often disappointed in the past by people who were complacent, apathetic.  I'm all for folks having off-days (I sure have them myself), but when it's just your personality...well, I have nothing nice to say about that, so...

Turns out I give a great arm massage, too.  Who knew?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Day 2: Procrastination




I started off the day ready to sink my teeth into this blogging exercise (NaBloPoMo, courtesy of BlogHer and the whole thing started for me right here).  Raring to go, if you will.  It's now evening and I've made Chrismukkah lists, paid bills, searched for work shoes online, re-sorted all of my hair accessories (I chopped more than half my hair off a few nights ago, so all the hair ties are going back into storage until they're useful again), read part of a book and just. didn't. write.  That's how it goes - it's so easy to procrastinate when there are just so many other things to do, so many distractions to get distracted by!

Which is why it is nice to read about other people's issues with procrastination, especially when those people are attempting to complete the same project you are.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading Project Marie's first NaBloPoMo post for this month tonight.  I had been reading through some of the posts on NaBloPoMo Soup and hers was the first one that went into the reality a lot of bloggers face, as Marie put it, "blog death by neglect."  I've had a few of those and do not wish to see LostGirls endure the same fate.  As far as followers, it's already suffered quite a bit, so NaBloPoMo makes even more sense to do this month - for myself, if no one else.  And even though I'm not joining the Soup for my first round, it was pretty cool to find something motivating on a stranger's site.  Sort of like unintentional moral support.  Which is one of the benefits of doing this kind of long-term writing exercise.

In any case, BlogHer's theme for December's NaBloPoMo is WORK.  Quite fitting considering that I interrupted my blogging to start a new job.  Now I can tell you all about that and keep on track with both of the things I love to do with my time.  I'm planning on doing the writing prompts from BlogHer for the next week and would love to read what everyone else thinks of the questions asked and my answers.  


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Day 1: December 2012 NaBloPoMo

Perhaps you've already heard about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), in which you write a novel in a month while tracking your progress, and getting support from other writers who are doing the same thing.  I am very enthusiastic about reading, though not so much for novel-writing, but I do love this idea.

BlogHer (a group blog/online community/annual blogging conference for women) does something a little different, NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month).  Now this, I can use.  Whether you're part of the LostGirls troupe, a supporter who wonders when the hell the next post is going to be up, or a first-timer who has no idea what you've stumbled upon, you've doubtless noticed that I've failed in my posting duties the past few months.  Maybe not every single day, but certainly the majority of them.



NaBloPoMo December 2012


Now that I have adjusted to my new job (though it will continue to have a fluctuating schedule), I think NaBloPoMo (at least the bare concept) will be a good reboot.  So I am going to attempt to post something every single day this month.  

When this was my only job, writing for one of the LostGirls' blogs every day wasn't so difficult.  I was also new to the DC Metro Area and not having a social life really helped.  However, there are a lot of people out there managing all of this while still keeping their writing muscles healthy.  I'd like to be a little more like them.  So here's what's what:

I truly believe that writer's block comes from trying to focus on one thing, when you want (and often need) to write about something else.  Trying to force your creativity to be organized is a bit silly, but many of us keep attempting it.  I will, obviously, have to be somewhat organized to do one post a day, but I'm laying it out right here that I am going to write about whatever strikes me.  You've so been warned.  On some days I will write a long post, on some days I'll write a sentence.  But I will, of course, try to make whatever I write worth your time.  Some strange part of me is even kind of looking forward to my stuck days, when I can check out BlogHer's NaBloPoMo writing prompts to see if they help me get unstuck.

I will not be sending my daily posts to the BlogHer site for all of this (NaBloPoMo Soup), but I encourage you to go on over there and take a look at what the BlogHer community is up to.  I know this is getting away from the original concept of LostGirls and hope you won't feel like you're having to suffer through a phase - feel free to let me or anyone else here know if there is something you'd like to see on any of the blogs.  And if there is anyone out there who wants to try this out, give me a heads up so I can track your daily posts and lend my own support!

Jess

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Monticello: Grounds & Gardens on Lost in DC

"I am savage enough to prefer the woods, the wilds, and the independence of Monticello, to all the brilliant pleasures of this gay capital [Paris] . . . . for tho' there is less wealth there, there is more freedom, more ease, and less misery."                                                                       - Thomas Jefferson (to Baron Geismar), 1785
The front of the house at Monticello (top right of the collage, below) looks a lot like the back of the house.  The major differences are the drive in the front and the brick path in the back that winds around the West Lawn, a huge expanse of green.  [read more...] 


Monday, November 19, 2012

A Brief Visit to Monticello on Lost in DC

I have an announcement to make (quasi-proclamations are fun, you guys): I have been overthinking and putting off this post for too long.  Seth and I took this trip back in August, when it was still unbearably hot here in Virginia.  We didn't get to spend a lot of time in  Charlottesville or at the Monticello plantation, so I had endeavored to make my way back there before posting anything.  Or, at least, to do enough research to feel like I had an idea of what I was talking about.  In the end, there is just so much to learn about Monticello and Jefferson and far too many interesting things to write about the man, his ideas and the times he lived in, to do justice to any of the above.  Of course, since I also forgot my camera and had to use my cellphone for pictures, this isn't the ideal photojournal of the trip, either.  Thus, I am resigned to just enjoy writing what I do know and sharing with you the few decent pictures I managed to take.  I offer you a wealth of rainy-day cell-phone photos and my first impressions of/lingering thoughts about the places we saw, to start with.  As time allows, I will definitely be going back to Monticello to explore and do the other tours (hopefully, with a decent camera next time).  [read more...]

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Once in a Lifetime Kindness on Lost in DC


I want to put out there how much I appreciate Andi, of Once in a Lifetime Travel, for posting something related to Hurricane Sandy.  The particular blog she posted it on is usually about Italy, which is why I love reading it and checking out her Featured Photo Friday posts.  But yesterday Andi's post was titled Simple Kindness After Hurricane Sandy.  [read more...]

So...What Do You DO?

I have been thinking a lot lately about what people I know do for a living.  I know a lot of people who care about what they do.  But I believe I only know a few who truly enjoy, even love, their day jobs.  

I have had jobs which I did not look forward to on a daily basis, but when I was there I still gave it my all.  I have always cared enough to do my best because I knew it impacted other people.  That said, I can't think of a job I've had in which I truly didn't care.  Even when I knew it wasn't the right place for me anymore, I still gave a damn.  

Sometimes you have to accept that you are not the right person for the job.  And if that is the case, it will eventually make you miserable (and likely everyone around you, as well).  In those situations, you work as hard as you can and give plenty of notice when possible, because a firm work ethic means not leaving a mess behind.  Then again, many of us have had that experience where giving notice meant a swift kick out the door.  It's always a shock when someone you have worked so hard for takes it a bit too personally when you decide to move on.  

In any case, what I've found is that there is a big difference between wanting to be good at what you do and actually looking forward to showing up every day - with a huge smile on your face, ready for the next challenge.   I've also found that quite a few people think that the latter doesn't exist for them.  

Then again, for some it simply is not worth the sacrifices that sometimes come with searching for the right fit.  There are people who make a lot of money doing what they love.  It just happens that for some of us, what we really enjoy doing may never make us wealthy.  We also may never have the kind of stability that a standard office job tends to give.  




In 2012, I made three major life changes, simply because I knew things had to change somehow and the opportunity presented itself.  I moved to the East Coast from the West.  I gave up living alone (I can't begin to tell you how hard that was for a hermit like me) in order to be closer to my family.  And I decided to do the things I love, to see if I can earn a living without becoming miserable.  And by that, I do not mean normal ups and downs - there will always be bad days or weeks or even months.  It isn't about things being easy.  It's about them feeling worthwhile just the same.  

So I now have two jobs.  One is this blog, which some of you may have thought I'd quit, but it was more like a health hiatus mixed with being busy starting the other job.  And there was definitely some laziness and irresponsibility to blame, which seems to be something that only occurs when I'm self-employed.  Dangerous, that.  But I also admit to concentrating on the other job because it actually pays and it can take a long time before a blog generates revenue (granted, some of that is up to the keeper of that blog).  Balancing the two certainly presents its own set of challenges.

The second job is working in retail for a company I have wanted to work for since I first heard about them, several years ago.  It's a part-time job.  In a mall.  And some people who have known me for a long time are a bit horrified that I would take a job that doesn't pay what I'm used to and isn't behind a desk.  But most of the people I know are overjoyed because they know how much I love this company.  They know that office work isn't for everyone and that I'm happier than I've been in a long while.

Let me take a moment to describe how I feel when I arrive at work:  Relieved to be there, even though I'm still outside of my comfort zone.  Excited to see my coworkers and the regulars who are so charming and lovely and quirky like we are.  Genuinely interested in the things we sell and always curious to know more.  I honestly enjoy myself.  Not every day is perfect.  The work can be hard, people can be brutal and my feet, legs and lower back hurt by the time I walk out the door.  But I look forward to it anyway.  And when I'm not there, I'm usually thinking about it.  Reading up on new products, trying out items that I've brought home, or searching for new ways to apply the knowledge I already have.  I even dream about it sometimes.

The point is that I didn't want to just keep doing something because I knew I was good at it and making money.  I wanted to do something that would make me happy and bring back a part of my personality that I felt I'd lost.  The person I am on the sales floor is unrecognizable.  Every so often someone will remark on my enthusiasm and I am reminded just how delighted I really am to be where I am right now.  Money cannot buy this kind of joy.

~
Some questions for you guys:

Do you believe that what you do for a living reflects on who you are as a person?

Should making money and having stability be the most important factor when job hunting?

Or do you value creativity, a dynamic setting, believing in the company you work for, etc?




Three Things

1.  Being sick for a full month is stupid.  Therefore, I must be stupid.

2.  Today is the last day to vote early!  I also love that I can go online to find where I'm supposed to vote, because I'm so unbelievably lazy that I don't want to dig through my mail for that information.  

3.  If you neglect your blog for too long, spam happens.


DON'T LET SPAM HAPPEN.




Thursday, September 27, 2012

I'm Still Alive and I've Been to C-ville on Lost in DC


Seth came for a visit in August, to celebrate my birthday with me, and we decided to take a brief trip to Charlottesville.  Neither of us had been to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello (our adventure will be detailed in the next Lost in DC post) and wanted to spend most of a day there.  But first we wanted to check out C-ville (as it is evidently referred to by the locals).  

Charlottesville is located in the Piedmont Plateau, at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with the Rivanna River running through.  The city has been independent (not part of a county) since 1888, but serves as a cultural center for the surrounding area.  You will not only find Thomas Jefferson's mountain-top home, Monticello, but the home of learning he founded, the University of Virginia.  [read more...]

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Breaking the Surface

I have officially received a much-needed kick in the pants from Meg.  I was working on the post The Silence Stops Now this morning and I kept feeling like something was missing or that I was really skirting the issue at hand.  Mary and I talked about it and she told me that if I felt something was off, I should sleep on it.  But I hadn't posted in a few days and I couldn't see how else I'd change things, so I published the post anyway.  

I can't say it was an absolute mistake, as I don't think it's a horrible piece of writing, but I have to say that I should have listened to Mary.  I'm also thankful to both her and Meg for having my back, while still being able to call me out when I don't say something that I should.  As Meg did in an email to me today, pointing out (very gently) the fact that harassment is what Marcotte was addressing, specifically, in It's Really Time for the Harassment to End on The Raw Story.  From Meg:
I read your post.  It's good, but I think I was still hoping for more.  I feel like it only scratches the surface of how serious and prevalent sexism and harassment are.  Women deal with it every day, to the point that it's regarded as commonplace.  But we are still having to legally combat sexism in the workplace, church, etc.  
I think this is just a hot button issue for me.  I see it, I hear about it from my closest friends, I have to deal with it myself, and it doesn't seem to be getting that much better.  When I read your post, I realized that you didn't go down the harassment road so much as the general sexism one.  And then I was reminded of all of my working-in-church moments, and growing-up-in-private-school moments - where women were truly treated like second class citizens in the most passive and unassuming ways.  The "it's for your own good," "we're protecting you," and "you were actually created not as smart and not as strong as men, it's okay."  Then when you are as smart and strong as the men you're working with, it seems difficult for them to swallow.
"I'm the Best" by Nicki Minaj is Meg's new anthem (at least, this part of it): 
All the girls will come in, as long as they understandThat I'm fightin' for the girls that never thought they could win'Cause before they could begin you told 'em it was the endBut I am here to reverse the curse that they live in

So the question of the day is why did I hesitate to talk about harassment directly?  I suppose because there are so many levels to it - things get complicated very quickly.  And I don't actually want to bash men in general or be negative at all.  But, admittedly, I kind of wussed out on that last post, though I did not intend to.  So here is what I feel, at the end of the day, having talked to other women about this and examined where I stand:

As women, we are not required to treat men the way they want to be treated.  While I prefer to use courtesy with my fellow human beings, I am not required to give my attention or anything else to anyone, if I do not want to.  I do not owe anyone anything.  My preference for courtesy, tact and diplomacy come from wanting to have a nice, positive experience with other people and hopefully get the same in return.  However, I will not respond well to acts of intimidation or attempts to make me feel guilty.  I will not put up with someone who tries to control or overpower me.  I would never do that to another person, why on earth would I allow them to do that to me?

There is a difference between being courteous, which both sexes benefit from, and being the one who always has to be in control.  That is, in the end, what the harassment is about - power, domination, control.  I don't care if you think you're better, stronger or smarter than me - you might be all three - you do not own me, control me or get to have me.  

The Silence Stops Now

A friend of mine posted a link to an article the other day that inspired this post.  Part of the inspiration was about things being said that really needed to be, but that no one wants to talk about or even acknowledge.  The other part of it was that I found the article so hostile and raw (which is absolutely appropriate for the site that it's posted on) that I wanted to address it in such a way as to reach those people who might turn away from something so strongly worded.  

When it comes to sexism and harassment there are so many lines that could be crossed.  And those lines do differ from person to person (we are certainly each allowed our own boundaries).  Some women feel that the majority of men they interact with are trying to get something out of them.  Some women think that any act of courtesy, like opening a door for a woman, is misogyny.  And then some women think that the rest of those women are crazy banshees who should stop complaining.  And, unfortunately, some women attack anyone who tries to point out that there is a great imbalance between the sexes.    

Allow me to take the middle ground here.  I do not feel it is necessary to reprimand every person who invades my personal space or attempts to demand my attention.  I prefer to be diplomatic when I can and get along with everyone as much as possible.  At the same time, I do have my boundaries and I am not afraid to enforce them.  I believe that both boys and girls should be raised to be assertive, to stand up for themselves as well as others, and to have respect for people who are not like them, whether that means of a different gender, a different race, a different religion - you get the idea.  

I do not want to lessen anything that Amanda Marcotte wrote in It's Really Time for the Harassment to End.  Although maybe I am compromising too much of myself, maybe I'm using diplomacy when I should be suckerpunching people (not that she's saying that).  I'm fairly certain that's how most of the men I know would respond to some of the things I've experienced.

FINDING YOUR VOICE

When I was younger I didn't have the skills or the internal strength to fight back or walk away.  And whether they meant to or not, there were men who treated me in a way that made me fearful.  Now I am stronger and wiser, and possess at least some skills to deal with uncomfortable or unpleasant situations.  But I recognize that not every person feels strong enough to stand up for themselves and I do not think less of them for it.  Those of us who have strong voices would do well to use them when we see that others don't or can't.

TOXIC PERSONALITIES

I wrote recently about "trolling."  It remains a great fear in the back of my mind and when I see other bloggers dealing with it, I step in and help them wherever I can.  I hope that they will continue blogging, but I also understand why people get sick of it.  It is abuse, plain and simple.  It serves no constructive purpose and is harmful to everyone who comes into contact with it.  They benefit no one and they discourage those who haven't found their voice yet from ever finding it.  I suppose that's exactly what trolls are aiming for.  And I cannot begin to understand what makes a person want to be so toxic.

BEYOND THE DAY TO DAY

Aside from the day to day attempts we make to find balance in a world where too many people feel that their gender/sexual orientation/religion/etcetera should dominate and control, there are some very serious issues that get completely ignored.  I'd like to encourage everyone reading this post to check out the Facebook pages for Stop the Worldwide War on Girls and their new sister site, The Silence Stops Now.  Both pages provide information about abuse and violence that women suffer.  Neither are meant to tear down men.  They are about respect.  Equality.  Peace.  Understanding.  Making the world a better place for everyone.  These are the things we should be striving for.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

National Portrait Gallery on Lost in DC

When I'm not busy planning outdoor adventures for stormy days, I like to plan poorly for indoor activities.  Which is why the photos in this post are such crap (I forgot my camera and had to use my phone - remember that one time I went to the NY Met?  Yeah...) and there are so few of them (we left really late and didn't get to explore the whole museum before it closed).  So instead of telling you all about the fabulous National Portrait Gallery and American Art Museum in Washington DC that I didn't really get to explore for very long, I'm going to share with you some of my favorite pieces currently on display that I did get pictures of.  I plan on going back to this one soon - definitely worth a visit.  It's also free and open till 7pm (a lot of the museums close around 5pm).  [read more...]

Friday, August 31, 2012

Great Falls Park on Lost in DC


You could go to Great Falls, one of the National Parks in Northern Virginia, on a nice, sunny day.  You could go early in the morning to avoid traffic and crowds, even.  But wouldn't it be more exciting to go on a rainy day?  Especially if one of your companions is already sick?  

In April, I planned a trip to Shenandoah National Park on a foggy day and we couldn't see two feet ahead of the car once we were halfway up the mountain.  And just wait, I went to Monticello this month on a rainy, foggy day.  Best of both worlds, right?

I really have the worst planning skills.  I just shouldn't be allowed to plan things.  [read more...]