Archive for May, 2015|Monthly archive page

Exclusivity vs. Advancement 

Today my company’s Women’s Initiative program hosted a panel discussion with company executives that was supposed to highlight Women In Tech, specifically in our tech company. (It didn’t, but more on that later.) Before it started I was chatting with a woman I’ve only occasionally worked with. And in striving to keep the conversation going, I commented how encouraged I was to see how many men turned out for a Women’s Initiative event. Her response was that it was nice, especially since the program “feels” a bit exclusive. 

My immediate reaction was that in any effort to promote marginalized groups there is some kernel of exclusivity endemic to that uplifting of the target population. But, I also said that the slight imbalance created by that shift in focus is typically off-set by the privilege that the non-target group enjoys. Then the obligatory flippant, hopefully easy-going, comment was “so they should just get over it”. 
Now, what I meant by that snark is that the passing discomfort of the privileged from momentarily not being the center of attention is trivial in comparison to the significant benefits to the marginalized from being in the spotlight for a time. 
So, two things:
First, shouldn’t that be obvious? Shouldn’t reasonably intelligent adults be able to recognize that creating a group or event or environment that brings light and opportunity for advancement to repressed/oppressed/marginalized populations is, of itself, a noble purpose, and the reduction of oppressive privilege as a result, is a benefit to everyone? I feel like this should be obvious. Granted, the question isn’t always as clean as who holds more privilege between (ostensibly) only two groups. Sometimes variables within each population enjoy different levels of privilege and suffer different levels of oppression, so that you are really having to juggle the interests of multiple groups. For example, all men vs. all women can break down into racial, economic, national, political and sexual orientation demographics among each, in which some women are privileged over other women, some men over other men, and depending on how granular your filters, even some women might be privileged over some men. These variables can be tricky to account for and sometimes complicate the analysis of exclusivity vs. advancement. But, at a high level and in most instances, I think this cost/benefit analysis should be obvious. 
Second, even if the win-win of creating equality isn’t obvious in every micro-instance, shouldn’t the mere fact of a population among us suffering oppression and inequality merit scrutiny, even if that scrutiny is uncomfortable for some? Doesn’t that mean that, instead of defaulting to criticism of a possible negative attribute that might exist with the program to instill equality, the instinctive response should be rather to support and further the cause? I’m all for spotting problems, avoiding risks and preventing the cure from becoming worse than the disease. But that’s not what this type of thinking does. This is, whether accidental or intentional, obstructionist thinking. This type of reaction deflects attention from the core concern to a tertiary side-effect, obscuring the primary purpose with trivialities. It can stop a program or movement in its tracks, if it’s allowed to fester unaddressed before the program gets its legs. That’s what makes lazy thinking so dangerous. 
And here’s a bonus thought:  All intelligent discourse is beneficial. Today’s Women’s Initiative event didn’t address a women-centered topic as initially billed. Instead, it was an executive panel discussion about organizational change and change management, only sponsored by the Women’s Initiative organization. However, it’s lack of a women’s focus did not prevent it from being the platform for critical thinking about deep social issues. I had a much more satisfying chat with a different co-worker afterward that played on the same theme, only from a positive, uplifting angle. And even though I found my colleague’s comment irksome, it put my mind to work, helping me to articulate some thoughts (if no answers) about why activism, even in its mildest, most micro-level form, is critical for the growth and prosperity of all communities. 
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Ogre or troll?

This post is hard for me to publish. I’m afraid it will come off as very self-serving and mawkish. I cringe at the blush-worthy sneers it could easily attract. But it’s about a nagging irritation that I feel might be helped by putting my thoughts out in the universe. So, take this one as it’s meant: an airing of aggrieved confusion and irritation with only myself, and no cause for offense to anyone else. 
— — — — —
My beloved is generous with her praise and compliments. She puts effort into finding ways to tell me that she thinks my fashion choices on any given day are good and attractive, that she thinks I look nice, and that she’s pleased with my appearance. She is kind that way, solicitous of my feelings. I am a very lucky butch in this regard. And I make an effort to be grateful and also to reciprocate her kindness. 
The last bit is easy. I always think she looks good, even straight from sleep or when she’s under the weather. She is my pretty girl and seeing her always pleases me. So telling her that she is beautiful and helping her to know that I see her, her uniqueness, her innate loveliness, is not the hard part. 
The hard part is graciously accepting a compliment without feeling false in either my reaction to the compliment or in my treatment of the one giving it. Doesn’t matter who it is, I always struggle with this. But the struggle is especially troubling when it’s my Lulu. Her kind heart and genuine pleasure at seeing me and complimenting my appearance is something I never want to trample, dismiss or trivialize. 
Yet…I can’t help the visceral, instinctive and strong reaction that occurs every single time. Inner critic voices immediately shout in my head:  “That’s not meant for you.” “You don’t deserve that.” “They can’t possibly be talking about you that way.” “Don’t be ridiculous, that description doesn’t apply to you.” And, most disturbing: “That’s what they think you want to hear.” and “What do they want from you to try flattery of that sort?”
These doubts, outright denials, and motive-questioning reactions are reflexive, almost autonomic in their immediacy following any kind of praise on my person. I shrug, grimace, sometimes cringe and shudder inwardly, when my beloved calls me gorgeous or handsome or beautiful-handsome. I gesture away the comments about my attire with a flick of my hand. And the qualifying comments, down-playing and deprecating responses are just as quick to my lips as the shrugs and grimaces.  

I’m sure it’s frustrating for her. Maybe infuriating and sad, too. Those emotions are not what I ever mean to inspire in her. But they are the predictable byproducts of the ingrained response I have to praise and compliments. 


So, what’s the problem? 

It feels so wrong to simply say thank you. It’s as if by acknowledging the other person’s remark and thanking their kindness, I am claiming that superlative for myself, boasting by proxy. It feels unseemly and big-headed. 

Yet I never think these things of others who graciously accept compliments I’ve given them. It never occurs to me that anyone I compliment is anything but deserving of the praise and validation. Their acceptance of, and pleasure in, the comment is gratifying to me, with nary a qualm about their motives. 

So why do I hold myself to a different standard? Why do I struggle with accepting the thought that what is said is what they genuinely believe? How is it okay for others, but not okay for me?

Fundamentally, I genuinely think others deserve to be complimented and I don’t. I can’t identify why this makes so much sense to me. It seems so right and rational inside my head and heart, but sounds so stupid and insane when written down or said out loud. Why should I be utterly undeserving? Am I such a loathsome ogre to be devoid of aesthetic appeal? Clearly not; no person is. 

I think the nasty secret behind it all is, predictably, fear. Specifically, fear that my internal critic’s worst poison will manifest itself in the voice of someone I care for and respect, sneering in surprise and derision in response to overhearing me being complimented, sealing the deal on my self doubt: “This confirms it! You were right all along, you are a loathsome troll!!” (For some reason that internal saboteur’s voice is that of Alan Rickman as Severus Snape at his most venomous.) 
Never mind that no one I love and respect today has ever displayed anything like that sort of hatefulness toward me or anyone I love. Never mind that the whole scenario is ludicrous. Logic and sanity don’t play a part in irrational insecurity. 
It’s just fear of not being good enough. 
Time to get over it. Hopefully saying it out loud will rob the gremlin of its power and free me to just be grateful next time. 

Irascible 

It might be an impatience thing. After all, I did just admit in a recent post that muggles are grinding down my very last nerve. But I think it’s more than my being irascible. I think some people just simply check out…stop thinking, reasoning, working, taking responsibility…and expect others to bear their load on top of their own. 

Here’s what I’m on about:  Personal responsibility is implicit in all social contracts (work, friendship, parenting, participating in representative democratic (or republican, depending on your viewpoint) government, etc.) and that duty requires mental effort, to varying degrees, but effort all the same. And when we permit others to abdicate their responsibility to think for themselves, then (to paraphrase the immortal words of Doctor Sheldon Cooper) “if that social contract breaks down, then all social contracts break down and we descend into anarchy”. 
Ok, maybe that’s a little melodramatic. But the problem is real and it is terribly annoying. 
Let me ‘splain…no, it’ll take too long, let me sum up…

(And yes, for those of you keeping score, I did just hit the trifecta of snarky pop culture references in a single post–Harry Potter, Big Bang Theory, and Princess Bride.)
…I think for a living. I make big, hard, multi-million dollar decisions on a daily basis that influence the performance of a multi-billion dollar publicly traded company. At least eighteen people’s careers are in my hands. I have plenty of responsibility, thank you very much. Extra helpings of burden, simply because others are too lazy to do their own thinking, are not welcome. 
My brain is busy. Please use your own. 

Quick Hits

Just a few odds and ends to round out the weekend:
  • I spent today watching cheesy made-for-TV movies with my sister-in-law. We hung out in our PJs, had sandwiches. Chatted about nothing. Hollered at the idiots on TV about to get clobbered by the obvious villain standing behind them. Laughed at the absurdity. Thoroughly enjoyed the hokeyness of it all. It was a wonderful Sunday. 


  • I like Talenti Sea Salt Caramel gelato a lot. The little caramel truffles inside are a good bonus. 
  • I may not be a marketing expert, but I am an experienced consumer and I know what I like. I also know what I don’t like and what’s insulting. The trend lately among advertisers to insult intelligence, appeal to base emotions and rely on the grossly absurd to “boost” their brands is infuriating. And only makes me NOT buy their stuff.  I mute the tv or change the channel to avoid the worst of them. But stupid commercials proliferate and I’m over it. 
  • Harry Potter books on CD are soooo addictive. That’s all that plays in my truck. Just about to finish Prisoner of Azkaban…again. I love these stories (except Order of the Phoenix, which I despise as the most unfair, frustrating book ever written), but the more I listen to them, the more questions I have. Chiefest among them is: why does no one talk to each other in this world? I know, I know…tension, story arch, yada yada yada. Still, tell me that Harry wouldn’t have been better off if Lupin hadn’t explained his relationship to James and their boyhood shenanigans during one of those dementor sessions, rather than waiting for Harry to do something desperate! (Yes, I know, I’m a bit too invested in a children’s story for a grown butch. So sue me.)
  • My iTunes shuffle is getting stale. I need new music, but haven’t heard anything I really like. What’s the best way to find good new music?

Maturity?

I just had a mini epiphany looking in the bathroom mirror as I washed my hands. See, I’ve let my hair grow too long without a cut and it’s been really humid with all the rain, so my hair has more volume than normal. So, between the extra curly, swirly, voluminosity and the weird side-part, flat-over style necessary due to its length, my hair looks like an ’80’s televangelist’s do, a-la Pat Robertson. Catching sight of this, and noticing how grey it’s getting, made me think of the IRL evangelist (not tele-) that led my church growing up. He had hair like this, too. And I’m sort of the same shape now as he was the last time I saw him. And, like him, I’m not likely to be welcomed back to that church…unless I hide or renounce who I am. 

All these thoughts flashed quickly through my brain and I had a realization that shouldn’t surprise me, but does: youth and immaturity aren’t the same thing, just as age and maturity aren’t the same thing; the one doesn’t guarantee the other in either instance. But it’s only maturity that reveals how greatly lacking in compassion, empathy and insight the judgements of our youth sometimes were. 
In this case, thinking of my old minister, I now realize I made some very harsh, inflexible and compassionless judgements in my mind when he fell from grace. In my 20-year-old mind, convinced that I understood adult responsibility and even what love requires, his choice to divorce his wife, leave his sons, and move away with his younger, more svelt secretary, was inexcusable. In my moral certainty, nothing could justify his radical departure from everything I had learned, chiefly from him in his church, was the way Christians behaved. I was certain that there could be no circumstances that would adequately explain what appeared to be a betrayal of trust on every level. 
The truth of their marriage and his departure will never be fully known to anyone but them, and it really is irrelevant to the point I’m trying to get to. 
The lesson that slapped me in the face after I saw his face in my reflection is that (1) we don’t and can’t know the burden that any other person carries at any given moment; and (2) sometimes even that person doesn’t understand everything about themselves; so (3) don’t presume to know what someone ‘deserves’ for a decision or action taken in private. 
The classic lesson: judge not, lest ye be judged. 
But the reason it was an epiphany, despite that exact proverb being ingrained into my upbringing, is simple…and a bit sad. I’m now the one whose circumstances set me apart from what I previously believed was the only right way. I’m the one, now, who is seemingly rejecting all the wisdom of my faith and family for a personal truth none of them can fully understand. And I feel the gulf that so-called choice (living my truth) puts between us very sharply. 
Look, I get that there’s a meaningful distinction between acknowledging one’s true nature and choosing to live authentically in the world, and the choices a couple make when a relationship ends. Living the truth of your nature, and thereby confusing and offending some, is as far removed from the acknowledgment of the end of a relationship and its attendant hurts and sadness, as the night is from day. Adjacent, yet irrevocably separate. Similar, yet worlds apart. 
Nevertheless, the lesson holds. 
Even though that preacher, whom I was raised to revere and obey, acted in every way against what he himself taught me and our congregation is right and good, I didn’t then, nor do I now know all of the burden he and his family bore together. Yet, wrongdoing is such, irrespective of the subjective conditions of a given situation or the judgement of outsiders. 
In the same way, the justice and righteousness of living your truth, regardless of opposition from those you respect and admire, is just as much a moral absolute. The confusion, dismay, disbelief and derision of those who cannot understand the burden of living a falsehood does not change the truth of who you are. 
So what I learned in that flash of insight is that judgement is not something to take lightly, nor an office one should presume to hold over others. The moral judgement of so-called sin is for the creator or the universe in their or its time. The judgement of crime is for those who govern and those appointed to adjudicate. But the judgement of life and it’s authentic truth is for those who live it. And those that see and practice this discretion are happier and make the world better for those who live in it. 
A little personal growth spree while washing my hands. Who knew that could happen!?

More random 

Until I get my inspirational mojo back, I’m going to try to keep writing and rely on randomness and lists as crutches to keep me going. 

Here’s a few random things floating around my head right now. (Meant to post last night, so these are from Wednesday 13th.)

  1. Sometimes I fear I’m running out of words. As if I’ve used up anything original in my head and now I’m just into recycling the words and thoughts I had before. One day, I might exhaust even the used words and be left mute forever. 
  2. Related to the above, somewhat, but still random: I find myself repeating the phrase “It is important that you understand” at increasing frequency and in diverse situations lately. It’s as if the recycled, plain words I have to use are too pale and flimsy to carry my meaning. For some reason, nearly all my work conversations and some personal ones, include some form of that plea. I just want to be understood. It’s important. 
  3. On a lighter note, I had an incredibly validating and ego-boosting discussion with outside counsel today. From time to time, everyone needs to feel that they’re smart and right and making good decisions. Especially when it comes to leadership judgement on behalf of your employer. Nice, too, when that validation of your professional skill comes in front of a group of your peers and boss. Walking a little taller this afternoon. 
  4. Burnt sunflower seeds are the worst! EVAR!!

Bonus inspirational thought for *yet another* rainy day:  grass and trees are greener, cars less dusty, air is nicer to breathe when it rains, so…wet is good. 😜

    Motivation

    So, after a month of daily writing  prompts for Writing 101, I have a set of new posts of which I am rather proud. I really quite enjoyed doing the challenge. 

    But I’ve struggled since the challenge ended to devise my own writing prompts. I can’t seem to locate my motivation. Not in the sense of the will to write, nor interest in the art of writing. Rather, motivation in the sense of a creative spark or inspiration for what to write. 
    Seems I’m not as much an independent thinker as I thought. It’s too easy to rely on a push from the ether to provide the motivation. No thinking required. At least, not until the prompt is received. 
    But, in an effort to be a”real” blogger, posting something without the prompting of an unseen director from the ether, here are four random thoughts that likely have no relationship to one another or to any recent post:
    1.  Sometimes all meanness, vitriol and irrational trolling remarks on social media and in what passes for entertainment programming on TV sets my nerves on edge and makes me feel so agitated and unwell that I want to turn everything off and be isolated from all sensory input. 
    2.  I have reached a level of bowtie addiction that will soon force me to either downsize my collection or upsize my dresser drawers. 
    3.  The knee-jerk response of pointing out that all lives or identities or genders or what-have-yous matter when someone (usually the minority in question) wants to talk special about why [xxx minority] demographic needs support is disrespectful and both ignores and perpetuates the problem that minority faces. It is also infuriating and a bush-league oppression tactic. 
    4.  I’m weary. On many levels. But the most pressing effect of my weariness at the moment is that it has eroded what little patience I have cultivated over the last decade to the point where I almost need to broadcast a public service announcement warning all idiots and asshats to avoid exhausting my last nerve or bear the consequences. 
    Bonus fun fact:  tacos are the perfect food to pick you up on any terrible-awful-no-good-very-bad days because it’s impossible not to smile when you have a taco in your hand ready for crunching! 
    There you have it. My disconnected random thoughts. I wish you tacos and long naps. 😎

    Integrity

    So, the last Writing 101 assignment for the 20-day writing challenge is to write about a prized possession, breathing life into it with my prose and, for a twist, do it in long-form. 

    I know the point of this exercise is to discuss objects, how they make me feel, the context & history. But, as this is the last post for the challenge, I think I’ll try my own twist on the prompt. I’m going to try to write about something that means everything to me. But it isn’t a physical object. 
    For me, the most important thing I have is my personal integrity. It is the core of my being. It lets me live as stress-free as possible, knowing that I’ve done everything in my power to maintain honesty, peace and good will with the world around me. I can sleep, look at myself in the mirror, be still and at peace at the end of each day when I know I’ve remained true to my values and done nothing to compromise or cheapen my integrity. It’s the value, the worth, the treasure that I save at all costs and don’t trade for short-sighted, ephemeral gain. 
    My personal integrity is my most prized possession and I feel it deeply when my integrity is jeopardized. 
    I’ve been thinking about this for a while. There’s something that’s bothering me and, in my head, it is an integrity issue. But it’s not as straight forward as a matter of telling the truth or doing the right thing in a hard situation. It involves examination of motive, which can be tricky and complex. 
    Here’s the situation and then I’ll get to how it’s an integrity thing. 
    I have received my first negative comment on one of my posts, https://suddenawareness.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/what-is-butch-anyway/
    The post is about my personal take on my own identity. And I took great pains in that post to address the fact that validity of any identity can only be determined by the person so identified, not by an outsider’s opinion. 
    So this commenter takes the time to lament my delusion of being butch and masculine. He took the effort to give me a free (and unasked for) lesson on how my natural psychology as female (which he seems to think is the same as feminine) will always betray me, I’ll never achieve what I describe, and guys will never fully accept me, but they’ll kindly patronize my delusion of masculinity. 
    Never mind that I am not trying to be a “guy” or that I do not wish to attract men. Somehow, he felt the need to instruct me on the error in my identity and the waste I had made of my time in writing such a long post about something I can never be. 
    And by throwing in a token “Peace” at the end as an afterthought, I get the feeling that he would think me unsporting if I were to take exception to his male-privileged-skewed opinion on my identity. 
    Infuriating. 
    As you can tell,  I’m still peeved about his condescending, deliberately disrespectful by-passing of the point of my post in order to impose his views on my description of my own identity. 
    But…and this where integrity comes into question…I have not approved the comment for publication to the blog. 
    I’ve been letting it sit, cooling my own reaction, in hopes of looking at it objectively. If I’m calm, maybe it won’t seem like such a trollish, bullying intrusion into my space. Lulu, on the other hand, has advised that I approve it. She knows how I feel and why. But, she feels that since it’s his opinion, his view of his truth, I should not suppress it, but let others judge for themselves. 
    I’m not so sure. 
    Do I compromise my integrity by not giving all commenters their voice, even if I disagree with their message? If I only approve comments that praise and agree with me, is the integrity of my blog and my philosophy undermined? Am I unreasonably suppressing the free exchange of ideas by not publishing a comment that, I admit, hurts and enrages me? Do I have a duty to let all who read my blog have the ability to voice their opinions about my posts? Is it a copout to point out that this blog is my safe place for saying what I am unable to express out loud in the real world and, therefore, I should be free to admit or exclude whomever’s opinions I choose? Is that churlish and wrong?
    The thing about integrity, like identity, is that only the person who wears it can justly answer those questions. 
    That blows. 
    I don’t have the answers. But I think the fact that I have the questions should tell me something. What that something is, I don’t yet know. It may be that my questioning is merely the healthy mental process of facing an uncomfortable aspect of maturity that will ultimately lead to a balanced resolution. On the other hand, it may be indicative of a flaw in the character of my integrity, showing that I m not as transparent and authentic as I believe myself to be. 
    And, yes, it is probably unfair of me to talk about the comment without letting you read it. Maybe that’s the real integrity question.  For now, though, I am going to hang onto it, unpublished, and think more about why I don’t want those words, smacking as they do of arrogant derision, published on my blog. Is it just because they’re hurtful to me and maybe others? Or is it because I don’t want anyone who disagrees with me to have a voice in this space?
    I don’t believe it’s the latter, but I don’t know for sure. 
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