Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Fighting on the Same Side

I don't like confrontation. I avoid it whenever I can. I know there are people who thrive on good arguments, but I am not one of them. One of the reasons I stopped posting here regularly was because, as more people read my words, I had to make a much stronger effort to not step on toes. I mean -- I didn't have to. Most of the popular mainstream blogs rely on mean-spirited humor. But I liked the people who read my words -- who left kind and/or thoughtful comments. I didn't want to say something that might be hurtful for the sake of the opportunity to turn a clever phrase.


A lover, not a fighter.

But lately I've found myself in fights. Plural. I have been confused every time -- how did this happen? -- but -- not being a seasoned fighter -- I just can't seem to figure out how to walk away and drop things. Obviously if something I did or said inspired someone else to be mean to me, then I must have been misunderstood. I try to restate, but when the antagonist just keeps striking, I eventually strike back. I'm not proud of that. I watch people who just walk away. I want to be like them. I'm not, though. Not yet. I'll learn.

Most recently I was attacked because -- although this woman and I were on the same side of an argument, my personal experience and viewpoint didn't completely match hers. Now she was young -- and maybe it's the advantage of age -- to be able to understand that I don't have to share your precise experience for your experience to be valid. She ripped me to shreds because I came at it from a different angle. No, no, no. You will think exactly as I think, or you will be wrong. Then -- THEN! -- she launched into -- well, here's the thing -- if she'd been a man, the womyns would've been shaking their fists and spitting, "MANSPLAINING!" while simultaneously lighting their torches and searching for their pitchforks.

I thought about that a lot.

I suspect that if a man had spoken to her that way, she would've lead the angry mob. Hell, I suspect that if a man had spoken to ME that way she might not have exactly LEAD the mob, but she would've probably joined it. Because mansplaining is bad. Everyone knows that. We are womyns, hear us roar! Don't dare to try to 'plain something to a womyns, because womyns don't need to have anything explained to them.

Except, of course, by other womyns.

Not being able to walk away from a fight isn't the only bad habit I'm trying to break.

I read comments.

Recently I was reading a story about the absolutely repellant Brock Allen Turner rape case. A woman in the comments expressed her repulsion with him and compassion for her by stating that she was loved. She was somebody's daughter, grand-daughter, sister, niece, friend. She was immediately attacked -- and I mean ATTACKED -- by the womyns who said things like, "Oh, so if she were a homeless orphan, it would be ok?" She said, no, of course not. It would never be ok -- but she just kept being pummeled. Our worth isn't based on our relationships to other people. Well, of course not. I agree. But I don't think attacking a woman who was in agreement -- what happened here was capital B Bad -- because of the way she chose to express her compassion was fair. She eventually gave up, by the way. But she took an awfully good pummeling, first.

For what?

It's stupid. Let's get it together, women. Womyns. The lot of us. Fighting with people who are on your side is really a deterrent in the bigger picture. We're attacking each other for using the wrong word, or having a different experience and turning our backs on all the stuff we should REALLY be fighting. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Choices We Make

Growing up, I did some regrettable things. I presume we all do. It's rebellion, it's self-expression, it's -- whatever. It's human nature. However, despite engaging in the usual non-parental/societal approved sex, drugs, and rock and roll, I was, for the most part, obedient. I did what was expected of me. Come to think of it, even my rebellion was a pretty, well, expected rebellion. As a predictably obedient kid, I had my future mapped out long before I left high school. I would get good grades so that I could get into a decent college and get a good education. I would graduate in four years -- no more, no less -- and get a job in my field. I would get married shortly after college and I would put my job on hold for a couple years to raise kids, then, when they were school-aged, I would go back to work. We would take annual family vacations and develop traditional traditions around summer break and holidays. I hadn't figured past that by the time I was 14, because that would've involved imagining myself being over 30 and, well, that was pretty much inconceivable. 

So I got the good grades and I went to college and I majored in Elementary Education because I loved kids and I was pretty good at conveying information and -- well -- that summers and holidays off thing was going to fit REALLY nicely into my family plans. I got engaged at the beginning of my senior year to a boy I'd been dating since the end of my freshman year and everything was right on track -- just like a rule-follower like me liked it.

Three weeks before graduation he broke up with me and -- in retrospect -- saved both of us a lot of heartache because we were NOT well-matched. But we're talking about a LOT of retrospect. That's another story and it's been told a million times. I won't bother to rehash it here. 

Yep, it needed to happen, but it sure did send the needle skidding across the album of my life. I was utterly lost -- abandoned, with no idea how to move forward. Things were supposed to follow a formula and this wasn't it. Life was wrong. But I was still alive, so I was going to have to live it. 

My best friend had made plans to go to grad school halfway across the country -- that was her plan -- and, on a whim, I asked her if I could join her. I established residency in this new state while working a job that was not in my field and started grad school myself once residency had been established. 

Now I had a new focus.

I didn't stay there long enough to finish that degree. I took jobs in my field -- some traditional, some non-traditional -- and one of them led me back to grad school. That felt right. Not as right as that original plan. In my mind, that was still the right life, but that ship had sailed and I needed to forge a new path. If I couldn't have a family, I would have an education. It was a compromise, and not an entirely satisfactory one, but it was good. Minimally, it was a good alibi. Why haven't you gotten married? Why aren't you raising babies? I was too dedicated to my education!

So a decade later, I developed a new plan. Master's, Doctorate, publications -- I would dedicate myself to academia. I would devote myself to education. It was definitely Plan B, and I still mourned Plan A, but it was a good, sound, plan and one I could take some pride in. I wrapped my identity around it.

I had a mentor who I admired greatly and the children in my classrooms became "my kids" in the absence of kids of my own. 

So I followed the new set of rules. I finished my Master's and began coursework on my Doctorate. My academic network was solid and growing stronger every day. I concentrated on younger children and people with disabilities. I took jobs in my field and that enhanced my education as my education enhanced my employment. Plan B was going ok. It wasn't Plan A, but it wasn't bad. It was rewarding.

And then love and babies curved into my path and -- well -- I didn't even think about a new plan. This is what I'd wanted in the first place. The route had been convoluted and more adventurous than I'd planned, but here I was -- right where I wanted to be -- just two decades late. A return to a modified Plan A. I briefly tried to have it all -- continuing with my studies while raising my babies -- but sitting in an ivory tower learning about early childhood while my own babies were in the care of someone else was -- well, it was just WRONG, is what it was. For me. No judgments. I stayed home. I quit school when I was piloting my doctoral dissertation. I dedicated myself to my own babies instead of to the babies of the world.

I was very, very, happy.

I figured -- the original Plan A had me returning to the workforce when my kids were school-aged -- no reason plan A2 couldn't go the same way. I mean -- I was very educated and very experienced. How hard could it be?

But there were problems I didn't anticipate.

And now? Now it's too late. My kids don't need me anymore. The only jobs I can find in my field are in daycare. If you're not aware -- the wages of daycare workers are comparable to the wages of fast-food workers. The social status? Oh, I don't have to tell you the social status. You know. The best part? I am responsible for just as much planning/work/paperwork outside the classroom as any classroom teacher. More, really, because there are no such things as the teacher planning days classroom teachers seem to get twice a month. The worst of both worlds. Some might say -- go back to school! Get the re-certifications you need to get a respectable job! But that would be a waste of my time and money. Oh -- I could do it. Probably. But could I get hired? That's very unlikely at my age. It would just be too much of a gamble.

So. So Plan C. Plan C is where I have to spend every snow day, every holiday break, every long weekend, every damn summer working while I watch the teacher friends I accumulated along the way talk about how much they deserve their breaks. I get skin rashes and stomach issues and all manner of stress-related bullshit (as well as every communicable thing that comes along) while doing a job that offers zero sick days. Go ahead and process that for a minute.

Plan C sucks -- and I can honestly see no way out of it because -- you can say "You're never too old to start over!" as much as you want, but the truth is -- sometimes you are.

So I've given up.

This is my life. It did not go according to plan. Few lives do, entirely, I suppose. 

I don't suppose it's necessary to inform you that Plan A -- the way I always thought it should be -- is not the plan my children have chosen for themselves, either. Their lives, of course. Their choices. I gave up those dreams for them kicking and screaming, though. 

But I did give up.

One dream at a time.

I did give up.

I don't have many dreams left. Not many at all. But I don't have high hopes for them.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

What? Sin a Name.

What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet. ~ Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Last week, I attended a workshop called Pinot + Poems. It was a little stretch outside of my comfort zone, but that's something we all need to do from time to time, no? I registered on an impulse and considered blowing it off. It was, after all, a poetry workshop. Even when I DID write, I didn't write poetry. And I haven't written for a very long time. But once I registered, I pretty much had to follow through. It's not like I'd paid for it from it from my vast store of extra money. I'd paid for it, I was minimally going to drink some wine.

I knew going was the right decision long before I got there. I'd fallen into a place - again - where everything about my life was pretty passive. AGAIN, this was demonstrated by the fact that I didn't drive anywhere, really. I mean -- I drive to work, and I drive to the grocery store, and -- hell! -- I'll drive to my Mom's in another state -- but if I'm going somewhere new, Tom is usually behind the wheel. Please don't misunderstand. I prefer it that way. I think he does, too. But not having driven anywhere except work and the grocery store in some time made me -- nervous about going somewhere new. And THAT meant it had been far too long since I'd done anything independent. Yep. I needed to do this.

I was on very unfamiliar ground. 


I found the place without incident, and it was amazing -- a beautiful old building that had been converted into studio space. I headed up the stairs, and they were grand in the way that only very old staircases in very old buildings can be. I found the space we'd be using, and it was perfect. Tables were set with flowers and books and craft supplies. And cookies. Fancy little cookies. There was plenty of wine and there were light appetizers. I filled my keepsake mason jar with wine, but skipped the appetizers and tucked the cookies into my purse. It's a proven fact. Nobody wants to see a fat lady eat. ESPECIALLY not cookies.

I filled out my name tag. Hello, My Name is Tam.

This? Was as bold a move as getting in the car and driving there had been. (Please don't be jealous of the exciting lifestyle that leads to driving to a new place and filling out a name tag being elevated to the status of bold moves. We can't all be international personages of mystery and intrigue.)

I don't introduce myself as Tam. I didn't even introduce myself as Tam that night, although there it was -- prominently displayed over my left boob. I like being called Tam, though. Not many people call me that, and I like the way it sounds. Familiar and comfortable -- sort of like the handful of people who DO use it regularly. I know this is because I introduce myself as Tammy and people do not want to take liberties. I get that. I'm a grown-ass adult. I should introduce myself the way I wish to be referenced, no?

I set out to rectify it with this tiny little act. Hello, My Name is Tam.

The leader of the workshop began her presentation and said, "We're going to talk, tonight, about poetry as naming." I almost reacted right out loud, which would've put a dent in the cool rep I -- Tam -- was trying so hard to establish that night, in my carefully-chosen-to-look-not-carefully-chosen-new-but-hopefully-didn't-look-too-new sweater. Poetry as naming. I had put thought into the presentation of my name. I was trying on a new old identity. Familiarity with people with whom I was completely unfamiliar. And she was going to talk about naming. Kismet. Fate had brought me here tonight. Well, fate, and Siri. Tam I am. Tam I mother-fucking am. 

Tam is going to be so much happier than Tammy has been.

*rubs hands together* Tam I am. Let's write some poetry. Go. I am ON this. I belong here.

Of course I didn't. Stupid Tammy in her stupid sweater was stupid and old and didn't fit. Everything I did was wrong. Awkward. I tried too hard. This event was beautiful and young and hip. It was for Gwens and Marleys and Ionas. It wasn't for Tammy. It wasn't even for Tam.

Whoa. That took a turn. Sorry.

It wasn't really that bad. It wasn't bad at all. It was, in fact, absolutely lovely. I just didn't fit. I'm being dramatic. Poets do that. That's why it's called poetic license.


My firstborn has decided that her name no longer fits. She hasn't changed it legally, but she has changed it socially. I think I understand her reasoning. She wants -- if I am interpreting it correctly -- to be someone other than who she's been. Her newly chosen name is a part of that metamorphosis. I want to respect it -- and try to -- but it is difficult for me. I gave her her name before she was born. It was carefully chosen, not randomly or frivolously assigned. But it no longer fits. What would a poet do? What would Tam do?

What's in a name? We carefully choose names for our children, our pets, sometimes even our possessions. We choose names that we think will suit them and serve them. We try to choose well. They might play with it -- try to find a better fit. Their friends might gift (or curse) them with nicknames that eventually supersede their given names. Does it matter? 

I don't know.

Tam didn't have any more fun than Tammy does. And I feel a little silly for attempting to toy with it at my age. 

What's your name? What do you go by? What do you like to be called? What do you wish you were called? Does it make a difference? Do names make impressions? Do certain names conjure up images for you? Fill in the blank: