Claiming Spaces

With my background in community development and sociology I am very sensitive to ensuring that I surround myself with diversity of thought.  I need to hear about the different realities that many of us face and I need to keep abreast of new theories, thought and research on the social problems we face.  I have a diverse group of friends and colleagues that help push me in various areas where I can have real and meaningful conversations.

A major part of my reality is teaching.  Teaching students how to critically analyze media, research methods, statistical analyses, theories and ideas.  In case you didn’t know–this is hard work. REALLY hard…REALLY, REALLY hard made even harder by the 24/7 stream of good, bad, ugly,really ugly, pitiful, horrendous, you’ve got to be kidding me information stream.  In the end of whatever I teach, I hope students at least come out with the notion that they need to read material with the idea they should have more questions than answers at the end of a piece.  What research methods were used to collect this information?  How were the data analyzed?  What is the motivation of the author?  Who is funding the author?  Whose perspective is being represented?  What might I learn from another perspective on the very same issue?  And I could go on and on.

I think I must be good at my job of interviewing because people really open up to me.  I hear the pain in their voices and in their stories of a reality that I honestly wonder how they are still standing. I hear the voices of people who recognize the kind of privilege they experience and work tirelessly to ensure more people have that kind of privilege.  I also hear the voices of people who do not believe we should talk about those things because, they feel, it just keeps the problem going.  I also hear the voices of people who tell me we should not mix races, castration should be allowed, how horrible families in poverty are, how people in poverty “just don’t” care, should “just” do x, y and z…You might be thinking, “SURELY, SURELY people do not say that to you!”  I told you, I am good at my job and these are all very real conversations I’ve had in the last 15 years of doing this kind of work.  And, sadly, in the last 15 years and with no exaggeration, a few hundred interviews later these conversations still fall into these various categories.

I live a life that is rooted in the very social problems that our communities face.  Doing research on racial and ethnic disparities is mentally and emotionally draining.  I see on a daily basis, why it matters to continue having the tough conversations.  I see why we have to find compromises on how to move forward on social issues.  Through this research I see in a very tangible and real way why it matters to keep having conversation about race, class, gender, basic human rights, healthcare, education, our criminal justice system, the environment, poverty, how we go about economic development, who gets to sit at the decision making table, who gets to make the decision making rules, etc. because these factors shape our life chances no matter who you are.

In engaging in debate, teaching and conducting my research I can become very jaded at times.  I’m grateful for my inner most circle of friends that keep me positive and keep reminding me why we keep going.  My family is also a big part of this  support; but since I live so far away much from many of them this interaction happens online.  Keeping up with their work, kiddos, spouses, hobbies, and daily life.  And, like many, I’ve somewhat reconnected with people I knew many years ago.  For the most part I’ve enjoyed seeing how people are doing at this stage in their life.  My heart hurts for the pain and tragedies they’ve experienced. I love seeing their passions for food, sports, politics, travel.

But, I’ve also seen and probably remained social media “friends” way too long, with people that I have zero common ground with.  That, by their posts and comments, despise people like me.  They have no nice words for people like me nor does it seem they have any interest in opening a dialogue.  I’ve struggled on what to do with this group of social media “friends.”  Why you might ask?  Well, go back to my first paragraph. I am deeply committed to ensuring that I do not insulate myself to only one line of thought.  I ask myself, “What does it say about me if I start deleting people because we have a different perspective?  What am I missing if I do not at least try to see their side of life?”

So, tonight as I was scrolling through and seeing the cute pictures, the funny tidbits on how the day went I started to see the inevitable posts that make me cringe.  And, suddenly, my finger started going, delete, Delete, DELETE and before I knew it I was on a deleting spree! And wow!  What a great feeling!  I have come to realize that through my friends, colleagues the amount I read, my teaching and conversations with students, and my research that I do plenty to make sure I listen to and really hear people.  And, you know what?  I do not have to hear people online that I either haven’t seen in 20+ years or that in my personal life–with who I am now–would probably have no relationship with.  I just don’t.  That is my choice.  I can make my online world how I want it and that is ok. That, for my own sanity, I can make one space that friendly, loving, funny place I need it to be.  It doesn’t mean I am not valuing other voices.  It does not mean I am insulating myself.  I simply means I am claiming this one space for the lighter side of life.  It means I am claiming this space for others, who even though I do not agree with them 100%, we do so in a respectful and meaningful way.  I do not have to see posts that are blatantly racist, sexist, homophobic, belitting of others and me, and do not even try to understand that your reality is not my reality just as my reality is not the person’s next to me.

Whew, it feels good to finally resolve this for myself.

 

 

 

 

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A New Start

rainbow

Letchworth State Park, New York State

 

I woke up on January 1, 2016 and I felt different.  I just felt lighter, more motivated and that inkling of “me”–the person I was before overwhelming grief.  the person I was before where I didn’t question every decision I’d ever made.  The person I was before where I didn’t feel an overwhelming guilt.  Even now, 25 days later I cannot quite put my finger on it.  I’m still grieving.  Today proves that–I’m having an angry day. I still have those moments where I question the decisions I made.  I still have a lot of regrets.  But, my outlook on the future, what I want to do with my family and what I want to accomplish professionally is suddenly clearer again.

I’ve found myself in the last 25 days reaching out to my friends again.  Over the last year and  half I just simply didn’t have the energy.  Not that my friendships take a lot of energy.  They don’t.  I have a great circle of women who just let me be.  They understood.  They knew I needed time.  They didn’t take it personally.  They loved me from afar.  But, even just picking up the phone and trying to explain how I was doing was a task.  I had no words to explain.  I couldn’t talk about how I was really doing when I couldn’t explain it to myself.  I turned inward toward my family–those who knew and loved my father best–and just sought their comfort.  I needed that and now I feel stronger and more able to articulate my feelings.

Hubby and I are making plans again.  We are thinking toward the future and the kind of lives we want to lead, the experiences we want Munchkin to have and we are actively pursing those.  We are taking steps to make our shared dreams come true.  We are actively seeking new adventures.  We are excited about potential opportunities.

I’m excited to start the semester.  The last two semesters I had no excitement of being back in the classroom.  This was nothing against my students.  I just didn’t have the energy like I normally did to give them all they needed.  I beat myself up for it.  I hated feeling like I was giving less than 100% in the classroom a place that holds my passion.  I hated feeling like I was putting on a show and going through the motions.  But today, 3 hours from my first class of 2016 I am energized and ready to go.

I also feel Dad saying, “Good for you!”  As much as I miss him.  As much as I want him here.  As angry as I sometimes feel that he’s not with us–I know he’s encouraging me to have a new start and take what I’ve learned about myself in the last 18 months and do good with it.  As he always said at the start of football season about his beloved Buffalo Bills, “This is our year” and in many ways I feel this is mine.  To continue learning to live without him, to enjoying my baby girl to the fullest, to continue going after dreams with my hubby and to be a good daughter, sister, niece, cousin and friend.

Here’s to 2016 and all it may bring–whether good or bad–I’m ready to tackle the future with a fresh, clear outlook.

At Your Age…

sun setting

The sun is setting on my 30’s.

Alright, I know I am marching toward 40. Truly, I am reminded of it all the time. I have new lines appearing. I have silver sparkles starting to form in the front of my head. After having my daughter at age 32, my bits and pieces were no longer in the places they once were. I marched right into a Victoria’s Secret and bought the necessary equipment to hoist the girls back in place. Recently, I did the same march because again my bits and pieces seem to be shifting. After birthing a nearly 10 pound baby, my stomach is nice and squishy. As I march toward 40, it seems to get squishier and so I wear flowing tops to help hide the squish. It took me 3 days to recover from getting only 2 hours of sleep as I hounded the Disney reservations website to book our perfect vacation. I swear, I’d have to be put in ICU to recover from a hangover these days.  But, we all make adjustments. I am good with that. And, when I’m not good with it denial is a great world to be in.

Because on any given day I may or may not be in a state of denial about this aging process, DO NOT USE THE PHRASE, “AT YOUR AGE.” DO NOT SAY THAT TO ME.

The first time this happened to me was at 35. I had a raging chest cold. I had snot coming out everywhere. Flem balls the size of golf balls. I also couldn’t talk because of the laryngitis. It was not pretty by the time I decided I needed professional help. I made a single mistake that day. In croaking out my symptoms I said, “And I have chest pains.” Do you know what that earned me? Not only the “AT YOUR AGE” speech, but a one way trip to the emergency room.The doctor said we cannot be too careful with someone my age who is still on birth control and says they have chest pains.They even offered to call the ambulance to take me. I was in shock. Really, I am a ball of snot and you send me to the emergency room and I end up hooked up to all kinds of machines just because a week earlier I turned that magical 35 and I am now officially a risk?

A year older and today another medical professional whips out the old, “AT YOUR AGE.” I visited my family doctor. One of the medications I was put on 6 months ago can cause weight gain and I’ve put on about 10 pounds just as a result of the medication (or that is what I am telling myself–maybe I am in denial land). I mentioned this to him and he says, “Well, AT YOUR AGE this could be many factors.”  Yes, Mr. Medical Man–I know that but I do not need you to remind me of it!  I guess my famous bitch face must have come on because he took one look at me and started backtracking and fumbling for words and trying to use any phrase he could other than the dreaded, “AT YOUR AGE.”

I’m just glad I’m not planning to have any more kids.  As a dear friend told me that earns you the phrase, “ADVANCED MATERNAL PREGNANCY” and a one way trip to the nursing home to give birth.