Birthday Baggage

Today marks the 28th year of my being on this planet. It’s an incredible thing to think about. For me personally, birthdays bring up a lot of mixed emotions. The day we were born is supposed to be a reason to celebrate each year, but I haven’t felt much like it’s anything to celebrate since I turned 18. As a kid, birthdays are exciting. You get a whole day filled with attention and presents, then as a teenager you even gain more independence and rights as a human being. At 15 you get a permit, at 16 a driver’s license, at 18 you get to vote and (when I was 18) smoke cigarettes, and I suppose at 21 you are allowed to drink. However, I had already been drinking for so many years before that, it didn’t really matter. If anything it just took some of the fun out of it.

Yet even as a child, I was never one to wish I was “grown up.” I always knew that childhood was something magical and precious, something to cherish. I never wanted to grow up. After gaining my independence at 18, I honestly wished that I could prevent time from moving any further forward. I had no concept of what the future would look like for me, and that hasn’t changed with all the years that have passed since then. It still feels surreal that I’ve made it this far. As a severely depressed teenager, you don’t really spend a lot of time imagining a future for yourself. I definitely never even considered a life for myself after 21.

While I am incredibly grateful that I’ve been given such an amazing life thus far, birthdays always remind me that my time here is limited. On my birthday, when I look in the mirror all I see is a youth that is slowly waning and that will soon be gone all together. Not only does it remind me of the physical deterioration and death we all have to face one day, but it also makes me feel like I have lost that much more value as a woman. My boyfriend said last night he comforts himself about aging by imagining himself one more year wiser. That may be well and good for him, but a woman’s wisdom holds much less significance than her youth and beauty unfortunately. Obviously, I’m not saying that this is right or that I agree with these statements and value judgements. Still, I do believe that this is the harsh reality that women face in our society.

Despite believing I am an incredible human being who is smart and funny and unique, I don’t delude myself into thinking I’ve gotten this far in life on those qualities alone. I fully believe I wouldn’t have been selected for my current job had I not made such a good impression at an earlier date while interviewing for a different position with my organization. My boss may not even be consciously aware of it himself, but I guarantee my appearance had a lot to do with him reaching out to me when a new job opened up.

Maiden, mother, and crone. These are the three stages of a woman’s life, at least in the eyes of the male dominated world. And I don’t really know where I fit in that cycle anymore. All but the maiden sound abhorrent to me. Although I’m pretty sure I’m getting a bit old to consider myself a maiden, I will never be a mother (nor would I want to be), and I sure as hell am not looking forward to being considered an old crone. As I drift farther and farther away from the freshness of youth, I can’t help but wonder fearfully when the world will begin to look at me and treat me differently. How many years do I have left before I am pushed to the side, discarded, and forgotten? It’s a sobering thought that prevents me from really feeling much like celebrating on my birthday.

On the other hand, I am proud of the life I’ve led up to this point. I am humbled and grateful for the unbelievable good fortune I have been blessed with for so many years. I am also endlessly baffled by the concept of time. I look back at my high school memories with fascination, unable to believe they are already ten years behind me. Yet at the same time, moments that once seemed so sharp and crucial in my memory have now begun to blur and fade together into a vague feeling, as if those things never really happened to me, but someone else instead. I feel even more removed from my childhood memories, as if they are just some stories I read a long time ago. It’s strange to think that some day even my current life will feel like something peculiar and foreign.

I suppose my birthday is just another opportunity for me to practice being grateful for what I have without becoming overly concerned with the fact that I will surely not have it forever. To a certain extend, that’s what gratitude is all about. There wouldn’t be much cause to feel grateful for something that was guaranteed and never changing. The transient nature of life is what makes it so precious. No matter what the future may hold for me, I have already been given more than I could have ever asked for, and that’s what is most important. That will be my heart’s mantra today as it continues to beat for me without rest even into it’s 28th year of faithful service. That miracle alone is something to be grateful for.

Happy Birthday to Me Quotes - Happy Birthday to Me From Me

The High Five Habit

Affirmations have become a big part of my life in the last year or two. Even though I still find them cheesy and cringe worthy a lot of the time, I know that they work. I’ve seen the roll they’ve played in my own life. Honestly, we all use affirmations every day whether we do so intentionally or not. I guess the word “affirmation” implies intention, but unconsciously we are all repeating beliefs and self commentary every moment of the day. Sometimes it’s only after recognizing the intense emotional reaction we have towards positive affirmations that we realize just how toxic and self harming our own have been all this time.

One of the trickiest parts about affirmations for me is finding one that I can fully believe. Imagine you start off by saying to yourself “I’m perfect just the way I am.” If you don’t believe it, then not only is that affirmation not helping you, it could be hurting you instead by subconsciously reinforcing your disbelief in that statement. A simple reframing can make that affirmation a bit easier to embrace, especially in the beginning. “It’s okay to be imperfect.” “I can love and accept myself even though I am imperfect.” Still, this requires a lot of thought, time, and inner work. A lot of us just are not in a place where we feel able to do that just yet.

This is where the high five habit comes in. I heard about this amazing idea on a podcast the other day. The High Five Habit is also a book written by Mel Robbins. She was the guest on this podcast, and she explained how she came up with the method and how it works in our brains. Her personal story moved me to tears, because I have been the lead in that story many times. She found herself in the bathroom critically observing her reflection above the sink, picking out and attacking all of her perceived flaws. She was exhausted and depressed and for some reason that not even she is able to fully explain, she gave herself a high five in the mirror. Robbin says the woman staring back at her looked like she needed it. She laughed at the absurdity of it, but the next day she found herself excited to meet herself again in that mirrored image. But why?

Robbins discussed this phenomenon with Marian Diamond, the woman who discovered neuroplasticity. (I had no idea this earth shattering discovery was made by a woman, but we’ll circle back around to that another day.) From what we know about neuroscience at this point, the high five habit seems to make sense. The high five is something that we have so ingrained in us as a positive action. We associate it automatically with reward, team building, approval, success, etc. It doesn’t matter who is offering this gesture or in what context, the action alone triggers that reward pathway in our brains.

We’ve all heard the expression “actions speak louder than words.” The high five habit is a particularly powerful example of that. Unlike verbal positive affirmations, it doesn’t really matter what our background thoughts are. We could still be displeased with the person staring back at us, we could be thinking “I don’t deserve a high five. This is stupid. This will never work. I feel like an idiot.” Regardless of our inner critic, this physical movement overrides all of that the moment we make contact with our reflection’s raised hand. Now the “habit” part of it is committing to give yourself this high five at least once a day for five days. Apparently that’s all the time it takes to begin to notice a difference.

This is only my third day of this practice, but I can say that it makes me laugh or at least smile each time I do it. And if that’s all that comes of it, I’d still say it was worth the try. It might feel silly, but that’s another thing I like about it. It reminds me not to take myself and my life so seriously. It also helps me in that moment to realize that I am not just these thoughts and the tyrannical inner critic. I am a human being who is doing the very best that she can. I am the frightened woman staring back at me, asking for reassurance and support. We are all deserving of the compassion and forgiveness we have learned to withhold from ourselves. The high five habit reminds us of that.

Improving Peer to Peer Recognition | Reward Gateway

Racism & Sexism

I had a very interesting thought while driving to work today, that I wanted to take a bit of time to dissect. I tried to look up some studies on this theory. I know they must be out there, but I guess I couldn’t find the right key words to get the search results I was looking for. So I apologize for my lack of data, but hear me out because I would love to open up some discussion on this topic and see what everyone else thinks about it.

Okay, so here’s what I’ve been thinking about this morning. I was watching commentary videos about misogynistic tiktoks, you know because who wouldn’t want to use that to set the tone for their day, right? Anyway, I started noticing a lot of similarities with one of these sexist content creators and one of my coworkers at the other office. He definitely strikes me as the kind of person who would enjoy this man’s videos. Yet, given that he works with mostly women every single day, it confused me to try to conceptualize how men would even be able to have so much contact with women in their lives and still hold on to such harmful stereotypes about them.

I was unable to find any statistics to support this, but for some reason, I am thinking that racism and bigotry is most prominent in racially and culturally homogenous areas. I mean maybe this isn’t true, but this is the framework I’m working of off. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) Logically it just seems to make sense that it would be easier to typecast a group of people and feel hatred towards that group as a whole if you didn’t have any personal relationships with these people. It just seems like most white supremacists don’t know many (if any) black people. Most people that hate and fear Muslims have never met one. We fear what we do not understand or are not used to. Even I had a general dislike of children when I didn’t have any experience personally interacting with them. I think we all build strawmen in our minds of others that we don’t quite know in a meaningful way.

This is something I’ve never really thought about in the context of sexism though. Once I did, I was very interested in the idea. How is it that sexism is just as prominent, if not more prominent, than racism when literally every human being in the world has at least one close connection to a woman in their life? Shouldn’t that simple fact mean that all people would have more compassion and understanding of women even if they themselves are male? A white man may live his whole life never having a real conversation with a black man. In that scenario, it would be understandable that he may also fear and dislike someone that he doesn’t know, “the other.” Someone you don’t know is much easier to demonize than someone you do. However, every man has a mother. Every man has at least one female relative, friend, or coworker. Knowing that, it blows my mind that so many men are still somehow able to view women as “less than.”

I spoke briefly about this idea to a male friend at work and he had an interesting insight. In his opinion, men are frustrated by women because subconsciously they know that for the most part men are physically stronger than women. So when a woman is equal to them or holds power over them, their reptilian brain revolts and feels cheated and restrained. They know deep down that they are unable to use their full power to come out on top, even though they could. While I don’t think this fully explains sexism in society, I do believe that there is some truth to that perspective.

I would love to get some feedback and hear what other people think about this. I genuinely don’t understand it, not that either racism or sexism makes sense. But I can at least see the subconscious thought process behind fearing what you don’t know, whereas hating/stereotyping women while simultaneously loving them and intimately interacting with them every day is quite baffling to me. I suppose it’s also interesting and confounding that sexism is able to persist and be such an integral part of societies all over the world when women are not a minority group. Exerting power over a group that is smaller than yours makes sense, but it fascinates me that sexism has been able to prevail for so long.

Anyway, those are my rambling thoughts for the day. Let me know what you think about all this in the comments. I would love to discuss it with other people and perhaps gain a more clear understanding of the mechanisms behind these forms of social oppression.

Everyday sexism in the tech industry | CWJobs

White Male Privilege

As I sit in my office today wrapped in a blanket, scarf, and thick sweater with my heat blasting behind me, I can’t help but think about the small instances of male privilege that penetrate every day life for all of us. My office is super small. There are never more than five employees here at a time, and the majority is always female. Most days it’s just me, our female therapist, and our male interviewer. Despite the fact that the women are all freezing each and every day, the single male employee has no hesitation about controlling the temperature in the building.

We’ve given up on turning the air conditioner off for the most part because he just turns it right back on as soon as we walk away. Even this week, at the fucking end of October, the air conditioner was blasting in our meeting room. He sees us shivering and desperately trying to wrap our entire bodies in blankets, and he just laughs at us lightheartedly. Now, don’t get me wrong, this man is not someone I would consider a sexist. He’s a lovely person and has a lot of respect and admiration for women. He’s even said he believes women are better than men. But this only emphasizes the seriousness of my point. Sexism is so pervasive and ingrained in our society, that it isn’t even noticed. I’m sure he hasn’t even considered for a second how outrageous and unfair it is that he should be the only one who is comfortable at the office. It only seems right and natural that men get their way, regardless of how many woman are inconvenienced.

It also saddens me to realize that because the majority of our employees are women, we could strongarm him into submission if we wanted to. But women are used to this kind of bullshit. It simply isn’t worth the conflict. We’ve learned to just accept that this world, and even our own workplaces, aren’t made for us. We prefer to suffer in silence rather than face the alternative of being called aggressive bitches for standing up for ourselves. (Not that my coworker would say that. Although I’m sure he’d be irritated.)

It really kills me inside that there are so many women that don’t consider themselves feminists or even who think feminism is outdated and unnecessary. They aren’t even able to see their own oppression and second class citizen status in their day to day lives. They have internalized this sexism so much that it just seems normal, right even. It seems like we are hearing more and more in the news about the oppression of minorities, bigotry, and racism. Of course I think this is an excellent thing that is much needed, but once again women’s rights are put on the back burner.

I’ll never forget how shocked and infuriated I was to learn in school that black men were given the right to vote before women. This will always remain in my memory as the perfect example of the unacknowledged plight of women. Obviously I think black men should be able to vote, but women were not deemed eligible for that same right until four amendments and 50 years later. My stomach turns just thinking about it. Black men went from being looked at as animals, beasts of burden, farming tools to more worthy and respected than women. It makes me wonder why no one else seems to notice this inequity between the fight against minority oppression and the oppression of women.

One theory I have is that the two types of oppression look different. In a lot of ways women seem to have it pretty good compared to other minorities. We are seen as valuable by our oppressors. However, we are valuable as slaves were to their masters. We are valuable as objects, trophies, and commodities, not as human beings. We are baby incubators, house maids, etc. Although we are still beaten, raped, and killed that is somehow mitigated in the eyes of society because the perpetrator often “loves” his victim. We cannot be ostracized, and unlike other minorities we don’t have to face the constant fear of complete genocide either. Men simply humor our existence out of necessity. However, as far as all the other forms of discrimination and oppression go, we are right up there with everyone else. In some ways this makes the disdain and hatred of women even worse because men resent the fact that we are needed. They hate us, in part, for being capable of something which they are not, creating life.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons far more women are vegan/vegetarian than men. Women are able to more easily empathize with other animals, because we see ourselves in them, we are not very different at all, in fact. We are tolerated purely for male consumption. We are just flesh, only useful to the extent that we can offer sensory pleasure to men. We are forced to learn how to survive, even utilize, the existing structures of a system built in opposition to us. And just like animals, the continued oppression and abuse of women has fallen behind concern and awareness for the treatment of male members of minority groups.

I don’t know how this issue will ever be adequately addressed, especially when so many women are all too ready to submit to their oppressors and take for granted the rights our sisters have fought for. I suppose I just had to write about this today out of sheer frustration. I might as well use my voice to speak up on this issue while I can, and while I am able to use my youth and beauty to garner a bit more attention from my male overlords. I am all too aware that as I age, my value will continue to diminish in the eyes of the world. And that is a sobering thought.

Women's Rights | ACLU of Louisiana

Reproductive Rights

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In the recent political climate, I have started to become increasingly anxious about my access to reproductive healthcare and my rights in this country as a woman in general. Despite the progress we have made in the last few decades regarding gender equality, it seems like things are beginning to slip backwards as the conservative sects and corruption in this country push back against these improvements.

While the religious right may think that women view abortions like going to the dentist, I (and I’m sure most other women) have always been terrified of the idea. However, this was always a less terrifying alternative than having a child if by some unfortunate mistake I became pregnant. Although I never wanted to have to abort a pregnancy, the knowledge that that option was there for me if I needed it was always a comfort.

In the last few months, I have seen the state governments of Ohio and West Virginia start to chip away at that right. West Virginian’s voted that the state has no obligation to make sure a woman has access to this right. Ohio recently passed their “heart-beat” abortion bill that will prevent a woman from having rights over her own body as soon as a fetus has a detectable heart-beat. This can be as early at three weeks after conception, before most women are even aware that they are pregnant.

It sickens me to see our society telling women that they don’t have autonomy, that they don’t have the right to choose what happens to their own bodies. Even worse, to say more children must be born into this world to parents that do not want them or cannot afford to care for them, while there are already so many waiting to be adopted or living out their lives in the foster care system. I didn’t plan on waiting around for a terrible fate to befall me because of my gender. I’ve never wanted to have children, so I decided it was about time to make sure that I wasn’t able to anymore.

In my wildest dreams I never thought I would be lucky enough to find a gynecologist that would be willing to sterilize a woman as young as myself, who is unmarried, with no children. I decided I may as well start asking around though. To my surprise, the gynecologist I only recently switched to last year agreed to help me!

I simply could not control the smile that spread across my face when she said that I was an adult and had the right to make decisions about my own body. “After all,” she said, “women don’t have to have children.” I could have cried with joy to know that this woman respected me and was giving me control over my own life. Better yet, she told me that my insurance would likely cover the costs of the surgery.

After reading about the simple procedure and contacting my insurance company to discover that they would cover 90% of the costs (leaving only around $400 for me), I scheduled my laparoscopic tubal ligation. The surgery took place one week before Thanksgiving. Never before had I had something to be so thankful for on that day. It was an outpatient surgery that took only around 15 minutes to complete. There were no complications and I recovered in record time, no scarring, no pain meds. After four days I was back to doing my hour-long H.I.I.T. workouts and advanced yoga practice daily.

I no longer have to poison my body with hormonal birth control pills. I don’t ever have to feel fearful after having a sexual encounter. I have never felt so joyous and free in my entire life. I hope so fervently that any other woman that wants to have this procedure done decides to ask her primary care physician or gynecologist. I hope that all doctors would be willing to respect a woman’s decision about her own body and reproductive health. I am eternally grateful to my doctor for giving me my freedom and my body back.

I wanted to share my story so that other women would know that it’s possible to make the same decision for themselves. There are so many good reasons not to have a child. I hope that other women that don’t want to have children will find reassurance in my story and know that they are not “heartless” for not wanting a baby. They don’t have to stand being belittled with the infamous “you’ll change your mind.” We are not objects to be used by men or humanity as a whole. My body is mine and mine alone.

Stay strong, sisters.

Understanding Bisexuality

Up until this past year, I considered myself strictly heterosexual. Apart from looking at women endlessly on Tumblr and having French kissed multiple women on several occasions while intoxicated, I had only ever been interested in dating men. Although, nothing about the male physique was particularly alluring to me. I had always said without hesitation that women were much more pleasurable to look at. But never did I think for a second that my visual interest in women’s bodies or having kissed women before made me a lesbian or bisexual. I reasserted my heterosexuality by rationalizing that I was only doing these things for men. I looked at gorgeous women to learn to emulate them and attract men. I made out with women to sexually excite the men nearby. At least, this is what I had always told myself.

After discovering that a vegan I had been surreptitiously flirting with and his girlfriend were interested in polyamory, I found myself with an interesting dilemma. I wanted nothing more than to become involved with this man, but did I want to be involved with his girlfriend as well? She was bisexual and in order to avoid jealousy as they made their initial voyage into polyamorous waters they were looking to form a triad.

Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t as if I was disgusted by the idea of sex with another woman. I really felt neutral to the idea apart from being a bit nervous at the prospect of unfamiliar sexual territory. My main concern was being ingenuous. I didn’t think I was necessarily attracted to women romantically or sexually. I didn’t want to put on an act just to be with the man I already liked and I certainly didn’t want to hurt the feelings of a delightful vegan woman that I already knew I wanted to befriend either way.

For a few weeks I moved slowly and unsurely. I began testing the waters of my own heart. I hung out with the girlfriend a few times on my own and definitely enjoyed her quite a bit. After endless internal turmoil, and me still not feeling absolutely certain, we finally decided to all be together.

And I was so happy! During the few months that we spent together, I was able to peel back so many layers of myself and discover new forms of love I had never fathomed could be for me. I realized that misunderstanding had been with me for so long. I felt that because the feelings for women were not the same as the feelings I have for men meant definitively that I was heterosexual and that was as far as I cared to investigate. But then I learned that there are so many different flavors of love and attraction. While my interest in men is bright and intense, my love for women is soft and ensnaring. But both of these are valid and more than worth experiencing.

While I would still consider myself bisexual with a preference for men, I could never sever ties with the feelings and emotions I have for women. (Thank god I’m polyamorous!) There is something so beautiful and exciting about the different emotions and experiences that we are able to cultivate with others. No two relationships are ever alike and I’ve finally made peace with my own sexuality and am no longer afraid to explore it because of what others might think of me.

I was never afraid that I would be judged as part of the LGBTQ community, but I was afraid that community itself would judge and reject me. I was afraid that if I really was only interested in men but explored relationships with women that I would be viewed as an imposter, as someone desperate for attention, and I couldn’t bear seeing myself in that light. Now that I’ve finally figured this all out in my own mind, I just wanted to share it with others so that it might bring about a better understanding of bisexuality from someone who was struggling with it themselves. I hope that you aren’t afraid to explore your feelings and extend yourself in different directions, because you might find something lovely there, a whole new dimension to who you are.

P.S. – I’ll be at the Pittsburgh Pride Fest this Sunday with said bi vegan goddess. ❤

Solidarity Among Women

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For some strange reason, all of my life I have felt this unspoken tension between myself and other women. As I grew older, I realized that a lot of women felt animosity and resentment toward one another. Women in today’s society always seem to be pitted against one another. We tend to always be more critical of women then we are of men. We sometimes even find ourselves believing the very same stereotypes about other women that we ourselves take offense to.

I often catch myself having these thoughts, and I am angry with myself. So recently I have been making a conscious decision to be more forgiving and open minded when it comes to the women I encounter from day to day. Now instead of looking at other women harshly, I allow myself to see them for who they are. I view them as my comrades instead of my competition. I have been reading more women authors and poets such as Ayn Rand and Sylvia Path. It has really been a refreshing experience allowing my heart to open in this way.

When I was growing up, the women in my life always seemed to value a relationship with a man as being more important than their friendships. However, this frame of mind has always left me feeling desperate and insecure. I’ve learned that each relationship in your life, whether it be intimate or platonic, is a wonderful thing to be cherished and nurtured. As human beings it is important for us to have a network of loved ones on whom we can rely.

So my advice to my fellow women out there is to open your hearts to everyone in your life. There are so many beautiful souls and minds in the world to be discovered in the bodies of men and women alike.

Keep your hearts and minds open, my loves. ❤