I talk honestly and openly about my experiences with mental illness, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome through the lens of feminism, fat acceptance and process theology. I also do recipe and book reviews. My mission is to spread the message that hope is always real for a better life, despite living in a world that is often very harsh.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

It's 2015 and It's Still Alright To Cry

You better watch out.  You better not cry. Better not pout.  I'm telling u why - patriarchy discourages men from displaying emotions.  #FeministXmasSongs from Gemma Correll. It's alright to cry. Crying gets the sad out of you. [...] It might make you feel better.  ~ Carol Hall, as sung by Rosie Grier in Free To Be You And Me  
Crying is wonderful and sometimes I need it.  It empties my chest of painful pressure and fills me up with clean energy.  

I cry a lot but I used to cry more.  Fortunately, I am no longer ashamed of my tears.  Growing up, I was.  I cried in school when I was frustrated, which was often.  I self-identify as having a mathematical learning disability and for being a highly sensitive person.  I got teased a lot about being shorter than average as a kid - in fact, dealing with it was the subject of my college entrance essay. Plus, there was the fact that I was a budding intersectional feminist and so was teased about that from kindergarten onward.  

I hated my sensitivity as a child.  I felt embarrassed and ashamed a lot.  Adults used to tell me that they wished that they were that sensitive but I told them they wouldn't if it caused them to cry and be miserable all the time.  I still think I'm right, at least through the eyes of a child.

However, now I am glad.

My sensitivity causes me to be more aware of the world around me and of what is going on with myself, which helps me take care of myself.  I cry now when I need to cry and I am not ashamed.

The other day I had forgot to return something at work and I felt panicked when I realized that I needed to go back to work and return it immediately.  Then I got even more anxious when I realized that my boss already knew about my mistake.  I handed the item to my coworker and informed her that I was going to go to my car and cry before my shift.  She reassured me that I did not need to, that everybody makes mistakes, but I did need to and it wasn't because I did not know that - it was because I could feel the pressure in my chest and I needed to let it out.  When I got to my car I cried for about five minutes and then I was good and ready to go to work.  

Attending to my emotional needs makes me a better worker but many places would deny this.  Most jobs do not want to support the worker and so the unsupported worker develops health problems from holding their emotions in.  Read the book, The Managed Heart, by Arlie Russell Hoschild for proof.

And then this past weekend, I was with a friend and feeling very rushed.  This made me feel very anxious again and I started to cry.  I pulled over and told my friend how I felt.  I just needed to cry for a little bit and so I did.  And after about five minutes I felt a whole lot better.  I laughed and suggested we go to Waffle House.  She agreed and we had a pleasant dinner together. 

That afternoon as I was crying, I thought to myself, "I am so glad that I am a woman and that I am allowed to cry."  Yes, growing up I felt ashamed of my tears but it was not because I was a girl but just because it happened so often.  I did not feel like I fitted in but at least it was not because of my gender.  Of course, the reason why boys are not allowed to cry is because they are not supposed to emulate little girls.  Little girls are weak.  They are emotional and sensitive and fragile....which are all actually very wonderful things.

I wish men were allowed to cry.  I wish when they felt the pressure building up in their chest they would feel safe enough to let it go.  Of course, in most work environments crying is frowned upon and I am very lucky to have a job where I can safely express my feelings but even so, men experience a much greater degree of stigma related to their tears than women do.

Here's our secret: crying cleanses the soul.  I wish women weren't the only gender allowed to be pure.  It is unfair to make us the ones responsible for  washing away the stains of the patriarchy.

It's 2015, almost 2016, and we still need to hear Rosie Grier sing, It's Alright To Cry.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Advent Lessons: Do Not Fear, Welcome Strangers, and Start a Revolution of Love

According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so my Spirit remains among you; do not fear. Haggai 2:5 The world is a friendlier place than I think it is. (Me)
My laptop became agonizingly slow. Holiday busy-ness made me agonizingly anxious. Hence, little blogging. It was frustrating for everybody.

 Fortunately, I just bought a new ipad and a fancy new keyboard.  Expensive, but so worth it if you are a writer.  I also finally managed to get back into my routine and so I am feeling less anxious and back in the holiday spirit.  Yay!     

I am now the community coordinator at work.  I love it!  Basically, I have found a way to get paid to play.  

Last Saturday, I took a group of peers to a free holiday party, called the Jingle Bell Jubilee.  Corny name, corny music, but still fun.  Octave, Atlanta's all-female a capella group, needs some diversity, but for the most part, they were good.  I almost always enjoy a free concert.  I did not enjoy the two upper class white guys obviously not aware of their privilege and space who were standing and talking right in the middle of one of the doorways to the refreshment tables.  It was a bit uncomfortable to everyone who had to squeeze by them in order to get the food that was advertised to be available to everyone, not just the men who saw no awkwardness in almost totally occupying a doorway.  Now that I am mentally envisioning the scene I realize that I should have asked them to move.  I didn't because I did not already know them but that really is no excuse for not calling out people unaware of their own privilege. Being more direct and assertive with people is a skill that I am trying to improve.  

The party overall was a good idea, but the best idea was to walk to the MARTA station instead of taking a bus.  We also missed the bus.  I would have had us jump on when it stopped by us but we did not yet know exactly where it was going and hopping on a bus with vague hopes that it will get you where you need to be is best experimented with by one's self.  Here's the thing about walking though: it is harder to walk and read than it is to sit and read, therefore walking leads to more possibilities of human interaction and glimpses of natural beauty, at least to a reader like me.  

Here is when I fear many people would respond in fear-you should not talk to a stranger, you should never accept anything from a stranger, you should certainly never step into a stranger's yard.  Except that we are all strangers in that we all have our own private thoughts and revolutions that we never share with anyone else.  I am proud to say that we did all three.

The end result was glorious.

It was really the man's fault - he was just so eager to share his passion for gardening that he called out to us as we walked by, "Hey! Did you know that if you take a branch from this plant and stick it in the ground, it will grow and spread?  Isn't that great?  Let me tell you all about it!"

He had no idea who we were, except that we looked like a happy bunch.  Turned out he is in law enforcement, considers it his duty to try to prevent more youths from going to jail, has major home and garden renovation plans, is actually supremely pleased that the area is pretty gentrified  because he has lived there forever and now his house is worth a lot and oh, yeah, follows HGTV religiously.

"Everything you need to know is on HGTV!" he would burst out about every five minutes.

The man is, was, a character.  We learned a lot and we laughed a lot.  In the end, we also left with a lot, as he decided to generously give purple plants to anyone that wanted some.  He did not just give a little, either.  People were leaving his yard with armfuls of purple-ness.  Bags and backpacks were overflowing.  When we got back to the center, we spread the plant-love to anyone else who wanted some.

Now I am not stupid.  I joked to one person afterwards, "I may venture into someone's yard, but I am not stepping foot into someone's house that I have never previously met."  She nodded and smiled with relief.  

You know, our society is based on a rhetoric of fear.  In the beginning, we feared a certain type of government, so we created our own.  It would have been better if we had decided we did not need any government because we are compassionate and responsible enough to each rule ourselves in a mutually loving way but that is not the way of man, unfortunately.  

Fear now almost totally rules our society and the whole world today.  The whole Republican party has decided that the famous quote, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," by FDR was a crock of shit and today their motto could be summed up as, "fear everything that is not you (and by you, we mean only those who are white, male, straight, -cis, able bodied, "Christian"and rich).

BUT 

This is advent.  Strangers, more than ever, are to be trusted at this time of year.  Wise ones from the East followed a star, as dirty, out-on-the-fringes shepherds also trusted mysterious celestial beings.  An innkeeper offered a stable when he had no other room to a young, pregnant foreign couple who, as it turned out, had to go home another way because people in power wanted them dead.  Even the wise people, possible powerful rulers themselves, had to go home in secret also.  

Even more so than at other times, this is the time of year when we are called to not fear but trust in divine possibility, no matter how strange or foreign the source.  All who speak of fear at this time should be ashamed.  You ask me how I can be a Christian feminist?  It is because I follow the way of Christ, whose tradition tells us to be fearless and start a revolution of love and joy, not because of capitalistic expectations but because of a more beneficial gain - the power of love, peace, hope and joy that is available to all, especially to those of us with oppressions, challenges of mental health and otherwise and who believe on erring on the side of idealistic goodness rather than promoting an ideology of fear. 

Talk to strangers, open your heart, call out oppression and always, always, let your living be love. 

artwork by artist HappyBloomMarket