Femonomic: Women Invite Crime

c02c27f8-1d50-440f-9def-29e3a1537457-1One of the best parts of blogging is meeting new people from around the world. This has been true for one woman I’ve followed, who is from India, Lovey Chaudhary. (Femonomic). I realized we shared similar ideas about women and social justice issues when she read and reviewed The Unhappy Wife four years ago. So, when she announced her book of poetry, Femonomic: Women Invite Crime, centered on raising people’s consciousness about how Indian women are (mis)treated, I was intrigued.

Poetry is sometimes stereotyped as flowery and light, but the poems found in this book are anything but. Although I knew Lovey’s background and stance, at first I was alarmed by how the book began. Titles like, “the fate of an unborn in womb” and “infanticide” introduce the reader to Indian culture where babies are murdered because they are not male children. But, I get it. The female species is undervalued at birth. The very idea of having a girl child is repulsive and unwelcomed. And, if girls are allowed to be born in this society, then poems like “acid attack cycle” demonstrate what could happen as they age. If you’re unfamiliar, then this link may provide background on this vile practice.

Another occurrence in this country is that crimes against women are rarely brought to justice because men continue to be in power in misogynistic and violent ways.

One of my favorite poems from her collection that shows the lack of consequence is “crime and punishment,” which I’ll share here:

one of many tainted times

the crime is not rewarded

with the retribution along the same lines

 

the archetypal excuses of the judiciary

and typical society

are silently soaked in sanguine saccharine

grinning gingerly

about legal implications and sentence

 

how ailing it is for you to drink

three cups of justice and two latest of equality

to hydrate pages with some ink while righteousness await

4f852cc4-b70e-4a8a-a4aa-162405a6ea41This poem speaks to me because of its universality. It demonstrates the injustices that many of us around the globe face. There doesn’t seem to be a real “justice system” for all, but rather a system that works for whomever is at the top of the power structure. I also think Chaudhary uses alliteration in a creative way. Silently soaked in sanguine saccharine sounds optimistic, especially because saccharine is sweet and sanguine can be positive, but the implication is that it isn’t. Injustices will continue as usual, not just for India, but for us all.

Chaudhary also asks rhetorical questions throughout, like this one, “Can the damage be undone for what our world has become” (p. 48).

This question and another poem, “plastic planet” is imperative for everyone. The Amazon fires and plastic floating in the ocean make me wonder the same thing. What can we do? Is it too late?

These poems are also inspirational. From self-love to anxiety, Chaudhary encourages the reader to get up and do more.

If you’re interested in poetry or any of the themes mentioned, then please purchase Femonomic: Women Invite Crime or follow her on these platforms:

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IG

Twitter

Corona Chronicles: Meditating

I typically don’t share much about my personal spiritual practice because I know that even in the 21st century, people still consider some things a little woo-woo, and I’d rather not get into a back-and-forth about validity. But, after a couple coronavirus weeks and listening to people, I think a conversation about meditation may be helpful.

meditating_1In the early part of 1998, I had a miscarriage that resulted in a D&C. Shortly after that procedure (and against the doctor’s advice), I was pregnant again with my firstborn. In order to calm my mind and focus on having a healthy baby, I read a book my mother-in-law had passed on to me about creative visualization. The internet calls creative visualization a cognitive process. I’m not sure if that’s different than meditation, but for this post, I’ve decided they’re the same. Whatever camp it’s in, creative visualization is what first taught me how to focus my mind on a subject.

Sixteen years later, when I wanted to understand why my relationships weren’t going so well, I downloaded a guided meditation led by Deepak and Oprah. This meditation lasted 15 minutes a day for 21 days. Deepak provided daily mantras and journal prompts centered on specific traits of the theme, which in this case was called, “Miraculous Relationships.” Quite honestly, this worked for me and I discovered more about myself and how to engage in healthier ways with everyone. The relationships I currently have are my testament.

After the relationship meditation, I began reading about chakras. I was intrigued by the information, which I’ll briefly summarize. In short, chakras represent the body’s energy centers. They can be blocked, spinning in the wrong direction, or too open. The idea is for them to be open and aligned.

chakraAs soon as I read about each chakra, I related immediately to how the explanations represented different parts of my life, which had slipped out of alignment. For example, I knew my throat chakra, which is associated with self-expression, was too open because symptoms included gossiping, arrogance, and condescension. For those of you who only know me through this blog, it may seem uncharacteristic, but at one point, these described me perfectly. Conversely, once I began chakra-based meditations, I began to speak a little differently and learned to communicate in kinder ways (i.e., this blog).

This leads me to our current times. Everything from trending hasghtags, like #staythefuckhome to a man dying from eating fish tank cleaner because it included ingredients of an alleged cure is evidence to me that the coronavirus has the world functioning in fear. I understand why we’re so afraid. I totally get being worried, considering life seems unstable. But, I also know it is unhealthy to remain stuck in these emotions and fully believe feeling unsafe and anxiety ridden are examples of our root, sacral, and solar plexus chakras being imbalanced.

So, last week, I focused on me. I meditated on balancing my own root, sacral, and solar plexus chakras to remind myself that everything is okay, because it is. The one I like to practice is by Late Blooming Light Worker. Her meditations include a 10-point process, which I’ve found to be a comprehensive way to:

  • breathe mindfully,
  • remove body pains,
  • focus on one chakra at a time,
  • learn mudras (hand positions),
  • practice affirmations, and
  • chant.

Meditating on the three chakras above helped me to listen to coronavirus news, while maintaining a calm sense of understanding about the present status of my own life, which I control no matter what disease is spreading.

So what say you? I try not to give advice, but I do think using creative visualization could be a great way to envision the type of world in which you’d like to live. A guided meditation may help you understand yourself a little more. Aligning your chakras could prevent you from slipping into fear-based living.

Either way, please let me know how you’ve been coping and what you’ve been doing. If you meditate, let me know which kind. If not, then feel free to share how you’ve been staying above the fray, while corona is among us.

Be well.

~kg 3/24/20

Notes & Musings: Reflecting on a Recent Publication “What It Actually Means To Be Pro-Choice”

choice-2692466_1280I had first written a piece about having an abortion over twenty years ago, then fifteen years ago. Each revision a nuanced version of the previous one, reflecting how my thoughts had grown throughout the years. One idea remained, and that is the procedure itself didn’t bother me. What vexed me was keeping it a secret from specific friends and family. I don’t mean to say that I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, but there have been many times when I wanted to insert it in a relevant conversation, like, “so when I had an abortion…” to support a point.

Here’s what I mean. Thanksgiving 2019, I was with my cousins. One of them works for his state’s health department. He was recalling how difficult it is to tell parents that their children have an STD or worse, HIV, mainly because (according to him) suburban housewives don’t want to admit their children are having sex, even after he tells them about their child’s sexually transmitted disease. One story led to another and we ended up on the topic of abortion and how that same woman demographic is pro-life. And that’s where I wanted to say, “so when I had an abortion,” but I didn’t.

It’s so taboo and it doesn’t go well with turkey and dressing. But, it’s because of this taboo status and made-up social rules that I believe many of us choose to remain quiet, instead of opening up authentic dialogue that could offer another perspective on issues that impact us all.

I imagine some people won’t relate to what I’m about to say, and I’ve made peace with this part because everyone can’t connect to everything, but for me, it is very important that I can be my whole self with people, no matter what. Being myself includes being able to open up about nearly everything. But, like many other things in my life, I’ve not only kept having an abortion a secret, but also my unashamed feelings about it. Both secrets were tucked away on a digital drive, until February.

female-454868_1280That’s when this personal essay was published. It was finally time. It was the opportune moment for my thoughts and writing to align with the era. Twenty years ago, wasn’t the right time. Sure, people were discussing abortion; they have been since it was legalized, but there wasn’t a full-on assault on the practice. Even with the novel coronavirus taking up much of our attention, abortion clinics are closing, and doctors are being fined and jailed. The actual abortion practice is shifting.

Had my article been published twenty years ago, it would’ve just been another story. Currently, the narrative is integral for women’s rights and for reproductive rights.

So, *here it is. Of course, I’d love for you to read it, no matter your political beliefs or whether you agree with my stance or not. My point is not to achieve consensus on the topic, but rather to start a conversation that begins with, “so when I had an abortion,” in order to humanize this event.

Because guess what? We’re never going to progress if we continue to keep experiences locked up in a proverbial closet.

*The referenced piece was first published on PULP, a sex/uality and reproductive rights publication celebrating this human coil.

Corona Chronicles: Coronavirus/COVID-19

charles-dickens-quote-lbt7i6rI finally understand what Charles Dickens meant when he wrote the intro for A Tale of Two Cities, well, kind of.

It was the best of times. It is the best of times. Isn’t it? I mean, think about it. We live in the Information Age. Technology has afforded many of us access to anything we want to know via the Interwebs. Cell phones connect us in ways we probably never imagined. We don’t have to ask anyone anything anymore. Technology has made it so. We can Google corona virus…and voila! Not only will we receive information, but it may change right before our eyes as we all learn together in real time how to react.

It was the worst of times. Every country around the world has a lot going on. Vladmir Putin is planning to remain president for life to enact revenge on the West. At least ten countries (have been and) are presently at war. Approximately 64,000 Black women are missing in the States. About 15% of the Amazon rainforest burned in 2019. July 2019 Anchorage, Alaska reported their first recorded temperature of 90 degrees. Add corona virus to this list, which the World Health Organization has now classified as a pandemic, and I’d say it seems to be the worst of times.

It was the age of wisdom. Oxford defines wisdom as “the body of knowledge and principles that develops within a specified society or period.” The Information Age has gifted us with 24-hour access to one another and to new sources. These connections have led many of us to believe we are wise about all of the things we encounter. But this is an illusion. Everyone only thinks they know everything. Really, we don’t know much. For me, not knowing has been most evident as the corona virus spread; however, I don’t know hasn’t been a phrase uttered very much the past few months. But it should be. It’s a perfectly fine thing to proclaim.

safe_imageIt was the age of foolishness. Yep. Through the socials and traditional media, I’ve heard everything from only elderly people can die from corona virus to no black people can die from corona virus. Really? It seems sensible that compounded illnesses and weak immune systems make people more vulnerable to a corona virus death, but I’m pretty sure viruses aren’t age discriminate and don’t racially profile. Even President Trump disseminated misinformation during his State of Emergency address that had to be backtracked. Turns out you can’t just send everyone home from Europe in two-days’ time after all.

It was the epoch of belief. It was the epoch of incredulity. <sigh> I’ve never seen so many people hope the government will save us, while simultaneously having little faith that the government will actually do anything. But I understand. Historically, doctors and scientists study diseases, create vaccines, and prevent epidemics and pandemics. Typically, those who are at the top of the field work with the government to do so. But, specifically in the U.S. our government is pretty dysfunctional. Couple that with our president, who has in some ways made these people (and their associated knowledge) the enemy and left specific CDC jobs unfilled, and you get the skepticism many of the country’s citizens have.

There’s more to Dickens’ intro, but I’d like to add two of my own:

It was a time for panic. It was a time for calm. My mother-in-law texted me, saying this: A friend of mine received a message yesterday from a friend that works at the Pentagon that all grocery stores will close in a couple of days. All schools are closed here.

My grandmother has socially isolated because she’s 93, and according to her and the CDC, she should remain home due to her age.

Hundreds of thousands of university students are returning home to finish the semester online.

As I write this, I’m sitting in a Starbucks, staring out of the window, watching what looks to be typical rush-hour traffic. Folks must’ve gone to work today.

I’m waiting to hear what time my daughter’s flight will return from England. Corona and President Trump’s travel restrictions interrupted her Spring Break trip. Florida’s schools just announced that students will have an additional week off so that they and their families, who travelled to high-risk areas can remain home and not infect others and so custodians can conduct a deep cleaning.

115f5913cb41de40e1d0fb24bcd110e0According to social media, people are still stockpiling bread, water, Clorox, and hand sanitizer. Shelves are empty. Folks are praying; others are spreading conspiracy theories, and some are joking about capitalizing on inexpensive trips.

And as I sip my grande Mango Dragonfruit refresher, while watching America scramble to contain a virus we’ve never seen, I have some inkling of what Dickens meant when he wrote those paradoxical words. It is indeed both the best of times and the absolute flippin’ worst.

~kg 3/13/20

Mental Health Matters: Unlearning Perfectionism (II)

medalPerfectionism also used to dictate how I showed up in personal and work relationships. There was a time when I did things because I wanted to be perceived as the best fill-in-the-blank person. For example, I wanted to be the best co-worker, so I overextended myself, attended meetings that had little value, and was always the first to complete a task. I wanted whatever director or department chair over me to see me as “the best.” Oftentimes, I functioned similarly with family. I wanted to be seen as the person whom everyone could count on, the person who my cousins could call no matter what. So, I visited for holidays even though it wasn’t ideal; I showed up with my family in tow, no matter how it impacted my household. This was due in part to the perfectionist identity I’d unconsciously developed.

But functioning like that bred resentment. There were many times when I would be the “best co-worker” and when it went unnoticed, I took it personally and grew bitter, wondering why no one acknowledged my extra efforts. Or better yet, I’d be mad because someone who’d done less received accolades for minimal activity. When we drove our family out of state year after year, I grew angry. Few family members ever planned holiday visits to my home.

woman standing near body of water

Around 2015, I stopped worrying about being the best co-worker, best family member, best friend, or best anything and started just being the best version of me for me. In action, this simply means that instead I focus on being present and doing the best I can in that moment. I avoid doing things that don’t physically or emotionally feel good or that cause my family or me distress. And the last thing I think about is how the other people to whom the answer is sometimes, “no” may feel.

Functioning this way takes practice and sometimes I lapse. For those times, I pause and become more conscious. For example, the chair of a committee I’m on sent an invite on a Sunday evening for a meeting that began at 5:00 PM on Monday. Not only was the meeting scheduled at the last minute, but it was also 20 minutes farther from where we typically meet, which would add on to my already hour and 45-minute commute. My first thought was to rearrange everything so that I could make the meeting. But then I stopped and asked myself why? Why am I doing this for someone who scheduled a meeting at the last minute? The only reason I would is to appear like the “best co-worker.” It had nothing to do with the value of the agenda. Instead of acquiescing, I simply told her I couldn’t make it. And you know what? The world did not end. I’m not fired. I’m still on the committee, and I saw them the following month.

I hope this isn’t confused with the idea of “doing your best.” No matter what I do, I give 100%. I’m fully present and invested. I’m just no longer concerned with being perceived as the best.

Unlearning Perfectionism Part I

Mental Health Matters: Unlearning Perfectionism (I)

The word perfect used to permeate every aspect of my life. My former best friend believed my hair to be a weave because it was “always so perfect.” I’ve written before about how other friends shut down criticisms of my husband because they perceived him as “Mr. Rogers,” a human symbol of perfection. People believe our marriage to be perfect. While we believe we’re perfect for one another, a flawless union is impossible.

Accusations of my perceived perfection used to anger me, until I began looking closer at myself.

I used to put on lipstick just to take the trash out. I used to think long and hard before I opened my mouth for fear of sounding flawed. One reason I used to make a 360-mile, round-trip drive to a job was to prove I was good enough to be at what’s considered one of the top research universities in Florida. My perfectionist’s status was unconsciously crafted and maintained for decades.

But not anymore.

ae3e2302-12ce-4956-8558-b2d80c8cad6b-856-0000007d11cdc364I didn’t realize it at the time, but one way I ceased portraying perfectionism was when I went natural. Wearing my hair in its natural state helped with accepting myself as is. I had no idea how my hair would look or what I would need to do to maintain it. I literally had to learn to love how I looked every day, because with natural hair, your hair never looks the same two days in a row. I grew accustomed to strangers’ looks. I didn’t know if they were going to praise my hair or stare and remain silent. This helped me accept my whole self, no matter what, releasing an image of perfection.

Another thing that’s been helpful is arriving in public spaces in so-called socially unacceptable ways. I’ve done this at varied levels. Last year, Dwight and I were out of town and headed to have a drink in the hotel lobby. I didn’t feel like changing back into my clothes, so I joined him in my red Valentine’s Day leggings, Western Michigan University alumni sweatshirt, and old, tattered boots. I’m not sure how he felt about how I looked, and I didn’t care. Years ago, I would’ve feared who may see me in such a state, but not now. Now, I couldn’t care less. What does it matter how I show up to have a drink in a hotel lobby?

A third practice that limits perfectionism for me is focusing on myself in the here and now, without comparison. Yoga helps. With yoga, the concept is to do your best that day, which can change from just the day before. This idea allows me to accept myself as is in each moment. Just because I did the bomb pigeon pose last week doesn’t mean it will occur today. Also, I cannot be focused on standing on one leg, while worrying about how high yours is. It…is…impossible. I will surely fall over. I know because I’ve tried. In some ways, this has carried over to my life off the mat. Fall ’17 students may have thought I was the best, but Spring ’18 may not. That’s something I would’ve fretted over in the past. Today, I know it’s okay, as long as I did my best both semesters.

2a209f5d-90f7-4df8-af28-75ee0a59a925-1868-00000102153cd834Another thing that’s helped me accept my less than perfect self is to be intentional about what I’m doing and to focus on the process. Before, I was unconsciously stacking up achievements in an effort to be perfect in my own and everyone else’s eyes. As of 2015 and about 95% of the time, I consciously began choosing experiences aligned with my core being and that will benefit others in some way. While I would like for each outcome to be favorable, I’m no longer tied to the actual product. No matter what my mother tried to teach me, I now realize a perfect/imperfect product does not reflect me. Instead, I’m happy knowing that I began with a positive intention and had fun doing something I enjoyed, which, no matter what, will always turn out well for everyone’s best interest.

So, what say you? Do you have any suggestions for de-perfecting your life? I’d love to hear them.

Mental Health Matters: Perfectionism

For most aspects of my life, I can pinpoint the exact moment when I recognized a specific trait, but I’m unclear as to when I learned the idea that I should be perfect. After much research, it seems it could have come from four areas.

#1: It is common for adoptees to develop perfectionism out of insecurity and fear that they will be rejected from their adoptive family (Brodzinsky). This seems reasonable. I discovered I was an adoptee when I was around ten years old, and the story I remember was one of happenstance. Our home included several bookcases filled with books. On one of these bookcases was a book called Why Was I Adopted? I remember sitting cross-legged on the floor and reading the book in its entirety. When I reached the end, tears dropped one by one.

“Why are you crying?” my mother asked.

“I feel sorry for these people,” I said. “They don’t know who their family is.”

She replied matter-of-factly, “You shouldn’t feel sad. You’re adopted.”

adoptedShe and I never discussed the shock that this new information carried. We never discussed “adoption,” why she and my father adopted me, or what it meant to be an adoptee ever again. I’m not sure why, and as an adult and parent, I can only guess it’s because they didn’t know how or because of shame. Adoption carries its own stigma for all parties involved. Sometimes it can be embarrassing for the adoptive parents who, for whatever reason, cannot conceive their own biological children. Oftentimes, adoptees are ashamed and feel as if they were not good enough to have remained with their biological families, thus creating a sense that they need to achieve perfection, lest they be removed from this family, too.

This is something to which the child version of me could relate. As a child with no explanation, there was this idea that I must’ve caused my own adoption. If I were just good enough, then I wouldn’t have been given away.

#2: Perfectionism can also be developed when there’s a “frequent fear of insecurity or inadequacy” (Good Therapy); apparently, it’s something parents can unwittingly teach. I’ve written before about how my mother required me to sit for long periods of time to focus on a task until it was right. In a time of typewriters and correction fluid, this meant beginning my fifth-grade report on Ethiopia over and over, until it was error-free because “it was a reflection of me.” That’s just one example. Several other instances  reveal compounded experiences where I learned that flawlessness was a preferred behavior, not just from my mother, from other family members as well.

number_one#3: “Excessive praise for your achievements” and “believing your self-worth is determined by your achievements” (Martin, 2018) can also lead to perfectionism. I was raised as an only child and was my maternal grandmother’s only grandchild for over twenty years. I was my paternal grandmother’s youngest grandchild. Being the only and the youngest means I was doted on quite a bit. Everything I did was not only praised, but it was always perfect. According to my family, everything I did was “the best.” You know what this breeds? An adult who frequently desires to achieve all the things all the time at peak perfection. It’s no wonder that, after receiving a terminal degree, my sense of ego was slowly deflated. I’d reached a pinnacle of success and there was nothing more to do to externally prove my worth. I had to determine how I’d live the remainder of life without doing something.

#4: A final idea is that mental health issues, like anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are associated with perfectionism (Good Therapy). I can’t say with confidence that I don’t have OCD. I mean making stringent lists that make me feel as if my world will crumble should I stray from them may qualify, but I don’t know. However, for me, anxiety definitely does align with perfectionism. But, it seems to be a chicken/egg scenario. Does a predisposition towards anxiety and OCD cause one to seek perfectionism or does perfectionism cause anxiety and OCD? For me, not fully feeling a sense of belonging in my adoptive family, feeling insecure about my origin story, and receiving excessive praise seemed to have fed anxiety.

Luckily, I’ve been reflecting on perfectionism in varied ways over the past six years. Next week, I’ll delve into how I’ve unlearned (and continue to unlearn) perfectionism. Until then, feel free to add to this discussion. Are you a perfectionist? Are you a recovering perfectionist? Do you know any perfectionists? We need to undo this harmful and unrealistic standard. None of us are perfect and none of us ever will be.

January’s Mental Health Matters: Acceptance

February’s Mental Health Matters: Anxiety

Black History Fun Fact Friday – Beyond Selma: The Civil Rights Movement in Jacksonville, Florida by KE Garland

Please be sure to read my Black History article on the PBS blog.

The PBS Blog

When you think of the civil rights movement, what cities come to mind? Mobile? Birmingham? Atlanta? some place, Mississippi? How about Jacksonville, Florida? Probably not, but this southern city and its leaders were just as influential as Selma.

I found this out four years ago, when I posted this photo to my blog.

A fellow blogger noticed the background and sent it to her friend, Rodney L. Hurst Sr. Mr. Hurst contacted me about purchasing a copy and explained the meaning of the sign behind the gentlemen’s heads.

That sign is actually a historic site marker commemorating an important civil rights event in Jacksonville called, Ax Handle Saturday.

I was excited to hear about this little-known Black history fact and asked Mr. Hurst to a breakfast interview to understand more.

KG: Can you describe a little bit about what Ax Handle Saturday was and what happened? 

RH: I was…

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