Pulling ahead of the Patriarchy


I was fourteen, ”14 and a half,” to be precise, at the cusp of everything—body, mind, emotion, soul—coming together—in full expression.

I aced each of my Regents exams, had friends from the Rockies to the Hudson to the Atlantic, cultivated a deep connection to not only my “personal savior” but to nature, and self (all of which I now call Spirit); and to top it off–as I walked by the deep end of Delafield Pond in my bikini on my way to the high dive (which I’d done countless times the previous summer)–the cadets, face down on their beach towels, lifted their heads.

Cue: Tragedy.

Not mine, Silly. I was only heading for the 10-foot dive (to jump no less.) The 30-foot dive isn’t even there anymore which is something I discovered two summers ago when I returned to the base for a visit. (And let me tell you, returning to the place where you used to live isn’t easy in post 9/11, USMA.)

But back to Tragedy.

Enter: Stage left.

Have you ever noticed how Mack Trucks dominate the road? They’re either going too fast or too slow, or they’re crossing the line or coming too hard into a steep curve that’s icy with snow; or they’re tearing up the backroads because the highway is closed after another one tipped itself on its side; or maybe, it’s simply a gorgeous summer day, like the very one when I was at Delafield Pond with the cadets lifting their heads, and 150 miles south a Mack Truck is climbing a bridge while the sun is high in the sky, and the visibility is prime, and still, the Mack Truck, being a Mack Truck, doesn’t even notice a broken down car up ahead with 4 women inside.

Come to think of it a Mack Truck is a good metaphor for something else that oppresses and destroys.

To this day, I grip the steering wheel or I hold onto the handle above the passenger seat or I press my feet up against the dashboard.

This was especially true in those first years, and exponentially so when crossing over a bridge; and then again, in the past handful of years once I began time traveling to rescue that 14-
& a half year old girl whose soul was left behind in the debris spread the length of a football field across a multi-lane bridge outside the city of Philadelphia.

Come to think of it, those guys from my highschool days, the ones who have been trolling my Facebook wall with their support of #45, are a lot like Mack Trucks.

Spreaders, is that what they’re called on public transportation?

“What? What’s the big deal?” says the Patriarchy, “This is how it’s always been. It’s never been a problem before.” or  “I was just joking. Don’t be so serious.”

What the Patriarchy fails to understand, doesn’t even begin to understand, and is apparently uninterested in understanding is that it’s always been a problem for the rest of us. We’ve just been too afraid to say too much or to say it too loud or too often, because. Mac Trucks.

I stayed up too late on the night of the Mid-Terms. I over-used my eyes and my heart and my brain and my patience, but surprisingly I fell to sleep with ease.

Still, I must not have slept well or enough because I dozed off on the mat this morning, and each time the teacher spoke into the savasana meditation of air and bliss, I stirred, wondering where I was, only to fall back to sleep again before I fully came to, until she said those dreaded words:

“Make small movements with your wrists and ankles before coming up to a seated position.”

I could hardly move off my mat but I had to move because the class was over and my mat was partially in the doorway because the class was unexpectedly relocated to the basement where there wasn’t enough room for so many women, all of which I took personally on behalf of women, given the election.

I mean the whole reason I drove an hour south into the Berkshires for this series of 4 elemental yoga classes (earth-water-fire-air) at the Clark Art Institute was the glass room upstair with the stunning view. Still, last week the water pool had been emptied and filled with rocks so that was already depressing.

But the basement? Relocating a group of aging women to the basement for the “Air” element on the morning after the election is hugely symbolic but I’m too tired to figure that out right now.

I got off my mat and dragged myself to the bathroom, where I noticed that my eyes were exceedingly small and puffy. They’ve been this way for days. (This happened once before, didn’t it? When was that?)

My mind flashes to something my therapist wrote to me last winter. We were talking about #metoo and the report I was making about a man who rubbed his hands across my ass in a public setting. She noticed my eyes that day right away, and I received this email from her when I got home:

These processes of going public with violating men ask you to be so reasonable and reasoned. Where do the anger and vigorous pushback go? Is it expressed in a safe place for you? Is it getting stuck in the windows of your soul, around your eyes? Such dilemmas–wanting to be of service to move consciousness along but… where does our vigor go? STOP to the violators or stopped up in us?

I postponed my post-yoga working lunch in the Clark café, and dragged my weary eyes outside into the woods and up the hillside.

Mack Trucks.

I left home for the Berkshires early this morning so that I wouldn’t get caught up in election news (particularly Texas or Florida or Georgia) or be distracted by volleys with the Jersey boys from highschool who were gung ho about their guy Trump.

The drive through the Green Mountains was surprisingly trafficky for Vermont, but then I remembered that my earlier departure meant I was traveling during the morning commute.

Just after I passed a utility truck and returned to the right lane to prepare to climb one last hill before turning south into the Berkshires, I saw a Mack Truck in my rear view mirror.

Crap, I thought to myself, and then I sped up a little, wanting to avoid any proximity, particularly with the high winds we were experiencing as the morning temperatures rose.

The Mack Truck sped up too.

I looked in my rearview mirror once more, prepared to let the Mack Truck pass me, but then I noticed that it was losing ground in the climb.

My small car, so low to the earth was less buffeted by the winds, and my engine remained steady and strong.

I watched in the mirror as the Mack Truck lagged further and further behind, and for the very first time in the 40 years since my grandmother and my aunties and their golf clubs were crushed under 18 wheels, I felt something else instead of consumed by fear.

More than 123 women were elected to Congress last week.

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On Hope

I went to sleep to the sensual delight of an open window after so many weeks shut to the cold (after so many months soaking up the pleasures of scent & sound.)

I woke to a dream about the election and looked over at the clock to see a series of 1’s, but not four or three, but a stream…

I lifted my head to inquire further and realized that the red glow of the digital was reflecting off the headboard behind my husband’s head. IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII

There I was in the center of a stage, seeing my feeling state reflected back by an amphitheater of fans.

There was FEAR, huddled together, down low, dressed in black cloaked garments.

I was surprised to find myself waving at FEAR, and soothed by my own connection and compassion.

Above the dark mass, there was HOPE, fanning out and filling the stands, waving banners and cheering enthusiastically.

My spirits lifted higher. I smiled and waved at HOPE too, realizing they clearly outnumbered their brethren below.

As I drifted back to sleep,other feeling states on a series of more alarming topics–national, global, personal–were reflected by the crowd.

There were the darkly dressed, huddled ones, who never grew much in size and simply desired connection and safety; and above them, in the stands, the crowd that dwindled with each ensuing topic, until there were only one or two remaining, who weakly waved flags.

It occurred to me then, it’s not that we must rid ourselves (or this nation) of FEAR, nor dismiss or ridicule it, but instead pack the stands with HOPE.

Gun sense.
Climate change.
Women.
Children.
Other marginalized groups.
Democracy.
Integrity.
Honesty.
Accountability.
Livable wages.
Healthcare.
International leadership, learning & listening.
Diplomacy.
United Nations.
Alternative energy.
Rural communities.
Vibrant cities.
Farmers.
Clean water.
Protected natural spaces.
Diversity of species.
….
….
…..

Gratitude, hope & outrage

Confirmation

10/14

A Real Man

~

10/13

the engineer & the singing bowl

My youngest son, 18, visiting Kripalu Yoga & Health Center with me.

Will the time come when we don’t have to work so hard on a relationship?
No, the time will come when there will be no lapse in our efforts…
to be kind.

Gail & Hugh Prather

In my mind, one of the essentially revealing comments of the current occupant of the White House is what he said about marriage, just after his third:

I don’t want to have to go home and have to work at a relationship. A relationship you have to work at, in my opinion doesn’t work.

And about bringing more children into the world with her:

Sure. I mean, I won’t do anything to take care of them. I’ll supply funds and she’ll take care of the kids.

About about his wedding vows if she were horribly disfigured in a car accident.

Totally, no question in my mind…  How do the breasts look?

~

10/11

Earlier this week, I couldn’t tell say if she was a pop star or a film star, only that she was well after my time and probably never my taste, but when I heard about her instagram post, I went looking for it and it was so good (human rights front & center) that I later read it aloud to my husband.

Lots of people registered to vote because of it.

And even though I’ve had a string of challenging health days, I dragged myself to the coast of Maine, having been waiting for that unusually warm autumn day to instigate such a journey, and while it didn’t change anything, deep within something shifted, so that waking this morning in a sea of orange-leafed trees in the Green Mountains of Vermont, I find myself hopeful again.

~

10/9

I am so angry. And grief-stricken. And weary! (As a woman.) And yet, so very, very delighted (as a mother) to have our youngest home for an entire week so that I get to remind him again and again to get off his phone, and do his chores, and move his laundry, and go to bed.

After the past 6-week half-life without him, I’m savoring the day-to-day ordinariness of simply having him around without wanting anything more. (Except. Mid-terms.)

~

10/7

A personal allegory on Saturday afternoon.
Another’s blessing this morning.

These are the ways I’ve attempted to express what it is I feel about the SCOTUS confirmation–that which is beyond politics & procreative rights–as if when it comes to women, anything is separate.

Despondent.

I hate to claim it, but I think that names it.

Numb. Mute.

I could barely speak when it was final.

My niece just home from college with friends echoed the same. “The car fell silent,” she said, about hearing the news over the radio.

The world is much too quiet.

In this absence of sound, Juan Ramon Jimenez’s verse comes to mind:

My boat struck something deep.
Nothing happened.
Sound, silence, waves.

What if all the women went mute from this trauma? What if we remained silent until others hollered on our behalf?

The men who are protesting MOVE me. Those who don’t get it, won’t get it, mock it, deride it, dismiss it, skirt it, KILL me.

Don’t give me your Republican/Democrat bullshit. This is UNIVERSAL.

But it is too quiet.

Nothing happened? writes Jimenez. Or perhaps Everything happened…

And here I take liberty with his verse, understanding that my silence, our silence, the silence, is a tidal wave forming:

…And we are sitting in the middle of a revolution.

May it be so.

~

10/5

TO THE MEN: WADE in the WATER!

Women hold the water while men stay safe on solid ground.

I don’t know what Senator Collin’s deal is; what the story is about her husband and Russia; I don’t know what anyone woman’s deal is if she doesn’t get the stakes with this administration and this appointment.

What I do know is that the Patriarchy has their foot on our necks. Relies on us for beauty, support, warm fuzzies, flowers, holidays & gatherings, greeting cards & gifts, compassion & tenderness–the “You play it soft, so that I can play it tough” charade–in order to perpetuate the privilege of ”real men” (those not born of women) who don’t have to feel into all the yucky hard stuff that comes with vulnerability–his own and those around him.

She does the feeling for Him while He gets to have everything:

Senator Steven Daines, Montana, told The Associated Press: “This weekend there’s going to be a new Supreme Court justice and that he is going to walk his daughter down the aisle.”

He sweeps in at the right moment, while She holds the water, and then from time to time, behind closed doors, He collapses in Her arms before numbing himself again with certainty, telling Her how it is, as if She didn’t change His diapers or nurse Him at Her breast or hold Him while he sobbed.

So afraid of his dependency, He will convince her that She relies on Him, and if He is not convincing, He will hurt Her, because He has detached from what makes Him whole and if She won’t let Him suck Her dry, He has no purpose for Her.

Women can no longer be the hosts for men’s wholeness.

Men, WADE in the water!
AND clean your mess up.

I believe in you.

Women, men are not our solid ground.

~

10/5

Each time I see a photo of men with other men protesting (like right in our town last night), or I see a call for men to do the same, or a video of young male students standing together holding signs that say: WE BELIEVE, I am brought to tears.

Not because women need rescuing, but because we need more and more men to take the baton that is theirs.

As my friend Jess put it: Patriarchy is a men’s issue.

We are so tired. We have been holding this alone for too long. Silently. Shamefully. Sinfully. All the ways we were told we were wrong. Because of what men did. (Or didn’t do.)

I am so touched. I am so grateful. I am so relieved. To the men gathering with men. You have restored my faith. My hope. My sense of what we can do together.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

~

9/30

I am so grateful. Despite differing faiths (or lack thereof) as well as homes in vastly different parts of the country, along with different income levels and lifestyles—most all, if not all, of my many, many siblings and their grown children! (including my own) are engaged when it comes to the politics of gender, race, hate, discrimination, healthcare, poverty, the planet and LOVE; while significant swaths of extended family are similarly informed/inspired, speaking out and showing up for others and this nation with intelligence, commitment, devotion & love.

~

9/30

It took me a day not to turn away from this.

 

9/29

I woke like I rarely do—belly down; and like I never have—with my palms crisscrossed under my throat.

~

9/29

My Son, My Son

~

9/28

It’s as if the men are saying: We were once entitled to you. You were our spoils. And you can’t take that away. Maybe we can no longer grab you. But we could once. And it’s unfair to change the rules we made about your bodies.

9/28

I’m sooooo grateful to all those speaking up, listening, learning and echoing the human rights of women. THANK YOU!!! You encourage me.

Parasites & Politics


Like Trump & the body politic, I want to thank these parasites for taking up residence in my belly over the course of the summer.

They brought into stark relief the deep imbalance already present in my system and highlighted the places that function well.

Despite this helpfulness, it would be detrimental to continue to host these organisms who daily damage the systems upon which my vitality depends.

And yet, even in this way, they have been useful–forcing me out of the habit of complacency to seek out new healers.

These are the thoughts I scribbled down this morning from the mat.

As class began, I sat tall, suddenly understanding the intersection of body-mind-spirit as three sovereign triangles, while simultaneously Senators of the United States of America gathered in our nation’s capital to disregard my humanity.

E Pluribus Unum.

Fears unrealized, metastasize, leading to the election of a man like Trump, emboldening those who disregard the many to protect the one.

Giardia. Blastocystis. Entamoeba. Until something is named we suffer in the dark. But once identified, the path to equilibrium is revealed.

Misogyny. Oppression. Patriarchy.

Even sick and assaulted, the body is our greatest ally—insists on being heard; serves as our faithful companion—there when we incarnate in our mother’s womb and there when we leave this world.

How so might we recognize and respond to the the body politic?

The doctor tells me that I must treat this infestation for at least 6 months, without letting up, and after that, the underlying issues that made possible such a vicious attack must be addressed.

I am heeding her counsel, just as I am turning toward the voices of women, particularly those further marginalized by race, as the path to a more perfect union.

Crucible


Among the many crucibles women face when reporting (at any age) is rejection from family (see WP: “Christine Blasey Ford’s family has been nearly silent…”), even while perhaps already marginalized by being born female.

I think of my family, not nearly as well to do as Dr. Ford’s, and yet in any social occasion, say with some of my sisters (there are 6 of us “misses” as our father calls us or “mistakes”), he will direct his attention and conversation to the closest male in the room, typically a son-in-law to the exclusion of conversing with the women in his proximity, unless she is new or young or pretty.

I’m certain he doesn’t realize this, not entirely, just as his daughters may not entirely realize their exclusion, just as women may not fully recognize their exclusion in society. (See Senate Judiciary Committee–not a single woman, ever, from the Republican party.)

Because our exclusion is normalized.

Even so, one of my father’s favorite restaurants is Hooters.

For the wings.

At the moment of most abundance

My son calls about once a week, typically on his walk home from work or on his way home from class (sometimes sustainable design, sometimes women’s studies); and his brain at 9 pm is on fire, and the possibilities in front of him unlimited, and his capacity to ponder and purpose and pursue lines of thinking is exponentially expansive while my world steadily shrinks in the dark.

“I bought a new spice rack and a Q-tip holder today,” I tell him. “And I found a chai frosted pumpkin loaf at Trader Joes!”

Which is to say, I’m tired, and not just at 9 pm, but in 2018 and 2017 and 2016.

Has it been this long?

It won’t always be this way.

Once my guys (and the country) are set, I’ll rise up again, right? Just as soon as I dismantle all the photo albums and the bins and the boxes in the basement and the attic, 25 years of home-nourishing that in this empty nest weigh me down.

It’s just around the corner.

57 is apparently the peak of women’s happiness, not 18 or 21 as suspected. My mother died at that peak and my grandmother just before it, like the leaves who let go at the height of their beauty.

What is that poem? I have it somewhere. What’s her name? It’s something unusual.

Monza Naff, that’s it!

Wait, aren’t I FB friends with someone named Monza Naff? Did she write the verse that I’ve turned toward every September when the anniversary of my mother’s passing comes along? (Is that how we became friends. Memory!)

AUTUMN

~Urge me to drop every leaf I don’t need
Every task or habit I repeat past its season
Every sorrow I rehearse
Each unfulfilled hope I recall
Every person or possession
to which I cling-
Until my branches are bare,
until I hold fast
to Nothing

Blow me about
in your wild iron sky,
crush
all that’s puffed up,
fluff
all that in me needs
to go to seed,
send my shadows to sleep.

Tutor me
through straining night winds
In the passion of moan and pant
The gift of letting go
At the moment of most abundance
In the way of
falling apples, figs, maple leaves, pecans.

Open my eyes
to your languid light,
let me stare in your face
until I see no difference
between soar and fall

until I recognize
eternity
in single breaths,
faint whispers of cool air
through lungs.

Show me the way of dying
in glorious boldness
Yellow,gold, orange, rust, red, burgundy.

~

“At the moment of most abundance.”

Yesterday, I woke with the runs, today I woke angry. “Anger is sad’s bodyguard.” This is sometimes true about anger, especially if it is stuck. But I needn’t fear. She is coming. We saw her yesterday.

Dr. Ford–vulnerable, poised, transparent in terror and anxiety, clear, considerate, accomplished, tender, fierce.

What is leaving is just as certain.

We saw that yesterday afternoon too.

Petulant. Entitled. Blaming.

Kavanaugh and Trump are emblematic of the Patriarchy unhinged; and day after day this creaking of the archaic contraction that has long oppressed so many wakes more and more of us, especially the women–from our illusion that strength and purpose and understanding is outside of us–finally realizing that we can lead–through tenderness, strength and purpose matched with commitment to voicing what is true, while loving husbands and brothers and uncles and sons.

“I can’t think of anything but Kavanaugh and chai-frosted pumpkin cake,” I might have said to my son when he called home last night, but instead I marveled at his capacities, and how I helped bring them to bear, and how if I’m fortunate, they will help make life better for others, and for himself, long after I’m gone.

COMPLICIT

Turns out I was heartbroken when Clarence Thomas was appointed to the Supreme Court; though I’m just feeling it in 2018.

I don’t even remember–Was he conservative or liberal?

What was most relevant was that he was a he, and she a she.

Disposable.

I always thought it was her that I disdained or the whole sordid ordeal. A decade later during labor, I cringed when my midwife pulled out a cold coke can to place on my lower back.

I never allowed myself the time or space to sort out the complexity of my feelings during the Thomas hearings, if in fact I was equipped to do so.

Newly married, teaching sixth-grade social studies, I was immersed in a beach town where girls were raised to be desirable and boys to be desiring and our bodies up for grabs, leers, comments–the hoots & hollers from passing cars serving as our A+ report card for coming of age in just the right way.

“I can’t believe how big your tits are,” a colleague said, outside the principal’s office after we’d seen each other on the beach the day before. (He was one of the nice guys.)

One of the not so nice guys was talking to our sixth-grade students–the 11-year-old boys–about my ass. (Some of the girls confided this to me.)

Before teaching, I managed a restaurant where from time to time, I reported to the Head Chef’s office. Above his desk hung a woman’s spread, updated monthly, facing us both as we talked about menus and staff. The same view welcomed or rather unwelcomed me at the car repair shop or when using the bathroom at say, my aunt and uncle’s house.

Which is to say, what was Anita Hill thinking?

She must have lived in a different world to speak about such things in public.

I can barely listen to that hearing. Every few moments I have to hit pause. My skin crawls now with the audacity.

Of men.

…How another good guy, Joe Biden, put Clarence Thomas dirty words in her mouth for all to see and hear so that it was she who we found distasteful instead of him.

Isn’t it always that way.

(See, Elizabeth Bruenig’s piece: “She Reported Her Rape. Her Hometown Turned Against Her.”)

But “distasteful” misses the mark, doesn’t it? As does sordid or gross or crude; which a man’s personal habits or interests may be; but when shared with others, unwelcomed, or exposed in the workplace like my colleagues, or like Keillor, Franken and Lauer, is something more than discomfort.

It is the perpetuation of a man’s world where women, if not invisible, should remember their place. And other women should help keep them there. Like I did when those 11-year old girls complained about the teacher who was talking about my ass, by shaking my head and doing… Nothing.

“You have a husband and sons, don’t you?” writes a Facebook follower on my wall. “Aren’t you worried that some woman could bring them down with a lie?”

Somehow it’s still about the men.

When I listen to Anita Hill now, I no longer hear a dirty woman. I hear a warrior.

I didn’t have your back Anita Hill.

I have yours, Professor Ford.