Thursday, November 6, 2008

You know, I could spend a lot of time apologizing for myself.  I have an innate ability to open my mouth and offend the delicate sensibilities of women who are content to believe what people tell them to believe. I don't know about the men, but I do know my husband is never offended by my politics, and he's a man if I ever saw one.  

But the point is, I don't WANT to apologize.  I spent so much of my life pleasing others.  Quick to smile, easy going, a friend to all, dependable.  But during that time that I was going out of my way to help others, I was focused on my personal education and development.  I was reading.  I was sponging in the world.  And after the birth of my child, I stopped drinking the kool-aid that everyone was drinking. I began to see how I fit into the world as a mother and wife.  And as an independent thinker. I grew tired of working so hard to understand everyone after I realized I was never really surrounded by people who would meet me in the middle.  I came to terms with the idea that I was only responsible for the goings-on in my own household.  Only responsible for encouraging the socio-intellectual development of my child and not the children of others.  

I can't yet say that I am much happier than I was before. I acknowledge the idea that I am in transition from a woman who did it all to a woman who does for her own.  I quit my job as a school administrator.  I was betrayed by my best friend.  I left everything that I knew and started over.  It will take time to find out where I'll land in terms of personality.  I'm okay with that. 

However, I won't let anyone forget how my experience affected my decision to change my life.  I won't pretend anymore that public education is great.  I won't smile and be gracious towards people who ask, "Do you miss it?"  No. I miss nothing except the teachers.  I miss nothing except the time I spent building their trust and supporting them with a kind word, with an understanding ear, with a true sense of forgiveness and encouragement.  

I don't miss the kids.  I worked in schools that were predominantly low SES and Hispanic for thirteen years of my life, and my nobility was worn down by the constant neediness of this type of community.  Their selfish expectations irritated me towards the end when I began to realize I was spending my time trying to convince spineless parents to take responsibility for their wild children instead of focusing on my own child.  At that point, I began to pull away. 
And that's a phenomenal thing when you consider who I am.  When you consider that I grew up a poor Hispanic girl with little to be happy about. Raised by my grandparents instead of my parents.  Subjected to unspeakable forms of abuse by an adult who was supposed to care for me.  If you consider that, you'd think I'd be an advocate for kids like me.  And I was.  
I was.
I was. 

But I grew tired.  No one was meeting my expectations. The kids weren't listening. The parents weren't growing. The community was not changing.  And that's where I really have a bone to pick with our president-elect.  I was an educator who worked within the same community for thirteen years.  I got my hands dirty.  A native Spanish speaker, I connected with them more so than other administrators.  And the reality is, there was nothing I could do to change the Hispanic community.  Parents were still going to refuse to pay gym fees for lost clothes but send their kids to school with the latest cell phones.  They were still going to apply for clothing vouchers as they drove cars nicer than mine.  They were still going to defend their children tooth and nail, even as I showed them pictures and videos of their children doing the deeds.  I'm not ignorant to community organizing. I'm not ignorant to the reality of it.   So, that's why I have so little respect for Obama.  Because he's leaving out the truth and only feeding people what they want to hear.  "Yes, we can."

No, we can't.  We can't unless we all contribute to our community. We can't unless we all take responsibility. We can't unless we understand the fundamentals of economy.  We can't unless we stop depending on others to redistribute the wealth we didn't earn with our own two hands. We can't unless we acknowledge vices and weaknesses.  We can't unless we quit talking about racism as though only one ethnic group was oppressed during the course of history.  We can't until we acknowledge that we voted for a man with no experience because he made us FEEL GOOD.  Under that principle, we should eat and drink as much as we like because it makes us feel good and to hell with what we do to insurance premiums when there are more obese people in America.  Under that principle, we should give in to our weaknesses like drugs because they make us feel better about ourselves.  We should let our kids raise themselves because it's easier on us.   We should take things from others because we want what they have. Do what makes you feel good.  Vote your feelings.  And then go home and watch your DVR's of Dr. Phil and Oprah.  Feel good.  That's your only responsibility after all . . . 

Do I offend?  I don't care.  I spend my time studying the world around me so that I can make informed decisions.  So that I can protect my child and my unborn child from succumbing to idiocy.  So that I can be a good and proper helpmate to my husband.  And I will exercise my freedom of speech with the same liberty that others exercise their stupidity.  

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Has Anyone Ever Asked You This Question?

What is the disconnect between who you are and who you want to be?  Are you a dreamer who wants to be more grounded?  Are you confined by the restrictions of your world and the people around you?  Are you single and want to be married?  Do you want to be a better daughter, friend, or lover? 

The thought came to me as I reflected on how Brock and I have taken back the control of our financial future.  After five years of steady determination to be the masters of our own fate, we are near the promised land of of debt free living.  And I laugh because in Year 1, you would have never believed such different people would ever stay willingly on the same island.  But we have, and I think it's because we are fundamentally the same person.  And that counts in this world - the fundamentals. 

So, what are yours?  What drives you?  What irks you about yourself?  If you're married, you know the frustration of hearing your spouse harp on that same quality you have doggedly retained throughout your marriage.  After a time, you're irritated with yourself for not changing something that creates tension between you.  Who you are . . . . who you want to be. For whatever reason. 

So, what is it?  What's the kink in the hose?  I know personally how deeply such a struggle can affect your life.  How you can think so many times a year, "things could be better if only I . . . " If only I stopped arguing and started listening. If only I did not react defensively to what I perceive as criticism.  If only I worked out.  If only I made time for my parents.  If only. 

This fast-paced world revolves around the idea of convenience.  Everyone, everywhere is plotting to make you a consumer by making things more convenient for you.  Honestly.  Think about how pissy you get if you can't find the remote.   Think about times when McDonald's, the American bastion of superfast, irritates you for not feeding you directly as you drive past the windows on your way to work.  We no more know our fundamentals than our kids know who Gilligan is.  All we know is we are in a hurry.  And I don't know about you, but I tend to make mistakes when I'm in a hurry.  I think we all do.  

Taking the time to think about who we are and who we want to be is important.  No literary embellishment necessary.  Whether you recognize it or not - you are a leader.  In your life - no matter how big or small - your attitude and opinions count to someone.  You should not take it lightly.  

For me it's about roots for my daughter.  I want her to know what Brock and I stand for - who we are and we what we expect from ourselves.  My boss' stepson had a motorcycle accident in Bakersfield on April 10th.  He's in his early 30's and a successful young professional.  After four months in ICU and the amputation of his right leg, he has emerged from the experience with a startling sense of optimism.  He may face untold challenges,  but he faces them with a determination that only a survivor has.   As I talked to his mother just a day ago I mused that I'd never considered teaching Emma how to be a survivor.   How do you do that?  How do you show your child to conquer obstacles of a devastating degree?  Don't ask me yet.  I'm still thinking about it, and as I watch my own little braveheart make her way through each day, I look for signs that she has the inner fiber to navigate her way through life. 

Today, I want to be a better Christian tomorrow.  I don't think I spent enough time praying this week.  I haven't made it to church in two weeks, but at least I finally signed up to be a lector.  I did that because I want Emma to see that giving your time, talent, or treasure to your church is important.  I did it so I would finally stop feeling so inadequate in that area.  And I'm going to do it at my own pace.  I will not be made to speed through this life as I bridge the gap between the woman I and the woman I want to be. 

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Don't Drink the Kool-Aid

I'm not saying I have the knowledge to fully understand the world and all that's happening in it. I'm not saying my opinion is more valid than anyone else's, or that my political and social views are the standard by which others should gauge themselves. I'm just trying to express my concern for the scary societal tendencies that I see all around us. It's as if there is no room for pause in our worlds anymore - as though people must decide how they feel about the issues facing this election season immediately. As though choosing sides is more important than weighing the issues and deciding what works best for you. I guess it's not so shocking when I consider how readily people succumb to the numb and dumb entertainment that is reality tv. Here you get comfortable in your role as a voyeur. All the thinking you have to do is to decide who you'd like to see lose most. You watch people playing people who are pretending they are not affected by the cameras around them - that their ultimate goal is not the exposure they need to promote themselves but instead some important cause - something like speed dating in order to marry a complete stranger. It's mind-boggling to me that the only form of news these people see is Entertainment Tonight and the 10 o'clock news. Like the fish we are, we drink whatever Kool-aid we are fed, and we don't give any thought to verifying information - to research of the issues and serious thought. I think people spend more time researching Internet myths on Snopes than they do researching the news. And CNN is NOT the news. Once upon a time, journalists were objective - their only goal to report the truth. Their personal opinions were expressed in a shrewd sentence or two. Now we have entire newspapers endorsing political candidates. Tell me, are you going to get objectivity from a news source like that? Are you really willing to pass up the American right to decide for yourself because your candidate is young and cool? I know we have to choose between the lesser of two evils, but before you rule out the old and garb yourself in the new for the sake of "hope and change" - spend some time researching how these candidates voted on the issues. They are senators after all - so you will find public information about their voting histories. You can find how they compare on all the major issues. Read what they have written in their lives. At least read excerpts. And PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE remember that the government who promises to GIVE you everything for the promise of your vote can take it all away. You've worked hard, haven't you? You've been down in the dumps, you've risen up from nothing, and you've made something of yourself, right? So tell me, do you now want a government that is willing to support those who have not worked and will not ever work as hard as you? And the financial security you aspire to - you're willing to put that at risk so that people who won't work for health care and won't work to better themselves can have what you've paid for with your hard work? I promise you there is no lack of support in terms of government programs that help the needy. Do a little research. The help has always and will always be there. We are a free market economy on the verge of a socialist overhaul. And if you don't know what that means . . . I'll just say it's not good. It's not good.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Funny Thing About Balance

We all seek it.  It becomes a daily defense mechanism.  "No, I'm sorry, I cannot do happy hour on Wednesdays.  It would upset my balance."  "I got a dog.  I thought it would help me with balance in my life."  "If I don't start saying 'NO' more often, I'm never going to achieve balance." 

I admit it is something I think of often, how effectively I'm spreading myself, but I'll tell you that I used to spend a whole lot more time arguing the theory of balance than I do now.  Now I just do it.  I = balance. Want to know why? 
I ended my career.  I didn't quit working, though I'd love to do that.  I just recognized that I was no longer happy doing what I was doing.  I admitted that the cause was still there - the crusade alive, but my fire had gone out.  And as your synapses start firing, know this, it doesn't matter why my fire went out.  If I had allowed myself to be consumed with Scooby-Dooing this matter, I'd still be there in that office, and I'd still be miserable.  I was a leader who got tired of leading.  A worker bee who stopped fitting in with the other drones.   A disenchanted fairy. 
So, I quit.  After 13 years of donating my time, energy and heart to an important social system, I walked away. 
The anxiety attacks came with a vengeance, of course.  Good heavens, you don't make major life changes without repercussion.  I would have preferred to act out by drinking, but I have a toddler and husband, so a bottle of 40 proof and and a few afternoons on the couch with Air Supply didn't fit my schedule.  But like the end of a rain, they dwindled away and left me clean and whole.  
I changed jobs.  I went from top of the pile to middle ranks.  When the phone rings, it's no longer for me.  When something goes wrong, I'm not Herr Damage Control. And, yes, the payout is different.  I'm still contributing to a social system, just one that is impactful in a different way.  And now, dear lambs, the amazing has happened.  My focus is on two things: my world, meaning my child, my husband, our home, and on the world around me.  It's like that camera trick you see in some movies where things come into an almost painful, color-boosted focus.  I see where I stand.  I know my role, and I have a renewed energy to interact with the people I have CHOSEN to surround me.  
Even my cell phone is different.  Instead of a dreaded companion - a necessary evil, and a means of connecting me with other people's problems, it's just my phone.  When it rings, it's either my friends or my family.  When I talk on it, I don't have to be careful of what I say.  No one at the grocery store is going to judge my ability to do my job if I say "Damn, that sucks!" while I'm picking out peaches and talking to my brother on the phone.   I still wake up every morning and think about how free I am.  I didn't have to be a public servant slave to participate in worthy causes.  I didn't have to abandon my ship to join the crusade. 
My cause is my life.  I want it to be full, so I've taken steps to fill it with what matters.  
And you have always mattered.  Choose well.