Sunday, October 16, 2016

You Have to Wonder

You have to wonder where along the great long timeline of evolution the truth of women's lives became something to be quiet about.  How long after Lucy started it all did her female offspring decide it was better to be quiet than to be free of the large and small terrors that are perpetrated upon them by the other half of the human population?  To be sure, not all women have suffered what some of us have and definitely not all men are perpetrators, but there have been enough of us victims on the female side that you'd expect a howl of anguish to rupture forth every now and then over the eons. (And, yes, I know that it can happen in the reverse; another story, another time).

Every single woman in my world has experienced an episode of some sort - physical or mental (or both) - that is seared in her memory.  My episode, the one that had a domino effect that stayed with me for years, began on the first day of sixth grade when Mr. McCarthy, a man who degraded the teaching profession every single day he stood in front of a classroom, commanded all of his 11 year-old female students to stand up next to their desks and do a slow turn with arms outspread.  I was mystified why he would want us to do that but....I did it because he was the teacher and he asked.  And so did all of the other girls in the class.  And it turns out that he had us do this so that he could look us over and choose two of us as his secretaries for the year.  I was one of them.  Having been chosen I was then forced to sit at one of the two small student desks flanking his desk and facing my fellow students.  Every day was a misery and to this day I am not sure how or why I accepted the situation.  I knew I didn't like it but...I didn't say anything.  I think I didn't say anything because, you know, mystified.  At home, and at school up until then, girls were just people, not different. Girls ran like the wind at recess, climbed trees, read adventure books, sang, laughed.  Just like the boys.  Girls were people and I was fine, mystified but fine.

Until school photo packets were handed back to us to bring home to our parents and mine (and his other "secretary's") contained his photo too.  That was more mystifying and wrong enough that I had to tell my parents.  I'm pretty sure my mom and dad were out of the house before I was the next morning and things changed big time at school.  My desk was moved, big drama from my "teacher", retribution from his best friend (my math teacher).  It was all pretty ugly but it was over.

I hadn't thought about it for years until recently, for obvious reasons.  Trump has done that much for us, at any rate.  The sheer deluge of tweets, posts, essays, op-ed pieces is staggering, until it isn't.  Until you realize that it's practically all of us.  Then it isn't just staggering, it's mind-bending.

And I think that's why more women don't speak up more often.  It's our life.  So many women, with so many horrible stories.   Stockholm syndrome for 50 percent of the population.

Is this the howl that will change things?  You have to wonder.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A happy talent....

Man! Long time between posts but really, this was a summer for doing stuff not writing about it. Finally bought a new bike - a sweet little Specialized - and put in mega-miles (well, for me). Rode long, rode short. Rode through pine barrens and cornfields. Rode along hilly western MA resort roads and flat Cape Cod beach roads. Rode alone, rode with my sweetie, rode with my best friend, and rode with my new triathlete friend.

This summer and this bike helped me remember something forgotten in a long gone childhood: that sweet and breezy feeling we all experience when we first learn how to ride a bike and then, with that new independence, just go, go, go, squeezing every second out of shimmery, bright, hot summer...wherever we want (kind of), whenever we want (sort of). Anyway, this past fabulous summer there was a whole lot of "Hey, you wanna ride today?" answered with "Yup. Let's go!" Housework, weeding? Who cares?

So...I turned 50 this summer and recaptured what it feels like to be 7 (kind of, sort of).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

And How We Play It Is Everything: A Tribute to A Friend

Just like on the playing field (one hopes), playing the game of life successfully requires a deep knowledge of the rules: how to apply them, when to apply them, which bend of the rules is allowed by honor, which is required by grace.

The finest players also know that you play the hand you are dealt, that the only thing that always pays off is hard work (talent can get you only so far), that unexpected obstacles in the course of play are best handled squarely, without panic, but that you can only do that if you have prepared well.

To whit: one of my dearest friends (she of the longest standing friendship in my life) has been dealt a blow in the last month - a diagnosis of cancer. In another time, if I had been asked to speculate about how she would approach something like this, I would have guessed that she, as one of the great practitioners of life, would have handled it with grace, grit, determination, spirit, and a deep faith in self that comes from an inner strength built over years of hard work.

Alas, I do not have to guess.

But I would have been right because that's exactly how she's tackling this one.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Did it!

It took me four days but I made it to the bleachers and ran the circuit four times. Felt way better than I thought it would after six weeks off. Got to thinking about - not for the first time - the four different types of people out there: those who think they can, those who know they can, those who don't know but will try anyway, and those who quit. Luckily, I was running with a woman who came under category three. She ended up doing more than she thought she could. I opted for sanity and finished when I knew I had completed a good workout but would pay (in a bad bursitis-y kind of way) if I pushed it farther. Perhaps I am becoming a thinking athlete finally?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Inertia: the tendency of a body at rest to become a blob

Thus ends the sixth week in a row in which I haven't worked out - as in "with an eye towards fitness" worked out. I had lots of good reasons to stop for a bit - very bad back issues, house renovations, etc. - but suddenly no reason to start again seems good enough. I don't think I've gone this long without working out since I was 15.

Be it resolved: starting Monday, that good-looking new set of bleachers on campus is my new jungle gym.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Two people, two cats, one household

Life has taken its latest happy twist: my sweetie and I decided to meld households, so he and his cat - the formerly feral and fearlessly orange Mademoiselle Zoey - have moved in with me and the graceful grey but no-longer genial Oliver. I think it's going to be pretty smooth sailing once all the boxes are gone and the cats have decided their hierarchy. Although, right now, I would lay odds we will find a place in this small house for all 265 of S's coats before the fur stops flying. I know that animals have ways of figuring these things out, I just don't know if an 18 year-old deaf cat who's had the run of this house and a 1 year-old high energy cat who has only lived indoors for seven months are playing by the same set of rules.

But this I do know (and it's something I never doubted): having S here is a really good thing. It has to be said: I am a handy woman to have around. In the four years since buying this house I have taught myself to change electrical switches and outlets, installed a sink and a toilet, learned to love nail guns and miter saws, dug up and moved nearly a ton of sand (seriously!) one wheelbarrow at a time, designed and built a walk-in closet, and painted nearly every room in the house. Still, he moves in and within a week - bada bing!

The lawn is mowed (something that has always waited until everything else was done).

The garage is cleaned and organized for the first time since I moved in.

The garden bed near the garage that I have been fighting with for four years is cleaned out of all the miserable rose roots and daylily roots I couldn't conquer.

Even better: I get to see the face I love the most in the world every day (and cute as it is, I'm not talking about the one above!).

Monday, March 1, 2010

It Was All Worth It

There are some things - laws of nature, if you will - we know to be true even if we can't prove them. Little ones like: if you carry an umbrella with you, it won't rain. Or: a watched pot won't boil. And big ones like: the only wasted love is the love that we keep to ourselves. Certainly I don't apply that last law willy-nilly but to me, giving from the heart just never feels wrong, whether it takes the form of a somehow-still-new love for my sweetie, the tried-and-true love of being an involved sister, friend and daughter, or the necessarily constrained love proferred while coaching. The corollary I accept going in is that love is to be given without guarantee that it will be reciprocated the way I want or any way at all. Nearly always I'm paid back a thousandfold, sometimes not, but it rarely seems a bad investment anyway.

The very hardest thing about coaching at the college where I work was that most of the students who populate the program are either undisciplined athletes or non-athletes. Great kids, to be sure, but by and large not athletes. I worked so hard not only at teaching them how to row but also at imparting the joy that can be found in training our bodies, how to think about sport, and the thrill of competing to win. And while I know I taught them how to row, I've never believed I got much farther than that.

After I resigned as their coach, I emailed my athletes hoping they would respect my decision and not hold against me the fact that I quit in the middle of the year, but not much more than that. What happened was so unexpected and so gratifying, it took my breath away: more than one of my rowers (and one former rower) has emailed me to tell me I taught them "what it means to be an athlete"(emphasis mine).

Learning this from them has absolutely blown me away. I can think of no higher compliment nor any greater return on the love that flowed from me to them all these years.