Attention Male Drivers

Dear Male Drivers Men,

It isn’t okay to slow down next to a lone woman running (or any women for that matter) and yell out the window, “Hey!  Looking good!”  Even if you think you’re simply extending a compliment.  Even if you think you’re just sharing what’s on your mind. Even if you think it’s harmless.  It’s not okay.  In case you missed the abundance of headlines and news stories recounting horrific incidents that happen to women by men, we live in a “rape culture.”  We live in a patriarchal society.  Perhaps you didn’t have the privilege of studying gender with amazing professors in college.  For this, I try to extend you the benefit of the doubt and think that maybe you truly believe that cat-calls are compliments and something a woman might appreciate.  I am here to tell you that is not the case.  I am here to tell you what happens when you do that.  First of all, it is startling. Runners in general don’t really want to be yelled at, rudely honked at, or have cars slowing down near them.  We tend to be in what’s known as a “zone” when running.  Usually we are wearing headphones and are deep in thought and/or deep in a performance of the current tune playing in our ears. Yelling, honking, sudden movement–these things make us jump. After I jump, as a female, I immediately start trying to figure out if you’re going to fuck with me any further. I refrain from giving you the finger, though it is knee-jerk, because I don’t want to encourage any further interaction.  I see your SUV ahead stopping at the intersection, so I slow down my pace so as not to encounter you again.  As you drive out of sight, I have to wonder if you’re going to turn around and head my way again.  I start scanning every car coming toward me, on alert, flight or fight, looking to make sure there are people around, and that I have an out.  I’m running, so really my heart rate is going quite fast enough, but thank you for giving it that extra boost into race day mode.  Once you were out of sight, I did manage to shave some seconds off my pace as I hurried to make a turn onto a road where you could no longer see me.  I am not sure if you intended any of this, or not.  My generous thought is that you’re just clueless.  That you just have no idea what it is like to be a woman, and that you’re not paying attention to all the red flags society has raised around these issues. My less generous thought is that this is typical male behavior in a society where making women feel uncomfortable is a kind of pass-time for many; a joke; something to ensure continued male dominance.

I am not going to change my behavior.  I am entitled to run on city streets, country roads, backwoods trails.  That is my right.  Unfortunately, this means that you don’t have the right to yell things out your car window or as you’re passing by on foot or by bike, as I engage in my activity of choice. Maybe this seems unfair to you.  In general, I don’t prefer to take rights away from people, but as you know, sometimes we have to take away the freedom to act like an asshole in order to keep society safe. I too wish we lived in a society where women felt safe.  I too wish men could extend a compliment without it seeming creepy.  But that is not the case. I just wish more men realized this.  And that, dear male reader, is why I write this.

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Ch-ch-ch-changes

Nothing ever stays the same. This we all know.

Having children means things stay even less the same.

I’m not good with unpredictability.  This we all know.  And so I have been making it a daily goal and practice to get better at it.  Better at going with that proverbial “flow.”

Back in late March I had set up a five days per week writing plan for myself (I had been writing daily for close to a year at this point, but developed a more goal specific schedule in March).  This included getting one blog post per week written (with 1-2 of the days devoted to that goal).  The other days were devoted to revision (mostly) and new writing and reviews (very little).  At that time I was getting up at 5:30 every morning to write.  Generally Levi was sleeping until 6:30 (earliest) and sometimes as late as 7am.  This allowed me anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour of writing time, after I got my coffee, which I divided between journaling/warming up and the tasks I just named.  That time alone to write, think, and dream was my lifeline.  It made me so happy that every night when I got into bed, I’d feel joy just thing about that morning cup of coffee and time at my desk.

During the first week in June, that morning routine–that lifeline to sanity–was abruptly broken by my son’s new morning routine:  waking up at 5:30 instead of 6:30.  (One morning it was 4:30 and he was all, “I want to read a book,” which makes all things relative, but still…).  At first I was steaming mad.  I couldn’t get a handle on the fact that my time to center and begin my day in a somewhat sane fashion was being taken away, seemingly to never return (ah…but all things change; nothing stays the same).

For awhile I spent every morning spitting and fuming and every day feeling lost, like I was missing something fundamental.  And I was.

Ultimately though I had to change too.  I had to go with this new flow–the new direction the river took that I wasn’t expecting (and didn’t want to go down).

So here I am writing at NIGHT!  Night is so not my shining time.  Morning is.  My brain works only minimally at night–enough to help me find my pajamas and my bed, but that is about it.  It doesn’t construct interesting sentences or tease out complex ideas.

And yet in showing up to my desk at almost 8pm, I got to look up and watch the sun set between two trees in my backyard (lined up perfectly between those trees like it wanted to nest there).  And I’m in my pajamas.  I don’t have coffee, which makes me feel a bit “off.”  Perhaps I should try wine (if I can EVER get over these allergies).  But there are 421 words on this page–even if they are more therapy than meaningful (not that those two things are mutually exclusive.  I fully realize that they are not, but this is more rant than craft.  That is what I mean).

While showing up and sunsets = evening/night writing, mornings have become spontaneous surprise.  They all look different.  I’ve found that I can cope more easily as long as I do something that centers me; it just now has to include Levi.  Some mornings this looks like having him in our bed to read a book.  On super early weekend mornings this might be TV in bed together.  My favorite way of coping has been having him sit at my desk with me, and we “journal” together.  The other morning Levi comes climbing up into my desk chair asking, “Can I work with you?”  Insert bursting heart with fireworks here. “Yes, of course you can.”  He has his own packet of paper that he “works” in, while I attempt to journal next to him (both of us smooched into a chair built for one).  I cannot really focus on writing, as he wants me to look at each line he draws, but whatever I get on the page is just a bonus really (or at least that is how I am trying to see it).  What the morning time lacks in solitary centering and progress in writing, it makes up for in preciousness and bonding time.  And this too won’t last.

Banksy Balloon Girl and Meditation

I’ve always loved Banksy’s Balloon Girl.  One year I even had Christmas cards emblazoned with this image (along with added snowflakes falling around the girl).

When I meditate I use this image whenever I need to address the so-called “monkey mind” by acknowledging my thinking, letting it go, and returning to breath.  However, I realized recently that when envisioning this image during meditation, I was imagining the girl’s body to be leaning forward, reaching toward the balloon as if to grab it rather than release it.  This, of course, is not my goal, but it is certainly telling of how I really feel most of the time.  Letting go is not my forté.

I decided to post the image to Instagram and have folks weigh in on whether or not the girl is letting go of or trying to hold onto the balloon.  I pretty much knew that most people would vote “letting go” (everyone who weighed in did), but I was curious if anyone might see it differently.  I know that for some, the meaning, is still vague:

The assumption is that this image shows a love lost or innocence of childhood lost, and if it weren’t for the words on the wall there would be no question, however, the caption leaves the audience questioning what the real meaning of the image is, and wondering if the girl had released the balloon or is trying to retrieve it.

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What ended up surprising me, however, was not the responses. Those I expected for the most part. What surprised me was the disconnect between how I keep seeing that much loved image in my mind and how the image is actually drawn.  As most the responses point out, her body image pretty clearly shows she is letting go:  she isn’t leaning in and her hand looks like it is releasing not grabbing.

It might be helpful to add this corrective to my meditation visualization:  not grasping, not reaching, struggling, wanting, but true release, while standing steadfast.