Tag Archives: Jaxsine

Breaking the Rules: Epilogue (One Year Later)

One year ago today it was Friday.  That night I ran into an ex I’d been in love with, for the first time since he’d suddenly dumped me over a year earlier.  He didn’t know I saw him, and it was a near-Perfect Running Into An Ex-Beloved Scenario (I looked hot, I was genuinely having fun, and he looked back at me when he left with his wilting date).

But even more importantly, it was the day that I resigned from my latest, and perhaps last, full-time job.  Remember?  The toxic one I told you all about last year starting with my first post, and continuing with the Breaking the Rules series?

A year later, the only thing I miss about leaving is the financial abundance and stability I left behind — temporarily (business is picking up!).  The main thing I regret is not having stuck to my guns when I said I was planning to leave — before I was offered a title change that was later rescinded, before I was disciplined for taking a courageous stand, before my Beloved Boss (and others) got to put me in a box that made them feel justified in mistreating me and finally escorting me off the property 3 days after I resigned.

Sometimes I think about writing them to explain and try to mend things, since I’m pretty sure they feel as betrayed as I do.  But then I realize I’m still angry and I have a right to be, and I’m done with always being the one to try to mend broken things and tie up loose ends.  It’s not like I attempted multiple times to explain, dialogue, and reach clarity or understanding, if not agreement.  It’s not like I gave ample opportunity for understanding to happen, even when it might have been in my best interest to selfishly fight instead.

But I’m learning life is messy, and even though I don’t like messes of any kind, sometimes the mess is perfect.

But if so, why were they honored for an achievement that was my doing, months after I left, based on data that is no longer accurate since I’ve been gone?  Why did I have to be right — that what I created is a skeleton of its former self, and the person they finally hired to replace me (10 months later) is an internal employee with zero expertise in the necessary fields, but is a reliable yes-woman and company drone who toes the party line, takes no risks, and assumes no real leadership?

I guess they finally got what they really wanted.

I hate injustice.  I hate unfairness.  And I hate most of all being right about crappy things happening.  I want to hold onto my faith in a happy ending.  I blame myself in part for making the mess that no one can seem to clean up.

But…maybe I got what I really wanted too…?

Ironic and perfect in its timing, I had lunch just yesterday with a former colleague that had had a similar role to mine in another institution, and had also been manipulated, disrespected, betrayed and abused (worse than me), culminating in her being escorted off the premises of her institution six months before I was.  She sued, won, and received a settlement…and yet over a year later, her eyes water when she tells the story.

I still wonder why we do the things we do, and why some of us stand and fight while others comply.  Last year I read a book called Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times by the talented journalist Eyal Press, which explores this very question.  He studies a Swiss police captain who refused to enforce a law barring Jewish refugees from entering his country.  He interviews a Serb who defied leaders to help Croats during the war in Yugoslavia, and profiles a member of an elite unit of the Israeli army who refuses to serve in the occupied territories during the Second Intifada.  He ends with the story of a corporate whistle blower — and a Latina immigrant — in the US securities industry of the early 2000s.

Not one of these people’s stories play out like a Hollywood movie — all of them suffer for their choices.  And yet the normalcy of their personalities, lives and choices defies Hollywood hero/ine narratives.  They weren’t rebels by nature, nor exceptional in their personality traits.  In fact, they uncynically believed in the ideals or institutions they were charged to uphold and acted accordingly, or learned something new that challenged their ideas and assumptions.  They were also in positions to experience the personal, tangible consequences of their choices firsthand.  They felt empathetic emotions for other people and almost instinctively acted to help them, but also possessed an ability to tolerate the pain of acting alone and against the group.

Such individuals defy the notion that given certain situations, following orders or rules is a natural and normal  defense for doing justice and violence, for not everyone chooses to do injustice or violence, or to stand silently by.  Some unexceptional people simply exercise the “moral imagination” we all possess, and choose differently.  Despite the morality and integrity of their actions, they are often punished for going against the group.  Part of this is because they become symbols of what others should have done.

So heroes and heroines are just like us, which means each of us can be a hero or heroine.  It’s our choices (not our superhero mutant genes) that define us and move justice.  I don’t mean to equate my experience with a toxic job to the gravity of what was faced by a Swiss general during Nazism, a Serb during the Croatian War of Independence, an IDF solider or a corporate whistleblower.  But I do identify with their almost naively believing in what could and should be and acting in alignment with those ideals, with their ability to tolerate going against the grain, and with the effect of being undetached from experiencing the consequences of my actions in a way my colleagues were not.

I just wish more could appreciate what I — and the colleague I was lunching with yesterday — have done, and follow suit.  Change and justice would be so much swifter!  But there I go again, thinking about fairness and how attainable alternate realities are.  I want to rewrite the story with a different ending, like a painful breakup.

And the separation from my job — I may have mentioned before — is like a breakup.  I still pass by the buildings, hear about the goings on (mostly bad and frustrating), and talk to people still there or who have also left.  It still gives me a little knot in my stomach.  I still feel resentment.  I want to be free.

Here’s a blurb I wrote six weeks before I left, but never published.  The first part is an email excerpt from a wise, older friend:

I, like you, believed that ‘letting go’ meant giving up.  Once I figured out that it really meant ‘joining the flow of energy’, it began to make sense and certainly became much easier than struggling against myself and the current. What has become so delightfully astonishing is that once I let go, doors just fly open, ones which either I would never have been able to open myself or even thought of approaching.  The sequencing of events just blows me away and I get so tickled at my self for doubting and being so slow to ‘wake up’. I gather you are making progress and letting the scales fall away and the sunlight come in.  What a refreshing friend you are.

I reflected:

I feel angry because I feel betrayed and let down.  My boundaries were violated, I was not treated, supported, or valued the way I wanted.  Those I trusted didn’t come through all the way.

I feel sad because things didn’t turn out the way I hoped — because I can still see how wonderful and beautiful they could be, even though they aren’t.  I feel sad to see how I am contributing to the problem now.  I feel sad to be saying goodbye to a few pleasantries and sweetnesses.

It feels like another breakup.

Indeed, the themes persist.  And yet, I now realize I can be free.  The truth is the resentment is less than it was.  The knot is looser.  They got what they wanted, but ultimately so did I.   I’m not ready or willing to give up my high hopes for the possibilities, my high expectations for humanity, or my belief in “true” love.  But like a jilted lover, I want to be wanted, even by someone I don’t want.  I want to be chased, yearned after, missed, spoken about in reverent whispers instead of tense silences.  I want to have parted as friends.

I still want to have a “Perfect Running Into An Ex-Beloved Scenario” like I did the night of June 1, 2012.  But I don’t think it’s coming.

Messy, yes.  Not what I wanted or would have chosen, yes.  Perfect…likely yes, in ways I may never even know.

I join the flow of energy…

In lak ech,

Jaxsine

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Marriage — to take his name…or not?

Who are we, as women?  As a woman, who are you?  Do you know?  If so, how do you express that? What sums up your identity?

For me, a big part of that is my name.  It’s something sacred.  It’s my calling card in the world.  It’s something that identifies me as me.  It’s something that provides continuity and coherence  in the long story that is my life.

I don’t always like my name, and in truth I legally modified my birth name several years ago to better suit me — I literally bought my first name an additional letter.  I don’t always like my last name.  It’s hard to spell and people often mispronounce and/or misspell both my first and last names.

But it’s mine.

I read an article the other day that struck a nerve.  Titled “Retro Marriage Trend Makes a Comeback, for Better or Worse” the piece describes how large majorities of women are now taking their husbands’ last names when they marry.  There seems to be conflicting data on whether this is more common among older women or younger women, but one statistic presented in the article is that 8% of women now keep their maiden names, compared to a high of 23% in the 1990s.

This troubles me.  It’s hard enough for women to discover who we are, what our values are, what our unique gifts and dreams are, and how to manifest them.  It’s hard enough for women to be seen as whole people, to have a Self outside the needs of other people — our children, spouses, partners, parents, and siblings.  It’s hard enough for women to be seen, heard and taken seriously — or for us to take ourselves, our voices, our lives and our responsibilities seriously.

So why add to all that potential for getting lost and not forming a solid independent Selfhood the additional variable of a name change?  A change in our major identifier, that connects us with our entire lives?  And a change that typically happens at an age when we’re just about to burst onto the stage of our own lives?

Maybe women in the United States don’t know the history behind the custom of changing names.  It comes from English law where women had nothing — were nothing — without attachment to a male.  First that male was their father, then it was their husband.  Women — even ones from rich families — had no right to own any property of their own, and no right to much of anything.  As economic entities literally owned by men, we women were vaginas and wombs used to pass on the names of men and their property (to sons) or to form economically and politically advantageous alliances with other families (through marrying off daughters).  To lose or gain a name was to lose or gain basic rights and economic safety.

And by the way the term “maiden name” is sexist in itself, implying that a pre-married woman is (and should be) a virgin.  Of course men enjoy no comparable labels distinguishing the various stages of their sexual activity (which is another subtext of unmarried vs. married — don’t get me started on the whole “Miss”, “Mrs.”  and “Ms.” thing).

It’s not this way in all parts of the world.  In countries colonized by Spain instead of England, people have at least two surnames — one from the father and one from the mother.  (This norm may have originally come from Arabic-speaking cultures, which spread to Spain.)  While the maternal surname eventually gets dropped after two generations, every person carries identifiers from both parents.  Latin American women rarely change their names when they marry, and if they do, it’s often added to the others and preceded by a “de” to show it’s a married surname.

Also in Spanish-speaking countries — cultures often thought to be more machista (sexist or male dominant) than the USA — women have long been able to own property separate from men.  In fact, California was the first state where women could own property separate from any man.  This was a holdover from Mexican law that was preserved when California became a part of the United States.

I understand the practical reasons for changing one’s name.  Sometimes we women don’t like our birth surnames.  Sometimes we don’t like our family of origin and are happy to join a new tribe.  Sometimes we want continuity with our children.  When I was married, I got a new passport with a hyphenated last name in anticipation of children, and signed legal documents as a hyphenated person when they were jointly executed with my then-spouse.  But nowhere else.  It gleefully tickled my feminist funny bone to no end when we’d get spam phone calls from some poor soul wanting to talk to Mr. [my last name].

My main issue about changing names is this — why is the name change only a woman’s issue?  Why don’t men get to go through this?  If marriage implies a union, why not make it equal and NOT a subsuming of the woman’s identity to the man’s?  Some men do change their names or both spouses take on a new hyphenated name, and I’d love to see more of this.  I adore how Antonio Villaraigosa, mayor of Los Angeles, actually combined his last name (Villar) with his wife’s (Raigosa) to create a whole new entity.  What a metaphor for partnership, union, shared new identity, and equity!

Marriage today has its roots in feudal economic relationships where women are not only unequal to men, but their property.  Because of this inequity and the burdens it brings, we continue to have to make myriad decisions that are men’s privilege to never have to consider — like having to time children before it’s too late biologically but after it’s sufficiently economically stable; whether to try parenthood plus career or choose one; like balancing”work work” and housework.  On top of all that, we have to decide what to call ourselves too?

There must be some payoff.  Let’s face it, the logistics of changing your name is a HUGE pain in the arse, especially in the digital age.  So ladies, what is the payoff?

I suspect there is another piece here that isn’t talked about much.  Women changing their names upon marriage is a public declaration of the married state.  It’s a way to announce to the world “I am married now!”  It’s a way to announce “I am now legitimate before the world, as are my children and my sexual activity!”  Even though we single women tend to be better offer financially and (according to some studies) also happier than married women — especially ones with children — there is still a stigma attached to being a single woman with our wild, unclaimed vaginas bandying about.  The stigma is that somehow we haven’t been able to attract a man that wants to marry us (which apparently should be our goal)…and therefore we are defective somehow.  Unintentionally perhaps, women taking on their husbands’ name contributes to a societal sense of “there are better and worse buckets of womanhood, and I’m in the ‘good woman’ bucket now!”

Let’s be honest.  There is some truth to the existence of the good bucket. Being married — and letting the whole world know we’re married by changing our name — still gives us an identity, legitimacy, and personhood that singledom does not.  Also, few relationships in a woman’s life outside of marriage have the power to determine the path and quality of a woman’s life (and that of her children) in terms of basic physical safety and economic well-being…whether for better or worse.

I hope for the day when marriage is NOT such a defining and critical moment in a woman’s life to the extent she feels compelled, or obligated (one of my recently-married acquaintances was pressured by her new husband to change her last name because it was “the polite thing to do”) to change her identity.  I hope for the day when marriage is just as critical and defining a moment for men.  And I hope for the day when men have to wrestle with the big questions of life, identity, work, children, and family to the same degree as women.

In the meantime, I do my part to encourage this shift by resisting the norm and its oppressive history.  While I may hyphenate again one day, I retain my surname, and along with it my identity, my herstory, my whole personhood, and my Self.

What do you think?  Why did you change your name? Or not?

In lak ech!

Jaxsine

40 Days for Life, 10 Reasons for Choice

I’m in my early 40s, and I’m childfree (childless by choice).  Over 8 years ago I had an abortion. The father was a man I thought was my soulmate (although kind friends have told me deep down I already knew he was the dangerous, destructive person I eventually found him to be).  We were practicing safe sex and birth control when I got pregnant, but I wasn’t yet childfree.  Ending my 40-day-long pregnancy was one of the most gutwrenchingly difficult decisions I’ve ever made, and it was the most painful — emotionally, spiritually, and physically — experience I’ve ever been through.

And not only do I fiercely defend the right of other women to make the same choice, I would do it again if it were the right decision.

The 40 Days for Life campaign is back.  Every year during Lent they pace and pray outside the Planned Parenthood clinic near my house.  This is the same clinic where I had my abortion — but that was before I’d gotten a really good job and bought a nice house nearby.  Those are two of the many wonderful things that very likely would never have happened had I not let my child go that day.

Yes, I said child.  I identify as politically progressive (no, not liberal) and staunchly pro-choice.  And I believe that teeny tiny embryo inside me was life.  And yes, I ended it.  And no, I don’t feel guilty.  Anymore.  Sometimes I do feel a little regret.  There’s no way of knowing what my life would have been like had I allowed that child to come into the world.  I’m sure there are beautiful, joyful moments I’ve missed because of my decision.  But I’ve also had many beautiful, joyful moments I wouldn’t have had if I’d birthed that baby.  And I’m 100% certain that neither my life, nor that child’s life, would be as healthy and happy as they are today had we not parted ways.  I still believe that I saved two lives that day I took the pills to end my pregnancy.

When I see the 40 Days for Life folks now I feel a range of emotions: anger, pity, disgust, rage, grief, frustration, empathy, gratitude.  I wonder what their stories are.  I wonder if they know how condescending and insulting their signs are to me, like “abortion hurts women.”  I wonder if they think they’re talking about me, or if they’re talking about themselves?

The whole “abortion debate” really isn’t a debate because the two sides come from such different sets of values that can’t seem to really hear each other.  In fact, I have’t always been pro-choice.  But here are the reasons I am pro-choice and likely will be until I die:

1. This is a woman’s decision, not a man’s decision.  Sorry guys, but until you carry the children, bear the children, raise the children, and support the children financially to a degree that comes close to what we women do, you don’t get to decide this for us.   As long as women get paid 76% of what men get paid and women are raped, beaten, abused and harrassed in epidemic proportions by men, we get to decide whether or not it’s safe — for our children and for us — to bring them into this world.  If you are a man against abortion, be celibate, always use two methods of birth control when having sex, or get a vasectomy.

2. This is a personal decision, not a group or governmental decision.  Sorry government, but until you pay for prenatal care, the birth, diapers, food, clothing, HeadStart, K-12+ education, child care and health care, you don’t get to make me have a child I’ll need to spend countless hours and a couple hundred thousands dollars to raise to functional adulthood.

3. We don’t need more humans on the planet.  Seven billion miracles is enough.  Per reason #2, I could see some justification for the group stepping in to say the survival of our tribe or species is more important than my individual desire to not have a baby, but not only is homo sapiens not anywhere close to having this problem, many of the most dire problems facing homo sapiens today have to do with there being too many of us, living in unsustainable ways on our tiny planet.

4. We don’t need any more unwanted children.  More and more research is showing how the circumstances of our conception and births affect our development and how we perceive and interact with the world for the rest of our lives (see conscious conception, or from womb to world).  I know personally what it feels like to be raised by parents who didn’t entirely want you, and it’s something you carry your whole life.  Child abuse and neglect is another epidemic in the US which takes an epic toll on our individual and collective lives.  Hurt kids hurt kids, and hurt people hurt people — just check out the statistics on how many folks in prison were molested or abused as children.

Adoption is certainly one option for unwanted pregnancies, but given #3 above, the disconnect between the number of babies and the number of adoptive families; how adoption (not to mention being carried by a woman for 9 months that doesn’t want them) affects kids; and how carrying a child she’s going to give up can affect the mother emotionally, economically and physically, it’s not the answer.  Sure anecdotes abound of unwanted kids who turn out to be amazing, and even loved by their parents, as well as people who thank their mom or their fiancée’s mom for not choosing abortion since the resulting human turned out so fabulously.  But there are also plenty of anecdotes about horrible people who were wanted kids, and non-aborted people who kind of wish they’d never been born.  Anecdotes alone don’t point to absolute truth, hence the importance of a mother’s choice to maximize a child’s chances of an excellent start in life.  As one of my friends says, “wanted babies only!”

5. An embryo is life, but not the same as a person.  An embryo, a fetus, and even a newborn are helpless without adults.  Privileging the rights of an embryo or fetus over those of a fully formed human being isn’t fair, nor is saying that pro-choicers who fight for social justice and human rights are being hypocritical when they don’t fight for the rights of proto-humans.  Apples and oranges.

6. Human life is not the most important life form on Earth.  We end life every day without hardly thinking about it.  The animals we kill to eat.  The forests we cut down to make room for cattle, or to make cheap furniture.  The rivers and lakes we choke off to power our cities.  The oceans we pollute with our vasts amounts of non-biodegradable waste.  I’m not saying these behaviors are OK, but to say abortion is an abomination above all others is frightfully anthropocentric and narcissistic.  A tiny human embryo is not more important nor more deserving of life and health than our air, water, soil, animals, and plants, and we are much more dependent on these for survival than on the existence of one more human embryo.  Again, see #3.

7. Being “pro-life” doesn’t make us moral or ethical as a society or nation.  I think I understand the concern of the “pro-life” camp about us not being a society where human life is taken, and I admire the dedication to standing up for what they feel is immoral and unjust.  But why so inconsistent then?  Why pace and pray in front of family planning clinics, yet cheer the execution of prisoners, accept the enslavement of undocmented immigrants and abuse of workers in general, promote the slaying of civilians overseas in unjustified wars, ignore the animal cruelty on factory farms, tolerate hate crimes and discrimination against African Americans and LGBT people, and vote against policies that would bring the poor (including vast numbers of children) out of poverty?  The death penalty, the treatment of undocumented workers, the Iraq War, factory farms, hate crimes and neglect of the material needs of families and children are far more immoral than ending the future potential of a human embryo.

Frankly I would consider joining a movement that worked proactively to change this list of immorality and also happened to be anti-choice.  But until we truly do respect and cherish all life as sacred, I stand for the right of a woman to decide whether or not to bring another person into so much immorality and suffering.  Sure, each embryo represents potential and could be the next Mozart or Einstein, but until we regard our existing children as bursting with the same potential and genius, treat them as such and set them up equitably for success and happiness, the argument about an embryo’s potential falls flat.

And speaking of morality, why doesn’t 40 Days for Life set up camp outside fertility clinics where boatloads (estimated hundreds of thousands in the last 30 years) of embryos are “discarded” in the process of in vitro fertilization?  These are intended pregnancies that are ended by the dozens per couple.  How is this not immoral if life begins at conception?  How is this OK, but a woman ending an unintended pregnancy for the good of herself, her child, and the world is not?

8. Your beliefs don’t make them true for me.  Perhaps you fear the divine wrath of God for permitting abortions in your midst.  I appreciate that fear and where it comes from.  However, your beliefs don’t make them true for me, or true at all.   I am the one that has to face the consequences of my own choices, and taking such responsibilty is moral, ethical and mature.   If you are against abortion, don’t have one, or don’t cause a woman to have to contemplate one.  If you are against abortion, work to ensure wage parity for women, stop violence against women and girls, superior schools and child care, and an end to poverty — where 40% of our children grow up.

9. We have choice.  Perhaps this is where I differ most with religious anti-choice folks, but I don’t believe in a Divine Being who presents me with situations just to test me and see if I “pass.”  I believe Life and the Divine present me with opportunities to grow, learn, and shape a life — my life — to be full of happiness, health, creativity and joy, and share that with the world.  I have been given the ability to choose and wield the decision of life or death for myself.  I don’t believe in a Divine that would give me such power and not “allow” me to use it or to test me to see if I do.  I don’t believe in such a jealous God — that’s a human notion, not Divine.

10. Not wanting to is reason enough.  I am responsible for much that determines the quality of my life.  If I want to take on the commitment of parenting for reasons of joy and love and service — or whatever — that’s up to me.   If I — or any woman — don’t want to go through a pregnancy or bear and raise a child because I want other things for my life and my soul calls me to a different path, that’s a good enough reason.  I just don’t want to, and I don’t need to justify it any more than that, nor feel guilty about doing what makes me happy.

When it comes down to it, my main problem is not with the anti-choice (“pro-life” is a misnomer — see #7 — and wrongly implies pro-choice folks are pro-death somehow…also pro-choice folks can also be anti-abortion) position which has a life-affirming moral basis I agree with in many ways.  My main problem is with anti-choice people and what feels to me like the invasive, aggressive, and often deceptive approach most of them seem to have.  I find it highly arrogant (and anti-American?) for a stranger to pass judgment on me and my choices when I am the one to face the consequences of my actions, which don’t adversely affect them in any material way (and, in fact, might ultimately benefit them and society).  Pro-choice folks certainly don’t demonstrate outside churches, clinics, hospitals or adoption agencies touting signs of images of miserable mothers covered with children, trying to convince pregnant women they should have an abortion.  Pro-choice people don’t judge women for deciding to become mothers, so anti-abortion folks should stop judging women for deciding not to.  We women have so much more to experience in life than just motherhood, and we have so much more to contribute to the world than our genes.

Ultimately, trying to prevent a woman who wants to terminate her pregnancy from doing so ends up creating more, worse problems with far-reaching consequences for many.  For if we don’t trust that woman to make such a decision for herself, how can we possibly trust her to make the many, many important decisions required to parent?

And making it shameful and frightening for those of us who have had abortions to say it out loud, or talk about it even with close friends and family keeps us isolated as individuals and dishonest as a society.  One in three of us have had at least one abortion.  It’s time to take back the power, speak the truth of our experiences, and reject the shame and guilt others try to make us feel about our lives and decisions!

Here’s to a world where there are only intentional conceptions, joyful pregnancies, wanted babies and loving parents.  Here’s to a future where all lifeforms are cherished and honored as sacred.  Here’s to a day when all women wisely and consciously wield our awesome powers, and are respected for our  decisions.

Until then, may we all be philosophically anti-abortion, fiercely pro-choice, and unapologetically shame-free.

In lak ech,

Jaxsine

Sex and Violence: From New Delhi to Steubenville and Beyond

It’s February. The month of Valentines Day, and the beginning of spring according to some pagan traditions.  Warmth and green are just around the corner, and I’ve been thinking about sex lately.

I’ve been thinking about sex as something I need more of in my life (a story for another post perhaps 🙂 ) but especially since last month’s news of Nirbhaya — the name given to the young woman who was raped on a New Delhi bus and eventually died of her wounds.  When I read them, just these bare facts affected me deeply, partly because of all the horrified questions that came up — how can someone be raped on a bus (which I assumed was moving in New Delhi streets during the day)? Why didn’t anyone do anything? How did the assailant hide what he was doing (although I’ve been on some pretty crowded and anonymous busses in many different places in my life)? Why didn’t the driver do anything, or stop the bus? The whole scenario really rattled my fragile cage of faith in strangers and humanity.

Later, I learned more and gained a more complete picture — the young medical student, and her male companion/date, had accepted a ride on a private “party bus” one evening while making their way home from a movie.  The men on the bus (including the driver) neutralized the male friend, then at least six proceeded to rape Nirbhaya for over an hour while she fought back viciously.  Over an hour.

They also “inserted an iron rod” into her body.

Bullshit! Just writing those words give me chills.  “Inserted”?  I don’t think so!  That’s what I do with a tampon.  These grown men forcefully and repeatedly rammed a metal rod into the woman’s tender vagina so many times, and with such force, that she required mutliple organ transplants and died in Singapore from her wounds.  “Inserted” is not factual.  Why did the news reports consistently downplay the vicious and brutal violence of such an act, making it sound so innocuous and clinical?  Fear of the public’s reaction perhaps? If so, then damn right!

Oh, but there’s more.  After her rape and assault (the men beat them both as well) Nirbhaya and her companion were thrown out of the bus, bloody and naked, where they lay in the road for about an hour waiting for someone to stop and help them (this is crowded India, remember).  And then they waited some more while local law enforcement argued over whose jurisdiction it was.

Just reading this story gave me secondary trauma on so many levels.  I had pictures in my head of the scene, saw her tortured face, heard her screams in my head, watched her fight,  felt her companion’s agony while he watched, saw her lay on the side of the road while passersby hurried on, and heard her heart monitor flatline.

And then the story of Steubenville came out.  Apparently, last summer a group of football players in Ohio took a 16-year-old woman, who was super drunk, from party to party, raping her and taking photos.  One of the teens was widely seen on video making fun of her plight, graphically describing what was done to her, and referring to her as a “dead girl” and that he wouldn’t care and would see her the same way if she were his daughter.

Someone please explain this to me.  I have an excellent imagination and I have seen and heard some terrible things in my life.  But I can’t fathom how a human being can be cruel to another being when that being is helpless, much less clearly demonstrating their pain and horror.  HOW are we capable of such things?  I can imagine myself doing some horrible things to people, but I can’t imagine causing someone to feel agony and terror.

I got an excellent sexual education from my parents when I was younger.  I also learned somewhere that rape is violence, and not about sex.  But that idea always bothered me.  I remember being a college freshman and asking the older Resident Assistant on my dorm floor a question during a workshop on sexual assault.  I wasn’t challenging the information being presented, I wanted clarity.  My question went something like, “If rape is violence, and a man raping a woman is like stabbing her — but with his penis — then why does he use his penis instead of a knife?”

The RA basically brushed off my question, and 25 years later I still don’t have an answer,  except this:

Rape IS about sex.  It’s violence done to another — mostly to women and children — using sex.  It’s about torture and terror in a way that is supposed to deeply traumatize.  It’s about making us afraid and submissive.  It IS about power, but it’s about wielding sex as a weapon of power — perhaps because women’s sexuality is such a powerful force.

This is also why men who are intimidated by a woman’s opinions and intellect threaten her with rape and hurl insults regarding her sexuality.   Google journalists Laurie Penny or Jennifer Gish for some spine-tingling stories.  Men who are intimidated by other men’s opinions and intellects don’t typically threaten to sodomize them to make them suck their dicks.

Men’s violence again women is sexual in nature.  And that’s the case even if he never forces his body into her body — it’s also done with words, suggestions, and less penetrative physical actions.

Few things make me want to do intense violence to people, but stories like Nirbhaya’s and the Steubenville “rape crew” make me want to strap on a load of ammo and take to the streets with two HUGE automatic weapons and a Bowie knife, and just mow men down like grass.  Imagine me as Sarah Connor from T2 … times ten.

I think we need to stop lying.  Rape is about power and violence, but it’s also about sex.  We combine the two all the time.  Just look at the discussions about military women now being able to be in combat (a victory in the middle of a larger tragic narrative, I think).  Check out the SuperBowl this weekend and the statistics on how violence against women goes up during Super Bowl weekends.

As we women continue to come into our power and full potential, we need to be prepared to deal with the reality of men’s fears, and with what we will encounter there.  We need to tell the truth about sex, violence, and rape.

And we need to continue to stand up — all of us, every time — against any words or behaviors that glorify, minimize, or desensitize us to the rape culture we live in.  That includes torture of people and animals, and cruelty of any kind (I personally don’t include wringing a chicken’s neck or slitting a lamb’s throat for food in the same category, but I suppose that’s up for debate 🙂 ).

In the meantime, I will continue to ponder how it’s possible for a human being to cruelly hurt and torture another person or animal that is obviously in pain.  If any of you have the answer, please share.

Or maybe don’t.  Maybe there are shadows best left alone — in the dark.

In lak ech~

Jaxsine

“Do YOU have CHILDREN?!” …adventures in effective communication and childfree travel

I was on a beach in the Caribbean. It was a long-planned, greatly anticipated vacation at the end of a particularly grueling year. The plan was to sleep, read, write, enjoy nature, eat fabulous food prepared by someone else, and contemplate great questions about life, work, and purpose. So far so good. I wasn’t alone on that beach by any means; three cruise ships had docked that morning – one from Disney no less – and instead of reading my book, I was actually preferring to watch a super enthusiastic man growling and splashing about with his super jubilant son (I gathered) and two nephews, all under age five. I’d just returned from an epic snorkeling trip, and the water and salt were slowly evaporating off my contented body as I enjoyed the lingering moment in the sun.

Gradually, I became aware of the family occupying the beach chairs behind me. There seemed to be one woman and a gaggle of children (also under five) whose names I quickly learned because she was constantly admonishing them in a fifties-housewife-on-valium sort of extra-saccharine, extra-restrained voice. This voice was having little effect. Julia in particular seemed to be a handful. I got the sense she was going to do what she pleased, with a younger one, Estela, sometimes following suit. Julia would wander off to the water, or to the boats, just out of danger. Sometimes a boy her age, Leo, was a part of her shenaningans. I saw in their faces not the look of “I’m exploring this fascinating world, being curious and delightful” but rather “Screw you grownups, I’m gonna do whatever the hell I want and you can’t stop me.”

There was also whining and shrieking. Again, shrieks of delight are one thing, shrieks of manipulation and defiance are another.  And the whine of a human child is one of my least favorite sounds on earth.  Shrieks of manipulation and defiance administered in unpredictable bursts at full volume are even lower on the list.

And yet one more startling round of three children shrieking in whiny unison had just burst a few feet behind my head.

What happened next was out of the ordinary for me. Not only had I not given much thought to whether to say anything, what, or how, I somehow reached my limit with no warning, leaned around to look at the family behind my beach chair and communicated the following with an unaccustomed intensity:

“Oh. Come! ON!!”

In retrospect I’m proud of myself for accomplishing three things I’ve been working on: being in the moment, being honest about my feelings, and not thinking too much. But even if I’d thought about it, I wouldn’t have expected what happened next.

The woman – in an equally nasty tone – replied: “Why don’t you just move?!! There are children here!!”

I’m not entirely sure how I responded, but I think I said: “Oh, that’s your solution?!”

Pissed-off mama bear: “What would you like me to do, kill them?!”

Whoa. Even in that moment, I was aware that particular statement was so not about me.  Startled by this infanticidal suggestion, I got some of my sanity back and asked [tone still a bit nasty]: “How about something in the middle?!”

Her reply (so not a response to my statement-disguised-as-a-question): “Do you have children?!!!”

I turned my head back around to face the ocean and shook it in an exasperated “you’re worthless and I’m done having this stupid conversation with you” sort of way.  But it was because I knew she’d just played the mommy card on me and I couldn’t win.

After a few seconds, I thought of something to say: “Whether or not I have children is irrelevant to the fact that yours are being spoiled brats and disruptive to others!!” I also thought of “Yes, there are children here, do you see any of them acting the fool quite like yours?” and “Your children’s need to shriek and whine, and your need to do nothing about it are not more important than my need to have some reasonable peace and quiet on my hard-earned vacation!” I thought of calling her mommy card play and slightly lying: “Yes I do, she’s 34 years old and never acted like yours even on a bad day!” or outright lying and saying, “Yes, and I left them at home since this is not the place for young children, especially misbehaving mini a-holes like yours!”

I also thought of “Why don’t you leave?! You are the ones who are acting inappropriately for this setting!!” or “It’s your job as a grownup to teach your children to be appropriate to the environment and considerate of others!”  (Not too long before I’d lost it, Mama Bear had been pleading with the kids to be quiet since people were getting beachside massages nearby – no joke, and you should have seen the therapists’ faces at one point, watching the performance.) I could have played the classic female you’re-out-of-line-with-the-group-and-I-speak-for-the-mob card and said “Can’t you see you’re ruining the experience for everyone here?!”

But I didn’t say anything, and thankfully the aunt/sister/friend returned, who turned out to be the mother of Julia and Estela, and they calmed down. Mama Bear left to go “check on Baby Alexander” (good grief there were more?).

This episode brought up some things for me as a childfree (childless by choice) person.  First, my anger about the tremendous and unfair entitlement many parents feel, just because they are parents. I understand there may be some biological and hormonal issues at play in their feelings and reactions that I know nothing about, but if I were to have gotten drunk on piña coladas and traipsed up and down the beach shrieking, whining, bothering strangers, touching other people’s things and partially exposing myself too, I would have been asked to leave, and rightly so. As a group we tolerate behavior from children and young people that is inappropriate, and then wonder years later why they’ve grown up feeling so entitled and acting so helpless and selfish (Boomer parents of Gen Yers, are you listening?)

And speaking of the group, the whole idea of the nuclear family is a recent development during just the last few decades of the thousands of years of the human experience, and one we aren’t really built for. The responsibility of raising a child (much less two or three or more) being born by one and maybe two adults alone, is not something we are equipped for, nor do well. We should all play a part in ensuring the safety and appropriate socialization of children and youth because their socialization is critical to us all. I may have decided not to become a parent myself, but I have a vested material interest in your children growing up to be respectful, considerate, mature, contributing individuals. I have stepped in more than once to ensure the physical safety of a child that’s not mine, but not to discipline or ensure emotional safety, because of my well-founded fear of the caretaker’s wrath. [By the way — never doubt that women are capable of aggression, especially when our children are threatened. We would do well to cultivate the same level and immediacy of anger and action when our own person – our bodies, our communities, our planet – are threatened as well.]

I think the way many parents treat their children like their private personal possessions is unhealthy for them and all of us and also unrealistic, since not only do I pay taxes that help support those kids (and vote for pro-kid initiatives by the way), I also pay – and handsomely – for those kids who end up needing public services, prison, or other types of support. I pay in less material ways as well when children and young people grow up being irresponsible, disrespectful, incompetent, poor critical thinkers and self-centered.

So just as “there are children here” doesn’t give permission to those children to behave however they want, it also doesn’t give you, as the adult in charge, permission to flail and beseech helplessly without taking charge, managing the situation, mentoring the younglings and demonstrating leadership.

Along those lines, the second thing this episode brought up for me is my disagreement with the belief that only parents have the right to say anything about how children are acting or being raised. The classic “Do you have children?!” phrase isn’t a question, it’s a challenge to the legitimacy of any concerns I might have about your children’s behavior or your choices as a parent. It’s a trap whose primary purpose is to get me to shut the hell up. If I say “no” I don’t have children, the response is that I therefore can’t possibly understand or know what I’m talking about, and should shut the hell up. But if I say “yes” there would be some other excuse for why I’m unqualified to have an opinion or a say, and should still shut the hell up: “I bet they’re terrors too” or “You probably don’t love them as much as I love mine” or “You probably beat yours to make them mind” or “You raised yours in a different time when it was easier” or “But I have to do this on my own and you have help” or “But I have more than you” or “But you don’t know what it’s like to raise these children.” Blah blah blah.

I get that as a non-parent I don’t understand what it’s like to have my own child. I really don’t know what it’s like to be a mom – all day every day for years on end. But I do have some sense of what it’s like to parent. I had a hand in raising my much-younger sister (the aforementioned 34-year-old), I’ve taken care of kids of various ages off and on for many years, and I’ve had many intimate glimpses into the lives of friends with children. One of the reasons I’m childfree is because I do have a sense of what parenting requires, and I’m not willing to sign up for everything that commitment requires, especially with so many uncertainties a part of the bargain. I believe everyone should give much serious thought to this choice — to taking on one of the most important jobs for humanity — and I feel many millions (billions?) more should bow out as I did instead of throwing their frustrations or shortcomings in meeting their job requirements in the faces of those who said “no thanks”. Empathy enhances connection and broadens perspective, but my complete understanding of what parents go through is not required to have observations, concerns, and requests. Understanding doesn’t equal agreement.

Which brings me to the third item this episode brought up for me. The mommy card play is designed as a trap not only to shut up someone like me, but also to shut down mommy’s insecurities and serve as a righteous “get out of jail free” pass. Mama Bear’s sudden rage and suggestion she kill the kids was coming from a deep place. I suspect her embarrassment and frustration were simmering just under the surface, and my nasty comment just boiled her over by expressing what she felt she couldn’t, in order to remain a good person, a good woman, and a good mommy. Maybe her extra-restrained-extra-saccharine-fifties-housewife-on-valium manner was meant to regulate her own nervous system more than her kids’ behavior. Maybe she was jealous of me — older than her, rocking my bikini, enjoying the sun and some adult beverages unencumbered by anyone else’s antics or whims or schedules. Maybe she dreams of killing her kids and being free, and feels guilty or represses these thoughts. Murder was really nowhere on my mind that day, just a desire for less shrieking. I could have asked for this in a way that was less nasty, more mature, more appropriate, more considerate and more understanding – all the things I wanted from her and her children.

Thankfully, the Universe gave me an opportunity to try again. The very next night, after travelling all day and arriving tired on an island in another part of the Caribbean, there was a bit of revelry going on in the hot tub just outside my bungalow. Normally that was the sort of thing I’d be interested in checking out, but I’d had enough of meeting new people for one day, and my body was weary. I read for a while, and went to bed just before 11, the hour of the B&B’s quiet hours. The party group had left for a while, but were back, and after several minutes trying to sleep despite the noise, I decided to act before I got really frustrated, and thought a little about how to approach this. I opened the sliding door to my bungalow and addressed the six folks in the hot tub in a calm, even voice with something like this:

“I don’t mean to break up anyone’s fun, but it’s past 11 and I’m having trouble sleeping because I can hear you guys even with my door closed. Do you think you might be able to continue your party in a way that can allow me to sleep?”

The group was mildly apologetic, and I heard one quiet “wow.” The group dispersed and I went to sleep easily, putting aside my mild feelings of guilt and false mental scripts about being a party pooper or selfish.

The next morning at breakfast, two women sat down at a table near mine and said hello to the folks at another table, addressing them affectionately as “troublemakers.” Based on this, I assumed they had been part of the hot tub group, since I hadn’t seen their faces last night in the dark. I braced myself for some passive aggressive public shunning. Instead, after I chuckled at something witty and sexy one of the women said regarding the previous night’s events, she addressed me, asking if I was the one who’d asked them to be quiet. I said yes, and that I hoped I hadn’t come across as bitchy, but clear, assertive, and non-violent. She said not at all, said my approach was indeed just that, and actually thanked me!

That night at happy hour, the same pair invited me to join them, and we had a delightful lengthy conversation which continued the next morning at breakfast. I left the B&B later that day having gained two new friends, enriched by their humor and intelligence, inspired by their happy relationship dynamic, and validated by their appreciation. In fact, they told me they had actually debriefed my response to their noise and found it very effective and aligned with their own values and goals.  Wow!!

Sometimes we’re not our best selves. Sometimes we learn from what happens when we’re not. And sometimes we get a do over, and find not only our paths again, but kindred souls on the same journey.

Happy New Year and Happy Blazing New Trails!

In lak ech,

Jaxsine

Wherever you go, there you are … and we’re still here!

So the Great Winter Solstice of 2012 came and went with little more than a sigh, and La Nueva Era (the new era) was celebrated with vigor in New Age circles around the globe (including in spots around Xichén Itzá, a truly fascinating people-watching experience), and much more modestly in the Mayan World.

Wearing my new white hipil, gorgeously embroided by a local Maya woman (and me wondering whether wearing it would even be appropriate) I kicked off the new baktun cycle at a midnight ceremony that was as much Catholic mass as ancient rite, at the ancient Zací cenote (huge sinkhole is the closest translation) in the heart of prehispanic Valladolid, Yucatán.  I and the 100 or so other attendees — Mexicans as well as some young European tourists — got to see flowers and Maya wine (balché) being blessed and offered to the cenote, say about 30 Hail Marys, enjoy Maya ceremonial music and dancing, watch three young men take the high dive into the dark cenote, have some Mayan communion (!) and be sprinkled with holy water and have blessed bougainvilleas thrown at my head and into my lap.

I must admit I’m not surprised there was no Big Huge Deal on Friday, but I must also admit I’m slightly disappointed.  Much in the way I felt hope and some antisocial excitement on the morning of 9/11/01 when I turned on the TV and saw a major US city in smoke and flames, the part of me that sits on Mount Olympus looking down on mortal humans in judgement, mocking their foibles, hoped some mindblowing disaster would strike to get people to wake up and smell some kind of evolutionary coffee — along the lines of “oh yeah?  Well this‘ll teach ya!”

But no such luck, and we are left to face something even more disturbing — ourselves, and the status quo.  So many people (myself included on bad days in the last few months) put a lot of stock in something big happening so “things” would start to change.  And yet here we are.  And I embarked on a long vacation to commune with my Authentic Self, relax, disconnect, and reconnect — things I struggle to do when I’m home.  And yet here I am.

Despite what we tell ourselves, and what clever advertising tells us, going away doesn’t change who we are.  Not by itself anyway.  Like with relationships, we exchange one set of problems for another.  For instance, here in southern Mexico I am no longer freezing like I would be at home, but now I’m dealing with sunburn and nasty mosquitoe bites.  I no longer have to cook for myself multiple times every day, but I do have to spend more money and find someplace to eat that’s tasty and meets my body’s needs — multiple times every day.  Ways that I tend to be anxious or rigid manifest differently when I travel, but they’re still there.

Of course, there is something to be said for a good fit.  Also like relationships, there are certain sets of costs and benefits that suit us better than others.  Being out of my normal comfort zone to some degree, without the normal list of distractions, I can take time to explore and notice things in a different way than I might back home.  I’ve realized for example — after 22 years of traveling! — that my first response to an unfamiliar place is to get oriented and get to know the place physically and geographically as thoroughly and quickly as possible.  I’ve realized that some things that used to delight or intrigue me many years ago now annoy or even anger me.  In some ways I’m only now getting to know the way I’ve always been, and in other ways I’m changing.

One of those changes is that at some point I became middle aged.  I’m now referred to as a señora (Mrs.) much more than I used to be, even though I wear no wedding band and I’m travelling unaccompanied.  I’ve only seen one solo female traveler and she was much younger than me.  The folks my age are in couples and have children in tow.  The adventurous-looking ones are young enough to be my children now and not only are they not interested in me, I’m no longer interested in them!

Not only that, I’ve actually thought more than once that I’m geting too old for this s**t!  Parts of traveling are just no longer recreational for me.  I’m sort of over the excitement of trying to flag down buses on long highways to get back into town, putting up with those long tedious busrides and dubbed B movies blaring in the dark, carrying my entire luggage on my back, washing my panties and t-shirts in the sink, getting blisters from all the walking, and trying to sleep decently in a new place every couple nights.  I’m even having some surprisingly negative thoughts about my Beloved Mexico and shockingly positive ones about USians and foreigners.  Places are even starting to look the same!

What the hell is happening to me? Am I bored?  Am I growing up?  I do seem to be a bit more myself than just my Wise Rugged Diane Fossey/Indiana Jones Lady persona or my Flirtacious Daring Cougar On Vacation persona. But when did I become some boring elitist who just wants to be promenaded around some tropical islands on some ostentatious ecologically disastrous cruise ship, or vegetate on a quiet beach under a crisp white canopy for hours having my drinks and exquisite meals brought to me … and my laundry done and folded, and my massage and whirlpool hottub waiting at the end of the day?

I don’t know, but whether or not it’s true that some kind of broader cosmic/economic/sociopolitical/spiritual Shift is afoot (which I still believe there is, particularly in the U.S.), I definitely feel myself shifting.  While I find myself feeling more more confident and secure than ever in strange places, I also feel the profound pain that my mistrust of people and fear costs me back home.  I notice the little guilt I feel about a few things I’ve done in my life that didn’t align with my word or intentions.  I notice the tremendous shame I feel about things I can’t control — past hurts, traumas, betrayals, and my lifelong challenges with a particular set of psychological health challenges.  I wonder why I am so hard on my body — a body that has given so much and generously supported me, like a horse I’ve run hard over mountains and plains for weeks, day and night, with barely enough food and water.  A body so many women would love to have, and great DNA to boot, and yet I direct nasty thoughts and shame at my thighs and belly, and tolerate excruciating exercises to try to shape and control them.

And I notice how my DNA affects me in other ways.  How I inherited the gift of words, the gift of music, sensitivity and romanticism of my father.  How I inherited the resourcefulness and ingenuity of my mother, as well as her sunny smile and ready laugh in public.  How I inherited brains, humor and great health from both. How I also inherited the bouts of depression of my father, as well as his narcissism and grandiosity, his isolation, his tendency to go up into his head under stress, and his naivete.  And I inherited my mother’s self-doubt, discomfort with her femaleness, resentment, constant doing, ambivalence about people, and sense of not-enoughness.

Wherever I go, there I am. Quitting my toxic job didn’t remove stress or constant work from my life. I am the one not managing my time, maintaining boundaries, saying no, or deciding not to check my iPhone at red lights.  Being single and childfree has not isolated me from loss.  It does free me from certain kinds of loneliness, but even though I’m better friends with Me Myself and I than I’ve ever been, after a week I’m definitely over the novelty of traveling alone.

It can be an advantage to grow up in a family where you’ve been taught you’re different.  I’ve been much more apt to take certain kinds of risks and take certain kinds of stands, especially as a female, than I would had I been taught to fit in and be “normal” (not that I didn’t desperately want to, but just couldn’t seem to).  But it also has its price.  42-year-old women don’t typically travel alone, nor have tattoos on their forearms or a nostril piercing.  As I try to connect and fit in, while constantly discovering and manifesting Me, I sometimes make choices that marginalize me.

And yet the ability to do such things — much less have the time to ponder and reflect on them — is a result of my tremendous privilege.  I have a life — partially by design, partially by circumstance — that affords me more freedom of thought, time, experience and movement than women have ever had.  My days are not taken up by the frenetic tasks of routine or necessity — the spouse, the children, the shopping, the cooking, the washing, the cleaning, the organizing or chauffeuring.  Or such services provided to other families.  Or the ordered, quiet life of a nun/priestess or duty-bound tedium of a royal.  I get to think about things most of us don’t think about.

Whether or not I should is perhaps another question.  It’s not fun to stare your life in its face, especially as it ages.  I’m also aware of a sort of pressure of expectations I tell myself is coming from others.  I get to go off on these adventures that others get excited about and experience vicariously through my photos and stories.  I therefore feel obliged to have a screamingly fabulous time, or experience some life changing realization.  Maybe this would make the trip worth it.  Maybe this would make it worth it for others at least, and justify the fact that they can neither go away nor have these realizations.  Imagine if Columbus or Marco Polo or Lewis & Clark came back from their epic journeys with a mere shrug and “meh!” to show for their adventures.  Not acceptable!

But as I become less of an extremist, I hope to allow some osmosis to occur among the various facets of my life.  Instead of mad long bouts of frenzied working punctuated with sparse periods of complete catatonic sloth, perhaps I can enjoy a dose of each every day?  Perhaps I can become more realistic about the miracles and joys and struggles and annoyances — of every day no matter where I am and what I’m doing?  Maybe I can learn to let my shame go, feel less fear, more vulnerability, more trust, and more joy?  Maybe I can learn to love my body and my life, regardless of what it’s doing, facing the reality that the losses will continue to increase and the control will continue to decrease if I allow myself to go gently and gracefully?

Because ultimately al fin de cuentas — in the end — wherever you go, and whenever you go, there you are.

[Epilogue: The above was written on December 22nd, and on December 23rd I spent most of the day with a twenty-year-old discovering an amazing ancient site together, and talking about a variety of subjects.  Not only was he delightful, he seemed to be enjoying himself with me as well!  More lovely people and animals have been crossing my path in the last two days.  There’s nothing like connection — however fleeting — to inject perspective, meaning, hope and contentment into my ongoing dialogue with myself. What’s your experience with this? Do people take us out of our heads in a good way, or are they mere distractions from necessary personal work? 🙂 ]

In lak ech,

Jaxsine

The End … and the Beginning …

I would be remiss to not post on 12-21-12, given that the title of my blog is Evolving 2012.  So hello from Valladolid, Yucatán, México and the heart of the “mundo maya”– the Mayan World! And Happy Solstice!

You may or may not be aware that the Maya never disappeared from this land.  In fact, there are more living right now than at the height of the “Classic” period over 1000 years ago.  I was reminded of this yesterday as I roamed the streets of Valladolid.  I heard some form of Maya being spoken in the street almost as often as Spanish.  Few of the men are my height — I’m 5’5″ — and the women are shorter than the men.  A large percentage of those women — especially in their 30s and over — were wearing hipiles (seems the spelling is no longer “huipiles”)  as they went about their day, and not just selling items to tourists, but also picking up kids from school and taking care of cell phone business at the Telcel office! Of course there were also a number wearing tops and short pants — or four-inch stilettos and skinny jeans! — and the men dressed in anything from guayaberas and dark pants to (for the younger ones) long shorts and t-shirts like in any U.S. city.  The difference is that — with startling frequency — the brown faces above the outfits look like they could have jumped right off a carved stone relief at Chichén Itzá or Palenque carved centuries ago.

Even many of the Spanish speakers speak Spanish with an “accent” similar to the “accent” that many “Indians” back home in the U.S. have when speaking English.  Sounds made in Mayan languages seem more similar to sounds in the Diné (Navajo) and Pueblo languages spoken in my home of New Mexico than English.  And I was reminded there are more pan continental similarities.  The music full of drums and flutes and various percussion instruments made from natural materials.  The foods, based on corn and various local meats and local plants.  And the ceremonies, honoring life’s transitions, the circle, the cycle of life, the community, sharing, and taking a moment to appreciate and ask for help.

I got to witness such a ceremony last night in the main plaza — “hetz mek.” Done for male babies at 4 months and female babies at 3 months, the family members go around the table 13 times for boys, 9 times for girls, say prayers (from what I gathered) to desire a straight path in life for the child, and then share various foods.  I was offered some pepitas, some kind of thick tortilla, and a honey based sweet.  There was a little boy in the ceremony, but the purpose was also symbolic.  It was a ceremony for a new era, for baby humanity, for the Shift.

And it was a part of a week-long “festival de la cultura maya“(Festival of Maya Culture) which goes through Sunday.  I guess the Maya don’t expect the world to end.

All kidding aside about the end of the world happening today, the mood around today’s historic solstice is decidedly anticlimactic.  In a culture that has been around for thousands of years and lives in a cyclical reality, it’s only the linear gringos who seem to fear we’re falling off some kind of cliff (fiscal or otherwise!).

In fact, in quintessential Mexican tongue-in-cheek, creatively-capitalizing-on-the-moment, laughing-at-death, living-in-the-now fashion, the only signs I saw that anything might be different this December were literally written on the walls.  It’s significant that these walls were in Playa del Carmen (a very touristy area) and that the writing is in English.

Here’s one, advertising a cool “Day Zero” concert festival on the 21st (mostly techno music I gather):

Playa del Carmen, Mexico, 12-18-12.

And another:

023

This “Time and Space 2012 Countdown Festival” boasts 3 days, 90 artists (more techno it seems), 48 hours of nonstop music on 2 stages in Tulúm and live painting by metaphysical artist Alex Gray:

Time and Space 2012 Countdown

Here were some cool t-shirts for sale (the top one says “awakening” and “awareness” …

024

…and a festive holiday wish:

Happy New Age

In all of Valldolid, there was no reference to the Solstice (I actually had to ask around about events!) other than this one low-key sign in the Valladolid bus station, in Spanish:

ADO Valldolid

Its headline is “We’ll take you even to the end of the world” and announces extra buses between Valladolid and Chichén Itzá (which is being spelled “Xichén” more often now).

Speaking of which, as you read this I am on my way to Xichén to hang out with 5,000 to 200,000 (yes, that is the range of estimates) of folks, mostly foreigners I’m guessing (although I don’t know where they’re hiding because Valladolid — the closest town/city to Xichén — is definitely not teeming with tourists nor feeling like a woo-woo mecca nor a party waiting to happen nor a hippie hang out nor a doomsday hideout).

I’m not sure what today holds.  I don’t know if it’s true that we will be experiencing a celestial alignment that happens every 584, 283 years.  I don’t know if the aliens are going to land.  I don’t know if the world financial system or the U.S. government are going to collapse.  I can tell you with some certainty that the sun will continue to rise, a 5200-year cycle of time predicted by one of the most advanced civilizations of its time will end, and it is the Solstice — the darkest day of the year, which also signifies the return of the light.

That’s my favorite part of the Winter Solstice – the darkest day is the return of the light.  This is so profound and hopeful.  I prefer the pagan seasonal calendar which marks the seasons on cross-quarters, which means winter began in early November and ends in early February.  If you pay attention to the sunlight, the weather, and plant cycles, this actually makes more sense than the idea winter starts today.  [Although you wouldn’t know it’s winter at all here in the Yucatán with its 80+ degree heat, intense sunlight, humidity and mosquitoes!]

Regardless of what does or doesn’t happen, or what is supposed to happen or should, I see today as the Return of the Light — and possibly a brighter one than in Winter Solstices past.  I will be taking my own prayers and others’, and a few special objects (one of which was entrusted to me) to Xichén tomorrow.  I will express gratitude for all the blessings of life, for the learnings of 2012, and for this opportunity for humanity to grow, learn, and progress in a way that brings us back to our humanity, to love, to our femininity, to our collective caring for each other and other lifeforms, and to the earth.

In Lak Ech — tú eres mi otro yo — you are my other me…

2012 and beyond!

~Jaxsine

Sense and Sensibility: The Newtown Massacre

It’s happened again.  For the second time in a year, I’m blogging about a mass shooting.  For the fourth time in his presidency, Obama travelled today to a city to grieve with families after another bout of senseless violence.

And I am weary of hearing these incidents referred to as “senseless”.  From the principal of Columbine High School to the prime minister of Australia to news anchors and my Facebook friends, one of the most common words I hear is “senseless.”  But to me, it makes perfect sense.

In fact, I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often.  When you take a society that values money and material things over people and relationships, add social isolation and lack of true community (like Adam Lanza’s upscale neighborhood where he occupied two bedrooms in his mother’s spacious home and some neighbors didn’t even know them), leave out critical education about mental and emotional health (as well as resources to identify and treat those with these challenges), leave out education about healthy communciation and anger/conflict management, and add a healthy dose of easy access to guns, you have situations like Newtown waiting to happen all over this country — a country where there are as many guns as people (300 million) and, compared to most other industrialized countries, a very high percentage of people experiencing mental and emotional illness, excess stress levels, and a lack of healthy coping skills or social support.

This is not meant as an indictment of the Lanza family or of Newtown, but a plea for us to look at the bigger picture,  We are all connected.  We can’t tolerate institutions that oppress and dehumanize us; an industrialized food system that not only does not nourish us but addicts our minds and weakens our bodies; a prison-industrial complex larger than any in the world; forms of entertainment that dehumanize us; a lifestyle that disconnects us from the earth, other lifeforms and spirit; a general disregard for the needs of women and children; a general lack of purpose, meaning, and love … and expect there to be no consequences.

Newtown is one of many consequences.

I’m grateful that this time around, there seems to be less usage of the word “evil” to describe these murders, as I decried in my post about the Aurora shooting, despite the fact that most of the Newtown dead were six-year-olds.  I can’t even imagine the horror of such a thing for a parent.

And yet we still need a responsibility check.  It’s not useful to decry such violence as senseless or incomprehensible, because it is neither.  Doing so absolves us of any responsibility, and makes us believe we are powerless.  We are not powerless.  The “society” we rail against is not an entity outside of us — it is something we each create each day with the jobs we choose to work in, the decisions we make, where we spend our money, what we eat, how we speak and think, and how we treat each other and ourselves.

And calling Adam Lanza — or James Holmes or any of the other recent perpetrators — “crazed” is also inaccurate and feeds into this kind of helpless thinking.  The folks who perpetrate these murders — who are typically young males, usually White — are methodical and deliberate, and take months to plan their attacks.  According to Jack Levin, a well-known professor of sociology and criminology, they don’t “go off” or “snap.”  What they do have is a sense of their problems being caused by other people — they blame everyone but themselves.  They too see themselves as powerless and unresponsible.

Levin also challenges the notion that these events are increasing.  On NPR the other day, he said that there are about 20 such mass murders per decade, with about 150 total victims.  In the meantime, he points out that there are about 15,000 individual homicides — per year.   However, Connecticut Senator John Larson said today that of the 12 worst mass shootings in our history, half have occurred in the last 5 years.

Regardless of who’s right, it seems most people feel things are coming to a head.  And solutions are already being proposed.  Paul Bennett, author of Glock: Rise of America’s Gun, said today that two short term solutions are (a) greater security in public places, and (b) better support and resources for people with mental and emotional illness.  Others are using Newtown to bolster the argument for gun control — I’ve already seen a couple online petitions to this effect.

And while gun control would certainly be a sane approach to the insane ease with which people can access deadly firearms in the U.S., it’s not the solution.  Guns are still tools used by people, and while limiting access can minimize the damage (there was an incident at a school in China on the same day as Newtown, and while the perpetrator, a man in his 30s, stabbed 22 children, none of them died), it doesn’t solve the problem of hurt people hurting people, and the epidemic of walking wounded in the U.S. and the world at large.

Much like I argued in my “Aurora, Anger, and Evil” post, the drama of the latest episode of mass violence in all its technicolor drama often obscures larger, more sinister problems and a bigger context.  It’s a symptom, not the problem per se.

Perhaps it’s helpful to think and talk about what is working.  Be humble and reflect on how there but for the grace of God go we.  How many of us, when we are being fully honest and self-aware, can’t think of a time we wouldn’t have liked to take out a bunch of fellow humans with an uzi?  Or take our own hopeless, miserable lives in some dramatic way?  Or feel like everything is someone else’s fault and someone has got to pay?

My hand goes up on all three of those.  It’s profound to think about the little things that stood in the way of me actually doing damage to others or myself in those moments.  Perhaps we can learn from this and not stop at celebrating the heroes of incidents like Newtown, like Dawn Hochsprung and Victoria Soto, but also try empathizing with and mourning the broken souls of young men like Adam Lanza.

We should grieve.  We should rage.  But we should NOT hide behind “hugging our children tighter” or stop our examination of the situation as “senseless” as if it were random and outside of our power.  The bigger context is that we need to see and own our power, and therefore our responsibility.

Lately I keep coming back to the Marianne Williamson quote: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.”  I think owning our own power, and all that entails, is one of the invitations and challenges of humanity as we move farther into the shift.

I’m heartened that President Obama, and others, are talking about “meaningful action”.  I’m glad he said tonight in Newtown that we will have to change.   I’m grateful that he said,

“Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose? I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days … If we’re honest without ourselves, the answer is no. And we will have to change.”

He continued:

 “Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage, that the politics are too hard?”

And this, to me, is the key.  We are not powerless.   This violence isn’t senseless.  It isn’t incomprehensible.  In fact, it is in the comprehending, and in the activation of  our sensibilities — emotional capacity, responsiveness, and consciousness —  that we can make sense of this heartwrenching tragedy and take meaningful action in such a way that we take powerful responsibility for ourselves, those around us, our communities, and the “society” and country we all co-create, every day.

Que en paz descansen los muertos de Newtown y que duermen con los angelitos los sobrevivientes.

In lak ech.

Jaxsine

 

The real reason a vote for Obama is a vote for a better future

I voted over a week ago, and I voted for Obama.  You may think you know why, but you might be wrong.

Obama’s 2008 campaign for president was the first time I became active in a campaign.  I actually made cold phone calls from the headquarters here in town, and canvassed neighborhoods months before the election — alone.  I was energized by the potential Obama embodied — of creating structural changes in our country on a wave of tremendous popular support.  I was inspired by the profound significance of having an African American family in the White House.  The night of the election results, I celebrated with hundreds of strangers, exchanging hugs and tears ina ballroom where we watching history unfold.  There was elation in the street as well, which I enjoyed as I drove home.  Two months later, I watched the inauguration on TV and about lost it when Barack and Michelle danced to “At Last” sung live by Queen Beyoncé herself.

Like so many, I felt like I was finally a part of something great.  I was ready to get to work.  I was ready to receive my orders.  But none came.

Today in 2012, I am somewhat disillusioned with Obama, but less than many progressives.  I was concerned in the months leading up to Obama’s election that too many progressives viewed him as The Messiah.  I had a feeling that pedestal-pushing was going to backfire.  Like a love affair with someone who can do no wrong often ends in hatred, I saw and heard many progressives express almost as much disgust with Obama in the months following his inauguration as they had expressed toward John McCain in the months prior.  Damning McCain and exalting Obama never were healthy approaches to the real problems facing us, since this sort of good-and-evil rhetoric does the convenient job of excusing us from any responsibility.  More on that later.

There are things that Obama has done that I’m not happy with.  More undocumented immigrants have been deported on his watch than any other.  Drone strikes in the Middle East have become commonplace.  He has done nothing to roll back the excessive powers Bush placed in the Executive Branch.  He put banker Timothy Geithner in charge of reforming Wall Street, which is like putting a McDonald’s executive in charge of reforming our food industry.  He hasn’t taken advantage of key opportunities to bring up race or racism (see Ta-Nehisi Coates’s  excellent piece in The Atlantic). We continue to rapidly devolve into a Surveillance State with limited freedom and privacy (see Glenn Greewald’s writings and videos on this topic). We went into Pakistan, murdered Osama bin Laden in front of his wife, shamefully dumped his body in the sea, then celebrated our behavior as if such barbary were the righteous way to respond to the tragedy of 9/11.

But I still voted for Obama last week.  Not because his worldview and life experience is much more closely aligned with mine (and most of the country’s) than Romney’s.  Not because his Christianity threatens my rights and values less than Romney’s Mormonism.  Not because my access to contraception and abortion remain safe with him and Biden.  Not because he seems to genuinely care about the well-being of most people in the country.  Not because Europeans overhwelming favor Obama over Romney.  Not because he and Biden came out in favor of marriage equality.  Not because he allowed young, undocumented DREAMers to pursue their education unmolested.  Not because of the benefits I’m already enjoying under Healthcare Reform, or the promise of a slightly reduced unemployment rate.

All of these things definitely matter to me.  But the main reason I voted for Obama is the main reasons I voted for him in 2008.  He is the best person to most gently guide our nation into its decline.

Empires fall, and so will ours.  It already is.  For evidence, you need only look at our declining wages, declining health, declining standard of living, declining quality of products (clothing is where I see this the most), declining level of critical thinking and engagement, declining infrastructure, and declining institutions (educational, financial, healthcare, and political).  In fact, we’ve been able to prop up our economy for a few years with stopgap measures like the stimulus and auto and bank bailouts (funny how we decry socialism and then engage in socialism when capitalism leads to inevitable failures!).  But these only keep the illusion alive.

The truth is that our nation’s status quo is unsustainable.  Our level of consumption is outrageous and immoral (we’d need 6 more planets if every human consumed like the average American).  Our level of inequality is socially unstable.  Like Katrina, Hurricane Sandy once again uncovered the staggering inequities that we nonchalantly take for granted in this country.   The top fifth of New Yorkers makes 40 times more than the bottom fifth — a gap that’s not only growing, but rivaled only by a few developing nations in sub-Saharan Africa.

We keep wailing at our government to provide us with more jobs.  There are two problems with this.  One, there are less jobs today thanks to technology and outsourcing to locales where workers are not only cheaper, but often more competent than we are.  Two, we are expecting government to solve a problem for us, even when it means “creating jobs” at the expenses of the environment or any sustainable model of economic development.  We shouldn’t be struggling to revive a defective economy focusing only on growth and GDP, but create a new economy entirely, based on what Gus Speth calls “people, place and planet” in America the Possible.

I am no Libertarian.  Government is important and essential to do for us collectively what we cannot do ourselves.  But we’ve forgotten that we own the government — or we’re supposed to — and we have become lazy and complacent in solving our own problems creatively, in community.

Elected officials are always trying to get elected or hold onto their seats, so no politician is going to come clean with the U.S. public and say “look, we’re an empire in decline, there are no more jobs, we can’t keep consuming the way we have much less base our economy on our levels of consumption.  So let’s figure out a new game plan together.” Can you imagine?!

Actually, I can, which is why I’m more in alignment with the Justice Party or the Green Party.  However, I still voted for Obama because the risk of a Romney presidency is too great, and that risk is real if too many of us vote for “third parties” — here’s one perspective on that topic from LA Progressive.   The gross inequalities in France and the conspicuous consumption of its ruling elite right before the French Revolution keep coming to my mind these days — maybe because Les Miz is hitting the big screen this winter (coincidence or serendipity?) but also becuse I see parallels with the U.S. today.  A Romney presidency might push the rest of us 99% right over the ledge of complacency into all-out mutiny and revolution.

And maybe that would be the upside of a Romney election.  The potential of an Obama re-election is continued complacency among progressives.  In his brilliant piece on the “Empire State of Mind” that has shaped even Obama’s presidency — in which the super wealthy see themselves as super entitled and persecuted, and the rest of us accommodate, admire, and want to emulate them  — Imara Jones talks about the danger of the fantasy world all of us live in regarding wealth, and the danger this poses to democracy and our society.  He wonders if we’re ready to reconnect with reality, and so do I.

Still, Obama is the best person to continue to lower us gently into a decline that doesn’t have to lead to complete collapse or total destruction.  There are a few reasons I believe this, which have everything to do with the kind of person I believe Obama to be, and less about his policies.  First, everything I’ve read about Obama suggests a real person who is brilliant, willing to be vulnerable, genuinely caring, and even tempered  (see Michael Lewis’s recent Vanity Fair piece as an example).  Second, I believe Obama is in touch with his feminine side, witness his relationship and frequent mention of his two daughters, his relationship with his strong wife, and his politeness in the first presidential debate and respectful demeanor towards the moderators in all three (penis sword fighting with Romney in the second and third debates notwithstanding).

Third, Obama, and his family, are more similar in looks, life experience, and philosophy with the majority of the Earth, the majority of the U.S., and the future of both.  This can, and will, help ease our transition to being a participant in the world than its overlord.

This isn’t an easy transition for anyone to lead.  In fact, a recent study found negative attitudes towards African Americans — both implicit and explicit — are higher now than in 2008, and now held by a majority of U.S.ians (take that, “post-racial society” believers!).  Obama’s race is estimated to have cost him up to 5 percentage points in 2008.  But the fortitude, integrity and stamina required to face real, daily struggles of race, class, and privilege are the qualities we need in a leader.

My hope is that Obama’s second term is characterized by more boldness and real change.  Unencumbered by the need to campaign for a second term and forged in the fire of one, he may become the Democrats’ Reagan, as Andrew Sullivan outlined nicely in Newsweek.  My hope is also that more of us average Janes, Joes, Juanas, Josés, Jamals and Jamilas will wake up, hold Obama accountable to move real change forward, and take greater personal responsibility for embodying those changes and moving them forward in our lives, families, communities, and institutions.

Some of those changes might start with caps on campaign spending (imagine how those two billion dollars might have been better spent!) and reform of where those dollars come from.  From there, a reform of voter identification and where, when, and how we can vote.  A complete revolution of our consumption-and-inequality-based financial system starting with the repeal of Citizens United v. FEC.  An overhaul in the tax structure.  A huge increase in the minimum wage.  More collective bargaining and unions.  A complete revolution in quality education for all, and free healthcare for all.  A complete revolution in how we power and fuel our machines, and how we feed our bodies.  A reduction in the power of the executive branch and the level of surveillance in our lives.  A movement towards racial equity and reparations for Native American nations.  Full equality in pay and democratic representation for women in all spheres.  A lack of tolerance for violence against women and children.   Access to birth control and abortion at all times to everyone.  Marriage quality for all.  A commitment to integrity, people-centered values and community over profit and competition.  And a reasonably-sized lifestyle for everyone.

It IS possible, and only WE can make this happen — together.  No one is coming to save us from ourselves.

So VOTE!  And when you do, vote for people, place, and planet … not profit, plutocracy and powerlessness.  And regardless of the outcome of tomorrow’s election, continue every day after November 6th to stand up for people, place, and planet in your words, decisions, actions, and purchases.

Ometéotl!

~Jaxsine

On Wisdom and Uncertainty

A week ago I spoke at a conference where I anticipated running into some employees of my former organization — employees who used to report to me.  I was nervous about this, because I hadn’t been allowed to say goodbye to them properly before I left, and I didn’t know what they might have been told.  I figured some of them might be angry with me — some perhaps justified, others not.  I fear people being angry with me.

I went prepared to be professional and stay in the moment for whatever showed up.  I was pleasantly surprised that two of them ran up to me during the informal breakfast meeting to say hello.  One of these was no surprise, but the other…?  I had no reason to believe she lacked affection or respect for me, but she certainly wasn’t one I imagined would run up to me during a breakfast meeting to say hi!  I accompanied them to the large, round table where the rest of my former staff sat.  I was relaxed and met their kind, energetic gazes with the same.  I felt genuinely happy to see their bright faces, and hear them doing well.  I spent a moment with each one, reconnecting, complimenting and catching up.  I’d almost gotten to the end of the table when the last two got up and excused themselves.

Frankly, that wasn’t entirely a surprise, not from those two.  They were both excellent at their work, but had had some conflicts with others and with me.  Employee A had been aggressive with her coworkers, conniving, occasionally inappropriate, and an outright liar.  I had worked hard on our relationship, exerted effort to constantly question my interpretations of her behavior, and strove to openly dialogue with her, actively problem solve with her, and get her to consider other points of view.  I thought we’d made headway.  Employee C had been very cool and inaccessible at first, but after a few months seemed to warm up and trust me.  She was even friendly at times, and once brought a situation to my attention that painted her in an unflattering light.  She owned a mistake and allowed herself to be vulnerable with me when she could have easily chosen not to.

Seeing the way these two literally walked away from any contact with me hurt my feelings to an extent that it bothered me.  This caused me to wonder — Why did it bother me so?  Why was I angry?  What was I holding onto, or feeling insecure about?

I realized I felt like a fool.  I had given these ladies the benefit of the doubt, listened to them, shown willingness to question myself and consider other possibilities, engage with them, meet with them where they were, and treat them with respect and dignity.  They had not done the same.  I felt like a fool for trusting them, and for believing they could be different.

I felt like I’d known the truth from the get-go and didn’t listen.  Instinctually I’d suspected Employee A was bad news — dishonest, inauthentic, and backstabbing.  I suspected Employee C was possibly manipulative and a holder of grudges.  I was angry — with myself — for doubting my intuition and initial impressions.  Even though I will never know for sure how these two women really “are”, what they really think or feel about me, or whether their behavior has anything to do with me at all — I was angry at myself for being proven “right” about them in the end, and wasting all that time and energy trying to engage them.  My virtuous self-doubt had not been rewarded!

In my work, I believe — and teach others — that “instinct” and “intuition” are often constructed from falsehoods and impressions that say more about us than anything else.  However, as I get older, I think I’m learning what wisdom means, and I think instinct and intuition play a role.  Wisdom is a knowing that comes from experience.  It’s also a knowing that lives in the body and heart, not the mind.  The insights and sensations I experienced when my mother died suddenly, and when my beloved “baby” sister got married, went beyond any prior intellectual understanding of those events.

Throught the experience of events like death and rites of passage, wisdom can connect us in a new way with the broader experience of humanity — or a large segment of humanity like other women, in my case.  But I believe wisdom can also bestow us with a form of precognition.  We see the beginning of a story and already know how it’s going to end.

A dear friend once described it to me this way:

There is a hole in the sidewalk.  First, you don’t see the hole, you fall in, react with fear and bewilderment and frustration, you finally climb out.  Second, you’re walking down the same street, you don’t see the hole, you fall in, react with fear, etc., but get out faster.  Third, you go down same street, you don’t see the hole, you fall in, then say, hey, I’ve been here before, there’s no fear, bewilderment, or frustration, you just quickly get out.  Fourth, going down same street, you see the hole, you fall in anyway, but you get out right away.  Fifth, you see the hole and go around it.  Sixth, you completely avoid the hole by crossing to the other side of the street.  Seventh, you go down a different street.

This wisdom can be very useful. For me it’s most honed in my ability to determine whether or not a man is a good match for me.  This story has started and ended so many times in my life over the last 30 years that my clarity itself can be intimidating to menfolk! 🙂  But this wisdom allows me to be more efficient, more effective, more authentic, more fulfilled, saner, and safer when it comes to dating and romantic relationships.  Wisdom helps me eliminate doubts that used to drive me crazy or lead to injury.  Now I simply avoid the hole or go down an entirely different street.

At the same time, there is an important body of knowledge, including in my own professional work, suggesting that doubt is an important ingredient in boosting self-confidence, opening minds, experiencing intimacy, enriching spirituality, and even having breakthroughs in business.  Jonathan Fields talks at length in his book Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance about how uncertainty is not only normal, it’s necessary for creativity and following your passion (and Lord knows we need more of both!).  He offers concrete ways to face and harness the Terror of the Unknown (my words and emphasis) to transport us to completely new realms of possibility and success.

In the July/August edition of the very cool Ode Magazine, Diana Rico authored an excellent piece called “Sure Enough”, which examines doubt — including its dark side and some of the brain science behind it.   She cites research demonstrating that when we hear statements that contradict our ethical beliefs, we react (to any doubts) within .25 seconds, and almost instantly stop listening.  She describes a study by Gal & Rucker (2010) which found that individuals who were injected with doubt became even fiercer advocates for their beliefs “as if they now had to try to convince themselves as well as others.”

To me this is an excellent reminder that much of the intense and polarized political rhetoric going on in our media, our various governing bodies, and our homes is a good sign.  It’s a mere backlash against the inexorable movement of history forward into greater equality, freedom, justice and higher evolution.  It’s the violent death throes of the ancient paradigms of “me first” and “you are not me” and “power over.”  If r/evolutionaries were not experiencing vehement opposition, it would mean real change was not taking place.  The loud, angry voices are just roadblocks erected by the fearful, trying to resist the tidal movement of a shift in consciousness.

Rico also talks about the light side of doubt — its benefits.  She cites the number of incarecerated people — disproportionately people of color and the young  — who have been exonerated of the crimes for which they were convicted, due to new DNA testing methods (and yet police and prosecutors insist they were right anyway!).  She examines the role that doubting what we think we can or cannot do or endure can lead us to tremendous breakthroughs and bursts of self-confidence.

Undoubtedly then 🙂 , injecting doubt into our lives and thoughts can lead to positive breakthroughs, realizations and achievements.  It can lead to truth and justice.  But it also triggers deep fears and defenses.  I think I understand better now why this is.

I’ve spent most of my life doubting.  I’ve made it a practice to constantly question.  “But how does the communion wafer turn into Jesus’s body in my mouth?” “How is rape only about power if it involves sex and penises?” “Do these pro-Affirmative Action people have an idea I should take seriously that is also fair?”  I’ve made it a practice to also give people the benefit of the — er — doubt: “Maybe he didn’t mean to hurt me, and is just damaged and doesn’t know better.”  “Maybe this time it will be different and she’ll do what she says.” “Maybe if I hang in there at this job people will change and things will get better.”

But doubt is exhausting.  It’s mentally and emotionally draining, especially for someone whose personality needs some degree or order, clarity, and an eventual decision.  Living in the ambiguity of a question is a limbo few of us can tolerate for long.  Besides, doubting and questions can lead to answers that can rock our entire worlds — the very foundation of our identities and lives!  Here are some of the ones I’m dealing with right now: “What do I do for exercise and meditation if I can no longer run (like I have for the last 30 years)?” “Who am I if my real purpose is not to be a world problem-solver and people-fixer?” “What can I do for work that doesn’t spring from the need to heal my own wounding?”

You know, little questions like those! 🙂

I feel empowered by my new wisdom — by the fact that often times I can see clearly into the future, a situation, or a person without spending hours mulling or months gathering data.  I think after 42 years of experience I have earned the right.  And yet I must hold this “wisdom” lightly.  As with most things, balance is the key.  For if I retreat into complete “knowingness” about everything, not only do I choke off invisible possibilities and opportunities for miracles, I constrict my life — and that of those around me.

So my recipe for today is:

  1. doubt in manageable doses, and
  2. wisdom with a grain of salt

What’s yours?

In lak ech,

~Jaxsine~