Arn't I A Woman?: Top 10 Lessons I Learned in 2013: Part 2



Dec 28, 2013

Top 10 Lessons I Learned in 2013: Part 2

I really wanted to end the year on a great note. I wanted to tie up all these neat lessons I learned in a fancy, sparkly bow and gift it to myself to illustrate all my growth and success. A tangible, measurable growth that I would put up on my shelf with forgotten teddy bears and hoarded gold medals to gather dust in eternity, readily available for me to take down and proudly show off at any moment. 

I wanted to dust the leftover fragments of inadequacy under the rug and produce a bright shiny new version of myself. Not a new me just a better one, I wanted to turn myself inside out and give the world the best of me. But how often we get trapped in the cobwebs of our minds. 

It's as if someone stuck a bunch of magnets to the backs of tiny particles of stress and they are forcibly attracted to a strip inside my brain. They are all stuck there. The truth is I am going back down, down the rabbit hole....I won't know what's on the other side til I get there. 

I am determined to forge ahead as a warrior though I am afraid. Because I am "upside down, inside out" (quoting the goddess Diana Ross of course here) right now, this post is slightly different from my first: each lesson takes the form of a quote from someone who has influenced me this year. This is an attempt to practice gratitude through identifying some of the amazing minds I have connected with; a way to remember that I owe so many thanks to other people for giving me dynamic conversations, thoughtful words, and have washed me in love when I wasn't able to myself. Here is the conclusion of the top ten lessons I learned this year:

6."You have to become what you are judged as being." (Laura)

The best thing about activism is that it is a great way to connect with like-minded people, and that can be a huge success for someone who inhabits islands of isolation. It’s a special friendship not birthed through drunken shenanigans or social pretext, but rather through the swapping and trading of the most important bits and pieces of your souls. I met Laura this year through a mutual friend and she sent me a great article called “Feminist Killjoys (And Other Willful Subjects).” This is just one of many great ideas contained within its text. I wanted to include this because after reading that line I literally threw up my hands and just shook my head in disbelief at the gravity of comprehending such a statement. Like, YES. I’m all about contradictions man, and this “life paradox” is a great example of such. I think it means so many things. It’s exposure therapy. You must conquer what you fear. For me, I am terrified of being judged and abandoned, and I’ll always have these fears until I experience them and survive them. I have to be abandoned, I have to be judged for me to diminish its terrifyingly tight grip over my throat. It chokes me like a smoke-filled room.  To conquer something means to rob it of its power, hence the idiom "conquer your fear"- so by becoming the judgement, we can diminish the power it holds over us. Basically look up the last battle scene of 8 Mile and you'll get it. 

7. "Monsters exist based on the belief that we will let them hurt us." (Kat)

This is a great segue from 6: I've learned a lot about taking back your own agency through feminism this year.  I work with Kat and we have bonded through our mutual distaste for people. She said this at work the other day, and it just sort of shot quickly through me and I'm still processing it; I love when  people are just talking but they are speaking stream of consciousness poetry, like without trying. When someone strings together a necklace of words that are too beautiful to simply call a "sentence", we must refer to it as poetry. Anyways, both 6-7 are touching on the idea of victimization; participating in it, defining your own agency against the forces that oppress you, and reconciling that we can and are disproportionately affected by manipulative systems outside of our control. People will take advantage of you if you let them. In a political context, systems will continue to manipulate us; the media will continue to force feed us images of  the perfect body and we will never achieve freedom if we continue to believe that these "monsters" are too powerful to fight against. They aren't. What we must fight against is that idea in our minds that we can't change the world. The people that are telling you you can't change the world are doing that because they don't want anything changed. 

8. "When you have intersecting marginalization, to whom do you turn to for advocacy and support for equality?" (Danyelle)

That's my girl Danyelle, blowing your mind right now. This chick is bananas smart, and funny to boot. We were in the same program at GSU together. She always called me "Black White Girl" accompanied by a smile so warm it would light up even the darkest of hearts- and a little light cackling.We were chatting online about the differences between feminism and womanism and she dropped this on me. My response: "Um, whoa. I'm gonna go think about that for 4 years." 
"Intersection" is an idea that has been around in different forms forever, but is gaining traction as its theory ripples from the academic world through the internet and into homes. This is great, but we need to be following up with more definite answers to questions like these. Can we create more sustainable social support systems that acknowledge and cater to a broader, wider, and more inclusive range of peoples? 

9.  "Avoid being a person who is never full."
(Amy Poehler/Lindsay) 

I was talking with my boss Lindsay and she said something along the lines of "you have to stop looking to be filled up from other things" and I wanted to couple that with this great Amy Poehler quote: "Rooting for other people's failure does get in the way of your success. And, you want to try and avoid being a person who is never full. You know, who's never filled up, who can't be satisfied. The way to do that, I think, is to rejoice in other people's victories." Depression can be so horrible to experience it creates a natural panic encouraging the depressed person to always look for positive experiences or good feelings to combat the depression. The trick is actually feeling those feelings, not stockpiling them to exist only in some abstract manner, or as a temporary, perpetual stepping stone always trying to find something to fill a void. I also love the idea of using other people's success as a way to feel satisfied. When you are struggling and suffering, no matter who you are, it can be hard sometimes to see others doing well when you feel so horrible. Hell, BEYONCE just released a song called "Jealous" so we know this is something even the most flawless of the flawless feel. But trying to only satisfy yourself, you put an ugly filter on everything and can never see that which is beautiful. Think about what moves you the most- is it a song, a poem, an image? Chances are it is something that can be traced back to someone else's success. We can instead be filled up with the art of these successes and turn that into energy to produce our own successful projects.....we need one another. I need you to succeed to succeed myself. So we should try not to feel threatened by the joys and successes of others but rather love them as our own. 

10. "Letting go ain't easy...It's exceedingly hurtful." (Mariah Carey)

I've been trying to figure out the art of letting go this year (which coincidentally just happens to be the name of MC's newest single. We are like, so connected.) I used to think letting go meant to completely disincorporate from something or someone, but as I have learned it is not really that at all. It means to loosen your grip on something, to let it exist naturally without your interferences; where that might be ranges from right next to you to lightyears away. You have to let go of any attachments and/or expectations, not the object itself. Another great life paradox is contained within this lyric: just because something is right for you doesn't mean it is going to feel good. 


A soft mist of weariness cascades through the air in lilac haze, but it cannot erase a steadfast commitment: enduring the ice storm. I cannot get stuck in the mediocrity of current problems however greatly I catastrophize them. I can neither let the false meaning I wrongly attached to many people and situations this year overtake me, nor can I ignore the unintended emotional and psychological consequences that arise from said attachment.

I find the end of my year mirroring the beginning. Up and down, blood flows. Waves swell, and break.

Comme l'oiseau sur la branche
comme l'ivrogne dans le coeur de la nuit
j'ai cherché ma liberté.

Part 1

1 comment:

  1. Another insightful, awesome, revelatory post. Thank you for sharing. And I love the Sojourner Truth quote below…first time I saw that.


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Sojourner Truth

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.

Sojourner Truth

Delivered 1851 at the Women's Convention

Akron, Ohio