Pride is a sucky sucky thing

The world has been handing me one humility pill after another, but I’m finding that the more I’m willing to swallow them, the easier it gets.

This past week I burned out, hard. I hit a dramatic wall and lost an entire evening that should have been full of productivity to lying in bed, binge-watching The Office on Netflix. I succumbed to a lot of emotional negativity, dwelling on and being owned by things in my past that should not be able to influence my present.

My ever patient and long-suffering boyfriend feels a little bit neglected. My daughter says “hello mommy!” and “bye mommy!” all in the same breath when I open her door in the morning. My grades are slipping. And I am making some really shitty decisions.

The first humility pill came when I had to register for next quarter’s classes, and rather than taking 18 credits, (which I did this past quarter, and of which I was unnecessarily proud) I registered for only  14. Cue instant feelings of failure.

It’s easy for me to believe that if I’m not pushing myself harder than everyone else, doing more than everyone else, and feeling more exhausted than everyone else, that I’m failing or not worthy. This is been a battle in my mind and heart for a very long time, and one I have obviously not won yet.

The second big pill came today, when I experienced the repercussions of allowing my anger to seep into my social media. 

Last night I posted something on Instagram: a humorous post calling out my ex-boyfriend – an admitted, widely-known abuser – for the harm that he had done to me. I could have covered both his first name and his last name in the image, but I opted to scribble over only his last name, knowing full well that some mutual friends of ours would still know who I was talking about.

It was a bad decision, born out of emotion and impulsivity. It was a fruitless and unproductive exercise in petty vengeance. Word got around of what I had posted and he manage to have it removed.

I am tired of having my story stifled. I am tired of the unspoken rule that you don’t “slander” other people, even when you have truth in your side. I am angry that this person, who has harmed so many people besides myself, is allowed to carry on, hanging out with people who had previously been my friends, running in circles that had previously been mine too.

But I’m discovering that there is a right way and a wrong way to tell my story, and as much as I hate to admit it, I think that was the wrong way. I will tell my story, as is my right, and I will probably tell it soon, but when I do I will do it the right way: thoughtfully, carefully, and with appropriate and important context.

I want to be better than this person I have become over the last couple of weeks. I don’t want to be the person who makes snap decisions from a place of anger. I don’t want to be the person who overloads my schedule because I feel like a failure if I’m not running myself into the ground. I don’t want to be an absent parent or a neglectful girlfriend. 

So I’m here to eat crow, in the hopes that I can learn to be a more transparent and hopefully more humble, thoughtful, slow-to-act, quick-to-think person in the future.

Thanks for reading.

Three ways being a single mother made me a badass and a pain in the ass all at the same time

Being a single mom has made me kind of a badass, as it has done for almost every single mother I’ve ever met. But in a lot of ways, being a single parent messes with your mind and causes you to be more than a little bit of a pain to the next person who steps into partnership with you. Here are three ways I’m learning that my badassery is also kind of a thorn in the side of the people I love.

1. If I’m not running myself into the ground I feel like a failure

To be fair, this little bit of my neuroses started decades before I had my child, but being a single mother certainly didn’t improve upon the situation. 

Single moms intimately understand the reality of being overworked, overbooked, and overwrought 99% of the time. We are the breadwinners and the homemakers. The stay at home parent and the working parent. The disciplinarian and the friend. The good cop and the bad cop. 

So on the occasions when I find rest and margin in my life, it’s pretty easy for me to feel like I’m dropping the ball. Remember when finals week ended and school went on break and for the next 48 hours you had random panic moments wondering what you were supposed to be doing? That’s my life every time I get a chance to take a breath.

This is not always a bad thing. My stamina is pretty high. I’m pretty productive most of the time. But at least three or four times a week my boyfriend asks me to turn off my phone, close my planner, and just relax with him, and shutting it all down for an hour feels like an impossibility. I’ll get there.

2. I have zero patience for people who can’t get the job done

“Failure is not an option” never feels so real as when you become a single parent. There are a number of plates that have to keep spinning, no matter what. Your kid has to eat, has to make it to doctors appointments, has to wear clothes that (mostly) fit. There are a handful of things that can be put on the back burner, but not many. Single moms know how to get shit done, because we don’t have any other option.

So when I encounter someone who thinks that working part time is a lot, or who complains about how exhausted they are as a mom, despite having free grandma daycare on a regular basis, my hackles automatically go up. 

That’s not cool. It’s not fair to other parents for me to judge them based on my own standards of productivity. It’s not fair for me to compare my life to someone else’s, because I truly don’t know what their life looks like from the inside. It sucks, and it’s something I’m working on killing in myself.

3. Transitioning out of being a single mother sometimes feels horrible

I was a single parent of my daughter for the first two years of her life. Even long after I started seriously dating my boyfriend, it took a while for me to make the transition from dating-single-mother to being someone’s partner again. Nowadays, I don’t identify as a single mother anymore, because I know my boyfriend is here to stay, and he does a great job of coparenting my daughter with me.

Our home dynamic has changed with the addition of my boyfriend. He is truly an equal partner with me in our home. He plays with Molly, keeps the house, cooks, does the grocery runs, and makes sure Molly is well socialized. All of this “should” make me feel really good and happy. But it doesn’t always.

When we bought a new car seat, he made the case that it should go in his car, because with me in school and working two jobs, she was more likely to be driven around in his car than in mine. The realization stopped me in my tracks. Relinquishing tight control of my daughter (and my status as her only full-time parent) was a much harder transition then I expected. 

I had built my identity so much on being independent and single that stepping back into a partnership almost felt wrong. Hilariously, I started to feel like less of a person for no longer being a single parent. 

There are a lot of things about my stint as a single parent that I am grateful for. It forced me to grow in areas like asking for help, speaking truthfully, and prioritizing my health. But it also instilled some not-so-great tendencies in me that I will continue to work through as my life evolves. It’s all a process. 

So here’s to patient partners and understanding children who put up with the badass pains-in-the-ass that are formerly single mothers. Cheers.

Things to know when supporting a victim of spiritual abuse

I don’t think it’s going out on a limb to say that few clergypeople, ministers, or spiritual leaders intentionally inflict spiritual abuse on people in their community (or, at the very least, they believe what they are doing is loving, even if from the outside it is objectively abusive.) But despite best intentions, abuse does happen, and it happens in ways that are sometimes very hard to identify from the inside. 

As both a former victim of this type of abuse, and as someone who hopes to help to stop these cycles in faith communities, here are a few things I have learned about supporting someone who has experienced harm in and by their religion: 

Victims may be likely to jump ship.

It’s not uncommon for victims of spiritual abuse to flee their faith communities, and burn their bridges along the way. The trauma and desperation that results from being harmed by people you trusted with the most intimate parts of your soul can cause a person to want to run far away and never look back.

For some people, this means ghosting – vanishing from the faith community entirely, cutting off connections to people in that community, etc. This tactic can happen overnight and leave supporters baffled and saddened.

In other cases, this exit can be a gradual process, wherein victims slowly retreat from their community, removing themselves from one relationship at a time as they discover which relationships make them feel safe and which seem to only compound the hurt.

How you can show support:

If you have had a close relationship with the victim in the past, this can be very painful. Trying not to take this distance personally can feel impossible. What results in a loss of community for the victim can also result in a loss of friendship for people in the support system.

Keeping an open hand with regard to relationships can be invaluable for victims of this type of abuse. Try to communicate to the person you wish to support that you are willing to give them the distance they need, but that you will still be there for them if and when they return. 

Some of the worst damage that is done in the aftermath of spiritual abuse comes as a result of the support system abandoning the victim they claim to love. It’s not easy, but hang in there. The initial implosion doesn’t last forever.

Victims of spiritual abuse often lash out.

This is a tough one to address, because no amount of abuse is excuse for bad behavior. Just because someone has been the victim of spiritual abuse does not give them license to turn around and abuse others. 

That being said, victims of spiritual abuse often feel understandably angry at the systems that contributed to their pain. Expressing anger towards those institutions is a natural reaction. Unfortunately, what is meant as an attack on systemic issues might feel very personal to those still in the faith community. As the saying goes “the personal is political.” 

Victims who express anger or distress toward an organization can unintentionally target their frustrations at the people within the system. This is part of the nature of religion: spiritual beliefs are inextricably tied to personhood and identity, and it can be very difficult for victims to name their abuse without causing those who subscribe to the offending religion to feel personally attacked.

How you can show support:

As with the last point, not taking it personally is a good first step. Communicating when you feel personally targeted is important as well. If the person you are trying to support is attacking you directly, say so. Draw attention to ways in which you feel like their anger may be misdirected. 

Sadly, some victims cannot – or should not – reconcile with individuals inside an organization that has caused that much harm. If you find this to be the case, taking a step back from the relationship may be a good option for both of you.

Sorting out the difference between systemic failure in religion and the individuals that are perceived as promoting that failure is a very tricky and often painful business, both for victims and for their supporters. Have patience with yourselves and each other through this process.

Victims of spiritual abuse may never return to their former faith communities.

This can be a difficult reality for many advocates and supporters. If you have a healthy relationship with your faith, it is very natural for you to want to direct victims to the aspects of that faith that bring you comfort, healing, and safety. 

However, a return to a culture that has caused harm may be an unrealistic hope that only causes further damage between you and the person you wish to support.

How you can show support:

Put your evangelistic tendencies on the back burner as much as you possibly can. Particularly in the early stages, it is very easy for victims of spiritual abuse to develop a Stockholm Syndrome-like reaction to evangelism. 

Fear of being isolated, of losing one’s community, or of being ostracized can lead victims to false or forced engagement in faith communities. This is counterproductive to healing, and ultimately drives even bigger wedges between victims and their communities. 

Allow victims of spiritual abuse to be honest when they need distance from their former faith. Assure them that you are willing to walk alongside them without expecting any sort of conversion or compliance with your religious beliefs. If their journey leads them back to their former faith, great. If it doesn’t, your respect and unconditional friendship will make a big difference in their healing process.

At the end of the day, victims of spiritual abuse need what victims of any type of abuse need: unconditional love, respect, and patience. If you have chosen to engage with someone who has been harmed by religion, you can be either their biggest support or their worst nightmare. Choosing respect is the most important thing you could possibly do for a person who needs your support.

Tomi Lahren isn’t worth my time – or yours

The Republican Party has a very young very blonde new player, and her primary contribution to our country is sitting behind a desk and trying to make the left angry. 

Very soon, the same girl will visit my Pacific Northwest town, and already people in my community have organized protests against her appearance at a hotel in downtown.

I understand. I feel the same anger and disgust toward this horrifyingly ignorant, exasperatingly closed-minded girl that everyone else does. I would love to see her television reign and and her racist, hateful platform be dismantled. That would be wonderful.

But it’s probably not going to go down that way. Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter are two prime examples of loud, relatively useless talking heads who have just enough of a fanbase among of the ignorant and the bigoted to keep them funded. They get paid to shout at the strawman perversions of liberals who don’t exist in real life but who serve as convenient punching bags to keep the alt-right rabid and foamy.

And young Tomi, who is more than likely just spouting back the ignorance and fabricated outrage she has learned from her parents and her very sheltered culture, will join them in their bigotry. As long as hate sells, she will be able to profit from it.

So after this post, I’m not going to ever talk about her again, and unless you really really want to, you don’t have to either.

We have the option – those of us who are fighting real battles about real things – to just literally ignore her. We have the option to allow her to melt back into obsecurity, surrounded by her angry little fan base, and just go on with our lives without dignifying her crusade with a response.

We can totally just decide to allow her to keep screaming into her rapidly dwindling alt-right echo chamber, and we can move on to the things that matter.

My city has a huge human trafficking issue. A lot of other cities in this country do too. My country is being run by people who would happily overturn Roe v Wade, and if that becomes a fight, millions of desperate women’s actual lives could be in jeopardy. Our economy is on track for a dramatic tank, which will set our cities, our neighborhoods, and our families on a destructive path. The rape culture in our society received a gigantic shot in the arm with this past election cycle, and we are still recovering from the effects of that horrifying reality.

Those of us on the front lines of the resistance have real issues to worry about. We have a real problems facing us. And if we would rather not engage with someone whose only real impact on our world is ranting at people who already agree with her, we don’t have to.

Let Tomi, Ann, Rush, and the rest sit behind their desks and talk. I’m not giving them any more free publicity. I’m not giving them any more Facebook clicks, any more YouTube views, any more retweets. They aren’t worth it. We have actual battles to fight. 

I’m going to keep doing real work that impacts real people. You’re welcome to join me.

I don’t like my party anymore

I am a young Democrat, and I want a new party.

I, like so many of my fellow progressives, am incredibly passionate about many of the issues facing my country today. I feel solid in my moral stance that racism, sexism, xenophobia, heteronormativity, and transphobia, among others are rampant and must be extracted, with tooth and nail if need be, from our culture.

I, like so many of my fellow millennials am awakening to the reality that my voice matters in our world. That I have the ability and responsibility to influence our political climate. That I have the right and the duty to hold my representatives to the truth.

But I don’t like my party anymore.

I don’t like the fact that young Democrats have traded picket signs for thoughtful, compassionate debate. I don’t like the way we have decided that sharing inflammatory Facebook posts is somehow superior to actual education. I don’t like the way we have targeted Republicans, conservatives, antiabortionists, and many others whose only real sin may be actual ignorance. I don’t like that, rather than spreading knowledge and encouraging active listening, we shout down people who disagree with us.

I get it. I do. I am every bit as angry as the rest of my party. I am every bit as frightened as every other queer woman out there. I am every bit as sickened by racism, Islamiphobia, homophobia, and the rest as everyone else. I believe that anger is a powerful catalyst for change, and that loud, unapologetic protest is an important piece of democracy.

But I hate that so many in my party have decided to stop there. I hate that so many Democrats now live in a state of perpetual outrage. I hate that it has become our instinct to immediately unfriended, ignore, shun, ostracize, and mock anyone whose opinions differ from our own, rather than attempt to engage people in thoughtful, informed discussion.

I wish my party knew how to be angry in the face of injustice without compromising our commitment to education and compassion.

I wish my party would stand firm as the party of enlightenment and knowledge, rather than sinking to the level of screaming masses who refused to step outside of their protest lines and engage with individuals on the other side of the aisle.

I wish my party knew how to channel their outrage and fury into productive, fact-based action.

I’m tired of being a part of the Angry On Facebook Party. I want a different one.

Our white children need pictures of black leaders on their walls

My entire life I have seen black and brown leaders celebrated for their accomplishments. I don’t recall a time where whatever racism I may have seen as a child was so overt that people of color were condemned or judged for reaching for the stars. The feedback from my family and my culture was generally positive when someone whose skin was different from my own did something remarkable.

But what I didn’t realize until I had a daughter was that even in celebration and recognition of the importance of representation, there was still a distinct sense that those heroes and heroines were somehow not valuable to me, or worth looking up to myself.

As a white woman, I have plenty of white heroes and heroines to look up to. I don’t need more inspiration. I don’t need more representation. But amazing people like Barack Obama, Mae Jamison, Martin Luther King Jr, Maya Angelou, and many others were introduced to me as representatives “for other people.”

It was as though they somehow maintained the “second rate citizen” status that antiracism sought to abolish, just by being “for the others.”

As though, being white, I didn’t need them. I shouldn’t bother. They were second-tier heroes for second-tier people.

“It’s so great for them to experience Barack Obama as president.”

“It’s so great for them to see Oprah Winfrey as successful as she is.”

It is undoubtedly a beautiful and powerful thing for children with dark skin to see people who look like them doing incredible things. It’s necessary, and it’s part of what will move our country out of a insidious antiquated age of racism and segregation.

But if our white children grow up believing that those darker skinned heroes are only valuable to darker skinned children, that “other” mentality will linger.

My white daughter needs pictures of black heroes on her walls if she is to grow up understanding that we celebrate differences in race and culture, in appearance, and that those differences have no bearing on a person’s worth.

My white daughter needs to learn about these powerful icons in her history who overcame obstacles she personally will never need to face by virtue of her fair skin.

Brown and black heroes in our past do not belong in a category labeled “for the others.” Their struggles and obstacles related to their race should be taught clearly and unapologetically. But our white children need to know that, even though these heroes faced racism and discrimination in a way white people don’t, they are not “other.”

Our white children need to be taught that black leaders are not second-rate, a consolation prize for the minority. That the black leaders, thinkers, heroes, movers, and changers in this world brought brilliance, inspiration, innovation, eloquence, and courage to the table that we should all strive to emulate.

My daughter needs to learn to look up to inspirational black people.

Progressives, We Have Got to Chill Out

We have just survived what feels like the longest two weeks in history. The right has come out of the gate fast and furious, hell-bent on flooding every inch of our executive branch of government with people who will dismantle things that we on the left believe to be not only crucial pillars of our democracy but essential hallmarks of our alleged status as “the greatest nation on earth.” 

And we have fought back. We have called a representatives ceaselessly, we have marched, we have worn pink, we have worn red, we have flooded our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds with fellow progressives, supportive organizations, and battle strategies. 

Millennials are finally beginning to wake up to the realization that we drive this car. That we get to decide who sits in our Congress, who writes and vetoes our bills, who makes or breaks our laws. It’s an exciting time, seeing my generation step out of political obscurity and take the helm in a way we never have before.

But now, as Betsy Devos and Jeff Sessions are confirmed, the frenzy is beginning to slow to a trickle, and we must rethink our strategy if our fight is to continue.

We had a chance, my fellow progressives, at the beginning of 45’s administration, to force him to fill his cabinet with people who would apply the values that make our country great, and that chance is all but gone. Now comes the hard part. Now comes the flood of legislation, the back door dealings, the subtle pushes toward bills and vetoes. Now comes the real fight, and for this we must be thoroughly educated, impeccably informed, and above all, we must be calm.

The GOP has already begun to issue attacks on our character. Ted Cruz recently called Democrats in the Senate out by implying that our blue state Congresspeople were flat-out crazy. This is not going to stop. Where liberal-leaning news sources cover “peaceful protests” you can count on their conservative counterparts calling us “rioters” and “looters”. When progressive representatives praise us for our strikes, our campaigns, for using our voices, the far right will label us as insane, tantrum-throwing children, special snowflakes with hurt feelings.

Now is the time to buckle down. Now is the time to educate yourself on exactly what is happening in our Congress. Ask yourself this question, every time you’re tempted to share a meme or post on Facebook: “Can I defend, with actual facts, statistics, and reliable sources, the information contained in this Facebook post?” If the answer is no, you have a duty to yourself, to your party, to your country, and to your future to find out the information you would need if presented with a dissenting argument.

We have a lot of support in Congress, but I can guarantee you that Uncle Bernie and Aunt Liz want us to be citing our goddamn sources.

We have to step twice as fast in order to get half as much done now. We have to be twice as educated and informed to combat the ad hominem attacks coming our way. We have to be completely above reproach if we want to continue to have our voices heard and maintain any hope of changing anyone’s mind.

And occasionally, for the sake of our health, we have to drink some tea, turn off Facebook, and watch some Netflix. Or, here is a fantastic article by Ariana Huffington about how to remain calm and collected in the resistance.

Stay angry, my fellow progressives, but stay in control. Onward.