The Warrior (Wonder Woman)

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have been a fan of Wonder Woman for a long time. In the 70’s, Wonder Woman was the one of the few shows we watched as a family. For some reason, my dad never complained when our family sat down together to watch Lynda Carter change into the various Wonder Woman outfits to kick some butt and save the day.

Since then, I have been looking forward to her movie for many years. I have seen countless Marvel and DC movies over the years – and enjoyed most of them – and I could not have been more excited to buy tickets for opening night of Wonder Woman this week. Don’t worry – I won’t reveal any spoilers. I don’t intend for this to be a movie review…in short – go see the movie. It’s highly entertaining.

I do feel compelled to explore why I feel a connection to Wonder Woman – and to describe how the movie made me feel…and to find some meaning about my own life in some way. As I often do, I write to try to figure these things out.

Wonder Woman (Diana) stands for peace and justice. She is the first person to fight for it when no one else will. I got goosebumps when Diana says, “I’m willing to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.” Having my step-son Eric in my life has made me become a fighter in this way.

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Eric and my Wonder Woman Bobblehead – a gift from his dad (Jerry) who knows me very well.

 

Let me explain. A little more than four years ago, I was a single, divorced woman who always wanted to have a family. I embarked on a journey to make that happen – exploring international adoption, private adoption, foster care…Today, I have a family made up of my partner Jerry, his beautiful twin 23-year-old daughters (Chelsea and Kaitlyn), and his 18-year-old son, Eric, who has multiple disabilities. There are a LOT of stories in the “…”, and a lot to learn from that journey. However, that is not my focus today.

When I think about fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves, I immediately think of Eric. Eric, who now lives with us full-time, is non-verbal. He relies on us to take care of him and his basic needs – and to also be his voice. Having him in my life has changed me forever. Eric’s teachers wrote me a note on the last day of school this Friday where they called me “an amazing mother, and a fearless advocate for Eric.” I cannot think of a better compliment I have ever received.

No one needs to feel sorry for me. In fact, when people do, I am almost offended – like they don’t really get who I am and what I stand for. Eric has brought so much joy and meaning to my life – I don’t need or want anyone’s sympathy. Instead, I want their support and recognition that Eric and other people with disabilities have so much to offer the world – and they deserve to be an active part of their communities. I fight for that every day as Eric’s step-mom and as a board member at his amazing school, PACE Charter school, a program of Pattison’s Academy.

Another thing that Diane says in the movie is this: “It’s not about what you deserve.  It’s what you believe.  And I believe in love.” I do too.

When we make choices from love instead of fear, we make our relationships better. We make ourselves better. One tiny step at a time, we change the world for the better. I believe that each one of us has the power to change the world, and that we should never give up trying. Anger is a fuel – that is certain, but it is a fuel that leaves us on “empty” – more tired than we were when we started. Love is a renewable fuel that not only keeps the tank full, but fills other tanks. It grows exponentially and will never run out.

Since the last presidential race, I have been overcome by “noise” on a regular basis. I try to deal with this noise by focusing on what I can do to live my values, and to try to make a difference in any small way that I can. I try not to succumb to fear by contributing to the noise. It is not easy, and I don’t always get it right – but this is what I try to do. Loving my family and doing what I can to fight for what is right is keeping me centered and hopeful for our future.

As the movie concludes, Diana says, “I used to want to save the world, to end war and protect mankind. But then I glimpsed the darkness that lives inside their light, and learned that both will always be inside them, and that is something no hero can defeat. They must always choose for themselves. So I stay, I fight, and I give, for the world I know can be. This is my mission, now, forever.”

This is my mission too. I may not be a superhero, and I certainly don’t have any special powers. But I do have the most important thing – love, because as Wonder Woman says, “Only love can truly save the world.”

 

Get up, Stand Up

Today I helped make history…or as Kaitlyn said, “her-story”. From what I have read by Politicususa, today’s Women’s March was the largest protest in US history. However, I didn’t march today in protest of who sits in the White House. For me, today was not about politics, nor was it about one man. It was (and remains to be) so much bigger than that! It transcends politics and the temporary power that one person has. Today’s march was about renewing my belief in humanity, my love for my country, and my commitment to embody my values. I marched to “be the change I wish to see in the world” as Gandhi taught us to do.

I marched today to demonstrate what I believe in:

  1. TRUTH: I believe in speaking the truth. The truth can be a big pill to swallow. Many people will avoid the truth because once they admit the truth, they may have to take some kind of action – or God forbid – CHANGE. I know this because I spent a lot of my adult life avoiding some hard truths of my own. As a result of facing my truth, I have had to make some painful decisions and have experienced a whole lot of turmoil as a result. Now that I am on the other side of that pain, I know in my heart and in my bones that I am a better person for taking the risk to speak my truth.  When I reflect on our recent presidential election (which I have done A LOT), I feel that one of the takeaways is the truth has been exposed. I have been pretty comfortable in my white privilege and could have easily stayed there “on the fence”  as John Pavlovitz so eloquently wrote about recently. Not anymore. I am willing to speak the truth that racism is rampant in our country. That white privilege is a luxury that too many people cling to and avoid having to change. That too many wealthy people hold the power and WAY too many people have none. That women are not treated equally in the workplace. That people with disabilities need more help. That LBGTQ right’s need to be protected. That there were more people at the Women’s March than at the Inauguration. Some of you may think this is political, and that is your right to think whatever you want. But for me, the truth is a fundamental, personal value. Now that I can speak these truths, I am ready to DO something – I am ready to “be the change.” I am ready to take action to do what I can to make my life, my country, and my planet, a better place.
  2. EQUALITY: I believe that all men and women are created equal. I believe in equal pay for women. I believe that love is love and that everyone should be able to get married regardless of their sexual orientation. I believe that black lives matter. Of course I believe that all lives matter, but I am not afraid to say that black lives matter to call attention to the hard truth that racism is rampant (see #1). I will not be afraid to embody this value of equality – even when it may be uncomfortable. I want my actions to reflect my values. That is why I marched today.
  3. CHOICE: To me, believing in choice goes well beyond a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body. I believe that choice is a fundamental right each one of us has at ALL times. Each one of us has the power to make a choice every moment of every day. Making a choice is the opposite of being a victim of circumstance. I can’t control my feelings, and I can’t control what happens to me…yet still I have 100% control over my choice of my actions in response. By the way, doing nothing is still a choice. And the only person responsible for my choices is ME. Other people may have an opinion about my choices, but guess what – the older I get, the less I care.
  4. EMPATHY: I believe that empathy is the answer to the division in our country today. I believe that I can change the world one small act of kindness at a time. I believe that empathy makes it possible for me to have very difficult but necessary conversations about very difficult topics.
  5. HOPE: I believe that hope comes from my core belief that we are all connected in some way. I have hope that our country remains to be the best country in the world, and that it is built to last no matter who holds office. I believe that fear is the enemy of hope. I have hope in humanity – and today renewed that hope.
  6. LOVE: I believe that love trumps hate. I believe that love is the most powerful, renewable energy that not only replenishes itself, but can grow exponentially. I believe if our choices come from love and not from fear, that the world would be a much better place. I believe that the enemy of love is not only hate – but more importantly – indifference, like the wise Elie Wiesel taught us.

These are the reasons I marched today. These are the reasons I will not stay on the fence. These are the reasons I will speak up and take action. I welcome difficult yet constructive conversations.

What’s Going On

Mother, mother
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today

Father, father
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today

“What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye

I don’t really know what to do or say about the violence I am seeing on TV in my hometown of Charlotte. I am sad, frustrated and scared. I feel a sense of responsibility – a need to do something, and I am not quite sure what to do.

So I am sitting down to reflect, write and share my feelings from the heart in hopes it will help me – and possibly help at least one other person in some way.

I think it is the time for me to be willing to engage in a difficult conversation about race in our country. My heart tells me I have been silent too long, because my white privilege has allowed me to do just that. I grew up in the Charlotte public school system where we were bussed all over the city so that there was a racial mix of students. Though I went to schools that were very racially diverse, I only had one close black friend in high school, Erika, my tennis doubles partner. When we discussed race, I used to say repeatedly to her that the ideal was if we didn’t see color differences.

I felt I wasn’t racist because I didn’t see the world as divided by color, and because I treated her the same as I did my other close friends. All the while, my boyfriend would sing “Brown Sugar” whenever she walked into class while I did nothing to stop or prevent it. I gave same said boyfriend a Confederate flag for his freshman year dorm room. I don’t believe we had bad intent, but looking back now I can take responsibility for our ignorance and insensitivity. Erika tried her best to school me, but I continued on in my ignorant, privileged bliss for many years. I believe that these are examples of “micro transgressions,” a term I learned from my cousin Maria when she shared this reference in a very interesting Facebook thread yesterday. http://sph.umn.edu/site/docs/hewg/microaggressions.pdf

I am not quite sure what to do in order to help bridge the racial divide that is clearly so awful today. I know I am not directly responsible for it, but I want things to be better and want to be part of a solution. I want to be aware of the “micro transgressions” I have made so that I can learn and be a better human. I also want to point out to others when I hear them take place so that I can help others that are willing to learn and be better humans. And I want to speak up when I see instances of outright racism and violence like I have seen in too many videos. “The one thing you can do is not think black people are crazy for feeling oppressed when every time they see a video of themselves being engaged by the police, it ends with them getting shot.” – Trevor Noah from the Daily Show.

I don’t want to be silent and say it is someone else’s problem anymore. This is our problem as a society. I feel I am responsible to do my part – to speak up – and frankly I could use some guidance because I am not quite sure what else to do.

I am not sure what actually happened in Charlotte – hopefully there will be enough video evidence to determine what happened to Keith Lamont Scott. Here is what I do know. It is not ok that unarmed black people are being killed by the police – over and over again. We have seen the videos, and there is no denying them. It is not ok that my friend Erika probably has to teach her beautiful children not only how to drive, but how to not get shot when pulled over by the police, when all I worry about is how many points I just “earned” and how much the speeding ticket is going to be. This is not ok.

I do understand why people feel compelled to protest, and hope and pray that these protests will become peaceful in Charlotte.  Let me make this clear to people who read this with an open mind…When I say that black lives matter, I am not saying that black lives matter more than mine. I am not saying that I support violence as a form of protest. I am saying simply that black lives matter. I will not be silent any longer. “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” – Elie Wiesel

I continue to be inspired by the family members of the Mother Emmanuel victims here in Charleston. Chris Singleton was 18 when he lost his mother Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and he tweeted this message today: “I understand the anger, but if you want to get your point across do it the right way. #GodsLove #CharlestonStrong #CantLetMomsDown

My 16 year old niece posted this today on her Facebook page, and I could not agree with her more. She gives me a lot of hope!

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Once

This weekend, I saw the Broadway rendition of one of my favorite movies of all time, Once. Once is a story about a plucky, passionate young woman who feels it is her destiny to inspire a handsome street musician to get “unstuck”… to not give up on his music, and to take risks with love. She is only passing through his life – for one short week – yet they both are changed forever because of the gifts they share with each other. In my heart, I feel that the end of the show/movie is not really the end of their story…The hopeful romantic in me thinks that they reunite at the right time in their lives..but we will never really know unless someone writes an unlikely sequel to their story.

In any case – thinking about their love story made me start thinking about the men who have come into and out of my own life – and what I take away from each of these experiences. Too often, I look back at my past and think about the mistakes I made, and the troubles that I faced in my relationships. As a result, I keep adding to my list of non-negotiables and lessons learned, and I don’t focus enough on the positives – the good things that I take with me from each relationship.

In Once, “Guy” is inspired by “Girl” who helps him to realize that he deserves to pursue his love of music and that he should deal with his unresolved past love so that he can move forward in his life. For “Girl”, because of “Guy” she remembers what it is like to feel loved. As I thought about the musical and about its parallels to my life, I started reflecting on my past relationships. I dusted off my journal, and spent a few hours writing and remembering. I have had an experience as short as Guy and Girl in Once, and others that are many years long – and some in between. I won’t share too many details in my blog. If these men from my past happen to read this, I hope they know who they are without my using their names or sharing too much with the world.

So I am unsure of what to publish in my blog about this – besides to say that the simple exercise of reflecting about this has been cathartic and inspiring. I have a lot of gifts that I have gathered over the years. Like “Girl”, because of my past experiences, I know what it feels like to be loved, and I know what is possible. I know how to appreciate lightness and laughter. I also appreciate the deeper, darker layers that we all have. And I know how to be my authentic self.

These are gifts I treasure. And…again like “Girl”, I have learned that I am also a sucker for a good looking man who can play a guitar ☺.

One Year Later…

I realized a few days ago that I started my blog just over a year ago. I didn’t really know what to expect when I started it. Starting was simple. I went for a run with a close friend – someone I enjoy having deep discussions with – and I realized on that run that I had something to say that I wanted to share with the rest of the “world.”

Then, as I continued to write and find my “voice,” I realized that my blog has become an exercise in vulnerability. It has been about expressing who I am and sharing it with the rest of the world. At times, I have really questioned whether to hit the post button – do I really want people I may barely know to know my innermost thoughts and feelings?? I think I have been motivated to say yes because this is not something that is easy – and I think that discomfort means something good for me. Plus the encouragement I have received has been enormous, and has helped me to push further into the unknown.

Somewhere along the way, I found my all time favorite book called: The Gifts of Imperfection, Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are,by Brené Brown.

I love this book. I have marked it up with notes, highlighters and these really cute goldfish sticky notes I bought at shop in Georgetown (same place I got the latest Wonder Woman mug). I have read and re-read it, I have taken notes in my journal about it.

My dog-eared copy of The Gifts of Imperfection

I keep it on my night stand or coffee table to refer to often. And what is so strange is that I NEVER do any of those things. Normally I read a book and am on to the next one. I haven’t taken notes about a book that I read “voluntarily”…ever!

Brené (I refer to her as Brené because I am pretty certain if we actually knew each other, we would be friends) is a researcher with a PhD in social work. She has studied shame, authenticity and vulnerability for many years, and has concluded that only one thing separates men and women who feel a deep sense of love and belonging from others who struggle for it. She writes “If we want to fully experience love and belonging, we must believe we are worthy of love and belonging.”

Her book is about the “gifts of imperfection” – courage, compassion and connection that help us to live a more authentic, whole-hearted life.

Courage comes from the latin “cor” – which means heart. She says that originally before it morphed into heroism, courage meant “to speak one’s mind by telling all of one’s heart.” Hmmm – she is on to something.

Compassion has Latin roots meaning “to suffer with” which probably sounds scary to most people. Most of the time when we see people in pain, we either self-protect or try to fix. She says that at the heart of compassion is acceptance, and that better we are at accepting ourselves – being compassionate to ourselves, the more compassionate we can become to others.

Connection she says is “the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgement; and when they can derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” She also says this energy must travel in both directions – a reminder to me to seek healthy connections, healthy balanced relationships.

For me, this book is not necessarily life changing. Rather, it’s life “clearing” – a validation of the work I have been doing to have a more balanced, fuller life.

Brené is also famous for her TEDx Talk on the power of vulnerability. If you can spare 20 minutes – it is well worth every second. Almost 6 million views – clearly her messaging is resonating. Here is the link: brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html

This is not easy. I fight vulnerability all of the time. To the world – my coworkers, friends and family, I want to appear capable, confident, and strong. To admit that uncertainty absolutely freaks me out, is difficult. To take a risk and admit to myself or others my deepest fears, and to figure out what I need help with – and then to ASK for that help remains to be incredibly challenging for me. Vulnerability still makes me think of getting hurt, experiencing pain, and admitting weakness.

I put so much pressure on myself to have the answers. Lately in some situations, I have been finding myself outwardly angry and resentful, and inwardly anxious and stressed – and even though I recognize what I am doing to myself, I have found it hard to resolve. My MO is to make myself busy where I don’t give myself the space to figure out what are the REAL questions are that I am struggling with. And when I say busy what I really mean that I try to numb my heart – meaning my feelings and emotions – by keeping my brain engaged whether playing Words With Friends, watching TV, reading books. I trick myself that by doing something that actually is constructive for my head – but at the sacrifice of my heart.

So now I know I need to sit in some big questions and contemplate how to better live with uncertainty.

And thankfully – I have Brené’s books to help me practice. I just picked up her newest book released this week called “Daring Greatly.” The title comes from a speech by Teddy Roosevelt known as “The Man in the Arena” speech.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly…who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.”

-Theodore Roosevelt

I would like to dare greatly. I want to be in the “arena” and not the supporting actress in my own life. I would like to redefine vulnerability and think of it as the key to courage – and not a measure of weakness. I can’t wait to pick this one up – I have my post its and highlighters ready!

More to come later…

The Greatest Love of All

Like so many today, I turned on the television this morning to the massive media coverage of Whitney Houston’s untimely death. After watching the Today Show and surfing the net for a bit, I decided to turn off the TV and to ignore the snarky comments about her drug addiction that some were making on Facebook. Instead, I decided to play her music for a while and to reflect on what I was thinking and feeling.

I remembered the fun I had seeing Whitney in concert when I was 16 at the old Charlotte Coliseum back in 1987. It was the first time my parents let me drive to a concert, and I was excited to drive my friends for our big night out to see Whitney sing her big hits “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” and “The Greatest Love of All.”

I sat and thought about how dramatically her life changed during the years when so many tuned into “Being Bobby Brown”, and how many people were entertained by the drama of her “crazy” life. Watching other people’s pain and chaos on reality television is just something I have never really understood. Addiction is a disease, and while the media will always focus on famous celebrities like Whitney and Amy Winehouse, it is easy for us to forget that so many people struggle with the same issues that they did.

Then, I listened to The Greatest Love of All, and I felt sad that Whitney sounded like she had it all figured out back in 1987, but then struggled with the demons of addiction and a difficult marriage where she clearly never fully recovered. I sat and wondered where the lesson was in this.

Whitney sings that: “The greatest love of all is easy to achieve…Learning to love yourself…It is the greatest love of all.”

It occurred to me that learning to love yourself is not exactly as easy to achieve as it should be. And it is most definitely not easy to maintain in the face of what life throws at us. We all have our own demons and struggles, whether due to addiction, loss, illness, failure…Even if we have it figured out early like Whitney did, many of us struggle to maintain love for ourselves through all of the mistakes we make along they way.

I think that the lesson here is to remember that learning to love yourself truly is the greatest – and probably hardest – love of all. And that we mostly battle ourselves when it comes to achieving it. We carry so many “stories” of not being good enough – and we fight the voice in our heads that someone I know calls “the itty-bitty-shitty committee”. You laughed because maybe you have one too??

I believe that learning to love yourself is how you strengthen yourself to be a better spouse and parent, and employer or employee. Loving yourself is how you serve the community and world around you. I believe that loving yourself will lead to more love, success and happiness in all aspects of your life. Keep at it. It’s worth it.