9/22/2018 – On Implicit Bias

This week a neighbor hired me to do headshots for himself and his business partner. I told my sister about the shoot, expressing some jitters around posing and directing two men in familiar but not-too-familiar ways. It’s something I’ve never done before and I wasn’t quite sure what that would look like.

And I still don’t know what that would look like because the business partner is a woman.

That right there, is implicit bias. I was never told the gender of the business partner and so, based on everything my brain contains about who business partners are and what they are like, I made the assumption that this man’s business partner was also male. Somewhere deep down in my brain lies the belief that business partners are male because that’s what I was told or that’s what I saw. A little pocket of sexism residin’ up in my noggin. I probably won’t make that same mistake again, but there will be others because noticing this addresses the branch but it doesn’t eliminate the root.

I first heard the term Implicit Bias when I began reading and learning about race relations in America. My studies had helped me to see slivers and cords of racism manifested by people I know and care about, and I didn’t know how to reconcile the overall character of the person with the things they said about other people based on where they were from or the color of their skin. Implicit Bias doesn’t excuse these harmful statements and acts, but it does give us a starting point for the Why.

Why? Because we are all a complicated byproduct of our upbringing and surroundings. We start absorbing as babies and it never stops. The work to identify and address our personal implicit biases is difficult because we generally don’t know they are there until we are forced to confront them head-on. And it’s hard to be honest about these parts of ourselves that we don’t like. I am carrying around elements of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and all sorts of other -isms and -ias. I don’t like this, but they will never be addressed through denial or whitewashing.

If I had let shame and guilt take the reigns I wouldn’t have been able to be honest with myself about what this was. Be willing to be honest with yourself about yourself. If you’ve said or done something harmful and now you recognize it, stop. Apologize if you have someone to apologize to. And then make clear to yourself what you did in the past, why you didn’t like it, and how you’re going to change in the future. This is good work, the kind that grates as you go through it but makes you feel strong and improved on the other side. I’ll show you what it looks like.

Past: When a client referred to their business partner I assumed the business partner was male.

Why I dislike this: It felt diminishing for that woman specifically, and for all women. It indicates that when a certain job needs to be done, I unconsciously fill in that role with a male. Imagine if I was in a position to procure talent for a specific position, I don’t want to be defaulting to male to make the candidate fit my preconceived notions.

Future: I believe writing this post will be enough to help me adjust my thinking in the future. I might not be able to stop the thought from bubbling up, but I can catch it and address it much faster next time.

9/17/2018 – On Screwing Up

Taking on the PTA President position was a very quick shift from Solo Actor to Team Player. For almost a decade now almost all of my efforts have been self-directed and generally self-focused. Now I’m Team Captain, and I’m feeling not just the weight of tracking all the moving pieces, but also (especially) that of recognizing or acknowledging the many ways that I screw up. And learning to do so frankly, without dwelling, without excuses.

Yesterday, a Sunday, I began the day at my parent’s house in central WA. I photographed my cousin and her new husband in their wedding attire and felt confident and excited about what I created for them. Drove home, packed up, and made it out the door just after 1pm to get back to Seattle with some extra time to spare before a 5pm meeting with my PTA board.

Except I forgot that driving back to Seattle on a Sunday afternoon always stretches longer than anticipated because all of the other people trying to get back to the city before Monday morning.

And my meeting was at 4pm, not 5pm.

I had said “4pm? That’s great. I’ll be there.” I said those words out loud and then I wasn’t there. Everyone else made time in their weekend, arranged with their partners to handle the kids so we could gather, at my house. The meeting was at my house and I was an hour late.

My husband jumped right in and set up the team to work at my dining room table in my absence. I spent the last hour of the drive talking through the voices in my head telling me I’m a stupid idiot, that everyone else manages to juggle their life enough to be where they say they’ll be, that this particular indiscretion was egregious and outrageous and indicative of many faulty things about me.

This particular form of accountability, accountability to a demanding and complicated group effort, comes with a lot of opportunities to own up to the ways I fall short of my intended Self. Once I calmed down the Inner Critic I was able to think more clearly about what I can do to prevent a mistake like this in the future. This one, being an hour late to that particular meeting? That’s done. The roads are what they are and the speed limits are what they are, and there was nothing I could do but walk in my own front door to a team of volunteers diligently plugging away in my front room. I immediately apologized, they immediately reassured me that it was fine – but I wanted them to know that I don’t find it okay to operate that way. Integrity is one of my core values and I hadn’t lived up to their expectations of me, and my expectations of myself.

I’m not going to dwell on my mistake, that doesn’t do anyone any good. I’m checking my calendar morning and night now to make sure I firmly understand what I’ve committed to the following day. I’ll be budgeting four hours for the Sunday afternoon drive back to Seattle from now on. I’ll extend grace and compassion when others are late or absent. I’ll extend that same grace and compassion to myself.

9/10/2018 – On Living Absolutely

When I chose this new title for my web presence I was asking a question. I naively thought I would find the answer written down somewhere. Like the kid who works up the courage to climb the stairs into the attic, and waiting at the top of those stairs is a treasure map with a giant X marking the spot. Fame! Fortune! Wildest dreams achieved!

There is no map. More like a jigsaw puzzle with the pieces scattered across literature, lived experiences, and snippets of wisdom gleaned from opening the mind and listening to what others have to offer.

Here’s what I’ve figured out thus far: Living Absolutely is living out your own life. Living for yourself. Making the most of what’s available to you. Making peace with what’s not.

9/8/2018 – On Inner Representations of Self

This morning during my meditation, a guided course led by Sarah Blondin, I realized that I can’t imagine myself in my own mind without Bad Body Thoughts disrupting my zen.

Should I picture myself as I currently am, and sit with the revulsion I feel over my overflowing belly, wobbly chin, sausage arms, flat rump, massive thighs?

Or do I think of some form of my idealized self, me when I was thinner, me when I was younger?

No, that won’t work either. It always leads me back to Option A, distracted by all the things that lead me to feel like a piece of shit. Because instead of being some form of my idealized self I’m… me. As I am.

I work hard to keep these feelings inside. I never say negative things about my body in front of my children, and when my daughter grabs my belly fat and tells me it’s BIG and SQUISHY I focus on making sure that I don’t create negative associations. Genetics being what they are, it seems likely she’ll have to deal with a squishy belly someday herself, but even if she manages to do what I haven’t been able to (stay slim, master impulses, prioritize output over input) she’ll face down situations throughout her life where she has the opportunity to be an ass to someone who is fat. She’ll know that’s not how her Mama raised her.

I give myself a solid A on this area of the parenting report card, but that’s not enough because I’m more than Mother, I am Me.

There is no on/off switch for this, at least not one that I’ve found. I read the BoPo articles and follow the Instagram accounts and admire the women who have made progress toward loving what is. I know what I want to feel, and it isn’t too difficult for me to play the part and project outward. I can do the selfies, and put up some Instagram Stories about self-acceptance, and it does help. But it’s still more of a band-aid than a cure.

Do we become what we think or do we start with action and the thoughts shift from there?

09/05/2018 – On Blogging

My first encounter with blogging was a Livejournal account of college life, focused mostly on the highs and lows of an early 20s relationship. The year was 2004. Outwardly, I mocked the writer with my friends (we trolled the writer before we knew what trolling was – something I deeply regret after my own extensive experiences with such behavior). But internally I was processing the idea that I too had access to this particular form of self-expression, and I wanted to try it for myself. That was the first wave of blogging. No one was a brand. There were no sponsored posts. It was raw, startlingly honest, and there were no pictures because digital photography hadn’t reached the masses yet.

 

The second wave is where I entered the fray. Posts began to transition from diary entries into tutorials and topical anecdotes. Writers put their real name and photos up as part of their profile. Blogger took care of the HTML and our sites morphed into personal spaces. I moved from bride blogging to wife blogging to mommy blogging. I challenged myself to blog every day for a year ,and writing posts then responding to comments became a part-time job. It wasn’t about the money (we didn’t yet know this thing could be a full-time job!). I worked as an assistant in a lawyers office and constantly refreshed my Google Reader tab to see if my friends and favorites had posted anything new, similar to the way I turn to Instagram now. We followed others, we developed a following, we delighted in this new way to form community.

 

Then the third wave. Writers became brands, posts became sponsored, mobile phones killed off our comment sections and with it went the sense of community. Pinterest combined with stories of six-figure blogger incomes whipped up a frenzy. How to go viral? How to get pinned? What’s the magic number of followers necessary to start pulling in sponsors who will pay cash so the day job can be quit and the living of the dream can commence? It’s prettier now, quick to digest in our snippet-obsessed society, but it’s fast food. I’m overstuffed and unsatisfied.

 

I don’t know what the fourth wave will be, or if there will be one. I’m tired of this overcrowded beach. I want to write because I like writing. Sharing feels good to me. Someone might benefit from something I have to say, and that’s a nice thought too but it isn’t essential. It’s worthwhile because it’s mine.

 

“One of the whys is because I can write. And writers write.” – Dr. Maya Angelou.