Congratulations for stumbling over this way. Unless I dragged you here kicking and screaming, in which case, *shrug*. If you like what you see, or more hopefully, you DON’T like what you see, then do something. Say something. Don’t just sit there quietly, don’t just walk away, don’t just say to your friends, “Someone should really do something about that.” BE that someone. If you don’t want to disrupt your comfortable life, by all means, feel free to exit now. I don’t blame you. I didn’t want to be an activist, either. But, “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” You’re IT, one way or the other.
I am married to the man of my dreams. He’s crazy smart, unrestrainedly kind, impossibly generous, head-shakingly humorous and unbearable sexy. When I first ran across something he wrote, I knew I had to meet this guy. Imagine my great delight when I discovered he not only fit all the checks on my “list”, he was SINGLE! I would have moved heaven and earth to be with him, and I pretty much did. Luckily for me, he had the good sense to be equally interested.
But this blog is not about that. I consider myself to be open-minded, tolerant, and willing to tackle injustice when I see it. I hadn’t seen it much. I mean, I saw some. I am a woman, after all. I was a single mom for the better part of a decade. I have three daughters. I have seen discrimination and prejudice first hand, even in my liberal, New England town. But it wasn’t like I saw it every day.
When I moved in with my husband, that all changed. No matter where we go or what we do, we face some barrier. It might be something relatively small: a blocked parking space or curb cut, it might be stairs at the entrance to the main branch of a central bank, it might be the clerk talking only to me and trying to hand me change, even when my husband is the one paying. But sometimes it is huge, like fighting a team of medical staff in order to get lifesaving treatment.
My husband has a disability and uses a wheelchair. It is the first thing most people notice about him. I could go on and on about the endless variety of discrimination and prejudice we encounter, and I will. But for this intro, I’ll just say, it sucks. Society’s view of disability is far more disabling than any impairment a person can have.
I never wanted to be an activist. But on a day-to-day basis, I experience situations that scream for attention. I don’t have the answers, but maybe by asking enough questions, we can find some. I don’t know the way out of this maze, but perhaps by shining a light on issues I see, we can find a way.
In any case, since you’re still reading, you’re on the hook with me. You can still walk away, but you can’t walk away unknowing. Whether you like it or not, whenever you see a blocked handicapped parking space, or notice tables too close together in restaurants, or see how anything “handicapped” is often segregated and treated as “other”, you’ll remember what you read here. I hope so, anyway.
Tag, you’re it.
My husband’s new blog…
It happens to everyone, and it never feels good. I am not talking about some boot-camp setting where the drill sergeant yells that the session is over. I am not talking about being asked to leave the room during a meeting. I am not talking about being fired. Although being dismissed can mean any of those things, I am talking about when you feel like your view, your opinion, your experience or your contribution is under-valued.
I don’t have a grown-up job. I don’t have an advanced degree in anything. I have a few terms of Bible College (shocking, I know). I have an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts (with a concentration in English). I have a couple of additional years of creative writing classes and photography classes in my education list. I have over a decade of experience in Restaurant Management (with the highest scores on my exams and certifications). I have nearly a decade of experience in Workflow Management (basically how to get stuff done with the least effort, in the least time, with the least amount of resources). Until my recent marriage I was a single mom for nearly a decade.
I have won national awards for my writing. I have been published in some pretty snazzy anthologies. I tutored Psychology and Statistics at the college level while I took my creative writing classes. I helped many students graduate college, even if I ended up not gaining my degree myself.
I wrote and implemented the Employee Manual and developed the training courses for the last company I worked for. It was my “unofficial” job to make sure we were in compliance with the ever-changing safety and labor laws.
I worked with the Math department at my local community college and helped streamline the way they taught Basic Statistics. Many students were failing, and they couldn’t keep tutors. The reason was, even though this was a basic class, and required for all students in any degree program, every teacher used different texts and teaching styles. There was no uniformity. As a Stats student, I was able to overcome this and achieve a better than perfect grade. I was a highly sought after tutor and well paid for my efforts. At my suggestion, the Math department standardized the texts, the tests, the homework, and the way stats was taught. As a result, even the most math-impaired student could pass, and most did. I am especially proud of this last bit.
I could go on. But most people don’t see past the first two things. I don’t have a grown-up job, and I don’t have an advanced degree.
What that means is… I am often dismissed.
My husband does have an advanced degree. My mom and my uncles have advanced degrees. Many of my friends have advanced degrees. For some reason, it can feel as if they think they are more right than I am in most things… by simple virtue of their education. It’s not easy being in a relationship with someone who’s always right, be it friend, family member, or spouse. Even when they say they see your point, it still often feels like it’s coming from a place with just a little higher view of the world. And that, to me, is infuriating.
Because I try very hard not to dismiss others. I know my IQ. I know the strengths of my intelligence. I know that no matter what room I walk into, I am likely the smartest person in it. That’s not arrogance, that’s fact. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t reached my “potential” (whatever that is supposed to mean). It doesn’t matter than I never finished my degree. It doesn’t matter that I have bottomed out on relationships. It doesn’t matter that my kids don’t have the world’s best mom. What it means is, I’m pretty damned smart. I have the tests to prove it. What’s more important, to me, is that I remain curious about the world. I read a LOT. I study a LOT. I read journals, and articles, and I try to keep on top of what’s happening in the world. I read about medicine, science, psychology, farming, politics… whatever catches my interest. So I know I’m not only able to grasp the nuances of what is happening around me, I am also able to apply it in some way.
I am most endlessly fascinated by why people act the way they do. And so I pay attention to people. If I dismissed someone’s opinion because I didn’t see the value in what they had to say, because I didn’t feel their education or experience gave them a right to their view, it would be my loss. They don’t need my approval, but I value their participation in our interaction. That’s not to say I don’t mess up. I do. I am rude, I am arrogant, I really piss people off. But I do try not to, and when I know I have behaved badly, I apologize. Unless you are one of my ex-husbands. You guys totally deserve it. But I digress.
So when I am dismissed, when my views are de-valued, I want to cry, “UNFAIR!” Because, honestly, the people who dismiss me the most are usually the people who, in spite of my sometimes feeling like they are talking out of their asses, I listen to. I try to see their views, even when I disagree. I’d MUCH rather have arguments than end conversations with dismissals. So when the tables are turned, it feels like a real attack to be dismissed.
I have found ways around this. I am obnoxious enough to push through most dismissals. I can usually “gently” maneuver the conversation back around to where the person actually, in spite of themselves, really listens to me… and shockingly enough… I am found to have a valid point after all.
But that doesn’t mean the hurt is gone. It feels like a betrayal to be dismissed, especially when it’s by someone whom you love, who loves you. I almost wrote “claims to love you”, but the fact is, most of the real damage to us is done by people who really do love us. But painful or not, betrayal or not, at the end of the day, I have to choose to accept dismissal or fight to be heard. For me, the fight is worth it.
Most people who know me would be astonished. Not that I’m not, but that it would even need to be said. I’m in my mid-forties, my husband is a little further down the line than that (although don’t say nearing fifty, he hasn’t quite reached that level of acceptance). We are at a hugely vulnerable time in our lives and in our marriage. His health is precarious, at best. We are facing a forced separation and which continent we are going to inhabit, or even if we can inhabit one together at all, is anyone’s guess. So the fact that I have reached the age of irregular cycles adds a layer of interest to an already MORE than interesting time in our lives.
I really didn’t think I was. I’ve been late before. But I also have three grown/nearly grown daughters. So I know what it feels like to be late, and to wonder, “What if?” It was an interesting several weeks. I didn’t take a test. I didn’t feel like I was pregnant, and I do know what that feels like. I don’t have any bad habits, and I eat pretty healthy. Nothing in my life, or lifestyle would change with the knowledge that I was not alone in my body. At least not yet. So even if I WAS, I didn’t think I needed to KNOW. Not right away. I figured Mother Nature would give me a clue, sooner or later, and she did.
But what about those weeks? What about the stuff in my head while I wondered? It wasn’t a constant thing, by any means. Last year, I went several months where nothing happened. After two negative pregnancy tests and a follow-up with my doc to make sure nothing was wrong, I made some peace with the fact that my body is changing. Things are simply less predictable now than they used to be.
Still, it is interesting what a lifetime of programming can do to a fertile imagination. I wondered, what would I do? I had some great conversations with my husband regarding the, “What if?” question. It was great to know we were both on the same page. We would have been terrified. And thrilled. And terrified.
So now that I know for sure, I am relieved. But I also mourn the second chance I won’t get. I know. I’m selfish. I have three amazing, beautiful, intelligent daughters. My girls are a blessing that any mother would be grateful for. I have friends who are trying desperately to have even one child, and I have three. How DARE I feel sad that I can’t have even more? But there it is. I do mourn, nonetheless.
I know a few women in my age bracket have “second” families with new husbands. I think, if you’re healthy and can afford it, go for it. I never saw myself in that scenario, but last year’s scare, and this year’s… whatever it was, has made me think about it. And while I know how difficult it would be, I would embrace the chance to raise a child with this amazing man it took me a lifetime to find. And so I do mourn that loss.
My husband would have made a brilliant father. Plus, he has the most amazing blue eyes. It’s a shame that no child of mine will look at me with those eyes. No baby of mine will call him Daddy.
But then I come back to myself: this life I have chosen; the man I love who loves me more than I ever could have imagined; the family I have, oddly scattered as we may be. And I am so grateful. I have a life and a love beyond any dream I ever had. I am fulfilled, satisfied beyond the wildest imaginings of my youth.
And yet, even so… what if?