When the Hits Keep Coming

I’ve been a little absent from the blogosphere for the past several months.  Looking through my archives my last post was May 21st.  It really doesn’t feel like it has been that long but a lot has happened in the last five months.  There are so many things I wanted to write about but every time I sat down to start I felt overwhelmed or something came up.  The time has come to give up my self-proclaimed title of “Queen of Excuses” and share some of what has been happening in my life.  To my regular readers, if I still have any that is, please forgive the slight deviation from my regular topics of gender and sexuality.  I will get back to that soon enough.  I promise.  October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month after all and that is a cause near and dear to my heart.

For the last three years or so I have been grappling with widespread and unexplained chronic pain.  As a young woman in her 20s I refused to believe whatever I was dealing with did not have a cure.  There had to be an end in sight.  I went to the doctor several times a month and had more tests done that I can keep track of.  I was told I might have an infection, it might be rheumatoid arthritis, or lupus, or several other things I cannot remember or pronounce.  Each time though the tests came back negative.  At the time the pain started I was working in an extremely unhealthy and stressful environment.  Often times the body reacts physically to stress and things going on in our lives.  I was told this was probably it.  But the pain persisted even after I quit my job.  It continued after I moved to another town, away from people who knew me, and more importantly away from people who had hurt me.

I quickly became tired of all the tests and the receptionist at the doctor’s office typing in my ID number without needing my card.  I became more and more frustrated with not having any results, of not having a diagnosis to go with what was often crippling pain.  It became wearisome having to defend myself and explain that yes, for whatever reason, I was still hurting although nothing on my medical chart could tell anyone why.  So, I did what any normal person would do at this point (right?) and I stopped.  I stopped going to the doctor.  I stopped telling people when it hurt to walk, or sit, or stand, or lay down.  When I wasn’t actively trying to deal with it I was ignoring it.  I pushed my body because I’m in my 20s dammit and I should not have to accept that I have limits.  I held out hope that if I just ignored it long enough it would go away.

Then in February of this year I slipped in the bathtub and fell.  I cut my shin open and banged my shoulder, hip, and forearm on the way down.  I instinctively reached out an arm to stop myself and ended up with my full body weight pressing my wrist into the ground.  It was a pretty nasty fall and even though the doctor assured me that falls in the tub are one of the most common way people injure themselves I was not healing.  The bruises on my shoulder, hip, and arm lasted for months.  I ended up with my wrist in a brace months later.  The cut on my leg did not heal and continued to look sunken in and red.  Then I developed a rash on my leg.  It appeared one night and continued to spread.  I of course continued to ignore it, telling myself the body is amazing  and is perfectly capable of healing itself.  When August came around and I still wasn’t healing I sucked it up and called the doctor.

By this point it had been over a year since I’d gone.  For anything.  Including pain that had become a constant companion, often waking me in the night and keeping me from doing simple things like riding the bus to work.  I finally got a doctor who not only believed me but committed to working with me to find out what was going on.  She referred me to a rheumatologist and after a couple more meetings and several more tests I finally had a diagnosis.

Fibromyalgia.  The word hung in the air and I could feel my hope dying.  This was not something that would go away.  Instead it is something that I will be dealing with for the rest of my life.  There is no cure.  There is nothing that will make the pain go away.  No magic pill, no surgery, nothing.  There is nothing I can do but try to manage it.  I spent the next couple of months researching the disease and staying in communication with my doctor to try to find the best treatment plan for me.  And that’s where I am still.  Research.  Management.  Research.  Management.

I’ve learned that I need to grieve.  I need to go through the process of letting go.  I need to accept that I have limits and if I can learn to respect those limits I may feel better sometimes.  I need to mourn the fact that I’m in my 20s and will be in pain for the rest of my life.  How is that fair?  Like at all.  I’ve come to recognize that I am in the anger stage of the grieving process.  And well I don’t want to live here and just want to be angry right now.  I want to rant, scream, cry, and punch my pillow into a pulp.  I want to yell profanities at the sky before falling to my knees and beating the ground with my fists.

Luckily I have found a few friends who deal with chronic pain and have for a while.  They’ve been my rock throughout this.  They understand the difference between the days where I just want to be angry and the days where I need advice and wisdom.  They’ve introduced me to the concept of the spoon theory.  Please, if you get a chance read it.  It is a great analogy for me and many others who deal with chronic pain.

I won’t go into the specifics of my pain but one good thing this diagnosis has done for me is explain and connect many different facets of my life and what’s been going on with my body.  It is nice to have an explanation.  Even if it isn’t what I wanted.  I feel permission to start dealing with it and moving forward now.

That is what has been going on over the last couple months and why I’ve been so lax in my blogging.  I just haven’t had the energy or the motivation to write.  But that is slowly, yet surely coming back to me.  Thank you for sticking with me and look forward to good things to come on Unladylike Musings.

___________

If you are interested in reading more about Fibromyalgia click here.  For more about “invisible illnesses” click here.

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Surrounded by Violence

SAAM RibbonApril is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM).  I have been working on a post for just about a month now and I have decided that I am not going to finish it.  There is too much violence in my life and I need a break.  I think that is why I haven’t posted anything for a while.  I can hardly bring myself to read the news or the posts of fellow bloggers.  It is just too much.

Working with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault means that I am surrounded and immersed in the trauma of others on a daily basis.  I’ve worked hard at building boundaries between my home life and my work life but lately there’s been some leakage.  The thing about intimate partner violence, or even violence in general, is that you cannot unsee it.  You cannot unhear the stories of the people you work with.  And once you are made aware you cannot unnotice the things that go on around you.  You hear a neighbor yelling at his wife and your first thought is not wishing they would quiet down so you could sleep.  You lay in bed wondering if you should call the police.  You see a child misbehaving in the grocery store and you wonder what is going on at home; you wonder if this will be the time you call CPS on a stranger.

Once you are made aware of violence you notice it everywhere.  It doesn’t matter where you are, the store, the movies, out to eat with a friend.  I recognize violence in the movies I watch and the books I read.  I hear red flags in the stories my friends tell me and I see them in the ways they interact with their partners.  You become hypersensitive to the behavior of the people around you, and sometimes you stop believing that people are basically good.

This is why I am taking a break from writing about violence and why I am not participating in SAAM.  I cannot handle it.  I need a break.  I need to be able to stop dreaming about violence.  I will often end a meeting with a client by asking them what they are going to do to take care of themself this week.  It is time I do that with myself.  I do not want to stop writing.  This blog is part of my self-care.  So, if there’s anything you as my readers would like me to write about or a post you would like to see that is not related to sexual assault, domestic violence, or rape culture let me know.  Thanks for reading and be sure to check out some other blogs who have done excellent posts for SAAM.  You can also check out some of the posts I wrote last year here, here, herehere, here, and here.

Peace.

I Am More

I am more than the punchline to a bad joke
More than my baby making parts
More than a body
More than an incubator
More than a purity ring
I am more than a slut, a saint, or a prude
And I am more than a decoration
 
I am more
You cannot tell me who I am
Because I already know
I am a woman
 
I am strong and complex
I am not perfect
I make mistakes…often
But you do not define me
It is not your job to fix me
 
When you push me down
I will only rise, stronger
Shame and I are no longer lovers
No longer keeping company in the night
I am more than the guilt you put on me
 
I am more
 
And I am not ashamed
To be a woman
This is my strength
This is my power
 
I am more

100 Unladylike Posts: A Look into the Past

Well, I did it.  I reached 100 posts.

When I started this blog I had no idea what to expect.  I was a year out of college and missing the intellectual discussions and stimulation that it provided me with.  I wanted a space to just be me, and to process without driving all my Facebook friends crazy.

I look back at my life a year ago (nearly) and I remember thinking at the time, is this it, is this really who I want to be?  I was five months into a job that was slowly sucking the life out of me, literally.  I developed chronic pain issues and though they continue to this day I believe that job was a part of the trigger.  I left work overwhelmed and crying nearly every day.  I lived in a small town where I saw people who had wounded me deeply everyday.  I felt suffocated and like there was no space for me to heal, or to grow.  I felt unable to flourish and change into the person I knew I was becoming but that so few around me could see.  I didn’t belong there and I didn’t fit in, though I sure tried.

A month after I started this blog I left most of that life behind.  I quite my job, left that town, and moved to the city (that’s something only a small town kid would really say, isn’t it?).  I knew I needed something different.  I needed to be some place where no one knew me, where I could be free to flourish and learn about the person I was becoming.  That was, and still is, one of the best life decisions I have made to date.

Through this blog I was able to find my voice.  I started being vocal about opinions I had and things I believed that would not have been understood or welcomed by many in the place I left.  I fell into easy community with a group of feminist, sociologically minded bloggers; people who had just as many questions as I did and were okay with not having the answers.  People whose writing challenged me and whose comments intrigued me.  While this blog didn’t necessarily serve as the catalyst for my “awakening” it became a great outlet for me to reveal it.  In writing I started becoming more confident in myself, my opinions, and my beliefs.  I was able to bounce from one extreme to the other.  It was there that I found the other extreme was just as broken.  I broke out of being a living stereotype of either side and can now be comfortable with being a little bit of both.  I by no means have it all figured out but I am having a lot more fun learning.

With 162 followers, 8,806 views, and 200 comments this blog has become something bigger than I could have possibly imagined when I started.  With that being said, and this being my 100th post I thought I’d journey through the archives a bit.  Enjoy and thanks for reading!

Top five viewed posts:

  1. The Kickass Woman’s Manifesto
  2. How to Aid a Rapist
  3. Celebrating Womanhood: How I discovered I was a Feminist
  4. Remember to Give Yourself Some TLC…From a Hot Guy
  5. Breast Cancer Is Not A Pink Ribbon

Top five most commented on posts (skipping the duplicates):

  1. Rude Men and Rape Culture
  2. The Flip Side of the Impossible Beauty Standard
  3. The Darker Side of Pink: Part 2
  4. Need Help Little Lady?
  5. Bees in My Bonnet: The Mythological Female Body and Homophobic Language

My Favorite Posts:

  1. You Are Now A Woman
  2. Where Have All My Single Ladies Gone?
  3. Mandating Good Parenting?
  4. Girls Night!
  5. Beauty and Makeup: Mary Kay Hosts a Party for Survivors of Domestic Violence
  6. A Letter to My Nephew
  7. Replacing Hate With Love: A Father Writes a Letter to His Hypothetically Gay Son

Guest Posts:

  1. Guest Post: Choosing Not To Be A Feminist
  2. Guest Post: Cancer and Strong Women, My Heritage

Six under appreciated posts:

  1. Unbreakable
  2. Sexual Assault Awareness Month
  3. The Shock Value in Advertising
  4. “Ask Amy” on Loving Your Body
  5. To Protect the Men…
  6. “Same Love:” A Rapper Tackles Gay Marriage

Celebrating Womanhood: How I Discovered I Was A Feminist

Celebrating Womanhood is an Event Hosted by Living, Learning, and Loving Life, Cabin Goddess, CrazyLadyx5, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dave, Tea With Dee, alchemyofscrawl, and Retro Housewife Goes GreenFor one day, we want to drown out negativity and celebrate the beauty and pride of women. 

I grew up surrounded by strong women – women who taught me that I could literally do anything I wanted and be anyone I wanted.  They encouraged my dreams and my passions, no matter how ludicrous they may have seemed.  However, it was not until recently that I have begun to realize I identify with feminism.  It isn’t something that was explicitly spoken about in my home, school, or church while I was growing up.  Though, looking back it has always been a part of my life.

I’ve recently read a couple of posts that have inspired me to look at my own journey to feminism.  One was written by a fellow blogger, agirlwithquestions, titled Am I A Bad Feminist?  Another by Rachel Held Evans, who describes herself as “a small-town writer asking big questions about faith, doubt, culture, gender and the Church.”  Her post, Confessions of an Accidental Feminist, talks about how it was the church who taught her about patriarchy, and Jesus that inspires her views of gender equality.  And the third was on the blog Nice Girls Like Sex Too, titled I am a Feminist. Are You?  Turns out, I am.

These are the women in my life who taught me about feminism, whether they meant to or not.

The Life Giver

As a small child when I told my mother I wanted to be an author she never told me to pick something more attainable.  When I told her I wanted to be a pastor, she nodded her head and encouraged me to get involved with my youth group and teach a lesson or two.  Then I told her I wanted to be a missionary and she let me travel to Africa three times before I turned 20, the last time alone.  When I went to college I changed my mind again.  I became disillusioned with organized religion and she didn’t try to force me to go to church.  She let me, and is continuing to let me, figure it out on my own.  I told her I wanted to be a sociologist and fight sex trafficking.  She smiled and told me about an organization she knew where I might be able to intern.  Then I told her I wanted to do research and that for my research project I would be spending my senior year in bars, talking to men and women in the commercial sex industry.  She smiled and said, “Call me when you get there.”  This all makes me sound very flighty, but the point is that no matter what I decided I wanted to do my mother encouraged me to try it and to put my whole heart into it.  She let me figure out who I wanted to be, on my own terms, in my own way, even if at times I’m sure she was scared to death.

When I told her I was thinking about quitting a full time job to move to a city where I knew one person she asked me what the plan was and helped me to process.  Then a week later when I told her I had quit my job, found a new one, and started in two weeks, she helped me move out of my apartment and stored my stuff until I found a new place to live.  Now I work in a place where there is the potential for danger every day, and I’m sure she worries but she is letting me be who I want to; which is exactly what she raised me to do.

I don’t know if my mother identifies as a feminist or not, we’ve never really talked about it, but it is from her that I learned women were not second class citizens.  I learned from watching my parents that marriage is a partnership where no one is dominant or submissive.  My mother earns more money than my father but it is not a source of contention in their household.  They love and respect each other.  They complement one another and bring out the best in each other.  Granted, they are not perfect, but who is?

It is from my mother that I learned having breasts and a vagina should not limit my options, whether academically, professionally, or spiritually.  She taught me to think for myself and to ask questions.  And for that I am so grateful.  It is from my mother that I get my strength.

The Stylish One

I met this woman my first day of college as a freshman.  We’ll call her Professor M.  She was teaching an introduction class on sociology and I was immediately intimidated by her.  She is a runner and therefore is extremely built.  I remember whispering to my neighbor, “Wow, she’s buff,” when I walked in and sat down in her class.  She is the kind of woman who exudes confidence and self-assurance.  At that time in my life I had neither.

It was her class that year that turned me onto sociology.  She challenged my perceptions of the world and got me thinking outside of my own experiences.  I refer to her as “The Stylish One” above.  She was always immaculately dressed.  I think the only times I saw her not so were on a “Serve Day,” where members of the college, student and faculty, go out and serve in the community.  The other was for a movie night at her house my senior year with my fellow Sociology cohort members.  This is important to me because it is from her that I learned being a woman, and a feminist really, comes in all shapes and sizes.

I used to think that, in order to fight patriarchy, the male gaze, and the oppression of women I had to not conform, or participate in things that perpetuated it.  It used to really confuse me that this woman, who so actively supported equality and women’s rights, came to class in heels every day.  She was always dressed to the nines and looked both beautiful and sexy.  How could she so vocally speak out for women and yet at the same time be participating in, what I saw as, the traps and designs of patriarchy?  It felt hypocritical to me and I struggled with it a lot.

I learned a lot from Professor M, both in her classes and by watching her live her life as a professor, a mother, and a woman.  I learned that being a woman and a feminist looks different for every person.  We all take different roads to get where we are.  You can still be a feminist and look stylish, and just because you wear high heels doesn’t mean you can’t fight against the oppression of women.  She helped me see that the feminist archetype was nothing more than a caricature.

It is through knowing Professor M that I became more confident in who I am as a woman.  She empowered me and pushed me as a student beyond what I thought I was capable of.  She was my advisor when I did my senior project on the commercial sex industry.  I mentioned my idea to her and she told me to go for it and to let her know if I needed anything.  Afterwards, she told me that the small, conservative Christian University I attended wasn’t ready for someone like me.  It was one of the highest compliments I have ever received.

I love still being able to get together with Professor M over a cup of coffee and talk about our lives.

The Earth Lover

Professor L is another woman who I found highly intimidating when I first met her and to be perfectly honest I still find her somewhat daunting.  My first class with her was a Sociology of Religion class.  She knew so much and I was afraid that if I opened my mouth in her class I would look foolish.  She had such a commanding and yet soft demeanor.

She was the first person I had met who was a firm believer in taking care of the Earth, or at least that was highly vocal about it.  She eventually retired from being a professor to become a full time farmer and writer.  She taught me that caring for creation is part of caring for humanity.  Therefore, feminism is multi-faceted.  She showed me that part of being a feminist is about caring for more than women’s issues.  It is about men, the earth, families, class, race, and any number of other issues.

Professor L once told me that just because we know how a baby is made and born, doesn’t make it any less of a miracle.  In other words, just because I cannot see the goodness around me doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  As a sociologically minded person I tend to be a little negative – negative about society and the people in it.  It is hard not to see my entire existence as a socially constructed reality.  What she taught me was to cling tenaciously to the good, both in the world and in my fellow human beings.  She gave me a holistic approach to the world, to feminism, and to being a woman.

My road to feminism has not included picketing, bra burning, man hating, or any number of other stereotypes.  Rather it has been a gradual understanding that I have always been one.  It has been intricately woven with my journey as a woman.  I cannot separate the two, nor would I want to.  Like I said when I started, I have no idea if any of these women would call themselves feminists.  We never talked about it.  But I definitely learned how to be a feminist from them and I thank them for that.  I learned confidence, self-respect, and to speak out.  Part of being a feminist for me is giving voice to the marginalized.  As a person not naturally inclined to make my own voice heard, these women taught me to respect myself enough to try.  Now work with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.  I am part of these other women’s stories.  I only hope that I can give back a portion of what I have been given.  For me celebrating womanhood is the same as celebrating feminism.

One Lovely Blog Award

Thank you to Leopard over at Crates and Ribbons for the nomination!  I’ve only recently discovered this blog but have enjoyed following it and spent almost an entire afternoon purusing through posts.  Check it out!

1. Thank the person who nominated you.

Done!

2. Add The One Lovely Blog Award to your post.

Done, isn’t it beautiful.  🙂

3. Share 7 things about yourself.

1.  “The Princess Bride” will always be my favorite movie, no matter how corny my sister thinks it is.

2.  I plan to go back to school to study sociology, focusing on the sexually marginalized.

3.  I just recently recognized that I was a feminist.  🙂  (Stay tuned, more on that soon!)

4.  I love taking candid pictures of unsuspecting people.

5.  I work with a staff of all women and wouldn’t have it any other way!

6.  Favorite books of all time are The Scarlet Letter, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Wuthering Heights.

7.  I am a nerd.

4. Pass the award on to 15 nominees.

I only have 12 (in no particular order) as I don’t follow a lot of blogs yet.  I’m open to suggestions though!  🙂

1.  One Woman – This is the first blog I started following.  One woman recounts and processes through her story as a rape survivor.  It is extremely powerful and well written.

2.  A Girl With Questions – Asking questions and figuring out what it means to be a feminist.  Love it!

3.  Make Me A Sammich – “Make Me a Sammich is a ranty, sometimes funny, sometimes dead-serious blog about being a girl and a woman in the United States of America. Join me as I try to make sense of it all, with a little help from my friends and anyone else who shows up.”

4.  Nice Girls…Like Sex Too – “Nice Girls Like Sex Too was founded on the notion that there is still a lot of work to be done to help girls realize that a healthy and happy sex life is an important part of life, learn about safer sex, and navigate relationships.”

5.  Something Magical –  “The bifeminist, interfaith rants of an apostate writer.”  I just found this blog today and loved everything I read.

6.  Broad Blogs – A writer that appeals to the sociologist in me.  A critical look at men, women, culture, and the social construction of reality.

7.  I Heart Change – “Thoughts on making the world (and myself)…different.”

8.  The Unconventional Housewife – “Pretty dresses, make-up and pink nail polish are this girl’s best friend but so are tattoos, rock music, a copy of The Feminine Mystique,  and a bottle (or two) of wine.”

9.  Hairspray and Hemingway – “Hairspray and Hemingway is about finding the beauty, humor, and meaning out of life’s experiences.”

10.  Developing Brakes – A diverse blog about slowing down.  I enjoy her posts about healing, art, grace, and the interconnectivity of the three.

11.  On a Mission at The Mission – A woman’s journey loving and hanging out with homeless people where she works.

12.  Walk with Us – A couple’s heartfelt and honest journey from infertility to adoption.

5. Include this set of rules.

Done!

6. Inform your nominees by posting a comment on their blogs.

Ok.

And that’s it!

A Little About the Author

Hello, and welcome to my blog, “Unladylike Musings.”  This blog is something that I have wanted to start for a while.  It is meant to be a place for not only myself, but others, to process through issues around sexuality and gender, especially as it relates to the modern woman.  I will often post any articles, quotes, news stories, etc. that I find interesting.  I may or may not post my own comments.  Every once in a while I might also do a book or movie review.

As you may have guessed, I myself am a woman.  I graduated from George Fox University with a degree in Sociology.  I am also white, cisgendered, and a Quaker.  I have grown up in the Northwest, and though I have traveled a lot, have never lived anywhere else.  I work at a women’s shelter, interacting mainly with homeless women.  I do not have any pets and am terrified of trying to take care of a plant.  I love to take pictures and do some professional photography on the side (which means that most, if not all of the pictures posted on here will be my own work).

I share these things not because I want to talk about myself but rather so you can see a bit of the lens I look through.  No one can truly look at the world objectively because we all have different histories, backgrounds, and experiences.  I just ask that when you read this blog and especially if you chose to comment, that you keep this in mind and be respectful of the stories of others, including mine and your own.

The intention of this blog as I’ve mentioned earlier is to be a safe place.  Please read through the Comment Policy before you chose to comment.  I want readers to feel comfortable to express their opinions and engage in honest dialog.  On that note a word of warning.  I am a very open and honest person and my intentions are not to offend people.  Please use the contact form to let me know if you find anything I say or post to be offensive etc.  There is no guarantee that I will remove it but I would love to discuss my intentions and your observations with you.

So, thank you for taking the time to read a little about me and I look forward to seeing what this blog develops into.  Let us ditch the “lady” and talk culture!

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Update:  Read my 100th post!