Oh the drama

The night of the election I stayed up until the 1 a.m. captivated by the drama of election returns, of the great sweep of the Democrats into the House of Representatives. After hanging out with some like-minded local political volunteers and neighbors, I came home feeling optimistic, happy and excited.

Turning the t.v. off was hard, but I reasoned that more would be known in the morning, and sleep was a better use of my time than speculation. In the morning, I spent time listening to my public radio station, reading news stories and absorbing the social media feed from my friends. I commented, considered the implications of the results and attempted to connect the dots.

After about 2.5 hours of that, my body and synapses were already feeling burned and tired. I opted to attend my favorite Wednesday Zumba class. It is a great way to dance it all out, and to get out of my head and back into my body. Ahh!

Since I had an interview in the afternoon for an Upwork contract, an opportunity to do some writing and research for a bio-pharmaceutical company, I did not turn the radio back on when I returned home. Instead, I showered, had some lunch, got quiet and prepared my questions for the interview.

drama
Photo credit link

In the process, I was captivated by the research I was doing and felt a sense of flow emerging. I had no feeling of “FOMO” by staying off of social media. The storm of opinions will continue to brew while I get my work done, I told myself.

I figured I would return to it in the evening, flip the radio on and begin consuming the drama once again. But something in my body said “no, not right now.” I opted to run an errand, go to the grocery store and take care of the mundane habits to which we all must tend.

I listened to another chapter of an Ann Patchett book which I’d downloaded on Audible over the weekend as a “treat” to myself for those times when I want a break from work.

I considered my unwillingness to listen to the talking heads. I meditated. I wrote in my journal. I took my own advice from yesterday.  I felt peaceful and centered.

There is a theatrical aspect of politics which lends itself to using these stories as a form of entertainment. It is a serious endeavor, to be sure, but it is also drama. I have no wish to hear the president’s voice. I had already heard a bit on the car ride on the way home from Zumba, so promptly turned it off. He is not a good actor at all. Seriously.

Normally I love analyzing the semiotics and messaging of campaign language and considering the meaning behind the results. I expect I will return to that sometime.

For now, the dust will settle and I will turn away from it for a bit. With my new work contract starting, I am excited to make some “real monies” again as I joked to my husband. I shall savor that, and enjoy every moment of it.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

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Wellness Wednesday – rest and digest

Now that the excitement of this midterm election has come to a close, it is time to rest and digest. After all the “aerobic” energy of the campaign and election season, and as we process the results, we must enter a season of pausing and reflecting.

I am relieved this election cycle is over. Some of the returns have yet to be finalized but I am happy to see that the turnouts were high, and more women were voted into office than ever before.

Rest and digest.jpgThough I did not get to bed very early because I was still watching election returns, I know I will need some down time to recover this week. I identify as an introvert, so I am aware of my need for more down time than the average person. I have found that if I approach life in terms of cycles of intense activity followed by adequate rest, I am able to make better decisions for the long-term.

Maybe it is a product of age or maturity but I feel like it is easier to see the big picture than it used to be. I recognize that it is necessary to regroup and recharge between the intervals of intensity. As it turns out, this is how we best deal with stress in our lives. Stress in itself is not bad, and is in fact necessary in a healthy life.

But chronic and unrelenting stress for long periods take a toll on our bodies, our immune systems and our mental health as well. So take a break, gather your energy, allow some time for reflection and recovery. We will live and be stronger in case we need to “fight” another day for important causes that matter to us.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Binders full of women

Do you remember that phrase?

People in the U.S. probably do.

But just in case your history is foggy, it was a phrase used in a debate on October 16, 2012 by Mitt Romney when responding to a question on how he sought to create a gender-balanced cabinet. It was not so much about whether or not he did try to recruit women. It became about the objectifying women to “figures” that could be put into binders.

Perhaps that had an effect on his prospects for election. I’m not sure. He didn’t win. For a variety of reasons. President Obama had been doing a good job, and the economy had turned around since 2008. So there were myriad reasons Mitt Romney did not succeed.

And yet: 4 years after that, we elected a man who openly bragged about grabbing women by the pussy.

Trump ugly face
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Shocking, really.

I know and realize that Hillary made a lot of mistakes in her campaign. I also believe that her “like-ability” was in question, and I believe that a lot of misogyny, both real and internalized, affected her odds of election. As I have already written, all candidates running for office are deeply flawed.

However, there are a record number of women running for office in 2018 who have been galvanized by the obvious misogyny of the current administration. Our sense of decency and fairness has been violated. Some might say “binders full of women” are stepping forward.

The recent result of the Supreme Court appointment of Justice Kavanaugh just rubbed salt into the wound for so many of us. I hope that voters keep in mind the flawed nature of our power structure as they go to the polls on Tuesday. Electing different people sends a message to our misogynist President and the party that still supports him.

I understand that some people do not plan to vote at all on Tuesday. I have already talked with an individual who believes the 2-party system is broken so he does not plan to vote. I feel very sad about that. And I believe this is the reason we have ended up with the leadership we have right now.

Rock the Vote
Link to Rock the Vote

Please make a plan to vote on Tuesday, if you have not already voted absentee, or in early voting as some states allow. I am not going to tell you how to cast your vote. That is up to you. But when 40% or more of the country is not voting, it is much easier to ignore “we the people.”

That is a dangerous state for our democracy. Even if you think some candidates are flawed, show up and be counted. We need you. All of you. Do not drop out of your duty as a citizen.

Stepping down off my soapbox now.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Edginess

I write this reflection with a feeling of edginess in my body, and unresolved tension in my throat and my heart related to recent political events.

The confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh feels like yet another assault on women. I realize that the circumstances surrounding the testimony of Professor Ford had some unconfirmed facts. But it haunts me to know that our political and legal systems have added to the most important court in our nation someone who’s character I would deem unfit for this appointment.

My question now involves what my role will be in the next election, and in future political activities. I know that until we have a shift in power, and more women and others who are underrepresented in this process, we will continue to fall short of the ideals of this nation.

Years ago I was very active in electoral politics. I volunteered with campaigns, managed a winning city council campaign, and I engaged in phone calling and door-to-door voter outreach. This is despite my introvert preference to do the “quieter” types of activism, that do not involve meeting large numbers of new people.

Kavanaugh confirmed.JPG
Photo credit link – BT News

In an earlier era of my life, I felt a sense of urgency in my activities. While I still feel urgency in some ways, my activism may take another form this time around. I went back to my master’s thesis on “Mythical Condensation in Electoral Politics” completed in 2006 to review some of the ideas I had then about what is happening today.

Much of it still rings true, particularly on the polarizing effects of our political discourse today:

I argue that political candidate success is a function of mythic condensation or voter consumerism rather than issue positions or leadership competence.

Yes. Today, more than ever these concepts apply to the political realm. Back in those days I used discourse analysis and drew from the disciplines of linguistics, social psychology, media studies and political science to make my argument.

The 40-page document took a great deal of effort for me to “birth” at the time. But I look back fondly at having the privilege to think and write that analysis. Myth and metaphor continue to be relevant in how we construct our political truths. We use cognitive frames to interpret the world while conveniently ignoring facts.

Neuroscience explains how our choice of language shapes our beliefs. And myths “naturalize” what is historical artifact. Rhetoric and imagery appeal to our emotions, while realities are constructed of symbolism in which polarities seem to thrive.

For now, my question of what I will do in this final month before the next election remains unresolved. The edginess remains.

 

 

Wellness Wednesday – What do you do when triggered?

I was not proud of my angry response to an inflammatory post from someone in my WordPress feed over the weekend. I was temporarily unable to step away and I got side-tracked from the intention I had for that morning. It made me want to fight, defend and debate.

In reflecting on this phenomenon later, I realized that I had been “triggered” but that I had a choice about how to respond. Eventually, when I realized I was not going to get anything productive out of the interaction, I stepped away and disengaged. I re-directed my attention and moved on to more fulfilling and satisfying endeavors.

In truth, someone who has been through trauma has a much more difficult time dealing with a situation that triggers them. I cannot recall any specific trauma that led to this response, so I was able to bring my frontal cortex back online relatively quickly from that amygdala “hijack” by telling myself there was no need to add fuel to the flames. There was clearly high emotion on both sides, and we were not able to “hear” one another arguments.

triggers graphic
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I also realized in hearing the testimony of Dr. Blasey Ford, and the humiliation she endured after her assault, I deeply empathized with her story. I could feel viscerally that shame she must have felt, even though I am one of the fortunate few who has not suffered assault.

It occurred to me that so many women who have similar stories are likely feeling a little more vulnerable and emotionally rocked by the testimony. And it is good for those of us with empathy to be there to reassure our friends that their reactions are valid, and that we are willing to sit with them during their process.

Some time ago I became intrigued by some research on trauma and PTSD by Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, who was featured in the On Being podcast episode. He explains that trauma leaves an imprint on the body, not just the brain, in sensory and hormonal systems. Of the treatment options, body-centered practices like Yoga help develop a body that is strong and feels comfortable.

In an article published at the Trauma Center, explains that “Yoga offers a way to reprogram automatic physical responses.”

“Yoga helps regulate emotional and physiological states. It allows the body to regain its natural movement and teaches the use of breath for self-regulation. What is beautiful about Yoga is that it teaches use – and this is a critical point for those who feel trapped in their memory sensations – that things come to an end…

The process of being in a safe space and staying with whatever sensations emerge and seeing how they come to and end is a positive imprinting process. Yoga helps them befriend their bodies that have betrayed them by failing to guarantee safety.”

Yoga also teaches us to use the breath. Western culture tends to solve our issues through means from the outside, rather than teaching us how we can master our own physiology. This is where the intersection of these practices can and should be used in conjunction with “modern” medicine in the treatment of trauma and its effects.

Perhaps this is why I am such a big “evangelist” of yoga and why I am developing a course on “yoga and mindful leadership.” Based on my own consistent practice of yoga and meditation, I have seen the effects in my own life. I am always grateful when I also come across strong research to back this up.

So, what to do when we are triggered? The first thing is to breathe deeply a few times and slow down. We can realize that our physiological response is real, but that it does not reflect present danger. We honor that part of our primitive brain that is trying to keep us safe, and recognize that we need timely self-care to calm our nervous system. Over time, with practice, it is possible to heal with the right support.

Be well,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Class is not about money

I realized recently that I grew up on the poor side of town. I did not grow up poor, mind you. I grew up with lots of love, a wonderful family and in a safe neighborhood in a small town. But I always thought of our lifestyle as “middle class.”

My family always had enough to eat, we never went without any basic necessities, clothing, health care or even luxuries like television and eventually a microwave. My sis and I shared a bedroom until I moved to the basement in high school so I could wake up earlier to run in the early pre-dawn hours.

But social class and income class are not the same thing. Both my parents had college degrees. Mom chose to stay home and raise her daughters until we were in middle and high school, when she went back to work part-time, as a substitute teacher. I just assumed that meant we were middle class.

My Dad was a teacher and a leader in the local community. All of the parents of the students he taught in the bilingual program treated him as a respected professional in our small town. Of course, some administrators and teachers were not as respectful. He had his share of good principals and a few racist.

middle class
CNN money: what is middle class anyway?

Recently my mother-in-law called herself “working class.” I was shocked. She has a master’s degree and she and her husband bought and sold homes together a few times during their history. So I always considered her middle class. But she considered herself working class. Probably it was more about her upbringing (to her) than any type of income category.

In contrast, my parents never bought a home. Not quite enough income from a teacher’s salary. We had the advantage of summers at Grandma’s house in Bemidji. So we did not go without space to enjoy ourselves in the summer, on a lake in Minnesota, no less. It was a long drive from Southern Wisconsin, but we had the picnic lunches that my Mom made, and there were rest areas for potty breaks. It was a blessing for us. We read books all, swam in the lake nearly every day, and there was plenty of introvert re-charge time.

bucky badger.JPG
Bucky Badger

By income standards, we probably would have been considered working class, or perhaps slightly less. In comparison to families with two working parents, mine were certainly not as well-off financially. But I always had what I needed. I always had a couple of new school outfits to start the year. There were a lot of farm kids in my school, so all of us had pretty similar income, or so I imagined.

***

 

juarez
Juarez, Mexico’s Murder Valley

I relied heavily on need-based financial aid for a private college, but being 2nd in my class in high school, I qualified for it. I won’t say I didn’t work hard for that.  It may have helped that my name belied my half-Mexican origin. But I was born in Wisconsin, not Juarez. Therein, by the grace of god, lies the difference. 

Why was I born here? Because my Mom fell in love with her guitar teacher when she studied in Mexico. And he fell in love with a Minnesotan woman, despite her mother serving as a chaperone on most of their dates. Why did I have the opportunities I have today? Because my family worked hard, and made sacrifices for me, so I could grow up healthy and happy.

I started thinking about people who use racism and class-ism to divide people. Take ahem… our Harasser-in-Chief. No matter how much money he makes, or pretends to make, he will always have NO class.

You know why? Because class, true class, is about how you treat people. It is about your character.

love and money
Photo credit link – Boston Globe

My father always treated the cooks and the janitors in his school as respectfully as he treated the other teachers. I learned to treat people as equals, not as superior or inferior due to their education or social status. I am really proud that both my Mom and Dad taught me that the measure of a good person is in how kindly you treat others.

To be a classy person is to realize that it is not about what you have, or what you do. There is honor in ALL work, and there is compassion for those who may not have work right now. There is a belief that ALL people are worthy of human dignity, no matter their skin color, creed, religion, or national origin. America was founded on these principles, that all people were created equal, which is why I am still proud to call this home.

 

 

 

SKOL!

The Vikings had awesome playoff game and though I am a fair weather fan, it sure was fun to watch!

Vikings

My hubby loves football. While I have always thought it was kind of a violent sport, I have gotten a little swept up in Vikings fever. It is an interesting phenomenon, uniting around a team, just because I live in Minnesota. But the thing about sport is that it can unite people of different religions, political beliefs and ethnic backgrounds.

Perhaps that is what makes the sport so American in its popularity. Of course, it is catching on around the world. Several of my Mexican colleagues are NFL fans. They also like soccer, but that requires more patience because it does not tend to be as high-scoring or action-packed as American football.

I am posting this on Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.  I do not have particular activism plans for the holiday this year. I just got back from a visit up north to my folks, so I have errands to do before returning to work. I will re-watch the movie Coco with a friend, because it is a beautiful movie. If you have not seen it, I highly recommend it. If you are not into animated movies, make an exception and go see it. I am serious, you will not regret it.

CocoVisually it is a beautiful movie. It is all about pursuing your soul’s purpose no matter what your family wants you to do. It is also about the role of music and family in Mexican life and culture. I was heartened by the fact that, while we have a President that hates Mexicans, this movie feels like a delightful tribute to so much that is amazing and unique about Mexican culture.

This MLK Day I am reflecting on the past year and on the fact that I enjoy a great deal of privilege in the community where I live. Last year on January 21, 2017 I participated in the Women’s March here in Minnesota in order to be part of what I felt was a long-delayed movement for change. I met all kinds of people who seemed to be as committed as I was to making sure our political landscape will not look like it did in 2016. It was energizing and exciting. People made some pretty awesome signs and even though it was chilly out (it is Minnesota, and St. Paul tends to be very cold in January) the crowd warmed my heart.

Capitol women's march
Photo taken January 21, 2017 – St. Paul, MN

After the march, I had to consider what role I wanted to play in the next phase of feminist activity. I decided to make a monthly recurring contribution to Planned Parenthood. I had donated money to Hillary’s campaign on a regular basis, and respected her career in public service. Even though I agree that she made some fatal errors in her campaign, I found it incredible that the Republicans endorsed a person with zero public service for President.

Obviously it felt like a cruel blow to feminists everywhere, and I was especially concerned that we preserve reproductive freedoms many of us have taken for granted. Many women in their 30’s and 20’s do not fully appreciate the contribution that our mothers’ generation made to the movement. It was not until 1974 (the year I was born) that single, widowed or divorced women could access credit on their own without having a male co-signer (Equal Credit Opportunity Act).

I strongly believe in a woman’s ability to make choices over her own body without interference, safely and for what reasons she deems necessary. I find it incredible how many male lawmakers believe that it is their responsibility to police women’s bodies and choices. But regulating reproduction, far from an innocent wish to “protect the unborn” as they may have you believe, is an effort to dis-empower and control women.

Period.

My Mexican grandmother on my father’s side had 7 girls, 4 boys, and probably another 2-3 pregnancies that resulted in miscarriages. If it were not for her insistence that her children receive as good educations as they could afford, they may not have succeeded in the way they did. I find it fascinating that Dad’s two youngest daughters both became nuns rather than having children. My Dad always told me, “don’t get married young and start having children. I want more for you than that.”

I want more too. And something different. I have one sister, and neither of us have aspired to having children as part of our life goals.

I respect and honor other women’s choices for their lives, their bodies and their families. We should expect nothing less.

Viking women
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Bringing this post back to the original excitement about Vikings fever, I was thinking through the women’s roles in cultures throughout history. Grandma on my Mom’s side was Swedish in origin, a tough, smart and stubborn woman who lived to be 101. She went to college in her 50’s after raising three children. She was principled and strong, and she never backed down from her beliefs.

The spirits of my grandmothers are with me now, as I honor their sacrifices and continue to protect the legacy they fought to establish.