Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Enough and expectations and inner peace and being true to yourself in the face of the patriarchy and all that jazz

I'm a big believer that the only person that can steal your inner peace is yourself. Sometime in the past month I stole mine and ran off like a thief in the night. Sunday my best self went and ripped it back with a proprietary viciousness. 

I've reached the point on the campaign trail that I've feared all along - when I'm in Philly, I feel like I should be at the shore, and when I'm at the shore, I feel like I should be in Philly. I don't feel comfortable or right anywhere. 

I'm not a be everywhere, smile and say nothing campaign wife. I'm not a 1950s stand by and follow your man housewife, a wealthy woman with no career, or a vacuous woman with no interests or life of my own. My identity is not tied to my husband's or anyone's aside from myself, and to some people, even those that are supposedly liberal, that's still not acceptable or desirable in a woman. I did not choose this path to politics. I would never choose this path for myself as a candidate or a spouse, but nonetheless it's where I find myself. Because I support him 100% and I understand the burning need for him to do something, it's where I've tied a knot in my rope and hung on. 

We agreed that in order for us to survive this, he would work selling real estate so we can afford to live (want to buy or sell a house? Please contact him) and work on his campaign and my focus would be behind the scenes keeping shit together while there are a thousand balls in the air and dropping any one of them could be ruinous. Campaigning for office is so weird and not a universal, shared experience most people have or will find themselves in that it's hard to describe what living in it is like - the best I can do is that it's a short season that you know has a time limit and when you're in it as life is happening around you there is an added intensity that feels like standing five feet from the heat of the sun and is the first thing you think about when you wake up and the last thing you think about when you go to sleep even though you still need to keep doing your real job and all of the other essentials of daily living Oh and people who don't know you and that you didn't know at the end of last year want to advise you on if it's acceptable to breathe and what to say and where to be and who to talk to and what to do and if you have time to shit and how to live your life in public and what your priorities should be and on and on. There are a lot of rewarding moments and a lot of great people but a lot of things that are fucking nuts too. I know people need to step up and pursue these roles but this current system is fucking bananas and extracts well more than a pound of flesh. MFD and I have come to an understanding of how this whole thing would go and part of that is the expectation of self care on both ends. His is mostly in rooms and mine is mostly at the shore.

But sometime this year I started qualifying my time at the shore with I need to be there for check in and I'm managing the property and after summer season rentals ended I'm cleaning the house before and after renters on weekends. And while those things are true, who the fuck am I explaining things to people who are not living my life every day? I'm managing my mental health two days a week in addition to managing my property sometimes, the fucking end. I was explaining, without being asked, why I was not doing more for his campaign when inside my head I was screaming you are doing enough and can't take on one more thing. The call was coming from inside the house and I was the one ruining my own peace.

This campaign life has brought back a lot of demons I thought I had slayed forever. I live by "no is a complete sentence" and "I don't have to explain myself to anyone" and "no fucks given." I spent years disciplining myself into that and not only saying those things but living them. Fuck I've even written about saying no and the concept of being enough and I still wobbled under additional outside pressure. To say I don't like that is an understatement. 

This has not been my favorite year, and I haven't been quiet about it. I will ask you, going forward, regardless of who a candidate is and if you vote like them or not, that you consider that these are human beings with families who are upending not only their lives, but the lives of the other people in their homes, because they believe they'd be a good representation of their neighbors - so regardless of what you think about their positions, they care enough to get out and try to do something. I had no idea what went into this. I will never not think about that again. This world is crazy and that's just the people allegedly on your side. 

I've been very focused on waging a war inside of myself and the path to how to make this relate-able to everyone wasn't always clear. Then I thought that while most women will not ever find themselves under the microscope as a candidate or the partner of one, the same societal shit exists for all women. If I am a woman who is secure and purposeful and comfortable within myself and I hit a series of women devouring potholes but sit quietly like this shit doesn't happen to me and let other people bust their frames in those same potholes, that's not right. We were all raised in a patriarchal system and no matter how empowered you are, you will come up against it. Not acknowledging it doesn't make it go away. Acting like there aren't women out there trying to remind you of your place like we accuse men of doing all the time doesn't mean that they don't exist. 

There is a part of this political process - not my husband or people we know - but people who are old politics even of the democratic variety that would find it easier if I were less myself. Less outspoken, less opinionated, less bold, less honest, less independent, less feminist, less placing my life and interests on the same level of importance as the life and interests and pursuits of my husband's. More wife, less life. 

There is a fine line between being supportive and losing yourself to something that's not yours. There is a fine line between being accessible when people need you to be and feeling exposed beyond your comfort level. Women in particular often end up on the wrong side of the exposure line when we struggle with the question of what is enough and overcompensate for what we perceive other people want from us. The truth is if we gave everything the world asked of us, we'd be husks of our former selves, brittle leaves easily crushed underfoot and swept away by bitter winds. And we'd probably still be trying to explain ourselves to people who don't care and also don't deserve an explanation as we floated out of existence. 

Because Lord, what the world puts on women. Even though I grew up with women role models saying me first, world, long before it was fashionable; even though I know the care I must show myself; even though I know the self preservation that is required for me to exist happily in this world; even though I know the danger of tying my identity to someone else's journey; and even though I have been banging that drum for years and it has gotten me through being a woman in the workforce, being a woman in the freaking world, family issues, living with a substance abuser and someone who suffers from depression, the awesome but abrupt transition to sober living, self doubt and loss and grief and fear and all the mountains and molehills in between, I still started hearing some niggling voices. You should be home with your husband. You should be doing more for him during this campaign. Then my voice - This is his chosen path, not yours, and you don't need to sacrifice everything for something that is not yours. Your life is inside out, that's doing a lot right there. 

My voice was loud in my own ears, but not loud enough. This patriarchal system has hardwired women to acquiesce, to put our needs last, to cater to others before we take care of ourselves - even when they don't ask for it. When we put ourselves first as a rule, we are called selfish, we are told we aren't doing enough, we're considered revolutionary among our peers. You hear and see this pressure to acquiesce reflected in the world, so much that you think it's what is expected of you even if not one person has said aloud (to your face, at least) that it is expected of you. And women...we often do this the most to other women. 

Partners and kids and are not out there demanding to be put first before even yourself - we are assuming they should be put first because we see it indicated in subtle and not so subtle ways in the very fabric of society. Unfortunately this often becomes focusing on their needs only because we only have so much time and energy to go around and when you put yourself last the well runs dry before you get there so you get nothing. When you're always getting nothing, lots of women convince themselves they deserve nothing. Fuck that, ladies.

This is a pressure we are putting on ourselves and on each other. We want each other to know how much we have to do for our partners and how they can't survive without us and how much running around we do with our kids and how important we are at our jobs and how we never have a minute to ourselves. We want to show the world we are so much to everyone but we end up feeling like we're not enough and aren't doing enough and it's time to fucking stop that. All of that. 

We do not need to first be best wife and best mom and hardest working best employee or the most active activist of all activists in this political climate - we all need to do something to save democracy, but no one is going to win an award for doing the most all the time and it requires 0 of us to do that 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So stop. Be the best YOU every day, and the next day, wake up and try to be better than you were the day before. Fuck what everyone else is doing. 

We need to first be our best selves to and for ourselves so that we may share our best selves with the people in our lives and show up to situations as our best selves which enables us to perform to our true capacity. We need to recognize that our identity as a human is not dependent on others. We need to stop apologizing and feeling guilty for saying no to things we don't want to or don't have the capacity to do at that time. We need to really comprehend that if we don't care enough about ourselves to give ourselves the time and care we need to make sure life doesn't burn our best out of us, we're not able to truly show up for anyone or anything.

That's no way to live, ladies and gentlemen. We have such a short time on this earth - work hard, do good for others, but make sure amid the obligations and commitments that you take the time to feed your soul too, and don't give one fuck about what other people think when you do that...picture me, at the shore this weekend with no renters to manage and no excuses to offer, doing just that. 

Thanks for indulging me in this note to self, and for sticking with it if you got through it all. 

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