Things that make me me

standard September 12, 2016 Leave a response

Having written about not ever letting myself be my true self in public, maybe it’s time I start honoring who I really am.

Ok, ready? Truthy truth? Who I really am? Here you go.

flowers

I am a hard core geek. I watch Doctor Who and wear the t-shirts (mostly at home, if we’re honest). I mostly only read urban fantasy, stories about werewolves, vampires, faeries, and other paranormal stuff. Though I’m on a bit of a Space Opera kick these days. I love, love, love comic book movies. Most of the people in my “real” life do not understand this, like, at all, so I pretend my obsession isn’t one.

I write. All the time. In notebooks. On this blog. On other blogs. On Facebook. In more notebooks. I’d rather write more than pretty much anything else. Only thing I wish I wrote more of is fiction. One day I’m determined to write another novel and yet…I don’t work on it, like ever.

I’m a sucker for candy. Not chocolate. Gummy candy. Preferably slightly stale. I’m one of those adults that keep candy stores in business. I always feel slightly guilty when I indulge. OK, a lot guilty. And yes, I hide candy from the kids. Shut up.

I watch TV. Like a lot. Dramas. Comedies. Please no reality TV unless it’s Inked or Tree House Masters, or some cooking show. I get pathetically attached to characters. I get tragically drawn into story lines. TV is full of my friends. I stay up too late watching TV most nights.

I hate housework. I usually trick myself into doing it by carrying around my iPad and streaming TV shows while I clean/launder/cook/etc. Despite all that, my house is never as clean or as well organized as it “should” be.

I love my friends. I have a variety of people I love. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses. I love them despite, or rather because of all of them. I’d do anything for my friends. I’m pretty sure they know that. And yet, I’m terrified that none of them like me quite as much as I like them.

I’m determined to raise strong, competent adults. I love my kids dearly. They mean more to me than words could ever express. And yet, I’m tough and demanding on them. My kids will not be victims of helicopter or lawnmower parenting. I do often worry if I’m too hard and too demanding and if it’ll make a difference in the end or if I’m wasting precious coddling time.

I try so very hard to not be judgmental. We’re all doing the best we can. I recognize that. And I recognize that we’re all on different paths. But I’m also human. So sometimes the judgement breaks through. Sorry.

I adore my dog. I didn’t think I would. I try not to be ridiculous about it, but, let’s be honest, I have more trouble dropping her off at the kennel when we leave town than I ever did dropping the kids off at daycare.

Good food above all else. No, seriously. I love to eat. Tasty food makes me happy. Tasty food with good people? Nirvana. I mostly consider low-brow food to be the tastiest. Burgers. Pizza. Grilled cheese dipped in tomato soup. Donuts. Oh, donuts, how I love thee…

Nothing panics me more than not having something to read. There are books in every room of my house and my Kindle is always loaded with at least three or four unread books. Words, even more important than good food. Don’t ask me how much I spend on book. That’s between me, Amazon, and the IRS.

I am harder on myself than on anyone else. And I’ll never measure up to my own expectations.

I’m constantly coming up with new projects, plans, business ideas. I believe in all of them. Just like I believe in a lot of people who want my help making their businesses successful. I fully believe that one day, one of these projects or businesses will really make me rich or at least very fulfilled. One of them…though I’m not really sure I’ll have the wherewithal or gumption to ride anything out to the end.

I’ve always believed I was an underachiever. This makes people laugh, and yet, still fully convinced it’s true.

I have no idea what people think of me. I try not to think about it too much because I’m not sure I’d like the answer. I’d much rather pretend everyone thinks I’m made of pure awesome. Humor me.

 

Your turn, who are you really?

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Who are all we under the facade?

standard September 8, 2016 Leave a response

hiding

Last week, at a client’s request, I signed up for a work related networking platform. When prompted, I typed in my usual username, kikarose, plugged in a password and went on with my merry day. It’s the same user name I use for everything so I gave it no thought at all until I got a ping a few hours later asking me about the story behind the name.

After all, my name is Jessica, not Kika. The confusion is understandable.

I only hesitated a minute before answering that Kika is what I called myself when I was a young child because I couldn’t actually pronounce Jessica. My mother thought it would be funny to tell my college friends about my childhood nickname and they all resurrected it with glee.

I was Kika until elementary school and, after a lengthy break, again all through med school, law school, and English lit grad school*. Then I moved to the states and became Jessica again. Sometimes Jess. Never, ever Jessie.

I told this story and I stopped for a minute to wonder
a) how I’d stopped being Kika,
b) if I stopped being Kika, why is that the name I use online,
c) if I should change it on this particular site or if that would be weird now that I’d shared the background.

Then, of course, life got busy and I promptly forgot. That is, until yesterday when, at a mother’s group kick-off event, I found myself doing some weird with my hand and my hair whenever the person I was talking to asked me a slightly more probing question than the usual getting-to-know-you chit chat.

Except her questions weren’t all that probing.

“Oh, you write? What do you write?”
“Where are you from?”

Nothing all that earth shattering.

So, of course, being who I am, I’ve been torturing myself all day about why all of these things have made me self-conscious.

When I was a kid, known to many as Kika, I cared little about fitting in. I was who I was. Take it or leave it. Then, when I turned 7, my whole family pulled up roots and moved across the ocean to start a brand new life in a brand new world.

Overnight I went from being just a kid living her life to “the kid from far away who didn’t speak the language and needed countless hours of ESL classes every day.” That first year was a nightmare. The kids where horrible and picked on me endlessly, constantly pointing out how very unfathomably different I was. They picked on my clothing, my toys, my behavior, my food… everything was fair game. I was “assigned” a best friend, and, when, instead, I chose to play with a boy who also happened to be an outcast, I was essentially shunned for the rest of the year. I’ll never stop being grateful that my parents allowed me to change schools before the next year started.

I doubt it was a conscious thought, in fact, even thinking about it now, I don’t recall being intentional about it, but the new school was where I started doing my best to fit in.

I put away my very French doll and begged for Cabbage Patch Kids. I started dressing like an American kid, eschewing my Peter Pan collared shirts and embracing Oshkosh B’gosh overalls. I insisted I be allowed to join the Girl Scouts and I threatened mutiny if my parents didn’t send me to a real American summer camp in the mountains.

It worked. I meshed seamlessly with the kids at the new school.

I got a three year respite from trying to fit in when we moved to London, England where I went to school with hundreds of other expat kids. And then we went back to France where, once again, I was a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.

French kid to the expat students at my international school. American to the French kids who’d never left the country. Everything I did made me stand out to someone.

So I adapted.  Transformed back into a chameleon. I acted French with the French crowd and overly American with the Americans. Long gone was the kid who just was and didn’t care what anyone thought of her.

Great, Jessica/Kika, whatever your name is, but what does that have to do with your childhood nickname or weird tic from yesterday?

Well, actually, everything. It has everything to do with it.

For a brief time in college I found my tribe, people who celebrated me for being me, quirky, different, original. Then I left again. Headed back across the ocean, back to being a foreigner in a land that felt like my own.

I left my carefree self back with my nickname and once again molded myself into a version of me that fit into my new life.

Don’t we all? Don’t we all try hard to blend? To fit in? To be who people expect us to be?

Turns out, I’m really good at blending in and fitting in. So good, in fact, most people are shocked to learn that I come from a different country.

I work hard to fit into my town, where people tend to be slightly more affluent than we are and way more accomplished than I can ever dream.

I blend. I answer what I’m supposed to answer. Act like who I’m supposed to be. And I fit in.

Mostly.**

Until people ask me questions that I know will show them just how different I really am. Then I get nervous. Because, my cover, if that’s what it is, is rather flimsy and easily shaken. That’s when I start to fidget and play with my hair.

“Where are you from?” Well, there goes that.

“What do you write?” Terrifying. Writing is not the norm. Most people have “real” jobs.  Also, writing is where I bare my soul. It’s where I share the things I usually hide so well. Writing is me, the real me. Talking about the writing makes me feel painfully vulnerable.

Writing is why I’m Kika online. Because she’s the real me. The one behind the words.

At one point in the mom’s group meeting an acquaintance sidled up and thanked me for the honesty and truth in my most recent posts. “You always say what we’re all secretly thinking.”

It was a reminder of why I write what I write. Why I let myself be vulnerable through my words.

The need to hide behind a facade is strong. The need to blend in, to be one with everyone else, is something that I’ve tried to do for so long now, I hardly even recognize I do it. It’s safe back here. But it’s also lonely in a way words can’t express.

Maybe I should try harder to be myself all the time, not just behind a computer.

Maybe we should all try to be more ourselves, because I can’t help but wonder how many of us were scared by jerks in elementary school who taught us that different is bad and erasing the parts of us that rock the boat is the only way to survive.

What will it take to allow us to be our true selves? Who knows who we could help by speaking what’s in our hearts rather than what we assume people want us to say?

 

*Full convoluted background can be found here

**The blue streak in my hair might be a bit of a rebellion from all the fitting in. Just wait until I get a tattoo.

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Live with intent

standard August 29, 2016 Leave a response

just show up 2

“Just show up.” In the parenting world, there’s recently been a lot of talk about showing up, about how sometimes, that’s all that matters, the act of being there, of coming, of being present where you’re needed. How sometimes, the rest will happen on its own, as long as you just show up.

I’ve thought about that a lot in the last few months. I’ve thought about it as I tear myself away from my computer to stand by my husband outside the school gates at the end of the day. He could go on his own. I could go on mine. But we’re showing up.

I’ve thought about it when I go in to kiss my girls good night and feel crushed by the thought of the million ways I could have been more present during the day. I shut down that train of thought and show up in that moment. Those three minutes when a few tender words of love and support are exchanged.

I’ve thought about it on nights when I haven’t read the book club book and wonder if maybe I should just skip it this month. Or when a girl friend texts to say she wants/needs to meet for coffee.

A million times it would be easier to stay put, miss out, not go. A million times I choose to not overthink it and just show up. A million times I’m grateful I did.

There’s another phrase that pops up in my Pinterest feed distressingly often, proving just how much it must resonate with others. “Live, don’t just exist.” How many others sit there and stare at that phrase, wondering if they’re living enough or if they’re just going through the motions? How many feel exhausted by the mere thought?

But here’s the thought that hit me today as I was driving home from a meeting so dull I swear the dust motes in the room all left in protest. It’s not about doing more, it’s about doing it all with intent. 

It’s about showing up and doing the dishes and the laundry.

It’s about showing up to pack the lunches and check the homework. 

It’s about showing up to get the groceries and put them away. 

It’s about showing up and making the beds and walking the dog. 

It’s about showing up at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

It’s about showing up and doing the work your family needs you to do. 

It’s about showing up and listening and then saying what needs to be heard. 

It’s about showing up again and again and again, even when you’re bone tired and don’t remember why you’re doing it all in the first place. 

And it’s about doing it all with intent. Choosing to show up.

It’s about realizing that not everyone does, and that the fact that you do is a choice that you make every single time you do what you do.

It’s incredibly easy to meander through life without ever really making any conscious choices. When you show up with intent to your every day life, you’re not existing, you’re living. And even if it doesn’t look any different to any observer, the difference you feel inside is all that matters.

Show up. Be intentional. Live your life. You only get the one. 

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In response to that post about why women drink: Leave my booze alone

standard August 22, 2016 1 response

When I woke up this morning, because of my usual 3-hour West Coast delay, Facebook was already all atwitter about an article that was rapidly making the rounds.

The article, prominent enough that a friend who isn’t even on Facebook had texted it to me, is about the pervasiveness of booze in the world of women, as seen from the point of view of a woman who has been sober for a few months.

Many people who hadn’t read beyond the title were ranting that people could take their booze from their cold dead hands and what did people know anyway. Booze is Good.

Others, like me, took the time to read the rather lengthy and wordy piece and then gave it a bit of thought.

Let’s start with this:

The piece, while I believe is well intentioned, does come off as a tad judgey and a smidge moralistic. I’d like my ethanol chilled, please. It goes better with the guac.

It’s also fraught with some serious hyperbole, which I think is a shame, because it detracts from some interesting observations.

1) Life is HARD, yo.

Here’s the hard truth. Whether you are a woman trying to make it in what will almost surely always be a man’s world or a mom juggling the needs of children and family and home, life is fucking hard. Women aren’t ever treated as equals. We always have to work harder for less. We will never be given our just rewards.

2) Booze is society’s answer to all the hard.

If you spend any time at all online or in the real world, you’ll know this to be a fact.

Booze lubricates conversations and events. It soothes ruffled feathers. It heals all hurts. If you ever complain about anything or mention that anything is hard, people offer you wine. No matter what time it is.

People joke endlessly about booze. People talk about it. A lot.

wine meme

 

3) Women drink. Like a lot.

It’s not just a cliché. It’s a fact.

We drink for fun, we drink to relax, we drink to reward or comfort ourselves. It’s a societally acceptable way to do all that. So we do it.

I-Wish-I-Could-Trade-My-Heart-For-Another-Liver-So-I-Could-Drink-More-And-Care-Less-Funny-Drinking-Meme

Then let’s go here: 

Sadly, I don’t think this article went quite far enough. I think the author stopped after laying out a few observations coated liberally with judgement.

Here where I think the conversation could go after everyone reads this piece.

Let’s take an uncomfortable look at exactly why women drink. Beyond the fact that society constantly pushes us to do so.

Remember point 1? Life. Hard.

We are always ON. Always fighting. Always doing. Being the perfect employee, the perfect wife, the perfect mom, the good daughter-in-law, the nice neighbor, the good sibling, all comes at a huge cost to ourselves and our well-being.

Our most common options for “time off” is either to work out or drink. And, as the author of this piece points out, even the line between those two options gets at times blurred. (To wit: 10 Races for Wine Lovers.)

And just so we’re clear, working out, for most women, is not about having fun and blowing off steam. It’s about looking good, so we can meet society’s standards for what we “should” look like. (Not you, I know, you totally run because you love it. I know.)

Booze is the great equalizer. For an hour or two, glass in hand, we can relax and be our true selves. If we’re not acting as we “should” we can always blame the contents of the cup. Expectations are lowered. We can finally be real with no real judgement. (Unless we get raped. Because then it’s clearly because we had too much to drink. D’oy. Let’s get real here.)

Fact is, booze is quite handy when it comes to helping us cope with the challenge, ignore the little voices inside that whisper that nothing should be this hard. It also dulls the anger, the emotions. (Please note, my use of the word booze, instead of the more innocuous wine is intentional. The effects are the same. The sugar coating, not.)

Because as we all know, emotions and anger are the most terrifying things a woman can show. An angry woman is a woman who gets shit done. A woman to be reckoned with. No one wants women to get angry. Well, men don’t. Like ever. Bad things will happen. Or good, depending on the point of view. An angry woman is a shrew. An angry man? Well, he’s just got something bothering him, OK? Lay off, he’s had a hard day.

So instead of telling women it’s OK to feel strong emotions, that anger and fear and sorrow are just as valid and honorable as joy and enthusiasm, we all tell her to chill out and have a glass of something relaxing instead.

Fell down and skinned your knee? Here, this glass of wine will help.

Pissed you were ignored at your board meeting again? Have a cocktail, you’ll stop caring.

Husband being a jerk? Come over, we’ll have a drink or five and when you get home it’ll be water under the bridge.

The message is clear:

Don’t get mad. Get drunk.

Don’t get busy. Chill out with a glass or three.

Now, I’m not saying we should all go out and burn our bottle openers in righteous indignation. You will literally have to pry mine from my cold dead hand. I’m not saying that drinking is wrong, that we should all instantly stop and fight the patriarchy. I’m just saying, isn’t it fascinating how we all seem to be living in some Brave New World parallel universe?

Huh. Soma anyone?

soma

Tuck that away somewhere where deep thoughts go to stew.

And, while we’re at it, let’s also remember the part where we’re all genuinely so damn busy. So that we can find it in our hearts to have a little grace for ourselves and our fellow women. We can’t all change the world or even our lives. Sometimes we’re just in a tough place that needs to be endured, not fixed. Sometimes we really do have too much on our plate.

Let’s practice together. Grace. Not judgement.

The woman partying at the end of the pool might be caring with an ailing family member and only get one weekend a year to blow off steam.

The girl wasted at the office party might have just worked 7 straight weeks with no weekends.

The mom sneaking some wine at the back-to-school night assembly might have just folded an Everest sized mountain of laundry for a friend who just had a baby.

Self-righteousness doesn’t fix anything. Instead maybe we could all just bring a little self-awareness to the table. A moment to think “what is the purpose of this drink?” before we pour the glass. Not to shame ourselves, but just to keep tabs on whether we’re doing what we want rather than reacting to what we’re been told we should want. That seems like a good place to start, no?

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