Thursday, May 4, 2023

Turning 50

 I remember when that seemed like a large number: 50. I remember believing what capitalism shoved down my throat: the height of life’s bell curve happens somewhere around 15-35. The rest is inconsequential. Of course, that’s not true. 

I thought at 50, I’d know things. That I’d be wise. What I know is that there’s so much I don’t know, and so much I’ll never know. 

I thought at 50, I’d look old. I’m not going to pretend that I haven’t aged, but there’s not as many wrinkles as I imagined I would have at 50. 

I hoped I would be happy. And I am. 

I feel like I’m just starting to reach the peak. In the last 50 years, I’ve figured out a lot of things that I don’t want my life to be. Mostly by making mistakes. 

Now I’m learning what truly brings me joy and peace. 

I’ve learned how to take care of myself. Not stupid bubble bath self-care (although there’s nothing wrong with a bubble bath), but the self care where you recognize what’s making you happy or unhappy and you do something about it. 

I’ve stopped suffering through things that I don’t have to. I’ve stopped living life like the “good student,” vying for praise and respect. I am loved and respected by people I love and respect. I’m not going to try to change myself for someone to like me. I’m okay if you don’t. There are plenty of people I don’t like. I’m not talking about trying to hurt anyone or vice versa, but I don’t need to be loved and respected by everyone. 

I’ve learned how to let things go. It does me no good to seethe in anger or feel bad about myself. You don’t earn “points” by self-sacrifice. Not just in the big ways, but in the little ways too: I now have a drink every time I’m on a plane. Just one to let myself just be while the pilots and flight attendants take care of me and the rest of the passengers. 

I go to the theatre by myself a lot. And I love it. I don’t have to worry about what others think of it, try to schedule it, blah blah blah. AND I also go with friends and family. I spent my 50th birthday with my girls, seeing SIX on Broadway! 

I took a cruise by myself and loved it. I go to restaurants by myself and enjoy it. I love to people watch and make up stories in my head about who they are and what kind of conversations or thoughts they’re having. 

It’s like when I was a kid, and I would play with Barbies and make up their stories. I know, there are definitely issues with Barbies, but I cared most about the make-believe of it all. 

I also have done a lot of things in my life that I’m proud of, that I overcame, that I endured, and that I loved. There is enough life back there for me to see that this is not the beginning. 

Of course, I don’t know how much is ahead of me, if I’ll be able to maintain my health, my happiness. 

So I’m going to love my life now. At 50. 

Monday, December 5, 2022

Capitalism Series, Part 2: The Short-Sightedness of Quarterly Reports

 While I would never put the white hat completely on corporations, I think many of their problems are caused or made worse by the quarterly reports. CEOs, department heads, sometimes an entire company's future is on the line because of what Wall Street thinks of a quarterly report. 

Even the shareholders are subject to the whims of Wall Street. It comes down to a few people who punish or reward companies for meeting (or failing to meet) their expectations. Somehow, wondering whether Wall Street got it right or wrong is never the question. 

I hold stocks, too. In my 401k, and in a personal account, but I generally invest in index funds, less weighted by one or even a few select companies. I can appreciate the shareholders' need to know, but why so often? Wouldn't twice a year be plenty? 

Companies are held to this impossible standard of beating expectations every quarter. There might be one (Apple) that has managed to do this, but I think every other company has seen its share of ups and downs. And even Apple had its down days way back when. 

Very few are willing to dive deeper than whether profits are up or down. Never mind if the company bought some badly needed equipment that increased their expenses, but decreased human injuries. Human injuries aren't included in quarterly reports. 

Even when a company has an outstanding report, the very next day, the question becomes, how will we fare next quarter?

Which doesn't help a company think about long-term planning, doesn't allow time for R&D, doesn't even reward companies when they recall products to keep everyone safe! Despite another bad ruling by the Supreme Court, corporations are not themselves people, but they are indeed comprised of people. 

Most people didn't start their first day thinking that they'd hate the job. They go in with all kinds of enthusiasm, hoping to feel valued. But work enough days in a corporation, everyone comes to realize that the corporation prioritizes their quarterly reports above all else. Of course people want to quiet quit! Or quit altogether. Just because an abused spouse stays doesn't mean they enjoy it - they just don't see a way out.

I wonder what would happen if the quarterly report did include injuries, retention percentages, customer complaints? I wonder what would happen if CEOs got their bonuses docked for injuries, complaints, lack of retention? 

I'm starting to shop more B Corporations, which is a designation for companies that are committed to benefit all stakeholders, not just shareholders. It's a step in the right direction, and if more companies got on board, it might just change the world. 

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Capitalism Series, Part 1: Unions

I find the easiest way to contemplate the bigger problems is always to follow the money. 

We've all heard that money and power corrupt and while of course that's not true of everyone, I'm becoming more and more convinced that the greed for money and power is the root of most of the bigger problems. 

One of the things I always go back to is a line from Michael Douglas' speech at the end of Aaron Sorkin's The American President regarding some politicians' interests: "making you afraid of it, and telling you who's to blame for it." Using that tactic has allowed them to continue to profit (either financially or politically - most likely both) off of fear and anger. 

Unions are once again in the news: Starbucks, UC grad students, the railway workers, etc. I've said it before, unions are the area in which I stray most from the Democratic Party and the progressives. Here are a few reasons why: 

  • Lack of accountability for union leaders. I first wrote about this during the grocery store worker strike of the early aughts. The workers had been paying into a union fund to subsidize health care costs, but the union leaders ended up spending that money elsewhere, leaving the workers with no support when health insurance costs continued to rise. The workers had to strike (during the holidays, as I recall) and live off even less in order to make up for the union leadership's bad acts. While I understand that the leadership is elected by their members, many members have enough information to vote in their own best interest. 
  • Lack of accountability for workers' poor performance. It was very clear to me that in Sylvia's middle school, they placed all their best teachers in the eighth grade and all their worst teachers that they couldn't fire in the sixth grade. That did NOT get her off to the best start in middle school. Of course, I don't believe that teachers should be fired for saying "gay" or encouraging critical thinking, but I also know that there are some that are simply not good at their job, and the effects on their students is too severe to keep them in that position. 
  • Unions create more hierarchy. In my acting days, there were a lot of auditions that were union only, but of course, the only way to get a union card (at that time) was to get a union gig, but how would you get that without the opportunity to audition? It was a catch-22 that created a those who have and those who haven't to divide the acting community. I know some employees that have to belong to a union, but that union isn't supporting them (see first bullet above), and there are also millions of workers in jobs that aren't covered by a union, and therefore, do not get some protections that others enjoy. It's pitting workers against workers. 
  • Divides instead of unites. If we want to protect the labor force, then we should protect the entire labor force. All workers should have a modicum of control over their schedules. Everyone should get some paid sick time. The problem with unionizing one Starbucks at a time is the that the baristas at Peet's are not protected. It might help some but not all workers get a fair deal, making them wholly unfair. 
  • Corporations do not change their stripes. Some corporations end up using "independent contractors" or close down stores to avoid unions. Lyft managed to get a proposition passed in California excluding them from CA's attempt at stopping the former. Or they use the increased wages at the bottom as an excuse to raise prices - and yet somehow, the C-suite can always afford bonuses and raises! 
Unions were a critical step in creating some of the federal laws that we have today to protect labor, like criminalizing child labor and mandating work breaks. But let's think about where we were at that time: we didn't have the internet or the ability to spread the word beyond our own communities. Keeping it local was the only way workers stood a chance. 

But times have indeed changed. 

Why are we limiting ourselves to one Starbucks, one industry, or even one country? Don't all workers everywhere deserve protection? Why are we continuing to be so small-minded about how to change the world? We're not thinking big enough. 

Friday, June 24, 2022

My Abortion Saved Me and My Girls

I woke up the morning after what I'd thought was a really productive conversation with X. He acknowledged the mistakes he'd made, vowed to do better, and we were going to try and put our family back together again. 

I went to the place where'd I'd hid the grocery money. X had already emptied my bank account, so I'd resorted to hiding cash around the house to cover child care, groceries, and other expenses. This time, I'd put it in a shoe. 

But there was no money in there. After our so-called productive conversation, X had found it, and spent it on drugs and/or alcohol - don't know, and at that moment, I no longer cared. 

After years, two daughters and one miscarriage, a wedding, several moves in a total of 4 states, I'd simply fallen out of love with X. I'd even warned him a few weeks prior that I thought this could happen. My love had been the only thing holding us together. And now it was gone. 

I don't remember the exact timeline here, but it wasn't long after that when I discovered I was pregnant. 

My girls were about 2 1/2 and 5 1/2 at the time. I already knew I was going to leave X, and I couldn't imagine trying to explain divorce and adoption at the same time. 

I had no idea how I was going to manage. I was living across the country from my family at the time, working in the field I loved, but with a boss who threw a chair at an employee and would yell at us during staff meetings. 

Now, I'm fully aware that I played a role in this, that I had responsibilities. The responsible thing to do was not bring another human into the chaos that was our lives at that moment. 

Thankfully, at the time, we lived about a block away from a Planned Parenthood. The idea was that I'd go home after, but my nightmare boss made me come into work...and then later questioned my loyalty, which is when I decided to leave that job, too. 

The procedure was simple enough that I could work afterwards. There was very little pain. Frankly, a lot less painful than childbirth! And a lot less expensive than raising kids. 

My daughters are now 21 and 24. They're both working in fields they love, which happen to be with children. 

They're both on birth control, even though only 1 has a serous relationship right now. 

I'm incredibly proud of them. I'm also proud of me. I raised them. I got myself a job in a department with really good people, who supported me and cheered me on when I went back to school. I work for a boss who recognizes that people come first, and gave me promotions every time he could. 

I own my own townhouse now. I'm raising two kitties now (both rescues). 

Not once have I ever regretted my decision to have an abortion. And no, I don't even regret the intercourse that led to it, because at the time, I was committed to my marriage. Which he broke. I just finally put myself and my girls back together. 

No one deserves my story, which is why I haven't shared it before. I'm sharing it now because this country still allows free speech. I've got to exercise any and all rights I have left! 


Sunday, January 9, 2022

Maybe We Should Embrace the Trauma

 I'm going to spoil the ending of the limited series, Dopesick, so fair warning. I'm only semi-serious, of course, since the "end" is still playing out in court but I'm talking about the actual series here, which I didn't know how they'd end. Turns out they found the perfect ending, and I can't stop thinking about it. 

They offered the possibility that maybe we should stop trying to stop feeling pain. 

I offer it here not just as an answer to the opioid epidemic, but also in response to the pandemic, the political divides, the many divides that we're finding as a way to separate ourselves: working mom vs stay at home mom, mom versus childfree, married versus single - which are all relatively harmless, especially when compared to some of the horrific dividers that have gotten people killed: racism, misogyny, and the prejudices that have started wars. 

I saw a headline of an opinion piece that school shutdowns are "only hurting children," which of course, is problematic since shutdowns might also be saving lives. But it's the prime example of what is happening: it's someone else crying for us to pay attention to their pain, their plight. 

We're all in pain, we're all suffering in one way or another. Because we're in a pandemic!

But even if we weren't, each of us has suffered some sort of trauma, some sort of longing, some desire to connect with others. What I find sad is that in this moment, when we're all suffering, instead of coming together, there are so many that are trying to find someone to blame. We're all to blame, no one is to blame...did I mention we're in a pandemic? 

Particularly us Americans, we mistake our right to "pursue happiness" as some sort of promise that no one should ever cause us unhappiness. And that if they do, someone will pay. 

I work in the legal profession: I understand and appreciate on a daily level our constitutional rights that include our day in court...WHEN someone has committed a crime. Causing us unhappiness is not, in fact, a crime. 

And I confess, I do it, too. I place blame on anti-vaxxers for prolonging the pandemic. But even if I do, and even though I have wondered if there's a way for them to "stand trial," I know that's futile. So I vent with my friends and then I go about my day. 

We're allowed to feel our pain, our anger, and our sadness when we feel loss. But we should also recognize that pain is part of life. 

We have to stop denying that. We have to stop fighting it. We have to recognize our trauma, our pain, so that we can properly heal. 

We don't heal by yelling in people's face to take off or put on a mask. We don't heal by hiring bot farms to attack someone on social media. We don't heal when we numb the pain with drugs, alcohol, or even retail therapy.

We can only start to heal when we face our pain, our trauma. When we reach out to friends or mental health professionals that we need help. And it does help to get outside of ourselves and help someone else, if we can. 

Saturday, December 18, 2021

A Very Female-Led Xmas

Following up on my previous post about shopping female-led companies, I'm so pleased to report how much more often I'm able to shop with businesses that are female-led or female-owned, some black woman-owned, and other small businesses not run by cis white men. (Female in this context means anyone that self-identifies as female.) 

I'm hosting our family holiday celebration, and we're going with a more Mexican-themed meal: tamales, refried beans, etc. I got my beans from Primary Beans, a female-led company that features beans grown by females, when possible. I'll be serving Bloody Marys made with Square One vodka and Bloody Mary mix (and Bloody Marias with 21Seeds Tequila (jalapeno & cucumber infused). I'm also serving Avocado Hummus, which includes Soom tahini. 

Some of the gifts have been wrapped with Furoshiki-style wraps from Wrappr, and the patterns are designed by female artists. 

Our dessert will be edible cookie dough from Unbaked

I've gifted wine from maivino, reusable plastic-free containers from Zip Top, I bought the Zip Top containers from Ban SUP Refill, a female-owned zero-waste refill store in Pasadena. I also picked up a gift from The Nopo, a female-founded marketplace featuring items made by artisans world-wide. I have previously purchased jigsaw puzzles from Jiggy, a woman-owned company that also features female artists in their puzzles. 

I'm now using hair products from Ceremonia, a Latinx female-founded company, tooth tablets from Bite, Branch Basics for laundry and some cleaning, and wearwell for sustainable clothing. 

Reel is a black-owned company (and kept me from having to worry about any toilet paper shortages). They recently added recycled paper towels, and they're excellent. 

I get the Woman-Owned Wednesday newsletter to learn about new businesses (and they also have a gift guide), and also subscribe to Buy from a Black Woman. I also support The 19th, an independent newsroom focusing on gender politics. 

Fidelity also has a Women's Leadership Fund, which is an index that includes companies that (from their website): at the time of initial purchase, (i) include a woman as a member of the senior management team, (ii) are governed by a board for which women represent at least one third of all directors, or (iii) in the Adviser’s opinion, have adopted policies designed to attract, retain and promote women.

All my hours of research are starting to pay off! I also have bookmarked several articles featuring women-owned, black-owned, native American-owned, LGBTQ-owned, etc. When I go into marketplaces that sell multiple brands, I ask about female-owned/female-led brands.  Some online marketplaces are also starting to include links to narrow your search accordingly, like The Grommet

Happy (female-led) shopping! 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Is it Possible to Heal Without Forgiving?

I've been exploring my past lately, and there are a lot of things that I'm seeing with a new perspective. Sometimes, we need the distance before we can do that. Some of it, honestly I've been avoiding. 
But not anymore. 

I think it's helping because if I look back at something again, I can recognize what I felt without feeling it again. 

I don't hate my ex anymore. I feel nothing for him. I'm not mad, I'm not angry, but I don't pity him or wish him well either. I'm surprised that he's still alive, but that's the closest to a feeling I get. 

But I don't forgive him.

There was a time when I blamed myself for not being able to forgive him. And then I reached the screw it stage, and just sort of forgot about him. I ask the girls every so often if they've heard from him, but we usually move on to another topic pretty easily. 

Watching the series Maid did bring those years I was with him to mind. I recognized that character a lot. But I wasn't so much about him. I was remembering the way I felt after things he would say or do. I've known for a while that he inflicted emotional abuse, but I also carried shame about it. That I "let" this happen to me. I'm letting that shame go. 

All of this is good. 

What I question now is as I've titled this. I know I don't forgive him. That would require some amount of care for him that I'm just not willing to give. And yet I still feel healthier. 

Do I need to forgive him to completely heal? Or is this healed enough? 

'Cause I feel pretty good!