Mark

Even after the election, what’s happening in our country continues to take a toll on our mental health, I think that’s one thing we the people can agree on. This election has brought to light many terrible, terrible realities that live within our borders. Realities like racism, homophobia, sexism and fear of those who are different. Realities that were wrongfully ignored in the shadows by too many of us. Every single day seems to become more outrageous than the previous one and I’m nervous about what will happen over the next four years.

There is a long list of reasons why it’s dangerous for Donald Trump to be President of the United States. But I’m going to talk about one specific reason – his misogyny.

I was eighteen and in a broadcasting program where I was one of very few female students. I am a natural introvert and walked into that program with steadfast determination of pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I wanted to be more open and outgoing. I was off to a promising start, I found a passion in media and enjoyed a confidence that had eluded me during my high school years. That all changed during my last semester, when a student transferred in from another program. I’ll just call him Mark.

Mark was boisterous. He needed to be the center of attention all the time. He didn’t listen to anyone. He was a constant interrupter and needed you to know why his, and only his, opinion was worth anything.

He was consistent with his eye-roll-inducing mansplaining and everything out of his mouth had a sexual undertone. One time, he announced to no one in particular that if he were a woman, he’d make himself orgasm over and over because “women don’t need the same recovery time as men so they can just go all day long, why wouldn’t you?” He thought he was being funny, but he made all of us uncomfortable. And while we all were disgusted by his quips, no one said anything to enlighten him to our revulsion.

One afternoon in the studio, Mark came over and grabbed my large over-the-ear headphones. He thought it appropriate to put them on like a thong, with one ear cup on his butt, the other over his man-parts and proceed to pretend that he was riding a bull or horse or something around the studio.

“You know you have a giant rack, right?” he said as he handed my headphones back to me, almost out of breath from his little show. He even gestured with his hands like he was grabbing his own imaginary breasts. “I mean, seriously, they are amazing,” he continued, laughing and going about his business as if what just happened was perfectly acceptable.

The other three people in the studio, all men, were stunned. One guy kind of snickered, uncomfortably, like he didn’t know what to do, and another actually told Mark that what he did “wasn’t cool, man.”

I was horrified. I left the studio and grabbed the two other women in my class and told them what I had just experienced. I was shaking with anger, with fear, with this paralyzing feeling of helplessness. With their encouragement, I walked with my head delicately held high into our teacher’s office and shut the door. I was ignoring every instinct in my gut to coil back and pretend it didn’t happen.

I fought back tears as I told my instructor about the incident and about Mark’s constant sexual commentary. I didn’t want to cry, I hated that Mark made me cry. I had done absolutely nothing wrong. My teacher asked me what I wanted him to do about it and I remember telling him I just wanted it to stop.

I returned to my studio and continued with putting together newscasts. Maybe fifteen minutes later, Mark bursted into the studio and asked to speak to me. There was a look of panic on his face. My stomach felt like it had completely deflated as I walked out into the hallway with him.

I don’t know what our teacher said to him. I wished he hadn’t talked to him while I was still there. His apology was almost as traumatizing as the original event.

“I had no idea I was being offensive,” he said, “I was just kidding around.” He had an accusatory tone.

Did he want me to tell him it was okay? Did he want me to apologize for saying something to our teacher? I don’t remember what I said to him. I only remember being uncomfortable and wanting him to leave me alone.

I was eighteen. I carried that experience with me, somewhat subconsciously, into my early career. I felt like I had fallen back into a pattern of hesitation where my self-confidence wavered. Mark’s action that day made me question the intentions of the majority of the men I encountered during my radio career and I know it held me back from pursuing my best professional self in those early years. Not all men in the industry are horrible, although a lot of them are (as are a lot of the women who contribute to that culture). Despite it all, I still reached my initial goals that I set as a teenager to be a radio professional. I produced a morning show and hosted a weekend show in a large market. Not a lot of my classmates can say that. Not a lot of my classmates ever set foot in a studio after school.

I went on to find a lot of success within other avenues of the media world, working side-by-side with incredible men and women. It took a lot of guts and strength to claw my way to where I am. Today, fifteen years into my career, I am part of a wonderful team. Yet, throughout it all, I’ve often dealt with people like Mark. When I take on a new project or a new job, I have to work twice as hard to gain the respect of the room, simply because I’m a woman. I see it happen to my female colleagues as well, from men talking over us in meetings to taking credit for our ideas. It’s a very real thing. It’s disheartening, it’s exhausting and it needs to change.

Donald Trump is no different than Mark. He’s a bully who only considers himself and he belongs no where near the White House. I am fortunate to know a lot of incredible women who also stand up against the Marks of the world. They have been valuable examples and I hope to someday be that example for a younger generation. I am also fortunate to know a lot of wonderful men, who would never dream of treating women this way. They were right there marching with us this past Saturday. They were there holding their young sons up on their shoulders, teaching them what it means to stand up for what’s right. Teaching them not to stay comfortable in their own privilege. Teaching them to care about the struggle of others, especially when it’s a struggle they don’t (and will never) share.

It’s time for all of us to take on the biggest “Mark” of them all. For your wives, daughters, mothers, sisters, aunts… please show up and stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. We need to keep Trump from taking us into a backwards spiral that we may never claw our way out of. This isn’t the time to throw our hands up in the air and lose faith. It’s time to come together and keep pushing forward.  This is about all of us.

Learn more about what you can do right now to help:  https://www.womensmarch.com/100/

Walking to the Bus

I flung my wrist up and the time appeared in purple text on my black Apple Watch.

7:55.

I got this, I said to myself as I swung my well-worn orange and gray messenger bag over my head. The strap fell into place on my shoulder as I grabbed my keys and headed out the door. My bus would arrive in eleven minutes and I had to hustle my way down several city blocks.

I pulled my phone out of my coat pocket, headphones already in my ears and thumbed through Spotify as I walked down the hallway towards the elevator in the building where I live. I chose something acoustic, as I usually do, and pulled my wool hat onto my head before busting through the doors into the winter air.

I smiled as I made my way through the morning city chaos. Crisp air filled my lungs and my heart rate accelerated slightly as I upped my pace. Every step was familiar. The same pair of broken black ear buds were smashed into the asphalt of the parking lot I cut through as I rounded the corner to my bus stop.

I could see the double-length metro transit bus approaching just moments after I reached the corner. I let out a sigh of releif and pulled my bus pass out of my pocket, finally able to relax.

Life Time Triathlon

“Run with me,” said a voice behind me as I limped along the third leg of my very first triathlon.

A woman around my age hit my shoulder encouragingly and I jogged alongside her as we made our way around the lake.  My left IT band, which has a history for giving me problems, was insanely tight and my knee just couldn’t stand a lot of pressure.  But still I pressed on alongside her as we reached mile mark one.

I had to slow down and walk several times during the start of the run portion.   But about halfway through, I found my groove and ignored the searing pain in my left knee.  I was determined to race across that finish line.

“Don’t you dare quit,” I said to myself as I rounded that last turn, my knee ready to give out at what felt like any moment.  Two young kids stood up from the bench they were sharing with, who I assume , were their parents and stuck their tiny hands out towards me as I approached the end of the course.

“Good job!” said one, smacking my hand as I passed by

“You got this!” said their dad, as I high-fived the other kid.

Strangers clapped, cheered and rang cowbells as my name was announced over the loud speaker while I ran across the finish line.  As the finisher’s medal was hung around my neck, I had to contain my emotions.  I wasn’t fast, but I finished.  I freakin’ finished.

It was an emotional moment for me, because there was a time when I believed finishing something like a triathlon was impossible for me.  I did this race for the the nearly 300 pound girl I used to be.  The girl who looked on and watched other people participate in these kinds of events.  The girl who didn’t believe in herself for so many years.  The girl who watched other people live their life while she convinced herself she was content on the sidelines.

It was humbling and motivating.  And proved to me that anything is possible.

 

Improvement

The sun was setting as I slipped my feet into my black yoga mat sandals after my meditation class last night.  I felt very much at peace as I walked slowly to my car.  Ninety  minutes of sitting in tranquility will do that, I’ve found.

I turned my radio off as I started my car; I’ve come to appreciate the quiet.  I sent a couple of texts and started making my way back to my corner of the city.  I made several stops on my way and I felt a sense of uneasiness taking over again.  It’s something I haven’t been able to shake over the last couple of days.  I would describe it as feeling… unsettled.  Anxious.  And I don’t know WHY, so it also makes me feel frustrated.  Because I feel like I need something, but I don’t know what it is exactly.

It’s kind of like being starving, but not knowing what you’re hungry for.

So how do I move past that?  How do I “settle” myself… even when dealing with uncertainty?   How do I turn off the noise in my head and just let myself feel what I’m feeling?

These are answers I seek.  These are things I’m practicing.  It’s hard and uncomfortable, but with time, I know it will become a part of me.  It will eventually be easy and natural.  But right now, the path to get there has little rocks that I keep stepping on that make me wince.  Yet I know I have to keep walking it.  I want to keep walking it.

There’s an illusion of comfort when holding on tight to our feelings.  We think we’re protecting ourselves and others.  But is it comfortable?  Isn’t it a burden?  In talking with a friend today about how I’ve been feeling, I said I wished I didn’t feel things so intensely.   That I wished I didn’t pick-up on the emotions and feelings of others so easily, that I wasn’t so sensitive to those things, because it’s always affected how I react, speak and behave.  I’ve always been extremely conscious of how my actions and words affect others reactions and I’ve always tried to be strategic in how I interact with the intention of lessening any assumed burdens on others.  I always thought that was a strength of mine…. but IS IT?  It’s an exhausting way to live.  Absolutely exhausting.

I’ve been practicing how to STOP doing that…to learn how to better use those traits.  Because I still believe my sensitivity and empathetic nature are positive traits to possess.  They allow me to connect with others where words and actions cannot.   And if I can free my words and actions, not let them be confined by the reactions of others, it will  deepen my connection with the people in my life even further.  It will deepen all of my relationships, old and new.

In anything we do in life, anything that’s worth doing, the early steps are always the hardest.   Always.  But we have to keep trying, we have to keep going, we cannot give up.  Otherwise, what’s the point?

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”  –Benjamin Franklin

 

 

Still Standing

You know how sometimes your laptop just starts acting a little… off?  It’ll start taking forever for things to open or it won’t stay connected to the internet.  It gets frustrating and you think you’re about to lose your mind.  But you have a million things open that you’re working on and you really don’t want to shut it all down and re-open everything again one-by-one… so you deal with it.  After mounting frustration, you finally face the fact that a reboot is the only thing that will fix it.

Sometimes we humans need a reboot too.  I feel like I’ve done a major one on myself over the past sixty days.  It was forced upon me.  It was painful.  It was hard.  It was frustrating.  But it was exactly what I needed.  And I know it was what I needed and the work I’ve done is real,  because this weekend, when tough conversations were had with someone I still love, I was okay.  I felt, and continue to feel, a lot of things about what was revealed, but I didn’t explode into an emotional disaster like I have in the past.  I’m looking at life rationally and with an open mind and a healthy curiosity.  For the past two months, I’ve been taking a long hard look at myself… reflecting on my past, looking forward to my future and studying the relationship between the two.  Incredible self-realizations have surfaced and I feel stronger than I ever have.  There are still uncertainties to navigate through, there always will be in life, but I know I’m on solid footing now to  handle it better.

In my darkest and hardest moments these past two months, my friends told me that it would get better.  They told me that there was a reason for the pain and I would see what that reason was in time.  When you’re in the thick of the fog, when your heart is in a million pieces,  when you think you won’t survive it… that’s the last thing you want to hear.  But we HAVE to hear it.  And we have to try and believe in it.  Because as hard as life’s heartbreaks are to go through, there IS a reason and it DOES get better.  I’m living proof of that.

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”  – Henry Ford

 

 

 

 

Glitter in the Air

After work and running errands last Tuesday night, I was finally ready to relax for a little while before preparing for the following day.  I flipped on my TV as I fell into my big leather couch and the channel I had left it on twelve hours earlier made an appearance on the 46″ screen.

One of the Glees was singing, as they do, and while normally I would flip away from that show as quickly as possible, I immediately recognized the tune.  I was mesmerized for a minute, as I would consider it one of my all-time favorite songs, yet, I realized in that moment that I hadn’t listened to it in quite a long time.

I turned off the TV and pulled up the real version on my iPhone.  I slipped headphones over my ears and fell into the music as if it were the first time I’d listened to it.  It may be one of the most gut-wrenching, real, honest, beautiful lyrics  about love ever written.   Ever.

As the piano dances at the start, can’t you just picture a fistful of glitter being tossed up into the air?  You’ve been clutching onto it tight for so long in order to keep it safe, and in an instant it explodes as it bursts free from your grip.  You have no idea where or how it’s going to land, but you throw it out there anyway.  Isn’t that what love is?

“Have you ever fed a lover with just your hands?
Closed your eyes and trusted, just trusted
Have you ever thrown a fist full of glitter in the air?
Have you ever looked fear in the face and said I just don’t care?

It’s only half past the point of no return
The tip of the iceberg, the sun before the burn
The thunder before the lightning, and the breath before the phrase
Have you ever felt this way?”

I mean, my God, how beautiful and true is that?  The sun before the burn, the breath before the phrase.  It’s not one or the other.    Love isn’t happy, it’s not sad.  It’s not certain, it’s not doubtful.  It’s all of those things at the same time.  Chaos spinning around us as we search for that perfect moment where it all comes together in a breath and we finally come face-to-face with the other half of our soul.   Wanting so badly for that moment to last forever, but knowing it can’t, we reach out for their hand, hoping they reach back, before getting sucked again into the spin.   Closing your eyes and having faith that you’ll land with your fingers still interlaced.

[…]

 

 

Believe You Can Run

All day yesterday, I was itching to get outside and try a run. The sun rays sparkled through the office windows and I purposely scheduled meetings in our other building so I could indulge in some fresh air a few minutes at a time.

While mentally I was pumped and raring to go, physically I was feeling sluggish, likely due to the less-than-healthy nosh from the weekend. Do it anyway, I told myself as I arrived home after the workday.

I walked lakeside for a minute, sporting shorts for the first time in forever,  before taking off in a run. I focused on my breathing and speed while dodging around walkers, runners, dogs and uneven pavement. Keep going, I kept saying internally.

I’m not a runner. But I want to be a runner. I’ve tried in the past, but never really stuck with it long enough to improve much. I kept wanting to just go and bang out a few miles, rather than breaking it down and building up my endurance one step at a time. I’ve been impatient with my progress in the past and just wanted to be good at it. After enough failed attempts, I’ve learned over the winter that I really do need to do the progressive work to truly get better and actually enjoy it.

Last night I ran 2:1 sprints around the lake, 2 minute run : 1 minute walk : repeat. The first few sprints were tough, my lungs were on fire and I had to push hard to keep going. But as I made my way around the 2.7 mile route, it got easier. I started skipping the minute walks and running longer stretches at a time.

I took a deep breath as I walked out the last stretch of pavement before I reached my car and it felt like I was filling myself with not only fresh air, but with hope and determination. The trees that arched over the trail like a canopy were bare and I envisioned the buds that would soon be appearing, blossoming into fresh, new greenery. A fresh new season. And for me, a fresh new start at training.

I try a lot of things and often times I fail the first few go ’rounds. But I have to believe I can succeed, even when I don’t at first. I have to talk like I’m already good at it, even if I’m not yet. It’s that attitude that eventually gets me there in everything I do. I just have to believe in it and have the patience to see it through.