“We share the same biology
Regardless of ideology
What might save us, me, and you
Is if the Russians love their children too.”
This past weekend I was watching one of those “human interest” Olympics stories, that I actually found quite intriguing. Tom Brokaw was interviewing a former Soviet Cosmonaut, and a former American Astronaut, who had worked together on the Apollo-Soyuz Project in the 70’s. It was something I’d never heard of, and it was really heartwarming and interesting. After having worked together the two became close friends and remain so today, in their 80’s. Indeed, the two men say that they are as close as family today, calling one another “brothers.”
I found the story so remarkable…the Cold War and Soviet/US relations were of particular interest of me as a child. In probably 3rd grade I figured out what the reality of a nuclear war would mean for the world, and became a bit obsessed with the topic. I was a little odd for my young age in that I spent a lot of time watching the news and keeping up on current events. As I grew this interest would become one of the keystones in my love of history, and I took particular interest in the history of the USSR/Russia, taking classes both in high school and college on the topic. Most of my initial interest was grounded in abject terror of the possibility of a nuclear war, but even at a very young age I think I was aware of something that the recent Olympics story made clear to me: that at the core of ideological differences are people, humans who are more alike than different. I loved the song “Russians” by Sting for more than the fact that Sting is awesome, but because it humanized the people we were so “against.” It humanized the “enemy.” They were just people who loved their kids, too.
I don’t think I realized just how much hate and vitriol was directed towards people from the USSR, “commies” “Reds”, etc as a kid, it wasn’t until I became an adult that I saw that fear of the unknown breeds hatred. Think of all the “us vs. them” scenarios that you can in just a minute. Blacks vs. whites. The US vs. (insert current enemy nation here). Conservative vs. liberal. Gay vs. straight. Christians vs. other religions. Muslims. Japanese Americans in WWII. Rich vs. poor. Moms who breast feed vs. bottle feed. Parents who vaccinate vs. Parents who don’t. I could keep listing and listing and listing all of those people we claim to “hate” simply because our ideology’s don’t match up, we disagree about certain things. Do we really, truly hate them?
When I was driving to work one day I was behind a car that said “IH8DEMS” on their vanity plate. As a democrat that really irked me. That person doesn’t know me at all and yet they claim to “hate” me, enough so that they’d pay extra to be able to tell the whole world. We’ve gotten to a place in America where the people with the loudest voices are controlling the dialogue. The Ann Coulter’s, Bill Maher’s, Ahmadinejad’s and Westboro Baptists…they are the ones telling us in their loudest, most outraged voices, who to love and who to hate, who to trust and who to fear. Who is right and who is wrong. Is that who we want in control? Is that who we want defining us?
If we never know, truly know another person, we can never know their story. If we don’t know a gay person, we can continue to judge and fear them. If we don’t know any Christians, we can continue to criticize and label them close minded. If we don’t know a Muslim, we can continue to think they are all terrorists. If we don’t know someone on welfare it’s easy to label them as slackers. But what I believe most strongly is that, at the very heart of things, all of us are people who “love their children too”…we laugh at jokes, cry when we lose someone we love, worry about our kids, have favorite foods and bad memories of middle school, think we look fat and wish we were smarter. Feel good about our accomplishments and look back at certain events with regret. We are human. A little bit good, a little bit bad, a lot in between. Yeah, there are some awful people out there. They may be black or white, liberal or conservative, American or some other nationality. But are we going to let those few people define a certain group? Take away their humanity? Are we going to let the loud voices run this show??
I don’t want to do that. I want to be me, in all my (Thank you Glennon Melton) brutiful mess. I want to see you as you, not as some cause or label or political ideology or nationality or race. To appreciate the way all those things make you who you are. To be able to disagree without turning that disagreement into a Cold War.
Anne Frank wrote “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” My god, if she believed that, shouldn’t we be able to do the same when we consider those with whom we feel at odds with? If Tom Stafford and Alexi Leonov can overcome the bitter hatred of the Cold War to become “brothers”, can’t we do the same?
I think our humanity depends on it.
There’s no shortage of blogs/posts/discussions these days about the pressure we are under as adult women. Career women, not-so-career women, moms…its almost redundant to talk about the question of “having it all” and how that’s pretty much impossible. That being the case, I won’t delve into that a whole lot only to say that it is definitely a real thing. I suppose there are women out there who don’t put pressure on themselves, don’t feel it from the inside or the outside, are really that secure. I have never met any of those women. Any of the women in my life who I care about, who care about me, even women I know only a little bit, through bus stop and parent pick up chat…we all suffer from the “I’m Not Good Enough” virus. Do we stay at home? Work full time? Part time? Are we ruining our children? Sacrificing too much of ourselves? Not enough of ourselves? Are we betraying our gender? Letting our talents rot away? I know that men have their own issues…issues of self-worth and comparison, of adequacy in any number of arenas. But not being a man I can’t speak to those…I only know my own story, and the stories I have read and shared with friends and acquaintances. And those are REAL stories of the pressures we put on ourselves, that we feel from other women, other moms, our husbands, our parents. The pressure to be good enough and to kill ourselves trying to do it all.
Recently I wrote about how I had been feeling the urge to get back in the classroom, to do more with my brain, to have more of a career than just my $9 an hour part time job. So I’d applied to grad school and was starting a class this semester. I wrote about how it felt good to be “heading in a direction” and, even though I wasn’t sure what the final destination would be, I was excited to start on this new journey. I felt like maybe I was finally going to get my womanly mojo back. I think my husband was psyched that perhaps I’d have a better paying job someday, which would take some pressure off him. My dad, I know, was very proud of me, impressed that I was making this step. I got lots of “good for you!’s” and pats on the back and “you’re an inspiration!” comments.
Sometimes in life as an adult though, you have to make decisions. Decisions that are hard and you deliberate over. And over and over. Decisions that might make you look weak. That might leave people, even people who love you, shaking their heads. Decisions that you know are better for your overall mental health even though it might actually make other people think you’re crazy. I’ve certainly had my share of these times.
Starting grad school wasn’t an easy process. I don’t believe in signs but if I did I would’ve given up several months ago. Nothing about the process went smoothly, it seemed like I really had to push and push to just get information and make things happen. But by hook or by crook last Monday night I headed up to my first class. It went well, I felt pretty good. I was rather overwhelmed by the syllabus, minimal as it was, simply because it’s been 20 years since I’ve written a paper, used a college library, done any sort of research. I felt like the academic part of my brain had been wrapped in a heavy wool blanket and stuffed in a trunk for 20 years. It felt fuzzy and kind of numb, like a limb waking up after being sat on in a funny way. Pins and needles. But I thought I could do it, I knew I could do it, I was capable of doing the work. It was one class. I work part time. I’m a relatively smart individual (or at least good at faking it.).
And then this morning I dropped the class. And put my graduate school career on hold for the moment.
See, the more I thought about it the less sure I was that it was really something I wanted to do. That going back to teaching was what I really wanted to do. And sure, perhaps getting my master’s degree would’ve led me to some other career but…maybe it wouldn’t. And well, that’s a lot of money to spend on a maybe. It’s a lot of money to spend period.
My issues with money and our family’s handling of our finances are subjects for other posts. But oh yes, I have issues with money. Growing up stuff, can’t seem to shake it, kind of obsessive issues with money. And $1500 for this one class was freaking me out. I was splitting the payments up over 3 months and we managed to get the first month’s payment off, but I was panicking over every penny, every expense, every “what if x happens??” It’s why I stayed up most of the night when it was insanely cold, listening to the heater run and run and run and thinking solely about how much that electric bill is going to be next month. It’s why I have been waking up with bags under my eyes because I’m just not sleeping because I lay there itemizing every expense, trying to make it all fit, trying to figure out what can be sacrificed, what is essential.
All so I could pay for this one class that I wasn’t even sure I really wanted to take for a future that was hazy at best.
So I decided at somewhere between 3 and 7 am this morning to drop the class. And just wait. And see if I can get any more clarity before dropping that much money. And perhaps actually saving that much money and being prepared to pay it if that’s where I decide I want to end up.
I’m lucky because we’re in a position where I can work part time and we’re ok. We are blessed with some “safety nets” that not a lot of people have. I’m also lucky because I mostly love my life. I love being there for my kids. I love having days off to read, to get coffee with a friend, to not have to get up at 5 am to run, to go to the doctor and get errands done. I know that is a luxury. I read some of my friend’s Facebook posts as they document their full time, working mom lives. I have a flexible part time job, and can pick up more hours if I want/need to. There are times that yes, it’s a drag. It’s boring. It feels like I could be doing so much more. But what would I be feeling if I were working full time, what struggles would I be having then? There is no perfect situation in this life.
I feel kind of pathetic. I know my dad will be disappointed. I know a lot of people will not get it, maybe think less of me. Think I’m just wimping out. I probably am. Maybe I should’ve just sucked it up, toughed it out. But for what? To look strong? To prove something to someone else? To make myself look like something I’m not? Because I’m not. I’m not strong. I’m a total wuss. I like things easy and comfortable. And honestly…I’m happy with my life. And life is too short for me to be worrying like I have been the past several weeks. Too short for me to be trying to be something I’m not. Too short to try and satisfy someone else’s definition of what a good mom/wife/woman is. Because honestly what I felt after I submitted that drop form was sheer relief. Like this pressure had been lifted off of me.
Like I’m going to actually sleep tonight.