Sunday, December 16, 2018

10-Year-Old Me Lives Again

A few weeks ago, I had occasion to visit a client at his house. We'd spent weeks planning his final wishes and it was time to finalize a contract.* So, I'd agreed that since he and his mother, who is also his guardian, had already come to the funeral home where I work for several meetings, I'd visit them in their home.

We handled business first. Priority. Because mom isn't some spring chicken anymore, and son is in a delayed development place which means care for himself may be difficult, so ensuring his future needs are met was really important. It's why we'd been working diligently to find peace of mind about his eventual cremation.

Then, task met and as had been promised, mom showed me around her home filled with antiques---a thing for which we'd previously discovered a mutual love. Some pieces were decades old; many relics from her ancestors. Mom and son both had stories for each special item.

Once we'd looped the main floor, son -- a few years older than me -- was equally excited to show me his bedroom, which was in the basement. Ascending the stairs was like revisiting my own bedroom of adolescence, back in the late '80s and early- to mid-'90s. Imagine the quintessential hodge podge of favored toys, games, posters, music memorabilia, a kick-ass stereo, and random, unorganized personality.

Of all the things that caught my eye, only one truly tugged my attention. New Kids on the Block. From their prime. In a poster on his wall. I gushed. He gushed. Another mutual love discovered.

"How much do you love me, Janna?" son asked.

I hesitated internally. Prior work with those having special needs has taught me that sometimes the line between a professional relationship and a personal one can blur. I'd bonded with these two, this mother and son, but wasn't sure what he felt. So I safely said with a small smile, "I guess it depends on why you're asking."

He'd worked his way to a closet across the room and had his back to me. He opened the door so carefully, intentionally blocking from my view whatever it was he wanted to retrieve.

"I've been waiting a long time for someone to give this to, and now I know who should have it." He stalled a bit to feed my curiosity.

When he turned around, it was to hold aloft another framed NKOTB poster. An exact match to the one on his wall.

At the same time my still-a-kid heart soared, my adult, business brain crackled. "Oh, [son], that's SO sweet, but I can't accept gifts from clients."

That's when his mom, who'd been our company all along, pointed out that HE was my client. Not her. "I'm your friend. I'll give it to you, and that gets us around your rule, doesn't it?"

And she had me. I couldn't say no. 10-year-old me was thrilled. Son, too, was incredibly pleased to have found the right person for his gift...

I don't know what I'll do with this poster. Probably store it, if I'm honest, much the way he did in a closet.

I'll store it as a reminder that sometimes our interactions with people are about more than getting the job done. It's about connecting as humans, humans who have more similarities than differences. It's about seeing someone as more than a contract, or a public servant, or a passing interlude, and remembering that you're more than who you are in this moment---you're still all of your past, too.

*As a state-licensed pre-need agent, I spend a lot of my workdays helping folks with their funeral or cremation prearrangements.

Friday, December 7, 2018

To the Woman Living Her Own Life

Today let's celebrate the woman who has pulled herself from situations she realized were beneath her, which she deserved better than.

She who recognized her own potential, even when others couldn't, and decided to chase after it. On her own terms.

She who took charge. She made hard decisions because that's what was best. Healthiest. Absolutely necessary, do or die, long and painful and in the soul. Then she took one step and another, and another, and has carried herself somewhere no one else could or would. She did it.

She's still doing it.

Every day.

Because there's no other way.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Man Catcalls, Mom Reacts

It was dark and cold as we scurried through the Target parking lot toward our car last night. It had somehow been one of our quicker stops at one of our favorite stores, and we left with little more than toilet paper and Will Farrell's Elf on DVD. We were ready to get home after a long day.

So it caught us completely off-guard as a gross adult man shouted vulgar things through his car window, aiming them at my older daughter.

I didn't have to think before I yelled back, "Shut up, asshole, that's my 15 year old daughter!" 

I began to shake. It was that deep-down involuntary shake, the kind that doesn't ask your permission to become something of its own. The kind that carries similar injustices of the past to the surface of reaction.

He started to shout more but I told the girls to "close their ears" and just get in the car. Still, they heard his next ugly words, which included an absurd idea: "I thought she was 18!"

I hated everything about this experience.

That some jerkwad had the balls and entitlement to be disgusting and disrespectful. That it happened to my kid. That it shouldn't matter whether she's a young teen or of age, because no female should have to deal with that kind of behavior. That I got lippy back and made a scene of my own, which probably only fueled his fire. But also that I didn't approach his car and/or say more. Punch him in the throat, even.

The whole thing, from every direction, was upsetting.

I stewed for a long while, then, once we were home, decided to share about the situation in a private support group I belong to online. I needed their feedback, which, it turns out, was the right thing to seek.

Their understanding, matched anger, and logic helped me see that even while I regretted what I did, and second-guessed what I didn't do, I should be proud that I spoke up when so many others wouldn't or couldn't. That I didn't shy away or show him fear, nor that I was intimidated. I brought attention to his behavior. I stood up for my kid. For both kids, in fact, because what affects one affects the other. That's where my focus should be.

So today I've decided that while my reaction may not have made a difference in that one man---he'll continue being an asshole unless or until real consequence meets him---it makes a difference to my daughters whether or not I defend them.

Maybe it's possible that someone observed the whole thing, quick as it was, and next time they're in a similar situation, they'll speak up, too. If so, then I've won. And this is what advocacy for women is about as much as anything.

[For more about my advocacy, check out my side bar.]

Sunday, November 18, 2018

I'm Not Afraid of Bully Men

I recently had occasion to prove it to myself. That I'm not just talk when it comes to my advocacy, or speaking out against abuse by men. That I've grown a full, beautiful backbone and, it turns out, I know how to use it in real time.

There was this thing at work. A thing wherein a man who believes he makes his own rules, a man who wanted to take control when it was mine to maintain, tried to take advantage of someone I was helping.

Not on my watch, as they say.

First I held the reins so that This Man couldn't get what he was after. Then, following, I called him on the behavior.

The exact detail of exchange isn't important. What's important to know is that as he sat with a pseudo-dumb look on his face, I illustrated to him what he'd done wrong---as if he didn't already know---then explained that I'm not going to allow such behavior, and informed him he'll have me to answer to if he continues to pull the same shady, disrespectful tricks with my people.

This Man is probably 6'0" or 6'1" and a good 275+ pounds. Fleshy. Phony and inauthentic. His are dark, disconnected eyes. He thinks he's above the standard operation the rest of us adhere to. He's got all the red flags of a controlling, damaging narcissist.

I don't like him one bit.

As you might expect, since this type reacts to challenge and strength, my lecture angered him. How dare I talk to him in such a way. How dare I assert both my conscience and independence. He'd just show me.

He lifted himself from his chair to full height, and took a few steps at me. His goal couldn't have been clearer.

I'd already been standing tall -- I'm 5'7" -- but straightened my shoulders. I looked him straight in the eye and said, "You can stand up if you want, but you're not going to intimidate me."

And because this, too, burst his bubble, he faked opening the door (which had been closed) behind me---as if that had been his intention all along---then took his seat again.

Weak. Cowardly. No bite whatsoever, because he'd faced a worthy opponent, and I wasn't going to let him win.

I'm not afraid of bully men.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Changed: Not Just a Charm

I work in a funeral home and its cemetery, have for over a year now. It can be tough and draining, but it's rewarding. I find it challenging and yet filled with some of the best, realest parts of human nature, and the magic of life at its end. There's only one way to say I love the industry.

I spend a lot of time with families, and a fair amount of that time is devoted to prearranging funeral and cremation services. Sometimes it's a spouse planning for his wife. Sometimes it's a woman for her sister. Other times it's an individual making his or her own plans, whether because they're of sound mind and sound body and understand that that's the right time, or because they've received a diagnosis and have no choice but to get their affairs in order. It could be years in advance, or just days before a passing.

Today I sat with the first example, a mid-age man getting some ideas on paper for his wife. He's an educated, experienced man, kind and conscientious, well-liked by the others at our establishment who know him. I've met him twice now, and he's the right kind of open and authentic, a good sort of soul. You can just tell. No red flags or false pretenses (both of which I've become rather adept at sussing out), nothing uncomfortable to vibe on.

He interrupted our flow of funeral conversation to ask, "What does the 'changed' charm mean?"

It's not often folks pay attention to the hodgepodge of pendants I usually wear together on a single chain. Rarely has anyone mentioned them, so I was surprised. But I didn't have a problem answering.

I told him I'd bought this charm -- which says "for the better" on the back -- after I left an abusive marriage several years ago. That back then it was about choosing to embrace the manifestation of change necessary for my eventual healing, and that now it's a reminder of how far I've come. "It's been seven years and I'm happier than ever, healthier," I said. Changed.

His reaction was immediate. His chocolate eyes, so close a match to his skin, turned soft and he gently placed his hand on mine as he said, "I'm so proud of you."

Real. Human. Magic.

I've gotten braver these past years. I'm not afraid to tell my story. I share when it's appropriate, if it's timely, sometimes unexpectedly, even if my voice shakes or if my passion makes me fiery. I share.

Sometimes a little charm helps start the conversation.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Same Blog, New Blogger

It's been eleven years since I created Something She Wrote. It's been seven since I wholeheartedly called this place my home. Since I nested here. Kept it warm. Left the light on for me and for you.

Used to be I spent a lot of time in these digs. This is where I honed my writing. It's where I found my creative voice.

In those seven years everything has changed...

I got divorced in the fall of 2011. I subsequently learned to identify the word "abuse" and how it applied to me, which led to my passionate and ongoing advocacy for women who are victims and survivors of domestic abuse. I legally restored my maiden name.

My two daughters are now thriving, incredible teenagers. We've moved a few times, and find ourselves rooted in a town that's been supremely good for us. It's just the three of us---has been the full seven years---plus the old cat and special needs chihuahua we've taken in.

I've had a journey through jobs, and worked hard not just to prove myself but also to earn some state licensing, which led me to the funeral services industry. Turns out, it's something I was made for. Who could have guessed all those years ago?

I'm back!
I'm different. After a lot of effort I'm transformed. I'm independent and self-sustaining. Determined. Emotionally and mentally sound. Fulfilled. Healed, and at peace. These years are where I found my strength.

Still, somewhere along the way I lost the writer I used to be. She got buried under many other things which didn't ask to be priority, but needed to be anyway. Now it's time to find her again. I want to get back to writing, really writing.

Today is my 40th birthday. What better day to reveal the revival of Something She Wrote, and launch my search? Already I feel like she's within reach.

Maybe I just needed to find my way back to this old familiar place of my own.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Anyone out there?

Something She Wrote is making a comeback in less than a month!

Stay tuned...