Powerfully Powerless

sisyphus

Personal power. What is that? It’s not the same thing as personal strength. Personal strength I have in spades. Power I have far less of. Far less than I’d like, far less than I’d need to change any of the important things I believe need changing. I have strength, I have determination, I have drive and I have fortitude. But I don’t have power. I can influence, I can suggest, I can advocate and I can agitate. I can irritate, I can instigate and I can pester. But I don’t have Power.

I can’t make you do what I think is right. I can’t make you do what I think you must. I can’t make Him do what is so clearly needed. I can’t make them change the way they think, they act, they enact, they legislate. I can’t. I don’t use that word often. I can’t. Power is not something you can simply have by believing you have it. Power isn’t something I can drum up like confidence or belief or faith or mule headed stubbornness. I don’t have the power to make change happen.

I will lend my voice. I will stand to be counted. I will wave a banner or hold up a sign or sign on the dotted line and do my level best to be a force for change. I will speak loudly in my biggest  small voice and demand to be heard. And I will often feel small. Smaller for trying. Smaller for caring. Smaller for giving such a huge important damn.

There is so much change I feel is needed; little micro changes in my own life, larger macro changes in my community and giant leap forward changes in my country and the world. I am tired of trying to be powerful. I am tired of being chicken little. I am surprised so few people seem to notice. The sky might be falling but you seem fine… you seem not to notice it, you seem okay. Maybe, since power is only really available to a few, and I don’t think those few really play for my team, I should work on cultivating contentment. Stop seeking the power to change things, and seek instead the comfort of apathy.

Happy July everybody. The sun is shining so it’s all good. Right?

It’s tiresome, but I know I won’t be able to cultivate apathy. I am hard wired to give a damn. To keep pushing. To keep trying to jump just high enough to make sure you hear what I want you to hear. That’s ego, I guess. But it’s also a desire to connect, to work for things that matter to me and to demand I don’t just give up. I am going to always push against the easy if the easy feels wrong, feels like the lazy way. So chances are if you and I know each other in real life I have annoyed you at least once, or will.  I’ll work on that, but I will also keep working for what matters to me.

Can’t help it.

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We are genius.

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It has recently come to my attention that I’m a freakin’ genius. No, don’t laugh… seriously! I have mastered a set of skills so highly specialized that many people don’t even know they don’t share them.

You’d think I’d hoard this magic, keep these powers to myself, but you’d be wrong. I WANT to share. I have willingly offered mentorship to anyone who is interested. Sadly, so few are interested… in fact I can say with honesty that, to date, no-one has actually wanted to learn.

So I will remain, for the foreseeable future, one of an elite few. A member of an unarmed group of specialists who know one another on sight, and know impostors in a moment. We are all around you.

We are the brave. We are the powerful. We know how to change a toilet roll, replace a paper towel tube, fold towels, sweep under the edges of the cupboard, sort laundry, close cabinet doors and refill liquid soap dispensers. We know how to empty the lint tray, pull gunk out of the kitchen drain and put a new bag in the trash bin. We understand that milk lives in the refrigerator, that food left out overnight goes bad and that brown bananas taste better. We know how to cap the toothpaste and collapse a stroller. We can tell you where you left your blue jacket and which type of peanut butter you prefer.

We are mothers. We are legion. We are genius. We are tired.

I’m a size 10. So I’m gross?

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I grew up as a dancer… ballet, tap, jazz, non stop competetive dance from the age of 5 until I finished high school, having won the top prize in my Provincial competition… best of the bunch. I battled my body all through my teens… fingers poked at my “midriff bulge”, fingernails dug into my derriere and told to LIFT IT! LOSE IT! PULL IT IN! SUCK IT IN! My years as a young woman were rife with negative body messages, blatant and more oblique…as a dancer, there’s no such thing as too skinny. Predictably, I succumbed to the pressure. I stopped eating. Everyone around me feigned shock and horror, but I shrunk and I won the BIG prize, so the dismay was muted. Once I’d won, I started eating again and everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief. It wasn’t a PROBLEM I had, it was a SOLUTION… I’d lost the few extra pounds I carried and clearly it had all been worth it…, no?

I stepped away from dance for about 10 years and, strange truth, I got slimmer. I stopped obsessing over my weight, found a man, got slim. Got REALLY slim.  When I got married, my nearly 5’6″ frame carried only 118 pounds, barely a size 2. I wasn’t dieting, wasn’t sick, wasn’t trying to be slim. I ate chocolate, candy, chips, pancakes, you name it. I also smoked… that did it for me. When the babies started coming, I got slimmer and slimmer. With each baby, my feet got bigger and my boobs got bigger… otherwise I shrank almost immediately to the size I’d been before birth. Then I’d get smaller. I had 3 babies in 4 years, nursed each one. I smoked (I will forever be ashamed of this) during my pregnancies…yes, I cut WAAAAAAY  back to a few a day, but still. I then carried, chased, ran after, held, rocked, fed and cajoled those three babies while blessed with a hyper drive metabolism.  I also taught dance… up to 14 classes a week of jazz and tap. That burns a lot of calories.

Then I turned 35. I took a desk job, and thankfully I quit smoking at last. My metabolism did an about face and I began to gain weight. I now struggle to maintain what I feel is a healthy weight.

I don’t have a thigh gap. In fact I didn’t even know what that was until a few months ago. I have a bit of a pooch.  I need an actual bra, with cups and a bit of underwire. I have birthed 3 children, and there is evidence of that in various body parts. I’m also 46… there’s no escaping that though I’m no stranger to Dr. Botox.  I ride my bicycle when it’s warm, run, work out (not religiously), and salsa dance. Even so, I cringe when I step on the scale, cry when I can’t fit something that I want to wear, and have learned to despise shopping for pants, skirts and dresses. I’m okay with tops… so long as they are all big, baggy, hide my flab and don’t strangle my (apparently) freakishly large upper arms.

And I hate my body. I hate that I am no longer a size 2, 4, 6 or even 8. I hate that I get the “full body check tsk tsk” from the hyper cool gay sales guy at Le Chateau. I hate knowing that I am teetering on the very brink of “plus size”. Me. Hot, beautiful, strong, fashionable, powerful ME. Plus size. Scared. Horrified by my own body. How can I overcome this? How do WE, as women, overcome this?  I can cover it well with nice clothes and good shoes, but don’t expect to see me in anything clingy. Ever.

Mike Jeffries, in a 2006 interview which was made enormously public this week has declared that his brand, Abercrombie and Fitch will not carry XL. In fact the largest size they carry is 10. My size. MY SIZE. Anything larger than me is plus size and has no place in the fashionable universe. No. Nononononono.

I resent the idea that a woman of my size (average) and weight (absolutely dead average) is a plus sized woman. Who decided that?  What does that tell my daughters? I have two gorgeous, stunning daughters who are each within 15 pounds of my weight. They both hate their bodies, both think they are fat. I accept my culpability in that… how could they grow up with me and my warped body image without absorbing some self hatred at least by osmosis?

I have a couple of links for you today. One is a remarkable video curated by Dylan Lambi-Raine, Kayla Hatzel and Sarah Zelinski; 3 classmates in the Gender Studies program at the University of Saskatchewan. This video shows objectification of women… AND of men, in stereotypical roles and demeaning and degrading poses. Oddly the reflected version, images of men being objectified, is no less disturbing.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/story/2013/05/08/saskatoon-viral-video-university-of-saskatchewan.html

An interesting bit of history: the 2006 Salon article featuring Mike Jeffries in full dreadful flight:

http://www.salon.com/2006/01/24/jeffries/  It’s just a big old trash bag full of political incorrectness and awful misogyny.

So Mike Jeffries, go away. The cool kids don’t like you. Voice in my head? Get lost. Please? The truth is I’m actually pretty gorgeous, at least that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself. Every single day.