Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Short Weekend

This is my sixth day of work in a row, and I'm tirrrred. I know that I deserve zero sympathy - after all, there are jobs like forest fire spotter and nursing that require you to basically be on call around the clock, and I get a nice cushy evening window in which to unwind from my job. But the one-day weekend is basically the psychic opposite of the long weekend: rushed, emotionally cramped, and tiring. I need a nap, y'all.

There's a difference between good-tired and bad-tired. Good-tired stems from a job well done: a weekend camping trip, a hectic night of dancing, a great run, a game of frisbee with the kids. Or a mentally taxing day, like when you're able to sit down and strike out that last item on your to-do list? That's a satisfying feeling. But bad-tired is when you're up late drinking, or there are too many work days in a row, or you get a bad sunburn, not to mention some wicked blisters, when you're out biking and woefully unprepared for your new case of heatstroke. Good-tired makes you sleep well, whereas bad-tired makes you wake up in the middle of the night, freaking out about the day ahead.

I guess what it boils down to is stress. Human being like stress, to a certain point. We like roller coasters and having interesting high-pressure jobs (some of us: I feel like if I was an air traffic controller or a Bay Street chick, my hair would start falling out in clumps about halfway through my first shift), and we often choose to put ourselves in those positions. But there are other, less pleasurable kinds of stress; the exhaustion of new parents springs to mind, or the worries that come from a scary diagnosis, or the chronic anxiety of a really crappy job. Those kinds of stressors aren't manageable without the help of some Ativan or a really reliable shrink. Less roller coaster, more "stress leave brought on by years of callous, callow treatment at the hands of co-workers/bosses."

The necessity of downtime can't really be overstated. I know some people are like, "I only sleep four hours a night, and I run the Boston Marathon for fun, and I'm showing at MOCCA next month, plus I just delivered twins!" and they look perky and can make whole entire sentences without using the words "Oh God help me" even once. But like the rest of us civilians, I need some time off. Sometimes I use my time productively, to read or cook, or hang with my friends. Other times, I'm too zonked to do anything but lie on the floor and count the dust bunnies under my couch. Sometimes hanging with the dust bunnies is good for the soul.

The moral of this story, besides "weekends are baller" is that it's important to know when your particular stress wave is riding a little too high. My friend Liz hooked me up with an awesome document based around the idea of "moral distress" - when a situation makes us feel stressed or uncomfortable, but we somehow lack the ability to act immediately. When faced with these stressful situations, there's a method to assess the risks of acting (and not acting). This handy information is starting to shape how I feel about the stressors in my life - work, relationships, money - and what the emotional carrying cost of the status quo really is.

So I guess the real moral story is, when your stress can't be undone by your weekend, either because your weekend is too short or your stress is too intense? It's time to make some changes.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Best of Women: Brava!

Achievement in History: Everyone
The time has come, the walrus said, to talk of many things....of shoes and shirts, and bikini wax, and sandwiches with wings. Obviously, the walrus was also a bit of a mental patient, but at the end of a three week, six-post series about awesome women, I'm a little tuckered out. Sorry about the mini-vacay from the blog - I had to get my head on straight again, and frankly? I was tired.

Honestly, the concept of "women" isn't all that interesting. I love my sister, mom, aunts and grandmothers, because I know them. Their stories about engineering school and sweet potato casseroles are interesting, if slightly bewildering, because I love them. Likewise, my friends are a bunch of marauding chickies who are destined to either run the world or at least report on it. But. And there is a but. The generalized celebration of women, at this point, feels a little odd. Each of those entries felt a touch forced - not because I don't genuinely admire Helen Mirren or the creative team at Rodarte, but because I think those ladies don't really need my admiration and support. A bunch of white ladies doing well for themselves isn't exactly an anomaly at this point in history. Maybe fifty years ago, it would be an OMG moment for the world to have a lesbian leading Iceland...but as the commercials say, we've come a long way, babies.

There's been on-going debate in the feminist movement about the role of power in the rise of women. Obviously, despite ongoing concerns like wage disparity and Sex and the City, us North American women do okay for ourselves; it's time, some activists say, to widen the focus of the feminist charge to include women in second- and third-world countries. Women who don't have the same freedom to vote, or access to reproductive health care, or really any health care, and who could use us fancy folks agitating on their behalf.

Not so, snorts their opposition. Those ladies don't need our culturally insensitive support. Like, who do we think we are, charging in and being all colonialist in our politics? That's kind the dude's job, right? Maybe women living in circumstances we don't live in ourselves have found their own ways to be feminists - through worship or work, through activism and art. You can wear a burka and still be awesome, yo: don't think that having shiny hair and stirrup pants will save you from abuse or drudgery.

Anyway. What the hell was I talking about? Oh right: women. We're boring. That's not to say that women, in comparison to men, are particularly dull or sparkling. If I had dedicated a whole bunch of posts to terrific men, I'd probably be a little bored of them, too. It's like writing a series on redheads I admire, or tall people, or Nigerians. It's not like being a woman is like overcoming a handicap or obstacle. It's just a facet of who we are, the same way I have comically large breasts and hair that doesn't lie flat. Some girls really need female role models, and it's nice to be able to look out over the crowd and see faces like mine looking back. Especially when we're forming ourselves and our communities, a strong female presence goes a long way in perpetuating the But like I said - celebrating women in this rah-rah kind of way undermines the fact that we're doing just fine.

The caveat to all this is, obviously, I'm riding the crest of fourth-wave feminism where I basically take all the lady-love for granted. I am certainly not shitting on all the trailblazers who came before, clearing the path for today's generations of annoyingly successful ladies. Without Coco Chanel, we probably would never have had the Mulleavies. We needed them. Thank you. Their place in the herstory books is cemented and we'll love them forever. And what's cool is now, we don't all need to be super geniuses to succeed. I'm not going to be Jane Jacobs or Emma Goldman, or Coco, or Indira Gandhi, or Clara Bow, or any of the ladies on my list. I don't have to. I can be own imperfect self, and own that. That's why it's important to have the role models; so we can dance in their footsteps.