Permission to Touch

12694843_10206724520889788_1593744844446308582_oWe do this to our girls.  For their own protection, we say.  And maybe there is some real harm we save them from.  But at what cost to them?  What price does our world pay?

We tell them touch is dirty, hugs are easily misinterpreted for something ugly, their bodies are dangerous, boys are bad.  But what about the boy that needs a hug from the girl growing up with him next door to help him through a tough day at the mercy of playground unkindness?  What about the brother that finds the world so hard and cold he turns to fighting with others rather than get the need for touch met curled up in the arms of his big sister as she reads him to sleep at night?  What about the other girls who learn they need to focus on being better, looking better, getting better grades, doing better things than her rather than holding her hand and dancing in the rain?

We do not tell them they are a beacon of light to us and other children, that beams of beauty and healing flow from their fingertips and into the veins of those they touch.  We do not show them that their kindness makes the world a better place by simply being here.  We do not teach them that their bodies are made with soft rounded edges to express the welcoming gentleness of their souls within.  We never give them permission to learn love as a clean and essential thing, to use touch to bring power to the world.

Instead we cover their budding forms with drapery and block the power of their purity from view.  To protect it, we say.  We need to do this, we say.  We stifle the very sunlight and oxygen they need to grow strong and healthy.  We flout the purpose beauty has, which is to be seen.  We pour their liquid innocence into a cubed plastic trays and put it in the freezer.  As if beauty could ever be killed.  As if we could really protect their souls from being hurt.  As if love could ever be ugly.  As if the dry edges of hard cold could be better than the wet heat of heartbreak.

Yet there are those who crack their shells open and learn to build fences instead of walls.  They let themselves be seen and trust themselves to monitor the distance between their bodies and others.  There are those who create boundaries balanced with the boundlessness of their hearts.  Large light shines around the edges of the little bowls they were first hidden under.  Silver linings warm even the darkest of their interactions.  Electricity strikes when their palms touch the businesslike hands of others to seal the deal, to welcome the discussion, or to end the meeting.  Their black-ice pantsuits hint at the curves of hearts still beating hot red blood deep within.

We do not teach them, but our girls learn that they can be love and light in their world.  They are women now.  The only permission they need is their own.

Needy Woman

singleMY NEEDS ARE:

  • attention
  • acknowledgement
  • to feel like I am significant to someone who matters to me
  • stability
  • trust
  • quality time
  • matched intentions
  • recognition of my feelings, my thoughts, my stands
  • to be desired, wanted, TREASURED
  • to be cared for
  • to be treated like a lady
  • to feel feminine
  • (I could go on but I think you get it)

YES.  I said it.  I have needs.  These are mine.  They’re with me.

Isn’t it interesting how difficult it is for us Single Women to say that out loud?  And we know what our needs are.  But filling them in relationships often feels like an insurmountable task.

This morning, following a night of recognition of my unmet needs, I ask myself, and you, what is in the way?

I looked first to the party line – “I haven’t met a man who gets all of it and is ok with it.”  Really though?  Doesn’t just about every man have a corresponding list of human needs?  Weren’t we created with the intention of matching off eachother?  Many men are seeking that special someone to desire, to treasure, to give their attention to, whose trust and respect they crave to win, and whose intentions they seek to match.

In my own human experience I dug a little deeper.  So if it isn’t that I haven’t met a man who gets all of it and is ok with it all, then what is it?  And then I got it.

It’s not about the receiver not being open.

We just don’t throw the ball.

How many of us judge ourselves for having these needs?  I mean, who wants to be a NEEDY WOMAN?  Every day I see women punishing themselves for needing attention, for needing to be desired, for needing to feel significant to someone else.  I catch myself singing the same tune in my head, the modern tune of single women – you SHOULDN’T need these things!  Needing these things means I am broken.  And broken people do not deserve to be treasured, trusted, cared for, respected.  And needs are so unnattractive.

Right?  Sound familiar?

Honey, how NUTS is that?   How are we ever going to get those pesky needs that actually make us human met if we don’t accept them?

How can we expect anyone to believe that we deserve them to be met when we don’t feel that we deserve to have our needs met?

Who on earth would make a priority of filling a need of yours that you deny even exists?  Or believe shouldn’t exist?

I propose an experiment.  Single women out there, let’s try this out.  The next guy who is nice to you and strikes up a conversation in the supermarket, the bookstore, the coffee shop, the bar, find a way to weave it into the conversation.  “I am a woman, I have needs, and it is important to me to get those needs met.”

I’m curious to see what happens!  Please be sure to tell me.  I’ll go first – I will have that conversation with 5 men before Monday.

Bulletproof Babes

We were taught to be independent, strong, self-sufficient, poised and in-charge.  We were told by our mothers, themselves the daughters of bra-burning times, to suck up our fears, manage our emotions, never let the bastards see us cry and never ask for help as long as we can help ourselves.  Lessons were passed on that high-maintenance is for bimbos and dignity and class cannot co-exist with it.  Being demanding is as bad as promiscuity in the estimation of our lady-teachers.  We are to serve with strength and selflessness without thought to our needs and in return we will be respected and loved.  We are a wellspring of power, woman hear us roar, and we can supply the whole world with what it needs.  The ironies that were passed down from grandmothers, aunties, teachers, family friends and mothers abound.

We associate being honest about our needs with images of weak, victimized, or morally bankrupt women.  And so, to not be seen as a doormat, a loose woman or a gold digger we put on a persona of needlessness that then results in us becoming more… NEEDY.  Think about it.  If we deprive ourselves of food telling ourselves that we don’t need it don’t we become more and more… hungry?

But there comes a time when a Bulletproof Babe says “So what if I have needs?  Of course I do!  I’m human!”  We come around to the question of how are we to expect ourselves to provide selflessly for the needs of others when our needs are not met?  Even in the airplane instructions before take off we are instructed to put on our own mask first before helping the person next to us, child or no child.

I am learning through my own experience as a woman that low maintenance women, like strong buildings and towers, without support and care suffer in structure, appearance and strength from neglect.  Without support and TLC they crumble, crack under pressure and become inhabited by bitterness.  They lose their value – how they value themselves diminishes and is then projected out to what value others see.  Others react to what they see, convincing her further of the lie that started her shrinking view of herself in the first place.

But it starts with her.  What does a guy have to offer a girl who refuses to acknowledge she has needs and flaws and vulnerability and needs someone to lean on once in a while?  How many times do we Bulletproof Babes find ourselves lonely and disappointed because a friend wasn’t able to read our minds and be there for us because we didn’t know how to tell them how to support us and that we needed support in the first place?  How many times have we let a slight pass and pass again and pass again until we blow, totally surprising all around us?  Why does it have to fall apart and be blatantly obvious and beyond the point of deniability for us to accept a helping hand?

We don’t have to be bulletproof to be beautiful, rigid to be respected, nor do we have to be low-maintenance in order to capture the attention of someone who could love us.  These are the ways we trick ourselves into being someone who attracts human leeches, persons who seek to take without giving, because that is what we put ourselves forward as willing to accept.  Think about it… “Oh she doesn’t need this from me.  She just wants someone to give and give and give to.  She doesn’t expect anything back, bless her little cotton socks.  Goody!  Free ride!  Why would I EVER leave?”  Except, of course, we don’t want that type around either, do we?

To the beautiful Bulletproof Babes out there, let us support eachother and drop the act.  Being strong doesn’t mean having no needs.  You deserve to have your needs met, not ignored.  But the first step to making that happen is to not ignore them yourself.

Feminism (Motivationalpostersonline.blogspot.com)

I hope God was ready…

…cuz his hands are now full, with a gal made to grasp the horns of the bull.

A woman of spirit, ahead of her time, she cut her curls short 60 years before mine.

To Christ she came laughing, handed over her debt, said “He took the cussin, gamblin, drinkin, but never the cigarette.”

To Aunt Natalie… God’s own spitfire.

The cloth from which my own spirit was cut – gone to be with her Father but on earth never forgotten.

 

 

 

 

The Power of Fantasy

It is not a widely known fact that I battle with depression and anxiety.  On a monthly basis.  It’s something many women face.  For those of us with this tendency, every time we face down PMS we pray God please let it go away after a few days.  There are months when it lasts the whole month.  There are years when it lasts for several months.  Fortunately for me, I have only once seen it pass a year.  I’m sure that if a study were to be done on where a woman is in her cycle when she decides to kill herself, commit homicide, or do something absolutely dreadful and drastic it would find that that time of month is where the magic happens.

On a bout several years ago I spoke to my brother.  He was just out of med school and had already passed the psych rotation (The one where he was diagnosing every member of the family with some random disorder or another.  I got the diagnosis of histrionics.  I told him to piss off).  He said something to me in the wisdom of his youth that I have never forgotten.  When you find yourself depressed you need to step outside of yourself and act as a carer.  Pretend that you are caring for a member of your family or a friend that you love very much and that they are sick.  What would you do?  You would take them for walks.  You would take them to the movies and distract them.  You would cook good food for them and give them good books to read and sit on the beach with them and watch the sunset.  You need to care for yourself as though you are caring for someone you love.

This is a practice that has kept my monthly to a monthly for a few years now – caring for myself as though I am not myself but someone else that depends on me.  And I have found a tool that works.  FANTASY.

For those of us who are avid readers there is a lush forest of material to feast on.  Every form of thought in this life is represented by a written book.  There is poetry, self-help, scientific, chick lit, classic literature, romance, comedy, spiritual, technical – you name it there is a book on it.  But what does a mind that is plagued by pain have the capacity to digest?

My saving grace has been FANTASY.  Sneaking into the worlds created by the minds of others has been a great distraction from my own gnawing aches.  It exercises my weary mind when I cannot sleep, it embraces my imagination with something other than darkness, and when I wake from the foreign world I find myself grateful for the comfort of my apartment, the love of my family and my two animals, and the work to which I dedicate my waking hours.

Narnia and the Lord of the Rings were some of my early entertainers.  These have been made famous by years of followers and have been represented by movie-makers a few times over.  But a series can be so satisfying because as you finish one book you look for the next one to carry you through next month.  I have two obscure recommendations for those new to fantasy but needing to escape.

Stephen Hunt’s Jackelian series:

I came across these books in college.  I don’t know what made me pick up this little book with the nondescript cover off the shelf in Waterstones but I have become bound to this series every since.  My mind could not rest after ploughing through the brilliance of ancient lords of the court and so I would simply switch gears and cares into the world of Jackals.  Stephen Hunt introduces you to a world that resembles the home of Oliver Twist in some ways and Star Wars in others.  It is inhabited by human beings, the Fey, Steammen (sentient machines from the frozen mountains of the North), Cassarabians of the deserts to the south with an uncanny science for the development of mutants with the use of Womb Mages, Catosians who are steroid-pumped amazon-like women warriors, Craynarbians who have an exoskeleton much like crustaceans we now eat, and many other “races”.  The travels of Commodore Black (resembling an old version of Jack Sparrow) through the Fire Sea, over the deserts, through the jungles and into the sky cities of this world are easy to relate to and impossible to abandon once you pick up a book.  The first book, The Court of the Air, was an incredible launch into the life of Molly Templar, an orphan with a fantastic fate.  I recommend this book to any woman sufferer, and any person needing an escape.

The Redwall Books of Brian Jacques:

This world is inhabited by the animals of our own world with a noble congregation in a place called Redwall Abbey.  Mice are mighty and Badgers brave as they fight off the hoards of stoats and tricky foxes.  The medieval abbey of Redwall is full of secrets and surprises, headed by an Abbot and championed by a warrior.  The language takes on the accents of the British Isles with such accuracy it will tease the laughter out of the surliest and most unwilling reader.  The suspense is something that will keep you in the books late into sleepless nights.  The lessons and even the language of these books are appropriate for every age.

My man in Iraq…

It was at a gathering of friends from my church.  We met to plan the next YAG season at a restaurant a few steps down the road from my house.  Nice night, two-for-one pizzas, outdoor smell of mosquito repellant and summer, and four women around a table.

After the planning and decision-making we ate and relaxed and the topic came up.  Very flip, in response to something decisive (perhaps aggressive, I don’t remember) that had somehow slipped out of my mouth, the seniormost of us turns to me and says “Girl, the man for you God hasn’t finished making yet.  He’s gonna have to be stroooong.”

“Oh yes Bushy… he must be going through some hardship right now where God is toughening him up for you,” was the chime of another.

“Girl, you need to pray for him.  He’s somewhere difficult right now where God is preparing him.  Dodging bullets in Iraq or something.”

At the time I sputtered out a surprised laugh.  But… REALLY?!

The thought has stuck with me over the course of the past few days and I really don’t know what to think or feel about it.  Is it true?  Am I ok with that?  Am I hard work?  Does it mean something is wrong with me?  Or right with me?  What kind of strength is it he would need?  What do I demand?  Is it unreasonable?  Is it a demand?  Or is it just my presence?

And if it is true, where is he now?  What does he need?  Is he really dodging bullets in Iraq?  Or fighting tigers on the Indian Sub-continent?  Or drilling wells in hostile territory in Africa?  Is he hungry?  Is he hurt?  Is he sick?

And I stop myself.  What the hell am I doing dwelling on something said so casually and meant to be light-hearted and funny?

Something is different.  Could it be that I’ve become this sensitive?

Every Single Woman Needs…:#18 To Understand Debt

So Ladies.  You got your end of year bonus.  It made you smile and helped you feel appreciated for all the blood, sweat and tears you put into your work for the past 12 months.  But what do you do with it?

Many of us have a shopping list for that bonus.  We have a dress we’ve had our eyes on, a vacation we feel we deserve, a day at the most opulent spa in town, or maybe all of the above.  The more practical of us will have a savings account that we’d like to put that plush little cushion into so that we can sleep better at night.

Enter something we don’t like to talk about.  While we’re thinking lovingly about that shopping list or that cushion in our savings account many of us have the flesh-eating disease called DEBT.   1. credit card balances, 2. student loans, 3. a car loan, 4. a mortgage, 5. a loan for our last redecorating project, all tick-tick-ticking with interest payments.

Now, Bushlings is no numbers woman.  Remember, I’m a lawyer.  I don’t naturally think like an accountant.  I have to use a calculator to figure out the number of quarters in a dollar.  But to me this stuff is common sense.  Caveat – to the accountants who read my blog, please correct me if you think this is all rubbish.  And have patience with my simple language.  Remember the rest of us speak plain english.

So.  Let’s talk seriously about this bonus.  Starting with the concept of…

INTEREST. 

By definition in the Bushlings dictionary, Interest is the fee someone charges you in return for allowing you to use their money.  I remember in college I had a roommate who used to say “I’m going to ask Mr. Barclay for some more money” as if Barclay’s Bank were a benevolent benefactor.  No baby.  They don’t give you money for free.  Interest is the sweet little harmless-sounding name of their fee.

Some homework for you ladies.  What is the interest on your credit card?  What about the interest on your student loan, your mortgage, your redecorating loan, your loan-because-you-qualified-for-a-loan loan?

Credit Card Interest:

Most of us have no clue how much the interest rate is on our credit cards.  So we will play with a hypothetical figure for you.  Taken from the source-of-all-knowledge for the modern world  (Wikipedia) we are inclined to believe that,  “Interest rates vary widely. Some credit card loans are secured by real estate, and can be as low as 6 to 12% in the U.S. Typical credit cards have interest rates between 7 and 36% in the U.S., depending largely upon the bank’s risk evaluation methods and the borrower’s credit history. Brazil has much higher interest rates, about 50% over that of most developing countries, which average about 200% (Economist, May 2006). A Brazilian bank-issued Visa or Mastercard to a new account holder can have annual interest as high as 240% even though inflation seems under control at around 6% per annum (Economist, May 2006).”  And we all know, Wikipedia doesn’t lie.

So from this we can gather that 1. It sucks to live in Brazil and 2. 7-12% interest is considered “low” in the USA.  So you have an outstanding balance of US$5,000 with a “low” interest rate of 7% charged on an annual basis.  Honey that’s US$350.  THAT’s your new dress right there.

Interest on Loans and Mortgages:

You may be fortunate enough to have a fixed rate on some of your loans.  Fixed rates are becoming more and more rare as our economies prove to be more and more volatile.  They have been relegated to loans for small amounts for short terms (periods of time).  So your vacation loan for $3,000 to be paid out over 18 months, or your redecorating loan for $10,000 to be paid out over two years, may have a chance of having a fixed interest rate.  But what are they fixed at?  Usually pretty high.  10-15% for 5 years on $20,000 car is something you should expect.

Variable rates are increasingly prevalent.  These are usually expressed as a standard rate plus x additional percentage points.  That standard rate will go up or down as the economy fluctuates.  So, in the Islands where I live, interest rates are prime+1% or prime+2% and so on.  That “prime” rate is the interest rate determined by the bank to be their standard interest rate.  It is usually based on a national/international rate.  For instance,  in London, the LIBOR rate is what is used as a standard rate that banks will use to come up with their prime rate.  It is the average interest rate that leading banks in London charge when lending to other banks.  There are other standards – EURIBOR, TIBOR, SONIA… but I digress.  Ask your loans officer what “prime” is today or whatever standard they use is and take that number and figure out your exact interest rate.

Now for those of you who want to do the math, let’s use an example.  A mortgage for US$250,000.00 (If that number makes you balk, pick your own number and follow along please.  Let’s not get distracted.)  Prime+1% is the interest rate.  You ask your lovely loans officer who convinced you that their bank was the one you should pay to use their money just what prime means today and she tells you 4.25%.  You add 1% and come up with 5.25% total.  For 30 years.  Do you see how many thousands of dollars that adds up to in 30 years?  How many vacations could that pay for?

ON THE FLIP SIDE, for the more responsible ones of us who are thinking of putting all our bonus in our savings account and just continuing to pay our debts out on a monthly basis, let’s talk about this next piece on interest.

Interest on your savings:

No financial institution hoping to stay in business is going to pay you more interest in your savings account than they will charge out on your loans.  Let’s face it, if you’re getting 2% interest on your savings you’re doing very well indeed.  Credit unions and cooperatives might take you a bit higher than the average bank.  And there are cute little savings packages that lock your money down like CDs but they are never going to be so cute as your credit card interest of 19%.

Some more homework for you ladies – find out how much interest is being paid on your savings account.

WHAT TO DO?!  SO MANY THINGS TO CONSIDER

We will use an example.  Let’s say you have $4,000 of credit card debt at 12%.  You have a savings account that is earning you 2%.  And your bonus is $5,000.  Would you really pass up the opportunity to stop paying someone 12% to use their $4,000?  You can still put your $1,000 in savings and feel satisfied.  The next month you will not have to meet that minimum balance of $350 that you would pay out on your credit card.  You can add that to your $1,000 in savings.  And so at the end of the day you end up with NO CREDIT CARD DEBT, and $1,350 in savings.  Leave your credit card at home for the next month and put that $350 in savings and you’re at $1,700.  Before many months pass you’re looking at having that $5,000 in savings and NO CREDIT CARD DEBT.  Isn’t that great?

As we go into a new year, let’s make sure we’re looking at our finances in the right way.  Debts are the enemy – we never want to find ourselves without a job in a global economy as uncertain as ours is with debts to pay.  Surviving is hard enough.  I will accept that some debt is necessary – mortgages, car loans, and so on.  And I will also accept that some level of savings is also necessary.  We need some debt to operate our lives and savings are a real cushion for when things do go wrong.  But let us take control of the credit cards and spend our windfalls (and salaries) wisely.  Saving is important.  But let us balance our saving against our aim to be debt free.  Balance our credit card interest of 12% against our interest on saving of 2%.

And where you are stumped, call an accountant.  I did!

FIGHT the FRUMP

It’s lunchtime and I’ve just remembered what day it is.  Today I’m supposed to do lunch with one of my best friends – a half-posh-whole-trendy lunch spot with perhaps a glass of wine and a roll of sushi, lots of fun and fashionable people.  I look down and take it all in:

  1. Cracked brown toe-nail polish (it was more of a taupe three weeks ago… no? Not good enough?),
  2. Clashing black patent flat sandals,
  3. New York & Co. gray slacks that would look great if they weren’t paired with…
  4. Red company polo shirt a shade faded and clashing more than the shoes with the cracked brown polish,
  5. No belt, and
  6. Heels that could grate cheese.

I don’t need to look up to remember that

  1. I have no makeup on,
  2. Eyebrows could use some painful tweezer time, and
  3. Curly mop hasn’t seen a blowdryer in months.

I’ve forgotten to Fight the Frump.

No, I’m not a Kardashian-following fashionista and have no desire to join the Plastic Pin-head Population.  But there are miles and miles of good real estate between Bimbo and Hobo.  And today I’m looking at a lunch that belongs on one side and looking like a bag lady that belongs on the other.  (Isn’t it amazing how three perfectly good items of clothing can go so badly wrong together?)

It doesn’t feel good, does it ladies?  Don’t pretend you don’t know – every one of us has done this.

Time for a kick up my own bum to get me out of the Raiments of Droll.  Here is how I plan to do it.

  1. Go for a run after work and open the pores.  Perhaps scare a few fat cells off at the same time.
  2. Do my own nails, rub my own heels, shave whatever needs disappearing and and buff back in some self-respect.
  3. Choose tonight, the night before tomorrow so I have no rushing excuses, something much more sassy from the professional side of the closet.
  4. Punish self by setting alarm 1/2 hour earlier to make time for makeup.
  5. Sexy underwear.
  6. Stilletos.
  7. The jewellry and perfume I usually save for special occasions.

Fighting like a champ.