Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dr. Tiller's Second Murder on Law and Order

Charlotte Taft wrote a piece, "Dr. Tiller Murdered Again on NBC's Law and Order," critiquing last Friday's episode in which shades of Dr. Tiller's murder became fodder for the "fictitious" storyline in which an abortion provider is assassinated in his own church.

Taft writes passionately, clearly from a place that most people cannot empathize. Most of us are not abortion providers or work closely with abortion providers who see first hand the complex and often heart-wrenching decisions that are often hidden in the shadows in the war between "life" and abortion.

With due respect to Ms. Taft's piece, I didn't pick up anything overtly offensive from the episode. Mildly surprised that it vascillated between the values of pro-choice and pro-life audiences, I was most pleased to see that some parts of the script were encouraging debate and revisiting what reproductive health means today, after almost four decades of Roe vs. Wade, where more women have access to care, where we know more about what women's health is and what is needed. We know more. We still have long miles to go, but what I took from that episode is that the water is murkier than ever. Unfortunately, the ringing question, "When does life begin?" seems to trump the fact that we know more in 2009 than in 1973. Women's roles and contributions have shifted. Our consciousness as a society has (slowly and painstakingly) shifted. We have not arrived at full equality, but we are not in the throes of '73 anymore.

Certainly, I can appreciate and support Taft's piece in RH Reality. If I were on the frontlines of abortion clinics, worked and befriended Tiller or people like Tiller, I probably would have been up in arms, too.

But I am not.

I'm a regular bystander of NBC. I'm a regular person who stayed in Friday night with a virus and ended up watching Law and Order because there wasn't much on TV. In many ways, couched in the heart of America, I am just like everyone else - trying to feel my way through this process of where this country is headed with the most contentious and violent issue in our hearts. And in my opinion, a 1 hour show that has a track record of simplifying issues, making them dance with good script-writing, and long up-close shots of usually Caucasian actors will never make the grade, but it does make a point.

The point I got was good: this issue is only resulting in more violence and staunch pro-lifers and staunch pro-choicers are not going to be the answer. The inflexible pieces of abortion and life keep us in circles, yelling matches really.

It's going to come from the compass of middle America. And middle America is torn.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Poetry on Feminist Catholicism

I wrote a poem about Adam and Eve. Well, more about Eve than Adam.

I don't believe in the literal interpretation of Genesis. I don't believe in the apple, the garden, the tree, the temptation, the Fall, or the banishment.

I do believe that oral story telling is a rich part of tradition and somewhere along the way, telling stories began to lose their power of metaphor.

In the literal, vein, however, I wrote this poem and designed a backdrop as I think more about my Catholic faith.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Letter #11

Dear Isaiah,

Yesterday I took a walk outside on an unexpected 60 degree day. My shoes came off and I dug my feet into the lush, autumn green. A tiny ladybug had landed on my knee and I played with it for about 10 minutes, flipping the tips of grass onto its pathway so it changed directions.

I wondered how in the world a God could exist that thought to create an insect with a red shell and black polka dots on its back. I wondered how in the world a God could exist that could create you inside of me.

You, me, and the ladybug hung out for a while before I went back to my office to finish the rest of the work day. But the fresh air and colors of yesterday stayed with me.

Today, I began fearing if I might be sick. A tickle in my throat, dry cough, slightly warm forehead...I began talking to myself, convincing myself that I was fine, you were fine. WE are fine.

I walked into my office and saw a storm of lady bugs on my ceiling, crawling on the window, more flying around on my screen, trying to find a way in. No where else in the building was there a concentration of ladybugs. I frowned, wondering why I would be so unfortunate to inherit all these pesky things. The wonder of yesterday was gone.

A co-worker walked in and gasped, "Look at your ladybugs! They are a sign of good luck!"

I googled it "symbolism of a ladybug," and, sure enough, it means good luck and if one lands on you, it's a sing of impending good fortune. It also means I/we are being protected.

Given my worry and anxiety that I am sick because of this tickle at the base of my throat, a small sign, smaller than a thumbnail, gives me some irrational comfort that you/we are going to be just fine.

Someone recently shared with me, after listening to my worries about becoming a mother, "It's already begun. I can hear it. You want so much to keep this brand new life as pure as possible for as long as possible."

My eyes filled and I nodded.

She laughed compassionately, "We don't have a prayer! Even their first breath is already tainted."

I smiled sadly, knowing it was true, but intuitively feeling like this impossible effort to keep you pure was still attainable.

Her eyes leveled mine, "But we do the best we can. Always. That's what we do."

I am doing the best I can. I hope that is enough for you/us.

Actually, maybe it's more than enough for you and it's ME who is expecting more.

Love Always,

Thursday, October 15, 2009

UTNE Magazine Gets it Right Again: 50 Visionaries Who are Chaning Your World

And the list for the top 50 visionaries are out once again and I must beam that ALEXIS PAULINE GUMBS is on the list! How thrillingly appropriate to recognize this brilliant troublemaker who resides near and dear to my heart.

Congratulations to Utne for keeping their eye on the true visionaries and an even BIGGER congrats to Lex for her pioneering work, compassionate spirit, and bottomless well of activist energy!

Nobody Said Choice was Easy: Pregnancy and Vaccination

It's true when they say that the never unheated issue of abortion is the most visible skyscraper in the cityline of reproductive rights. Many other issues, although not as controversial or heavy hitting, are often left in the cool shadows, lingering on the minds of distressed women.

I'm inching toward my 7th month of pregnancy and the issue of the NIHI vaccine has been monopolozing my mind since flu season descended on my calendar, and straight into my big pregnant heart afflicted with tender worrying about my first child.

To vaccinate or not vaccinate that is the question.

Here's what I want to know: how do you trust ANYONE these days to give you correct information? For most computer literate citizens, there is no shortage of informtion. Thanks to trusty libraries, there is no question left in the dark, but, the question remains in my suspicious mind: How do I trust this information?

Maybe there are a handful of organizations or groups dedicated to unbiased information distribution, but, for the H1N1 issue, I'm pressed to find hard core facts that don't have some sort of agenda to nudge you in a certain direction.

This is my body and inside my body is my first child. The questions going back and forth neutralize my ability to make a decision. There is risk in doing something, there is risk in doing nothing, so I look at the facts.

Fact #1 - in my local community, there have been reported and confirmed H1N1 cases. To be exact, the local family care center 2 blocks from my house.

Fact #2 - 1% of the population is pregnant and yet, of those who have died from the the H1N1 flu, 6% have been pregnant women

Fact #3 - The vaccine is new and although people want to remain positive, the uncertainty of its effects are not known. NOBODY truly knows what the effects might be on pregnant women.

Fact #4 - Pregnant women have a weakened immunity system and those in later pregnancy may have more complications from flu-turned-pneumonia because of lack of sleep, irregular breathing patterns (baby pushing up against diaphragm makes deep breathes more difficult), and overall fatigue

Fact #5 - There is risk either way and regardless of what I do, my choice will be unpopular with someday in my life

My father is nearly sweating himself into dehydration because he wants me first in line for the vaccine. My mother is unconvinced that vaccination is safe. My dear Adonis keeps reading whatever he can, uncertain what is best and afraid to push me into getting the vaccine which he, underneath it all, thinks is the best option for our growing family.

I remain on the sidelines, swaying to the winds of news, gut, prayers, and hope.

So, after you've got choice, after you've got the information, what do you do if you still can't make a decision?

I've asked Isaiah what he thinks and he just kicks and rolls happily inside, his firing neurons building a system that utterly depends on the decisions I make with my body and our health.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Brief Word

Thanks to those who are asking about my impending move. Not to worry, though, this blog will automatically redirect you to my new site.

Change is afoot!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Open Thread And Soliciting Advice

I hate when I ask for reader's opinion. Mostly because it reads like I cannot make up my mind. I mean, never mind that that IS the truth, but I usually hide it real well. In the closet: I am indecisive.

So a new website is underway (do you HEAR the archangles singing in the sky?) and I am deliciously excited to unveil it and start FRESH, with more authentic, funny, candid, meaningful, frequent writing. Ah, I feel like I'm about to go in for a makeover. I'll smell all glorious and everyone will turn and sniff in my direction, "What...who was THAT?" Yes, friends, that is the smell of my new website called...called...

And that's why I need your help.

MY ECDYSIS was reformed from A WOMYN'S ECDYSIS. The word "ecdysis" basically means shedding an outer layer. It's a biologist's term. I've got history with it. It makes sense.

It's also confusing, people misspell it like it's their PAID JOB not to look up how to spell it correctly, and, truthfully, NO ONE KNOWS HOW TO PRONOUNCE IT. I think I've spent more time correcting spelling and annunciation ECDYSIS than I have about kyriarchy, feminism, or any other issue I've written about.

So, I am at a crossroads.

How do you know when to change? Has "ECDYSIS" ecdysis-ed itself? I'm a big proponent of continuity, especially on the internets, but I'm itching to find a replacement. With no success.

I cannot think of anything that is more appropriate for me than My Ecdysis, and yet, I want something new.

Oh, the cyber tug of internal war continues.

And so, my dear readers, those who are loyal enough to email or leave your thoughts in the comments section -- what do you think?

Taking suggestions, feedback, criticism, thoughts. Anything but profanity.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Columbus Day Should be Reclaimed as National Day of Historical Truth-Telling

If ignoring the controversial Columbus Day holiday is not what we should do, then what is?

If the Columbus voyage is compared to a modern day voyage to Mars, then what do we make of the European colonization that took place subsequent to Columbus' "discovery?"

What do we make of the wiping out of the Native Americans who were here, and HAD been here for so long? How do we recoin a holiday when the basis of the "discovery" was actually theft? And brutality?

What do we do when we know that truth? What happens after truth-telling? Has anything changed? Instead of moving the holiday around to create longer 4 day weekends in November, what do we DO with the knowledge that the history textbooks document Columbus day from the victor's side? Has that knowledge changed your perception of this federal holiday?

The least we can do is make today a day of truth-telling. If we want to tell the story of a man who went on a really brave, long trip; if we want to tell the story of the violent genocide inflicted upon the Native Americans; if we want our children to have a day off of school for these reasons and, for some, receive a paid holiday, the least we can do is press upon the truth, if only for one day.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Argument for Realism and Dangers of "Positive Thinking"

Barbara Ehrenreich recently gave an interview about how "positive thinking" is undermining America to which I say, BRAVO.

Ehrenreich argues that, basically, a little realism and truthful admittance of our feelings when we are dogged by the inevitable harder aspects of life are not only normal, but quite healthy. She talks about her new book which explores the roots of "positive thinking" which hit close to home when in treatment for breast cancer and was advised to "embrace" her disease.

Another insightful and interesting perspective from Ehrenreich that may have me borrowing this book from the library once available.

The one point I would either disagree with or elaborate with Ehrenreich:

For the positive thinker, that means everything looks rosy and everything is going to be all right no matter what, so you have to block out the little warning signs.

For the very depressed person, you're just convinced that everything is going to be miserable, that you're not going to enjoy anything you undertake, that you're going to fail at everything.

There, too, you're just projecting things. It's extremely hard to "see things as they are." It's a project -- we have to consult other people, we get other views, we sometimes have to question other people's views, but that's the only way to proceed, and that's how our species has survived as long as it has.

The anti-deflatable population, those who are absolutely committed to seeing everything rosy, are not positive thinkers. I would argue those folks are in denial. Denial is powerful. It has the capacity to mentally save us from crushing circumstances when we need to focus on something else, like a strategy to survive. Denial is not always a bad thing. Psychologically, denial is a coping mechanism that, when appropriately used in a timely manner, can be extremely effective and helpful, provided you deal and process whatever is troublesome soon afterward.

But that's not the kind of denial that I'm referencing with this population Ehrenreich is describing. The denial of whole perspective, the denial of seeing the source of pain and unfairness is not positive thinking. It's intentional self-blindness.

The folks who Ehrenreich speaks of are the classically weak. Those who run from insecurities into big homes and refuse to acknowledge pain. Those who tell laid off workers to have a better attitude or say that cancer is "a gift." I don't believe those are positive thinkers. I think there can be redemptive strength and epiphanies that come from suffering, as many cancer patients attest, but, I tend to agree with Ehrenreich on this point: How about a little realism?

The world is a living paradox. It is filled with peace and injustice, good and bad, healers and killers, miracles and tragedies. Those who actually see this, those of us who are see BOTH sides of humanity and still see hope, those are positive thinkers. Those are the visionaries who have walked through the caves, curse at the darkness, hate the stench of oppression, identify the causes of crises, and STILL, despite all of that maintain some sort of decent, whole, and active existence in the world. Those are positive thinkers.

It's not to the lengths that she describes in her cancer treatments, but I think of my own experiences with "positive thinkers," or people who don't want to hear the hard knock truth of our emotions when faced with crisis or even severely stressful situations.

Like pregnancy.

I cannot begin to count how many times I have tried to discuss certain fears I have about delivery, about becoming a parent, or even about the plain Jane pain that will take over my body in a few short months when I give birth. To which most people automatically direct me to "think about the positive parts of this! You're having a baby!"


There is no minimizing the miracle or joy I experience on a daily level because of this new life. There is no way to diminish the unparalleled brilliance of what is transpiring in my body right now.

At the same time, there is still an abiding anxiety that I neither reject or ignore. It is part of the REALITY of my life, this experience. To project PURE positive thinking is to deny a reality which can be very much part of a positive gift later on, but for now, the deep anxiety and concern I have over the H1N1 vaccine, developing gestational diabetes, traumatic birth, birth defects, and overall, what kind of parent I will be are all so very real and scary.

But everyone loves to talk about the positive parts, the hunky dory pieces of nursery talk and baby land.

To "see things as they are" is, indeed, a rare perspective these days.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

How Intimate and Functional is Your Feminism?

I'm presenting at a conference in a little over a week. I was given 20 minutes to talk about feminism, new media, and identity. Twenty minutes.

I remember when I was in college and thinking that writing long papers was one of the biggest challenges. "What am I supposed to write about?" I always looked for fillers to make my number pages increase, as if writing MORE signified more meaning.

Eight years after college, I learned that it's short papers, abbreviated periods of time that holds true challenge. How do I only have 20 minutes to create this presentation when I have so much to say?

In preparing for this conference, I've been writing primers on feminism, my feminism. My perspective. My truth. I have been reviewing the definition of feminism and its futility in the common, everyday world in which we live in. How feminism affects the relationships we claim mean so much to us. How feminism affects our communication patterns in workplaces built on hierarchy and authority. How feminism challenges and/or enhances our expectations of the men in my life (and especially the women in my life!).

How does feminism, YOUR feminism affect you? How personal, how intimate do you allow your feminism to become?

If personal transformation is key, or a precursor to societal transformation, intimacy with feminism cannot be sidestepped. It takes a monstrous force to allow oneself to be vulnerable enough to change, vulnerable enough to change our relationships and beliefs that influence our daily behaviors. That is the function of my feminism -- using it as a ladder to climb for a better view, reaching higher [deeper] levels of clarity. It is not navel gazing if we actually USE feminism for self-transformation, instead of using it as a lens to think or muse on our own experiences. Once we're done musing, it's time to enact change. Put our lessons into practice.

For me, action and change are found in small-sounding shifts. For example...

I stopped lying.

I stopped lying to people when they ask how I am feeling. I stopped saying that I feel great and have enough energy to be pregnant, go out, cook, take care of myself, work a full time job.

I stopped lying and began saying what is really happening: I'm tired. I'm tired by 2pm everyday and need to sleep. Saying this means I've asked for help. Admitting this means allowing others to see that I'm changing and I'm affected by that change. It means acknowledging that I am not as energetic as I once was. It means allowing myself to be seen in my own skin. It means not pretending and letting whatever expectations of me that others held to fall to the ground and stay there.

I stopped lying because the energy in creating a lie - however slight the alteration of the truth it is - distracts and subtracts from the energy bank I DO have.

The result is I am able to see myself as I am: a very pregnant woman, very much in love with this experience, and needing time to Be exactly as I am.

It wasn't the hugest lie to tell. Perhaps the liberation I feel has more to do with the fact that I am being more FULLY myself, allowing more of the truth in, instead of filtering it out.

It's meant closing my door to sleep. It's meant reaching for more water. It's meant coming to grips with the darker parts of pregnancy that are creeping closer and closer in my insecurity. It's meant more doctor's appointments and less bravado.

It means being real.

Feminism, the kind I am presenting, has to do with that kind of liberation. It begins with small lies we tell ourselves to get through the day, it begins with taking down ridiculous facades we don't even need to begin with, and frees up our identity to pay attention to who we really are, what we are really about, and refocus that energy in what truly matters.

It is my hope, or plan, that beginning in those seeds of truth will allow us to grow into truth-filled bodies where we can recognize the people and places that truly need more energy and hope.

I serve no other person well if I begin from an unstable foundation.