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Meanderer’s Musings: Sexism, cats, birds, planes, flowers, trains, families, more sexism and directions

While I am not agoraphobic, I sometimes have to fight against the urge to stay holed up at home. Today, it took quite a bit of self talk to propel my ass out the door. I simultaneously wanted and did not want to walk. I drank coffee slowly, started reading a book I’ve read several times before, checked email and FB, etc. But finally after much mental hemming and hawing, I changed into tuffy clothes, put on my sneakers, grabbed my keys and headed out the door.

I wanted to think deep thoughts. One of the carrots for going on the walk was that I was going to use the time to think about the problems of sexism and activism against it. I did think about it a bit. Lately, I’ve been turning over the notion that the way for me, and perhaps others, to not burn out when confronted with all the horrible sexism in the world is to make it into a game of sorts. How can I creatively combat sexism? How can I look at the crap that sexism causes as opportunities for innovative problem solving? How can I get enough distance, without become apathetic, from its impact to better see it? I do not know the answer, but I do not that, for me, I need ways to be engaged without always being angry.

As I walked, I did dive into the depths, but mainly I floated on the surface. I looked at and listened to the world. I delighted in glimpses of two neighborhood cats, Crouchy and White Kitty. The piercing call of a bird competed with the muted roar of an airplane. I looked closely at the raggedy blue flowers, treated as weeds to be mowed down, that are everywhere right now. As I walked the rails to trail path, I noticed the granite rocks leftover from when the train tracks still occupied the same space. I miss the sounds of the trains rolling through the neighborhood.

Thoughts of the train turned to thoughts of my childhood. My childhood was full of abuse, but it was not near as bad as my parents’ childhoods. Much of it fell in a no child’s land between hell, purgatory and heaven. One leg was in hell, most of it was in purgatory and one arm, and often enough the head were in heaven. My childhood was full of intense joy as well as horrible pain. I have come to find out that reminding myself of the joy does not negate the truth of the pain. But re-telling the pain over and over without the joy is untrue as well. I sometimes wonder, as I did on my walk today, how this particular personal truth could be extrapolated into a larger social and political truth. How can we better understands the ways the institution of the family is riddled with sexism and perpetuates the heterosexual norm in often violent ways but also understand that the institution of family transmits and transforms necessary and helpful social norms. It is not just violence. It is not just repression. My childhood and the institution of the family both contain joy and beauty.

As I was thinking all of this, a woman driving in a large SUV pulled up too close beside me. She startled me out of my thoughts. She needed help with directions. I did not want to help her. I was not especially friendly, but I did help her. It took a bit of back and forth, and I had to have her hand over her handwritten instructions to figure out that she had taken a left turn instead of a right turn. I did not want to help her. I wanted to keep walking. I wanted to keep following particular trains of thought. I didn’t want to, but I helped her. Doing my duty is not always immediately rewarding. I did not resume my walk happy. I was annoyed, yet satisfied. After the fact, I often have obsessed about my interactions with others, even strangers like this woman in the SUV. I have tried to weed out all the ugly, irritated, selfish and angry ways that I respond to the world. And while it is important to cultivate the mind, to not let these weeds take over the whole plot, there is a place for the raggedy weeds with blue flowers. I can let my weedy ways be. I don’t need to prune it all out. I do not have to perfectly kind. I can be helpful and irritated.

I want to wrap up this bit of writing, to somehow make the comparison between my letting the weedy blue flowers of my mind grow with the ways we deal with the rougher parts of our culture, but I need to think more before I decide that the comparison has any truth. Perhaps on my next walk I will think on it. Maybe it will become clearer, and maybe it won’t.

Until next time, take care and keep on keeping on.

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