mothering bodies ~ adoption ~ alt.gender ~ parenting ~ work/life balance

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Night Sweats

In the small hours of the night, I wake suddenly, feverish and disoriented. I check the clock: two hours since the last episode. As my body temperature climbs nearly eight degrees, I wrench myself out of the heavy winter bedclothes as if they are strangling me. I sit up, tenting my bare legs on top of the jumble of covers, unable to bear even the thought of anything touching my prickly, slick skin. I reach for my water glass on the bedside table, relieved to hear the clink of the last shard of ice against the side. The water will still be cool. I drink, knowing that it will make me have to urinate during the next hot flash two hours from now. If I get up to pee then, it may be more difficult to fall back to sleep. But I am so hot now. I pant, frustrated and impatient. I have to get up in four hours and I expect to wake at least once more before then. All I can do is wait it out.

I am wide awake for now, but so tired. I lean forward over my legs, my open palms by my sides on the blankets. My mouth hangs open, slack, and my hair falls into my face. I might look like a stoned gymnast doing her warmup stretches. I stare into the darkness, seeing nothing except the dim glow of the boys' nightlight down the hall. I hear Beau, our five year old border collie mix, snoring lightly on his dog bed to my left. The sound is regular and comforting. How can he sleep so soundly when I can't? Bella, his sister, shifts on her own bed at the other side of the room. My husband's form is difficult to distinguish under a barrage of pillows and blankets to my right. He sleeps with a pillow over his head to drown out noise. I hope that I am not waking him with my silently feverish movements.

If I can hear them, then my family is safe around me. If they are safe, then I am too.

This flash is a bad one. Have your forearms ever sweated? Sometimes, when I run particularly far on a particularly hot day, mine do.

My forearms are sweating now, in the middle of the night, but I haven't even dreamed of anything strenuous.

I sweep my hand up the back of my neck. Slick sweat turns icy as the heat recedes. My hair is still wet at the roots, as is my nightshirt down my back and when I press it between my breasts. I imagine the sweat patterns look like I've just finished a workout.

I hear a far-away, tiny click-click and the heat pump turns on. The air from the ceiling vent chills, finally, and I feel behind my back for my pillow. I hope for a cool side but neither is satisfactory. The house is warm. I flip the pillow anyway, figuring that the side I haven't touched must be cooler than the one I have. Slowly, gingerly, I pull my legs up and slide my toes back under my side of the covers. I find the top edges of the blankets--the ones I tossed away so desperately a mere three minutes ago--and slide my body down and under them. In as few movements as possible, I pull the edges up over my now clammy shoulder and reach down to pull my nightshirt over my thighs. I stop and listen: Bryan's breathing remains regular. Oh good, I think, I haven't woken him.

I turn onto my left side, toward the red, boxy numbers of the clock. I have to get up in less than four hours and I expect to wake at least once more before then.

I have so much to do tomorrow--today--but I'm so tired. Do I really have to go to that late afternoon meeting? I have to remember to email Colleen about the schedule. Colleen. Schedule. Colleen. Schedule. Colleen. Schedule.

I wish I hadn't yelled at the boys today. They're such great kids--why can't they listen? I love them so much. I hope they don't think that I don't love them. I need to clean their bathroom. Maybe I should teach them to clean the bathroom.

I'm so tired, but so awake. I look at the ceiling as my mind whirrs. I sigh and turn back to the clock.

I've been awake for an hour and forty minutes.

In these dark, small hours, I admit my fears of being inadequate and unloveable. I catch myself and attempt to refocus. I breathe slowly and meditate on my blessings. I listen to my family breathe.

Some advise calling these episodes "power surges" and I do feel like I'm experiencing a circuit overload during hot flashes. But these episodes don't empower me. Often they sap my energy and my spirit. I weather some with nary a twinge, true, but then there are the humdingers like this one.

Regardless of what I call them, it's 2:56 a.m. right now and I'm awake. I feel like a flu's coming on: wave of nausea and tingly skin uneasy in clothes. In a pitch-dark house pulsing with snores, my body is like the Vegas strip, alight, impervious to circadian rhythm. I have to get up in three hours and I expect to wake at least once more before then.

I sit up. I drink. I pant.

I wait.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Decaf

So: I'm two years post-hysterectomy and I get diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). What that means is that all of my comfort foods are making me sick.

As is eating too much.

Or too little.

Or waiting too long to eat.

And if obsessing about eating or not eating isn't enough, stress also makes me sick such that by "sick" I mean that I either have looks-four-months-pregnant bloat with gas pains, constipation, or diarrhea.

Oh, womanhood is so glamorous!

So this summer I gave up the following:

1. chocolate
2. caffeine
3. dairy
4. white bread
5. baked goods

Then I went on vacation for two weeks and was A Very Good Girl on week #1. By week 2, I had fallen so far off the wagon that it ran me over.

Twice.

More stomach issues ensued and so I have now dragged my sorry, bloated carcass back onto the wagon. The wagon of salad and probiotics. And decaf soy lattes. The wagon kind of sucks sometimes.

It would be easier to give up all of these goodies, I think, if all of them made me sick EVERY time I ate or drank them. But sometimes they treat me right.

See? It's like reverse Pavlov.

Or something.

Right? Oh, who cares? I'm tired and bitchy from caffeine withdrawal.

Gimme a baby carrot.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Happy New Year!

The beginning of the academic year brings a mix of emotions to us university professors: sadness at the ending of summer; joy at reconnecting with students and faculty; and the anticipation of holidays. 

And, yet, we academics look at holidays differently than the rest of the family--hell, differently than the rest of the country. 

For those of you with an academic in your life, I offer the following primer as insight into why our eyes glaze over in horror in reaction to holiday dinner invitations or the conversation opener: “What are you doing over the holidays?” 

I’ll start at the beginning of the year, which for academics is the end of summer.

Mid to late August means for academics: Happy New Year! For everyone else: end of summer

Labor Day: Final syllabus cram!  ... BBQ!

Columbus Day: Midterms! ... Sales!

Thanksgiving: Grading Catchup!  ... Family Turkey Time!

December 22:  Start holiday shopping!  ... Ready for the holidays!

Christmas/Hannukah: Sleep! ... Turkey Family time!

January 1: Spring syllabus planning! ... Happy New Year!

Easter: Midterms! ... Easter!

Mid-May: Summer! ... Rainy season.

So the next time you invite an academic over for Thanksgiving dinner and he or she asks if you have wifi, just remember: s/he’s trying to figure out how to balance enjoying that dinner with you, but s/he’ll be working on a laptop during the big game.


Happy holidays!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

My Barbie Lunchbox

Classes start soon, so it's time to pull the dry-cleaner bags off my suits and pull my hot-pink Barbie lunchbox down from the top shelf of the pantry.

What?

Oh, that.

Go Ahead, Ask. Make My Day.
Photo: MLB
Yes, I am an educated, professional woman and I carry a fuschia Barbie lunchbox to work. It’s not a quirky, ironic affect; I carry it because my second-grade son wouldn’t anymore.

He loves both Star Wars video games and Barbie coloring books. What do these preferences say about him? They say that, like all nine-year-old boys, he is naturally interested in a variety of subjects.

However, most toys, clothes, and entertainment are marketed to very specific types of boys or very specific types of girls, period. Not both, not crossover (at least, not very often). Have you ever tried to buy Disney princess boxer briefs for boys? I have. Did you find any? Neither did I. On the Internet, I did find numerous blog posts and forum queries from other parents, like me, seeking princess underwear designed for boys’ bodies. Our boys instead make due with princess underwear designed for girls’ bodies. If such a robust market for boys’ princess boxers exits, then why doesn’t the product?

The answer to this question is further reaching than market analysis. It is threaded into the very fabric of how we, as a culture, teach our children to adopt narrowly defined male or female roles though our media, marketing, and consumption. When we buy gender-coded clothing without demanding cross-gender alternatives, we teach our children. When we let them watch programs that portray boys in dresses as jokes, we teach them. And when our sons ask for dolls and we buy them military figurines instead, we teach them. With such pervasive gender training, what do we think second graders will say to the new boy carrying a Barbie lunch box on the first day of school? I could tell you; but it is not nice.

My son explained to his new classmates that if a boy has a Barbie lunch box, then Barbie is not just for girls.

It’s a valid point.

He has been repeating this message for years, ever since he first wore pink, glitter-encrusted Hello Kitty flats to preschool. I had planned to buy sneakers, but he loved the Shiny Shoes instead. How could I say no simply because he was a boy? More important: why should I? He wore holes through those shoes, teaching his preschool class that Shinys are for boys and girls.

But second graders are far less tolerant than pre-schoolers when policing difference. They are older, so they have internalized a larger dose of gender training, and over a longer period of time. Two summers ago, before starting at a new school, he warned me about the gear he had chosen: “Mommy, I think my friends will make fun of this Hello Kitty backpack and Barbie lunchbox.” As it does every August, a piece of my heart died in the Target back-to-school aisle. I wanted to fold him into a baby-sized bundle, clutch him to my chest, and shield him from the harsh judges of this world. But I can’t do that.

“They will,” I agreed. “How do you feel about being teased?”

“Not good,” He replied. “But I like them, so I’m getting them anyway.”

My kid is brave, although choosing a lunchbox and backpack should not require bravery.

His friends did tease him and SpongeBob replaced Barbie. But he refused to give up Hello Kitty. He wore that backpack like a shield against teasing in the classroom, in the halls, and on the bus.

Nope. Definitely Not Hello Kitty.
Photo: MLB
The next summer he picked black gear covered in creepy light-green skulls. For a minute, I worried that he had made those choices specifically to appease the Third Grade Gender Police. Then, I worried that his choices were based on genuine appeal and that my saying anything would add pressure to his anxiety over starting the school year without any best friends in his class. I zipped lips and waited.

Ah, relief: he choose the skulls because, in addition to Hello Kitty, he likes rad ghoulish skate-dude images. And those sickly-irridescent green skulls are totally badass.

So, ever since the Great SpongeBob Switch, this card-carrying feminist has also carried that fuchsia Barbie lunchbox. I've even started to love its garish refusal to blend in among the understated purse and briefcase I also carry. When other adults tease me about it, I tell them about second graders’ internalized gender intolerance and my son's struggle against it to live his authentic self. I carry that lunchbox as a beacon to light a path for both of my sons—one of tolerance and inclusivity. Also, I want my little badass to know that he picked a rad lunch box.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Summer's Off!

I'm a college professor, so I start getting one persistent question every year around the first week of May:

"Are you off for the summer now?"

The answer to this question is rarely the quick and easy "yes" which I'm sure is expected. Yes, classes are over but no, I'm not completely untethered either.

Articles abound in the trades like this one in The Chronicle of Higher Education and like this one in Inside Higher Ed on the socially invisible and mostly unpaid work that educators do during the summer. (Many educators have 9- or 10-month contracts and are paid for 9 or 10 months of work per year. The expectation is that all work is able to be completed in 9 or 10 months, but reality rarely bears out expectations.) With respect to a wide breadth of variation among disciplines, institution types, and individual faculty contracts and career paths, in general we plan the next fall and spring courses, work on our research and writing, volunteer, complete administrative tasks, apply for grants or project funding, schedule our annual medical appointments, take family vacations like lots of other folks, and (gasp!) many educators teach during the summer.

My academic program does not require year-round teaching, so I choose to be home with my two elementary school-age sons in the summer while I attend to certain administrative, research, and academic tasks. My summer schedule is thus a soupy mish mash of work and play that any working parent--and particularly any parent who's also a teacher or professor--will recognize.

My honest answer to that persistent question above is that if you see me at the county pool, then I'm off; but if my kids are playing at your house, then you can bet your last nickel I'm working. A brief slice of my summer usually looks something like this:

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Hi Dr. Brown,
I'm a new incoming student and I didn't attend my summer orientation. Can you help me register for all of my classes remotely? 
Thanks! :) 



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"Mommy, what's that lady on the TV doing?"
"Yoga."
"Are you supposed to be doing what she's doing?"
"Unh--yes."
"Her leg's higher in the air than yours is."
"Well--"
"I'll bet that's because you're a lot older than she is."
"Now hold that pose..... Exhale....... Let all tension go....... All worries,..... all cares--"
"GIVE IT!"
"No! IT'S MINE!"
SLAP!
"MOMMY!"


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Dear Dr. Brown, 
Would you write me a letter of recommendation for my graduate school application? It's due next week.
Thanks! :)



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1pm: Cole piano
4:15 pm: Michelle karate
4:20 pm: Connor karate
5pm: Cole karate


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Dear Dr. Brown,
The article manuscript you promised to review for our journal is due in two weeks. We look forward to receiving your feedback. 
Sincerely, 
Editor


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"Who wants to go to the Pizza Hut at Target for lunch?"
"We do! We do!"
"Great. Let's get cheese pizzas!"
"I wanna big pretzel."
"I think you should get the pizza, Connor. It's yummy and you need the protein."
"NO! I HATE PIZZA. I WANNA PRETZEL!"
"Alright, fine. Get the pretzel."
"Mmm, this pizza is good, Mommy."
"I'm glad you like it, Cole."
"I WANT PIZZA, TOO! Mommy, Cole won't give me any of his pizza! Everyone's being mean to me!"


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Dear Dr. Brown,
We cannot locate sufficient copies of the first book you plan to teach in the fall. Please provide another title as a substitute. 
Thank you, 
University Bookstore


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Dear Curriculum Task Force, 
Please review the attached draft proposal for our curriculum revision and suggest any necessary revisions. Our deadline for the final proposal is in one month.
Thanks, Team Leader


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"Mommy, I read a whole chapter book today and it was long. I've earned screens for like 18,000 hours."
"Mommy, I drew you a picture. It's me and you and the heart means 'I love you'."


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Dear Dr. Brown, 
Thank you for submitting the requested article revisions. We look forward to reviewing them.
Sincerely,
Editor



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Clink! "Here's to the first night of our vacation, Hon."


 * * *


Off? Well, sort of.

But that's fine with me. I love my work and I love the change of pace that summer affords. In fact, summer's my favorite season. Even if I don't completely live the myth of the carefree summertime college prof, I get enough of it. Even now, I'm sitting on my front porch listening to the birds sing as I write this post. My dogs are conked out on the floor next to me, oblivious to the intermittent whine of a buzz saw down the block, slicing two-by-fours for the new house going up. I can smell rain in the air. In an hour, the boys will be home from a play date and we're going to hit the library, but I'll finish reviewing that curriculum proposal draft before then.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Lover of Hounds

Connor and I took our dogs for a hike around the lake a few months ago. Damp wind cut through our sweatshirts; we could smell the cold in the air. Connor wore his brand-new spy glasses--the world's coolest birthday present--and led the way. We hiked the length of the berm along one end of the lake. We sang:

     We're following the leader, the leader, the leader.
     We're following the leader wherever he may go.
     We won't be home 'til morning, 'til morning, 'til morning.
     We won't be home 'til morning because we told him so.

Connor looked up at me and smiled as we repeated the verse again and again. I told him that his name is ancient Irish for lover of hounds or wolves. "That's because I love Bella and Beau!" he exclaimed excitedly, "I wish our dogs were wolves, though." Satisfied and emboldened by the fact that he also shares his name with numerous ancient kings, he held my hand as the wind plastered our clothes to our bodies so completely that fabric edges trailed us like superhero capes.  We looked like two Han Solos cryogenically preserved in carbon. We felt like kites; pretended to be blown backwards and off balance, laughing. The bright sun bounced off the lake surface but offered no warmth. No matter, though: we were on a spy adventure and spies care not for the cold.

Beloved Hounds. Photo: MLB
In that moment, despite the cold and the wind, Connor's smile radiated happiness. How much fun is a spy adventure by the lake with your Mommy and your dogs? Pretty freaking fun, let me tell you. At seven, Connor is already leaving me behind to play Star Wars Spy Ninja Legos with his best friends Caleb and William. He returns to me when they've had to go inside for supper and I am a sorry substitute then, pushing nutrition and clean hands. That day, though, exposed on the berm to the cutting wind, I squeezed Connor's hand and we belted our song to hear our echoes across the water. Beau and Bella pulled on their leashes toward the woods and warmth. I picked up Connor and carried him for awhile, his lean body turtle-shelled against my chest and shoulder both a shield and mother-needing baby. Connor's long skinny legs and arms wrapped around my waist and neck and I breathed in this extended hug. "Ah, this," I thought, remembering the long wait, years ago, for children to hold and comfort just like this. Connor thought I was warming him, but our combined body heat paled in comparison to that of my joy at being with him, together and loved. Connor is like that: if you are near him, then you are together and loved. To him, being seven is a series of adventures. To be near him is to orbit the sun.

A few weeks ago, Connor's wide, easy smile healed one hundred grieving hearts. Someone very close and precious in his birth family died. The funeral service was on the first warm day after a too-long winter. The morning air was light and bright but still smelled more like snow than spring. White arms shimmied out of black cardigans in the heated sanctuary. After the service we all stumbled out of the church as if blinded by the unfamiliar sun. Or was it by Connor's smile? He was easy to pick out in a crowd comprised almost entirely of adults. Numerous extended family members and friends introduced themselves and asked to shake his hand. He already knew his immediate birth family as part of his adoption story and was eager to see them again even as we mourned the loss of one who had been dear. Everyone at the funeral knew Connor's name and his relationship to their family, but his seven-year-old's understanding of their relationships to him had remained--until that point--more abstract. After the two-hour drive to the church and the very touching hour-long mass, Connor was in Star-Wars-Spy-Ninja-Lego withdrawal, as any self-respecting seven-year-old would be. And, yet, he was enchanted by every reconnection and new acquaintance, greeting everyone who approached him and posing for photos for over an hour without any sign of flagging.

While I would not call attending a funeral an adventure, Connor was interested to go to a new place and meet people whose import to him he is still learning to understand, to smile, shake hands, and offer hugs to so many loved ones hungry for his likeness and his congenial spirit. People often say that Connor looks like his Daddy and me, and it has been observed that families do grow to resemble each other--even non-biological ones such as ours. When we see ourselves in others, we know they belong with us. A sense of belonging brings comfort in the assurance that we have a place with others in the world. That day, outside the gleaming white chapel under still-bare branches, Connor's wide grin and fearlessness seemed to give peace and comfort to so many now bereft of another smiling, adventurous one. We all found some comfort in the belief that although bodies die, spirits remain--sometimes in the smile of a child. Throughout the service and in the churchyard afterward, no adult was ever far from tears, but an amazing transformation seemed to occur when joy entered into hearts previously full with despair. Despite the tragic circumstances that brought the congregation together that day, Bryan, Connor, Cole and I treasure those bittersweet reunions and new relationships formed.

That Smile! Photo: MLB
On some level, Connor understands what he did for a churchful of sad folks that day. He knows that we should all show love to each other, and he truly enjoyed showing and sharing love with people he now regards as his new friends. "When can we go to their house, Daddy?" he asked on the car ride home.

What an amazing kid I get to mother!

Connor's birth parents named him before we met and, although we could have legally changed it, we kept his name because we wanted to reflect the depth of our connection to them. When they named him after the great kings of his heritage, as one who loves all companions, how did they know?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Secrecy: the Fiction of Control

The problem with secrets is that they never stay that way.
Shhhh.
Photo: MLB

By their very nature, they're doomed to fail.

At times, we hold the happy secret of a wonderful surprise ("Don't look in the driveway before I get home on your birthday, Darling!"), but this essay is not about fun secrets. It is about the other kinds.

We keep secret those topics we do not want to reveal to others. Usually, such topics cause us shame or fear--or, sometimes, both. Shame and fear are powerful motivators of silence, so much so that we even try to hide our painful or inconvenient truths from ourselves.

Some shameful secrets simply hide the embarrassing, like having eaten a fourth brownie. (Obviously, I am dealing in the hypothetical here. I know nothing about excessive chocolate consumption.) Other secrets bury frightening experiences; for example, a history of childhood sexual abuse by a popular family elder. It should go without saying that I neither equate brownie indulgence with incest nor suggest that these two very different examples represent the entire range of potential secretive topics. My point is that we humans often secret a wide variety of both our own foibles and the ways in which others have frightened and/or shamed us, and that we also sometimes cover up the very existence of these experiences to ourselves and others.

Why might we keep such multi-layered secrets?

We do it because secrets offer the promise of control. And control is power.

What we do not consider, unfortunately, is the fact that the secret's promise is unfulfillable and that the control it offers is a sham.

"A sham?" you may be wondering, slightly panicky. "What do you mean, 'sham'?"

The power promised by secrecy is a sham because it is fictional: secrecy offers a control that does not exist. We cannot control certain aspects of any scenario we seek to contain through secrecy. And, yet, our desire for that very control seduces us anyway, a desire so strong that it overrides reason.

"If I don't tell anyone about the fourth brownie," the dieter thinks, "then no one will know I cheated on my diet."

"If I don't tell anyone about Uncle Jonathan touching me," the child thinks, "then everybody will still like Uncle Jonathan and I won't get in trouble."

In both of these scenarios, the dieter and the child cling to equations of ignorance and control with happiness and, possibly, with transformed futures. And, yet, although none of these equations can possibly yield the intended results, the desire for those results outweighs the fact of their impossibility.

Regardless of whether the dieter reveals his willpower lapse or not, it still occurred. And whether the child reveals Uncle Jonathan's predation or not, it has also occurred. With regard to the future and to external forces, while the dieter may believe that he can control his reactions to all future dessert temptations, he may or may not abstain later. Nor can he control anyone else's reactions to or opinions of what he eats. Likewise, the child may hope or believe that she can control all of Uncle Jonathan's future access to her--as well as his responses to predatory inclinations during unsupervised moments--but she simply cannot. Nor can she control the relationships among her family members, whether or not her family will suspect Jonathan's pedophilia, or even any family member's reaction to her or to Jonathan if his crime is ever exposed.

For all of these reasons, keeping a shameful or frightening secret is tantamount to keeping a double fiction alive by promoting both the absence of one story ("What brownie?" "What pedophilia?")  and the existence of a fictional one ("I'm adhering to my diet!" "We're all happy and nothing's wrong!").

Promoting a double fiction feels more like work than control. In fact, it is exhausting work because, as we have seen, any semblance of control is flimsy at best. Keeping a secret requires constant vigilance on both the defensive and the offensive. Every word even remotely related to the taboo topic must be mentally vetted before it can be uttered. This means that the secret holder must monitor and possibly censor not only any conversation or other information alluding to the secret, but also all tangential references to it, as well as any indicators of the fictionality of the cover story.

If the secret involves another person, then the secret holder must surveil not only his or her own communications but also those of anyone else involved in or knowledgeable of the taboo topic.

In the end, the effort of keeping a secret has the effect not of burying its subject matter but, instead, secrecy has the opposite effect of foregrounding it.

Whew! But, wait: there's more.

We have established that a secret offers the holder a false sense of power--false because any attempt to control a secret brings it to the holder's forethought and, thus, renders it more difficult to ignore. Have you ever heard the idiom, "out of sight, out of mind?" Secrets are never truly out of sight or out of mind. Triggers pop up in conversation, in our media consumption, in the literature we read--regardless of whether frequently or rarely. Like dead bodies in bad thriller movies, the topics of our secrets--or the secrets themselves--always resurface eventually and the results can be disastrous. Chaucer tells us, "Murder will out," and literature is full of ghosts like Hamlet, Sr., who tell tales on the guilty and foil seemingly perfect crimes again and again. Other characters confess under the weight of the secret's burden. Recall the narrator of Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" who confesses murder almost immediately because he imagines his victim's stilled heart beating loudly enough to alert the local police who otherwise suspect nothing. In these and other ways, some of our best art imitates life.

Because they are ultimately lies--yes, dear readers, fiction is untruth--secrets can be destructive. In psychoanalysis and trauma studies, we know that the attempt to mask past shames, fears, or crimes with secrets prevents us from moving forward in healthy directions with our lives. We understand that talking about these past harms or hurts--rather than working to keep them secreted--is redemptive, recuperative, and restorative. We call this talking "testimony" and I like the idea that speaking one's truth is, in fact, testifying.

Fearless Bodies, Voices in
the Winchester Star.
Photo: Amy Sarch
In so many areas of life, this notion of recuperative testimony holds true, but I have never seen it more true in practice than in the context of individuals breaking cultural silences. Last year and again a few weeks ago, I participated in public demonstrations organized to call attention to the global prevalence of sexual assault and violence against women and girls. The One Billion Rising movement is only one example of legion public testimonial demonstrations led by women worldwide in the last several years, but its timeliness makes it a prescient example for this post. Risings have been happening all month around the world in proximity to Valentine's Day. I want to call attention to this movement's aim: to allow women, men, girls, boys, abuse survivors, and allies to publicly use their voices and bodies of their own volition rather than under the force or coercion of others.

Do I think that a four-minute annual flash mob dance with matching tee shirts will end the violence that marks one out of five child and adolescent girls worldwide before they can mature fully? Not by itself, no. But I do think that a sea change is upon us and I am thrilled to be part of it. Many of the Risings around the globe are being organized by young women who want to use their voices to enact change rather than hope secrets will project a mask of so-called normalcy. These young women, some of whom bear the physical and psychological marks of abuse are no longer ashamed of their scars because they know that criminal culpability lies with the perpetrators. They no longer fear reprisal for reporting or speaking about abuse. Instead, these women--along with other allies of various gender identities and ages, survivor and non--are organizing public demonstrations, speaking about their experiences to news reporters, and dancing in public squares in the harsh light of noonday.

Other young people are writing blogs, novels, short stories, poetry, and plays that indict rape culture, war culture, and victim blaming/shaming by shattering the destructive codes of silence that maintain them. For example, my experimental class on Trauma Narratives this semester is full. Undergraduate men and women are reading Freud, Dori Laub, Lynn Higgins, Dorothy Allison, Frantz Fanon, Toni Morrison, Wole Soyinka, and Julie Mertus, among others--devouring and employing theoretical and narrative frameworks and vocabularies in order to write their own traumatic narratives about hitherto unspoken traumas both individual and societal, fictional and non. By daring to eschew secrecy and break cultural scripts of silence, all of these young adults are controlling both their own stories and that of our cultural future.

Their irrepressible voices inspire me. In their work, I see real power.