Let's start with a story.
I think I was twelve or thirteen, fairly new to the youth program of the Mormon church. I was in the Beehive's class. I was a Beehive. Generally, Beehives are excited, peppy, not yet hormonally bogged down and burdened. I began being bogged a month after turning eleven, so there was no skylight in my mind.
Any-hoo, I was at an activity for the stake youth, up in Milwaukee--a regional thing. A big deal. It was some kind of soiree. We were all dressed up in dresses and suit pants with white shirts and ties.
1950's teenagers in 1982.
There was a girl, a bit older, who worked the room with confidence and poise. Her hair was perfectly curled and parted. I think she had lipstick on. She was "classy." As she passed me, she stopped.
"You should not lock your knees when you stand."
That's all she said. I didn't know her; she was not from Kenosha.
I looked down at my knees. They were locked. Though I was a lean girl, my calves were big, I guess. I was wearing flat shoes. Locking my knees pushed the calves out more, and bowed my legs a bit.
Was this important?
I learned that it was.
You may not believe me, but I was a quiet girl, until I started drinking when I was sixteen. This story is my first recollection of learning that people get to know you by your appearance.
That "classy" girl sashayed towards all the people. She spoke first. She introduced, updated, asked and answered, all with turned-up, red lips.
I think I sat on the edge of the room, hiding any locked knees.
I did train myself in later weeks, to stand with soft knees, to poise my stance in the most flattering way.
One of my middle school teachers noticed my stance one day as I was asking a question about a test. He looked down as he was talking, hips, legs, then back to the paper he was pointing at.
Stance brings attention.
I have clearly contorted myself to be as pleasing as possible to passersby or family, or most often, spouse.
If my chair was slightly reclined, I brought my long hair forward to offset the neck flesh being pushed into focus.
When I wore shorts, I squoze or crossed my legs, or both.
At my chubbiest, I got a blanket to cover everything, chest down. So I could be comfortable and not worry about it, relax the muscles at the end of the day.
Posture for Others.
In the same way that I put out metal pumpkins to signify Fall, I display a sign with a candidate at election time. I place it in my landscaping, so as not to be in the way of the lawn mower.
I think I place the sign in hopes of influencing others, or to simply notify them that it's time to vote. (GO VOTE!)
For the same reason, I marched in parades or made phone calls to other states, encouraging them to vote in their own elections.
I went to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia in 2016, attending meetings with all the chess pieces voting on issues, after their cell phones tinged and vibrated, giving them the correct answers.
If you drive by this morning, the sign is there... though I am wondering why I do it.
Signs might as well say: I watch Fox News and Listen to AM Radio!
Or: I Like NPR!
Or: I will be consistent! I only vote for This Party because that's what I've always done. My brain will find lots of reasons to keep this ritual consistent. Because change is uncomfortable. And I have vilified the Other for so long, I cannot entertain doing what they do.
Whew. OKAY. That went sideways.
I'm obviously in a phase of change.
A new sort of relaxation is happening, where I don't sit with my tummy tucked. I breathe with relaxed muscles, unapologetically. I wear shorts and sit however is comfortable.
I dropped my ballot. I did all I can do.
I think I'll take that sign down. The election is not over, but it is over for me.
Why the sign?
Why the knees?
Why tuck the tummy?
"Please think that I am okay.
Please like me, and find me pleasing.
Please talk to me.
I belong to your group. Please include me.
And let me be distracted by all this inner dialogue, to fix what has been broken, to keep me occupied so that no real change exists for those who suffer in our world."
Today's Deep Breath: Here's a practical juju nugget, a collective Next Best Decision.
Here's an opportunity to learn.
Permit your Self. Be.
Yourself. True. Honest. Fearless.
Take a small step.
Each morning, I write one thing to my list of Things I Want. I have not gone back over this list, or made it into goals and put them on my planner, at least, not yet. It's the practice of recognizing, seeing my preference. Because I have one. I've always had one.
I was reading about women in 1600 England who knew which plant could cure an ailment. It was dangerous to know the alphabet and how to read. Very few dared to learn, but especially to write. Death was often a consequence.
I can read, and write and speak lawfully.
I don't need you to like me. Though I want it.
I don't need you to vote like me, certainly! How undemocratic would that be?
(Sidebar: The SIDES are created by the parties and the news, which are manipulated by the puppeteering corporations. I will vote, but I will not be a puppet. I don't have to engage in a social media post about the fear of the side you espouse to. The truth is this: both sides fear that the other will be the downfall of our society. That is the belief. And nothing we say or do will change someone else's belief.)
But also, dare to BE who you are.
I'm taking my own advice.
Until next time,