Rejecting limitations

When I was growing up my parents always told me that I could do anything I wanted to with my life. In fact, I wholeheartedly believed that women were smarter than men. I’m not sure where I got that idea, but I defended it to my male friends on more than one occasion. Also, I was encouraged by my teachers to pursue the subjects I enjoyed and excelled in – specifically, math and science. In spite of the fact that these subjects have always been traditionally dominated by men, none of my elementary school teachers (all women) ever gave me any indication that I didn’t have the ability to follow my dream of becoming an engineer. I had nothing but cheerleaders in my family and in the academic arena throughout my young life. This gave me the confidence I needed to pursue my chosen career as an aerospace engineer. I never once doubted that I had the competence and intelligence to fulfill this ambition. Unfortunately society compels females to hide their intelligence in order to gain the favor of the opposite sex. We are systematically taught that boys don’t like girls who are smarter than they are. Lucky for me I never bought into that ridiculousness. Throughout my childhood and adolescence I was always a little odd, and by the time I was about fifteen I finally stopped trying to fit into society’s mold. It was so liberating! So how did everything ultimately turn out? Well, In December I will celebrate 15 years of employment at Boeing as a spacecraft systems engineer, so I’d call that a success!

A while back I discovered a website maintained by a self-proclaimed fundamentalist Christian woman who basically believes the opposite of the way I do on just about everything. For some reason, in spite of her hypocritical writings and harsh judgements on anyone who disagrees with her, I keep typing in her URL every day to see what fresh nonsense she has posted. This probably isn’t the smartest thing to do if you are trying to keep your mental health stable or your blood pressure low, but I’ve discovered that it’s like watching an internet train wreck. I just can’t look away! On 6/24, upon reading something this lady posted to her Instagram account about women’s career limitations I got extremely irritated and I was compelled to leave a comment. She claimed that, “One of the stupidest things mothers can say to their daughters: ‘You can be anything you want to be!’ This comes from a feminist mindset and is a lie.” Excuse me??? Besides the fact that in the 21st century girls thankfully have almost as many options as boys (thank you, feminists!), but I imagine having your parent discourage you at a young age would severely cripple your self-confidence. And females already have enough hurdles placed in front of us simply due to our gender. How about you don’t limit your daughter’s possibilities before you even know what she’s capable of? Trust you have loved her and raised her well enough that she can make choices based on her interests and abilities that will lead her in the right direction as she grows up.

Later in her post this “Christian” woman asked, “How about teaching your daughters that they should seek to be what God calls them to be instead?” She can’t even fathom that God would call a woman to a career that requires a higher education, like a doctor, a lawyer, or (heaven forbid) an aerospace engineer. At this point I had already been banned from commenting on her Facebook wall (a funny, yet disturbing story for another post), but I hadn’t yet used my “get out of jail free” card on her Instagram. Here is how I chose to play it – “Believe it or not, I am a rocket scientist. Luckily my parents did tell me I could be anything I wanted. Women shouldn’t be limited!” Even though I got a couple of replies (which lacked significant substance), it wasn’t long before my comment was deleted and I was banned from viewing her account. So because I disagreed with this “Godly” woman (her God is most certainly not my God) I was removed from the conversation. That’s one way to avoid having to back up your claims! Fortunately I am a modern woman with an established career, money in the bank, and a pretty comfortable life (except for the ex-husband who is thankfully in my past) who cares very little what other people think of me. Especially not crazy internet strangers. So I’ll go back to happily living my life, constantly rejecting limitations placed on me because I’m a female. Nothing is going to hold me back!

When time doesn’t heal (part 2)

You want to know why women don’t come forward more often when they are being abused? First of all, they might not realize are in an abusive relationship. I didn’t until after I left my marriage. I knew that my ex-husband didn’t treat me very well, but I didn’t see the whole terrible picture until I removed myself from the situation. Take a look at the above photo from December 2011. My ex-husband and I were given a huge container full of glass bulb Christmas ornaments from his grandmother when she moved to Texas. Unfortunately every year we lost two or three of them when they fell off the tree and shattered on our hardwood floor. Real Christmas trees don’t always have the strongest branches! It was never anyone’s fault if the ornaments fell, but this picture depicts what the aftermath usually looked like. (Minus the finger-pointing, generally. That was specifically for the photo.) This picture was amusing at the time, but looking back it feels like a perfect and unsettling illustration of our marriage. Me cleaning up some mess, whether or not I actually caused it, while also taking the blame for the situation.

Everything was my fault. Everything was my problem to fix. Eventually my entire life consisted of keeping my ex-husband happy. Attempting to foresee and mitigate potential issues and smoothing over ones I couldn’t prevent. I spent all of my time catering to his needs, trying to keep him from being upset with me, but it was never enough. I was always judged and found wanting. It was exhausting and soul-crushing. So why didn’t I leave earlier? Especially after he cheated on me less than three years after we got married? Because I wasn’t strong enough at the time. My self-worth had taken such a beating during our time together that I didn’t think I was worthy of better treatment. I had been groomed into such a state of submission that I couldn’t contemplate breaking free, even when he violated the vows we made on our wedding day. Honestly, I should have ended it long before I actually did. I have so many stories I could tell to back that statement up. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my husband, but I tolerated lines being crossed that should never be crossed in a relationship. It took me a long time to come to my senses, gather my strength, and save myself from my abusive marriage. It was such a difficult road to walk, but I have not regretted it for one moment. So if you’re a woman reading this, I truly hope that you do not allow your partners to take advantage of you that way I did. Do not accept poor treatment, especially from someone who claims to love you more than anyone else. You are absolutely worthy of love and respect!

P.S. I know that my blog readership is almost nonexistent, and I’m OK with that. I’ve always maintained this website (in all of its forms) for myself and not for anyone else. But I want to make sure that if any woman does happen upon this post that she reads something that empowers her to make her life better!

Enterprise

So Captain Archer ran into the Borg. And after the encounter was over he knew perfectly well that some two hundred years in the future these cybernetic beings were going to threaten Earth. And we, as viewers who are certainly tough critics, if not experts on the topic, are supposed to buy that he did nothing to prevent this disaster? That he didn’t even attempt to pass this information into the future where it could be useful? That the apathetic Q was more helpful in arming humans against the Borg? No sale. I’ve been quite disappointed in “Enterprise” this season. This complaint isn’t the first one I’ve written about either. Several weeks ago I noted one in my Palm Pilot. “I would have thought the ‘Enterprise’ writers were more creative. Last night’s episode was pretty much a condensed version of Star Trek VI. I think the sentencing was actually taken directly from the movie.” I admit that I’m too much of a Trekkie to ever abandon the show, no matter how outlandish or annoying it gets, but that doesn’t mean I can’t complain about it.
5/13/03 webpage post

I’ve been binge re-watching the amazing first season of “Star Trek: Discovery” recently because I’m suspending my CBS All Access subscription until season 2 is available. It’s so much better than just about everything else on television these says. Then today I ran across this excerpt from a webpage post from over 15 years ago when season 2 of “Enterprise” was on the air. First of all, I can’t believe there was no Star Trek on TV for over 12 years. (And it’s only streaming now, not actually on broadcast TV.) Second, does anyone remember Palm Pilots? I had one in grad school and it was awesome, but smart phones very quickly made them obsolete. Third, the above rant about “Enterprise” is much different from the rave I wrote about “Discovery” when it premiered last fall. Looking back, I have vaguely positive memories of “Enterprise,” but I can’t find any written proof to back that up. Maybe nostalgia has altered my recollection. I would like to say that upon revisiting, “Discovery” is still fantastic. I can’t wait for season 2.

When time doesn’t heal (part 1)

Another troubling topic that has been in the news lately is abuse. Specifically, the allegations that were recently made against Chris Hardwick. (Briefly I want to say that I’ve been a big fan of the Nerdist/ID10T podcast, plus a lot of his other work, so the stories I read made me immensely sad. But objectively I still stand with the accuser because charismatic people can be abusers too.) The #metoo movement that spread like wildfire last fall brought light to widespread sexual harassment and assault that is usually hushed up before it becomes public. It was eye-opening for a lot of people, but for most women this was information that we already knew. Just about every female has experienced harassment or abuse of some kind in her lifetime. It was a relief to finally talk openly about such a taboo topic and bring heightened awareness where usually we are told to keep quiet. I’ve written about this before, but reading the allegations against Chris Hardwick last week brought back bad memories of my marriage.

“I believed that, to borrow an analogy from a friend, if I kept digging I would find water. And sometimes I did. Just enough to sustain me. And when you’re dying of thirst, that water is the best water you’ll ever drink. When you’re alienated from your friends, there’s no one to tell you that there’s a drinking fountain 20 feet away. And when your self-worth reaches such depths after years of being treated like you’re worthless, you might find you think you deserve that sort of treatment, and no one else will love you.”
Rose-Colored Glasses: A Confession by Chloe Dykstra

When I read this excerpt from the article about Chris Hardwick it sounded so familiar that I went back and reviewed my post about emotional abuse from a few years ago. Isn’t this almost the same thing I wrote nearly four years ago?

“Even if you can dismiss 99% of his subtle insults, that last 1% slowly builds up, day after day, until you’re completely crushed under the weight of the chides, tsks, and sighs. Until one day you wake up and discover that you believe him. You’re not worthy of his love. You’re not worthy of having a partner who doesn’t expect you to walk one step behind him.”
9/23/14 webpage post

Emotional abuse is real, and it is often invisible outside of the relationship. You never know what someone might be going through, and the scars last long after the abuse is over. I have more to say on this subject, but this post is already getting really long. I will follow-up later this week.

Reaching out for help

I haven’t written about this before because it is such a difficult topic, but in light of recent events I think it needs to be said. I actually wrote an email to a podcast on this subject a while back because I was looking to spread the word about reaching out for help if you need it. Funny enough, I was willing to have this personal information read on a public podcast, but I wasn’t yet ready to publish it on my own blog. Things are different now. There have been a number of high visibility suicides that have left the world reeling. It is tremendously sad and we’re all left asking, “Why?” There is no satisfactory answer to that question. Depression is a formidable foe. You never really know what someone is thinking or feeling, or how much they’re struggling – sometimes until it’s too late. Here is my story as I described it in my email in May.

“At the beginning of the year I wasn’t taking care of myself. I didn’t eat right and I didn’t exercise for a long time. Finally, at the end of January, I called my doctor and told her I was depressed and admitted that I needed help. To her practice’s credit they got me an appointment that same day and I started taking Lexapro immediately. A few weeks later I felt like a new person. It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses since then, and I have some other subsequent medical issues that I’m dealing with, but I am doing so much better now. After fighting this battle and finally finding myself on the path to recovery I wanted to send this message to your listeners – if any of you are feeling depressed and thinking that you might need help, DO IT! Call your doctor ASAP. Don’t be ashamed. You don’t have to feel this way. You can be happy again. I hope this helps someone out there who is struggling like I was.”

I waited longer than I should have before asking for help. Unfortunately society teaches women that we are supposed to be invulnerable. We must be strong, silent, efficient, and most of all, uncomplaining. I thought I needed to power through the sadness and hopelessness because that’s just what everyone else does. But when I started talking to my friends and colleagues about my difficulties I discovered that almost every one of them has been in the same situation at one point or another. Nearly every woman I know has experienced depression and benefited from medical intervention. But before I started this conversation I had no idea! This is why we need to have an open dialogue about mental health – to normalize it enough that people know that there are readily available resources when they’re fighting depression. So if you are reading this and you’re feeling low and contemplating hurting yourself, please reach out to someone, anyone for help. Also, do not hesitate to call your doctor. You don’t have to feel this way. The world is better with you happy, healthy, and still alive.

Honoring my body’s needs

I had a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday to review the results of my sleep study last month. My GP read through the report and said, “Basically you’re running a marathon every night!” This is not a surprise to me considering how much trouble I’ve had with my legs over the last couple of years, but it was a relief to have data to prove that my problems are real and not imagined. I had an astonishing 550 leg movements during the night I spent at the sleep center, and I was awakened 8 times during the night because of limb movements. Also, only 6.4% of the night was REM sleep, which is way too little. No wonder I’m tired all the time! I’ve been operating under the assumption that I’m simply lazy which is why I am always drowsy and rarely have the energy or motivation to do anything. Now I know that’s absolutely not true. Even with Ambien helping me fall asleep quickly at night, lack of restful sleep is still causing problems in every area of my life. I’m so thankful that my doctor has taken these symptoms seriously, unlike some other medical professionals I’ve seen, and is helping me map out a path forward. As a next step, she wrote me a prescription for Requip, a drug that’s used to treat not only restless legs, but Parkinson’s Disease as well. We’re not messing around with my crazy legs! Unfortunately I have to work my way up to the maximum dose so it’s going to take me over a week to get to a level that might be effective. We’ll see how that goes. I also got a referral to a neurologist so if this particular pharmaceutical doesn’t work for me I will discuss other options with him at a future appointment.

Until I am able to get some restorative sleep I am trying to honor my body’s need for more down time, but it has been difficult. I’m already a homebody so it’s not that I mind staying home more, but lacking the energy to complete my day-to-day chores means that things can start to pile up. My sink fills up with dirty dishes because I don’t always wash them in a timely manner. Cooking takes a lot of effort so I don’t always have healthy, homemade lunches to take to work. And I avoid going out shopping so I don’t always have nutritious food or other essentials in the house when I need them. It’s frustrating. Some days getting out of bed and changing out of my pajamas is about all I’m able to do. This is not beneficial to my mental health, but I am trying to cut myself some slack and let go of the guilt of resting as much as I need to. Just because I’m too tired to go to the movies or clean my house right now doesn’t mean I’ll always feel this way. I know this is a temporary state and I that I am strong enough to get through it. Life isn’t always easy, but I’m hoping that it won’t be long before I see the light at the end of this particular tunnel. Let’s hope my new prescription is just what I need.

Boeing (Not) on the Move

Remember the other day when I wrote that life is too short for nonessentials? Well, recently something has fallen off my priority list that I usually look forward every year – Boeing on the Move. In the past I’ve used this fitness challenge to increase my daily activity, get more chores done around the house, and compete with my co-workers for the highest number of steps. It has always energized me, but this year I decided it wasn’t worth the effort for a number of reasons. First of all, the online interface now has a completely new platform which is not user friendly. In fact, it was so complicated that I could barely figure out how to register for 2018 challenge. Then I discovered that we weren’t going to be mailed our annual free pedometer to track our steps. Not that I’ve ever been a huge fan of those cheap little plastic things, but they were strictly mechanical and I was allowed to wear one in the classified area where I work. The thing that annoys me the most about Boeing on the Move this year is that there is an assumption that all of the participants can use their smart phone, smart watch, or Fitbit to track their daily activity. Unfortunately I can’t because all of those items are forbidden in classified areas. It’s practically a miracle that my 2017 pedometer is still in my possession (I tend to lose them) and still functional, but with all of the other new restrictions on the challenge I am just not motivated to go through the annoyance of wearing it again this year. Anything that requires extra effort just feels like too much trouble right now. Life is stressful enough without worrying about something silly like Boeing on the Move. Granted, earning points towards gift cards is really tempting, but I am putting my mental health above monetary rewards this time around. (Instead I’ve been finding several ways to save money every month. Explanatory post to follow!) Maybe next year I’ll feel differently. Plus, I’ve already gotten back into some semblance of a regular exercise routine with boot camp classes and occasional running (needs to be more than just occasional running, but that’s another story) without an official fitness challenge. This means I’m already halfway to reaping all of the benefits of Boeing on the Move. Now if I can increase my activity while I’m at work and once I get home in the evenings I will be fulfilling basically all of my personal goals for Boeing on the Move. And my chores will all get done in a timely manner too. A priceless reward! I’ll let you know how it goes!

Sunscreen experiment #20

Here’s another inane sunscreen experiment to break up the heavier content in my last four posts! Kinda like one of the Hulu commercial breaks while I’m watching episodes of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” I wanted to have this post ready for National Sunscreen Day on 5/27, but I wasn’t able to pull it together in time. Better late than never!

I was torn on whether to publish this post under the header of “sunscreen experiment” or “retail therapy” since I purchased this sunscreen along with a number of other beauty products from the e.l.f. website on 3/25. I really just wanted to buy one item (Hydrating Under Eye Primer), but in order to qualify for free shipping I threw some other things into my cart that seemed promising. I’m sorry to say that most of the products I purchased aren’t working out as well as I’d hoped, but luckily the order wasn’t a complete loss. The e.l.f. Active Stay Out & Play SPF 50 is one of the items I bought on a whim and now I’m so glad I did. It’s similar to a much more expensive product I used a while back (Bare Minerals Mineral Shield Daily Prep Lotion SPF 50, which I think has been discontinued), but with surprisingly superior qualities. This SPF 50 has a liquid texture and feels powdery after it is applied. I was surprised to discover that it also has a light tint and it somehow works perfectly with my fair skin tone. That is not usually the case with tinted products considering how pale I am. I covered my face and neck with this lovely sunscreen last Friday and it got me through a full day at Disneyland with my friend and her daughter. And isn’t Disneyland the real test of any sunscreen? It’s really fantastic. So glad I gave it a chance!