Unlearning. Or: Everything I didn’t learn in kindergarten.

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This is not me. Photo by Binyamin Mellish on Pexels.com

After a not-so-discreet hint from a friend, I returned to the gym. And I remembered one of the reasons I like working out: it helps me to think through problems and different strategies to solve them. Exercise allows me to redefine what I believe about random subjects.

I realized that I need to have really long workouts. How else to categorize and work through all the random thoughts that plague me? As a dynamic person – mother, consultant, activist, feminist, single woman – I have quite a bit to think about.

So, while I was huffing and puffing on the treadmill, I came up with some random solutions to some random problems, and random thoughts on random subjects. I’ll start with these.

My new mantra is:

Unlearning. We have been taught certain values, morals, opinions, and attitudes. We have been taught how to speak, think, and react. We need to unlearn these habits.

Guess what? Many of our learned behaviors are simply wrong, irrelevant today. Inappropriate in modern society. Unacceptable to a growing number of people. Today’s world is very different from that of our parents and grandparents. Yet some of us continue to hold on to outdated traditions, perhaps out of fear. 


I believe we need to “unlearn” things and redefine our morality, ethics, and values. We need to redefine our language and re-think how we speak and behave, both alone and in groups.

And if you’re bi-cultural, you’re even more likely to need to unlearn. By bi-cultural, I don’t mean if your ancestors were English and French. Ask anyone who hails from the Middle East, especially women who are 50+, if there are things we need to unlearn…

…speaking of women, please consider this concept:

  • Feminism. All of us – men, women, children – are the products of a patriarchal system that has flourished for thousands of years. Our attitudes about gender and gender roles are pre-informed by all those years of male-dominated social structures.  Whether we’re being bopped on the head by our hunter-gatherer or intellectually arm-wrestling in the boardroom, we are the product of a male-dominated narrative. It’s time to shed old notions and habits. It’s time to accept women as equals and change the dominant narrative, and…

…speaking of narratives:

  • Language. Our language is geared to support the male-dominated social structures. For example, greeting a group of people with “hi, guys!” seems innocuous enough. But it actually excludes all those who are not guys. Some say that’s an overly sensitive attitude.

OK, think about it. Suppose we switch it up. For a week, try “hey, ladies!” when addressing a group of women and men. See how your male colleagues react. (I just got a mental image of that and laughed out loud.) See if the men feel excluded, or if they feel their masculinity is somehow compromised. You see where I’m going with this.

I find that usually when I call someone out for being chauvinistic or downright misogynistic, they tell me I’m “oversensitive.”

Well, ladies (guys), let’s put the shoe on the other foot.

And speaking of sensitivity…

  • Sensitivity: Again, not the world of your forefathers (foremothers?). Sometimes it seems that people really are overly sensitive to words, actions, situations, and the realities of life. When I start to think this way, I have to stop myself. A quick check and a reminder: the people who I think are overly sensitive (mostly men) are living a different reality than mine. Who am I to judge? Why am I imposing my insensitivity on them? Am I contradicting myself?

By the end of my workout, I had come to the conclusion that unlearning is the way forward for me. By unlearning, I will try to shed some of my preconceived notions, longstanding beliefs, and attitudes towards others. Through unlearning, I will hopefully become more conscious of how I speak, and try to use more gender-neutral terms. In unlearning, I will try to consider the impact of my words on others before I blurt them out.

Let me know what you think.


Writer’s Block. Or: Writer’s Block.

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I’m staring at my laptop screen again and wondering why it is that I often think I have a lot to say but then suddenly draw a blank when trying to express my thoughts.

I’m told this is writer’s block. (Does that mean I’m a writer?)

It’s sort of funny, this writer’s block thing. The other day I responded to someone on Quora – and that’s another story, the story of Quora and how my new hobby is to obsessively answer some interesting and some outrageously stupid questions posed by others.

Anyway, the person’s question was how to get motivated to write. In their situation, they had plenty of thoughts but nothing came out when they tried to put pen to paper. Or fingers to keyboard. So I suggested they do something else, like take a walk or watch a movie or read something. I assured them that soon enough, inspiration would come.

So why can’t we take our own advice? We tell others not to stand up their friends in favor of a date, or to walk away when a relationship is bad, or to confront our demons. Then we rationalize our own indecision, poor choices, and stupid mistakes.

It’s always easier to dispense advice than to live by our own words. It’s easier to be objective and clinical when it’s not our own hearts or emotions or feelings on the line.

In any event, I’m now going to go for a walk. Then I’ll read something, and later tonight I’ll watch a movie. And hopefully I’ll start taking my own advice when I say and do outrageously stupid things.


Satanists and Supremacy

Yesterday I saw a bunch of guys in costumes. I thought they were practicing for Halloween. I was wrong.

Me: “What’s up with the costumes? Is there a convention?”

Him: “We are having a Satanist conference to worship Beelzebub, our lord and savior.”

Me: “Oh.”

Him: “We will be sacrificing a goat later this afternoon.”

Me: “Oh.”

I am not making this up. 

So the Satanists are holding a conference and sacrificing a goat. Apparently animal sacrifice is protected religious expression. Meanwhile, white supremacists are preparing to march in Washington, D.C. this weekend. All these folks, except the goat, have protected First Amendment rights.

But NFL players who choose peaceful protest by kneeling during the national anthem – not killing defenseless animals or wanting to eradicate other races – can be penalized.

Donald Trump has implied that people who kneel during the national anthem should be sad facestripped of their citizenship and deported. Because they are disrespectful.

So of course my mind wanders to a few questions:

Isn’t being a white supremacist “disrespectful”?

If more white football players kneeled, what would happen?

What if we all kneeled?

Not to protest the national anthem, but to protest creeping authoritarianism and rampant racism.

To protest the hatred that is sweeping the country. To protest the erosion of our civil rights. To protest the dismantling of democratic institutions. To protest the deliberate elimination of civility.

To protest the fact that peaceful protest, when committed by people of color, is perceived as a threat.

To protest the normalization of awful, period. 

To protest the fact that in 2018, in America, Not All Lives Matter.

Think about it.


900 Do-overs

They say our skin regenerates itself every 27 days. For the average person, this translates into approximately 900 complete skin replacements in a lifetime.

Why do I find this interesting?

I don’t, actually.

But I am interested in knowing how often we can shed our emotional skins, how frequently we reinvent ourselves in a single lifetime. As in, how often we decide to get over our childhood traumas, move on from our teenage angst, or recover from our adult misdeeds. How often do we rebound from failed, possibly angry relationships? Can we recover from the death of a loved one, or do we simply muddle along until we’re numb? Do we make a conscious decision to heal, or are there other forces at play?

Do we actually need to recover?

What is recovery, anyway?

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I’ve traditionally believed that most of the benign emotional issues we suffer can be solved with a quick, firm, figurative kick in the ass. An admonition to “put on your big-girl pants and get over it” can sometimes be exactly the impetus we need to walk away from a toxic situation, whether a work environment or personal relationship. I believe we can will ourselves to move on, move forward, shake it off, and come out stronger. I believe we can refuse to allow old skeletons to haunt our inner closet.

But then there are the far deeper wounds, the traumas of abuse, neglect, violence, war, or other circumstances we can’t simply walk away from. Circumstances in which the “get over it” attitude is far easier said than done, where possibly walking away can ultimately do far more damage.

If only we could shed these traumas like we shed our skin. Could we walk away and come out stronger? Can we get 900 do-overs?

I’d like to think we can have as many makeovers and do-overs as we decide to have, and that nothing is permanent, really, unless we make it so. I think eventually, we can find our own inner peace.

What do you think?