Sunday, June 25, 2017

Sexual Politics

Back in the day when I was first becoming an adult and exploring my relationship to the world, we used to say "The personal is political". Generations that have come after mine have absorbed this saying so that what seemed revolutionary to us is a given for them.

A few years ago we had a big kerfuffle in the American midwifery community. There was a pitched battle between the old guard, feminists who believed that their fight for women's rights and the right to choose and women's right to power over their own bodies was their domain, and the domain of midwifery and the be-all and end-all of reproductive justice.

The new guard said, no, actually, we have a new and different way of looking at bodies. We have taken your idea that everyone could "be what they want to be", and be respected for that, and we've lifted it one step higher. Now we are fighting for the freedom to actually create our own identities, and for the freedom to be treated as people on our own terms, in our own inclusive language, freed from the restrictions that the "women's movement" imposed upon revolutionary change.

Heady stuff. I signed a letter that agreed with the original proposition, that, yes, we have fought long and hard for "women's rights". But several of my younger students and a couple of my friends came to me and said, actually your view is distasteful to us, and offensive to some. We are fighting a different battle, they said. You don't understand the basic concepts, or the rules of engagement, or anything really. So sit and listen and learn.

So I did. I took my name off the letter (actually its still on, but hoping for closure at some point). I sat and listened. I don't agree with everything I hear, in fact some of it I downright disagree with. But I do agree, and fully support, a person's right to passionately believe in something. I believe that to change is to live. I believe that just because I don't understand something does not give me the right to offend people or dismiss their beliefs.

Part of the huge gift of being on this planet for sixty years is that I experienced infancy, childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, young motherhood, older motherhood, and I am just starting to see the value of acceptance and flexibility. So I say to the young guard: so happy you are making changes. May you make them wisely. And when the time comes, may you have the grace to pass the torch to your children and their children.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Where Have You Been?

I was in Greece during the coldest winter for years, working to ameliorate the lives of refugee women, men and their families there. I'm haunted by it. Not so much by the stories, which are monuments to human destruction and human triumphant resilience at the same time. But by the ego-based failure of those who wish to help, to really do anything effective.

I just heard news from Raqqa. The families there have no human choice. Stay and die. Leave and die.

What will we do? What is to be done?

I remembered the stories I heard when I was in the camps in Greece. And this song was going on and on in my mind.

A woman with bomb pieces in her hip.

Families who know they will never see their homes again.

A man who lay bleeding for hours in Aleppo.

A child who was thrown from her father's arms to her uncle's, as her father was dragged back to Turkey.

A child who makes money for the family selling sex ... while her mother takes care of her baby.

A man who walked with his wife, children and his mother across several countries to make a better life, who is angry because he is stuck in northern Greece.

An artist who painted the pictures of terror.

A child with a look of horror who walked around the hotel lobby playing a tin drum.

A predator extorting refugees for money.

A volunteer leader who is cruel and greedy.

Some children in a military camp killing a litter of puppies.

A baby dying of hepatitis.

A young man dying while the doctors were at the gate being questioned for papers.

The boats arriving through the fog and snow.

Boxes and boxes of stuff sitting waiting in warehouses while paperwork gets done and people are cold and underfed.

Couples wanting to make love and condoms tied up in bureaucratic red tape.

A young man in jail in Turkey for no reason.

A family with a newborn with nowhere to live.

And what do you do now, my darling young one?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Gold Medals, Happiness, and Fascia

I ran my first race in 2015, a half marathon (that's 13 miles). I made it in 2 hours and 37 minutes, and I was really happy and proud. The next day and the next after that were painful and tough: my body seized up and I could hardly walk down or up the stairs.
Since then I have run another half marathon, a ten k and a 12 k. I love racing! My pace is getting faster as I work hard on my body to perform better and better.

I had some injuries: IT Band Syndrome is when imbalances and weakness in the hips and the thighs manifest as extreme knee pain. I did some exercises and fixed it. Plantar fasciitis struck me last summer, and it has been much harder to overcome. This is a condition where the fascia beneath the foot become inflamed and tight. It can cause unbearable pain if it is ignored.
Both these common runners injuries are related to inflammation or tightening of the fascia. The fascia can be understood as a sheath of connective tissue that covers much of the inside of the body: organs, glands, muscles are covered with slimy and fascinating fascia. It is that white shimmery stuff you can see under the skin of a chicken.

It holds us together. People are now suggesting that it is a vital clue to understanding the body in a holistic way.

As a midwife, working with childbearing women for over twenty years, I saw time and time again the effects of emotional states and attitudes on the pain and difficulty of labor and birth. I am not saying that a smiling and easygoing woman will have an easy birth. A big old smile during hard physical work really does help though!

The women I attended who had the most satisfying (for them), the easiest (for them), and the most joyful births were usually the women who tried their very best to go with the flow - to take the labor contractions one at a time, to smile and have a good time during the process. Very often, the women who birthed with such grace would have done yoga throughout their lives or at least throughout their pregnancies. This would help them figure out how to deal with a difficult physical situation - the necessity to hold a yoga pose even after you think you can't is a very good lesson for having children.

I started to notice with my Plantar fasciitis that the pain seemed to come in waves. Some days it would be fine, then it would get really really bad, then it would pass again. It didn't have a lot to do with the amount I ran, or my frequency or pace. It first erupted when I had a couple of mishaps that involved my left foot.
1. My dog ran me over when she was joyfully running down the hill. My left foot was super sore for a couple of days but I put comfrey leaves on and it was fine.
2. A month later I capsized in a canoe and banged my left shin bone up quite badly.
Then about a month after that, I was walking home in my flat sandals after a day at work (on my feet), carrying a heavy backpack ... I asked my husband to help carry it and his bag was also heavy, long story short when I got home my foot was KILLING me.

It got worse and worse. I read up on treatments. I used tape, massage, exercises. I stopped running for a while. I ran a ten k instead of a half in November. It started to pass. I joined a gym so I could run inside, started doing strength training, all the stuff ....

Then I noticed that it would flair up when I went for an angry run. When I went out to get my yayas out, when I was mad about some stupid thing some shitty person had done ... when I was working stuff out.

Now don't get me wrong, I know that our time running is like meditation, you can resolve things and bring peace and reach conclusions and find enlightenment. But we should not, ever! run like mad! Anger, hatred, envy, all the stressful feelings, disturb the smooth workings of our fascia. Just like when a woman is laboring to birth her baby, when you are running or racing, you need to let it go! Don't think about the pain, don't get stressed! It will have a direct, immediate and long-term effect on your fascia. This can lead to further injuries, to more pain, and ultimately a slower pace and less enjoyment.

Now, I make sure I do a little yoga-based stretch after each run: Mogul Muncher. I leave my worries at the door when I run outside, and at home when I go to the gym. I visualize healing in my foot. I am kind to myself. I let it hurt a little bit - after all, this old body has given me sixty years of great service!

My advice to you? Love your body! Shake your tail feathers! Let your body move! Keep those fascia loosey-goosey!