freedom

Celebrating singleness

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Today is February 14th, the dreaded Valentine’s Day.

Not many people really enjoy this holiday (if they were being totally honest). And if you are trying to recover from an abusive relationship, it can be painful and depressing.

While many single women might be feeling lonely or forgotten, desiring some male attention, I am celebrating singleness.

Singleness to me means:

  1. Independence
  2. Self-determination
  3. Focus on self-care
  4. Healthy selfishness
  5. Choices
  6. Freedom

I grew up watching Hollywood’s version of the male/female relationship, one in which a female waits for a male to find her desirable so that he will choose her. Validation always came from a male, and was something which women needed in order to feel valuable. This is the perfect set-up for an abusive marriage.

Desirable women were portrayed as glamorous, sexy, and alluring. Marriageable women were portrayed as quiet, demur, and subject to the wishes of fathers and suitors. Women were presented as virginal, sluts, or eccentric.

But let no one misunderstand: the independent ones usually ended up alone.

Now 56 years old, I feel that I am much wiser, and, at the least, much more discriminating. I critically evaluate attitudes and cultural norms found in entertainment. I have worked to discard many of the values that I picked up from such influences.

On this Valentine’s Day I can declare that I am happily, almost giddily delighted to find myself single and alone (relationship-wise — I have a house filled with male offspring).

I am not mourning the loss of my marriage (anymore). I am not feeling sad and alone (anymore). I am not beating myself up because my marriage failed (anymore). And, most of all, I am not feeling abandoned, discarded, rejected or unloved (anymore).

I enjoy my own company and thinking my own thoughts.

On this Valentine’s Day 2017, I am celebrating my freedom to choose where I go and what I do. Instead of this being a holiday that focuses on romantic love, for me it is more of an independence day.

I think I’ll buy myself some flowers. Daisies, I think!

My favorite things: wheels

Written Wednesday, January 4, 2016.
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Backroads of Connecticut are really fun!

I learned to drive when I was 15 years old. My mom taught me. My poor mother.

I got my driver’s license on my 16th birthday.
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My first car was a hand-me-down 1969 Plymouth Sport Fury, 383 V8, dual exhaust.

I quickly realized that a car meant freedom.

I was the only one in my group of friends who had a car, so we would all pitch in to buy a few gallons of gas to feed the beast and then go as far as we could.

As an adult, my car provided greater employment opportunities. I didn’t mind a long commute. I love to drive.

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My 1975 Honda Civic

After moving to the Austin area (Cedar Park to be exact), I bought a tiny Honda Civic. My dad’s Honda Gold Wing had a bigger engine than this little 4-speed. No air conditioning, no power steering, this car was, however, fun!

I drove that car all over the Texas Hill Country. I loved to explore!

I commuted into Austin for work before getting my own place in the Rosedale neighborhood. This car was a blast on the hills and curves when I took the back roads.

When this car bit the dust, I struggled for years to find another dependable car, or one that was as much fun.

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Mine had 10 years and 200k miles

A move to St. Petersburg, Florida and me without wheels left me feeling trapped and claustrophobic. I found an old, worn-out Oldsmobile station wagon, a monster with floaty suspension (and another V8). I paid $250 for that thing and loved it. I could load the kids (I was up to four) and go anywhere which we did, often.

When the kids were on the verge of making me crazy (which was quite often), we would pile into the car and go on an adventure. One of my favorite places was across the amazing expansion bridge that connects St. Pete to the mainland and drive around in the rural parts of west Florida or head to Tampa where we had a family membership at the Florida Aquarium. Having a car was necessary for my sanity!

A year or so after that, I bought a Mazda MPV minivan. It wasn’t what I wanted, but it was what my husband wanted me to have. It wasn’t large enough, really, for the kids and stuff.

I never liked that minivan.

When I was separated from my husband the first time, my MPV gave up the ghost for good. I spent a month searching for a replacement vehicle and found a really nice, used Toyota Sienna. My brother-in-law loaned me the money and I made payments for the next few years. This was the first vehicle that I bought driven, pardon the pun, by pure self-determination and not practicality alone. I know, another minivan. But this was the best vehicle I had ever owned — it wasn’t a junker, really old, or a basic model. It was loaded. It drove like a car, had a powerful 3.0-liter V6 and ran without ever giving me any trouble.

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2007 Road trip from Connecticut to Austin, Texas. Seneca Rocks, WV.

I took the kids on a 3,800-mile road trip to Texas and back in the Sienna, much of it on back roads through beautiful Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and then Texas. Yep, that mini-van represented freedom.

Then my 19-year-old totaled it when someone cut him off on the highway on his way to school.

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My next car is my favorite to this day: a 2003 Saab 9-5 station wagon–my first turbo. Yes, I like station wagons a lot. I had kids, a dog, needed to haul my trash to the transfer station and occasional bicycles to and from kids’ friend’s houses. I paid almost nothing for this very used vehicle, but loved it (still have it sitting off the driveway waiting for me to find the title so I can sell it).

This leads me to what I am driving today. I found another used Honda, an Accord this time. It has dings and scratches, and a black interior which I detest, but it is a dependable, decent car. It always starts and always takes me where I want to go.

See, my Saab quit being roadworthy at the beginning of 2016. I went without a vehicle for seven months. A friend of a friend sold me a very sad, poor condition Chevy S-10 pickup to use until I could scrounge up enough money to buy a decent car. Never buy one of these. Total junk. But it allows me to haul off trash and junk as we prepare the house to sell (when it is running, which isn’t often). This truck was all I had to drive until September when my 26-year-old son found me the Honda Accord.

I miss driving my Saab a lot (sport mode)! But I fully appreciate the freedom a dependable Honda Accord affords me.

This afternoon I am using that car to pick up my daughter and granddaughter from the airport in Providence. She will, in turn, use that car to visit all of her friends while she is here.

Knowing that my car is sitting out there in the driveway waiting to take me wherever I desire is glorious. Having wheels is definitely one of my favorite things.

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Texas Hill Country

Women silencing women

Mbathroom_grafitiany women rage against the silencing behavior of men.

A huge battle is going on in the House of Representatives, who want to de-fund Planned Parenthood. That is silencing behavior at its worst.

I have written about how abusers silence their victims, stealing a woman’s power from her little by little until she has virtually none left.

But how many of us, women who believe women should be able to use their voices freely, silence other women?

Is some feminine speech okay and other feminine speech not okay?

What about women who use profanity or talk about sexuality? Is that type of speech okay? What about women who use speech that may be considered vulgar? How about women who use religious or spiritual speech?

Who decides whose speech should be spoken and heard? Religious leaders, sacred texts, family members, the majority of the people in society, our government, civil rights activists, atheists, feminists, and any other –ists you can think of?

Now we are touching upon morality and the myth of the virtuous woman (thanks Dr. Eva Jones for making mythology relevant to real life).

I was using the restroom in my local grocery store chain a few weeks ago and saw some writing on the wall.

At first I just saw the words, “You’re a lady so act like one. Thank you.”

To be honest, those words offended ME.

What defines what a lady is? Are all adult women supposed to be ladies? Why does anyone need to act like anything that they aren’t?

“…refined, polite woman” is the definition of lady one online dictionary provides.

Are tomboys immoral? Should women all wear dresses and speak in soft, lowered voices?

But then I saw that a lot of the words on that wall had been scratched out. I was subconsciously aware that the larger, symbolically louder, words had been in response to some kind of bathroom graffiti. I didn’t really consider the significance of that response until today.

A woman used that stall in that restroom, saw words written by another woman, and decided that they were not appropriate. She scribbled over them, making them unreadable.

One woman silenced another woman.

The unreadable words had been judged unladylike, and therefore, they needed to be silenced.

This goes both ways folks. If someone scribbles “Jesus loves you!” on the bathroom wall and another woman, who is an atheist, scribbles over it to render it unreadable, the atheist is using silencing behavior.

Women with different value and belief systems, with entirely different world views, silence one another every day. Is it possible that this behavior might be what is hindering social evolution in this country?

I wrote a research paper for an English course over a year ago which addressed free speech on college campuses. Most of us who are old enough are aware of what happened on the UCLA – Berkeley campus back in the 60s. Liberal voices, many from outside the campus, were being used to try to effect change. The powers that be, conservative and defensive of the American Way of Life, decided that those voices needed to be silenced. The fallout from that period hindered open discussion about a lot of important issues for decades.

The creation of free speech zones, banning outside groups on the Berkeley campus, controlling what printed material was distributed on campus and more led to a stand-off and arrests. Years later we have access to classified information that revealed the presence of the FBI on campus due to concerns over communist influences.

Fast forward to the 90s and inversely, traditional (often conservative) speech was limited by way of speech codes (the SCOTUS found these unconstitutional). Liberal influences wanted to change conservative ideologies and prohibit speech that could be harmful to women, minorities, and gays.

The problem with this approach is that by silencing people, unwanted attitudes are reinforced, not changed. They just go underground and form even stronger, sometimes more fanatical subgroups. As the persecuted ones, they are ready to do battle for what they believe is true and good.

The end does not justify the means. In the case of silencing others, the means can backfire horribly.

What is the answer? I have a potential solution.

Someone scribbles something about an explicit sex act on the bathroom wall. The next person who enters the stall doesn’t like the content of the message (sarcasm mode coming: her delicate sensibilities are offended); instead of erasing or scribbling out the offensive speech, she writes something encouraging, beautiful, something that represents her point of view in a respectful manner. Why not?

If one woman’s speech is morally superior to another woman’s speech, this should be obvious to anyone who sees them side by side, right?

[I know that writing on a bathroom wall is actually vandalism. This is a hypothetical situation, and is being used as an example of women respecting the voices of other women. I am not encouraging people to write on bathroom walls.]

Many who are conflicted about the feminist cause are conflicted because of seemingly militant, aggressive women who silence the voices of men (and other women who are not as militant or aggressive).

I know what you’re thinking: Have you ever tried to convince a man that he was wrong about something?

It is often like hitting your head against a brick wall to try to get through to a man who has it all figured out: authoritative, conservative, deeply entrenched men who believe they were given the keys to the kingdom because of their maleness. Yes, I have dealt with this, a lot!

How many men will turn around and ask the same question? (Lots of male heads nodding assent to this one. Women can be stubborn and intractable, too.)

Again, what is the answer?

Free speech, without the silencing behavior.

When there is no silencing behavior, power is not shifted from one group to another. Each person and group retains their own power. I love this!!!

Choices: Self-Determination for Women

For a woman, self-determination is a subconscious desire. When men identify, acknowledge and validate this primal need, everyone is happier. Wise men acknowledge this basic need and work it into their relationships with women. Not controllers. Controllers end up driving away the women in their lives, or killing them, sometimes emotionally and sometimes physically. When one person needs to exert control over the life of another, the end result will be either subjection or rejection.
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Subjecting another to one’s will might seem desirous if one feels he or she is correctly oriented and the object of subjection is incorrectly oriented. What right does any person have to determine another person’s life? More importantly, how does a man earn the superior position of “head” or relational boss over a woman? Because the Bible says it’s so? I reject that position. It doesn’t fit my right to equality and my desire for freedom from oppression. That doctrine does not fit my belief that I have a right to self-determination.

Rejection is my final choice. If I refuse a life of subjection to the will of a man, then I must reject his doctrine. I have stated previously that a controller cannot function within a relationship in which he does not have control. He flounders, struggles, becomes completely depressed and eventually lost. Without external control over others, he cannot find any kind of internal control over himself. In my case, I must reject the man. He cannot love; he can only control. I do not need to be controlled; I need to be loved. With no understanding of this basic concept, there is no viable relationship. So I must choose.

Choices . . . I have made many of my life choices based on ideological concepts. Although living this way often causes hardship for me and my children, I cannot live any other way. I chose to keep my first pregnancy (against the sage advice of some resulting in judgment and rejection of me), lived as a single mom for nine years before remarrying, and then chose someone that I felt would share my life goals. I look back, as only those who have reached my age can, and see many mistakes I have made. I do not, however, regret any of my choices. I am who I am today because of every one of those choices.
dothisMy choices have, however, unwittingly caused my family emotional difficulty. My family cannot understand why I choose as I do because I am not in possession of their experiences and their values, ones that are more calculated to the results than the perceived right and wrong of the situation. Again, I tend to be an idealist. It is hard being an idealist. Oh, that is an entirely different post, one which I must explore separately. I have made many choices based on wrongly idealistic concepts. But they were mine. I believed thus and acted on that belief. I own those choices.

I celebrate that I can make tough decisions separate from the expressed desires of my extended family. On the other hand, I mourn that I haven’t received more respect and support from my family–do I have a right to expect this when I reject their advice? We all do this to some degree, I think. Some more boldly than others. I am lucky that I don’t care what people think as much as some. Not caring gives me a certain amount of freedom. Deep down inside, though, is that little girl still waiting for someone to notice her, delight in her, and celebrate her as their precious little girl. I never felt this and mourn this lack. This (lacking approval) has been a motivator for many of my choices. It has given me much freedom to make choices apart from a desire for approval and acceptance while deep down yearning for approval and acceptance. Oh, the conflict.

Choices . . . I will continue to make them based on my value system even as that system shifts. I do try very hard to understand the motivations and values of others in dealing with them. I cannot allow myself to be subjected to the values and beliefs of others, though. I am struggling with the age-old need for self-determination. I have given up a lot to gain this right. A lot. When I am 85 years old, I wonder if I will think it was worth it all. For now, it is what I must do. I can live no other way.

Self-Determination

According to Self-Determination Theory, the following is believed to be true:

“Within SDT, the nutriments for healthy development and functioning are specified using the concept of basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness. To the extent that the needs are ongoingly satisfied people will develop and function effectively and experience wellness, but to the extent that they are thwarted, people more likely evidence ill-being and non-optimal functioning. The darker sides of human behavior and experience, such as certain types of psychopathology, prejudice, and aggression are understood in terms of reactions to basic needs having been thwarted, either developmentally or proximally.”
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In a system where self-determination is disallowed, I believe moral and behavioral standards are threatened and personalities become twisted to some degree. We all acknowledge that overly controlling parents often raise a rebellious child. A man who attempts to control his wife often ends up with a wife who runs away or sneaks around. If the controllers had been less controlling, would the children and wife have developed differently, been able to be true to a moral standard of obedience for the children and faithfulness in the wife? Can we blame the wrong behavior of one person on the oppressive behavior of another? In some cases I believe we can.

What happens when a people are faced with a dictatorial ruler? A black market emerges. A resistance is formed. Lawbreakers are created either way. When prohibition was in effect in the United States, we all agree that it was a factor in the development of organized crime. Many believe the same situation has emerged because of the war on drugs. And now we have hundreds of thousands of new felons in Connecticut because of their refusal to register their legally-purchased and possessed long guns and high-capacity magazines. We can see what Stalin did in Russia when he declared the private ownership of land void and that the product of personal effort belonged to the state. Riots, rebellion and millions of deaths as Stalin endeavored to eliminate any threats to his plan for collectivism and Communism.

On a personal level, when one person oppresses or controls another, the results are often perceived immorality. For myself, I had to reject my church, my husband, and my extended family to some degree in my quest to be free from an emotionally-abusive marriage. I had to do what is considered taboo in America. Women just don’t leave their faithful husbands here. He didn’t deserve that. I have been told over and over again that he loves me and wants me back. Control is not love.

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And yet, in my quest for self-determination, freedom from oppression and rejection of subjection, I am true to myself. I suffer a lot for this choice as any woman does who fights to escape an abusive marriage. I risk financial devastation, potential loss of my children, and even death for standing up to a controlling, abusive husband. A woman is most at risk when she is fleeing an abusive husband. I know women who had to leave their children behind with an abusive husband to preserve their own lives. What horrible choices abused women face.

The good news is that here in America, a woman is free to seek escape from an abusive marriage. The courts support her right to be free from emotional and physical abuse. The police will enforce orders of protection, and when necessary, a woman can protect herself legally by owning a gun. I don’t care what you believe about gun control, a woman does not stand a chance physically against a man in hand-to-hand battle; a gun equalizes her chances of survival in many cases. I chose not to purchase a gun for protection when I was fearful but appreciate that I had the choice.

Self-determination is a basic human right, one that has been denied to women for thousands of years; it is a right that continues to be threatened by religious doctrines and controlling men even today. I celebrate my right to make choices for my life. I celebrate that I am free to make good and bad choices, and acknowledge that I will live with the consequences. Someday, maybe, women will feel even more empowered to reject male domination in our culture (entertainment, advertising, consumerism, career choices, politics, education). Controlling men are weak men (another blog post). Women who shake off control are strong women who pay a high price for their freedom and for their right to self-determination.

May we all be free to make choices about our own lives!