Still Bloggin’ Until the Day I Die (2Pac, Virginia Woolf, And Me)

I wake up most mornings at around 5 a.m., but with the time change, it’s actually more like 4 a.m. Because I have yet to reset the clock on my nightstand for Daylight Savings. (I realize that Daylight Savings occurred weeks ago, but I am a busy working mother in case you forgot.)

This plays to my advantage because the only time I can write is when everyone is unconscious, tucked safely away with their dreams and their biological need for sleep.

So I get an extra hour, which I know isn’t really true because on the flip side, I go to bed at 9 p.m., which is really 8 p.m., but whatevs. This voodoo math works for me.

With a very light step, I sneak downstairs to make coffee and hide out in my “room of one’s own” (as Virginia Woolf claimed every woman should have) to dream, write, and be myself.

All by myself.

Because it’s so quiet, I often find myself humming a tune. And in addition to the odd habit of not resetting my clocks for Daylight Savings, I have an equally odd habit of humming songs that emerge from my subconscious and always seem to fit the situation at hand.

Here are some of my Oldies but Goodies:

Arguing with the hubs?

“Do You Really Want to Hurt Me,” by Culture Club plays in the background like a sad movie.

Sharing your exciting pregnancy news?

“Welcome to the Jungle,” by Guns N’ Roses blares in my ears as I hug you and congratulate you and silently pray for you.

Trying to out-macho me at work?

“Mama Said Knock You Out,” by LL Cool J thumps with the rhythm of my heart as I prepare my rebuttal.

So this morning, it didn’t surprise me that a remix of “Still Ballin” by Tupac Shakur found its way into my head. And it went something like this,

“Still bloggin’ until the day I die. (Until I die.) You can bring your crew but we remain true.”

img_2138

My best gangsta rapper pose

For those of us who might be unfamiliar, Tupac Shakur (also known as 2Pac) is one of the greatest and most influential rappers of all time. Well-known for his powerful critiques of society, it occurred to me, as I sat in my “room of one’s own,” that this gangsta rapper and the Victorian-era Virginia Woolf actually have a lot in common.

Tupac rapped about racism and inner-city violence; Virginia wrote about sexism and the status of women. And while Tupac and Virginia can only meet in my mind, I think they would be fast friends.

Because within their critiques of society at large, they were both storytellers who wove their personal experiences into the larger narrative.

A narrative that didn’t see or value people like them. (And still doesn’t, for that matter.)

And they did so in such an epic way that they inspired people with similar stories to question the larger narrative. To feel validated for their struggles within it. And to say, “Wait a sec, this narrative sucks,” and start rewriting it.

Which is what I’m trying to do with this blog.

Interestingly, I didn’t mean to become a blogger. Up until a couple of years ago, blogging was as mysterious as intergalactic space travel or “The Facebook.”

A social-media neophyte, I failed to realize people could post comments on my blog until they did. And I was horrified.

I also made the mistake of posting one of my pieces on The Facebook, and then had a nervous breakdown when the smiley faces and hearts came pouring in from my friends and family and people who actually knew me.

Which apparently is what The Facebook is all about.

Needless to say, blogging has been a somewhat accidental and traumatic experience. But like 2Pac and Virginia, I am committed to critiquing society at large by being a storyteller who weaves my own personal experiences into the larger narrative.

And to do so in such an epic way that I inspire people with similar stories to question the larger narrative. To feel validated for their struggles within it. And to say, “Wait a sec, this narrative sucks,” and start rewriting it.

Which is why I’ll still be bloggin’ until the day I die.

In my room of one’s own.

PS – Share this with a blogger you love. Oh, and please help me figure out next week’s topic by completing the survey below. I want to know what you’re curious about, whether it’s related to my story, accidental blogging, intergalactic space travel, whatever. Because another odd habit of mine is that I have an opinion on everything and I love to share it with you through this blog.

A Room of One’s Own (Even a Broom Closet Will Do)

When I was in high school, I got a burr in my saddle to read the classics. Don’t be too impressed – this was before Facebook and texting, and I was stuck on an Army base with no friends, so it really wasn’t a stretch to wander over to the library and check out a half dozen books.

And they were boring. Like so boring I actually felt judgy towards the people who had deemed them “classics” and the authors who wrote them. Clearly, they were not that smart.

But then I came across A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. Her premise simple, she asked what would happen if women were granted the same power as men.

Back that up, Virginia.

Women don’t have the same power as men?

Intrigued, I read on, trying to wrap my teenage brain around the concept that men and women were not equal, because up until that point, I’d been fed a daily diet that everyone in our country was equal (didn’t the Constitution like, explicitly state that?), I could do whatever I wanted as long as I set my mind to it, etc., etc.

Her examples were based on women’s experiences in the late 1800s where they were busy cooking, cleaning, raising children and basically doing every wifely and motherly thing that women were still expected to do some one hundred years later.

What were their menfolk doing? Owning businesses, building societies, making money…basically every manly thing that they were still doing, some one hundred years later.

I walked around grocery stores and saw the moms with their screaming toddlers and thought even though the frozen pizza they just tossed into their cart is easier to make than, say, porridge (whatever that is?), they still are responsible for cooking it.

I saw my own mother, who had dropped out of college to get married, wait up every night for my dad to get home from work so she could pour him a drink and sit up with him while he ate that frozen pizza.

I witnessed girls my age acting like they didn’t know the answer to questions when the teacher called on them because being smart might make the boys not like you.

I saw myself doing the same.

To say my little brain broke is an understatement. It. Blew. Up. My feminist teenage years were messy, and I blame it all on Virginia.

I took a calculator on every date and made sure I paid 50% of the check. (Little did I know I should have been paying less because women make $.77 for every man’s $1.)

When a boy said his friend wanted to ask me out, likening it to a “little test drive,” I told him, “No thanks. I’m not a car.”

It’s not surprising that someone wrote “bitch” on my locker. It’s also not surprising that I hung a sign inside my locker that explained the word was an acronym for:

Being

In

Total

Control of

Herself

Like I said, teenage feminism is messy.

Now I’m a lot calmer. It’s mostly age but it’s also the roles I’ve eased into that have helped me make sense of a world that infuriated me so much as a young woman.

I’m married, so I know it’s tough to negotiate gender roles when all you’re trying to do is love each other and put dinner on the table. I have two children and I want them to be happy – super-duper happy – so I am willing to contort myself into whatever shape is needed to achieve that. If it means feeling like I live out of my car because I’m driving them to soccer/gymnastic/football/princess-fairy camp, then I’ll do that. If I have to wake up at 5 a.m. to slice and wrap individual pieces of mango for the “Fruit Party” at school, I’ll do that, too.

But I do it as a choice, and with awareness. And in the spaces between the responsibilities and demands, I think about Virginia.

One thing I ponder most is the lack of room we create for ourselves as women. Even an hour of doing what we want, by ourselves, feels like an indulgent, self-centered luxury, if not an outright act against God.

So what if, to use Virginia Woolf’s metaphor from the title of her book, we had a “room of our own” where we were unbound from ours and others’ expectations, where we were free to reflect, create or even just rest?

(I know, my brain just broke again, too. But let’s keep going.)

What if we had a place where we could ask questions of ourselves and hear our own voices instead of the voices of our spouses, children, coworkers, parents and friends? Or the voice of perfectionism that serves as a slavedriver to so many women.

For a moment, imagine you could go there any time you wanted without guilt, without the world falling apart in your absence.

Because that’s what the world seems to do when we walk away into ourselves.

And if that’s too hard, imagine you have a broom closet. It’s tiny, unassuming, filled with brooms. More of a hiding place than a retreat, but that will do, too.

Ultimately, my hope is that we can build these rooms for ourselves individually, and then, collectively, start joining these rooms. (If you’re in a broom closet, I’ll invite you into my room to visit.)

Maybe we build a house together. And then a community, a city and then a country. And finally, a whole new world. A world where I value loving myself as much as I love my children and husband. Where society values women’s work as much as it does men’s, and by that I mean professions like teaching and home-making. A world where equality is more than just a noble concept but is practiced in every home and workplace and space in between.

Ready?

Let’s go.

xoxoako

Shakespeare’s Sister (A Challenge for You and Me)

What if Shakespeare had a sister?

Virginia Woolf, one of my favorite authors, never married or had children, and from this vantage point, she observed (and critiqued) society’s expectations of women in a provocative way that still holds true today, almost 100 years later.

In A Room of One’s Own, she asks us to consider what would have happened if Shakespeare had a sister. Would she have been a writer, too? Virginia thinks not, but rather than lamenting this, she challenges us to bring her to life.

“Shakespeare had a sister; but do not look for her. She died young—alas, she never wrote a word.

Now my belief is that this poet who never wrote a word and was buried at the crossroads still lives. She lives in you and in me, and in many other women who are not here tonight, for they are washing up the dishes and putting the children to bed.

But she lives; for great poets do not die; they are continuing presences; they need only the opportunity to walk among us in the flesh. This opportunity, as I think, it is now coming within your power to give her.

Drawing her life from the lives of the unknown who were her forerunners, she will be born. I maintain that she would come if we worked for her, and that so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worthwhile.”

– Adapted from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own

How does this translate today, for you and for me?

Like Virginia, I have hope. Rather than seeing the absence, I see possibility.

For every woman who is not leading today, I see a tomorrow where she is.

For every mother who is conflicted by the pressure to work inside and outside of the home, I see a tomorrow where these expectations support and enhance, rather than detract, from her wellbeing.

For every college woman who struggles with body image, I see a tomorrow where she is valued for her contributions, not the size of her jeans.

For every little girl who says she wants to be president someday, I see a tomorrow where she is.

As Virginia encourages us to do, we must work, perhaps in poverty and obscurity, for this vision of women’s leadership to be born. I invite you to work alongside me, to give yourself and other women this opportunity.

To bring Shakespeare’s sister to life.

Ready?

Let’s go.

xoxoako