Friday, November 11, 2016

Tired

Like many of you, I have spent the past 3 days reading articles, blogs and Facebook posts. I have read, and shared, so many. Us writers, we often process things with our words so I know I have to put something here. Yet every time I sit down in front of my computer I just stare at the screen. Then I type something, erase it, type something else, erase it. 

I am just so very tired.

Like most of you, I was up until 4am Tuesday night. But that is not the problem. Last night I got a solid 9 hours of sleep, woke up this morning, had a full cup of strong coffee, and yet I still feel exhausted. 

I don't really know what to say.

To those of you who voted for Trump, I get it. I don't think you are all racists and misogynists. Really I don't. I get that he spoke to many of you, promised you things that Hillary did not. I get that many of you just want change. But still, I am worried. I want to believe that things will be ok. And the truth is, for me and my family they probably will be. I live in NYC. I am white. I am straight. I have many years of martial arts training. (Go ahead just try to grab my pussy!) But I am worried for my friends who aren't these things. I am worried that Trump's victory will empower those who want to hurt them. I am worried about our safety and about our planet's safety. I get that I am lucky to get to worry about these things. But here we are.

I want to do something. I do. But protesting in the streets does not feel right. Signing a petition to urge the Electoral College to vote for Hillary on December 19th doesn't feel right. Moving to Canada does not feel right. Its really cold there.

I am just so tired.

I want to believe that Trump really won't do all the terrible things that he says he will. That if he tries, the system of checks and balances that we have in place will stop him. That he will actually create more jobs and make us safer. It is hard to believe these things but I want to.

I can't read any more articles or Facebook posts. I am not going to sign your petition, or show up for your protests. I am sorry if that offends you. You can call me whatever names you need to, it is ok. I get it. 

Here is what I am going to do. I am going to keep training. I am going to keep mom-ing. I am going to keep teaching karate to children, all children, anyone who wants to sign up is in. That is where my powers lie. To help kids feel powerful, valuable, capable. I am going to unlock the doors to the dojo every day and be thankful that I can. That hopefully we have created a place that helps.  A place where people feel safe. Where they feel empowered. Where they can grow. 

A place where love trumps hate. And hard work and sweat trumps everything.

Its Friday night. I will be in sparring class.
You are all welcome there. 

I am going to feel the weight of my bare feet on the floor, the rush of the wind in my hair, the joy of my heart racing, the sweat on my neck. I am going to breathe deep, be in the world and be thankful. You can call me whatever names you need to, it is ok. I get it. I understand that I am privileged to be able to do this. 

I am sorry if it isn't enough. 
It is all I have right now. 
I can't be angry anymore. 
I am just too tired.

I love you. 
Come to class tonight, ok? I will be there.


Monday, November 7, 2016

An Open Letter to All of Humanity

It is 9am and I am sitting in my classroom at PS84 in Brooklyn waiting for my first kindergarten karate class to show up. It is my first class of 4. They are good kids and I am a very good karate teacher, yet I am always a bit nervous right before my day starts. I want it to be a good day. I want the kids to learn a lot. I want them to have fun. I only get this particular group of kids for 10 weeks so I feel extra pressure to make every class the best it can be. To be perfect.

Today, the Monday before Election Day, seems extra tense. The florescent lights hurt my eyes and I feel as if at any moment a full blown migraine is going to explode across my field of vision. At one point my daughter pokes her head in on the way to the bathroom and her little face makes me feel slightly teary. 

Am I the only one who feels this way today? Like the top layer of my skin has gone missing? Like all of us are just hanging on by a tiny thread, and at any moment it could just blow away?

Its not my kindergartners, who are still so innocent and full of hope, who come to class every week just wanting to jump up and down and say "kiai!!" really, really loud. Its not my daughter, who is still young enough to be proud and happy that her mom works at her school one day a week. 

In the event of full disclosure, I am voting for Hilary Clinton tomorrow. I don't really like her much, but I think she is by far the better candidate for our country and I think Donald Trump is a racist misogynist who has no idea what he is doing. 

But it is not fear of a Trump presidency that has me so stressed out. It is that never before has the distance between me and my fellow human beings seemed so far, the thread that unites us so fragile. 

What if we forget? What if we are so angry, so scared, so lost in the horrific reality show that has been this election, that we forget who we really are?

We may not vote the same but my kid and your kid both get sick. And you and me, we both lie awake in the wee hours of the morning putting cold towels on tiny, feverish foreheads. We both drink extra coffee when we need it and keep a bottle of wine handy just in case. We both have waited for biopsy results. We both knew someone who was not as lucky as we were. We both have panic attacks. We both cry in the shower where no one else can hear. We both feel joy beside the ocean. We both love the sound of the rain on our car window. We both sing along to Justin Timberlake and dance around our living room in our PJ's. We are both trying every day to be better than we were yesterday. A better mom, a better wife, a better boss, a better employee. Better.

The truth is, I could go on for hours about how alike you and I are, despite all that separates us. No matter the outcome of the election tomorrow, we cannot forget that deep down, beyond the anger and the fear and the masks that we all wear, we are all one. 

So if your candidate wins, cheer and then move forward.  Please don't brag, don't gloat. Just move on.

And if your candidate loses, cry and then move forward. Please do not resort to violence, to intimidation, to bullying. Please do not refuse to accept the election results and make this horrible experience go on longer than necessary. 

We have to move forward, together. We can disagree but we cannot disintegrate.  

Please, above all, do not forget that we belong to each other. 

And our children are watching.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

To the Man Who Tried to Hurt Me

“You must not ever stop being whimsical. And you must not, ever, give anyone else the responsibility for your life.” 
― Mary OliverWild Geese

Today is Wednesday. Over the past few days, numerous people have asked me if I am ok. This question, simple as it may be, has made me pause and think. If by ok, you mean am I able to go about my life like normal, to teach my classes, to train, to be a mom, then yes, I am absolutely one hundred percent ok. Sunday's situation has not changed my actual life one bit. But if by ok you mean am I still angry, still sad, still disappointed, then the answer is no, I am not ok at all.

Many of these well wishers have been men, and when they ask if I am ok, they all have the same look on their face. I didn't really understand that look at first, but now that I have had a few days inside my own head, I get it.  I realize why, despite the very perfect resolution that my husband provided for me on Sunday, I am still positively furious. Despite witnessing a whole team of black belts literally have my back, I am still furious. And hurt. And confused. 

I stood up to a bully last Friday. I spoke up for someone who was being mistreated, someone who is a bit weaker, someone who was not in a position to speak for themselves. I did so in a private conversation between myself and one other person. No one else heard it.  But because I did this, I was verbally and publicly attacked. I was threatened and shamed in front of my family, my friends, and a room full of black belts who have known me for years. I was shamed in my own dojo, in my own house.  By a man in a position of power. 

What a cliche.

While all this was going on, out of respect for the people who were taking promotion, I held my tongue. My husband did not. He pronounced the promotion over, called forward his army of black belts and together we stood, us against the world, until everyone else had left the building. Because no one messes with our family.

I am deeply grateful for the people in our little Upper West Side dojo. I am so thankful for my husband who immediately stood up to defend me and our team, who is a leader in every sense of the word. You don't always get an opportunity in life to really see how many people love you, to see who is willing to stand by your side when a choice has to be made. It was beautiful.

Yet still, I am angry. 

Immediately after the promotion ended, two women who are very close to my heart came over to me. One of them said, "I can't believe you didn't cry. I would have been in tears." The other one gave me a hug and said, "I am so sorry this happened to you."

I do not regret what I said to this man in defense of our student. I also do not regret holding my tongue while he retaliated in a very aggressive, very public way. It was the right thing to do at the time.

But martial arts masters get confused sometimes. You forget that the respect people give you is earned. You forget that we bow to you because of your years of experience, because of your talent, because of your generosity. You forget that we bow to you because we choose to. You forget that your belt, no matter how many stripes are on it, is not a get out of jail free card. You don't get to bully people just because you can. Because of your name or your rank. Because you are physically stronger. Because you are a man. You do not get to make me feel small in my own house. 

So for every woman in that room on Sunday morning, and for every woman anywhere who has ever been belittled and bullied by a man, this is for you. On Friday I stood up for someone who was being treated unfairly.  I would stand up for him again, just like I would stand up for any one of you.  I do not care if I am lectured for twenty minutes or 4 hours and I do not care how many people attempt to embarrass me for it.  I am a fighter. I am a teacher. I am a wife and a mother and a successful business owner. I strive each and every day to contribute to the good in the world. Those students fighting for their black belt on Sunday contribute to the good in the world. The other karate teachers in the room that day contribute to the good in the world, as do every single one of their students.

To the man who tried to hurt me, I do not know what personal struggles you are dealing with in your life right now. I do not know what pain has led you to such a dark place, but I hope it is short lived. I hope you find peace from your bitterness and anger. I hope you find joy again. I really, truly do. The man I used to know was warm, and passionate and full of life. I hope to see him again some day.

But I know who I am. I know who my family is. I know who my team is.  Nothing you say can touch that. You can't break it, and you can't take it away. I am a strong woman with an even stronger team behind me.

You are either with us or against us.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

F*&k the National Anthem

While I do not shy away from stating my opinion on this blog, I usually try to do so in the least offensive way possible. I am an atheist, a Democrat, a martial artist and a dog person, but you do not have to be any of these things to be my friend. You just have to not be an asshole. That's all. Pretty simple really. Just don't be an asshole and we can hang together.

Not gonna do it today.

Today I am going to break my own rule and just come out and say it: ya'll have to stop with the national anthem. It is a fucking song, people. It means the damn game is about to start. It means someone is about to win a bet for how long Beyonce can hold a high note. That's it. And the game will start whether the players sit or stand or lay down in the grass and get themselves a suntan.

It does not matter what the fuck you do when this song plays. Really. What matters is that people are dying. Period.

But wait, there's more. If you are one of those people who actually feels offended when an Olympian just stands there, or when a football player takes a knee, then you are making shit up to be angry about. Listen buddy, you don't have to make stuff up, there is plenty to be angry about already. Why don't you take a moment to actually think about why there might be a few protests happening right now. Because people are dying. Over and over and over again, black people are dying in ways and situations that could have been prevented, that would have been prevented had the situation been just a little bit different. But thinking about that makes you feel funny. You'd rather not. You'd rather complain about a song instead.

Oh yeah, there are also some bombings going on. And a whole lot of unconvicted rapists. And four year olds who accidentally shoot each other with daddy's gun. Also some of your neighbors are struggling to feed their kids breakfast every morning.

Did I mention that the cops keep shooting black people? And yes, you and I, we are white people so that's not really about us is it? But actually it is, because those black people are our friends, our neighbors, our children's classmates, our fellow fucking human beings!

But yeah you go ahead and get angry about the national anthem.

And before you get all pissy, you should know that I know a few really great police officers. And that I support and respect the NYPD completely. It is a hard job to be a cop. And you know what makes it even harder? When freaked out cops keep shooting people! Because the thing is the more this shit happens the more the cops will be on edge, and the more the cops are on edge, the more they are going to mess up. And the more they mess up, the more people are going to die.

I am a white woman. I don't know what it is like to get pulled over and fear that I might not survive. But I can close my eyes and imagine how scary that must be. I can imagine what it must be like for the mothers of young black boys who have to sit their kids down and explain exactly how to behave when a cop speaks to them.

Listen buddy, no one is asking you to give up anything. Just to be aware. Be aware that institutionalized racism is a real thing, even if you don't quite understand it. Be aware that your life, and mine, have been automatically easier because of the color of our skin, even if you don't quite understand it. You do not have to stop living it. Just be aware and listen and care. And for goddsake stop talking about the national anthem like it fucking matters. Like it means anything. Stop getting angry about some dude taking a knee because you are too much of a fucking coward to admit that you don't really get the other stuff. That the word racism makes you feel funny. That talking about dead black boys makes you uncomfortable. It should make you uncomfortable. You don't get it. I don't get it either. That's the whole point.

Go ahead, read from the required script now. Your line is, "Well if you hate it so much here why don't you leave?" That's what you wanted to say wasn't it? But the truth is I love it here. Why wouldn't I? I am not the one being discriminated against.

Why don't you try this instead.
Just repeat after me:
I Do Not Understand.
I Do Not Know How to Fix This.
I Am Sorry You Are Hurting
How Can I Help?

Dude, your precious song is a lie. "Land of the free, home of the brave?" For who? You and I, that's who. That song, it is about us. And if you were a real patriot, instead of whining about where to put your hand during the anthem,  you would be furious that those powerful words do not apply to half of the people who are listening. You would have your knee right there on the ground with those protesters. As every single player, at every single game should. As we all should. Because we are ALL Americans, and more importantly we are all human beings. And when our fellow humans are being hurt it is time to stand up for them.

Or in this case, kneel down.
Or if you can't handle that, then please just shut up.
Thank you.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Reasonable Fear

When you are climbing up a rock wall, you spend a lot of time assessing things. Is that grip a good one? Do my feet feel secure? Are my arms too tired? Often there is a mental struggle between unrestrained terror (OMG I am so high up, I am going to die!!) and reasonable concern. (Is my knot tied correctly? Is the caribiner locked? Is my belayer paying attention? Ok then, climb on!)

I have one of those brains that likes to get carried away sometimes, particularly when it comes to my health. (Something hurts today, it must be jiu-jitsu related. It still hurts a few days later? Maybe I am sick. A week later? CANCER!! ) People with health anxiety learn to distinguish between normal concern and paranoia. We learn to give our body a chance to fix things first. We stay away from Web MD and under no circumstances do we Google any symptoms, ever! We get our annual blood tests and scans and then we avoid the doctor the rest of the year, unless that cough gets worse, and then we just go get a Zpak.

This mental gymnastics is what living in NYC is like nowadays. I remember back in 2012, feeling relieved that the horror of Sandy Hook occurred on a Friday. I had a whole weekend to cling to my own child before I had to exhale and drop her off at school again, knowing fully well that there was a slim to nothing chance of anything bad happening at her local Brooklyn school but nervous nonetheless. The first time I rode the subway after 9/11 I was a mess, even though the heightened security in the city at the time probably made it the safest ride I ever took.  

Now there are bombs in Chelsea. And once again we all have to wrestle between reasonable caution and panic. That is what terror attacks do. They mess with your sense of normal. Are there more bombs out there? Do I keep my whole family home, inside,  forever? Eventually, because we are New Yorkers, we simply grab our Starbucks and we go. We drop the kids off at school. We head to work. We change nothing because like one interviewee said in the NY Times today, "If its happening, its happening." 

This morning everyone got an emergency alert on their phones. The FBI is searching for a suspect. He may be armed and dangerous. Everyone tiptoes around his Muslim name. We don't want to offend anyone. The Trump supporters say look what happens when you let those people into our country. The Hilary supporters say that a bad guy is just a bad guy and we shouldn't generalize. It is a stupid debate. This new guy is probably an Islamic terrorist. Adam Lanza was a white dude with a gun. I have Muslim friends whom I love who would never hurt anyone. I have white friends who are filled with more hate and anger than all of Isis combined. 

None of that matters. What matters is kissing our kids goodbye and watching them walk through the schoolyard. What matters is driving over the bridge into Manhattan and wondering, wondering. What matters is that we still need coffee in the morning, that laundry still needs washing, that our boss still needs that file by noon.

In November of 2004, I called my karate instructor's cellphone multiple times and no one answered. Later that morning, we learned why. And although my brain knows fully well that a phone going to voicemail does not always mean a dead body, I can do nothing about the flood of panic that overtakes me whenever Matthew does not answer his. He goes off to jiu jitsu every single Tuesday and I make him text me when he gets there. It is stupid. I know it is stupid. He is no more likely to die on the BQE on the way to class than I am likely to plummet off of the rock wall. But it is what it is. 

So here we go again NYC. Another day of weighing what is reasonable. Do you take an Uber to work today instead of the subway, just in case? Do you drive down a different street? Carry a knife in your pocket? Ask your spouse to text you when he gets to work? And maybe again at lunchtime? Or do you do nothing different because by now this tiny humming undercurrent of fear is old hat. It is normal. It is just our life, we are New Yorkers, and fuck if anyone is going to keep us from our Frappachinos.

Be safe out there everyone. 
Whatever that means.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Climb On

I wrote a blog post this morning. To be honest, it wasn't very good. It has been awhile since I have written anything and I am out of practice. But I worked on it for an hour and then, right before hitting publish I reread it and said, nope, not posting this. 

If you are my Facebook friend you know that we have been doing a lot of rock climbing lately, not just at the gym like always, but also on real rocks. So I wrote this post about climbing. It went something like this:

"I would not say I am an adventurer. That being said, I love love love this climbing thing. Like really love it. And yes, it is pretty damn scary. But that is not why I love it. We are actually not really the risk taking type, Matthew and I. So while yes, rock climbing is inherently dangerous, we do everything we can to minimize the risk. We climb with helmets. We strap ourselves to everything, all the time. We climb slowly and carefully. We double check all knots and caribiners. Could an accident happen? Sure. But then again, I could also crash my car on the BQE if I am not paying attention. A lot of people think that we must love climbing for the adrenaline rush. But the truth is, I love climbing for the puzzle solving. I love it for the thrill of learning what my body can do. And yes, it feels great to overcome my fear of the woods and the fear of falling and even my fear of being far away from the car. But mostly, it is just beautiful out there. "


And then I posted this picture:

High Rocks at Ralph Stover State Park

That was at the very end of the post. The first four paragraphs were all disclaimers. About how despite my Facebook posts about biking to work and climbing cliffs and grappling, I am actually just like you. I am normal. I pay bills. I stress about work. I yell at my kid. I go to Costco for toilet paper.

The point is, apparently to my brain it was not ok to just say hey everyone we discovered this awesome place to rock climb and it is really cool. I had to apologize for it first. To make sure everyone knew that I was still afraid of flying. And that I only really bike from my house to the dojo. And that yes, I am a little afraid of the woods but don't worry we didn't have to walk too far from the car to climb.

In other words, in order to post about how excited I am that we are all learning this new skill, I first had to make sure that no one thought I was bragging. That no one felt bad. That everyone who had to sit in their florescent lit office all day on Wednesday understood that I was really just like them. I too have to work. I too have to parent. I too have chores. Just not on Wednesday. On Wednesday I was at High Rocks.

Why is it that I always feel so compelled to apologize for our life? What is wrong with our society that I feel the need to say hey I am sorry I didn't work 10 hours today for a boss I hate to make money to buy the stuff I want? 

I made choices. WE made choices. We chose to skip some areas of life in order to be able to have others. We didn't magically end up this way. And all of the people who wish they too could be doing BJJ and climbing rocks, well go ahead! Do it! Stop living the life you think you are supposed to live and go live the one you want instead. 

Of course we are not happy all of the time. Of course we have stress and fear and pain. And in case you are wondering, of course I know that this all could end. At any moment one of us could get sick or injured. The dojo could fail and we could have to both go get 9 to 5 jobs.

Do I really need to say this in order to then tell you about how much I love to rock climb?

And no I do not think we are better than you. But we are pretty damn cool. Not because we are wild adventurers, but because we are grown ass adults who have chosen to learn a new skill. We are cool because we have chosen to get out there and DO something instead of just watching everyone else do things on the Internet.

And you, you can do it too. If you want to, that is. Go do something. Like really do it. Learn something new. Have fun. Play. 

Or something like that anyway. I am no Tony Robbins. 

And yes, it is scary as f%ck up on that cliff face but once you get over that it is absolutely amazing.




Thursday, July 7, 2016

Deja Vu All Over Again

I spend an awful lot of time nowadays trying not to be angry at my fellow human beings. I know how toxic it is to walk around with that knot in your stomach all the time. But then Orlando happens. And Facebook explodes with useless thoughts and prayers again but in Washington, where laws are made and change can occur, nothing. Again. Nothing is done, nothing is voted on, no laws are passed. There is a great little protest which causes a stir for a bit but in the end it dies just like all those people in that night club. Because too many people in this country are selfish. They want to say meaningful shit but no way in hell are they going to ever give up anything to help others. Especially not for gay people. Or black people. Or poor people. So they post a little meme on the Internet while deep down a little voice is saying not me, don't touch my life, don't touch my guns or my fancy house or my giant TV or all these things that I think are important. I just want to sit here and pretend I am sad, but I don't want to actually change anything in the world, ever. 

And then there is another police shooting. Another black man who wasn't really doing anything wrong is dead. And there goes Facebook again, all those hashtags. We are so disappointed and so angry. How is it that this is happening again? How is it that you can be a white college rapist in this country and get practically zero jail time but a black guy selling CDs is dead? Meanwhile somewhere, maybe somewhere right nearby, a fellow human being is saying well he was a criminal right? He had a record. I am sure the cop had a good reason. Maybe he pulled his gun and you just can't see it clearly in the video? And somewhere else, maybe somewhere right nearby, another fellow human being is saying well yeah, sure, I'd shoot him too. F&*king N&%ger. Yes, someone is thinking this. They are sitting in a bar somewhere right now and saying those terrible words like they are the baseball score. Like they are nothing. Because even though we have come so far in so many years, in some parts of this country we have come nowhere at all.

How do I be a white person right now? What am I supposed to say to my black friends? Sorry again buddy? Sorry my race still can't get it right. Moreover, how do I even be a human being right now? How do I not decide to just lock myself up in a little box, to protect and love my own family and to hell with the rest of you?

I am an atheiest. For the most part I am one of the quiet ones, the kind who tries to accept everyone for who they are, regardless of whether or not they agree with me or not. It is only when someone uses their God as an excuse to do horrible, horrible things to their fellow human beings that I get angry. 

I do not believe in God but I understand why you would and it is fine. I imagine God is kind of like a warm blanket in January. He (or she) is comforting. He stops the shivers. He makes you feel like you are not alone in the cold, cold world. 

Besides, the truth is it does not matter what you believe. It matters what you DO. You are judged by what you do and if what you do is hate, and hurt and destroy than that is what you are; a hater, a hurter, a destroyer. You can speak your hate with a bible verse attached but it is still vile and ugly. You can come up with all kinds of rationalizations for your actions but in the end, hate is hate, racism is racism, murder is murder. And if there is a God,  there is no way he is ok with this. Any of this.

In fact, if there is a God, he probably checked out a long time ago. Because we humans clearly didn't get it. We totally missed the point. We just heard what we wanted to hear. It was supposed to be "love thy neighbor", not "love thy neighbor unless they are poor, or black, or gay, or a woman."  

God should be ashamed of creating us.

So once again I will go about my day trying not to be angry all the time. I will love my daughter and my husband. I will go to jiu-jitsu class and be thankful that I can, instead of just really pissed off that all the cops don't do the same. I will teach my little kids and try to feel like I am at least making some kind of a difference in the world. Most of all I will once again close my cellphone so I don't have to read all the Facebook comments, to witness all of my fellow human beings once again feel angry and sad and helpless. 

We can do better. 
We won't. There will be yet another school shooting and then another cop out of control and another bombing and on and on and on. We won't change a damn thing.
But we can do better than this. 
We are better than this.
Some of us will go on trying to help. Even when it feels useless. Even when it feels like every step forward is actually two steps backwards. 
Some of us will continue to love even when there is so, so much hate.
What other choice do we have?