Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Traffic and Women's Rights

Every day I leave my house right around 8:15 AM. It takes me - on a normal day - about 30 minutes to get to work and since I have to arrive by 9:00, leaving at 8:15 gives me a 15 minute "traffic buffer" just incase I hit any snags.

Because you know, it's Eastern Massachusetts and I work "heading towards Boston". That's enough said.

As I leave my house, I can see the highway I have to get on so I am able to see what the flow of traffic looks like in the direction I'm headed. Typically speaking, it's flowing relatively freely though I can expect a slowdown one exit down due to solar glare in the winter.Today: I looked up and saw a tractor trailer. It wasn't moving. I looked closer and realized there were lots of cars. None of them were moving either. So I tried to be all slick and take the backroads to another spot to get on the highway. Those cars weren't moving either.

To make a very long story short... what usually takes me 30-35 minutes took me 1 hour and 10 minutes to accomplish from garage to parking lot. That's about twice as long as normal, and the "traffic buffer" that would normally suffice in the event of one snag (which isn't abnormal) turned out to be absolutely fruitless.

Here's where I learned a lesson in perspective today.

As I sat in my car constantly refreshing Google Maps for traffic updates and seeing nothing but red to blood red at seemingly every turn, I could feel my blood pressure rising. I was going to be late for work, I have a meeting, why am I not moving, this is so boring, I've already heard this song, why is @MassDOT not tweeting what's going on (I wasn't moving, believe me - I didn't look while I was driving), etc. etc. etc.

Then I looked over and realized something: hundreds of other cars were in the same position I was in. Everyone out on the road this morning was stuck in horrible traffic. It occurred to me that with that many people in traffic, there would be a good chance that not only would most of us be pretty late for work - it's entirely possible that someone stuck in that traffic might have been given a warning not to be late anymore or their job was on the line. And maybe today was the day that person left super early so they wouldn't be late, a day to make a fresh start - only to be met with traffic that doubled their commute time.

I said a quick prayer for that person - who I'm sure existed - that their boss be reasonable and understanding.

My brain didn't stop there. I suddenly felt this bizarre sense of solidarity - we were all in the traffic club! We were all in that mess together! All for one and one for all! Here here! This solidarity among my fellow drivers was reinforced when I realized that no one seemed to be doing that "my schedule is more important than yours" move to fly down the breakdown lane. See! We're all a traffic team!

Or something.

Last night I was purging my office to get rid of things so that we can consolidate to one office and make room for Baby Boy. As I was purging I came across my "thank you" copy of "The Vagina Monologues" that I received as being part of the performance when it was produced at UMass Lowell. If you've ever seen or heard of it, then you know that the premise of the entire thing is to bring awareness to women's issues not only in the US but in all parts of the world. It is meant to celebrate the beauty of women and unite us all globally to stand up for what is right. Performances are often sponsored by women's rights groups who fight for women to have the same freedoms in other parts of the world as they do in the US.

I remember this one monologue about what it was like to live under a burqa, and another about a woman who suffered from female circumcision and rape at the hands of soldiers in her own country. As I sat in traffic this morning, these stories came into my mind and took up space in my heart. Here I was letting my heartrate and frustration level rise because I was sitting in traffic, being inconvenienced... when really the fact that I was sitting in traffic would be considered a blessing by many women around the world.

Think about it - what led me to be sitting in the traffic in the first place? I was able to get a good education, put myself through college, choose whatever job I wanted, wear whatever clothes I picked out this morning, drive myself to work, choose what path to take - and at the end of the whole thing, arrived safely to be treated by my male peers with respect and viewed as an equal.

Without that sort of cultural surrounding - I wouldn't have been sitting in traffic this morning. Suddenly, the traffic didn't seem like a huge bother anymore.

Don't get me wrong - sitting in traffic is definitely an inconvenience, and is doubly annoying when my husband is home before me at night and I'd rather be spending time with him than sitting behind the back-end of a garbage truck staring at its taillights. It's not the traffic that I'm grateful for, especially when you consider that most traffic is caused by the misfortune of another driver. That's not it at all.

What I'm grateful for - and am actually incredibly thankful for - is that I've been blessed enough to be able to be a woman in the United States of America. A place where I can literally be who I want to be, can chase my dreams, believe in the God I choose to believe in, can be treated as an equal in the eyes of everyone.

The next time you're sitting in traffic... take a deep breath, and think about how you got to that point in the first place. If you're anything like me, it'll make the ride a lot less painful.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 - It's Gonna Rock

I decided that I'm not going to start off this post by lamenting over all the things that I didn't accomplish from my goals list in 2011. All that accomplishes is about 10 minutes of frustration and disappointment in myself - and quite frankly, I don't think that sort of attitude is a good way to start off a new year. Instead, I am going to share with you a list of things that I did accomplish last year and then share with you some things that I would like to accomplish this year.

So what happened in 2011? Here's a short list of some things that I am excited about over the last year:
  • I was able to read more books than I had in 2010; according to Goodreads, I completed 17 books during 2011. Right now I have 3 more in process, so I am glad that I was able to focus more on one of my favorite passtimes over the last 12 months. 
  • Steve and I have done a much better job at keeping God at the center of our marriage than keeping ourselves there. The fruits of this have been amazing; we feel closer, conflict is much easier to handle, and we feel a more genuine sense of optimism & excitement about the future of our marriage as a result. 
  • My prayer life has gotten stronger and I have gotten more comfortable with opening up to God in conversation. This is something that has been a huge struggle for me in my faith, and truthfully the book "Mystically Wired" helped me change my perspective on prayer. 
  • My running improved! I reached a point where while outside I was able to go longer between "walking periods" which was very exciting to me. Of course my "speed" was still just about a jog, but I was excited to need to take less walking breaks. That, however, got put on the backburner because...
  • We're having a baby! In September we found out that we'll be expecting our first little one, and in December we found out that our little one is going to be a little boy. We're super excited and so far the pregnancy & baby have been going quite well. (The pregnancy put my running endeavors on hold per doctor's orders... but it's worth it!)
Now we're in 2012, and I am excited to set some goals for the year that I know have a good chance of being accomplished. Why? Because I am determined this year. This year my goals are not being set out of obligation or some sense of "this is something I should do; this year's goals are in place because I want to accomplish these things. Period.

Goal Number One - Read the whole Bible: This year, our church is going through the narrative of the Bible from start to finish over the course of 12 months. As part of this, they have shared a reading plan that gets you through the Bible over the course of the year. In the past, I've set Bible reading goals only to fall flat on my face because I don't take the step of setting up some sort of way to hold myself accountable. Because our whole church community is reading on the same plan (or at least has the option to), it will serve to keep me on track during the course of the year. I am excited about this endeavor and know that I can see it through to the end.  

Goal Number Two - Successful Breastfeeding: I am excited to meet our little boy and welcome him into our family - along with all that entails. Yes, even the poopy diapers. One of the things that I am super excited about is nursing him and being able to provide him the nutrition that he needs from my own... person. I know that breastfeeding is hard work and it doesn't work for every person, but I am more than willing and determined to do everything I can to make it work. I have been praying that he not have digestive or latching issues, and will be signing up for a breastfeeding class that's offered at the hospital we will be delivering at. I also have had several women offer their expertise that I trust and value their opinions/advice, so I think that I have a great framework in place to be successful in this endeavor once our little man gets here. 

Little Man at 18 weeks, 3 days. Isn't he a cutie! 

Goal Number Three - Read More Books: In 2011, I was able to complete 17 books before the year was out. This year, I'd like to go back to my middle school days and hit the 20+ book club. I really don't see any reason that this goal cannot be achieved, but hey - you never know. I have a slew of books and a library card that are just aching to be read and/or used, plus I'm already off to a great start with 3 books in process. I LOVE reading, and hope that we can set a good example of how awesome reading is to our little one once he gets here. 

Goal Number Four - One 5K Race in the Fall: I am blessed to have a husband who encourages me in my running endeavors... and who also finds the value in everyone having time to themselves to do the things that will help them relieve stress. Once our little guy arrives and the doctor has cleared me to start jogging again, I can't wait to start to get back into the groove of it. My ultimate goal is to run in another 5K - either the same one I did before or one closer to home - and beat my last time of... whatever it was. Basically less than 38 minutes start to finish. I know that with Steve's support this is something that I can definitely achieve and I am excited about it.

There they are - my goals for 2012! I'm excited about these and I have a fantastic feeling about 2012 - I know it's going to be a great year. 

What goals do you have for 2012? 
Do you have a system in place to achieve the things you want to achieve?