Dealing With Mental Illness, featured content, Life From A Feminist's Perspective, Political Hunger Games, Politics, Women's Issues

I’m Still Standing

We are a formidable group of women
Photo Credit : Amy Doran

Helping Each Other Be Our Best Selves

Drawing Strength from Other Strong Women

At one of my lowest points in my depression last year, I met a fabulous women who shared with me the most profound statement that has stuck with me since that day. She said, “Jen, you have a new tribe now.” It struck a cord with me, because, I had aligned myself with individuals and organizations with whom I had little in common. I always had to watch what I said and had to tow the line. I can’t express how grateful I am to have women and men with similar experiences, who back me up and support me. The incredible thing about these women is we have all faced our own hell and survived. We all came out the other side much stronger and with more determination than ever. We are so diverse and different that we mesh perfectly. We have similar aspirations and we are putting those ideas into action very soon. More will be revealed in a couple of days.

A Day At a Time

I am who I am and I make no apologies for it

One of the things that has stood out to me throughout my life is, there’s always a right thing to do and a wrong thing to do. I always aim to do the right thing. I have a big conscience and even bigger empathy. I’m still standing despite going through the horrific experiences I had last year. The most recent kick in the face I received was just a minor, temporary setback, if you could call it that. It was actually a stepping stone to bring to to avenues that align with my desire to help other women, especially minority women here in New Brunswick. There are more exiting things on the horizon for me and I intend on reaching out and grabbing them. If there’s one thing Covid 19 has taught me, it’s to live in the moment. I take nothing for granted. I use my struggles and my stories to help other women, to show them that they can get through whatever it is that is challenging them. I am powerful alone, but we are so much more powerful as a team. I’m exited about a new endeavor we have coming out through our Truth Movement NB, Women’s coalition. We will be announcing more about that in the coming days

Friendly but Fierce

Keep Holding On

Stay connected with Loved ones

I know we have every reason to feel positive here in New Brunswick, but we still have to be careful and not turn the inch we’ve been given into a yard. If we keep following the rules, we are going to come out of this. Lean on your friends, lean on your loved ones, and trust yourself that you will be able to get through this, stronger and more resilient than ever. I’m grateful for every day I get and the opportunity to help others. Be kind, be generous, be grateful, and be patient. We have better days ahead. Love ya’ll. Thanks for reading and for your support. feel free to leave a comment below. xoxo Jen

Breaking Barriers, Covid 19, Dealing With Mental Illness, featured content, Gender Discrimination In The WorkPlace, Life From A Feminist's Perspective

Blazing New Trails

Busy Being My Authentic Self

I am doing well because I am an optimist. I am doing well because I have the tools I need to keep myself grounded and to remain in the present. I am doing well because I have a good support system. I am doing well because I am a fighter. I am a survivor. I can take the well-placed, sucker punch. It dazed me. It confused me. It hurt me, but again, I rise. I forgive. I focus on the good as much as possible. Covid 19 isolation has certainly challenged me at times, as it has so many others. Honestly, I’m very lucky I live in a remote spot and I didn’t have to come into contact with many people. We’ve had a few restrictions lifted to include what is referred to as “bubbles.” I didn’t have to think twice about who my first “bubble” was going to be; Dakota and Presley. Looking forward to a visit from Presley today for the first time in a long time. FaceTime is great, but there is nothing that beats the real thing in person. This little girl helps keep me grounded and focusing on the small, simple things that typical four year old’s are interested in. She reminds me constantly about the tolerance and acceptance we need to focus on for women of colour in New Brunswick.

The Reason I Keep up the Fight for Equality

My Gloves Are Up

Never Underestimate me

I have had plenty of people underestimate me throughout my life. They underestimated me in many different areas in which I excel. Sometimes it takes longer for some to figure out than others. They are always inevitably surprised. I haven’t always won, but I have left my mark. I have left scars that are not easily hidden. My scars are also there for all to see. The difference is I don’t hide mine. I talk about them. It’s one of the best ways to heal from what is ailing my mind. There’s been a fire in my heart for a long time. It’s always burning, forcing me to constantly look for ways to improve myself and to look for ways that I can make a difference. When I give myself to something, I give my all. When I gave my very best to something and end up with a slap in the face, its time for a reality check. Though I will probably never know the “why’ for certain, I have my own suspicions. Disappointing actions from people who I thought very highly of, and expected better from, and was under the impression they were tolerant and supportive of me; evidently I was wrong. I swallowed the feeble excuses and well-rehearsed, explanations that I was fed. It took me a little longer to see things clearly in my most recent disappointment, because the Covid 19 crisis started to take it’s toll on my mental health along with many, many others. For me it was the unknown, and the lack of reassurance from those who were “in the know”, around me. I’m always going to be too much for some people. Their loss, not mine. The loss is burning in flames and the phoenix that emerges will have more fortitude, determination, and strength than before I got burned.

Full Speed Ahead

Lesson Learned

I took the hit I was given, and let it sink in. It hurt, there’s no denying it. It doesn’t anymore. Sometimes we need to gain a new perspective from those who are outside the circle and not involved. Sometimes new perspective is gained sitting in a room full of people you thought you could trust with your vulnerability, but, it turns out you couldn’t. That’s okay. It builds strength. It builds fortitude, It builds experience. I take these lessons with me with to each new endeavor that I undertake. For now, I’m spending the weekend with my granddaughter and I’m going to enjoy every single minute of it. It’s been so long. She brings everything into perspective. The gloves will be back on again on Monday. I never want a battle, but rest assured, I will never back down from one.

Presley

Love ya’ll! Stay well and stay safe. – Jen

Covid 19, Dealing With Mental Illness, featured content, Life From A Feminist's Perspective, Living Life On Your Own Terms, Living With Anxiety, Thoughts to Ponder, Women's Issues

7 Ways to stay ahead of Covid Depression

Get outside

Identify Your Support Systems

Dealing with the isolation of Covid life can get to the best of us. Many of us have legitimate worries and concerns that aren’t going to go away on their own. We have problems hanging over our heads, constant reminders that life still goes on, despite this new Covid reality. Our new normal is mentally taxing. It’s tough for the most positive person to stay positive all the time. It”s a mindset. It’s a way of thinking that directs your brain to look for the good, or the possibilities. The focus is always on moving forward, but enjoying each moment. These are some of the things I’ve been doing to help battle Covid depression.

My Sanctuary

1 Think outside the box – the one you are living in, and the one that’s in your head. Plain English? Get the F outside! Go for a walk, take your dog out; just get outside. Being outside can make you happier in under 30 minutes. It will help you sleep better, it can lower your blood pressure, and improve memory. It’s biggest advantage; it helps fight depression. It’s when I’m outside and listening to the birds and squirrels that I find myself smiling he most lately. I take my dog outside and throw him the ball. We spend a lot of time together. If you have a dog or a cat, you’re already ahead of the game.

Achilles and Presley
BFF’s for life

2 Cut negative people out of your life – this may sound harsh but it’s an essential step to regaining or retaining peace of mind. It doesn’t mean you don’t care for or love the individual you don’t make time for, it just means you love yourself more. Our own peace of mind right now is more important than ever.

It’s okay to say no and to create distance
Photo by Alin Popa on Pexels.com

3 Stay Connected – It seemed like just yesterday everyone was complaining about social medial and how we all spend too much time investing in it. Right now it is a crucial tool to connections with friends and loved ones. It’s not the same, but it’s the best we can do for now.

My “visits” with Presley Covid-style

4 Stay Informed – This is a crucial step. I’m not talking cruising YouTube for the latest conspiracy theory. I’m talking reading up and listening to what our experts are telling us to do. This is everything from staying home as much as possible, to using sanitizer, to social distancing when out and about. Respect this knowledge and these rules and we will persevere.

Stay informed by trusted sources.
Photo by ready made on Pexels.com

5 Be Grateful – What is brought to us we must deal with. This is life. A positive mind-set helps to look for opportunities for learning or for growth. Sometimes our best lessons have been the most painful. We all deal with trauma differently. We all deal with stress differently. We all deal with a crisis differently. It’s how we respond, to ourselves and to the world, that will make all the difference in how happy you can be.

Confident

6 Be Real – This almost seems counterproductive to trying to have a positive mind set. The thing is, it’s important to acknowledge and process what we are feeling. It doesn’t matter what it’s about. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to be disappointed. It’s okay to be hurt. It’s okay to feel betrayed. It’s okay to feel whatever it is you are feeling. I guarantee you that you are not alone. All of us struggle with pain and insecurity. Living your truth, and being your authentic self, will release you from the many expectations that have been thrust upon you, by yourself and by others.

Days after the lowest point in my life and I still found a reason to smile. I was outside by the river.

7 Stay busy – It’s a great time and great weather for spring cleaning. I Marie Kondo’d everything I possible could over the past couple weeks being at home. I’ve taken on some small, and not-so-small projects at home to keep me busy and occupied. Each task I accomplish gives me a sense of satisfaction and another thing to knock of the never ending to-do-list.The important thing is to keep cultivating our relationships, with our friends and with our loved ones. It’s our connections that keep us motivated and keep on holding on to hope for better times ahead.

Dakota and Presly – A single Dad’s life

Dealing With Mental Illness, featured content, Life From A Feminist's Perspective, Women's Issues

Down But Not Out

Still in the Game

I had a really big blow. Big. Life-changing big. Painful big. Unexpected but somehow I feel like I shouldn’t be surprised. My instincts were right on the money I must say. My gut was telling me something but I wasn’t listening. I was processing in my mind what was not being said, but ever the optimist, I pushed it aside. Somehow I knew deep inside the blow was coming because my anxiety kicked into high gear, and my Doctor decided to up my anti-depressant. Good thing. My head just took too long to catch up with what my gut was already telling me. Nothing is normal. Nothing is as it should be. I just had a friend ask me, “how long do you think this “covid thing” is going to last.? I regurgitate the usual response I hear, “months probably, maybe longer. It could be a year or longer before we get back to normal; if we get back to normal.” Then it dawned on me, maybe this is our new normal? That is a depressing thought so I shove it down without flaming that fire. The “kick in the teeth” I just received made my defense mechanisms kick in. I am by myself in this world. No one looks out for me but me. I’m single – long time single. My parents and one of my brothers are ill. My brother is very ill, so all energy is focused towards helping him for some time now as he goes for dialysis three times a week in Saint John. My other brother and I live close to each other but we are worlds apart. Religion divides us, and patriarchy. My kids both live in other cities. My daughter lives in another province. I try not to bother them with my problems, they have enough. We all do right now. It’s not like I can go to the friends that I do have for support that I really need right now. I have to be alone, as does everyone else. I got angry, I lashed out, and then hurt set in. Well, the hurt was obviously there first but I like to convert it to anger, it seems easier to deal with initially. I do not recommend that process, it’s just the way I operate. It’s the way I’ve always been. I’ve had to stick up for myself, nobody else is going to do it. I know a sham when I see one. I know when I’m being fed a story. I’m able to read between the lines,and I pay attention to subtleties some others don’t notice. Communications is my gift, not just a job. So, in the face of adversity, I’m again calling on myself to look for the good. To see beyond the hurt and invite opportunity. I’m so thankful for technology right now, because the only thing that is getting me through this, is the ability to FaceTime and stay virtually connected. It’s not enough, but it will have to do for now. I know I am not alone. We are all facing adversity right now. All we can do is give it our best each day. Some days, we don’t have our best to give, but we keep trying. We keep holding on. We keep listening. We keeping reaching out. We keep holding on to the simple things in life that we often take for granted. A lesson I learned from my special Aunt Cyn. Her simple way of thinking and living would be the greatest lesson for any one during this difficult time. I’m grateful I had her in my life for as long as I did.

Cyn taught me to enjoy the simple things in life.

Tie a Knot and Hold On

I am always open about mental illness because I know that keeping it a secret only breeds shame. It has been used against me, a couple of different times. The people who feign support for mental illness and act or do things in a way that is contradictory of being supportive are dangerous people. People are dying because of COVID 19. The virus has taken their lives. There are definitely more to come. This pandemic is also going to take lives of people who never had the physical virus in the first place. This social isolation is horrible for anyone, but it is especially terrible for those who are struggling everyday, just trying to hold on to a reason to live. We are going to lose more people to suicide, it’s inevitable. The resources just are not there to help everyone, and the physical distancing is wreaking havoc on those who depend on face-to-face therapy and the physical contact with others to keep them here, living and holding onto hope. All I can say to anyone who is feeling this way, is just keep holding on. Better days are coming. Better weather is coming. Better opportunities are coming. Bad days and bad times never last for long. We will persevere. Hold on to hope and don’t give in to the fear.

Photo by Immortal shots on Pexels.com

Back on the Tracks Again

I had a really scary ride last year with a major depression. When it hit me, it felt like a brick in the face. Logically, I knew something was going on, but losing control of my ability to control my emotions and my thoughts, (the effects of depression) left me in a constant state of having my mind spinning around all the time. I couldn’t focus easily. I needed help. My ride ended with my train going right of the rails and into a full-blown train wreck. Luckily I survived, and I am still here for a reason. I recovered. I got help. I got medication. I got therapy. The combination of these things saved my life. Thankfully, I’m in a good place. I felt the claws of depression, brought on by anxiety about work, trying to dig into me. I felt my anxiety increasing, so I called my doctor right away. Despite the rather horrible news I was recently given, I still feel hopeful. I still feel like somehow things will work out for me. They always do, I make sure of it. Isolation will take it’s toll on me sometimes, but it will not get the best of me. Nothing and nobody will, I make sure of it. Peace and love my friends. Stay connected, stay safe, and stay home. Thanks for your continued support. If anyone has any thoughts to share, please feel free to do so, and leave a comment.

Winning
Dealing With Mental Illness, featured content, Life From A Feminist's Perspective, Pressing the Hot Button, Women's Issues

Jenni-fire Fierce but Friendly

“Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Stride”

I am a fighter. I was born one. It was reinforced by having two older brothers who made me a little rougher around the edges. I am surprisingly sensitive and empathetic, which may shock some who know me, but when I feel I’ve been wronged or if I haven’t been treated fairly, my fire bursts into an inferno. When I see other vulnerable people being mistreated, it lights my fire. My initial reaction is to cry. Go figure. This is never to be mistaken as a weakness. My fire soon follows. The tears are just a pressure release. They help heal me. So does standing up for myself and for others. I have another unexpected mountain to climb, blow up, or embrace. I always want to talk things out. I always try to conduct myself with honour, honesty, and integrity. The battle I’m in for myself right now is especially harsh in light of the COVID 19 crisis. It feels especially cold and thoughtless, but it is what it is. I never go down without a fight, especially when I have such a high stake in it, and most especially when I know I am in the right. Sometimes life isn’t fair. I accept that. I accept that sometimes I will lose, but I will never, ever go down without swinging back.

“I may not be a lion, but I am a lion’s cub, and I have a lion’s heart.”

Queen Elizabeth 1
Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

I am a lioness. I’m a fierce defender of myself, my family, my team. I’m a staunch defender of an underdog and the vulnerable. I choose to be positive in the face of adversity. In the mean time, I’m staying connected and hanging onto my friends for support. I’m using the tools I learned and am keeping myself busy. I’ve been writing up a storm; between my blog and my novel, which I recently picked up to finish, my keyboard is always in use. I am encouraged constantly by the words and messages of support I have received. When people tell me they’ve been inspired by my words or my experiences, both men and women, it gives me the gumption I need to go on, to keep up the battle. I received a message just this morning from someone who said they love my blog because it reminds them they have strength, even when they don’t feel like they do. They told me I’m as powerful as a tank. I am. It’s a relief to know that when I do go into battle, I don’t go alone. I have a ton of support and I’m so grateful for each and every one of you, you fuel my fire. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

My Fire is an Inferno

I Won’t Back Down

Please take care of yourselves. We can only beat this or get out of lock-down if we listen. Stay home and keep your distance from others. Wash your hands all the time. This COVID 19 is especially hard on those who are already struggling with mental illness. Please keep this in mind and continue to reach out to those who are struggling. Stay safe and stay well my friends. Much Love!

Still Smiling
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COVID 19 Isolation Is Tough – But So Am I

“I may not be a lion, but I am a lion’s cub and I have a lion’s heart”
– Queen Elizabeth 1

While it seems everyone else is counting the days that they have been in quarantine or in isolation, I, on the other hand, just let them pass by. I’m not keeping track. I’m just keeping busy. I’m not fixated on stats or numbers. I’m just living my life as simply as I can, filling my days by keeping in touch with family and friends, and writing. Writing is the only way that I feel I can stay in touch with where I’m at in my head and heart and it’s how I communicate what I’m feeling or what I’m going though. Throughout the process of writing, things are usually revealed to me. There is an astonishing connection between the mind and the “pen”, nowadays, a keyboard. My writing is a powerful tool that I usually put to good use. It helped me through my major depression last year. It connected me with other survivors of sexual abuse. It brought friends and allies to me, that I would have never considered, both men and women. My writing has been used to blow people up. It’s been used to hold people accountable, even myself. It’s an outlet. It’s a vibe. It’s a way of life for me. I found my tribe because of my writing. I found my tribe of females who have been though similar experiences, or those who just want to feel the connection of other women with a similar agenda. My writing has diversified my friendships. It has brought other women from other countries, religions, lifestyles, and cultures into my life. These minority women have taught me a great deal about my own privileged life, and about the additional barriers they face, in addition to being female. My writing has been my way out of isolation, and it will be again. There is nothing that can connect humans any better than feelings. We all have them. Sometimes we don’t know we are feeling an emotion until we read something that resonates and then we know; we know instinctively that we are never alone in our thoughts and our feelings. Whatever we are going through, someone else is too. You are not alone!

Jen Smith
Independent Candidate New Maryland-Sunbury

T

The Lighter Side of COVID 19 Life

It’s always nice to get a vacation from work, but this open-ended vacation was not what I had in mind, although It’s likely a good thing I don’t have to work right now because my attire has been bouncing between jogging pants, and leggings. My hair is out of control, my natural blonde and grey are in a battle against the dyed black hair, and they are winning. My hair fashion choices have been a bun or a ponytail. My eyebrows look like caterpillars; actually it looks like one caterpillar ate it’s sibling in a Darwinian-like fight for survival. I am so jealous of people who can do their own browns. I can’t nor should I ever try. I’m used to upkeep. Now I have to go and cut my own bangs just to hide my hideous eyebrows. Things could be worse I guess. COVID19 has also forced me to take a look at all the clutter around me. I Marie Kondo’d everything I could during the last how-ever-many-days-its-been. Thank god for my dog and my cat. They are by bff’s . I’m equally thankful to live in the country in an isolated spot. I only have a couple of neighbours that I never see. I like it that way. I like the privacy. I especially like it now that we are in a forced isolation. I have endless acres to explore with my dog, and my cat. Bear follows Achilles and me wherever we go on the property. I’m also glad I am single. It seems isolating with families with nowhere to go and little to do can be quite trying, according to all the fb posts I’m reading. Besides the lack of sex, thanks to COVID 19, being single is great. I have nobody to get on my nerves, besides myself. Maybe I’m getting on my dog’s nerves, who knows? I guess that’s our little secret. I’m just thankful to be getting all the puppy hugs and love that I am getting for now. Considering the circumstances, life is pretty good.

Nothing Beats the Country Life

The Serious Side of COVID 19 Life

I am always going to find a lighter way of looking at things. I am the person who laughs at inappropriate moments. It’s a nervous laugh, and I really can’t help it. The more I try to control it, the harder I usually laugh. COVID 19 is no laughing matter. People are scared. People are sick. People are dying. That doesn’t mean we lose our heads. We need to keep things in perspective. We need to listen to our public health authorities. They know about what they are speaking. I keep hearing people say, “I feel fine”. Yes, moron, you may feel aces, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have the virus. If you are carrying it and because you feel fine, and you go out about life like it’s normal, visiting and not listening, you’re a jerk. Stay home as much as possible. If you have to go out, keep your distance from people. Wash your hands all the time, and for god’s sake, don’t touch your face! The longer we don’t listen, the longer this will last, and the more people will get sick and potentially die. Just follow the advice of the experts, not Joe blow down the street who’s giving you the latest YouTube conspiracy theory. Fact check with known, approved sources. Stay safe and stay well my friends. We are going to get though this together. Much love to you all. Thanks for your continued support. – Jen

“When you see the eyes lined with fire, of all the women ready to push you aside, you will know we are here”

Jen Smith the WordSmith
Breaking Barriers, Dealing With Mental Illness, featured content, Life From A Feminist's Perspective, Living Life On Your Own Terms, Political Hunger Games, Politics, Pressing the Hot Button, Thoughts to Ponder, Women's Issues

COVID – 19, No Contact = No Fun

Some may find my attitude a little flippant, but if there’s one thing I like to do, it’s speak bluntly. Social isolation is about as bad as it could be for someone who relies on social contact for sexual encounters. Everybody in relationships are isolating together, so much so, that I’ve been hearing people joking about a baby boom in 9 months. I predict the same, or a hella lot more divorces. Time will tell. Well, a few weeks ago, Jen here was all ready to get my groove on and have some fun, or weekend sexcapades, as I like to call them. Mother nature had different plans for me; she got me really sick, with pneumonia as an added measure to keep me down and quiet. So quiet I stayed, at home and rested as much as possible, alone. I kept my plans to travel to Montreal to see my daughter, a PhD candidate at McGill. When I left Montreal, I was feeling like I was back to my pre-sick self, so when I returned home to New Brunswick, I was ready to let loose again. Surprise!!! Nope. Mother nature thwarted me yet again by interrupting my plans with an unexpected shark week. So, taking my cue from nature, I again took it easy for another week, eagerly anticipating my return to “normal life”. This was not to be because in the cruelest twist of fate, or one f’d up sense of humour by good ol’ mama nature, she unleashed a corona virus, COVID 19, which in effect, has again circumvented my efforts to have some fun. I don’t know what kind of a sick sense of humor mother nature has, but right now I’m not very appreciative of it; then again, maybe this is her way of protecting me from catching the virus, who knows. The point is, as much as it sucks, and it does suck, I am paying attention and I am listening to the experts. This virus is nothing to fool around with. We need to take this seriously. I am taking this seriously. I am not having any fun. Zero fun. I’ll live. We need the rest of ya’ll to take this seriously too.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

What I realize, which a lot of politicians and some elite do not, is that so many people in New Brunswick have a hard time making ends meet. Many don’t have supplies stockpiled for two days, never mind two weeks. It’s easy for those who have everything they need, with lots of money, and resources to make sure they and their friends and families are okay, but there are too many Nber’s who are struggling. We need to keep reminding our politicians and our elite, that we are the poorest province in Canada. Many of our people are not doing well. They already have food insecurities, and the greediness of some people buying up everything they can, adds more needless anxiety to those who are poor or for those who are waiting to get paid. If you have weeks worth of supplies to carry you through, that’s great. I’m happy for you. Just get off your well-stocked, high horse towards others who do not have the luxury or the financial capabilities to take care of themselves the way the elite suggests. “Just isolate”, “get what you need ahead of time and stay home”, “don’t go to work, are you crazy”, or one of the best ones I’ve heard yet is, ” there’s no reason why everyone shouldn’t have 3 weeks worth of supplies built up in case of emergency”. I’ve heard these things from people in whom I have great respect. They don’t mean any harm. They just don’t recognize their own privileged position in life. What I find disappointing about it is, just how out of touch these people are with just how poor a lot of our people are. They are out of touch with the fact that people choose food over medications they need to take; sometimes that is life-saving medication. I started writing this blog post with a little lightheartedness because I think it’s important we keep our senses of humour, and god knows we could all use a break from the ominous seriousness that is COVID 19.

JEN SMITH
A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH
INDEPENDENT CANDIDATE – NMS Riding

The long and short of it is, we are going to be okay. We will come together in spirit, rather than in person, and collectively knock the hell out of COVID 19. If there’s one thing NBer’s are known for, it’s being a strong and resilient bunch. We will see this through. Though this is a very anxiety-provoking situation we find ourselves in, we can alleviate these feelings by staying in touch with our support systems via social media or other mediums that don’t require close physical contact. Share the negative or depressing feelings with those in whom you feel safe and are able to trust. Don’t bottle things up. If you need help, ask for it. It’s when everything seems like it’s going wrong, that you may feel like you are coming to the end of your rope. if this happens, tie a knot and hold on for dear life. This will not last forever, and neither will your bad feelings or your bad day. Hang in there folks. This will all be over before we know it, and we will, I hope, have learned some valuable lessons. See ya’ll after isolation ends. Jen Smith

Breaking Barriers, Life From A Feminist's Perspective, Political Hunger Games

I am Woman, Hear me Roar

Independent

Guess who’s back? Like Eminem, when he announced his return to the music world, so will I announce the same to my ridiculously smaller, but no less faithful audience. I had to take a three month “hiatus”. I’m not sure that’s the proper word to describe my break from writing. It seems like a more fitting analogy would be something to the effect of “my train went completely off the rails”, and I had to get it back on track. Mental illness is a curious thing. I tried to put the brakes on depression all last year. Somehow I thought I could control it. I am smart aren’t I? I mean I know about this stuff don’t I? I majored in sociology. I took social psychology. I had plenty of counselling over the years. I thought the answers I already had in my head could help me. The one snag I didn’t consider was that I did not have control of my brain. I thought I did. I did not. I couldn’t stop my mind from spinning a million miles an hour, around and around. My already analytical mind was in hyper drive trying to keep up. My spiral to rock bottom was a sure thing. I was the only one who couldn’t see it coming until I crash landed. Nearly dying can profusely and profoundly change ones perspective. I am no different. My near death experience taught me many things: Be grateful for what I have. first and foremost, my life. I am still here for my kids and for my granddaughter. in the worst grips of depression I thought that they would be be better off without me. Even I can hardly fathom that right now. It’s like it was another person; technically it was. I don’t recognize that woman anymore.

My granddaughter

Another important lesson I learned is to really look at the people around me, and see who really cared if I lived or died. It was admittedly humbling to realize the few people who were left standing by my side. These saints of human beings cared if I lived. They wanted me to. They saw me for who I really was. They cared enough to just listen. They didn’t judge. They stayed calm, even when I wasn’t. They talked calmly to me. They reassured me. They gave me a safe space to heal. They gave me permission to just be myself. They didn’t judge me when I shared the most heart-wrenching feelings with them. Some of them cried with me. Some of them saved me from myself. I’m grateful for everyone of them. I see these people and I will never forget them. They are in my heart forever. I also see those who harmed me. I see those who relish still, in the plummet I took into a desperately dangerous depression. I saw them crowding me, figuratively speaking, pressuring me to bend to their will, isolating me, removing my support. I saw them be terrible human beings completely lacking in empathy and education about mental illness. I know who the people are, who didn’t care if I lived or died. I see you. I will always see you. I see you for what you are, not what you pretend to be in front of others. I know what you are. We don’t need to pretend with each other. You’re only fooling yourselves. I am not fooled. I know. I see you.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

What Being a Woman Means to Me.

With International Women’s Day swiftly approaching I started thinking of what a woman is, besides the obvious. The definition of a woman means many things to many different people, and that’s okay. The fact of the matter is, women can be whatever they want. We have been pressured for so many years, to act a certain way, to talk a certain way, to dress a certain way, to think a certain way, to work a certain way, to respond a certain way, to react a certain way, to raise children a certain way, to please our men a certain way, and to have sex a certain way. “Act like a lady” is something I heard whenever I misbehaved in front of my paternal grandmother, our family matriarch of many years. I didn’t even cover all of the bases. A real and very raw viral video featuring Cynthia Nixon reciting the “Be a lady they said” piece drew love and acknowledgement from practically every woman in North America. It resonated with so many of us for a good reason. It was bathed in absolute truths. Beautiful truths. Painful truths. Common truths. Unknown truths. Unacknowledged truths. It hit us at our very core, at least, I know it did for me. I thought I was living unapologetic in every area of my life. Anyone who knows me, or who has spent five minutes around me, knows intimately that I am a very blunt, straight forward, and very candid woman. I don’t mince words, and I get straight to the point. There’s nothing I haven’t talked about or admitted in my blogs or in my conversations with those who know me. Honestly, I have been mostly upfront about myself, except for one area. Sex. I like it. I love it. I want some more of it. Some of you might be singing those song lyrics in your head about now. The rest of you, I don’t know what to say, google it. Women are shamed for wanting sex. We are shamed for enjoying sex. Oh, it’s all fine if you’re married or in a long-term relationship, but if you are a single woman, it’s just not lady-like to go after sex; never mind having frequent, casual sexual encounters. There are plenty of creative names for women like me: slut, whore, man-eater. I could go on, but I think I’ve more than made my point. This is the final area of my life that I have not put on full display for one main reason. Society has told me and every other woman that is shameful for us to want to have sex, other than for reproductive purposes. Considering I’m in my 40’s, having sex for reproductive purposes are quite frankly not on the menu for me. So what is a girl to do, when she doesn’t want kids, but is single and in her sexual prime? There are a few options. I’ve tried the dating sites, but ending up with a psycho stalker is a roll of the dice. The few times I’ve tried it, it didn’t work out so well. I did end up meeting a couple folks who showed me a really good time. Wink wink. I have also had a terrible experience with someone whom I had met on a dating site. Didn’t work out so well for me that night. A hard lesson, very well learned. Hooking up with friends and such, is not really a good idea either. It’s hard to find someone who just wants to have sex, with no strings attached. Actually, I should correct myself. It’s hard to find a not-married someone who just wants to have sex, with no strings attached. My best option, usually ends up going to a bar, and picking up some unsuspecting individual, who in all likelihood, thought they were going to have to try a little harder for it, and not have it hit them straight in the face, so to speak. Surprise! Sex can be very empowering. It holds its own power. As a woman, I’ve learned to harness that power and to enjoy it. I allow myself to just be free. I don’t care what people think. I don’t care what people say. I live for myself, and to have fun while I still can. I am a fiery, passionate person, in every aspect of my life. I am not ashamed. I am powerful, and I know it. Not unlike a lot of men, women can also be overwhelmed by their own sexuality and it can run us into some unforeseen situations. We can also think with out wrong body part. I’ve been caught devouring someone with my eyes, someone whom I would have preferred not to have been caught by, luckily, I am able to laugh about it now, and can look this person in the eyes again. When our eyes locked, I immediately felt shame for being a sexual human being, and most especially because I am a woman, and society expects us not to feel those things, never mind think them. I am not ashamed. I’m okay with it. I’m more than okay with it. I enjoy myself immensely. Isn’t that what life is all about? The long and short of it is, do whatever makes you happy. Women should all stand up for each other, that also includes trans women. If we can’t support all women, we truly don’t support women. It’s okay to just be you. Be fancy, be frilly, be smart, be tough, be powerful, be sexy, be inquisitive, be weird, be reserved, but just be you! That’s what being a woman is in a nutshell; whatever the fuck she wants to be. That’s what I’ll be celebrating on International Women’s Day; the freedom to just be me, with no fucking apologies to anyone.

featured content, Life From A Feminist's Perspective, Living Life On Your Own Terms, Women's Issues

Small Town Girl – Big Time Heart

Country Strong

I grew up about ten minutes from, Oromocto, in the middle of the woods; one of the last, sparsely, spaced houses at the end of a dead-end road. In the country, in the middle of nowhere, Geary. I’ve always loved where I lived, I still do to this day. It’s a very different life than growing up in the city. Each way of life has its advantages and disadvantages. I learned things at which some city girls would be aghast. That’s okay though. We are all meant to be different and we all have our own strengths. I’ve always been one to do things on my own, but during the past year, I have been learning to ask for help. It’s getting a little easier now. Humility is a wonderful lesson. We all have something to be grateful for. I can’t help but reflect on the reasons why I love my community so much. Everything that I have learned, I learned country-style.

I was brought up in the seventies and eighties. It wasn’t just a different time. It was a different planet, in a different universe, compared to how things are now. My father worked for the government, so he was home most evening and weekends. I followed him around outdoors, instead of helping my mother with indoor chores. They probably wanted me outside so I could burn off excess energy, and I had plenty of it. There was no such thing as an ADHD diagnosis back in those days. No, I was labelled hyperactive and henceforth on, was put on a more restrive diet. The number one thing to go from my meal repertoire was sugar, in any shape or form. I’m thankful I had friends to help me out by sharing their chocolate bars, or treats with me. This usually ended up with me “acting out”. I’d talk incessently, and get myself and whomever I was “pestering” in trouble for talking during class hours. Weekends were a mixed blessing. It was awesome to be out of school but Saturday’s in my house growing up were work days. That’s when we got all the chores done, the extra chores. We went out in our wood lot and cut down trees for the wood stove. This meant splitting the wood, loading it in trailers, unloading in our yard and tossing it in basement , just to get ranked again. I followed my father around and watched him work on cars, change tires, and other general duties required to maintain a home and yard. I learned that work comes first and play comes after the job is done. Any job doing is worth doing well. I learned to use tools, and drive tractors. I helped build fences, barns, and decks. I dug for worms. I baited my own hook. I learned to fish. I learned to tie flys. I learned to flyfish. I learned from a young age how to handle guns properly and responsibly. I knew to always assume a weapon was loaded. I knew never to point a gun at anyone, ever.
I shot skeet and trap. I learned to how to track and how to hunt.

Family and community tradition

I learned about gardening and growing food. I learned about caring for animals. I learned about having a sense of community spirit. I learned about death, and the pain that comes with it after losing the treasured pets and farm animals we had over the years.

A country girl…
…turned city girl

I learned that no matter how many hours and days you spend picking rocks out of the ground to help grow a nice lawn, the rocks always “grow” back. I learned to appreciate being able to see every star in the night’s sky.
I learned to identify various bird calls. I listened to the screams of fox at and howls of coyotes from my bedroom window. I learned about respecting our forests from our wood lot.
I learned to start fires. I learned to ride bikes, sleds, wheelers, tractors, and any truck.
I learned to climb trees and make tree forts. I learned how to ford small brooks and streams. I learned how to read a compass. I learned about wildlife all around me. I learned how to take care of farm animals. I rode horses. I played softball. I hung out with friends from the community. Everybody knew everybody back in those days. Those days are long gone. It’s okay. Time always marches on, with or without us. The important thing is that we learn. We learn to live, we learn to love, and we learn to laugh. We also learn from out mistakes. The most important thing I learned growing up is there is nothing that life can throw at me that I can’t handle.
.

Country Tough

Despite my father’s efforts to make me well-rounded and independant, i had a strict, religious, grandmother. Our family matriarch since I was a small child. She was a teacher, an English Teacher. She taught me how to be a lady. She is ultimately responsible for my exceptional communication skils. The rest of what she tried to impress upon me is still there, it’s just that I don’t call it up for action that often. My grandmother and I were very different people, and that’s okay. She gave me one of the greatest gift’s life has given me, my love of the English language.

Ruby Smith

Growing up in rural New Brunswick taught me things not every little girl grows up to learn. I grew accustomed to certain ways of life being a country girl. It’s a little more rough-and-tumble where I come from, a little rough-around-the-edges to some. I had two older brothers; one was just a year older than me. I learned to fight. I had to. They made me tough. We watched out for each other. The whole community watched out for each other’s kids. It was a different time but I don’t love it any less. I am not afraid of change. I welcome it. I think we’ve been stuck in the past in New Brunswick for way to long. The past is a nice place to visit, to reminisce, but we desperately need to move forward into the future. We need to make some serious changes if we don’t want to see the same thing over and over again. United we stand, divided we fall. We have community. We have hope. We have each other.

My brothers and me in the 70’s
Women's Issues

Kill(her?) Confidence

Confidence builds as we grow and learn new things.

No one is born with confidence. It’s something that’s developped over time, with age and learned knowledge. It means believing in yourself, in your talents and abilities. It’s having a skill-set, and the wherewithal to apply it in everyday life. Unfortunately, confidence seems to be ever-elusive for too many women. Media, especially in western society, has dictitated the stereotypical notion of what a confident woman shoud look like; from hair length, style, cut, and colour, to what colour and how much make-up to wear, to what is considered a desirable height and weight, to how much muscle is too much to be still considered feminine. Then there’s the fake eyelashes, eyebrows, lips, eyecolour, haircolour, breast size, butt size, waist size, skin colour, and so on. The beauty industry has an eternal grip on the well-being of women. This industry has in recent years branched out; it has targeted the previously unknown and untapped revenue stream from the insecurity of men, with skin care and hair care regimens. As a lot of us have discovered as we age, physical beauty is a fleeting thing. In my youth, like a lot of young women, I relied heavily on my appearance and tied it directly to my self-worth. Fortunately, I was also an athlete, so I was able to build more confidence and self-esteem by competing fairly and squarely. Each win inspired a competative drive to want to win more. Each stinging loss taught me the value of needing more practice, finding the determination to work harder, swearing to myself to be more perseverant, and most imortantly, the ability to visualize that win. There are many factors that come into play for each individual when it comes to self-confidence. Education, a good support system, a balanced work-home life, good friends, good health, and financial security are just a few things that come to mind as traditional “recipies” to follow in order to have a fullfilling life. But what about the unkempt middle-aged guy who labours hard all day, has a big-beer-belly, sports the swagger of a MMA fighter, and has no problem approaching a woman that others might view as being beneath him? Where does his killer confidence come ? Why can’t a woman with a baby belly feel as confient? What is the dividing line? Why do men get more distinguished with wrinkles, age, and grey hair? Why is the same thing for women considered unbecoming? Why is is okay for men to be open and honest about sex and sexuality, but for women, it’s frowned upon, undignified even? The answers to these questions are going to vary from individual to individual because we don’t all value the same things. If we were luckly enough, and I was, we had parents who instilled the values we hold true to ourselves today. Of course, times change, but traditional values like honesty, dependability, and integrity, have not changed with time. They remain steadfast in many of us today.

Strong Woman

I have found it especially difficult in certain situations, to remain true to myself and my beliefs. Not that I find being honest and forthright difficult, far from it, but it’s the inevitable conflict that arises when dealing with individuals who like to blur the lines between what is right and what is wrong. A friend of mind, a medical Dr., recently recounted to me, “in order to be successful in politics, you need to be okay with getting into bed with some bad men.” (side note: her statement also reflects the dismal fact that men still dominate most aspects of the political arena) Almost sounds fun, but it’s not. I’ve dealt with these people. I’m sure I’ll be dealing with them again, but from now on the blinders will be off, along with the rose-coloured glasses. I haven’t lost my voice, I’ve been channeling my efforts into healing myself and learning. I’m always learning. I’ve learned some valuable lessons over the past six months. I do not let any lesson go to waste; these lessons will be incorporated into my interactions whenever I’m dealing with ANYONE involved in politics.

Soul Sisters

I am fortunate enough to say that I have killer confidence. I own my flaws and my faults, I own my analytical and strategic abilities, I own my frustrations and anger, I own my beauty and my sensuality, I own my good communications skills and my strong work ethic. Like the plethora of women now shouting out all over the world, I too will be heard. I thought I belong to a group that embraced diversity, and promoted inclusion, but I was proven sadly wrong from too many individuals that held executive positions, so I now know better. I could have belonged; I did belong, as long as I towed the line, and didn’t offer up any other opinion. In other words, just sit there and look pretty, but don’t question. Just nod your head in agreement or prepare for a barage of subtle but very incidious ways and means that will be used to drive you out. They aren’t monsters though, don’t get me wrong, they will give you a chance to mend your ways, by sending some trusty delegates to “have a talk with you”, under the guise of being your friend; or they may have different delegates send you messages or call you. The long and short of it is, belonging to something means having a seat at the table and having your voice be heard, and not just heard, listened to. My voice was stomped on, discouraged, met with scowls, laughter, and judgement; in spite of this, I did use my voice, loudly and often. This is why I’m no longer affiliated with that association. They leaned on me, and leaned on me, knowing I was in a very anxious, upset state, fighting off a serious depression. I fought them off for 6 long months all by myself. They tried to kill my confidence, but they only temporarily succeeded. I dusted off my knees and bounced right back. I am just one woman with a torch, but this torch will always be lit, guiding the way for anyone that wants to join me, or follow behind. I am but one match, but I will make an enormous explosion.

Photo by Donald Tong on Pexels.com

When you see the eyes lined with fire, of all the women ready to shove you aside, you will know we are here” – “Jen Smith ©️- 2019” #sheisnewbrunswick

Jen Smith The word Smith – A future with feminism
Eyes Lined With Fire
Breaking Barriers, Dealing With Mental Illness, featured content, Life From A Feminist's Perspective, Living Life On Your Own Terms, Living With Anxiety, Pressing the Hot Button, Women's Issues

Back to Basics

Freedom and Truth

Life thew me a few curve balls this year. 2019 has been a challenge for me from the get-go. Some challenges were whipped at me, some were lobbed, but all came at me steadily. As issues arose, I did my best to knock them out of the park. Either way, I stayed in the game. I stayed in the fight. Yes, I eventually got knocked down, it happens to the best of us. I got sucker-punched by those I thought I could count on and trust; make no mistake, I can take a hit and get back up again. I’m not going to pretend that it didn’t hurt. It hurt me really bad. It felt every cut very deeply. It may give those that tried hard to hurt me, some satisfaction to know that they at least partially succeeded, but that’s okay. I don’t mind. I’m healing. Like a lioness injured in a hunt on the Savannah, I had to run off and lick my wounds, alone. I had to get out of the game for a little while. Self-care is a priority for me right now. I had to remove all people and all ties that bound me to the association, from my life. I had to create a safe space. I had to reach out to and rely on my friends. I had to do things that made me happy, that made me feel whole. I started thinking about myself for a change instead of so many others. i have been putting my own needs first, and with each passing day, I allow the hurt to come, and feel it. I feel it and accept it, and put it in its proper place. I don’t try to suppress it and make it go away. Only an idiot would do that. I know that if I push this aside, it will only come back to knock me out later. This is simple psychology.

Time with family and friends is a priority for me

Nowhere Land

I’ve been in a weird spot lately. Everything that has been steady and consistent in my life has taken a new direction. My job, my friends, my political interests. Most importantly, how I decide to spend my time, who I decide to give my energy to, how invested I get, and who I am able to trust has changed dramatically over the past few months. I’ve been pressed to make a decision. It’s not like i’m in a hurry. I have been in the process of talking to as many people as possible and gathering as much information as possible. I like to make an informed decision. The thing is, all those years ago, when I felt the calling to join the Liberal party, and exhaust my efforts for my MP and the various MLA’s whom I supported, I didn’t have an exceptionally high level of trust then either. I keep asking myself, why I would allow things to get a bad as they did? Why was I so naive and trusting with people whom I should have known better than to give any trust to at all? It’s because I gave a little bit more of myself to these people with each day that passed. Each call bank I participated in, each day of action when we knocked on doors, each lawn sign I put up, each member I signed up personally, was done out of a deep belief and conviction. I allowed myself to be convinced that we were a solid team, that we were a big family, that we were friends, that we were doing something together to make a difference, that we had similar goals and aspirations for the people of New Brunswick. I thought that I was dealing with people that were honest and that had integrity. Don’t get me wrong, lots do; probably most of them. I had the misfortune of dealing with and choosing to believe in people I should’t have, because we wore the same political stripe. Most of the fault lies with me. I let myself get hoodwinked over the years. I saw things wearing red-tinted glasses. It was fun and it was fine as long as I agreed with everything, and didn’t question anyone. The moment I started veering off the beaten path, my days were numbered there. I knew it deep down. I was getting more audacious with each passing day, while simultaneously willing the turmoil in my mind to go away. As much as it hurt me, I know the loss is their’s, not mine to bear. This fiasco has forced me to look at myself and those around me differently. Nothing is inherently going to change about me, other than I’m going to listen more to my gut instinct, and my trust will never just be given away ever again in the political arena. From now on, my trust will be earned. I’m left with not having a home politically and not feeling like I don’t fit in anywhere else…yet. For now, I’m going to remain neutral. I know myself too well. I can’t party-jump because I need to know what exactly I’m jumping into. I need something that is a good fit for me. I need something to inspire me, something to grab hold and ignite my passion. As of today, I’m just not feeling it at all; so I wait. I keep talking and observing. I keep holding people to account that need to be. I continue to express my opinions, for what they are worth. I will continue to enjoy my life and live freely with no pretensions or worries about who I am. I know who I am, and what I have to offer. So do the multitudes of people who support me. I am lucky and I am grateful to every one of you. The day will come, in the not-so-distant-future, when I will meet face-to-face, those that intentionally tried to do me harm. They will feel the scorch of my fire; I will remind them that I am a force to be reckoned with. That day of reckoning is coming.

When you see the eyes lined with fire, of all the women ready to shove you aside, you will know we are here.

Jen Smith the word smith – a future with feminism
Breaking Barriers, Dealing With Mental Illness, featured content, Life From A Feminist's Perspective, Living Life On Your Own Terms, Living With Anxiety, Pressing the Hot Button, Suicide Prevention, Women's Issues

Coming Back From the Edge

Soul Sisters

Those of you that follow my blog and my social media know that I struggled with things that happened between me and an association with which I am no longer affiliated. Things were said. Things that did not sit well with me. Things were done. Things that did not line up with what I believed to be right. People who I admired and respected, had suddenly cast themselves in a different light, a darker light. I became leery of those that I had put the most stock in. We may have once shared ideas and visions, but we do not share the same principles, nor do we share the same concept of what is right and what is wrong; mostly we do not agree on accepted practices how they treat their own people who disagree with them. Unfortunately, I have nobody to blame for that except me. I have very high expectations of myself, and that extends to those around me whom I hold in high esteem. The difference between me and some of those that wield power in this association is, I have a problem hurting people. I have a problem turning a blind eye and not saying something when I know wrong is being done to someone. Up until January, I had only seen the fun side of politics. The campaigns where I had found so much enthusiasm and hope, grabbed something in me and held on, even in the face of bitter defeat. The camaraderie and the team work, with everyone pitching in and making an effort to reach a collective goal. The shared grief and disappointment, when a candidate you had been exhaustively supporting, sees defeat at the polls. It’s all part of it, and I don’t regret a minute of the time I spent on campaigns that I have been a part of, and contributed to significantly. There are some memories I will always reflect on as a positive learning experience, others were learning experiences, but not the lessons I thought they’d be. My world got rocked, and not in a good way. My hands were tied, in some ways they still are. I went off lately.. a lot. I finally released the pent-up frustrations, and the bitter taste of blood in my mouth, from the blows I received from what I thought were my people. Obviously, I was wrong, my people would have never done that to me.

I feel I owe some an apology. My family and friends, who saw me struggle, but could do nothing but watch, stand behind me, and offer support when it was needed. To those that talked to me, and sent me messages, sometimes just to say hi and check up on me. All of you have seen me process and know the lengths I will go to in order to live up to what has been demanded of me all these years, trying to do the right thing. Granted, I may have missed the mark a few times, but that is typical of the steep learning curve called life. I missed the mark recently, and for that, I am sorry. The mind is a curious thing. I know my intelligence is a gift, and I have tried to use it to benefit myself and my children as best as I could. Challenging my mind has always been one of my favourite things to do, and I usually don’t take it for granted, until I was hit with a sudden and overwhelming depression recently; my mind betrayed me. It wasn’t working like it usually did. A part of it would think logically, and ground itself in fact-based knowledge, but a part of it was cloudy, and seemed just out of my reach. This is mental illness. It doesn’t matter how smart or educated you are, when it grips you, it’s powerful and consuming, despite relentless efforts to gain control. I am responsible for my actions and my words, of this I have no doubt. The efforts others went to, to deliberately isolate me, and “punish” me for not towing the line, were stressors that contributed significantly to the decline in my mental health. As they circled closer, my disbelief and distrust grew stronger; subsequently, so did my defiance. All I can say is that I was desperately hurting. I had to hold it in for months. I couldn’t talk to them about it because it pissed them off; I tried many times with many different people. I couldn’t question them, and even when I did, they hid behind legislation or feeble answers. I stuffed my hurt for months, feeling helpless and more hopeless with each day that passed with no resolution. Like a bomb, I was bound to go off. Eventually I did, and I did it with gusto. The recipient of my pent-up hurt and inevitable anger was the executive director of this association. I expressed my hurt, my frustration, and my struggle, openly and honestly, with my usual blunt candor. While it was mostly polite, I used a vulgar expression to communicate the helplessness I felt at the time. My honesty and forthrightness was not well received to say the least, but it did teach me a valuable lesson, or several of them: rich people who have lived a life of immense privilege do not like to be questioned or criticized, and have no idea what we “normal” people go through every day of our lives. They have literally no clue. It’s like growing up on different planets. I’ve had to rely on my own resourcefulness just to feed myself and my kids, just to survive. We were so poor when I was going to university, I couldn’t buy them any Christmas presents. I had to rely on the food bank to feed them a few times when they were little. I didn’t have friends in high places to call upon when life threw my a curve ball. I didn’t have my family’s wealth and power to bail me out of situations. I had to fight tooth and nail for everything I have had in my life. Nothing has come easy for me. When you’ve had to fight in the trenches for survival, you aren’t going to be relatable to someone that has lived a pampered life. That being said, while I was in the grip of depression, I was not able to think clearly, and I was rude to this person. I didn’t feel in control at the time, but I do now. As much as it pains me and humbles me, I apologize to him as well, for the onslaught of verbal frustrations that I thrust upon him. I can’t make him do the right thing, and frankly, I’m not interested in trying anymore. This is about personal accountability. This is for me as much as it is for him. If there is one thing I try to do, it’s own my shit and take responsibility for it. I am as upfront as anyone can get. I am going to continue to express my opinions and my feelings, but I will do it in a manner that is expected of me, and that I expect of myself. Throughout my “dive into the deep end”, if you will, I hurt people unintentionally. I didn’t realize just how powerful my words can be, and the collateral damage that they could cause. It’s not like I have a lot of experience with depression. I have only been there one other time in my life, when I was a teenager. I did not see the warning signs in myself. I had no idea I was going to plummet to such depths of despair, when faced with thoughtlessness and rejection from my social group. How could I when I’ve never really been there before? Of course, things became clearer after the fact. Hindsight is always 20/20. It wasn’t until I dug out my old sociology textbooks and delved in, that I remembered just how devastating being ostracized by your social group can be. The reason I had to dig out these old books was because I tried to make an appointment to get help, to get counselling, and I faced what other’s already knew; there is little to no help available. There are waiting lists. This help is over $100 per/hr. Those of us that live pay check to pay check can not afford such things. This is unacceptable. There are a staggering number of people that are suffering everyday, so close to the edge it would surprise you; it surprised me. When I was at my lowest recently, I felt suicidal. I can hardly believe it myself honestly. I have never in my life gone so far down a road that led to nowhere good. I feel shame about it, but I’m trying hard not to. It’s important to acknowledge and talk about it, for me and for others, to help bring awareness and end the stigma associated with mental illness. Thankfully, that dark period didn’t last long, and I was able to bring myself back from the very edge. I won’t get into details about how close I came to ending it all, but if anyone needs to talk, I’m open to discussing it. Only someone that has been there is going to truly understand. I didn’t understand until I experienced it so deeply. I did what I had to do to survive, as always. I’m okay, and I always will be. I am a fighter, and I will harness that survivor’s instinct.

New Beginnings are often disguised as painful endings. My ownness and responsibility begins and ends with deciding to stay as long as I did. I stayed because we shared a lot of laughs and good times, amid the struggles and disappointments. I stayed because when I give my word, I mean it. I stayed because I believed in the ideology, I still do. I stayed because I identified, because I felt like I belonged to something that I thought would make things better for everyone. For the most part, I believe that is still the case. Unfortunately, as is usual with most of the decision makers and legislators, men and money are the driving force behind the secret agendas common folk know nothing about. The day is coming when that will change, not likely soon, but I can never give up hope. I will wait patiently for a day of reckoning. As I said before in my blog post, “Back in the Saddle Again”, “when you see the bright eyes lined with fire, of all the women ready to shove you aside, you will know we are here.” I am going to be standing at the front of this line, arm-in-arm with my sisters and others that have felt your sting, ready to take our rightful place along side you. Be ready.

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My Struggle – I am not Alone! ❤️

afuturewithfeminism.files.wordpress.com/2019/06/img_2737.mov

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MP Fredericton – Matt DeCourcey

I am so excited to see what Matt will continue to do for our Fredericton riding over the next few years. Proud to be a small part of it! His youthful exuberance can’t be replicated, or faked! It’s refreshing to have someone respresent all of us, no matter what. Most importantly, Matt cares about women’s rights and our youth. Help re-elect him!!

#teamdecourcey

matt3

matt2

matt1

matt4

matt DOA pelky etc

matt team

hargit

 

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Help keep a strong voice. Re-elect Matt DeCourcey! MP Fredericton

www.facebook.com/mattdecourceyfredericton/videos/406795096543438/

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The Wild Card

Bitches Get Things Done

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It’s been a little while since I felt like I was in the right head space to be able to blog. Technically, it wasn’t as much about the head space I was in, as much as it was NOT being able to write freely about what it is that has been troubling my mind as of late. Actually, I still can’t. My hands are tied, at least for the time being. It’s not like anyone tied them. I bound them myself with my unwavering loyalty and a sense of duty that I cannot shake. The words come to me so easily yet I find myself having to keep hitting that backspace bar routinely, because as I have often had to remind myself every time I tried to put pen to paper lately, “you can’t write that.” Let’s not forget what is important right now. There are dirty little secrets people don’t want spilled. Secrets that would cast them in a very negative light, not to mention the bad publicity that would soon follow. Tsk Tsk. No worries! Your secrets are safe with me. I like having aces up my sleeve! Being part of a team means being conscious of those around me and what their needs are. I respect my team. It’s for them that I am holding onto these shameful goings-on. The day and time will come when you will have to answer for these actions; if not from someone else, then definitely from me, when the time is right. I’m like an elephant; I NEVER forget. 

photo of standing woman making shhh gesture
Photo by David Fagundes on Pexels.com

 It’s been a revealing time; a learning experience. I hardly remember feeling such harsh disappointment like I have felt in recent months, not only in some people who I previously held in the highest esteem, but mostly in the ideals and values that I thought we stood for. At the same time, I have felt such elation after having jumped every single hurdle or smashed apart each obstacle placed in my path. Things that were meant to wear me down instead gave me power. I may have, at times, had to slow down and catch my breath, but only temporarily, and never for long. Throughout the mental exhaustion, I never gave up. It’s just not in me to do that. I will fight for what I believe in until i take my last breath. There have been both good and bad experiences. I have learned that some people I thought were my friends, are not, but I have also made new friendships that have been built on blood, sweat, and tears while trying to achieve a common goal. These friendships are the best kind. I am grateful for all of them. I have seen people in positions of power, use their authority in the most sneaky, dirty, underhanded ways. These people use their power to crush those beneath them. What these people will find out, if they haven’t already, is, I am NOT so easy to crush. I am not intimidated. I never back down. I willingly accept the challenge. I will not go quietly or gently into the night, I will take some along with me for that ride. I mean, literally, I am a survivor!  #metoo

lighted matchstick on brown wooden surface
Photo by Sebastian Sørensen on Pexels.com

 

I just want all of you to know that I deeply appreciate every word of encouragement, every message of support, and every kind gesture that so many of you sent my way. I even want to thank those that have taught me valuable lessons. I absorbed it all. There are no bad lessons. Just lessons well learned. I took one on the chin a few months ago, for something I believed in. I still believe in it or I wouldn’t be here. I just pulled my head out of the sand and chose to see the reality around me instead of the yarn that was being spun. It was like I was lost in the desert staring at a mirage. The image i was clinging to inevitably ebbed away. I’m staring back at a place that holds no sustenance, and if I don’t start moving I will slowly die waiting for it to come to me. 

You may hurt me but you will never define who I am or what I stand for.  Every struggle I have faced has made me stronger, smarter, and more resilient as a woman. I did not break. I will never break. I have the strength of too many women behind me to not carry on and move forward. I have many male friends and allies that I can count on to support me when I need it. I thank every one of you. 

I know I may have taken some people by surprise, that’s why I’m a wild card. I can honestly say that it shouldn’t have come as a shock. I felt like I got backed into a corner. This requires a defensive play. I was not disillusioned. I knew what I was up against; patriarchy. Again, I was defeated by power, money, and an unfair system. That’s alright though. I learn something new every…single…time, and throw in my own spin just for fun. I accept all challenges head-on, and i am eagerly looking forward to the next one that comes my way. 

black queen chess piece
Photo by George Becker on Pexels.com

 

Ladies, just remember we are as powerful, intelligent, and as calculating as any man on the planet. We are a force to be reckoned with, especially when we stick together. Remember that. 

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My ❤️ My Legacy

www.facebook.com/613785897/posts/10158242309945898

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My Moral Dilemma – Yes, I’m Still Talking About Racism

 

 

Four years ago I felt compelled to get involved in national politics in my local riding in New Brunswick. I always paid attention to the goings-on in the world, but from a safe place sitting on the sidelines. My passion for women’s equality, coupled with a drive to do something to make a difference in my community, my province, and my country, spurred me to randomly hit a volunteer button on a Facebook page one day while I was scrolling through my news feed. It was a political candidate page for Fredericton MP Matt DeCourcey. I knew nothing about Matt prior to stumbling upon his advertisement to recruit volunteers. After reading up on who he was and the objectives he set out to accomplish, I listened to my gut instinct and delved in further. Something made me press that button that day. I had never done anything of the like before. I honestly thought that my name would be one along side many, and that I would likely never be contacted. Instead, twenty minutes later I received a call from his volunteer coordinator asking me to get on board. I reluctantly said “yes.” Much to my surprise, she asked me if I could meet them that evening and join Matt going door-to-door to talk to residents in the riding. That day was a significant turning point in my life. It ignited the spark that was lying in wait. Matt was someone I could easily get behind, and the ideologies of the party lined up almost perfectly with my own sense of what is right and what is wrong. The spark that was ignited that day has turned into a raging fire. It’s an inferno I am not able to extinguish. I have been actively involved in volunteering for Matt’s team every time I am asked, no matter what the request is, unless I am working, injured, or travelling. This is a party for which I feel immense affiliation and loyalty. There have been some mistakes made along the way, we are not perfect, but overall I am happy with our party, and our vision of what Canada is, and should be. You see, I was raised by an educated, community-involved, socially concious family. There are many snippets of wisdom I can recall my father imparting on me when I was a youth as I was on my way out the door to hang out with friends. “Keep your head on straight” was something I frequently heard. Another, oft-repeated lesson he impressed upon me was, “there is a right thing to do, and a wrong thing to do.” At the time it seemed fluffy and philosophical; it didn’t impact my way of thinking immediately. I was a teenager, I had bigger things to worry about. As I aged and made mistakes, especially colossal ones, those expressions my father recounted to me when I was young would spin around in my mind like a neon sign, reminding me of my roots, reminding me of the values they instilled in me; values that grabbed a firm hold inside and grew exponentially through every difficult situation and moral equivocation I have ever had to consider. It is what made me sit for months every day with my developmentally challenged aunt while she was dying of brain cancer, despite the initial instinct to want to protect my own mental health with physical distance. It is what demanded me to take on a corporate giant all alone for ignoring discriminating practices in the work place against women… and win. It is what made me sit for over an hour on the side of a dark, deserted highway with a young girl that slid in the ditch, waiting for her parents to arrive, because I couldn’t leave her alone and vulnerable. There is ALWAYS a right thing to do and a wrong thing to do.

presnewborn

When I recently heard about leadership candidates rumoured to be running in New Brunswick for my party, I decided to look into things a little further. I had been hearing conjecture up until that point without any evidence, so I started scrolling through Facebook to glean some information. Like that day four years ago, I felt something I couldn’t explain. I felt nervous, if not somewhat unsubstantiated apprehension about one possible candidate. The other candidate gave me a good feeling, but I still didn’t know enough. I messaged several candidates and asked pointed questions. Just to be clear about something, I am not a person that gets a “gut feeling” very often. I believe in science-based evidence and reasonable conclusions based on logical hypotheses. Almost every gut feeling I have ever had has been related to a man. Perhaps my past childhood trauma, inflicted by a man who had power over me, forced me to consider subtleties very closely. I know I am not the only woman who experiences this. After a few weeks of talking to random people about the candidates, comments about one candidate, such as, “a black man will never win” started to make my stomach clinch. I knew that we were openly racist years ago. I thought we were over that kind of thinking, other than the pockets of knuckle-draggers that embrace overt racist ideology. I really thought the general population of New Brunswick had grown over the years and embraced diversity. We talk about it all the time. We espouse it in our advertisements, in our language, and in our schools. We all say the right things at the appropriate times; but when it comes right down to it, we all still hold onto our prejudice. If we confirm these biases with the language we use, are we not embracing racist ideology? By saying, and agreeing with, “a black man will never get elected in NB”, we are giving weight to and instilling that very concept. A concept that states, it’s okay to be a person of colour and live here; live here and contribute to our economy, pay taxes and help us build, but for God sakes do not for one minute think about leading our white province. No Way. If you have deceived yourself into thinking, “it’s not me that thinks that way, it’s everybody else. It’s just the way it is”, then I have some questions for you. How do you think others came to this conclusion? Did you take a poll? Did you talk to every New Brunswicker? Was there a news story I missed that addressed these issues then came up with this conclusion? People have reached this conclusion because they have discussed it. They have discussed it, and are okay with it. They have accepted this way of thinking as being okay. It’s not. It’s far from okay. It’s downright embarrassing and disappointing. I do not want to leave our children with a province that is known to be racist. We are better than that. We are New Brunswickers. We are Maritimers. We are supposed to be the most friendly and welcoming people in all of Canada. We can’t just give the best opportunities to white people. We can not afford to stick our head in the sand about this isuue any longer. I thought I had a good handle on our provincial “temperature.” I thought we were inclusive and accepting; until I started to “unofficially” help a black political candidate. My reality was shaken to it’s core; it was a direct assault to my senses. Every politician of every political stripe knows how badly we need immigration to help build our population, our economy, and our province. Why would others want to come here if they are going to be treated differently? How can we invite other people to live here, and then treat them like the enemy when we do? Maybe more people would settle here if they felt welcome, and included, and accepted, not judged.

I agonized for weeks over whether to assist a candidate with a campaign. Initially I had no reservations, but after hearing so many negative comments because of the colour of his skin(even one from my own family), I felt inner turmoil. I was told not to waste my time. I was told a black man won’t win. I was told to wait and get on board with the “winning” team. I was told that New Brunswick was just racist and not to stress myself out by giving too much thought to it. I felt the barrier like it was a tangible thing; like it was a WALL.  I was comfortable with my decision initially because I was woefully ignorant about how we really think in New Brunswick. I had my head in the sand. When I first saw this candidate I didn’t even give a thought to what colour his skin was or where he was born. I looked at his education, experience, qualifications, and his level of compassion and dedication towards those that are disadvantaged and less fortunate. I saw a person that demonstratively cares about the little person and felt good about that; then others started filling my head with doubt and comments that caused me anxiety. It was only a few days ago that I realized the source of my anxiety. My granddaughter is a visible minority with brown skin.

me n presley
Proud to be Grammy to this little girl from the Saint Mary’s First Nation

 

I suddenly made the connection. She was going to face the same kinds of awful things other non-white people do who live here in New Brunswick. This realization hit me like a brick in the face, and triggered a primal, maternal instinct in me that is an incredibly inexplicable, powerful force. This is now personal. The internal struggle that was fiercely battling inside me ended the moment I realized I was fighting for the future of my grandaughter and others like her.  The values my family instilled in me demand I live up to the those expectations left with me. Everything changed for me a few years ago, the moment I realized I would be leaving this legacy to my own children. I have to show them and my granddaughter that doing the right thing is hard sometimes. It can be isolating, and can leave you feeling vulnerable. I’ll be perfectly honest, up until I realized what was at stake for my granddaughter’s future, there was a part of me that wanted to give in to the external pressures I had been facing; to make life easier for myself. Herein lies my dilemma; do the easy thing, or do the right thing. I know I’m facing an uphill battle but it’s one I will gladly climb for the sake of my children, my granddaughter, and for the future of New Brunswick. I’d rather take the loss than live with the regret; otherwise I’m rejecting the very same values that I, and those I hold most dearly, treasure the most. Win, lose, or draw I am on #teamwinner. I choose the side of right over might.

 

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Reacting to Racism

My beautiful, adventurous, thoughtful granddaughter. A proud St. Mary’s First Nation band member.

This is by far one of the trickiest posts I have attempted to write; mostly because I feel like I have to tread lightly here, and I don’t like that feeling. It’s like walking on egg shells. I refuse to be intimidated or non-overtly bullied. I’ve never allowed it since I was a kid; I’m not about to start now. I make a consious effort to be open-minded, and to consider all perspectives. I often land somewhere in the grey area between the black and white. There are; however, lines drawn in the sand for one or two specific issues. These are lines that I don’t cross. Some people are trying to put their foot down on that line. I’m not afraid to tell you it really hurts my heart. There are some things that need to be said, about who we are, about what we represent, about the ideals we embrace, and about how we think and act towards others. Especially towards others that look different, or have different cultures or customs than we do in our homonogeously white province.

I heard racial comments about a candidate running in a leadership race when I was out and about recently. The candidate is a man of colour.  I’m positive my mouth dropped opened and I know my eyes were surely as wide as saucers. I wear my heart on my face not on my sleeve. It’s called resting-bitch-face for a reason. I did not say anything. I let it slide. I made excuses. I kept the peace. Days later I noticed this candidate’s face on my profile when I was scrolling through Facebook. I took some time to do a little research about what this candidate could offer. I was impressed with some aspects about this candidate but there was an area of concern. I always exercise due diligence and seek as much information as possible, from as many different sources as can. I analyse everything from every conceivable avenue so that I can make a fact-based decision. Part of my research was talking to random people I knew from different backgrounds and socio-economic classes. The first time someone actually said to me, “NB will never elect a black man“, there is no way possible I could impress upon you the superhuman effort it took for me not to bite this person’s head off, figuratively speaking. I thought maybe it was an anomaly. I was sadly proven wrong the days following the first incident. Pretty soon, no matter who I asked, the response was, “We are not ready to elect a black man yet. It’s not me that thinks that. We are just not ready.”  I lost count of how many people told me various versions of the same thing. So, I have some questions:

When will we be ready?

Next year?

2025??

When?

You see, I have been squashing my feelings about this every single time someone has said words to me about this candidate, this man of colour. I have a precious, beautiful, smarter-than-your-average-bear granddaughter. She is almost 3 years old. She is aboriginal. She is a person of colour. The message I’m receiving is this: it sucks that parts of, or lots of people in NB are so racist, but… it is what it is. Translated: my granddaughter, a person of colour, has no hope in hell of every considering running for political office in NB. Two strikes against her right off the bat; her skin colour and her gender. I will say this much. Like I did for my children, I will do everything in my power to ensure this astounding little girl, and others like her, will have every opportunity available. I do not accept willful ignorance about racism. I do not accept that this is the way it will always be. We can do better and we have to do better. We can’t keep teaching the younger generations that this is the way things should be. Racism isn’t born, it is taught. 

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com
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Climbing her Everest

“I was taught that the way of progress is neither swift nor easy.” – Marie Currie in Pierre Currie (1936), 167

https://todayinsci.com/C/Curie_Marie/CurieMarie-Quotations.htm

Like everyone else, I take on issues that are near and dear to my heart. I’m a women who has experienced unfair practices at work because of my gender. I don’t think there’s a woman alive that hasn’t felt the sting of discrimination. We’ve been made to feel less than, or out of place and uncomfortable in certain situations. If there is a woman that has been unscathed by aspects of discrimination, I’d like to talk to her and find out what her secret is. We all feel it. We either let it bounce off or take it to heart and let it spur a call to action within ourselves. I have done both. It’s important to pick our battles. I can’t fight every cause out there, although I feel very strongly about many of them. I can only speak about my own experiences and of those whom I’ve witnessed enduring frustrating accepted practices while trying to break down barriers. Some of us are killing it, some of us are coasting, and some of us are barely making it. The fact that women still face discrimination in the work force is common knowledge. Women facing discrimination in STEM fields is not as commonly discussed. These are areas that have been, and still are, dominated my men. These are very competitive fields that require a significant commitment to years of education, time, and research. My daughter is a women of science, educated in medicinal chemistry; a second year PhD candidate in the very competitive field of pharmacology. She’s more than half way up that mountain. This is her Everest. She’s planned each moment down to every last detail.

For clarification purposes, pharmacology is not the same as pharmacy. Pharmacy briefly defined is: a profession in which a licensed Pharmacist dispenses, monitors, administers, and counsels about prescription drugs and overall well-being.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pharmacist

Pharmacology briefly defined is: the science of drugs; including their origin, composition, pharmacokinetics, therapeutic use, and toxicology.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pharmacologyhttps://www.merriam-webster.com

My daughter first experienced discrimination when she was in high school. As a top honours student, she took education very seriously. She knew the goals she had in mind and focused like a lion bearing down on it’s prey. Suddenly she was struggling. She was having a hard time in a relatively easy class. It was a male teacher. She felt creeped out by him. This teacher was very flirty and had leering eyes. My daughter’s friend had no issue being that “teacher’s pet.” My daughter had a huge issue. This teacher had the perfect set up for having complete power and control over whomever he wanted. There were no tests. There were no exams. There were no definitive ways to demonstrate knowledge learned. My daughter had to rely on a man she felt uncomfortable around, in a course that she needed, with a marking scheme over which she had no control. When she finally told me, I approached the school like a mother bear protecting her cub. The administration did a great job at two things; keeping it quiet and doing as little as possible to help my daughter. Long story short, the teacher was very calculating and raised her marks just enough to give her a 94.4% final average. Great mark! Not good enough for the biggest scholarship prizes. She still received decent scholarships, enough that she had very little to no debt throughout her undergrad years. An interesting point about this is; the teacher’s pet who won the huge scholarships, dropped out of sciences in university. My daughter pressed on with nothing but her end goal in mind.

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/voices/gender-discrimination-in-science-is-especially-common/

While she was an undergrad she did a biophysical chemistry internship at an Ivy league school. This is where she found herself in a position of having to endure discrimination yet again in order to get ahead. All the men at this world class research facility were allowed to wear shorts; not women. Men could wear sandals; not women. Women couldn’t show any leg or ankle in the lab but for men it was tolerated. The last issue for my daughter was dealing with her own feelings about how women feel they need to portray themselves to get ahead or to be taken seriously. When she applied for grad school she had a series of Skype interviews that determined, in part, whether or not she would be accepted into this very prestigious, very competitive program. When I saw her right before her interview, I noticed how dressed down she was, and how she wore no make up. I questioned her about this. Her reply was, “I don’t want to look too pretty.” A little part of me died inside hearing this. Not just because she felt that way, but because society still puts such huge pressure on women to look one way or another for certain roles. One thing is for sure; forging ahead facing unique challenges in life is certain to test the will and strength of any woman. I’m happy to say that my daughter, who sacrificed so much to be where she is today, is settled and knows where she is going. The rigid demands of applying for funding, doing research, getting published, and going to classes are offset by intermittent visits home and letting loose with friends; sporting the confidence of an educated, worldly young woman.

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I am changing the things I can not accept.” ~ Angela Davis

Allow Yourself To Have Fun

My daughter has subscribed to the high performance pressure that has been put on the women in our family for a long time. Her accomplishments are great and I’m obviously fiercely proud. What makes me happier lately is knowing that she has learned to let her hair down and have fun. This is very important for somebody who has tunnel vision with an unyielding dedication to her education. She’s learning that it’s not just about reaching the summit. It’s the climb.

Women's Issues

Run With My Pride, Don’t bark…Roar!


There is little as impressive as watching a lioness valiantly defending her cubs from other predators. Even more astonishing is when she and her tightly knit female pride members band together to protect their cubs from rogue male lions. They risk life and limb in fierce battles against these vagrants that have come into the pride territory for a take over. Some female lions just accept the inevitable and watch helplessly as the new Kings of the Pride kill their young cubs. I’m impressed with the lioness that aggressively attacks a mature male lion in it’s prime that is twice her size and weight. Her ferocity is explosive. Many a time the females are able to fend off the male lions. I think we do the same thing. Some of us passively accept what life has thrown at us. Some of us go down swinging, only to rise up though the fire; stronger, tougher, resilient, tenacious, wiser, and determined. We also learn compassion, empathy, tolerance, acceptance, healing, and understanding. Certain things that happened to me as a woman make me want to roar. It’s instinct to want to speak up and protect myself and other women. Instead, I roar in a different way. I speak loudly, but I speak respectfully and stay on point. I speak out when I see a slight against women in any setting, in any forum, to anyone, regardless of position, prestige, or political power. If I don’t speak out, my face says it all for me.

Photo by Public Domain Pictures on Pexels.com

That little back cloud that followed me around for a couple months seems to have blown away. That’s life. Sometimes bad things happen. It’s out of our control. We can control the way we deal with it. For me, I feel driven to address the issues that keep women in a state of oppression. Why we feel so pressured to conform to unrealistic expectations put on us by many? Why are we left out or ignored when surrounded by a group of men in a business environment? Why is it when a woman express anger she’s called, “crazy” or “hysterical?” Why do men feel thay can talk over us? Why do men try to use their size, wealth, or power to intimidate us? Why do some men feel threatened by or intimidated by strong, independant women? These are things that happen to me and to women every day. Most of the time I take it in stride. Other times it gets pretty intense. Either way, we can’t sit around passively and watch our pride get taken over. We need to stick together. We need to support each other. We need to celebrate each other’s victories and console each other in defeat. We stand together united in a goal to achieve equality. Nothing less, nothing more. 

silhouette of four people against sun background
Photo by Dennis Magati on Pexels.com
Breaking Barriers, Discrimination Against Women In Sciences, featured content, Gender Discrimination In The WorkPlace, Life From A Feminist's Perspective, Living Life On Your Own Terms, Thoughts to Ponder, Women's Issues

Climbing her Everest

“I was taught that the way of progress is neither swift nor easy.” – Marie Currie in Pierre Currie (1936), 167

https://todayinsci.com/C/Curie_Marie/CurieMarie-Quotations.htm

Like everyone else, I take on issues that are near and dear to my heart. I’m a women who has experienced unfair practices at work because of my gender. I don’t think there’s a woman alive that hasn’t felt the sting of discrimination. We’ve been made to feel less than, or out of place and uncomfortable in certain situations. If there is a woman that has been unscathed by aspects of discrimination, I’d like to talk to her and find out what her secret is. We all feel it. We either let it bounce off or take it to heart and let it spur a call to action within ourselves. I have done both. It’s important to pick our battles. I can’t fight every cause out there, although I feel very strongly about many of them. I can only speak about my own experiences and of those whom I’ve witnessed enduring frustrating accepted practices while trying to break down barriers. Some of us are killing it, some of us are coasting, and some of us are barely making it. The fact that women still face discrimination in the work force is common knowledge. Women facing discrimination in STEM fields is not as commonly discussed. These are areas that have been, and still are, dominated my men. These are very competitive fields that require a significant commitment to years of education, time, and research. My daughter is a women of science, educated in medicinal chemistry; a second year PhD candidate in the very competitive field of pharmacology. She’s more than half way up that mountain. This is her Everest. She’s planned each moment down to every last detail.

For clarification purposes, pharmacology is not the same as pharmacy. Pharmacy briefly defined is: a profession in which a licensed Pharmacist dispenses, monitors, administers, and counsels about prescription drugs and overall well-being.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pharmacisthttps://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pharmacist

Pharmacology briefly defined is: the science of drugs; including their origin, composition, pharmacokinetics, therapeutic use, and toxicology.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pharmacologyhttps://www.merriam-webster.com

My daughter first experienced discrimination when she was in high school. As a top honours student, she took education very seriously. She knew the goals she had in mind and focused like a lion bearing down on it’s prey. Suddenly she was struggling. She was having a hard time in a relatively easy class. It was a male teacher. She felt creeped out by him. This teacher was very flirty and had leering eyes. My daughter’s friend had no issue being that “teacher’s pet.” My daughter had a huge issue. This teacher had the perfect set up for having complete power and control over whomever he wanted. There were no tests. There were no exams. There were no definitive ways to demonstrate knowledge learned. My daughter had to rely on a man she felt uncomfortable around, in a course that she needed, with a marking scheme over which she had no control. When she finally told me, I approached the school like a mother bear protecting her cub. The administration did a great job at two things; keeping it quiet and doing as little as possible to help my daughter. Long story short, the teacher was very calculating and raised her marks just enough to give her a 94.4% final average. Great mark! Not good enough for the biggest scholarship prizes. She still received decent scholarships, enough that she had very little to no debt throughout her undergrad years. An interesting point about this is; the teacher’s pet who won the huge scholarships, dropped out of sciences in university. My daughter pressed on with nothing but her end goal in mind.

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/voices/gender-discrimination-in-science-is-especially-common/

While she was an undergrad she did a biophysical chemistry internship at an Ivy league school. This is where she found herself in a position of having to endure discrimination yet again in order to get ahead. All the men at this world class research facility were allowed to wear shorts; not women. Men could wear sandals; not women. Women couldn’t show any leg or ankle in the lab but for men it was tolerated. The last issue for my daughter was dealing with her own feelings about how women feel they need to portray themselves to get ahead or to be taken seriously. When she applied for grad school she had a series of Skype interviews that determined, in part, whether or not she would be accepted into this very prestigious, very competitive program. When I saw her right before her interview, I noticed how dressed down she was, and how she wore no make up. I questioned her about this. Her reply was, “I don’t want to look too pretty.” A little part of me died inside hearing this. Not just because she felt that way, but because society still puts such huge pressure on women to look one way or another for certain roles. One thing is for certain; forging ahead facing unique challenges in life is certain to test the will and strength of any woman. I’m happy to say that my daughter, who sacrificed so much to be where she is today, is settled and knows where she is going. The rigid demands of applying for funding, doing research, getting published, and going to classes are offset by intermittent visits home and letting loose with friends; sporting the confidence of an educated, worldly, young woman.

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change, I am changing the things I can not accept.” ~ Angela Davis

https://artmuseumteaching.com/2017/10/11/changing-the-things-we-cannot-accept/

Allow Yourself To Have Fun

My daughter has subscribed to the high performance pressure that has been put on the women in our family for a long time. Her accomplishments are great and I’m obviously fiercely proud. What makes me happier lately is knowing that she has learned to let her hair down and have fun. This is very important for somebody who has tunnel vision with an unyielding dedication to her education. Shes learning that it’s not just about reaching the summit. It’s the climb.

Breaking Barriers, featured content, Life From A Feminist's Perspective, Living Life On Your Own Terms, Pressing the Hot Button, Thoughts to Ponder, Women's Issues

Walking Through Fire Together

Being a feminist is by times admittedly exhausting. Like any other perspective or point of view it’s open to interpretation. Just like every other situation in life, I can’t please everybody. I can only focus on how I perceive things, and how I break down and analyze all sources of information. I draw on my own personal experiences and the barriers I’ve faced, the roadblocks I’ve barrelled through and setbacks I’ve endured. I’ve experienced the seemingly benign but insidious means an organization can use to discourage females from not only applying for, but feeling welcomed and supported in a traditionally male-dominated profession. I’ve worked for a major organization and later found out my male counterparts got paid more than I did for doing the exact same job. This organization has had to be taken to court and was forced to pay women that were affected retroactively. I sill hear to this day, “women don’t want to work on road construction. It’s dirty and hot.” My immediate thoughts go to our service women that give up their life, or the life they know, engaging in combat roles for our country. Comments like this keep me pressing forward. Just the other day I was looking up the definitions of strength for a blog I was writing. Just for kicks I looked up the definition of woman. The very first definition I came across on my phone defined women as being the “weaker/fairer sex.” When I still see accepted practices of discrimination against women I am going to push back. I’m going to push back hard. Whomever is on the other end of this metaphorical push is going to feel it. They are going to feel the intensity and insistence of my passion. I am undeterred, despite the criticism I’ve received from feminists that hold a more extreme view than I do. I’m not feminist “enough” according to some. The basis for this claim is because I am open to discussing women’s issues with men. I’m in search of equality. I don’t believe that alienating the gender that holds most of the power, wealth, and political representation the world over is a good idea. I think non-confrontational dialogue is essential to understanding the issues that women are trying to bring to light. Men are not our enemy. They are certainly not mine. I feel fortunate to have the women I do in my life, but I’m equally grateful for my male allies as well. Then there’s the flip-side of the coin. To others, I’m too feminist. I bring up women’s issues too often. I hear the laughs and notice the barely-restrained eye-rolls when I bring an issue to the table. I’ve felt the frustration directed towards me for bringing women’s unacknowledged contributions to attention. I look at it like this: if we all embraced apathy, willful ignorance, or leaving the job to someone else, women would never have gotten anywhere. It’s not like the rights that we’ve fought hard to win, were going to be relinquished to us without serious and sustained effort on our part. I acknowledge that we have come a long way, and I’m encouraged by that, but it certainly seems as if some people are tired of hearing about women’s issues, or are feeling threatened by the #metoo movement. The way I see that is, if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear. If you are raising boys, they have nothing to fear. Teach them respect and boundaries. Educate them about personal space, and the fact that no means no. Teach them that without a doubt a girl that is passed out drunk, or unable to walk without assistance, is not able to give consent. She is off-limits. I’ve raised a son and I’ve taught him these very things. I shared with him the pain of my experiences. I have no worries that anything will ever come back to him because he was taught to be respectful. He’s raising a toddler on his own. A single father of a little girl. Not only a girl, but a Maliseet girl of the Wolastoqiyik First Nation. A girl of colour. If anything, women’s issue are at heart of him raising my granddaughter. He’s surrounded by feminists in our family, of both the male and female persuasion.

If anyone ever felt the searing flames of the fire, it’s the late, great Carrie Fisher. She sizzled in her iconic bikini for her role on the 1983 Stars Wars film, “Return of the Jedi”. For me, Fisher brings different things to mind; such as her views on feminism and her openness about mental health struggles. One of my favourite quotes from Carrie Fisher is a excerpt from an interview she gave to Elizabeth Johnson from the Herald Tribune in 1993. “Stay afraid, but do it anyways. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” I believe this to my very core. I have to do this all the time.

The following is a vlog I posted to my Facebook page, Jen Smith The WordSmith, where I discuss a range of issues about feminism, #metoo, and mental health awareness.

www.facebook.com/pg/afuturewithfeminism/videos/

#metoo #mentalhealthawareness #survivor #womensupportingwomen

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What Is A Strong Woman?

What constitutes a strong woman? According to the Oxford dictionary, the definition of strength varies according to the context in which it’s used. One can be physically strong, have mental fortitude, or even an unwavering conviction in a belief system. It can’t be narrowed down to just one singular definition, applicable only in a specific situation. Context is crucial. The same can be said for strong women.

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/strength

Some mothers work 40 hours a week, only to return home and provide the care-taking responsibilities that have been assigned to them because of gender since birth; making supper, washing dishes, folding laundry, driving kids around to extracurricular activities, grocery shopping, recycling, and play dates. The list goes on and on. Plenty of women work 60 hours a week, serve on committees, play competitive sports, go to the gym and maybe volunteer at a youth camp. Then there are the women who suffer through emotional and/or physical abuse because they are not financially independent, and have likely driven people they love away in order to conceal the abuse. They walk on eggshells, trying to do the right thing so that they won’t get beat down, only to inevitably fail. They don’t fail themselves, they fail to meet the impossible expectations of the individual who wields complete physical and emotional control over them. These women often use themselves as a shield between the abuser and any children involved. There are so many women, in all walks of life, that are silently accepting their perceived fate in life. All of the women mentioned above possess a super human strength that only another woman would understand. On top of work and family responsibilities, women are most often the ones compelled to look after aging parents. I see this strength in every woman I know. We all have different circumstances in life, from income to belief systems, but we all share one thing in common; keeping it all together. Keeping everything running as smoothly as possible. We have to work harder to prove our worth, yet we are very often overlooked, despite the values we uphold and the skills we contribute. I am one of those strong women. I have been told this by many, but it is not something I need to be told. It’s nice to be acknowledged, but I know it. I feel it whenever something for which I feel very passionate about is raised or brought to my attention. Most frequently I feel my strength when no matter what life throws at me, I bounce back. I fall down every now and then, but I always stand up, brush off my knees, and challenge whatever is ahead of me. Life has been throwing me some curveballs lately. Most of these things I have no control over, which doesn’t help. One of the most difficult situations in life for me is when I can not be of any help to my kids. They are adults, and are accomplished in their own ways. My son’s neurological condition is a constant worry, ever present in the back of my mind. I am always mentally prepared to get a call about him having a seizure. Thankfully, it’s been a few years, and my mind has relaxed a bit, but a small part of me is reserved, no matter where I am or what I’m doing, to find that mental resiliency to be strong for my son. My daughter is away at school, shes very capable and healthy; fortunately, I don’t have to worry about her much. We only see each other a few times a year but we talk on the phone every day. When situations arise with her, I feel the powerlessness of the physical distance between us, and my inability to do anything to help her. The only thing I can do is listen and advise. The rest is up to her. This is a hard thing to do; to let go of your kids and let them live their lives. They make mistakes and learn from them. They celebrate when they’re triumphant. I can only observe and console or congratulate.

That Little Black Cloud

Besides unexpectedly losing a job a few weeks ago, I was recently in a motor vehicle accident. I relive the moments after impact often. I remember looking over at my dog, shaking like a leaf, sitting on the seat, realizing he must have made impact with the airbag, now billowing with smoke throughout the car. Thankfully nobody involved was seriously hurt but I think it’s fair to say we are all still feeling some pain from that collision.

I am optimistic by nature, so I tell myself “things can only look up from here.” The tip of the iceberg for me recently, is being told that my oldest brother, going through dialysis three times a week, may at some point need a kidney to survive. His best chances of finding a match is through an immediate family member. Health issues and age will make some unviable options. The weight of having to potentially make this decision at some point down the line is bearing down on me considerably. It’s not on the table yet but it’s up in the air. Somehow I keep finding the resiliency to stay in the fight, to be there for the people that need me, and honour the commitments I have made. I just keep going, relying on the strength and support of those around me. Most importantly, I find the strength within; to speak up, to speak out, and to follow up with action. I am no different than any other woman. Women are the glue that holds society together, of this there is no doubt.

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Walking Through Fire

Life is tough sometimes. It’s tough for everyone. Nobody has it really easy. I know people like to pretend that they have the best, most perfect and positive life, but we know that usually isn’t the case. We all have struggles and they are as varied and vast as individuals themselves. That isn’t to say that some don’t have it easier than others. Some of our friends and family post these fantastic life stories on social media that would make any one a little jealous. The reality is most people aren’t posting their pain, their shame, and their embarrassments. Who wants to expose those vulnerabilities? Me, that’s who. I have found strength in sharing my weaknesses and troubles with others that have had similar experiences. So many of us are struggling with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues but we’ve been shamed as a society to admit it.

https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/mental-health-services/mental-health-get-help.html

I struggle with anxiety. Sometimes it’s easier to deal with than others. When I was younger I felt more powerless against it. As I’ve aged I’ve learned how to cope and how to recognize the signs that I’m indulging in the insecurities that come with being anxious. A couple of different times in my life I have “gone off the deep end.” My mental resiliency has been tested on numerous occasions. I feel like I failed some of these life tests, mainly because I’m so hard on myself and have such high expectations of not only me, but everyone around me. My first serious test came after reporting my maternal grandfather for sexually abusing me when I was a child. The subsequent court cases that followed demanded a strength I didn’t know I had; to face the man that wounded me so deeply and irrevocably for the rest of my life. Even though he was found guilty, sent to prison, and lost an appeal, I always felt like there was something wrong with me. Somehow it was my fault. Even though I was just a kid, I couldn’t help but blame myself for not having the courage to stop it sooner. The ripple effect of that trial was losing contact with the maternal half of my family. We were ostracized by that part of the family for years, because my mother and father believed and supported me. My mother chose her daughter over her father, mother, siblings, and extended family. That’s the best mother anyone could ever ask for. It took me years to fully appreciate the loss she must have felt, and the sacrifice she made to support me. She is a remarkably strong woman that has probably never been properly acknowledged for her tenacity and unyielding love and support for her kids.

I staggered around in a shame-filled state for many years. I had a hard time dealing with the incredibly overpowering mental anguish I was suffering from. Despite being young and inexperienced at life, I could not allow myself any forgiveness for the serious character flaws that I thought I saw in myself during my youth. Now that I understand just how traumatic this event was, I am kinder to the memory my younger self. All the choices I made in the years after the abuse were normal, and typical of those that have been so seriously victimized. I’ve forgiven myself for the mistakes that I’ve made, but more importantly, I have learned not to give any thought to those that refuse to see how I’ve grown or acknowledge the changes that I’ve made throughout the course of my life. I wasted far too much time in my life worrying about what people thought of me. In my head I was already rejected before I could give anyone a proper chance to get to know me. I just assumed people weren’t going to like me. I was loud, hyper, outspoken, boisterous, adventurous, and tough. Very tough. I come from a predominantly religious family, I felt like I was most likely viewed as something akin to the devil himself. The long and short of it is; life is way to short to worry about what people think. There will always be people that don’t like you, for whatever reason. That’s ok. We are survivors. We always have each other.

My life has not been the easiest of journeys. Some things were thrown at me over which I had no control. My children’s serious health issues tested my resiliency. As is typical of me, I kept things together during the crisis, and then fell apart after the threat was gone. The latest and greatest test of my will and strength as a women, was when my developmentally challenged aunt died of brain cancer. I sat with her in the hospital every day, until the moment she took her last breath. The lessons she taught me about enjoying the simple things in life are still with me.

I have made colossal mistakes throughout my life. I was challenged by low self-esteem, and a lack of pride in the skills and talents that I had. I didn’t see myself as having any talents. Getting an education and having the support of my family and friends have contributed to me having a greater sense of self. I have pride in my accomplishments. Like a lot of parents, I feel my two greatest accomplishments were raising well-adjusted kids, despite my struggles being a young mother. I was a thrill-seeking hothead for most of my life. I had no fear. I lived for daring adventure and brought my kids along with me on that ride. There was never a dull moment. If I were a parent of young children now, my common sense as a middle-aged person would have surely kicked in. Instead, I raised two young kids when I was in my early 20’s. As is typical of the youthful mind, I thought nothing would ever happen to me. It would happen to somebody else. I felt invincible. It was this fearlessness that enabled me to let my kids follow me jumping off a local bridge into the river below. It took us swimming through rapids so strong that it would suck you down, twirl you around, and spit you back out again metres away. It led us to jumping a fence to pet a bear caged behind a steel fence. Crazy things to do, but I, nor my now fully grown children, have any regrets.

I have walked though the fire, but I did not come out the other side unscathed. Some scars never fully heal. Somehow I managed to raise university educated kids. My son has full custody of his young daughter. A girl born into a family of strong, dominant, confidant women. My daughter, a PhD candidate, is a scientist, blazing a trail for girls coming behind her from our small community in rural New Brunswick.

Life is tough sometimes, but like Dolly Parton said so eloquently, “if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”

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Surviving or Thriving?

People that preach constant positivity bug me. I wish I lived in that fairytale land where everything comes up roses. I don’t. I live in reality. Life is great, and then it isn’t. Attitude is important and it will carry us through the tough times if we embrace a positive outlook, but let’s face it; it’s ok to acknowledge sadness or deep disappointment. It’s ok to be angry. It’s ok to not be on all the time. My late grandmother was our family matriarch. She was a teacher. She was a lady. She was a hard worker at a time when when women didn’t go out to work often, especially in farmland communities in rural New Brunswick, where she ended up settling with my grandfather.

She grew up poor but lived in the city so unlike many women of her generation, she was educated. She was also a very devout Christian. This is where we butted heads. I have so much to thank her for though; primarily for my love of English and the gift of good communication skills that she bestowed upon me. The thing is, she placed crazy high expectations on the women in our family; sometimes unintentionally, but the end result was the same for each of us. We put immense pressure on ourselves to perform at a very high standard. When we fail to meet these impossible standards 100% of the time, anxiety issues arise. Questions and self-doubt creep in. Mental illness found its way into our family psyche and embedded itself into our brains. It proved to be too much for my grandmother’s daughter, and ended with her suicide a number of years ago. My aunt was a beautiful, accomplished nurse and mother. She had every reason to be proud of herself and her life. A classic example of someone that appeared to have it all, only to have it end so tragically. It seems to be a common theme. “She was always laughing,” is the thing I hear most often.

I never wanted to show any vulnerability in my life. My natural instinct is to show no weakness. My age and experience have taught me to see the beauty in being vulnerable and the magic that happens when that vulnerability is shared. The women that have reached out to me to share their own traumatic experiences have helped me grow through mine. I’ve been learning to let go of my own ridiculously high expectations and be easier on myself.

There have been some key incidents in my life that have defined me. I’m a child sexual abuse survivor. This changed how I saw myself from the moment my innocence was stolen, as well as acutely changing my view of the world around me and the people in it. I keenly understand why women hold onto their pain and don’t confront their abusers. Things don’t work our well either way. It took me years to get to a place where I’m ok with who I am and what has happened to me. I went through the proper channels of accountability and felt the relief when he was found guilty of abusing me. I was believed. I was vindicated. It didn’t make anything better though. I was a young woman struggling with usual issues of teenage angst compounded by the weight of guilt and shame that I felt.

#metoo

I became the strongest woman I could be. I would never allow myself to be victimized by a man again. I was a hard ass and I owned it. I still do. The school of hard knocks has hardened me in one hand but softened me in another. It gave me the strength to cope through my young daughter’s heart failure and subsequent surgery in the early 90’s. It led me through the trying times spent by my son’s hospital bed when he was a teenager; his brain being ravaged with seizures. Waiting anxiously while he was on life support, not knowing if he would live or die.

This inner strength allowed me to hold the hands of two of my loved ones as they took their last breaths and death welcomed them. I am a woman. I am a survivor. I am resilient. I handle whatever is thrown at me with a ferocity befitting of a mother lion guarding her cub. Sometimes I get down. Not often and never for long. I aim to thrive but some days I just survive. The world today is not for the feint of heart. As women, we need to work a little harder, a little longer, and be a little stronger to take our place in this world, because power only comes to those who seize it.