Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Atlantic, Final

I've finally put together a cohesive thought so here goes. I'm going to think about two words in the title, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All": have and all.

1) Having things. I could go on a rant about capitalism. But as I sit here typing on a ridiculously expensive laptop with all the ridiculously expensive accessories, I'm going to just leave capitalism, as a whole, alone for the moment. I want to think more about it in terms of possessions and why our success in capitalism is based on how much we have. For most of you who know me, you know that I love music from the 90s and if it is anything current, it still sounds like it is from the 90s. There is a Pearl Jam song that if I ever get married, I would love to hear at my wedding, even though it isn't the most romantic, it is certainly very apt. The phrase in "Just Breathe" goes "I'm a lucky man, to count on both hands the ones I love." It popped in my head when I was thinking about "having it all" since I don't want to measure my success by how much I have, but rather how much I've loved, seen, laughed, inspired, mentored, etc. I told my son today that I was exercising because I wanted to make sure I could be around him for as long as possible. So while it meant that we couldn't play for an hour at that moment, we would be able to play for years later. And that's my "have."

2) All of it. When I was pregnant, I immediately thought of my friend's mother, an indigenous woman who has helped other women in their pregnancies. We didn't do typical doula things. Rather, we talked for hours at her home while picking vegetables in her large garden. She and her family have been composting and gardening for decades. I always left with enough vegetables for a week, or until my next visit. When my son was born, I needed some help with care and I thought of her and her other daughter who was beginning her third year of college. When I asked her daughter what she would like to paid for the summer, she came up with an extremely low amount. I said that I would never feel comfortable paying her that. She responded that she only worked in the summer for money she would need during the first semester of school. She said that she didn't need rent, food, or money for clothes and that this would just be money for an occasional movie or hanging out with friends. I said that I still felt bad about the amount. So she offered that she would keep my phone number, in case she needed a care package or advice about school and that would be more than enough. It reminded me of what her mother used to do when I was pregnant, with the vegetables and advice. It made me think differently about when it does come to "having" things, all is enough.

My dad used to take me, my brother, and my cousins on bike rides around the Bay on the weekends or to the zoo or one of the many things the Bay has to offer. We lived in a modest house and didn't a ton of things. We had an answering machine that my uncle made and my parents owned cars for decades. My brother and I joked about the one pair of shoes we got per school year until we started becoming avid runners; then it was two pairs. My parents never missed a parent/teacher night and my mother was notorious for showing up at school unannounced just to see what we were doing. She knew my teachers by their first names and they often chatted regularly in Spanish about life back home. They raised money for the school and showed up to all of our competitions and events. My dad once asked me if I would like to have the things that my friends had: the large house, nice cars, and designer clothes. At the time, that was "all." Before I could answer, he said that the large house would mean no furniture and parents who were dog tired and couldn't show up to things. He said that was one of the biggest things that disappointed him about this country--people came here, risking everything, just to work themselves to death to give their kids things they didn't need and probably didn't want. He said that while he would have preferred to raise us in Central America, we were here but that didn't mean we would be raised with American values, such as greed.

I think about an interview with Zach de la Rocha when he asked about being a vegetarian. He said "there is more than enough food out there to eat that I don't have to be a part of the death cycle of an animal." I was drawn to that statement in part because that was similar to my reasoning behind being a vegan for so many years and also because one can see how wanting, and desiring to have everything, has made people sick and unhappy. There is plenty of everything out there for all of us to have what we want, including the time to have what we need in our relationships, family, and friends.

I used to go to Nicaragua every year. I really looked forward to that trip. In part, it was a vacation. But it was also an opportunity to spend time with grandfather who has since passed. Prior to my visit, I would peruse my J.Crew catalog for the latest lounge, vacation wear and buy the newest sandals, bathing suits, and dresses to take with me. But in the two weeks of my trip, between hours on the beach, chatting with my grandfather, visiting my grandmother's grave, trying to guess the recipes of my favorite dishes, drinking local beer at the small bars, and visiting the elementary school, I didn't wear even half of the clothes. I actually left most of them behind. I thought I went on the trip having it all, but found that I gained it all while I was there.

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