Spaces

Since Lena began walking, I’ve wanted to write about watching her explore her environment. Over and over, I hesitated because the writing seemed either too bombastic or too precious. But as spring has sprung and we’re basically living outside on the warm  sunny days, it’s constantly on my mind and I finally decided, to hell with it. I need to pull together these bits and pieces.

I’ve spent a great deal of time in the last decade thinking about spaces. Public spaces, private spaces, and those in-between. How people create, furnish, and occupy them. This started when I was a graduate student researching and writing about urban spaces and gentrifying neighborhoods. As an archivist, I’m regularly concerned with the widespread issue of too little space and how to get creative with the room we have.

Two years ago we bought a house and I quickly became obsessed with how I wanted my home to feel and how it could best function for our family. This reached a fever pitch last year when I took a part-time job in a lovely mid-century modern consignment shop. I could spend all day fantasizing about outfitting my house with beautiful vintage furnishings and what life among those things would look like.

In an oddly tidy fashion, I’m now back in the world of archives working with collections that focus on architectural and landscape design, so my internal conversation about space continues as I learn about designers, planners, and the process of space making.

But what’s really launched this fascinating theory forward is observing my toddler as she interacts with her environment. She has a compulsion to physically interact with a space, just like any active kid. She observes details like a hole in a tree trunk or the decorative metal element on an old door. When I was a kid, I remember noticing these things, too–how the pine trees behind my neighbors house grew denser the farther we walked; how the light in my room crept in differently depending on the time of day. It’s like every experience stood out as a unique thing, before the synapses connected together to create a familiar script that didn’t require any further exploration. As I’ve grown older I’ve stopped observing things. For instance, I never noticed how kids walking along 34th Street, a place I spend a great deal of time, always hop up on the cobblestone incline between the sidewalk and the bit of grass that rests on slightly higher plane. Someone else pointed it out to me, and now that I know it’s there, I can’t help but smile as I watch them, unable to control the urge to learn how their body feels walking at that angle.

Why does any of this matter? I’m not sure I can articulate it precisely. On one hand it’s a spiritual lesson. I’m learning to slow down, to notice, to appreciate. Lena is teaching me. I still have to fight the urge to say, “No, don’t climb that, you might get hurt.” Instead, I take a small step back, spotting her from a reasonable distance. She’s experimenting and learning to trust her body. I can either get in the way and block that experience or I can allow her the space to try and to grow.

It feels like an artistic endeavor, too. In my 9-5 job I’m learning about the process of designing spaces; at home I’m observing the product of that creative expression. And there’s something very satisfying about allowing those worlds to enrich and inform one another.

I’m sure I’ll have much more to add to these ramblings in the years to come. I have a pretty smart tour guide who also happens to look pretty good in a tutu.

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Why I’m with Her

You know the old line about how as you get older and have a family you become more conservative? This is a lie.

When one has been sleep deprived for literally years, one develops a short fuse and a zero tolerance policy for boolsheet. For me, this unfortunate combination results in a raw, ragey feminism that ramps up around 3pm after a day of confronting and managing sexist microaggressions and recedes only when I a) have several drinks b) vent to the husband and friends who reassure me I’m not hysterical or c) I have the opportunity to share my obnoxiously vague and desperate drivel on social media.

It’s your lucky day, folks.

So what is all this rambling and what does it have to do with politics? Well. I spent many months at the end of 2015 #feelingthebern. Yes, income disparity, corporate personhood, and campaign finance are all enormous issues that represent systems which need to be dismantled. And I like Bernie Sanders. He’s consistent and firmly believes what he’s saying. He has my utmost respect.

Media outlets tell me that since I’m a millennial, I’ve moved past the idea that a woman in the White House is a radical notion. That real feminism is voting for the candidate you most admire, not the one whose genitals look like your own. In a perfect world, this last part is true.

And yet. When I really, really asked myself why I was not excited about Hillary Clinton’s campaign, I couldn’t exactly say why. Has she said things that I disagree with? Yes. Have her policies always been as far left as I like them? No. But have Bernie’s? Actually, no. I quite disagree with him about trade, gun control, and I am unhappy with his treatment of intersectionality and BLM. So I began a mental exercise where I switched their policies and styles, just to compensate for any inherent, unconscious sexism that may have influenced me. Guess what? At best, it was a wash.

I’m also 32 years old and deeply cynical that the executive branch alone can enact real, radical, lasting change. It came down to one question: Would I rather have a person who knows the game and can play it, is extraordinarily competent and understands the complexities of the issues or a person who is uncompromising in their ideals and believes they can dismantle economic and cultural structures that have taken 400 years to create in just 4, or even 8 years? At the end of the day, I’d rather have the savvy person who knows this is a marathon, not a sprint.

Of course all of these mental gymnastics demonstrate my privilege. I’m a white, middle class, able-bodied, cisgender woman who doesn’t live with the real effects of poverty and racial discrimination every single day. I understand why people are excited about Bernie and why so many need a revolution. I need and want that revolution too, but I don’t think it’s going to be directly led by the Oval Office. I take my right to vote very seriously so I feel charged with the task of voting for the individual who I think will make the greatest impact on the lives of those who need help the most, and of course, my daughter who will likely be on this Earth years after I’ve left it.

So in the face of the deeply ingrained misogyny I see in the media, among other left-leaning friends, and the absolutely infuriating experiences I’ve had myself, I’m honored to have the opportunity to cast my ballot for a competent woman. And I hope that once she’s elected, girls will see her face among the rows and rows of the 44 men who preceded her, and know that a woman is more than capable of leading this country. And just maybe, they will have the tools to call out sexism when they see it.

–Heather

Shitty writing: a new leaf

I haven’t written here in a while.

I’d like to say I haven’t had the time. Or that I’m so committed to living in the moment that I’ve eschewed any kind of downtime for self-reflection, or, some would argue, inflated self-importance. But that’s not true. I actually have plenty of narcissism to share!

I haven’t written anything in a while because I’m finding it difficult to focus my energy on any one topic when, frankly, I’m angry about so many things. I’m angry about ingrained racism and the inability of white Americans to acknowledge their privilege. I’m angry that seemingly any enraged, unbalanced individual can easily acquire a gun and murder whomever he likes. I’m angry about men (and women) who don’t support a woman’s right to choose what she does with her own body. I’m angry at a world that doesn’t value children or childhood and refuses to take the necessary steps to protect and gently guide our young people. I’m angry about politicians who find it easier to blame “lazy teachers” than admit that our entire educational system is set up to fail. I’m angry about economic inequality and an ever-increasing financial and cultural gap. I’m angry at close-minded, anti-intellectuals who wrap themselves up in their scripture and shit all over anyone who is different. I’m just so fucking angry.

This broad anger, combined with my eternal fear that I have nothing new to add to these conversations, has left me in a sort of writing paralysis.  Why even waste my already limited free time? Who the hell cares what I have to say when everyone in the world is shouting and so many of those voices are more poignant than my own?

As I sat down to write this whiny post, I decided that I care. Writing, even shitty writing, does my heart and soul good. Even if no one reads it, I know it’s out there.  I’ve organized my thoughts, put words together, narrated my own truth, and that feels damn good.

Sometimes I write things only to read them later and think, “How nauseatingly earnest is this crap?” Because what seems obvious to me now was fresh and new to that earlier version of myself. I’ve only become who I am because I let my mind wander around new ideas. I’m still doing that. I don’t think it’s self-indulgent if we’re working on becoming better people to share with our world.

So, I’m recommitting to putting words on paper. Or screen, or whatever. There will be words, some better than others. Because this life thing is a process and despite all of my cynicism, the universe is still a fascinating and curious place.

More SOON. I promise myself.

Heather