I Am Woman, Hear My Woe

A Story of Empathy and Imagined Equality

No, I’m not particularly full of woe, but for the past few days I’ve been metaphorically girding my loins, knowing that a tale of woe is coming. Wow, I’ve listened a lot the past few days. The thing is, every single person venting, lamenting, kvetching, or sniffling is totally justified. Every so often it gets this way, when there seems to be a dark cloud over my social circle.

Rain lily in rocks. Beauty in a tough space.

I’m privileged to listen to people and not try to solve problems. We all need someone to listen to us from time to time. I know my turn will come! The problem today is that I’ve heard so much woe that I’m not able to come up with ideas for making the things better that it’s my JOB to make better. I’m all jumbled up. I guess I better go breathe and let some of it out by tomorrow!

Evening primrose and concrete.

As I went for a walk around the Austin house neighborhood to clear my mind (and take pictures), I started wondering if all this empathetic listening is one of those stereotypical woman things, you know, women are nurturing and all that. Do people assume I’ll listen because I’m a woman or because I just come across as gender-neutral empathetic? (Rhetorical question)

Drummond’s onion. Beautiful. Look at all those little antses!

Stick with me here. That musing led to a surprising thought. I just don’t spend a lot of thought on my status as a woman. In my mind I’m Suna, and being female is not one of my more important parts of my identity. I’m not on the alert for sexist comments or put-downs for being a woman. I don’t feel discriminated against at work or at home. What???

Nightshade.

Oh of course I know there’s sexism out there and stubborn areas of inequality that need to be addressed. You know, just like we’re not in a post-racist society, either. But I’m not feeling constricted by being labeled female anymore. I am quite confused by my lack of concern about this inequality, especially given that I get all righteously indignant about discrimination against other kinds of people.

Cedar sage by the Bobcat Lair.

I wonder if my privilege from my whiteness and being perceived as cisgender compensate for being female, to where most people treat me as equals. Or…I just assume people think I’m their equal and act accordingly? That may well be it. I feel equal so I don’t let myself be treated any other way.

Anita’s hibiscus.

Hmmm. I don’t know what to think about this. Life is complicated. I feel way too lucky to feel so free and equal when so many people I know feel oppressed, put down, or truly challenged just because of who their parents were, where they came from, or who they love.

Ruth’s succulent in bloom.

What can I do? I know that! I’ll keep advocating for the creation of a world where our diversity is celebrated and our differences used to our advantage. I’ll keep learning about ways to realize my prejudices and biases and be an ally for those not as privileged as me.

I’m also privileged to live in a beautiful place.

My question to you women out there is whether you feel like this or am I having atypical experiences? Where are you feeling discriminated against or thwarted in your life because of your sex? What’s your source of woe, or do you experience freedom and joy?

I Can’t Muster Up Schadenfreude

Wow. I’m not saying I’m a saint who never has bad thoughts about others, but when presented an actual opportunity to experience some good old schadenfreude, roll around in it, wallow for a while, and maybe even gloat, I find I can’t dredge it up.

Let me share what happened, as vaguely as I can. Last year, my favorite boss ever, was “let go” as they always said in La Leche League while firing anyone with institutional knowledge or history in the organization who didn’t drink some very bitter Kool-Aid.

Even though we were prepared, those of us who worked for this boss were sad, really sad, because we’d done a lot of good work together and were a great team. Of course, we had nothing to do with whatever the C suite’s issues were, and that wasn’t our call. But, it hurt some of us a lot, including the old boss.

Everybody’s beautiful, in their own way, right? This Japanese maple sure is.
Changes make me want to hide, like this budding hydrangea.

Fast forward to today, and the person responsible for that “letting go” (and for me losing the two coworkers I tried to hire last year) was let go today. I had dreamed of the day when that darned so-and-so got their comeuppance. I was ready to take immense pleasure in the pain of that other person, true schadenfreude. But, no. I felt sad, instead. I know how hard it is to see that unemployment train coming and have it roll over you. All I could feel was empathy toward my former nemesis.

Why? Well, I’d recently gotten to know that executive as a person, and saw them as more than just the instigator of a really bad year. I found out things we had in common, and our mutual humanity won out over my biases. Shoot, the stuff in those unconscious bias books is actually true; you really can’t hate someone you know as a well rounded person.

It’s okay!

How about that? I’m not as vindictive as I thought I could be, when it comes down to it. And that’s a good lesson to learn. I’m sure I’ll be fine as the changes keep coming where I work. It’s normal, corporate America stuff, after all. But I can still have empathy with former colleagues as I keep trying to keep up with the changes.

Actually, I feel like I had an omen or portent of the future this afternoon. As I was walking in the courtyard trying to get my bearings (me and big changes are just not friends), I found myself surrounded by common whitetail dragonflies, all female. They’re a symbol of change, metamorphosis, and good things to me. I felt comforted.

Not an Easy Time to Be an Empath

Oh no, not another post where someone, specifically Suna, whines about how horrible the past year’s been on those poor pitiful empaths. Not to worry, I, Suna, am also tired of that, especially when I hear it coming from the mouths of some of the least empathic human beings I know. But, who am I to argue about how others self identify? So, go right ahead and say you’re one. Maybe really most of us ARE empaths after all.

Hey, this jasmine plant is blooming already, even after being severely trimmed. Life WILL return to something better after struggle!

So, I’m not whining. I’m just noticing, like one of those intrusive thoughts that come up in meditation that you notice and then let float away while you enjoy the breath moving in and out, if you can (not all folks can!). I notice that I am not alone in experiencing a greater-than-usual amount of death and loss during the past week or two. I notice that, when you combine that with a LOT of change in areas we can’t control (work, politics, family), stress, anxiety, and worry starts running high. I notice imbalance.

In everyone.

I have not spoken to or texted a single person today who is not at just about their limit of 2021-generated agita. I am one of those people. This makes for an uncomfortable circuit of communication in which people share their issue, I share my issue, they share another issue, I share an issue, and in the end, we realize rather than helping each other, we’ve just ramped each other up into sniveling balls of angst. There has been sniveling and sniffling in my life today, none of it unjustified. I feel their pain, and then, because I’m not exactly at my peak of highest self, send pain back, rather than being a good, supportive listener.

I’d like to stop that, now.

  • One choice I have is to remain comfortably numb. If I stop typing, researching, creating, etc., I just stare forward, like I was this morning, with a thick buzzing in my brain, like I’m still asleep. This doesn’t sound like the picture of good mental health, to me.
  • Another thing I tried was to go learn something. That always helps me. So, today, because I was asked to, I did a whole bunch of research on bullet journals and the full focus journals that Lee uses. The women’s group at work is interested in journaling methods for improving their work efficiency. And I made a PowerPoint NOT with the corporate template. That was a treat that perked me up for at least twenty minutes.
  • My best choice I can come up with right now is to talk to someone who doesn’t feel like I do, so I can vent and not have to receive jittery vibes back. Oh good, I’m home, and Anita’s doing fine. I’ll try that.
Read my socks, 2021.

So, if you’re having one of those days where empaths are trying to be empathetic to empaths, go find someone who will just listen and say, “Tut tut, there there, that’s a LOT on your plate, my friend.” And then go read, knit, color in your coloring book, or find another creative outlet. Feel free to ignore the news unless it’s something like transgender rights to serve in the military or getting rid of private prisons (those pleased me yesterday).

I hope to soon notice more of a balance between positive and negative life events, if this works.

If it doesn’t work, what ideas do you have for dragging on through more of the unending negativity and working back toward a more balanced life?