Learning to Just Listen

About a year ago I read an article that popped up on Facebook. The article was about the importance of listening. Just listening. Not cheering people up, not offering advice or feedback, not relating to people. Just listening.

This article completely re-framed how I approach supporting my friends.

What stuck with me most was not trying to cheer people up. When someone comes to you for support, to lean on you through a hard time, to tell you about their depression or stress or sorrow, don’t try to cheer them up. That trying to cheer someone up actually pushes them away. When someone is down and you focus on bringing them up, they don’t feel supported or heard. They may even feel guilty for having the feelings they have. And next time they feel this way, they won’t come to you.

“Things will get better”, “Look on the bright side”, “Think of all the other great things going on”. All of these seem like kind things to say. But in actuality, they are the worst things to tell someone in pain.

The kindest thing you can do for someone who comes to you for support: live in that moment with them. Hold their hand. Say things like “that sucks” or “that sounds really difficult”. Validate the feelings they are expressing, rather than trying to change them to nicer feelings.

I always thought of myself as a good listener, and a good friend. But I was definitely the friend that wanted to cheer you up, make you feel better, think positive. This concept opened my eyes to all of the moments I was probably missing.

I do believe it is human nature to want to make things better. When babies cry we want to find a way to make it stop. When someone scuffs their knee we find a band-aid. So sitting in a moment and allowing things to go unfixed feels counter intuitive. It feels against human nature to not fix someone when they are in pain.

And yet, it also makes sense. When I am upset I don’t want answers, I don’t want rainbows, I don’t want solutions. I just want to be listened to.

So, I started listening. I stopped offering advice, offering solutions, I stopped looking on the bright side. When friends opened up to me I listened. I told them how hard that sounded, how stressful that must be, how sorry I was to hear they were going through that.

And I’ve found many magical moments to connect with people because of it. By listening, just listening, I have learned so much more about the people I love. And I am so grateful to live in those moments with them.

 

-Darci

I’m Still Here

This year has been hard.

I have had more surprises this year, more challenges, more growth, more love, more depression than any one person could possibly predict. This rollercoaster of a year has kicked my ass more ways than I can count, while also bringing me some of the most fantastic amazing life changes.

None of this year is how I pictured it would be at the start.

My career has been turned upside down twice. I got out of a terrible job, into another terrible one, and finally found a place so amazing I still can’t believe it’s real. My family has broken my heart over and over and over again. My loved ones have picked me up and wiped my tears every single time. My partner and I have grown into something so much better, so much stronger, than the best of romance films could have dreamed. An injury took away running, and I don’t see that coming back any time soon. I joined a women’s only kickboxing gym that is quite possibly the best thing to happen to me all year. I planted my first ever garden and actually kept something alive.

And there are still two months to go.

But I’m still here. And I think I’m ready to get back to sharing my thoughts with you all again.

For this week I will leave you with this: if you are depressed don’t keep it secret. Tell your inner circle, you’re going to need them on the dark days. Go to therapy. It’s hard work, but once you start doing it you’ll never turn back. And when life really kicks your ass, kick back.

-Darci

Thoughts on Turning 29

Tomorrow is my birthday. Tomorrow I enter the last year of my twenties. I feel like it should be more profound. Birthdays always make me reflective, but this year feels like it came too fast. The last year has been an endless whirlwind and I’m still processing a lot of 28 and what it means to me. I feel like I’ve grown a lot in the last year of my life, but that growth hasn’t always been the most well received. I’ve spent a lot of this last year trying to listen to my boundaries and my limits, trying to say No more, focusing on self-care more. I’ve gotten myself out of some toxic environments and hurtful relationships. Change is good. But it’s also very hard. My good days of 28 have been some of the best days of my life, and my bad days have been some of the worst.

I am grateful to my twenties for making me stronger. I’ve learned a lot of beautiful lessons and have encountered some amazing people. I am grateful that I enter this final year of this decade surrounded by people who love me in a way that I am humbled and overwhelmed by constantly. And I am grateful to have had the wisdom to let go of those who did not love me.

I’ve come a long ways in my twenties. It hasn’t always been graceful, it hasn’t always been pretty, but it has made me who I am today. And I like who I am today. I am old enough now to know that I know better, while also knowing I have so much more to learn.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would tell my twenty year old self, if I could, knowing what I know now. I don’t really believe in regret, and I think mistakes are paramount to becoming strong. If there are things I could go back and change I probably would. But should I? Either way, these are the things I would tell my twenty year old self:

-Focus more on female friendships. Boys will always be there (and all you have to do is swipe to meet them) and the boys that are there now really aren’t worth your time. You both have a lot of growing up to do. And you are missing out on some amazing women. Stop worrying about if and when you will get married, and start focusing on forming stronger relationships with the women around you. Because soon you will all be in your corners of the world and it will be much harder to connect with them. In nine years you won’t be scrolling Facebook lamenting some boy it never worked out with, you’ll be lamenting all the amazing women you had a chance to know but were to distracted to realize it.

-Take care of your injuries better. Right now you are young, but your body is going to age rapidly in your twenties. That hip flexor you pulled and still ran a 10K on, don’t do that. Rest your injuries, ice them, stretch them. You may not feel like you need it right now, but Future You needs it bad.

-Travel more. This is my main advice to college students. Travel as much as you can, as often as you can, as far as you can. Right now things like hostels and teaching English for pennies sounds like a fun time. Go adventure now. Study abroad for a whole year. Travel after you graduate. Work jobs and save all your money to go travel for months at a time. Travel more.

-Pay attention to who shows up for you, and spend more time with them. And be a better friend to them. Help your friends move, go to their shows and concerts, show up for them too. Don’t just be down for a party, be down for life.

My twenties have been incredible. I have made some amazing friendships, I found a supportive community that I still don’t know if I deserve. I made an impulsive decision to adopt a cat and it’s probably one of the best decision I have ever made. I traveled alone. I fell in love. I learned that I am a lot stronger than I ever thought I could be. And I am ready for whatever 29 has in store for me.

-Darci

An Independence Day Full of Anger

Tomorrow is our nations biggest national holiday. The day that we are supposed to be consumed with pride for our country. We celebrate by grilling meat, baking pies, and exploding things in the sky. Objectively, it’s a pretty solid holiday.

But this year, I don’t feel particularly full of pride for my country. The state of our nation has sunk to a horrifying low point that I honestly don’t even know how to talk about some of these horrors. How can you celebrate your country, be proud of your country, when your government is actively operating concentration camps? How can we celebrate our founding values when our government has become the very thing we rebelled against? When anyone who is not a white man lives in daily fear of the next law that will serve to oppress them? When there is a real possibility that the president will actually get re-elected in 2020?

When your country is full of hate, how do you love your country? How does one reconcile that there is still an alarmingly large percentage of people who support the government and all their atrocities? The racism that fuels the treatment of immigrants, the sexism that fuels the laws being written to restrict women, and the greed behind all of the motivation. At best, there is still eighteen months left of this horror. At worst, this is only just the beginning.

I am not proud to be an American this year. I am not proud to be from a country that criminalizes the poor rather than helps them. I am not proud to be from a country that rejects or imprisons people because of the color of their skin. I am not proud to be from a country that operates concentration camps. I am not proud to be from a country that uses fear as a manipulation tool to profit from. I am not proud to be an American, and I do not love my country.

We will still grill. I will bake something with red, white, and blue. We will probably watch Captain America. I will probably even wear our country colors in one form or another tomorrow. We will enjoy our day off from work and try to find some joy in all of this mess.

But I will not forget that I am angry. That I have been angry for quite some time now. And I will not become numb to my anger. I am no where near done being angry.

 

-Darci

The Democratic Race Officially Starts Tonight

If you don’t know, tonight is night one of two of the first Democratic Debate (NBC 6pm Pacific Time). There are 20 candidates. And I’m already exhausted.

20 candidates is a lot. Like a lot a lot. How on earth are they going to make a significant splash, make themselves really stand out from one another? And why on earth does the DNC think this is a good strategy for taking back the White House next year? Samantha Bee can’t be the only one who sees that most of these candidates talents would benefit the party by running for something other than the presidency, like say the senate.

Yes, I hope that a democrat wins the presidency next year. Yes, I believe that the conversations happening are important. Yes, I think being engaged and educated with your options is wonderful. And yes, I think we have some very interesting candidates to grapple with. But I am also very jaded. 2016 still stings. And I’m not sure I am ready for the long road again.

November 2020 is a long ways a way. Tonight is just the first of many debates and conversations before we actually get to vote on anything. And while the democrats debate for final candidacy, the American Internment Camps are only getting worse. There is so much going wrong in this country, so many horrors to contend with, it’s hard to believe that all 20 of these candidates time is best spent running for president. DJT isn’t the only problem in our government right now, he is being highly supported and enabled by an entire party. So why focus on being president, when you could focus on being a senator and be a part of taking away that support system?

I will probably end up watching the debate. As much as I want to be able to tune out what is going on, at the end of the day I can’t. And these are the questions I am most interested in hearing answers for:

-Why are you the best person to beat DJT?

-How will you make your promises a reality? There are lots of nice ideas and concepts out there, lots that I would love to see implemented. But how are you actually going to make it happen?

-How will you work with conservatives to make progress and change happen? This country isn’t just divided, it’s polarized. How are you going to engage the conservative side of the country to bring about change that everyone wants?

For me, it’s not just about who has the best ideas. It’s about who is the most realistic. Who can demonstrate that they actually understand the true complexity of the issues, and that they actually have a plan to address those issues. Who get’s that it’s not just about beating DJT, it’s about beating an entire way of thinking?

The road is long, and it’s just now starting. And ya, I’m already exhausted.

 

-Darci

Why Everyone Needs Sex Education

I know, I know, I’m still talking about the issues surrounding abortion. But it’s still consuming my brain and it’s still making me angry. My big stance is that abortion really isn’t the true issue here, that abortion is a solution to a lot of larger issues that are not being addressed. I also truly believe that everyone wants to lower the abortion rate, whether they be pro-life or pro-choice, we just have very different philosophies on how to accomplish that. I’m not really interested in debating people about when life begins, but I am interested in discussing ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies before they even happen.

This week I want to focus on one particular way I believe we can prevent unwanted pregnancies, and thus lower the abortion rate: Sex Education. Last week I talked about all of the reasons why I get to say with confidence that I would not have an abortion, and one of the big ways was that I had comprehensive sex education from sixth through ninth grade.

So this week I want to advocate for comprehensive sex education in schools. Here are my top four reasons why I believe everyone, regardless of religions beliefs or sexual intentions, should have comprehensive sexual education.

Comprehensive sex education lowers the rate of teen pregnancy.

Yes I am repeating myself, but I think it’s worth driving home. You can’t prevent pregnancy if you don’t know how. Understanding how birth control works and does not work. Knowing how to get it. Knowing how long semen lives outside the body. Know the difference between mensuration and ovulation. I learned about all of these before I even reached my teen years.

One of the many reasons I have not had an unplanned pregnancy is because I knew how not to get pregnant before I was ever having sex.

Values about sex can be taught at home, but facts should be taught in school.

As a parent you have every right to educate your children on your value system. But that doesn’t mean that you should shelter them from the facts either. And learning about safe sex and contraceptives does not mean someone is going to immediately go out and have sex. Values and facts are equally important when deciding how you want to go about your sexuality.

Even if you wait until marriage, you still need sex education.

 If you ever plan on having sex, you need sex education. Even if you are going to wait until marriage, even if you only ever have one sexual partner, even if you don’t believe in birth control and only want to have sex to have babies. You need to be sexually educated. All of that requires an education. If you are going to be sexually active at all you need to know how to not get pregnant just as much as you need to know how to get pregnant. Sexual education is not just for those who plan on having sex outside of marriage.

Sex education isn’t just about having sex.

Sex Ed is about so much more than having sex. There is so much more to learn about your body than just how to have sex with it. Health and hygiene is also a large part of sex education. How to wash, how not to wash too much, how to recognize a UTI (which you can get without ever having sex), are all important things to understand about your body even if you never plan on having sex.

Again, I’m not here to tell you when life begins. I’m not here to tell you when to or not to have sex. I am here to argue that there are ways we can lower the abortion rate, ways we can prevent unwanted pregnancies that we are not discussing. And we need to discuss them. We need to address the reasons why women get abortions rather than punishing them for not having the education, resources, and opportunities that they need to prevent an unwanted pregnancy in the first place.

Darci

Let’s Talk About Low Grade Sexism

Sexism is a major topic nowadays. I talk about it here in big and small ways all the time. You see stories in the news about people coming forward and accusing major public figures and celebrities of harassment and assault. And the good news is that it is slowly starting to work. Boys will be boys is becoming an unacceptable standard, when people speak up others are starting to listen.

But what about the smaller moments? The moments that aren’t really worthy of going to HR about, but are definitely still a part of the problem. Moments that are the pre-requisites for the big moments later on. Maybe your uncle isn’t a full blown misogynist, but his views are definitely sexist. Maybe your boss isn’t harassing you, but his behavior is still problematic. These little comments or actions that don’t seem worth calling out in the moment, but are definitely reinforcing a world where women are devalued. They aren’t crimes, they aren’t harassment, they might not even be aggressive. But they still are not right.

Here are some examples of low grade sexism in our daily lives.

Low Grade Sexism at Work
Again, I am not talking about the big HR stuff. I’m not talking about inappropriate comments or touching or power plays. I’m talking about those small socialized moments that aren’t quite worth talking to HR about, but are definitely creating sexism in the work place.

Delegation – studies have shown that women are the most likely to do non-promotion worthy work in the office. Take notes during meetings, supply runs, small office tidying. And it perpetuates this idea that women are homemakers and caregivers first, that they should be the ones taking care of an environment and the people in it. But men of similar levels are not expected or even asked to make the coffee for the meeting or run to staples for office supplies. There are tasks that are seen as “women’s work” and there is an unspoken expectation that women will just take care of those things but men should never be expected to let alone asked.

Nicknames – the fact that anyone would dare call a women sweetheart in a professional setting any more still baffles me, and yet I have experienced it both on the superior side of things and the client side of things. Endearing pet names for women you work with is anything but.

Working Moms – women still get promoted less, women still get paid less, and having children is still a negative impact to a lot of professional women. A lot of women are forced to choose between being a mom and being a successful career woman still. But men still do not have to make this choice. No one hesitates to hire a man with children, but it is assumed a woman with children will not work as hard and require more time off.

Low Grade Sexism at Home
I think even the most well intending feminist of men will fall into this trap. Even through the progress of women in the work place over the last century, the home front has probably seen the least amount of change.

Chores – again, a lot of cleaning and care work for an environment is seen as women’s work. Cooking, cleaning, planning most often falls to the woman. It is often an unspoken assumption that women will just manage the home. I am baffled by how many couples I know where the man never cooks and doesn’t even know how, and therefore the woman is cooking and prepping meals for the entire family all week long. I’ve talked a lot about emotional labor before, and most emotional labor falls to the woman.

Parenting – I do think this is getting better, but still slowly. The idea that dads babysit their children when left alone with them.

Low Grade Sexism in Our Views of Women
And of course, our day to day views and perceptions of women. Comments, expectations, views. All of these socialized and unconscious thoughts that are really just meant to put women down and keep men on top.

She’s too pretty to be smart – this idea that the greatest currency a woman has to offer is beauty, and therefore it must be the only thing she should really want. That if a woman is beautiful she has no need for ambition or aspirations, and if a woman is not beautiful then she better have something else to offer.

You only got that because you are pretty – the other side of the coin. Resenting accomplishments of women and belittling their achievements.

Sluts – the endless double standard. An independent woman who is confident in her sexuality must be shamed. But the judgment of a sexual woman is more about the fear of her rejection.

Low grade sexism is definitely part of the problem. It perpetuates socialized ideas that women are here for the benefit and service of men and when they challenge that role and expectation they must be shamed or belittled or bullied. Low grade sexism in our daily lives leads to major sexism being socially acceptable later on.

Darci