Representation is Everything

Tim and I just got back from seeing Wonder Woman and I am on fire. I've heard people of color describe how much it meant to them the first time they saw someone who looks like them in the media, how that made them stand taller and feel proud of who they are. I've lived in white privilege my whole life so I heard those stories but I didn't know what that felt like, not to that extent. However, I am a woman and have always identified strongly as such. In fact, on the way home from the movie, Tim and I were discussing our most firmly held identities (between race and gender) and mine is gender. I identify as female before I identify as white. And I know that alone is evidence of my privilege (ask a black male. My assumption is he identifies as black first because that is always the first thing our culture names him). But what I mean about identifying as female first is that I feel so grounded in my gender identity. It is a huge part of who I see myself as and I see my gender as an incredible asset. Of course, not out in the world of male privilege, but I believe in, and have written as such, very strongly in the power of women. Tim enjoyed hearing all my arguments on the way home about how technically, we are the superior sex because we carry and sustain life and to me, that means, the human race begins and ends with women. Sorry, dudes. Although, not sorry. Not really. Quit underestimating us, already.

I have to tell you, as someone who in my heart knows my female-ness (I don't say femininity as that feels like a social construct to me) is a significant contributor to my personal power, it genuinely moved me to watch Wonder Woman. She is so powerful. And not as one of many, but in and of herself. She doesn't join men. She leads men. To see men follow her was healing for me, in particular because I was raised in a church that believed female leadership was rebellion against God. That male leadership was the only way to worship God rightly and to desire leadership as a female is a sign of greed, vanity and selfishness. But know this, men should follow women when they know what the hell they're doing and they're brave enough to not take no for an answer. It did my heart so, so good to see that happen, to see her stand alone in strength and truth and fight for peace. Is that not all our mission? To make sense of the wars of this world, hell, the war in my own city? She is so strong, but her strength is directed deliberately. No offense to the Hulk, but she is not a senseless rage beast (again, love you buddy). She wields her power for good, for love, for peace. Not in a Disney princess way. Dude, lady can kick some ass. And her view of pleasure is freaking hysterical (in case you missed it, she concluded that men are necessary for procreation but not pleasure). I so admire, not just power for power's sake, but discretion in the use of personal power. Above all the superheroes (the Cap comes in a very close second, but he's Marvel so we don't have to decide), she exudes the ultimate discipline, the truest north star, the deepest integrity, the utmost compassion. She is both warm and fierce. She can knock down buildings and want to help animals. This is what it means to be a woman to me. Not because those roles are placed on us, but because we know power does not have to mean might. We know when to wield it and when to show mercy. The world needs powerful women in leadership, now more than ever. And the idea that my daughters will grow up with Wonder Woman being a true hero in her own right makes me honestly excited for how that will equip young women coming after me. How would I have developed in my identity had I been exposed to this film as a young girl? I'll never know. But based on my reaction today, I think it would have mattered.

Her journey from a black and white sense of justice and worldview to embracing nuance and still choosing love (spoiler alert) so mirrored my own spiritual process. I think so many people identify with her story. Steve, her love interest, helps her come to terms with the fact that all people are good and bad, that we have a desire for war and peace within each of us. That has been one of the hardest things for me to reconcile in my adult life, to hold both of those realities and not allow them to freeze me from action. I only want the good to be true and the bad slaps me in the face every day. You can't ignore that and yet I so wish it wasn't the case. But when you can no longer ignore the reality of evil, accept that you can't kill it with a gun because it is inside the person shooting the gun and the one being shot, WHAT THE HELL DO YOU DO? In my life, I do exactly what she did. And I believe many people, many women, do the same. We choose love. We believe in the enduring power of love. We embrace the things that make us one, the points of commonality and we make peace. 

Above all of these things - her representing me, her character, her paradigm shift, the thing that moved me the most was that she never asked for permission. That damn Steve repeatedly told her what she could and couldn't do, wear, be, everything. I know she loves him in the end and he's essentially dealing with someone from an alternate reality, but how many women picked up on the boxes he kept trying to put the wild woman into? Yes, to blend in. BUT, isn't that what they always say? This is what's appropriate. This is what's expected. Who do you think you are? Stay behind me. I got this. I know what I'm doing. Follow my lead. You stay here. It all falls under the basic assumption that women aren't capable. I don't hate Steve but I have felt many, many times the weight of his assumptions. Am I right, ladies? I was raised to follow the rules, to meet or exceed the expectations of others, starting with God himself. This is not something easy for me to shirk off, even though so often it is total and utter bullshit. I know I can do more, be more, contribute more. I KNOW I CAN.

Just because I can't save the world doesn't mean I can't do good. Do the good you can. In your life, in your corner of the world, in your generation, in your family - this is your life. Do something good with it. Don't let the liar tell you it's futile so save yourself. Release yourself from greed and do the good you can do and do it without strings attached. What a world we could live in if we all did our best to do that. To at least try. We must stop asking permission to live our lives, be ourselves, embrace our power, use our voice. Don't let someone tell you what you're about. Show them who you are based on the power you don't let them take. Show them what you're capable of by not backing down. Stand your ground. Hell, take some ground. Stop being so fucking nice. Be the warrior you already are. And follow Wonder Woman’s lead. Do it with grace. Wield your power for good. You don't need permission. So live without it if you have to.

The power of receiving permission falls away when you stop asking for it. Just do what you need to do.

There's Only So Much You Can Do

I don't consider myself someone who has fear around dentistry or doctors. I'm the nerd who actually likes putting money in my old cars (if it's planned) because I believe firmly in the value of maintenance. It's a huge reason why nutrition and supplementation make sense to me. Why not just prevent what you can from deteriorating rather than try to clean up the mess of disease after the fact? (I recognize all health stuff isn't preventable so please don't feel any shame coming from me if you have a difficult health situation). 

That being said, I've had a lot of painful dental work done in the last 6 months. I've been framing it through the lens of gratitude because I know so many people can't afford dental work. And even now, that holds true in the sense that sometimes people just go without troublesome teeth. That is not what's happening with me. HOWEVER, the gratitude frame officially broke today. And the pain, fear, frustration and even dread all came pouring out today while the tears trickled out of those giant sunglasses under the big lights of the dentists office. 

Much to my horror, the tears came and came. I could tell it was the kind of cry that needed to happen and that ideally would include lots of sniffling. I did not allow myself that luxury in the chair, mainly because I was not done facing the fear that created the tears in the first place. So in the midst of my fear and pain, I had to bolster myself for more. Here's what happened:

2 years ago, after not having dental insurance for 7 years, I went to a dentist for a consult on a painful tooth. Without doing anything, he charged me $150 and told me I should have the tooth pulled (at 33 years old, mind you) and get a bridge that would cost upwards of $1k. I said thanks and left for a second opinion. I signed up for insurance and went to the place that went with it. They charged me $25 and put a GIANT metal filling on it. That was that.

So I thought. The tooth started hurting again. About 15 minutes every night while I lay in bed not eating or drinking, the throbbing would pulse and eventually leave. Tim had started a new job, which meant work-issued dental at another office. So off I went. Turns out, the initial cavity had gone below the surface of the gums (which was why the filling failed) and they wanted to put a crown on it. And possibly a root canal in the future (they can just drill through a crown for a root canal so the order of crown first is okay). Unfortunately, the tooth had deteriorated to the point that there wasn't enough tooth left to put a crown on.

So off to surgery I went (this was in February). The procedure, called crown lengthening, exposes more of the tooth by removing bone underneath. Couple of stitches and a 2 week liquid diet. Bada Bing Bada Boom. Ready for a crown. Of course, my insurance was used up at that point. And the surgery was scary (totally awake with just Novocaine) and the recovery was problematic because the things they left in my mouth to "recover" were incredibly irritating to my tongue and I was covered in painful sores and couldn't speak. 

2 weeks ago, I went in for the crown prep. This tooth is so sensitive they had to numb me repeatedly. And my jaw was sore for days. But the old filling was removed and I got a pretty white temporary. Today was going to by my "crowning" moment. Take off the temporary, apply the $1k beautiful crown I paid for and FINALLY put this baby to rest. 

Only that didn't happen.

First, when the hygienist went to pop off the temporary, I wasn't numbed at all and he had pliers trying to pull it off. That's when the sobbing started. I thought it would just pop off. It did not. The pain radiated down and down, well after he stopped touching me. It was so painful and I was filled to the brim with fear. I literally wanted to just leave. But they hadn't put my pretty crown on and so they numbed me all up with tears rolling down my cheeks. Then he popped off the temporary. Only half my tooth came out with it. Yes, the tooth that was carefully excavated months ago decided to break, removing all the margins we had worked so hard to create, rendering my beautiful crown sitting on the counter completely useless. There wasn't enough tooth to attach the crown to. 

So guess what? I need another surgery. This time, the big one. The one no one wants to do because it's freaking expensive. And it's the only thing you can do besides just not having a tooth. I'm getting an implant. That means they will pull the tooth and the root, fill the root with titanium, leaving an ugly hole in my mouth (in the front, mind you) for 3 months while my bone tries to make friends with the titanium. Then they screw a crown into the titanium and there's your "tooth." I'm only 35 and it's in the front. This is the only way I feel comfortable going from here even though the time with nothing there makes me feel embarrassed. But an implant has a very low failure rate over a lifetime so if this tooth decides to cooperate once and for all, this will be it forever. 

Of course, all the pain, all the expense, all the time and effort feels as if it was for naught. I know in my heart that's not true. The crown lengthening? Yes, that effort literally fell out of my mouth this morning. But as a maintenance person, I know that I did everything I could to save this tooth (except go to the dentist for 7 years - the one time I delay maintenance!) and that will help me justify this large expense for my family. It's hard for me to spend money on myself, even medically necessary money. Somehow it's easier for me to spend money on myself when it's a massage or clothes. How weird is that? Maybe it's because it's so much cheaper. No matter, I'd rather do something else with thousands of dollars. Thankfully, my dentist felt so awful today (though this was no one's fault) that he refunded me the money for the crown so it can apply to the implant. And he is going to recommend the surgeon for the crown lengthening do the same (he'll be performing the implant as well). Who knows? Maybe it won't cost a fortune with all the credit I have coming. Seriously, who racks up credit at the dentist?  

All of that to say, the divorce proceedings between me and this tooth are coming up shortly. And I can say with confidence, that our relationship is irretrievably broken. 

When Reality Ends Up Being the Best Story

I finally watched La La Land last night! This feels like a victory in and of itself in the days of Trolls and Moana (as discussed a few days ago). Since I just wrote about Moana and I often have feelings to process after being exposed to film, I figured I might as well say a few things about La La Land too.

I'm going to get the dirty stuff out of the way right now. I wish Ryan and Emma's voices were better. There. I said it. The film was great and the ending moved me. But if Ryan can learn how to be a jazz pianist in three months, why isn't the singing better? Also, does anyone else experience an awkward pause whenever a new musical starts the first song? It always feels so weird. I love musicals, don't get me wrong. But there is a moment where you don't want to be cool and appreciative of the artistry. You just want to laugh at the audacity of making a film where people burst into song in the middle of scenes and even end up dancing in the stars at the observatory. If you feel like awkwardly laughing when you see a new musical, you're not alone.

Okay, shove that under the rug now so we can be friends again and get to the real meat of the movie. I had two distinct thoughts about the film. One, when two artists come together, even for a period of time, they will both be greatly affected and inspired by the other. It's beautiful to watch. And spoiler alert, neither of them would have gone on to fulfill their dreams had they not met each other. I was just discussing this with a friend the other day. She's an incredible artist and we dialogue about our writings and pursuits often. She's one of my greatest cheerleaders in my artistic endeavors. And we are both with people who support our artistry but are not our artistic partners. I find this to be common, especially for someone like me who discovered her abilities way after she got married. If I didn't know I was an artist (writer), why would I have known to pick someone who is interested in my writing? I wouldn't have. For what it's worth, my dear is interested in some things that bore me to tears so we have a very mutually respectful slight distance in these areas. To each their own.

But Sebastian and Mia are both actively pursuing their dreams when they meet. And she's so inspired by getting to know him that she leaves the schlub she's with (right in the middle of dinner!) to chase him. Love it. One of my favorite moments in the movie is when she calls him out for settling with the band (love me some John Legend). True love is not allowing the other to drift too far. I'm all about evolution. I've written about it quite a bit. Tim and I are both nowhere near the people we married and I'm so thrilled and happy for us that there is enough space and respect between us to have fostered that kind of growth. But in this case, Seb wasn't growing; he was back-sliding. And Mia cared for him enough to call him on it, even if it harmed their relationship. That's love.

And he believed in her when she couldn't go on putting herself out there. In the end, his pursuit and encouragement made all the difference. She went on to become the person she was meant to become as a direct result of his influence. That leads me to my other thought. No matter if you end up with someone forever or not, they can leave an indelible mark on your life. That's beautiful. And that connection stands. Before they went their separate ways, they both confessed that they would always love each other. I believe that love held up through the final scene. I have had many special people in my life that are no longer in my life or are no longer the love in my life. That in no way negates the influence they had on me then or even now. Love pays itself forward. I imagine some thought the film had a sad ending. I believe it was the ending many people have in life. And you can spend your time re-imagining everything that's happened (loved that scene too, so trippy!) or you can take the gift, cherish it always and live in the bounty that loved reaped in your life. They are both better because of each other. And after the film, Tim pointed out that Mia seemed genuinely happy in her marriage and with her child. It's not a tragic story. It's nostalgia meets reality. It's a place I live in all the time as someone who is very emotional and loves looking back. It's not tidy, nor particularly commercial (though the film was obviously celebrated), but it is true. And I'd rather live a true story than a perfect one any day.