Friday, March 26, 2010

i think i can, i think i can...i KNOW i can (?)

The words “I can’t” have turned into my own personal motto. My father would be so disappointed! Throughout my childhood, my dad would not accept the words “I can’t”, claiming that we can do anything we put our minds to. Somewhere along the way, however, those words not only became a pervasive personal slogan, but a source of comfort. It has always been so much easier to admit failure before trying than to fail from trying. Of course this does not really make much sense because how productive can one be if they aren’t willing to actually DO anything? That’s where I differ, and Joanne said it perfectly when she described me as a “frustrated perfectionist.” I want everything to be perfect, and I have visions of pure perfection in my head, but to actually carry out said visions seems literally impossible, so I give up. So far, what I have come to understand is that the idea of perfection is in fact impossible. Nothing can be perfect. So now my focus has to be on eliminating the need to be perfect, which will rid myself of so much frustration.

Ugh, I am just so irritated with myself. I feel as though I have nothing to blog about unless it has to do with what I feel is wrong with me. And if I’M annoyed with myself, I can only imagine how frustrated others are with my discussing the same ol’ topic. Part of my lack of blog topic is due to the fact that I have (still) not started my volunteering. I am not sure what exactly it is about the experience that I am avoiding. Perhaps it’s the level of avoidance itself that is provoking so much anxiety, which leads to more avoiding. I am disappointed because I am most certainly missing out a key element of this experience. While I am still planning on completing the twenty hours before April 5th, I will not be affording the focus and dedication my time spent volunteering requires and deserves because, at this point, I am simply trying to get them done for the mark. In light of that, and to hopefully get the experience that my fellow BB'ers have so far been a part of, I am making plans to volunteer this summer in my home community of Pickering. Perhaps with less pressure, I will be able to enjoy and gain the full experience of what it means to support my community through my offered time.

Wait! I just thought of something that is positive!! This past Monday, as part of my SMF 208 Family, Couple, & Marriage Therapy course, I took part in the annual poster presentation symposium. Me and my group watch the film "Fight Club", and we were responsible for choosing an area of oppression. From that, we had to create an anti-oppression framework from which therapists could apply in their therapeutic sessions. After watching the film, it was clear that we were dealing with the issue of male oppression. Many might be reading that and thinking, 'How on earth can men be oppressed?' Well, we certainly had difficulty articulating that ourselves, but after a month of processing, my group and I, with the help of some outside sources (thank you so much, V!), we finally were able to confidently support and stand behind our belief that men are in fact oppressed due to their need to live up to the numerous, yet hidden expectations of what it is to be male in society. From that oppression, and because men have to constantly defend their position of power when threatened by women, the queer community, and non-whites, men in turn oppress others to maintain the status quo of society. This was a message that was difficult to get across to those who visited our poster, however we were pleased by our conviction and how we were able to articulate a problem that is so pervasive yet invisible.

After the symposium, I began to really think about what our group had just done, and how much sense it all makes. As I reflected, I was struck by how much it applies to my potential experience in Beyond Borders, particularly if I head off to India (oh, by the way, Jenn, if you're reading this, I am interested in going to India in September!!...we'll talk later :P). When I spoke with Joanne the other day in regards to where I am headed in this program, she spoke of the potential difficulties I will face being a woman in India (or any other developing nation, for that matter). In applying my experience of defending men and their own oppression, I feel as though I am able to be more sympathetic toward their social location and their need to uphold their power. (Most) men are not villains who consciously oppress women and other minority groups. Instead, many of them are products of their environments. Like so many of us, men are raised with the hidden message that they are superior and the only way to maintain that superiority is to make others feel inferior. Likewise, the rest of society are raised with the (hidden) notion that men need to be all of these things, regardless of how they actually feel (i.e. some men might be more emotional, but because emotionality is viewed as a feminine characteristic, men hide that part of themselves to maintain the stereotype that men are stoic, non-expressive, creatures, void of any "weak" emotions). Therefore, I hope that my experience on Monday has afforded me the opportunity to interact with all men with more patience. Not only will this improve my interactions with these men, but will also provide me a better opportunity to reach them on a deeper level. This is really exciting to me because this particular placement in India would not only allow me to stand up for the rights of women, but also for that of men. We can't forget about them!

Friday, March 5, 2010

odds & ends

I feel like the only time I have anything to blog about it has something to do with some kind of pivotal moment in my life. There hasn't been anything pivotal-esque in that past week; just really good feelings on the other side of some big decisions. Therapy has begun, and I know it's early to be so optimistic, but I am feeling pretty damn good :D

In light of the great mood and clear mind I've been experiencing in the past week and a half, I've noticed how much easier and less anxiety-provoking it has been to interact with people and express myself. Those who know me well have heard me complain time and again about my difficulty communicating my thoughts and ideas, but this past week has definitely seen a new side of Tina! I feel like a veil has been lifted; it's wonderful! I have spoken up in class on more than one occassion, even with ill-formed ideas (an absolute first), I have given my opinions confidently in class and casual conversation, and I've been a large part in directing many of my group meetings for class projects. It's simply a new and exciting experience. I feel like I've been granted access to a part of me that's been left dormant for so many years. In real-time, it's only been ten days, but it's certainly felt like a lifetime; and that's definitely not meant in an "oh-my-god-I-can't-believe-it's-been-so-long-I'm-so-bored-of-this" kind of way :P.

One of the things about Jean Vanier's book that I was able to identify with so deeply were his notions of loneliness and the need to belong. When I read those teachings, I thought, "I definitely know what it's like to feel lonely, and I too understand the importance of belonging, so I am well on my way to becoming human." The problem was that I had all along been allowing all of the negative experiences in my life dictate how I viewed the world and people around me (predominately in a negative light). So while I had life experiences that lent themselves to the teachings of Vanier, I did not have the understanding of those experiences to learn from them and apply them wholly to the experience of helping others. This is not to say that in the past ten days I've come to know and expertly put into practice everything that Vanier discussed in his book, but I am certainly in a better position in which to tackle such life-affirming endeavours, big or small.

Moving on, as some of you may have noticed I haven't discussed any volunteering experience which, as I've explained in previous posts, is a mandatory component of this term's portion of the BB program. I have had some difficulty getting in touch with the necessary people in order to secure a volunteer placement at locations that would lend to the experience I hoped to have in Ukraine; but, on the suggestion of Joanne, and for the fact that I may no longer be going to Ukraine, I will be contacting the Working Center. Fingers-crossed!

Finally, I learned something appalling today that I wish to share with all of you. In my Gender Relations class, I always find that there are more and more statistics that startle me in the inequality between the genders. But one in particular today that truly resonnated with me was the shift in the salary earnings of veterenarians. In class we were discussing how, in a patriarchal society such as ours, men, who are the dominant gender and rule-writers, re-write the rules when their patriarchy is challenged, or simply to uphold their position of power. An example of this is a typically female-dominated field becoming "masculine", for example computer programming, and the field experiences an increase in salary. Conversely, male-dominated fields that receive an increase in female employment decreases in prestige, and subsequently the field experiences a decrease in salary. An example of this, and one that has me scratching my head, is that, generally, vets in Ontario today are making the same annually as nurses. Vets are making the same as nurses!! I certainly do not intend to offend any nurses...I believe that is an extremely noble and under-rewarded profession (previous to university, I was in college to complete my bachelor in nursing), but in comparison with the amount of schooling that is involved with that of a veterenarian, it is an outrage. In order to become a nurse today (as of approximately 6 years ago), one has to complete a four year university degree. To become a vet, one has to obtain a university bachelor degree, and then complete a number of years to obtain their Doctor of Venterinary Medicine, and even more if they wish to specialize in any particular area of veterinary medicine. I don't know about you, but that's a HUGE discrepency in terms of amount of time and money spent to become a vet versus a nurse. Vets used to be paid on par with medical doctors, but since the field has seen an influx of female professionals, the field has lost it's prestige and apparently it's value. It honestly makes me sick with frustration at the systemic oppression still rampant in our society that prides itself on how far it's come in equality. Yes, we have come a long way, but unfortunately we (those for true and honest equality) have been silenced by band-aid solutions and quick fixes. The wool was pulled over our eyes, but now everyone else remains blind to it.