Stages of Outrage

There’s a lot of anger simmering under the surface sometimes. Like the Hulk, some of my drive, determination, defensiveness and stubbornness as a single woman may be rooted in a simple secret: I’m always angry.

When I laugh at the tweet I saw last week that said “If we put a woman on the twenty dollar bill, will it only be worth $15.88?”, it’s a laugh that hides a twinge of frustration.

When certain politicians co-opt my values and play on fears to get votes, I feel helpless rage.

When my favorite writers are misquoted and misappropriated to prove a point or justify an action, my inner English major goes all Braveheart.

When I arrive at an airbnb booking and there are extra charges and fees and you have to pay for towels and sheets and a 400-euro deposit in cash, and you have no option except to swallow their requirements, because cancellations forfeit the whole cost of the booking.

When my car tires get slashed by someone who makes approximately fifty times more money than I do.

When these things happen, I feel outrage. I sense the injustice of it all. I lose a little bit of hope in the world. I feel powerless to effect change, like it all matters a little bit less.

For others, however, it seems that injustice fuels the sense that the words they have to say in this stage of reaction matter MORE. Words spoken (or written on facebook) in the stage of injustice-processing classified as outrage seem to matter MORE than words spoken out of deep thought, considered study, or any sort of expertise.

It’s not because I never feel outraged at political, financial, race, class, or gender injustices that I don’t often post about them on social media or even here on our oh-so-unbiased-and-totally-like-philosophical blog. I suppose I feel that my response should be more than mere reaction, especially in this culture of outrage, where it’s common to emote outrage every other day about what this politician said or didn’t say, or how celebrity A supported or backstabbed celebrity B, how corporation A is lying and corporation B is cheating.

I’m not saying that anger doesn’t have value. but what happens beyond outrage that we often don’t record? Pick your favorite incident of outrage–an oil spill, a politician misquoting the Bible, Cedric the Lion getting shot, The Bachelor giving a rose to the wrong girl, Disney re-make ruined your favorite childhood movie, or, to use a recent example–The Cincinatti Zoo’s decision to kill Harambe the Gorilla after a four-year-old child escaped into his enclosure.

Who’s the target of your outrage? The mother? People in general who choose to propagate the species? The zoo staff? Zoos in general? The child? THE HUMAN RACE?

You see, outrage is easy. It’s our first reaction. What comes after outrage, blame, and snarky/angry comment discussions that apparently way too many people have time for? Real thought. Real conversations about important things. I am guessing many parents had good talks with their kids about not running away, about death, about how it’s important to care for animals by leaving them room. A realer, deeper anger than mere outrage.  Quietness. Grief. Despair. Confusion. Discouragement. Depression. Coping with a new normal. Healing. Hoping. Responding with life-change, instead of just reacting emotionally.

Comedian John Cleese speaks along the same lines in this video. Comedy, (which we hope can be found on this blog now and again) is a sort of thoughtfulness that takes processing, takes us beyond mere reaction. It requires a filtering and distilling, and it requires hope; a transformation that takes us past “This HAPPENED! OMG! Disaster!” to “This happened, and this is what it means for me and possibly for you, and just like with everything that has happened or will happen, there are highlights and shadows and it’s important to see both of them to get the whole picture. Also, have a laugh to keep from crying.”

Dear Working Girl: Be Brave

Dear Working Girl:

Be brave.

And then live with the consequences.

Because they won’t always be good. Sometimes making a brave step ends in heartbreak. Sometimes accepting a new job, moving to a new city, and giving up your home, your friends, and your security for a new opportunity might end in unexpected unemployment.

Sometimes you’ll try something new at work, try to help out a designer and exercise your creative muscles by making wireframes for a website project, and the designer will let you spend hours on learning the process and making them. Then he might tell you to throw them in the trash can without looking at them.

Sometimes your teams will fail you; sometimes you’ll get shut down for making suggestions, sometimes you will get told your work is not worthy of a raise.

You will lose battles at work.

You will hire someone who turns against you, who might even get you fired.

You will get failing grades in school (or in life) because you tried something different.

You might wear something that, in retrospect, looks pretty silly on you although it looked great on the web page.

Write something. Start a blog. Fill a sketchbook. Read your poetry out loud.

Be brave anyway.

Because the world needs you, though it thinks it doesn’t. Don’t stop, even when you keep asking, keep making, keep looking, keep seeking, and keep trying new things and nothing seems to be working.

Because do you know what? Sometimes bravery looks an awful lot like patience. Sometimes it looks like failure. Sometimes it looks like waking up in the morning with smelly breath and fuzzy hair and looking in the mirror and going out into the world anyway.

Don’t freeze. Don’t stop yourself at status quo. Look for the new, look for the beautiful ideas, look for the hard, but wonderful, work. Do not be satisfied with less. Keep speaking up.

Because with bravery, as with prayer, the results are often not obvious. Be brave not because it gets you where you want to be, but because it will change your character deeply.

The world needs your bravery.

Even if it thinks it doesn’t.


Fair Warning

Fair Warning


The “Fair Warning” note under my windshield wiper, along with an official warning notice from the parking garage at my new workplace, was accompanied by a deflated tire. And it wasn’t just that the air was let out via the valve. There was actually a cut in the tire wall.

All because I mixed up the number of the parking spot I was told to park in, and parked in 131 instead of 1×1.

Fair Warning: I’m angry.

It may not seem that I am, because I’m handling it. Like a grown-up. I discovered the flat, thankfully, before getting onto the freeway, by dint of offering to give a car-less co-worker a ride to her home on my way. In her driveway, she held a cellphone flashlight as I maneuvered the tire iron, standing on it with my full weight in order to remove the bolts when necessary, feeling thankful for those unwanted extra pounds. I’ve had to do this twice this year, and each time I’m grateful for the time my dad made me change the tire in the snow so I would know how to do it. I cut my finger on a metal burr on the edge of the jack, and had a Fat Amy moment.

Together, we pulled the wheel off, leaving grease mixed with blood from my finger, and attached the spare. Agreeing to text her when I made it home, I set up my navigation system to direct me home without getting on the freeway—a 20-mile detour around Lake Washington by surface roads.

I’m mad. I mean really, really angry. I want to let the air out of this person’s tires. I want to scream at the business owners who repeatedly told me I wasn’t worth a living wage, because I am a single woman instead of a family man. I want them to know what it feels like to cry in your office at 10 pm because you’ve been doing workaround after workaround after workaround in order to accomplish a task that should have taken 10 minutes, because they didn’t consider my time important enough to take up development time.

I want to go back to the office of my dream job and tell the partners who fired me and left me to 6 months of unemployment last year, and wish the same fate on their daughters, then flip them both middle fingers and walk out backward with Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” playing over their shocked faces. And they thought I was such a nice girl.

The Pastors who used my passion up until it became imperative to pay me and then dropped me or forced me out of jobs, the leaders who let me go because it was easier than helping me grow into a role. The leaders who overlooked me because I was quiet. The men who hit on me at bus stops, while I’m walking down the street, or use the carpool lanes as an excuse to cut off rule-following, hard-working commuters. The “Unconscious Bias” of privilege is much-talked about these days. I see men apologizing on social media, supporting Emma Watson’s #heforshe, being aware of how it affects their behavior for the first time. But they still own the public spaces without being fully aware of it.

Before I was even fully aware of this concept, I broke up with a college boyfriend. Only recently could I really explain and understand why I felt uncomfortable with the patronizing tone he took with my art, with my friends and priorities, with my church and even with the way I dressed and talked and ate, the college I chose, my family, and with the way I lead my teams in the summer program where we worked together. He didn’t respect my place of leadership—he seemed instead to sense that he was conceding, indulging me somehow, by allowing me to lead, by allowing me to even be there. It was a concession, not an equal relationship. By the last week of the final summer we worked together, not a day went by that I didn’t feel like punching his smug, now-engaged-to-someone-else face. I mentioned to one of my staffers that we had dated briefly and she fell off her chair and rolled on the floor laughing at the idea.

I am so grateful for the vague sense of confused discomfort that finally led me to follow my gut and say the relationship wasn’t for me. I’m even a little angry that I grieved losing the relationship.

And I’m mad that he is now a pastor. It’s been many years since I worked with him, so it’s likely he’s changed. But honestly, when I go to churches, my bullshit radar is set to super-alert. Many pastors are now my age and younger, too. It’s hard for me to trust the system that fostered their leadership (even though I also know many good and faithful leaders and pastors who are full of integrity and worthy of respect). And if I catch an echo of patronizing attitude, of what we now term “unconscious privilege,” I want to run as far and fast from that person’s leadership as I can. I see the faces of betrayal and patronization staring back at me from pulpits and stages, no matter how casual the dress code, no matter how authentic the tone, no matter how artistically designed the backdrop.

Am I a victim? Am I wallowing in injustice? Probably some of the time, yes. I’m a perpetrator, too. I’m white, middle-class, educated, and own a (nearly worthless) car and half of a house. This makes me one of the richest people in the world. I have my own “unconscious privilege” biases, too.

To those who didn’t take care of me when they could have: I’m angry. To those who attacked me for innocent mistakes: I’m angry. To those who took advantage of their privilege, however unconsciously, instead of fighting for those who had less opportunity and less advantage. To those who did not and do not begin with love instead of power. To the owner of parking spot 131, who slashed my driver’s side rear tire, as confirmed by my Goodyear tire dealership.

I’m angry.


But because I am angry, I will not attack your car in return. Because I am angry, I will be more patient (if, because of the cost of damage to my car, a less-frequent customer) at Starbucks. And I will smile and thank the barista who messed up my order and took a few extra minutes to make that magical cup of coffee.

I will be kinder. I will work harder. I will help out when I don’t strictly need to.

And this will be my rebellion.

I will not make fewer mistakes, probably. But possibly one day the barista may become an executive who owns both a shiny black new BMW and a matte-red custom painted sportscar. Possibly someone in a thrice-recalled (thanks, GM), nearly worthless vehicle may park in that former barista’s spot. And perhaps, just perhaps, that barista will remember what it was like to be struggling. Maybe that former barista will not leave a nasty note, will not slash the tires on the GM junker, but will instead simply and reasonably call security and wait for the car to be moved, assuming (correctly) that it was a simple mistake by a stressed-out newbie.

Be kind. Make the world a better place.

Adjustment Disorder

“For your insurance submission, I have to include a diagnosis,” my new counselor said. “So the code on the paperwork refers to a diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder.

I laughed out loud.

Mike’s career as a counselor is his second career. He is also a musician and music producer–we’ve even crossed paths unknowingly at a few creative retreats and conferences. His counseling practice focuses on therapy with artists and creative people.

“It’s a pretty standard reason for taking up therapy for any reason–it’s a low-grade diagnosis. I just wanted to make sure you understood what it meant.”

I laughed again, harder, and Mike looked at me questioningly. I mean, he already knows a lot about my weaknesses and failings, obviously. But usually it comes out in tears instead of laughter. I tried to explain.

“It’s just funny. I mean, ‘Adjustment Disorder.’ Isn’t that just the state of being for a Christian…for being human? It seems like that’s just LIFE. We’re all, always, out of sync with the broken world, right?”

Mike smiled ironically, “You’re a big thinker. Well, it’s just a way of indicating to insurance that there’s a reason for your going through this therapy process.”

I nodded. “I just thought it was a funny way of saying “SNAFU. You know. How the human “normal” means that everyone is a little screwed up.”

He laughed again. That’s what I like about Mike. A counselor should be able to laugh at your jokes.

Adjustment disorder. Who DOESN’T have it?


Pretty in Pity

414758_10152063471865375_915071458_oThere is, in women of a certain age, an attractiveness born from singleness. Pity pretty.

It’s a magical age when you go from being ‘attractive’ to ‘attractive for your age and circumstance.’ All your accomplishments become excellent reasons for why you should be married, though hardly selling points for falling in love. And no one quite knows how to wrap their heads around the fact that someone attractive, accomplished and mostly inoffensive could ever be single, remaining oblivious to the fact that unattractive, unremarkable, offensive people get married every day.

While people are pleased and happy to acknowledge and praise your skills, your fashion sense, your commitment to your job, your volunteer work, your availability to teach Sunday school or lead the youth fundraiser, and your bravery in “living your life,’ it’s often a lead-in to lament that “it’s a shame no one has snapped you up yet.”

Pity-prettiness is conditional. You’re still pretty enough, it says. Pretty enough to not be single for the rest of your life, as if singleness is merely a manifestation of genetics.

When I was in summer camp leadership, a friend of mine had a whole repertoire of folk songs memorized, and we all would learn various funny, antique lyrics. The one the girls thought was funniest was called “If I Die an Old Maid in the Garrett.” They lyrics are about a lonely spinster wondering why in the world she doesn’t have “a wee, fat man, who would call me his own dearie.”

We sang it because the lyrics were comical, but one time when we finished a rousing round of the chorus, one of the male staffers shook his head and said he didn’t like us to sing it.

“Why not?” I asked, surprised.

“Well…well,” he thought for a minute, “… because all of you are too pretty to die old maids!” He said, with the flourish of bestowing a compliment.

We all looked at each other, unsure of how to respond. The thing is, pity-pretty isn’t a compliment. Pity-pretty is an assessment and estimation of value, based on cultural expectations.

At the same time, I know that this language of pity-pretty is used by friends, elderly relatives, acquaintances, and church family with the kindest and most loving of intentions. They want to build me up, encourage me that it’s “not too late.”

And so, we smile and accept these sunflower compliments, and put them in water with a good boulder or two of salt. After all, at least it proves they think we’re not complete mutants. At least they’re not among those that are saying “No wonder she’s single!”

Dear Working Girl: Don’t Do Just What They Ask

“Did I ever tell you you’re like a duck? That’s how James and I think of you.” Matt was a partner at the audacious startup branding firm that I had recently begun working for. We were at a swanky launch party at a very cool “secret” loft in Capital Hill. I must have looked surprised, because Matt grinned at me over his second Negroni and explained, “It’s because you look all calm on the surface but you’re working away underneath.” He spotted someone important across the room and said “I’m going to mingle over there. Have fun.”

I laughed about it at the time. But when I lost the job 6 months later, I imagined the myriad ways in which I could have changed the situation. One of the things that has stood out to me is that I let the things they complimented me on become my measure for success. Did I let my “quiet duck” persona turn me into a meek pushover? This is dangerous. Don’t try this at home (or at work), kids. If you need to write your own job description before you start getting swayed by compliments (like I do), then do that. Whenever someone says “It’s so nice that you always empty the dishwasher. It really makes a difference to have a clean workplace,” you can feel good about it, but if it isn’t in your job description, it doesn’t count as success.

I worked with a great team at that agency. But it seemed like the thanks and affirmations they often gave me focused on my quietness, my team-player perspective, and my transparency about admitting when I didn’t know things. Maybe I should have raised a ruckus more often, voiced my disagreement more vocally.

And those things they affirmed most often were some of the same things they discussed with me when they let me go:

“I wish I could afford to keep you on just to think about things, to do research.”

“You’re not cut out for project management–this role is too chaotic.”

“It’s nothing wrong with your work. We might need a different personality type.”

It’s not the only time this kind of situation has happened. In another job, I had the idea that I could provide some value in a certain area by doing research for some different branches of the company and giving them one-pager summaries on some different topics. Because I received very little affirmation at the time, I felt like it didn’t matter and stopped spending time on it. FIVE YEARS later, I ran into one of my former co-workers, who told me she still used my one-pagers. I wonder, if I had not run after affirmation alone, if I had stuck with my idea just a little longer, where would that program be now?

Affirmation is one indicator of approval and success–but it is only one. You’ll get into trouble if you focus on that alone.

Dear readers, I hope this saves you from the years of heartache I’ve walked through. I hope you never have to think to yourself, as I have, “I’ve done everything you’ve asked of me and more for x years, and now? Now you tell me it was all wrong? Now none of it matters? Now you’re letting me go, or telling me I’m not worth a raise?”

Don’t do just what they ask. Don’t let affirmations be your only barometer.

When Singleness is a Lot Like Owning a PT Cruiser

I used to drive a PT Cruiser. The why isn’t important. But what’s important is how much having a PT Cruiser began to affect my life. And it wasn’t necessarily positive.

No one who saw the car could refrain from commenting.

I had friends that thought it was straight up hilarious and made jokes regularly.

I had friends that actually refused to be seen in the car at all, for any reason.

I found driving the PT Cruiser to be problematic as well. It had a barely discernable turning radius. It couldn’t accelerate. Other cars seemed to pull out in front of my car with a suspicious frequency.

And it had a ton of problems that were somehow hidden below the surface enough to be indescribable to  mechanics, but real enough on the road.

pt cruiser

In a perfect world, owning a type of car different from other types of cars would be no big deal, but in this world where public perception influences us more than we think, the kind of car we’re driving around in does matter.

Being single is a lot like owning a PT Cruiser.

Your marital status is by turns offensive, hilarious, anxiety-producing, and personally problematic. You can even become a bit paranoid, assuming all bad things that happen are because everyone knows you’re single.

Most troubling of all, for me, is that any chance I take to make fun of my own relational status gets mistaken as a plea for a spouse. As if it is impossible to enjoy the comical adventures that is the single life.

That’s why Jana and I are here.

When I had my PT Cruiser I was the only person I knew that had one under the age of 60 (another parallel?). I had no one who could relate to me. PT Cruisers were big for people vacationing, and they were great for the elderly, but after awhile I really started to think all the issues I had with the car were mine and mine alone.

It’s just not the case. You’re not crazy. We’re not crazy. The only people who are crazy are those who never wonder if they are.

So Jana and I are would like to share with you those little clinks and screeches that go with being single. Maybe you’ve got the same issues, or maybe you just want to hear a new perspective on something you find funny, offensive, or awkward.

We’re more than pleased to be part of the conversation either way.

Thanks for joining us!

Lots of love and empathy, and a spoonful of irony,

Katrina and Jana