Blog post, Sharing

Trust in the unknown

Hello, loves. I’m still going through a lot of growing and changing. It’s been a great journey so far, these last couple weeks. That’s not to say that it isn’t still scary, but it’s in a good way?

I finally acknowledged that if I continued to tolerate and accept disrespect, then I would continue to receive that. I acknowledged that I cannot keep protecting my heart and my ego while at the same time expect to attract love and romance into my life. I acknowledged that I’m never going to have all the answers and that I just have to be thankful for the things I don’t yet have in the material world and trust the Unknown.

I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about my love language, and how that impacts the way I interact with and/or react to people. Not just how I express romantic love, but also platonic love. My main love language is “acts of service.” Although for me, it’s not just doing nice things for me, but also showing general respect? Like, things that have hurt me deeply in the past are times when people told me they’d be there and weren’t, or I explicitly asked that someone stop doing something (or start doing something) and they continued to do the thing that I told them upset me (or declined to start doing the thing I asked).

This is also how I show my love and affection: I want to help people carry things, or decorate, or clean, or pack or unpack. I try not to be in the way, and be mindful of people’s personal space, and avoid using words or phrases that are upsetting. This doesn’t mean those other four languages aren’t important to me. The second one is probably physical touch, followed by quality time, words of validation, and gifts.

Keeping this in mind has been really helpful in reflecting on how to improve my interpersonal relationships, how I perceive my friendships, and how I expect to be treated. I don’t want to over-look my friends’ kindness because I’m looking for actions, but they’re using words or gifts to show they care.

I also realized that this carries over to my writing, and how I approach it. It comes from a place of pain, and feeling like I have something to prove. It shows. I look forward to seeing how things turn out when they come from a place of healing and love. I don’t want to prove a point, or write “out of spite.” My goal is to share stories because it’s what I love, and I want to give back to this massively important part of my life. I want to help people heal, either from fiction, or just being there for them.

I’m pretty excited for this stronger version of me, and for where I’m going to go, how I’ll keep changing, and the new strengths I’ll find along the way. If you’ve read older posts, you’ll know that a friend of mine inspired me to choose a word that I wanted to define my year. 2017 was “change,” and holy crap was that accurate. I chose “strength” for 2018, but I didn’t feel like that had resonated with me until the last month or so. I already know that 2019 is going to be “trust.” I’m ready to trust the Unknown to bring the things I need and want into my life, to trust my friends with my vulnerability, to trust that my loved ones will be honest with me,  and to trust that the love I give will come back around.

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You make me stronger; hand me my armor.

I wrote a post last month about an old set of armor. The subject line probably sounds familiar if you read that one. Thank you if it did. Thank you for taking your precious time to read my words.

That armor is being retired, though. Recycled is maybe a better word. I don’t want to forget where I came from or lose appreciation for how far I’ve come.

This time of year always makes me feel guilty. I’ve spent the last 11 years feeling like a terrible daughter, because society as a whole thinks that I should still let toxic family members be a part of my life. It makes me feel like a bad daughter, a bad older sister, a bad younger sister, a bad aunt. In some ways I am. In many ways I’m not, though, and I’ve been punishing myself for getting away from my abuse for 11 years. That guilt and fear are my old armor, and I’m ready to be done with it.

I’m not 100% over it. There are things I’m still afraid of. There are still people I’m afraid of. But damn, I am so tired of carrying around those fears like shackles. I am so done using them as a crutch and a shield to deny myself happiness.

Like. Wow. Wow, this is such a good feeling. I’m sitting here crying alone at the keyboard, but I’m crying because this feels so good. I have never felt this good about myself in my life. I caught a glimpse of it when I was 21 and realized that I didn’t need to keep my abusers in my life. But this is feeling? Of letting myself be happy?

I wish you all felt this. I know many of you do, but I know that some of you don’t, and only you can do that. I hope you get there some day. Because honestly, I wouldn’t feel this way without any of you.  If you’re reading this, you’ve shown me what an actual family feels like. You make me feel safe, like if those people tried to hurt me that I wouldn’t have to be afraid. Like I don’t have to be so damn stubbornly independent, like it’s okay to ask for help. Like I don’t have to rely on my own strength for everything, like I can be vulnerable. You make me feel valued, and like I’m not a waste of space, like I have a voice that matters.

It’s so freeing to know that I’m allowed to like myself, and love myself, and be happy despite mistakes I’ve made. I can’t change those things, but I can learn and do better. I’m allowed to admit I’m a good person, and I deserve to have amazing people in my life, and I deserve love, and I deserve to feel pretty. Maybe one day I’ll feel beautiful. I’m getting there.

In the meantime, I’m going to keep taking care of myself, and treat myself right, and expect other people to treat me well too. I’m going to take care of my nearest and dearest, because I can, and because other people took care of me when I felt like I was at my worst, and because my purpose on this earth is to love and support people even if I accomplish nothing else. I’m allowed to rely on other people when I need it, because I don’t get to choose what other people are willing to do, or what they feel, or what they want to give and share with me. I don’t get to choose how much they like me or love me, and I don’t get to tell them they shouldn’t spend their time on me.

I’m tired of being the person who used her sad story as a reason to settle for things. I’m tired of being a girl who almost settled for a guy once because he was handsome and paid attention to her, but was only nice when he was sober. Thankfully I was strong enough to cut that out early. Apparently he turned out to be the sort of guy who hit his baby’s mom, and I’ve already been someone’s punching bag, and my whole family were alcoholics. I’ve already decided never again. I deserve someone who is going to lift me up instead of push me down. I’m allowed to let my friends help me with things. I’m allowed to start growing some roots instead of being ready to run.

Maybe one day I won’t feel like I need to hide behind a pseudonym online, and I’ll stop being afraid of being found because I have amazing people around me who will be there even if I’m afraid. There are still things I’m working on, like student debt, and getting healthy, but those aren’t a reason to cling to the mistakes of a scared 21 year old girl. It feels so good to put my trust in my friends and the Universe.

I’m ready to treat my apartment like a home and not a pit stop. Everything I have is either easy to pack or easy to part with. Even when I lived with other people, I felt like I was just a second-rate person. I’d like a real home. My small community makes me feel more secure every day. Thank you for these happy tears.

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I put my armor on

I could be thinner.

I could have more muscle, and be toned, and have the sort of legs people stare at.

I looked like that, once.

Because back then, in Once Land, I wanted to be noticed, and did bold things like wear shorts and shave every day.

Back then, I was proud of my legs, and my posture, my six minute mile, and how long I could hold a note.

I wanted the world to think “Wow” when they heard my name.

But things change.

I’ve been told I would be pretty if I lost some weight, and I heard all the unsaid implications: I would be sexually desirable; people would be happier looking at me; they would take me more seriously; I am unlovable as long as I look this way.

You’re full of shit,” I think, even as I wonder “but what if that’s true?

Maybe the people I’ve been interested in wouldn’t be so out of my league if I were thinner,” I think, and immediately hate myself, because I am worth more than the soft flesh I hide beneath over-sized T-shirts, and I know that thinking otherwise is playing into some toxic patriarchal idea of the perfect person, and I should punch myself for perpetuating it.

Those thoughts are poison. A poison which has already set in, and the only cure is dedicated, deliberate corrections, and they are so hard, so hard to internalize.

Because when I walk down the street, or into a store, or exist in public, I see other girls (thin girls, chubby girls who are fat in the “right” places, curvy girls) get cat-called.

And it fills me with rage on their behalf, because they don’t exist for someone’s viewing pleasure, and how dare those guys think otherwise, and yet-

And yet

It is a foreign experience for me. For a split second I am jealous of those girls, of the attention they receive, because their bodies look the way I wish mine would, because my curves are in the wrong places, because they were noticed and I never have been, because no one has ever looked at me and vocalized their immature, self-entitled, egocentric sexual desires onto me, and-

And-

And fuck those guys for pulling me back into that poison pit. Fuck them for making me want that sort of attention for even a millisecond, for tricking me into feeling insecure and small and unworthy.

And that’s just it, isn’t it?

I know what I’m doing.

My appearance is all very strategic.

Because if no one notices me, no one will want me, and if no one wants me, then my head and my heart and my body are safe.

Safe from what?

From embarrassment, insecurity, vulnerability, rejection, from seeing a look of disgust cross someone’s face, from caring too much.

Maybe that’s why I always want the ones who are out of my league, because it’s safe, because I will never be able to reach that high and touch them, because when they are intangible then I will never have to fear them touching me, or telling me that my mind, my heart, and my body are too soft. I will never have to see the look of regret when they see me naked.

I already know all that.

It makes me safe from wanting to be someone’s forever, from feeling like I deserve to be a priority, from wanting to be someone’s number one, from getting my hopes up. But it also makes it so easy to feel like my flaws dictate my value, that I’m not deserving of affection because I don’t meet certain aesthetic requirements.

I know that’s a line of bullshit. I know that’s false. I know it can happen to anyone, no matter how they look. Because some of those things already happened to me. It doesn’t matter that my experiences are on a much smaller scale than other women I know. I’ve had a boy feel me up and stick his hand down my pants to grab my ass even after I told him no.

So no, trying to be invisible doesn’t work 100% of the time. In many ways it has, though. I’ve allowed the need to stay under the radar dictate how I interact with people I was interested in. I let it tell me to keep my mouth shut, to hold back, to sit and watch them notice and desire and choose other women. It’s no one’s fault. I don’t blame those other women, and I don’t blame those people for not noticing me in that way. I’m the one building and sustaining the anti-visibility barricades.

But as much as I want someone in my life I can depend on as a life companion, partner, significant other, I tell myself that I don’t deserve than until I have everything perfect, so that I won’t burden them with my debt, my emotional baggage, my physical body. Anyone who could ever think I’m worth their time deserves to have me at my best; I want them to have me at my best. I’m trying to give everyone in my life my best version of me, and it frustrates me when I’m not.

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I deserve good things. So do you.

I left this long, rambling comment on a YouTube video, and thought that I might share this with the rest of you. I’m going to preface this with: I’m not going to debate the legitimacy of the Law of Attraction with anyone, whether it is a real thing or not, etc.. That’s not what this space is for. If you think it’s some hippy, magic, witchy, weird, fictional, nonsensical thing, that’s fine. I’m not trying to convince you otherwise. If you want to debate it, go find a forum for that.

Onward with the rambling

~*~

I’ve seen a few people in the comments struggling with LoA (Law of Attraction) working for them. I’m not a famous person, or already financially wealthy. But that wealth is out there for me, and it’s on its way to me. I believe that. Since stumbling into this, I can see LoA already having an impact on my life in just the last few months. It takes work, because it really is a mental and emotional shift. It’s not as easy as saying a positive affirmation one time and then seconds later a million dollars drops into your lap, or your health problem vanishes immediately, etc.. It takes a lot of deliberate action on your part. At least, it has for me. I’m creating new habits for my mind.

When I catch myself getting angry at the person who cut me off on the road, or almost hit me, or some other traffic issue, I let myself feel the frustration and anger for a few seconds, and then tell myself, “Universe, I am so thankful that I saw that person in time and that I am safe, that nothing happened to either of our vehicles, and no one was hurt.” Maybe that person was in a hurry and thought they could make it, or trusted me to stop in time, or didn’t even see me at all; regardless, the point is that NOTHING HAPPENED, and I want to control how I expend my energy as much as I can. I would rather celebrate the blessing (again, NOTHING HAPPENED) instead of sit and stew in my annoyance at “what could have happened.” Maybe that other driver gets ahead of me, and I notice a pattern of irresponsible driving decisions on their part. Well then hey, thank the Universe that I see that and can keep some distance between myself and them and be glad that I am alert and safe. Right?

LoA is working for me. Change takes time, and patience, and practice. But I see it working. I got more back on my tax return than expected, and I got a small check in the mail that I didn’t expect, too. When those things happened to me, I expressed my gratitude, and look for ways to spread that gratitude around. Every time pay day comes around, I check my bank account and express my thankfulness for that, too, and I’ve extended that to thanking the Universe when I check out at the grocery store. “I’m so thankful that I have the money to buy the groceries I need and want.” It’s changing my view on money, and my emotions toward it. Rather than stressing about wanting and needing more, I’m using my energy to celebrate what I have. And honestly? I feel better. I’m happier, and my anxiety surrounding it has decreased so much.

There is a lot of overlap with LoA and Impostor Syndrome, too. Impostor Syndrome can keep us feeling miserable and unworthy. Once I heard of Impostor Syndrome, and realized, “Oh my god, that is me,” I saw just how much it impacted my life. I didn’t feel like I deserved to have good things happen to me, like I was unworthy of romance, or money, or respect, and that if I DID accomplish something that it was “just a one time thing, I’ll never be able to achieve that thing again” or “oh well I had help, so I don’t really deserve praise for my work and involvement in this thing,” or “well I made mistakes in the past and hurt people’s feelings, so I don’t deserve friendship or love because I should punish myself for my past mistakes for the rest of my life.” Wow. Toxic, right? Those were just a few of the things I was telling myself. Then when I learned that this isn’t just something I do to myself, but it’s a thing that many people experience, I realized just how mean I was being to myself, and how much I was getting in my own way. Rather than punishing myself and denying myself happiness forever, I need to forgive myself and move on. I made those past mistakes because I was acting out of fear, and because I was young and believed what manipulative people told me. But I’m not in that situation anymore, and yet I’m still giving them power over me? I decided NOT ANYMORE! I’m almost 32, and damn it, I am so ready to be free of all that. I’ve grown, and changed. I’m not a teenager, stuck in a toxic house with toxic people anymore, dependent on my parents’ income and shelter. I’ve found a wonderful support system of new friendships and creative minds.

And you know what? You all deserve good things, too. Your past mistakes don’t get to control your bliss for the rest of your life. Acknowledge your mistakes, ask forgiveness if you can (with the caveat to be safe; don’t go back to an unhealthy place if it will put you in danger), and FORGIVE YOURSELF! And be honest with yourself, too. Are you carrying guilt and holding yourself back because of something you actually did wrong, or because you feel like you need to hold yourself back because you don’t deserve good things, because someone else deserves to shine more? Because if you’re holding yourself back so that someone else can shine, then you’re hurting more than just yourself. The world is big enough for you to shine, too. The more light the better. I also suggest looking up the “two cakes” comic someone drew.

TL;DR version: Once I made the conscious effort to start unwinding Impostor Syndrome from my mind, it was so much easier to let LoA into my heart and mind, too. I do deserve happiness and prosperity. You deserve it, too. And once I let myself believe I deserve it, and started expressing gratitude for what I have, it got easier to express gratitude for the abundance that is on its way to me.

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Kill Your Idols

Various forms of “kill your idols” exist. “Burn your idols,” or “kill your darlings.” They each mean something slightly different (“kill/murder your darlings” is more about writing; cousin idioms, if you will). I’m here to talk about killing our idols, and pedestals, and distances.

For the record, please do not go out and actually kill anyone. Metaphors, people.

“Kill your darlings” goes hand-in-hand with impostor syndrome, except rather than focusing on your perceived short-comings, we’re examining the perceived perfections of those we look up to. Think of the people you look up to, and the traits and qualities you admire in them. If you’re one for making lists, you can do that, too, although I imagine it is going to be a long list, waxing poetic about their virtues and talents.

That list makes that person (or those people) seem larger than life, right? So high above you. If you lifted your hand and stood on your tip-toes, you still can’t reach them. The pedestal they’re standing on is made of all the things you love and admire about them, and it puts so much distance between you. The sun rises and sets around them, they can do no wrong, every word they say is gospel, and no one else can compare.

I am so guilty of this. “I’ll never write as beautifully and poetic as ___ so why should I even try?” “___ is so kind and thoughtful and generous. I’m not worthy of their friendship.” “Why would anyone look twice at me when ___ is there?” “I finally got validation from ___. Now I actually believe I might have [random quality] despite what everyone else has told me.” “My favorite [author/artist/whatever] was further along into their career when they were my age; I’m such a failure and so far behind them.” “No one can hold a candle to ___ so we might as well not even try.”

These thoughts are toxic and problematic. Don’t siphon off your own positive self-image just to feed into your projected image of someone else. It’s exhausting. I should know, I do it all the time. I drain myself of any good things I may think about myself, and fuel it into my thoughts of others: “yeah, I’m cute, but ___ is cuter,” or “I’m proud of this thing I wrote, but ___ could do it way better,” or “I’m a good listener, but ___ is so much more caring and compassionate,” or “I’m funny, but ___ is way more entertaining and memorable.”

Stop it, self. Stop doing that. It is so unhealthy. The pedestal helps no one.

Not you, and certainly not your idol(s). How does it make them feel, knowing the expectations you have of them? To feel like they need to live up to those expectations and perceptions? What if they fail? Why do their admirable qualities mean that you aren’t worthy of them?

And the people around you? How do they feel about the way you put this person/people above all others? Why aren’t they worth the same consideration and appreciation? Are you singling out this person at the expense of acknowledging and showing gratitude for the other people in your life? Are their contributions not as important?

So you have this person, and in your mind they are out of reach. You know what you admire about them. But this person? These people? The heroes you look up to and try to emulate? They’re people, too. With flaws, believe it or not. Think about those flaws. Make a second list, and with each flaw you realize, drive it into that pedestal, use it to chip away at the raised platform. Bring that person closer to your level.

It’s okay if you don’t bring them all the way down to where you’re standing; you admire them for a reason. The goal is not to hate them and to change your mind about looking up to them. The goal is to kill the unattainable image you have of them. This perfect image only fuels your impostor syndrome, and puts more pressure on the person you’re projecting onto. Encourage them, believe in them, support them, and be there for them, but don’t erase their humanity. Don’t deify them; but if you do, remember that even gods have flaws and make mistakes.

So take that image of the people you think are out of your reach, then punch it in the face. Stab it. “What? I would never want to hurt them!” Trust me, you aren’t hurting them. That perfect, flawless, carved-from-marble image isn’t them. You’re doing both of you a favor by gutting that image and then reshaping it.

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Hard to love?

I saw a graphic on Facebook. The text on it says:

People who have been single for too long are the hardest to love, because they have become so used to being single, independent, and self-sufficient that it takes something extraordinary to convince them that they need you in their life.

(Credit: Lessons Taught by Life)

I have a lot of problems with that. The word-choices are very condescending, and the message implies that a person can be single for “too long,” and that being single, independent, and self-sufficient are flaws. These long-term single people need convincing to enter a relationship?

Anyway, let’s break this down, and then I’m going to ramble about some things.

What is “too long?” I’ve known people who dislike being single, so to them a few weeks or a few months is too long for them. They enjoy being in romantic relationships and are happy to date. Excellent! Go for it! For others, they were single for a few years and started looking actively for someone. Whose definition of “too long” are we using, and why is your perception of someone else’s relationship status important to begin with?

“…they have become so used to being single, independent, and self-sufficient….” You know that when people are in a romantic relationship they don’t magically stop being independent and self-sufficient, right? If I date someone, I am still going to be entirely capable of grocery shopping and running errands on my own, or doing laundry, or making peanut butter sandwiches. I would expect my partner to still be an autonomous human being.

“…it takes something extraordinary to convince them that they need you in their life.” Convince me? I presume that if we’ve reached a point where dating or commitment were possibilities that you’re already in my life. I won’t need convincing. What are you trying to convince me of? That this is ~*it*~, that we can ~*go the distance*~, that we’re ~*the real deal*~? That we’re going to be the sort of couple who grows old together and sticks it out through the rough patches and doesn’t give up on each other and that ~*this is True Love*~.

Okay, sure. I’ll be honest. I’ve been single my whole life, which is uncommon for people my age.  I never thought about it that way, but I guess I am waiting for something extraordinary. Over time, I got used to waiting, and as the song goes, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” What have I been waiting for? I’ve been waiting: to fall in love; to be noticed; to have the courage to tell someone I noticed them; to be in a place where I wouldn’t burden a partner with my financial mess; to be attractive enough; to deserve to be loved; to actually have something of value to bring to the table; to be someone’s “wow.” Some of these things are valid, and some are toxic thoughts I have about myself.

Waiting isn’t the only reason, though. I’m afraid. Afraid that if I went for it that it would end. I’ve seen friends and family date and break up, marry and divorce. Maybe the risk is worth it, and maybe we can never really promise anything when it comes to love. I’m afraid of intimacy and of being vulnerable, so I’m slow to let people in.

My timing is terrible. I tend to develop interest in someone right before they become unavailable. They have a tendency to start dating someone else, or move, or they’re more interested in my friend. These things happen shortly after I get feelings. Maybe it’s my brain trying to make my heart play it safe; there is less risk wanting someone who is out of reach.

Maybe I’m cursed.

Maybe one day I’ll trip, stumble, or fall in love. Maybe I’ll find myself walking along, and realize miles later that I’m already there. Maybe I’ll wander into it accidentally, wondering how I got there to begin with.

Maybe I already missed it five turns ago, or several miles back. Maybe it’s too late to backtrack or turn around and get take that exit after all. Maybe somewhere along the way I got lost and I’m just on a detour right now and I’ll eventually find my way back on the path to that person.

Maybe they’re already around and neither of us have realized it yet. Maybe it’s someone I chatted to once while we waited in line for something. Maybe we already missed our window of opportunity.

Maybe it’s not meant for me.

Sure, it would be great to have someone to hold me, and kiss my forehead, and play with my hair when I’m having a tough time. I could have really used that this morning when I got some frustrating news. But I’m used to being single, and independent, and self-sufficient, so instead I coped alone and asked myself, “Okay, where do I go from here?”

Does all that make me “hard to love?” Is that even a thing?

I’m single because I want to be, and because it just hasn’t happened yet, and maybe it never will. That’s okay. It’s not some flaw. You don’t have to tell me “Oh, don’t say that!” and feel like you need to reassure me that it will. It’s not a priority for me right now. If it happens, great. If not, great. I’m still a complete person either way, with goals and dreams. The notion that I have been single for “too long” is harmful and implies that people have an obligation to pair up.

Maybe it would be easier if I just marry a friend for the tax breaks.

 

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A list of things which make me happy

  • Hugs
  • Chocolate
  • Chocolate with peanut butter
  • Peanut butter
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Lasagna
  • Pizza
  • I really like food
  • Cats purring
  • Also when cats do that headbutt thing into your hand because they want you to pet them
  • When the scent of the detergent lingers on recently-cleaned bedding and you can still smell it a few days later
  • Petrichor
  • Especially the sort of hugs when you don’t let go after just a couple seconds, but hold on longer and really hold the person (also, because SCIENCE) (but really, touch is my love language, and growing up I was all over my friends all the time, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve had a hard time forming those same sort of connections and I can tell it’s messed with me)
  • Lilies
  • Random acts of kindness
  • MYSTERY acts of kindness, which are anonymous and wonderful
  • Books
  • Daisies
  • Watching people write by hand
  • Getting whiffs of people’s perfume, or cologne, or shampoo
  • Good hair days
  • Watching and listening to someone talk about something they’re passionate and excited about
  • Watching people open presents
  • Vanilla
  • Cuddling
  • When people play with my hair
  • Playing with other people’s hair
  • Ice cream
  • Flirting (although I am probably bad at it, but odds are that I’m probably flirting with you in my own way)
  • Stories that make me feel things
  • Thunder storms
  • Happy endings
  • Getting letters in the mail
  • Pretending I despise puns (10% of me is okay with them) (mostly it’s that I know they’re terrible jokes but I actually find them amusing, and even more funny when people try to annoy me with them because I’m not as irritated as I act) (shhhh)
  • When something I’ve done actually makes a difference
  • Learning new things
  • Seeing people reach their goals
  • When people hold the door open for each other
  • Soft things (blankets, sweaters, jackets) (if you’ve ever been shopping with me, you might’ve lost me for a bit because I stopped to touch all the soft blankets)
  • Comfortable silences
  • Bursting into song
  • Finding an awesome bra
  • Flattering dresses
  • Checking out someone else when they’re wearing flattering jeans
  • Also when they do that thing where they’re wearing a long-sleeved button-up over a T-shirt and roll the sleeves up to their elbows, unf
  • When people are sweet to children
  • When people are sweet in general
  • Cats grooming each other, or other animals
  • Pajamas
  • Over-sized hoodies
  • Cute animals
  • Collaborative story-telling
  • Smashing the patriarchy

Please share your list of happy things, too!