My Arena

January 08, 2014 By: Jenna Category: Personal

Presenting my ideas and work to the online world is wonderful in many ways. My best friendships today were formed through social media, I have relationships with a range of intelligent and talented people, my ideas and beliefs have been challenged and shaped in positive ways, and certainly the validation is appreciated (sometimes far too much by me, but that’s another post).

But anyone who has read the comments on YouTube or The Huffington Post has seen the dark side of the internet. Lobbing molotov cocktails of snark and hatred is all-to-easy when done via a computer screen. It became crucial for my mental health to find a way to wade through the sea of criticism and develop a new metric for measuring my self-worth.

daringgreatlysource

“Nothing has transformed my life more than realizing that it’s a waste of time to evaluate my worthiness by weighing the reaction of the people in the stands.” Brene Brown

Brene Brown is the second great woman I know of who has shared this approach (the first was Liene Stevens, of Think Splendid) but it wasn’t until I started reading Daring Greatly that I was able to fully integrate this concept into my life.

I suspect most successful and notable people utilize this mindset at some point. Which is not to say that I think I am successful or notable, but I know I won’t get there if I’m busy worrying about whether everyone likes me. But how to fully embrace this idea when confronting faceless/useless/meaningless criticism? I was spending far too much time stewing and giving credit where it wasn’t due. Dr. Brown’s book has helped me develop a mental process that I can enact each time the self-doubt rises to the surface again. Anyone who has encountered her work has probably become familiar with the Theodore Roosevelt quote that she loves.

daringgreatlyarena

source

 It is her addition, that last part at the bottom, that changed everything for me. I am the gladiator in my own arena. If I want to share parts of my fight with the public, I am going to have unwanted observers jeering at me. Those people, and their feedback, do not matter to me. The only power I have over them is to deny them any power over me. 

The feedback that does matter comes from a very select group of people. If I shared something with these individuals, something vulnerable and painful and raw, they would first pull me in for a hug. After they felt my shoulders relax they would pull away, look at me (really look at me), and tell me the honest truth that I need to hear, no matter how hard it is for them to say it and for me to hear it. Those are the people I want in my corner, and those are the people who are going to help set the guideposts that I live my life by. I don’t need the public to like the way I spend my time, or to think I am a good mother, or to agree with my beliefs and opinions.

And now, when the clouds gather and the mental stewing begins, I picture My Arena. Is the feedback I’m considering coming from the hug+honesty group? No? Then I’ll be moving right along thankyouverymuch. I’ve got a battle to fight and a life to live. There is greatness to be had.

Choosing an Appropriate Halloween Costume

October 30, 2013 By: Jenna Category: Holiday

The weekend before last I posted the following photo and description on my Instagram feed.
Processed with VSCOcam with b2 preset

 

Halloween = my favorite time for over-saturating social media with photos of my kids. For this party Miss is a loose interpretation of a samurai, Mr is Buzz Lightyear.

If you visit my account you’ll see that my loose interpretation of a samurai costume hit some nerves, and cultural appropriation is something I’ve been thinking about ever since.

The podcast http://blogs.howstuffworks.com/category/stuff-mom-never-told-you/ just did an episode on this titled “What Not to Wear on Halloween” and I think it’s a great listen if you’d like to spend some time working through this issue.

This is the conclusion I have come to: It is never appropriate to represent or impersonate a negative or offensive stereotype of a currently-living group with a costume. Additionally, a privileged group should never dress as a member of a group they have oppressed, offended, or reside above in a given area (either presently or in the past). Be culturally sensitive about donning costume inspired by foreign cultures, particularly those your own culture has oppressed or attacked in some way.

If you have enough not to be homeless, you should not be dressing as a homeless person for Halloween. Living without a home is not a joke. If you are healthy, don’t dress up as a cancer patient. Having cancer is not a joke. (If you actually have cancer, feel free to dress up as someone with cancer. Maybe it can be a make lemonade from lemons kind of situation?) “White trash”, illegal alien, blackface. All are offensive. One of the Stuff Your Mom Never Told You hosts pointed out that at the end of the night the Halloween participant gets to go home and take their costume off. They may have been pretending to be a Black, mentally ill, incarcerated character, but after the party is over they get to go back to being a white, wealthy, TV personality. A better homage to Crazy Eyes would be donating some money to a cause that support similar women who need assistance getting back on their feet after incarceration.

I’ve cited some examples that I consider to be very obvious, but there are some I can’t decide on. What if I want to dress as a maid? Maybe the sexy French kind, maybe as someone in regular clothes who carries around a mop and set of rags all night. I think telling someone that they can’t dress as a maid somehow implies something negative about being a maid. But if I picture Paris Hilton dressing as a maid I get a bad taste in my mouth – it feels wrong. Same thing with dressing as an auto mechanic, or Walmart employee, or coal miner. Where is the line between personifying an idea and making a joke out of it?

I think the best approach to choosing a Halloween costume is to think about the person you are representing and decide how you are portraying their personhood. Most importantly, think about how they might feel if you were to encounter them in person. If there is any hesitation on your part, or any possibility of offense on theirs, choose something else. If you don’t know if something is offensive read about it on Wikipedia or ask someone who is well-read. If you’re reading this I’m going to assume you have the means at your disposal to create almost anything you can dream up; unique and creative costumes are the best kind anyway. Leave the flat jokes and hurtful stereotypes to the comedians who aren’t savvy enough to come up with sharp and innovative material.

SCOTUS, DOMA, and Personal Progress

June 26, 2013 By: Jenna Category: Personal

In October of 2008 I got married. It meant so much to me to be able to publicly join with the person I love most. One month later I wrote on Facebook declaring how excited I was that others had been denied that very same right.

IMG_3679

I changed and moved forward, and now, happily (amazingly! joyfully!) the supreme court has ruled that the country will begin moving forward as well. This is a wonderful day.

Making Amends

May 10, 2013 By: Jenna Category: Personal

I’ve had this post on my mind for a long time now, but I felt I couldn’t write it until I revealed the enormous shift I’ve made over the past year. If you didn’t know that I had left Mormonism how could what I am about to say come across as anything other than pandering? I needed you to know that I am in a different place so that I could atone for my past mistakes. I choose the word atone carefully, knowing that my recent declaration could make it sound as though I am trying to be clever. But I know of no better word than atone to convey a complete cleansing, which is what I need. Some of the things I’ve said in the past hurt people in really deep ways and I want to shed the baggage that comes along with realizing that. This does not mean I recognize all of the mistakes I’ve ever made or will continue to make, or that I have the ability to own up to each and every one of them. I am deeply flawed, and within that bundle of flaws comes pride and shame, both which prevent me from being all that I want to be. I’ll keep chipping away at those stones that burden my progress, but for now I hope those I have hurt will accept the apologies I am offering up below and know that they come from the truest part of myself that I am mentally and emotionally able to lay bare.

fire sunset chicago eclipse

Most of these apologies are related to my Mormon mindset, but I will start with one that has no relation to the faith of my childhood. While I was pregnant I wrote a post called I’m Gonna Climb That Mountain (those who were hurt by this post have requested that it be made unavailable to the public so that the hurtful messages I voiced within it can’t be spread any further). I’m not sure anymore what I was trying to convey, but reading back over it I can see that it was a terrible post and I said a lot of hurtful things. I’ve been ashamed of that post for a long time, but haven’t allowed myself to take it down because I didn’t want to hide behind my ability to make posts private or delete them altogether. I think women should birth how and where they want. I am sorry that I made any woman feel like her birth plans or birth experience weren’t good enough. I think mothers should have every opportunity to choose the birth experience that leaves them feeling empowered and triumphant, because that is how I felt after the births of my babies and that is what I want every woman to have as well. I think that some women do everything they can to give birth a certain way and it turns out to be something else entirely. Those women should have the opportunity to grieve the loss of a great dream while they simultaneously celebrate the arrival of their little one(s), and no one should ever criticize them for doing so. There is no mountain. There’s just a pregnant woman doing her best for the life she carries inside of her, and then there is a beautiful mother doing her best for her child.

And now for the opinions and thought processes that were a product of my personal history and religious tradition. A wonderful thing to note is that not all of those who come from my community or belong to the Mormon faith think or act the way I did; they are much better people than I. But when I shifted away from Mormonism and a worldview shaped by my youth I left old hurtful attitudes behind and I can’t untangle where these attitudes began and how much of a role my past played in nurturing them. All I can do is acknowledge that they were a part of the Jenna of the past and that I want to leave them behind forever and move toward the better Jenna of the future.  Read more →

Modesty and the Middle Class

April 12, 2012 By: Jenna Category: Personal

(and the upper class as well, but I liked the alliteration)


I have only very recently come to loathe the word modesty. Previously I considered it a badge of honor, and felt proud that I was doing it “right”. I thought a little bit about my intentions, but mostly I kept my shoulders covered and constantly tugged my pencil skirts down toward my knees (which was difficult to do while simultaneously patting myself on the back).

Blogging opened me up to a world of alternative viewpoints, and I realized that my friends wearing strapless dresses didn’t seem so bad, and my perception of modesty was altered. Modesty for me might be about cap sleeves and kept promises, but the goal for everyone should be self-respect. A modest woman dresses with self-respect, and self-respect looks different on everyone.

I am in the midst of yet another shift in my thinking that takes the idea of self-respect and expands on it. Read more →

      I'm a farm-raised almost-crunchy stroller-pushing picture-taking lifestyle-blog-writing gastronomy-obsessed divine-seeking thrift-store-combing cheese-inhaling pavement-pounding laughter-sprinkling lover of individuality and taking chances.
  • Archives


That Wife
All rights reserved © 2008-2014

I am a HowJoyful Design by Joy Kelley