Category Archives: Empowerment

What Is Privilege? Let My Fat Pants Explain

Casual Friday is supposed to be a treat, right? It hasn’t been for me lately, but at least Casual Friday taught me a fresh lesson about privilege and how hard it can be to see when you’re wrapped up in it.

travel clothes

What time is brunch?

I guess this story started many years ago, back when I was a world traveler who went to fancy places. Whether it was tea on the veranda in Bermuda, climbing to the top of the Acropolis in Athens, or dinner at a quaint Icelandic restaurant in Prague, I didn’t want to dress like a tourist. I discovered the perfect line of clothes for a woman on the go–the Travelers line from Chico’s. Their market is a little on the older side, but it’s hard to beat the non-wrinkle fabric, classic colors and cuts, washable in the sink, drip dry, cool, comfortable, easy to dress up with some small accessories kind of clothes. I started buying a few pieces a year and building my travel wardrobe.

But y’all. The best part of these clothes for rich retirees? Elastic waists. Who’s got time for buttons that pop off or zippers that might get stuck when you’re headed to the midnight buffet on a cruise? Not me.

For years, I have fallen under the spell of the elastic waistband. When I started having babies, I didn’t buy maternity clothes–I bought more Travelers stuff. When I quit having babies but kept on eating for two? I stayed in the Travelers clothes. Soooo comfy! Pretty soon, all my pants were fat pants.

Then along came Casual Friday to ruin it. I put on a pair of jeans a couple of weeks ago and thought I would suffocate by lunch time. Whew! That waistband didn’t have any GIVE to it. Every time I bent over, I lost my breath. There was no comfortable way to sit without that stiff fabric cutting into my side meat. Every part of me struggled against the confines…of my jeans.

zipper-574008_1280

As I sat behind my desk after lunch, I popped open the button and snuck the zipper down so my bellybutton could get back to its normal shape. When the sweet rush of freedom tingled over me, I remembered a powerful statement I heard at BlogHer:

“The absence of privilege feels like oppression to them.”

Brianna Wu, a developer of gaming about women and for women, said that in relation to sexism in the workplace, how when privileged white males have to play on a level field, they feel like they are being robbed.

So…what IS privilege? We talk about it a lot lately as we try to talk about inequalities in our society. White privilege, male privilege, cis privilege, economic privilege, the privilege of access. Privilege is “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.”

What does that have to do with my fat pants and Casual Friday? Well, for years, I’ve lived with a special advantage, an immunity to my own choices. I’ve gained 50 pounds and I’m still wearing the same pants. In my mind, I am not living with any special advantage. I just seem to be able to eat whatever I want and never exercise and my pants still fit! No matter what choices I make, my world (or at least my pants) adapted itself to allow those choices. To excuse those choices.

The simplest definition of privilege is–wiggle room. Having the space to move through the world and feeling confident that the world will allow you some grace. Being able to change lanes without signaling and not worrying about being arrested. Being able to laugh with your book club without being kicked off a train. Being able to invite friends to a pool party.

When you have grown up with privilege, the absence of privilege feels like oppression.

When’s the last time you felt oppressed? Was it true unfairness or was it a removal of privilege? I remember when our hospital made all employees start clocking in, even salaried. I was kind of miffed…that I was going to have to do the same procedure everyone else was expected to do to prove I was at work. Or when we had to start parking in a specific place…I had always been able to park closer to the building. (Note to self: think about parking farther away re: fat pants)

Privilege can be really tough to see when you are living inside it. Like the princess, who when told that starving peasants rioted because they didn’t have bread, replied, “Then let them eat cake!” Duh. That’s privilege. Life wouldn’t be so hard for you if you would just….be me.

So there you have it. Fat pants, privilege, oppression, a little history, and cake.

Mmmm…did somebody say CAKE?

 

Climbing the Lifeguard Chair

“Carlos, look at Mommy so I know you’re listening to me.”

He pushed wet hair out of his eyes and turned to listen. “Mommy and Daddy are right here with you, but if you ever think you’re lost, look for that big red chair. See the red umbrella? That woman is the lifeguard–she’s like the teacher in charge of the beach.”

file000432861714

I’m sure all he heard was “Blah blah blah BEACH!” but I do my best to prepare the kids for worst case scenarios. Well, Sharknado is probably worse but the forecast didn’t call for sharks or nados.

By the end of a half way rainy day, all that hovering over my kids had really started to wear me out. We enjoyed a delightful morning of cinnamon rolls and playing in the waves, but after the rainy afternoon with no naps, then the disappointing “let’s go wander around” car trip, and the mediocre $75 dinner, followed by a rousing contest of “who can scream loudest in the minivan?”…this mama was shot. All that wonderful Relaxation and Family Time had solidified into a tightness in my chest that felt a lot like Shut the Hell Up and Here, Have Some More Screen Time.

So G suggested I take a walk by myself. Well, not technically by myself because I took my friend, Mr. Wine Sippy Cup with me. I left my Tevas on the steps and walked south, into the wind. I walked past couples holding hands, boys throwing a glow in the dark frisbee, moms trying to keep kids who were still dressed for dinner out of the waves. I walked past one, two, three lifeguard chairs. The wind blew so hard that tufts of sea foam from the waves scurried up the sand and into the dunes, like little white mice. I walked past a party on the verANDahhhh of the fancy hotel.

I didn’t want to turn back yet, but the daylight had gone. At the first lifeguard chair that I passed on the return, four feet swung against the wooden steps and two heads leaned close for a kiss. I walked on, alone. At the next lifeguard chair, a teenage boy with long golden hair struggled to light a cigarette in the wind. Another ways down the beach, and I found the third lifeguard chair–the one I had pointed out to Carlos in the morning–standing empty under the dark night clouds.

Mr. Sippy Cup and I didn’t think twice. We scaled up the wide wooden slats of the chair and faced into the wind. The breeze actually smelled different up there, saltier and clean. Even after the walking, my chest sat tight, filled with anxiety. Second day of vacation and my kids were already bat shit crazy. I breathed in three parts–belly, chest, collar bones–and felt the wind move into me.

I remembered the first time I had climbed into the lifeguard chair, 25 or 26 years ago. I had gone for a beach weekend with some friends. Late at night, we went for a walk on the beach and discovered an empty lifeguard chair. Feeling bold, I climbed into it and a guy I had known for years climbed in beside me. He was good-looking and smart and kind and suddenly there beside me, up above the rest of the world.  I “technically” had a boyfriend and this fellow wasn’t him. I didn’t love my boyfriend anymore yet was too confused to know how to end a relationship without the next one lined up. So when my friend climbed up there with me, I remember being hit with a strong feeling. I wanted him, this guy, to love me. To decide things for me. To find me where I was lost and pull me onto a path. Any path. I just wanted him to love me.

Nothing came of it, that first time I climbed into a lifeguard’s chair. Tonight while I sat up in the wind for a second time, 25 years later, I thought about love and how for so many years, I thought it was something that would come to me, not from me. That my feeling lost could be fixed by someone else.

No. The woman in the lifeguard chair, the one to search for if I think I might be lost? It was me all along.

Seabiscuit’s Best Pal

Have you read Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillebrand? I enjoyed that story of the 1938 Horse of the Year so much that I once rattled the silverware on the lunch table when I got so into a race scene that I was banging on the table and saying, “GO, BISCUIT, GO!”

Seabiscuit wasn’t supposed to be a champion. Even though he came from great stock….he turned out kind of wonky looking. He ran funny, with a gait that looked like an egg beater. He was small. In his early career, he had some tough times and they turned him a little bit mean. He was almost worn out before he really had a chance to shine. By the time he ended up in the care of the trainer who would take him to glory, Seabiscuit was 200 lbs underweight and so high-strung he spent most of his time pacing and pacing and pacing in his stall. He was a mess.

Seabiscuit and Pumpkin

Seabiscuit and Pumpkin

Then along came Pumpkin. As Hillebrand describes him: “Pumpkin was amiable to every horse he met and became a surrogate parent to the flighty ones.” High strung Thoroughbred race horses do better with a calm and gentle “lead pony” around. These companions keep the race horse company and walk with them out to the track to calm the nerves. Pumpkin had been a Montana cow pony–there wasn’t much he hadn’t seen but none of it had turned him mean. So the trainer knocked out the wall between two stalls and moved Pumpkin in with the Biscuit. After a little sniffing and conversation, the scrappy little champion and his soothing yellow companion remained bonded for the rest of their lives. And Seabiscuit went on to take his place in the history books.

Guess which one is the international superstar?

Guess which one is the international superstar?

American Pharoah, who won the fabled Triple Crown just last week, has his own companion pony, Smokey. This buckskin Quarter horse was the second most photographed horse at the Belmont Stakes. He goes everywhere with the champ, calming his nerves and giving him a shoulder to bump against in the crowd of flashbulbs. We all need somebody.

So why all this barn talk about lead ponies? I have a friend who is an absolute Thoroughbred. Just like these magnificently powerful creatures, she’s fast and strong and smart and beautiful. And sadly, like Seabiscuit, she hasn’t been cherished in her early life for the powerhouse that she is. She’s been used and pushed too far and almost got worn out. Her nerves are jangly and she’s pacing and pacing and pacing. She has so much potential and power but gets overwhelmed by the rush of it all.

When she and I talk, I imagine myself as Pumpkin, calm and amiable. I try to channel that unflappable cow pony who ain’t scared a nothin. I want her to draw comfort from my friendship, to feel the steady power of a companion who will always be right by her side. She has great things ahead and already possesses everything she will need to find her place in the history books.

Horses are so much like us in a way–sometimes it’s the mental game that holds us back. Having a few friends around you can make all the difference. They encourage us to run.

Am I writing about you? Maybe so. What’s holding you back, Biscuit?

inspiration-awesome-9

What Does Diphtheria In Spain Have to Do With Your Uterus?

Let me see if I can explain the connection between a couple of ideas that have been nipping at my brain for a few months. They’ve exploded to the surface this week and I get so mad thinking about it that I can barely speak…which means I need to write. Here goes.

Diphtheria_vaccination_posterDiphtheria–haven’t heard that one in a while, huh? That’s because this horrifying bacterial infection has been all but eradicated in the part of the world that enjoys access to modern healthcare. This disease has a 10% fatality rate–those infected die from heart and nerve damage caused by blood-borne bacterial infection. The symptom of this disease that makes me shudder is the white membrane that forms in the throat, choking its victims. Horrible, horrible stuff.

And it’s back.

In late May, a child in Spain developed diphtheria and he’s hooked to machines in an ICU in heart and lung failure, critical condition. His parents had chosen not to vaccinate him; they are devastated that they “received faulty information” and feel horrible guilt. Spain didn’t even have the medicines required to treat diphtheria because they hadn’t had a case since 1986. Luckily (?), Russia had some on hand.

Now EIGHT other children in his circle have tested postive for the bacteria but have not developed diphtheria, because they were vaccinated. They are covered in the stuff, but it cannot get a foothold in their bodies and take over. Their immune systems were ready for that shit and slammed the door right in diphtheria’s face. “Not today, asshole!”

I think many people who grew up in the post-vaccintation generation believe that these diseases are “gone.” Nope. The bacteria and viruses that cause diseases like smallpox, polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, and other diseases I can’t spell ARE STILL EVERYWHERE AROUND US. They are part of the natural world. Vaccination doesn’t kill the things that cause diseases. Vaccination cuts off the infection agent’s access to a place to set up shop. We are all walking around in a miasma of disease agents. Some, like the common cold, can set up shop anywhere in any body. So can diphtheria if there are people who can carry it around, incubate it, and introduce it to others.

I believe in the power and safety of vaccines. Since the 18th century, when Edward Jenner and the milkmaid Sarah Nelmes figured out that a little dose of cowpox could protect a body from catching smallpox, millions of bodies have been off limits to these organisms that share our world. As Dr. Gennaro Gama, our household scientist, noted “Vaccination is a product of the world’s longest running clinical trial.” For 300 years, we’ve benefitted from this practice. Oh, and Jenner was just the first to study vaccination in our part of the world–the Turks had been doing it for hundreds of years before him.

 

herd

This comic from Red Pen/Black Pen nails it. Those who choose not to vaccinate can still live with a relatively low chance of catching these diseases because all the vaccinated bodies around them ensure their safety. Everyone else is holding the umbrella so they don’t get wet. Fewer places for disease to set up, fewer carriers, lower chance of infection–for people who don’t protect themselves and people who CAN’T protect themselves, like those with compromised immune systems or infants.

So because most people did the work and took the risk, all people are safer from the threat of disease. But if we aren’t vigilant and too many people choose not to do the work of protecting from these diseases the germy boogers have more places to take hold and easier vectors over which to travel from person to person to person.

Now, to your uterus…(sorry to be exclusive, guys)

We all have to participate in vaccination to keep the boogers at bay. We all have to participate in women’s health issues to keep the boogers out of our business. Let me splain.

Just as I’m a big fan of the science of vaccines, I’m also a big fan of women’s access to healthcare and the power we have earned legally to make our own decisions about what happens to our bodies. Namely, I think birth control is fabulous and abortion should be a safe, legal, and accessible option to women. And this week, with the rulings in Texas that make a woman’s right to abortion very very hard to access, I realize that the rights I have assumed were a done deal are being eroded all around. Didn’t we decide this stuff in the 70s? Didn’t we enact laws that gave women these rights? Now anti-choice factions are fighting less about overturning a woman’s right to abortion and just chipping away at their access to the service. Legal abortion is a moot point if you can’t afford it, can’t get to it, or the doctor you were going to see has been harrassed out of practice.

I am saddened by the current story of Kenlissia Jones, a Georgia woman who couldn’t afford a safe and timely abortion so she turned to the internet for the pills that would end her pregnancy. She was initially charged with malice murder but the charges were dropped. A desperate woman’s attempt that harkens back to back alley coat hanger days. It’s an awful story.

RoeI grew up AFTER most of the landmark decisions like Roe v. Wade. I became a woman in a world where I could get birth control pills if I wanted them. I lived in a society where I could choose an abortion to end a pregnancy. I had the advantages of money and insurance. I didn’t have to be all that vigilant about these rights because a lot of other women had opened up the umbrella and were keeping the rain off the rest of us. I didn’t spend any more time worrying about access to health care than I spent worrying about diphtheria. I was innoculated! I was safe…right?

Nope.

Just like with vaccination, too many people are choosing not to participate in the work and the risk of protecting women’s rights, so our control over our own bodies is being eroded. I’m not even trying to change the minds of people who disagree. Those who would deny women our rights are part of the natural world–I can’t change that any more than I can change polio floating around.

votes-for-womenBut I can sure as hell make an effort to protect my position and to do my part to keep us all safe. If I believe in women’s health issues like keeping abortion legal and available and keeping birth control decisions in the hands of women and not in their employers, I have to step up and use my voice, my vote, my money, and my platform to participate in the work and the risk. I cannot take these rights for granted. Too many women fought too many battles to make it seem easy for us to enjoy our freedoms.

So this is one of those pieces where I was afraid to use my voice but I’m going to speak my truth. And money talks. For the first 50 comments on this post, I will donate $5 each up to a total of $250 to Planned Parenthood of Georgia.

I’m opening my umbrella. Step under if you need to. Open yours, too.

An Equation for Evolution, This Week At Least

25 + (20 – $5) + 20/20  = 500

Let’s start with 25…

10406898_10101650857929614_149417074479742370_n

I’m in the lower left, grabbing my left boob in an archaic inside kind of joke thing that we did back in 1990.

I’m still processing everything that happened this weekend at my 25 year college reunion. One thing that has sat with me for days is the idea of evolution. A friend complimented how much I had “evolved” at one of our class parties. At first, I tried to turn it into a joke–like I was winning the tiny trophy for “Most Improved.” Then I corrected myself and accepted her gift of that word. She meant good things–how we navigate growing up successfully when we develop and diversify based on the things that happen to us. I have done that. We get our edges worn away and we figure out what works. Yep, done some of that, too. We keep moving and changing. We grow. So yeah, I guess I have evolved in the last 25 years.

+ 20

It’s been 20 years since I married Fartbuster, as of today. I wonder what it would be like to sit across a table from the me that was me 20 years ago and listen to her. At 26, I was excited to be getting married…FINALLY. wedding-407487_640I don’t think I ever took a moment to ask, “What’s in this for me?” All I wanted was To Be Married, so I married the person I loved at the time. I didn’t spend much time thinking about What I Wanted In a Partner. I thought that love was enough. I didn’t understand much about the other two things–honor and cherish. I didn’t consider whether he honored me and I figured he would learn to cherish me. I did love him. I think he loved me. But we were 26. How would I see that young woman–would I pity her, admire her innocence, or get fed up with an earful of her bullshit?

-$5

At the rehearsal dinner 20 years ago, I walked across the restaurant and knelt down beside our family friend, Wally. My mom snapped a photo as I handed Wally a crisp $5 bill. After a quick “Do you remember that time…,” Wally and I roared with laughter over something I had told him 6 years before.

The summer between my junior and senior years of college, my then boyfriend went on a long vacation with his family. I felt miserable and alone, and super jealous that he was cruising in Greece while I was working as a temp secretary in a credit office. My mom and I were over at Wally’s house for dinner one night and I kept moping and sighing and missing my beloved. There was a teensy bit of angsty wallowing going on.

Wally got sick of hearing it and told me to get over it, and knowing Wally’s acerbic tongue, it was along the lines of “Young love, my ass.” He and my mom laughed. I shouted, “Y’all think you know everything just because you’re older. I’ll have you know that I know myself and I love him and I will always love him!” Wally hooted and snapped, “I bet you FIVE DOLLARS that you don’t even know where that boy is five years from now.”

"Oh YEAH? We're young but we are IN LOVE."

“Oh YEAH? We’re may be young but we are IN LOVE.”

Wally was right. I had no idea where that boy had gotten to, and here I was marrying a different true love. So I paid him his five bucks.

(20/20)

Twenty twenty hindsight. I’ve acquired some of that over the years. That junior in college really did love her boyfriend with everything she had–but it didn’t last another year. And the young bride handed over $5 in recognition of what a wise old friend knew that she didn’t. The divorced woman at 31 learned the hard way that she should have asked some sharper questions before making those vows. The widow at 36 didn’t have anything to regret, but everything to lose. Now the mother at 46 looks back on them all with loving kindness.

Given the 20/20 nature of hindsight, I feel empathy for the me that was a few hours away from marrying Fartbuster twenty years ago. I’d give her a hug more than a talking to, because she was doing her best.

Evolving is about going THROUGH life experiences, not trying to skip them or stay safe or rush past. When life ends up teaching a tough lesson, my hope is that I will pack it up for the journey and keep moving.

MD39The-Best-Way-Out-Robert-Frost-Posters

=500

And this is the 500th post on Baddest Mother Ever. I’ve learned so much in this space and over these two years. To accept who I am now and accept that I was doing my best back then. To love, honor, and cherish MYSELF above all others, even the ones I love. May we all continue to evolve.

Telling Stories

speaking

Another reunion weekend at Wesleyan and this one was a Big One. Twenty five years since the class of 1990 graduated. My last year as Alumnae President. I’ve got so many stories to tell but I need time to sit still and think about them. These were my remarks to the Alumnae Association on Saturday morning:

After all the pomp and circumstance, it’s good to turn to our sisters and say, “Good morning!” And I add, “Welcome Home!” because Wesleyan is home for all of us gathered here.

I’m usually rather extemporanteous with my speeches–I wait to be inspired by something during the weekend, some idea that comes close to the explaining the love that we feel here when we all get together. But this weekend has been even more busy than usual. It’s my 25th reunion (insert very loud WOO-HOO AND WHEEEE here)…and we have been staying up very late telling stories.

Kym, who is one of the most beautiful, wise and generally brilliant people I know, told us of the anguish she felt as she learned to wait and to abide while her father died.

Ystoriesvette, who we haven’t seen for 25 years, told of the joy of finding work that she loves, that keeps her growing. She made us laugh with the story of her soulmate proposing on the brim of the Grand Canyon, even as a tour bus clapped and waited for her answer. We laughed with her, past midnight.

We all could relate when Natalie talked about working 50 hours a week at the bank, but running home on her lunch break to bake muffins for her son’s cross country team. So we told her, “Sweetie–they have bakeries. Get you some money from the bank and BUY muffins, then take a nap.”

Two a.m., and Natalie crows, “Ashley! Tell us about that time you knew your marriage to Fartbuster was over! The one with the ice!” So I did. I told them of the epic blowout in the middle of the Atlanta airport when I stood back and said, “I don’t want this anymore. This isn’t the life I want for myself.”

Three a.m. rolled around but we just couldn’t stop telling stories. And I hadn’t written a speech.

But Friday night, at the Celebration Concert, I heard something that made sense of this weekend, that summed up the joy I feel when my sisters and I are together. Two members of the Green Knight class of 1980 sang “For Good” from Wicked. If you know the story, Glinda and Elpheba are two young women who meet at school:

“It well may be

That we may never meet again

In this lifetime

So let me say before we part–

So much of me

Is made of what I learn from you

You’ll be with me

Like a handprint on my heart

And now whatever way our stories end

I know you have rewritten mine

By being my friend.”

We need a place to tell our stories, a safe circle of people who love us and laugh when we laugh and cry when we cry. I have that circle and I love you, every one of you. Thank you for rewriting my story.

PK90

Whatever You Polish Will Shine

I’m working on a new opportunity that is exhilarating and terrifying.

I’m going to talk to a group of people.

Live. In person.

So you might be thinking…”Girl, whut? You talk to people all the damn time. What’s the big deal?”

I do. I talk to big groups about Wesleyan. I talk for a living. I tell stories on the internet. I read a story in front of all those people at BlogHer last year. I love the feel of a podium and a mic.

This talk feels different. I’ve been invited to Missouri State University as part of their Women in History Month programs. This year’s theme is “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives.” I get to talk to some college students about the vital role of telling your own story.

SQUEEEEEE.

And YIKES!

I’ve been working on my ideas for weeks and weeks, but I ran into a big wall of fear every time I tried to get them down into images to go along with my talking points. Petrified. And guess who comes to live in my head when I say YES to some new challenge: my inner critic. That voice that croaks, “See? I told you you couldn’t do this. Your ideas are stupid. No one is going to listen to you. Why would they? What’s special about you? I’ve never heard such arrogance.”

Jasmine of Just Jasmine gave me some great words of encouragement yesterday when I confessed to the same old struggle with the same old shit:

That critic voice is a protective mechanism we develop to keep us from starting so we never fail and never have to face whatever is on the other side. Often, as I am sure you know, when we push pass that voice we find we are far more capable than we’ve ever imagined.

Ain’t that the truth? This fear, this critical dance is a habit. I sat my ass down in the chair tonight and pushed my way past the critic and roughed out my talk.

And I loved it. I got excited about it. I found just the right way of expressing my thoughts. I am looking forward to the interchange with new people in a new place. One big ball of YES, rolling on its own once I got it moving.

While I was searching for some free license images for the talk, I came upon this haunting picture of a Chopin statue:

Chopin

Chopin

While looking at Chopin’s nose, I thought, “Whatever we polish will shine.” Normally, a bronze statue left out in the weather will take on that beautifully thick green patina that we see on the rest of this statue. But so many hands have reached up to pat, caress or tweak Monsieur Chopin’s nose that the constant polishing keeps it shiny. After a while, the nose leaps out and becomes what we notice about the entire statue. Whatever we polish shines.

Whatever we keep touching on, that’s what stays in the forefront. I polish the fear when I let that critic voice run rampant. If my heart travels back to fear over and over again, that’s what shines. If I point it towards courage and YES, that’s what shines.

Here are two other memories of shiny statues that I encountered in adventures and both of them made me smile.

This little dog sits at his master’s knee in a bas relief bronze plaque on the Karluv Most (Charles’ Bridge) in Prague. For hundreds of years, passersby have been unable to resist giving the dog a little pat:

karluv most dog

See how he shines from all that attention!

Here’s a funny one from Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris. Journalist Victor Noir was killed as a  second in a duel by the great-nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte. Noir is memorialized in bronze, in such a realistic style that he seems to have fallen down (his toppled top hat often fills with flowers brought by tourists). Well, as you can see from the photo, certain…contours within the statue are remarkable. Over the decades, Noir’s crotch has risen in myth to a fertility symbol, so visitors to the cemetery give it a little polish for some extra luck in the baby-making department:

victor noir

(I gave it a polish myself…et voila, deux bebes! Tres simple!)

Jeez…How did this talk wander off into rubbing a French reporter’s crotch in a graveyard? I hope this doesn’t happen at Missouri State. Rein it in, rein it in….

So polishing. The power of polishing doesn’t come from force–it’s in repetition. It’s a gentle, consistent alchemy.  I’ve spent years inadvertently polishing the voice of the inner critic. Now I’m keeping my hands off of it and using them to gently pat the head of courage, who sits at my knee and looks lovingly at me, to remind me to give Yes a try.