Today’s Read: Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome

You know that person who hates doing anything before noon? If you ask them to meet up for breakfast, they’re like, “Uh, you mean breakfast for dinner, right?” It’s me. I’m that person.

For my entire life, I’ve been made to feel lazy and immature because I’m not a morning person. People assume I’m irresponsible, and when I push to have meetings later in the day, you can sense the judgment. When I say, “I’d rather stay up and work at 2 in the morning,” people think I’m odd. And damn near everyone thinks it’s something to fix. One of my old bosses would laugh at me and accommodate me for half an hour. He’d think I was being ridiculous when I grumbled about teaching 8 a.m. classes. All I have to do is get up early and suck it up, right? Or worse, I get tons of unsolicited advice on what to take, what to try, etc. Yeah no. I’ve tried it. Forty years of sleep issues. I’ve tried it. Please save your suggestions.

But guess what? It might not be something people can control. I’m working with a sleep specialist, and she thinks I’m dealing with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome. It’s rare I fall asleep right away. I went to bed at 11:30 last night, exhausted, and I don’t think I fell asleep until 2 or 3 in the morning. I wanted to sleep. Badly. But I couldn’t. And yet my brain woke me up at 8 a.m. because sleeping later is frowned upon. Mind you, I stay in bed for at least an hour in the hopes that I’ll go back to sleep, but I usually don’t. And then I’m tired all day and think about napping, but if I nap, it’ll interfere with my sleep even more.

On any given night, I might sleep three hours or I might sleep ten. I never have any idea what I’m going to get. Add in the possibility of sleep apnea (sleep test coming soon), and yeah, there’s a reason my answer is always, “I’m tired,” when you ask how I am. I’m not just life tired; I’m actually sleep deprived.

And guess what else? That probably impacts my weight, my mental health, my physical health, and so on. And because I know I’m not alone in this, DO YOU UNDERSTAND NOW WHY I AM FOREVER TELLING MY STORIES TO TRY AND HELP OTHERS?! Like . . . no one tells you this shit. You have to figure it out as you go, and that gets old.

I get tired of having all the things that make me who I am assumed to be character flaws. Y’all . . . I wanna be normal, but I’m literally not wired that way. This is why I’m always trying to embrace my weird.

End whine.

Let Me Re-Introduce You . . .

My name is Seeta, and I am the founder and CEO of Whole Damn Woman! Grab a chai and plop on the couch. I wanna tell you all the things!

The Questions

My name is pronounced C-tuh. I’m named after a Hindu goddess. Yeah, it is pretty fucking cool. Yes, I’m half Indian as in India. I’m also half Black. That covers the standard questions, I think.

The Basics

I’m 42 (we miss you, Douglas Adams; and today is the 20th anniversary of his passing . . . that was pure coincidence), and I was born and raised in Des Moines, Iowa. The only other place I’ve lived is Shithole, Kansas. I have a Master’s degree in English with an emphasis in creative nonfiction (i.e. telling true stories using the elements of fiction). I also have a graduate certificate in sociology, and yes, I want the full degree when I can afford it.

What can I do with that education? Not get rich or have a steady job, apparently.

I taught as a college instructor for twenty years, most of that as an adjunct or part-time instructor. Why didn’t I go full-time, you ask? I tried at least four times at one campus, and I lost track of the other efforts. And this is how the business came about . . .

The Motivation

After my fourth rejection for a full-time position at the campus where they called me “family,” I took an intense look at my relationship with that family and realized it was fake. They had no legitimate reason for not hiring me (and no, old boss of mine, White supremacy and misogyny aren’t legitimate reasons). After sixteen years at that campus, I walked away. I kept teaching for a bit at other colleges, but my days were spent commenting on the proper places to put periods in MLA citations while inside I was screaming, “THE WORLD IS DEHUMANIZING YOU.” So, I was done with traditional education, but I wasn’t done teaching.

At first, Whole Damn Woman was DSM Food Lover on Instagram, and I focused on the good stuff I ate at restaurants in Des Moines and on the occasional vacation. But it was too singular. My passions are writing, communication, sociology, self-awareness, and food, so I expanded my focus to . . . whatever I wanted. Then a theme emerged. I wanted to tell people all the ways society fucks with our senses of self and steals little bits of what makes us who we are. I kept coming back to helping people find ways to fight society’s bullshit (“be yourself, but not that way!”).

The Business

I ended up here: Whole Damn Woman helps people rediscover their wholeness. We are born whole, but everything around us wants us to think we aren’t. If society can convince us we aren’t whole, it can sell us solutions to problems they’ve convinced us we have.

It’s. All. Bullshit.

Worse: We’re told not to talk about any of this stuff. It’s considered too much information, too personal, not for dinner conversations, not polite, inappropriate, and so on. It’s only allowed to be discussed by the people selling you the solutions.

No.

Nope.

Not OK.

We are human. Nothing human is off-limits or taboo to us. How are we to grow, rediscover our wholeness, and fight dehumanization if we can’t talk about this stuff? Whole Damn Woman makes it OK to talk about it all. We facilitate difficult conversations and take the edge off what it means to be ourselves. Talking and learning about our humanity is the only way we can fight social injustices. We have to communicate, share, and teach to learn that it’s OK for us to be who we were born to be! We have to talk about the things that steal our wholeness for us to get our birthright back.

Can you tell this is the stuff I love?!

Your Mini-Sociology Lesson on Body Justice

If you’re looking for justice for your body, you might be confused or not care about how sociology relates, but stick with me. It’s the foundation of all things body justice.

Your Body and Sociology

As you probably know (but I never assume), sociology is the study of how external forces influence our behavior. It runs parallel (and often perpendicular) to psychology, which examines internal behavioral influences. That aside, sociology analyzes large social structures like religion and politics as well as small groups like our peers and relationships. Both large structures and small groups influence how we see things and how we behave. Especially in America, we like to think we’re individuals with uninfluenced free will. This, however, is not the case. Just think of the last time you quoted a movie, show, or song.

Exactly.

The Princess Bride references FTW. Source: http://gph.is/2ge45zr

The U.S. and Sociology and Health

Now, if structures like religion, politics, education, business, and so on influence our thinking and behavior, that includes our bodies. Public health is a thing. It’s the reason the CDC, AMA, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services exist. There’s no shortage of organizations and governments working with human bodies. These groups guide health with recommendations and limitations. They shape laws, public opinion, media stories, which means they also shape thinking and behavior. They are our overlords, like it or not.

My references are always dated because I’m old. Source: http://gph.is/1Nm2LaB

Example: Oh, It’s Still a Pandemic

Case in point: COVID-19. We relied on social health structures to inform, protect, and help us. We’re depending upon the social structures of public health to work together to distribute the vaccine. Some of us are vaccinated, some aren’t, some hope to be, some don’t.

Need a visual of how this flows throughout our society? Here you are!

Years of study paying off in this graphic. Source: Me.

This whole flow is called the macrosociology-microsociology link, which is a fancy way of saying large structures and small groups and individuals influence one another (despite the arrows on the graphic, this flow does go both directions). Neat, huh? It’s proof that we influence society, and society influences us. And yes, if you want to make butterfly effect references, feel free. That’s right on target.

But of course, there will always be a group of people who are unwilling (and some unable) to follow social recommendations. That said, their thinking and behavior changes as well. They go from not talking about something like COVID-19 to talking about it to actively opposing the recommendations. Sometimes, they protest. In this case, some protest, specifically, the right to make choices for their own bodies.

Sound familiar?

So, What?

What’s this mean for body justice? It means bodies have social power. Large social structures cannot operate without power, and they know our bodies have power, so they try to control that power. However, because our bodies are ours, that means WE have the power. And tomorrow, I’ll get into your body’s power, how you can use it, and how you can stop others from using it without your permission.

Is Body Justice a Thing?

Are you thinking, “Is body justice even a thing?” To which I say, “kinda.” Body justice is about reclamation to me, and I want to explore that.

Usually, we see these terms, and each offers great help to those of us with body image struggles:

  • Body positivity: Feeling good about our bodies no matter what
  • Body neutrality: Feeling neither good nor bad about our bodies
  • Body acceptance: Understanding our bodies and letting them be what they are
  • Body tolerance: Accepting that our bodies are what they are, and while we may not feel enthusiastic, we’ve at least made peace

The body positivity movement started with Black women, but it has become co-opted by White women, specifically, influencers who are often silent about racism or do not credit the origins of the movement. The body positive posts of Black and Brown women are often overrun with hateful comments. There’s also something infuriating about watching thin women arch their backs to look fat or posting photos of their rolls when they’re sitting and so on. It’s not that these women lack their own, legitimate body issues, and my goal is not to shame them. Instead, it’s to point out how the movement is used to ignore the Black women and fat women who started it. It’s more a condemnation of the way social media works, pits women against one another, and encourages those who meet a certain aesthetic to misappropriate others’ bodies. After all, I don’t have to arch my back to get a belly or bend over for rolls. But if I post those truths, I always run the risk of getting fatphobic hatred.

My actual, unedited, poorly lit fatness without any editing or touch-up to my spotty, flawed skin.

I don’t know how we got to the point where we have to reclaim body positivity, an effort designed to reclaim our bodies, but we’re now reclaiming the reclaimed in the name of body justice.

What are your thoughts on this?

I’ll be exploring more of what body justice means to me tomorrow, and I’ll look at the sociology behind it all.

What Is Body Justice?

I’m taking this week to talk about my business pivot into body justice, so it’s a little less formal and more writing to think out loud content. That said, I would LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE your feedback on this!

Body Justice

Social justice is a massive topic, and I knew going into it that it was too big a scope for my business. But I wasn’t sure what part of social justice was right for me. I want to leave the door open for discussing race, but I don’t want to be pigeonholed into that because too many people are quick to relegate Brown and Black folks to only talking about race. I want to be an advocate for people with disabilities, but I’m not qualified to teach others on it, and I don’t think it’s my place or story to tell. I have a lot to say about religion, education, politics, and economics and how they influence social expectations, but obviously, there’s a lot there.

What I noticed was a consistent interest in bodies for me. I don’t like how religion drives social demands over our bodies. I loathe how politicians think they have any right to supersede our relationships with our physicians, and I hate how physicians refuse to understand how we know our bodies better than they do. We need our bodies to work in this capitalism economy, but that doesn’t mean employers have say over our bodies even if they provide us health insurance, yet that doesn’t stop them. We have bodily autonomy, and I want to fight for reminding everyone of that.

Hence, body justice.

However . . . the biggest use of body justice I’ve seen so far is, of course, diet culture-loving fitness junkies. So, I’m taking it for my uses.

I’ll take the week to explore some ideas within body justice, so I hope you’ll join me in thinking out loud!

Get a Free Thing!

Oh, hi. I don’t know how we’re a week away from the end of January, but apparently, time isn’t concerned with my sense of reality.

Anyway, free things! I’m starting a newsletter in March, and you can get a free thing if you sign up for that mailing list, which you can do here! Is the free thing worth it? Heck yeah! It’s all about re-finding your wholeness. It’s an easy PDF, and it gives you some good stuff to think about.

Other updates:

  • My Understanding Privilege course is live on Thinkific and available for $30! Even if you aren’t ready to take it, you can sign up to my school and get access to free content.
  • Thursday, January 25th at 7:30 U.S. Central Standard Time is my next Difficult Dinner Discussion on Instagram Live.
  • The next course–Bad Ass Bitchery: A Practical, Actionable Guide to Patriarchy Busting–is coming on February 1st via Thinkific! It’s customized for different comfort levels, so there’ll be something in there for everyone.
  • That newsletter I mentioned is coming March 15th!
  • I did a Pay It Forward style giveaway at DreiBerge Coffee in Des Moines’s Historic East Village, and I cannot wait to do that again! I’m hoping to do it once a month.
  • My Patreon Patrons helped me come up with ideas for my newsletter . . . which will probably look like this in structure. But it’ll be themed content, and I am PSYCHED about that!
  • SO MUCH MORE. I can’t tell you everything, but I’ve landed a new client, and I’m so excited to be working with them!
  • As I’ve updated on Instagram, I’ve been fighting depression (seasonal, political, PMDD, who knows), but I’m hoping I’m on the way out of this funk. If I’m honest, that’s why I haven’t posted. I’d apologize for being inconsistent, but, you know . . . brain shit.

Tell me YOUR good news in the comments!

Unlearning: Why Social Isolation Feels Shitty

Sure, the last decade or so, it’s been popular to say, “I hate people” and “I can’t wait to stay home all the time.” Now that we’re being asked to do so, many of us realize there are downsides to social isolation. Truth is . . . that’s a real thing with drastic, negative impacts. In sociology, we call it “anomie.”

Straightforwardly, anomie means “normlessness.” In other words, social norms are the rules keeping society together (i.e. don’t pick your nose in public, don’t murder, etc.). Without norms, we have no direction, no guidance, no manual for how to behave. I grumble often about how arbitrary our social norms are (*cough*capitalism*cough*), but purpose still exists in our social structures. All sacred texts are norm manuals. The things our parents teach us are norm manuals. Whenever someone says there’s no manual for life, they’re wrong. Our life manuals are created by our societies and cultures.

It’s why I still find The Walking Dead (TWD) fascinating.

Did I lose you? Come back to me.

If you don’t watch TWD, you likely know the basics: a virus causes dead people to turn into the living dead who, at the beginning of the series, could navigate stairs but strangely devolved. But that’s a plot bunny for another day. (Don’t click the link if gruesomeness is not your thing.) What many don’t realize is the zombies/walkers aren’t the crux of the series; it’s how to survive, how to navigate a civilization with no rules, how to rebuild and make things feel normal again even though they never will be. That’s what makes certain characters so dangerous. They recognize their power can be used to create a new set of rules based upon their desires and whims. (Is Negan Trump? No. Because at least Negan is funny, attractive, and has human moments.)

I don’t mean to suggest the COVID-19 outbreak is akin to the post-apocalyptic world of TWD, but the thing scratching at us is the feeling of navigating a society we don’t recognize, the same struggle as the characters in TWD. No one from Generation X or younger has been asked to stay home, stay away from work, stay away from one another, avoid public gatherings, cancel whole seasons of sports, and postpone whole concert tours. For most of us, this is uncharted territory. Yes, the word “unprecedented” gets overused, but there is truth to it. Humanity has faced pandemics before, but our generations have not. Worse, most social change takes decades. Americans and several other countries did it in less than a week. Of course, this is weighing on us. How could it not?

Weirdly, we’re also the generations best geared for it. Those of us privileged to have the internet at home are so stupidly fortunate. Professor and political scientist Robert Putnam wrote a whole book about how our society is moving away from community and public activity, and he wrote it twenty years ago. Since then, we’ve gotten streaming television and broader social media use. We’re a society angled toward staying home. That’s why so many people are like “Fuck outside. I’m staying home!” Home is where our modern definition of fun resides. (I have no intention of watching Tiger King. But I will anyway.)

Even those of us who enjoy staying home must acknowledge, we still need people. Without them, we become isolated. That isolation is, at best, damaging. It causes us to lose our sense of reality. We don’t have others to say, “Hey, that’s not cool” and “Oh my gosh, thank you for meeting with me!” We can still do that virtually, but we are less likely to do it from home. What’s scary about that is–the first time anomie was studied–it was in conjunction with the patterns of suicide. The negative impacts of social isolation are, yes, deadly. To say we need social connections is an understatement.

Using the textbook from when I was still regularly teaching sociology, anomie can cause a skewed sense of reality, mental illness, and physical illness. I know we like to say we don’t need people, we don’t care what others think, and so on (Americans are especially prone to this because we are an isolated nation that values independence), but without people, we don’t develop. The most extreme cases of social isolation are seen in feral children, kids who don’t have human contact or suffer neglect in their early development years.

What we’re experiencing right now is a massive, sudden, shocking social shift for which we were recreationally prepared, but not emotionally or socially because:

  • we need other people,
  • we lose our sense of reality,
  • we’re grieving a way of life, and
  • people are suffering and dying, and the best thing we can do is nothing.

That last point is particularly damaging because if you ask people what their purpose is in life, they often say to help others. Pair helplessness with everything else we’re feeling, and it gets bleak.

The cool thing about human beings is we’re creative. We’re finding ways to cope with social isolation. That said, we must still acknowledge how important our society and other people are to us. They remind us of who we are, why we do what we do, what to avoid, and “how to get through this thing called life.

So, yeah. It’s OK to feel freaked out, sad, directionless, grief-filled, scared, anxious, uncertain, lonely, and down. Hell, it’s OK to feel elated to stay home (at times, I certainly am). But what we must admit is we need one another. We must unlearn the belief that we are independent beings who need nothing and no one. We must relearn the value in social connection.