Wait a minute . . .

It occurs to me that I’ve never publicly answer the question I ask everyone, “What makes you whole?”

Uh, well . . . I don’t know.

My first thought is writing. It always centers me even when it frustrates the shit out of me. But self-expression is part of my core, and I do it best in writing.

My second thought is helping people understand themselves. I’ve long advocated for self-awareness, as I’m convinced it makes life easier even if the process is hard.

My third thought is music. I have a neon yellow/green index card on my pinboard in my office that I wrote this on: “Music is always the answer.” When my mental health spirals, I put on one of three playlists: Peter Gabriel, Mumford and Sons, or my Anxiety Soothers playlist that heavily features Marconi Union. It’s comfort and grounding. But I also almost always have music on in some way. Right now, I’m listening to my ’80s and ’90s playlist, and sometimes, I drive around aimlessly just to listen to music because I seem to absorb it best in my car.

I think my last thought is connections particularly family and loved ones. My brain does this neat (sarcasm font) thing where I imagine the deaths of my loved ones, and I end up bringing myself to tears. It’s brutal to do to myself, but it also serves as a reminder not to take them for granted. I would be *shattered* if I lost my husband, parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, or closest friends. I don’t feel human without them.

So, yeah. I imagine there are more things (chai), but those are the things that come to mind immediately.

I always turn the question back to you. What makes you whole?

Strike a Pose: Who Are You When You’re Alone?

When I’m alone, I’m a model, an actress, a celebrity, an interviewer and interviewee. I’m the lover of an endless line of famous men. I have millions of dollars at my disposal. I’m thin. I’m in shape. I’m pretty. I say whatever I want without fear. I have witty comebacks. I’m devastating in all ways especially as a dancer and singer. I’m who I want to be, but I’m pretending to be someone I’m not.

It begs the question: What if that’s the real me, and I’m simply not letting her out (sans the lover of an endless line of famous men because, in reality, that sounds exhausting)?

The commonality among my imaginary roles is confidence. Yet none of us need to be any of those things to be confident. I need not be thin or in shape to feel like I own the space around me. I need not be a model (for anyone but myself) to feel like I can be self-assured.

I don’t feel that way at all. The divide still exists. I’m terrified of singing around anyone (I’m not a great singer; I just enjoy it). I do not dance with any measure of seriousness in front of anyone because I’m physically awkward. I’ve had people in the community refer to me as a “celebrity” when they meet me, and I instantly cringe because it feels incongruous. It reminds me of how much lesser I feel compared to who I am when I’m alone.

Wholeness is to be the same inside and out, to be one’s self when alone or with others. It is the part of wholeness I find the hardest to embrace. The opinions of others weigh too heavily on my ego if I put myself out there in new ways.

This is not who I want to be. I am always the clever, talented woman in the mirror. I need to shatter the glass.

Incivility and Attention Whores

Bowling shoes. Food. Beer pitchers.

Those are the items people have thrown at other people or windows at two businesses in the Des Moines area. Why? Because adults aren’t getting what they want, so they’re throwing adult tantrums, which aren’t a thing. A tantrum is a tantrum. If you’re throwing one, you’re an adult in numbers only.

I remember throwing a tantrum as a kid in the middle of the meat department at Dahl’s (R.I.P.). My mother leaned over to me & whispered that I would NEVER do that to her again. It was terrifying. She was right. I didn’t.

Maybe the person who threw bowling shoes didn’t have a mom who was scary when she got quiet. Maybe folks got away with throwing food when they were kids & were never told it’s wrong. But I doubt that. I suspect these folks know exactly what they’re doing. They know they’re immature & cruel. They just don’t care.

I say that because, this past Sunday, My family & I attended my niece’s graduation. It was held outdoors with no restrictions, no social distancing, & no mask mandates because our governor banned such mandates schools & local governments. The graduating class had over 500 students, which meant there were literally thousands of people in attendance at this one function. I’m confident there were less than 200 masks among the crowd.

In other news, it’s considered “divisive” & an incivility to teach, talk about, & call out racism. Political leaders called for “civility” in protests. And so on & so forth with the standard nonsense that is White supremacy.

None of this should surprise me, but I have this flaw in thinking people will do the right thing. Strangely, it’s the same flaw Iowa’s governor has. Except mine is believing people will care about other people.

It leaves me asking the same question time & time again: Why isn’t everyone talking about this? Why do we let the people in the wrong have the say, make the rules, & control the narrative? This is why we need to talk about it.

The derision of calling people of color “uncivilized” is not new in America. It was encoded in one of our country’s founding documents. In our Declaration of Independence, among the complaints listed against King George III is this: “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.” Ironically, the Founding Fathers (a.k.a. European Colonizers) considered this to be “oppression” and “tyranny.”

(I’ll leave the phrase “domestic insurrections” for another post.)

So, there it is, right? Written into our nation’s history is the belief that the colonizer is the one being oppressed, the ones bringing harm think they are the victims, the ones throwing the food think they are in the right.

But they know full well they aren’t because they have to disparage the so-called uncivilized “savage” in order to look like the victim. And they couldn’t easily defeat the Natives, so they . . . threw a tantrum.

I return to this question too: Why do you think people throw food at those in the service industry? Why do you think a misnomer like “wage slave” exists? Why do you think people get so mad when minimum wage workers don’t bend to the whims of the customer? Why do you think people continue to throw tantrums when they don’t get what they want, then try to disparage anyone who tries to say, “Hey, you’re in the wrong”?

It’s because of the innate right to attention from others, one of the most important factors in feeling whole.

The desire to be a victim, to get sympathy, to get attention is what we aren’t talking about here. It is the cause of so many social symptoms. We shame people who seek attention as attention whores, as if attention is a bad thing, but it is the thing we all crave from birth. We literally need food, sleep, and attention to survive.

And when people don’t get attention in a loving, nurturing way, they will ALWAYS seek it where they can get it. Some will seek it in healthy ways, but others–especially if they’ve not had healthy behaviors modeled for them–will do things like throw food, hurl beer pitchers at windows, harm others, and . . . well, colonize whole countries. It might seem like an exaggeration, but the behavior doesn’t change, only the scale of the person’s impact does.

And if you don’t believe me, look at Donald J. Trump. How many times do you think his parents told him they loved him?

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?!

Des Moines Politics: I’m Out

For most of my adult life, I’ve thought about going into politics. I specifically wanted to run for Des Moines City Council. That is no longer a goal or even a consideration for me. Not only does it kill whatever joy I have, it makes me feel like I’d be selling my soul. Here’s what pushed the decision:

For the last couple months, I engaged in an email conversation with council member, Josh Mandelbaum. I voted for him, and he seemed like the ideal liberal to represent my section of the city (where you can’t go far without running into a BLM sign). I was also asked to partake in Carl Voss’ campaign. I declined because I was concerned about his lack of work for people of color. Voss himself went door-to-door including to our home. I made my concerns clear to him, and he said he was aware and would work to improve it.

I was wrong to believe in either man.

Voss, it seems, has rolled over and played dead to appease the rest of the council. He’s stopped being responsive to emails or social media messages. It feels like a total bait and switch. That might be harsh, but it is my experience with him, and I’m beyond disappointed.

Mandelbaum gave me a little hope because he was so willing to engage. And then I realized he was lawyering me in his emails. I see no soul in his response; just legal maneuvering to make it look like he cares. I know ego-writing when I see it. I engage in it all the time, I graded it for twenty years, and I edited four books (this, friends, IS ME EGO WRITING). I know when someone is trying to leverage their experience.

But experience means jack if you don’t give a fuck. Caring is asking questions and trying to figure out how to do better. And none of the words Josh Mandelbaum sent me seemed about anything more than his ego. I recall no questions about what he can do better. I felt no effort to empathize. The whole thing read like campaign about why I should vote for him again.

It should also be clear I’m pretty sure the only reason he contacted me was because I threatened to run against him the next time he runs. It seems he saw a threat to his power, and he wanted to squash it.

This is why people hate politicians. This is why good people don’t run for office, and if they do, they end up so corrupted that there is little redemption left.

To my fellow Desmoinians: I hope you dig deep into what’s going on behind the scenes in this city. A major portion of the control here is about real estate. It’s about who owns what, who controls zoning, and who is related to or friends with whom. Des Moines is not unique in this sense. However, the Cownies are STEEPED in this apparent real estate corruption, and the rest of the city council is not much better. (I also had a moment where I found myself in Cownie’s old office before he was mayor, and the art on his wall shocked me to my core. It’s something I’ll never forget, but it’s also something I will never be able to prove. I trust no one in that family. Not even a little. And yes, I voted for Cownie more than once, and I’m ashamed of that.)

So, I’m out. I want to keep my soul. I want to make differences for others, and none of that happens in politics. What I want is community. I’ll always post about local stuff as long as I’m in this city, but I hope it will always be about the people we all can help, befriend, and support, not the people we can bribe and control.

Enjoy yourself, Des Moines City Council. I hope you find deep meaning in the pockets of the power-rich in this city because you’ve almost certainly lost your wholeness.

Weekly Wholeness Update: Self-Care Forever

Wholeness through Relaxation

I’m getting my first massage since December 2019 (everything on me hurts), and I’m giving Inner Space’s Salt Lounge a try for the first time in the hopes that it clears out my tree-pollen soaked sinuses. Beyond that, I’m indulging in my hobbies: Cubs baseball (nine-game stretch!), virtually attending a gender equity and finance conference, and trying new-to-me foods.

While the conference will get me riled up and experiencing new things will make me scurred, I’ll be feeding my wholeness by making sure I indulge in humanity. I hope you’re joining me in this! Tell me about your self-care plans this week!

Wholeness through Goals

As mentioned in a series of Instagram stories on Monday (I’m thinking about moving all IG stories here once they expire, but I digress), Hubster and I post-vaccination vacationed in downtown Chicago over the weekend, and my soul sang an entire damn musical about rejuvenation, and not the kind the beauty industry tries to sell. I mean real, spiritual, world-connectedness, humanity-nourishing rejuvenation. I often say the end of Navy Pier is my soul-reset spot, but Navy Pier is still closed, so we didn’t get there. Turns out, maybe it’s just anywhere with above floor fifteen along Lake Shore Drive.

The view from our hotel floor. I can see the end of Navy Pier. Maybe that was enough?

I love Des Moines, and I’m weirdly defensive about Iowa, but after this trip, it hit me how much I hate this state. I tried. I really tried to love it here. After living in Kansas and coming back, I did love it here for several years because I knew how shitty it could be elsewhere.

But I need to be in a place where tobacco-chewing White dudes in beat-up White pickups aren’t coal-rolling people for having Bernie stickers. I need a lot less Trump nonsense in my life, and a lot more “I ain’t got time for your shit, but in a friendly way” people who get out of your way, let you do your thing, and don’t try to control what bathroom you use. You know. Chicagoans.

Sadly, we can’t move out of state for some time. Our parents are aging, and both moms have had major health issues this year. We stay for them.

If we’re going to stay, I decided I need to remember what makes me vibrate on my favorite frequency. So, I set (or really reset) new goals:

  1. Seek out new experiences in DSM
  2. Improve my physical health
  3. Revamp my finances

Later this week, I’ll expand on these and what they mean for Whole Damn Woman and maybe for you!

Wholeness through Community a.k.a. All the Fucking Food

Y’all! I have SO MANY FOOD DATABASE UPDATES for this week. I have at least 40. Shit’s getting real! I’ll have those probably tomorrow, but I also planned a full database update tomorrow, so it’s gonna take me all damn day. Still. It’s worth it. Knowing what new stuff we have helps me with connecting with the community.

I’m excited to see what all you plan to try this summer. Though, I do caution you. I’m still not dining in. This is all food trucks, take out, delivery, and *maybe* patios. Do local restaurants a favor and be kind to them. Staffing is super low, diners are super assholey, and serving minimum wage is still only $4.35.

Beyond that, I’m finally delving into local food trucks, specifically taco trucks. Because taco trucks were so heavily stigmatized during my childhood (I was taught they were drug dealers . . . not racist at all), I’ve long avoided them. This year, fuck that. I’m gonna try all the things! This week, I’m trying Tacos Degollado (Tacos slain? Tacos beheaded? Tacos that slay? What even does that mean?).

I’m also picking up some yums from Bread by Chelsa B this week. Long live the home baker!

Tell me what you’re eating this week! I wanna know what you’re doing to stay connected to your community.

People Who Get It, No. 1: Glennon Doyle

What I’m reading . . .

I had a feeling this book would fall exactly in line with what I’m trying to do with my business. There have been SO MANY things I’ve wanted to underline! Alas, I checked it out from the library, so I’ll just have to buy it when I’m done. But yeah. Glennon Doyle gets what wholeness and social expectations (as she puts it, “indoctrination”) is all about, and I’m only 73 pages in. It’s truly an astonishing book that I want everyone to read. At least so far.

I’ll be reading big chunks of it this weekend, so I’ll update you when I’m done!

7/28/2020: Behind the Scenes at Whole Damn Woman

Today is the first time I’m beta-testing Unlearning 101, and I am nervous as hell. I always get nervous for the “first class” in any setting, but this one is different. This is the first time I’ve created the content from the ground up. I don’t have a textbook to lean on. I don’t have an administrator popping in to my classroom to give me the typical “you can do it” pep talk. I *do* have an IT guy making sure all the equipment is go (thanks, Hubster!). But I’ve never been so invested in something I’ve created.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m SUPER excited! If this works as I want it to, I truly believe this is it. This is what I was meant to do. Even if it doesn’t work, I’ll be discouraged, but then I’ll get back to it because I’ve never felt so locked in and loving toward something I’ve created, not even my novel (which is still there; I’ll finish it eventually).

I never thought I’d be a business owner. Not once. I was always convinced business was not for me. I scoffed at business majors. Now I’m like . . . shit, I should’ve been paying attention.

Every personality test I’ve ever taken said I’d make a great CEO, and I laughed or was confused each time. Now, it’s real. I’m not sure I’ll ever refer to myself as CEO. That’s just weird. But Whole Damn Woman is (so far) everything I wanted it to be. I just hope others love it as much as I do.

EEP! 🙂