I was too irritated to go back to bed and puttered about making coffee and feeding cats, accompanied by the mournful wail of foghorns and intricate warbling of mockingbirds greeting the dawn. Every year, I am resentful and angry at the time change, it seems so arbitrary and unnecessary. When I was working night shift, springing forward was a gift, a seven-hour shift instead of eight, but when I switched to days, it was agonizing. The shift started at 6:50 am, but for weeks after the spring time change, our bodies still thought it was 5:50 and shrieked in protest. I wished I could emulate my grandfather who, in his farming years, simply ignored it: “The cows and hens don’t pay attention to daylight savings time, and neither do I!”
When my husband and I were in the southwest a few years ago, I was pleased to discover that most of Arizona ignores it too. An exception is the huge Navajo Nation in northern Arizona, which springs forward according to federal guidelines. The much smaller Hopi reservation, entirely surrounded by the daylight-savings-time abiding Navajos, clings firmly to standard time. It must make lunch dates pretty chancy.
Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so. —Douglas Adams
Lately, between snoozes, I’ve been reading a book by Jean Baker Miller, Toward a New Psychology of Women. It’s a fairly old book, but new to me, having somehow managed to live through the feminist revival of the 1960s and 70s without being more than peripherally involved (a mistake of gargantuan proportions I have lived to regret). Dr. Miller, a psychiatrist, writes with clarity about the terrible effects of a culture of domination and subordination, how the dominant group legitimizes the unequal relationship, explains it with false premises such as racial or sexual inferiority, and how this then becomes the model. It then becomes “normal” to treat others destructively and to derogate them, to obscure the truth of what you are doing, by creating false explanations, and to oppose actions toward equality. And for the subordinates, it’s a matter of basic survival. Accordingly, direct, honest reaction to destructive treatment is avoided. Open, self-initiated action in its own self-interest must also be avoided. Such actions can, and still do, literally result in death for some subordinate groups.
It’s very clarifying to read her writing. She floats above the particulars and sees the patterns, and soon you are recognizing patterns of your own, and understanding why you have them.
…the issues of how a person is made to feel vulnerable or helpless and what she/he then tries to do about it is probably the basic issue underlying most modern concerns in psychiatry. In its extreme form such vulnerability can be described as the threat of psychic annihilation, probably the most terrifying threat of all. People will do almost anything to avoid such threats.
If one is a member of a subordinate group, it’s no wonder risk-taking is so scary. It took me back to my college days, when prejudice against women in academia not only was overt, it was widely accepted. Smart, articulate women were routinely undermined and treated with contempt. It was generally assumed that the only reason you’d want to advance to graduate school was because you weren’t attractive enough to get married. Women who happened to be both brainy and beautiful were told graduate education would be wasted on them because they’d only drop out, get married and have babies. It was a given that women would always be second-rate writers, perhaps good in their “genre,” but certainly light-weights compared to the men. Ernest Hemingway was widely admired.
…I learned that I had no genuinely valid opinions, since every view I might hold was colored by my sex, writes Cynthia Ozick, describing her faculty appointment to the all-male English department of a major university. If I said I didn’t like Hemingway, I could have no critical justification, no literary reason; it was only that, being a woman, I obviously could not be sympathetic toward Hemingway’s “masculine” subject matter–the hunting, the fishing, the bullfighting, which no woman could adequately digest. It goes without saying that among my colleagues there were other Hemingway dissenters; but their reasons for disliking Hemingway, unlike mine, were not taken to be simply ovarian. (from “Prevision of the Demise of the Dancing Dog“)
It makes me sad that I didn’t have the sense to join in the actions and consciousness-raising of the women’s movement. Much of it looked upper class and racist at the beginning, not something I wanted to be part of; but later, younger women opened it up to a more diversified group, and they helped each other challenge some of the ideas of inferiority they’d been raised with. How would my life have been different, I wonder, if I’d been part of that? And how would my daughter’s?
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.