The amazing story of two 40-something women on the path to matrimonial bliss

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Who Has the Conch?

Teri and I have an “internal joke” that we are a reverse power couple.  Meaning, that we really have no power, money or influence, but we are both active, involved and dedicated to community activism for various progressive causes.  We have shared passions and individual ones and we both work for local nonprofit organizations with different missions.  With two of us in the house, one of our challenges is making sure that we both get to share, express ourselves and feel supported.  Sometimes, we don’t do such a great job of making sure that each person gets equal time.

There are some built-in tensions to our work and activism--I have worked in nonprofit management for eons and am now an administrator.  While I continue to promote, supervise and be involved with programs wherever I can, my job is clearly NOT direct services. Teri, on the other hand, is relatively new to nonprofit work and she IS line staff--providing direct services as a youth counselor to an incredibly difficult youth population.  We have very different work challenges but we both have the sort of jobs that are tough to leave on the doorstep--so much stress and responsibility and it requires opportunities to debrief and problem-solve on the home front.

Additionally, figuring out whose causes make it on the calendar and how to balance our work, volunteering, personal, family and even when and who we donate to is an ongoing collaboration.  We have yet to figure out an exact formula and we may never accomplish that--meanwhile, we are trying to pay attention to the fact that sometimes I don't listen and sometimes she doesn't listen.  Sometimes I assume that she will be available for something but she has made other plans with another activity that matters more to her.

As my grown children can testify, it isn't always easy living in a household with me and not for many of the typical reasons.  Having passionately worked for human rights, as well as nurturing a growing awareness of racial, social and economic justice issues, I can be hyper-sensitive.  My determined awareness of white privilege and post-colonial sensibilities, as well as socio-economics, makes me a pain in the butt at casual conversation!  For her part, Teri is not only aware of class and gender issues, but also actively volunteers to counter oppression and other things she cares about such as sexual assault, homelessness, services for vets and anti-war and militarism.  She is new to some of these causes and the challenges and politics that are alive and well in community activism and sometimes, I forget that.  She also tends to be a bit gentler and less of a bulldozer than I have learned to be!

We are learning. Sometimes we rock at sharing and collaboration or even just allowing the other person to have the floor; other times we can each be a bit self-focused and while it might be totally justified, it can create some bumps and tugs on the home front.  I absolutely LOVE that I get to be myself and share a passion for change and activism with someone who is like-minded also involved, but finding time and energy for everyone's "stuff" to get equal airing is an ongoing challenge.

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