Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Letter to My Younger Self

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Here's a Draft:

Dear Younger Sarah,

Let's time-travel, so that I can let you speak from your perspective, and then I'll return and try to be helpful from my older perspective:

When I realized at age 11, that I was physically attracted to my female best friend, I was crestfallen. This wrecks everything, I thought. After all, she and I were long-time classmates at a Modern Orthodox Jewish day school, where by First Grade, we learned that we were expected to marry a Jewish man, have Jewish children and keep a kosher home.

My early training was powerful because even though my family still loved and accepted me when I told them a decade later about my lesbianism, it was not till age 36 that I got over my internalized homophobia at the prospect of our child, having two mothers. Finally, I came to hope that two loving parents of any gender-combination would be fine, and then tried to become pregnant by IUI through an anonymous donor. I tried nine times over the next year and a half, to no avail. Neither technologically-trickier options nor adoption appealed to my partner and me, and so I concluded that God had other plans.

Now, I'll continue the letter from my 44-year-old vantage point.

God did have other plans for you, beyond any adventures your 11-year-old mind could have imagined, including:

  • A smart, beautiful, kind, funny Jewish woman with whom to spend your life, so far, for nearly 19 years
  • Helping conceive of, and start up, an IBM business development team, serving the GLBT B2B market, including substantial attributable revenue and great press in "Business Week"
  • Pursuing a Master's part-time at Columbia University's Teachers College (TC) and serving on a QueerTC panel about being openly lesbian at IBM
  • Six months in India on assignment, with your partner, accompanying you, and introducing local colleagues to her as your partner
  • Designing and facilitating cultural intelligence learning programs in Second Life, inspired by your own attempts at cultural adaptability while in India
  • IBM's:
    • Diversity and Multicultural learning offerings stewardship
    • Center for Advanced Learning, to champion social and informal learning across IBM, which is dedicated to connecting IBMers to learn from one another
  • Successful GLBT diversity network group launch-encouragement at IBM in India and China
  • Happily co-parenting two, adopted, tabby sister-cats; they seem fine, having two mothers
  • Joining the world's largest GLBT synagogue, and writing and delivering a series of layperson's sermons.

I hope this list encourages you to believe that God gives you wonderful surprises.


Older Sarah

P.S. My partner is making me write this part: I worried about social belonging when I became aware of my lesbian identity, but through my involvement in the GLBT arena at IBM, including being featured in national, GLBT-specific print-ad campaigns for IBM, I've had just the opposite experience. In fact, I've been told by a number of colleagues and even people beyond IBM that I've served as an inspiration and role model, since I took the risk of being who I am ultra-visibly.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Chely Wright & Tonéx Are Free

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Two Singers I'd Never Have Known Otherwise

This evening, Stevie Wonder's "Golden Lady," U2's "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," Soul II Soul's "Get a Life," America's "Ventura Highway," Chaka Khan's "Papillon," Depeche Mode's "Personal Jesus" and more accompanied my 2.5-hour soil-shoveling in service to our newest, emerging garden in our backyard.

Before reading Tonéx's story in "The New Yorker" some months ago, and then reading excerpts of Chely Wright's interview and story in "Curve," I had never heard of either, though in their genres, they were super-popular, and then both of them came out as gay and lesbian respectively.

Tonéx's tale touched me, especially after I saw this hit of his. I watched it over and over, marveling at his sexiness, voice, the beat, and the theme ("He won't fail you...")....

Similarly, I saw Chely Wright as exciting when I watched her hit, "Single White Female." Typically, I'm not a Country music fan, other than Dolly Parton's music, like "Hard Candy Christmas" and "Travelin' Through," but I was thrilled to see that someone so apparently different was like me after all. That's the name of her newly-published memoir: *Like Me*.

Chely Wright mentioned that she knew of her lesbianism by 3rd grade. She beat me; I wasn't fully self-aware till 6th grade. In Chely Wright's case, she was ready to kill herself just four years ago, when she was 35, tired as she was of her closet. In my case, beginning at age 36, I tried to have a baby, having been too internally-homophobic to try prior; I worried about the baby, having two mothers. By the time I got over that concern, as I've written here before, I was unable to conceive after nine tries, and gave up ultimately, figuring that God had other plans.

Now, Chely Wright says she's ready to be an ambassador for the gay, lesbian, bi and trans (GLBT) community, no matter what happens to her singing career. Tonéx got to that point, too. Their stories remind me of a recent invitation:

At work, those of us who are openly G, L, B or T, have been called to serve by writing letters to our younger selves, to be published on the front page of our company's internal web site on June 1st, in honor of GLBT Pride Month. I've been hesitant to be so public about my life-story within our official company web site. Here, I don't mind being so at all, as this is my blog, not my company's.

Will I feel even more free, like Chely Wright and Tonéx, if I write and submit the letter?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dirt-shoveling for a Higher Purpose

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

Exhausted and Satisfied

Daylight into the evening enabled Pat and me to shovel and wheel and shovel and wheel and shovel and wheel and shovel and wheel and shovel and wheel...Two and a half cubic yards of soil, and two and a half more to go.

At midday, a dump-truck left five cubic yards of dirt in the middle of our driveway. Pat wanted it for the garden she's building in the backyard. After work, I loaded and re-loaded and re-loaded the big wheel-barrow and dumped and dumped and dumped the dirt wherever she directed me.

Standing on the pile with a shovel, I was reminded of Rosalie's funeral a few weeks back. Rosalie was the mother of Gary, my brother-in-law. All of us were asked to add a shovel-ful to Rosalie's grave in accordance with Jewish tradition.

At Rosalie's shivah afterwards, Gary's brother's wife told me how they have buried a few horses because, "They're members of the family, too, but it actually takes a bulldozer." I stood there shoveling this evening, feeling good at the contrast of this shoveling to all of that shoveling. This shoveling was to enable living things to grow.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Culture Mashups...

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

...Make Life More Special

Culture mashups can be so powerful, I'm reminded by the rock band, Toto's, and R&B star, Cheryl Lynn,'s Georgy Porgy." And by the biracial son of a friend who has his choice of Yale or Harvard for college next year; both of his parents could have been brilliant and of the same race, but they were brilliant and not, and I think that contributed to my friend's son, being a special and extraordinarily brilliant person. And by a heterosexual wakeboarding enthusiast, who is among my colleagues and who is close to his two gay brothers -- and a visible ally of the gay, lesbian, bi and trans community, just by his active love for his brothers. For all I know, my colleague's gay brothers could be wakeboarding enthusiasts as well, but the sexual orientation aspect of my colleague's and his brothers' cultural backgrounds will always be divergent, and yet they love one another in all their humanity.

I've said this before, probably here, too: As amazing a city as I found Shanghai to be during my relatively brief visit in 2005, I was less compelled by it than by New York City, since the streets were filled with people who appeared to be mostly of a common cultural background; NYC is filled with so many people from so many different cultures and I think that's the secret to its vibrancy.

When I get together with my mother and her friend Harriet, it's another sort of culture mashup: a cross-generational one. I'm amazed by our different experiences, and how interesting it seems for all of us to be together -- more interesting than it is, often, for me to be with contemporaries.

Same goes for talking with my 17-year-old nephew, in the other direction; I'm always the beneficiary of his native wisdom. The other day, we were discussing small-group dynamics for school-projects. We agreed that we're always among the ones who do most of the work in the group. I said, "Usually, instead of confronting the shirkers, I just go ahead and do the work."

"Well, since I'm doing so much of the project already," Zach said, "I figure I have the right to do some delegating, and so usually, I'll say, 'I'll do this and this.' And then I'll turn to the other person and say, 'And what will you do?'"

Probably among the biggest culture-mashups from which I've learned the most has been our adopting and co-parenting two tabby-cat sisters. We will never learn each other's spoken language, and yet we can communicate with one another, and I love them deeply, and feel affection from them sometimes, too....

My human nature, though, leads me -- initially -- to seek people and places that seem familiar. The paradox is that often, the people/creatures and places that are most remote from my experience end up feeling most comforting to me; for example, our home is finally a fully-sweet home, since we invited the cats into it two years ago. Fortunately, while I naturally seek sameness, God puts difference in my path continually.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

My Blog as a Family Member

The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.

It's Too Early to Call Pat

Without my usual daily comforts -- Pat, the cats and access to a swimming pool -- while staying at the IBM Learning Center this week for the leadership development program I'm facilitating, I'm turning to my blog.

While I can't touch this blog, hug it, or take it for a ride around the house in my arms (like I could the cats, if not Pat), still, I'm turning to it to feel more human in the midst of being away from home for several days.

A friend had just posted a blog entry and I thought, aha, reading it will give me the reminder of my humanity that I'm looking for, but I was wrong. Rather, it just reminded me of *her* humanity and made me miss my own family all the more...even as it was a wonderful post.

I *could* drive home this evening and then drive back to the Learning Center later tonight, but...I'll use the idea all day to help me remember that I have options, and that this separation is just temporary.