(44) Wonder Women with Asha

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Author and wonder woman, Asha, and I discuss the pandemic, our new normalcy, and the impossibility of making school and daycare choices right now. We also get real about the ridiculous expectation that us moms will keep bearing the brunt of this global crisis, and the idea that no one is coming to save us. But we don’t totally spiral downward! We also talk about seeds from our childhood that later bloom into badass women. And, the interview starts with one of the most relatable mom moments that we’re all living through right now.

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Brandy:            Hello, Adult Conversation Podcast listeners. Today, my guest, Asha, and I are talking about the pandemic, our new normalcy, and the impossibility of making school and daycare choices right now. Recording this episode actually helped me get the clarity I needed to pull the trigger on something I was avoiding in terms of the school choices, and it’s not what I thought I would end up doing — more about that later. We also get real about the ridiculous expectation that us moms will keep bearing the brunt of this global crisis, and we unpack the idea that no one is coming to save us. But don’t worry, we don’t totally spiral downward. We also talk about seeds we plant when we’re little kids that later bloom into badass women. The interview starts with one of the most relatable moments as Asha’s supposed to be napping toddler makes a quick appearance. I had to leave it in because it was just too real, and it’s what we’re all dealing with.

Brandy:            And we may not be able to run off to Vegas for a much-needed mom’s weekend right now, but I’ve got the next best thing: Martha’s book club and workshop. Join me and podcast favorite, Kathy, who was the inspiration for the book’s Martha character, as we see what happens when we mix a book club and a workshop. In this five-week online series, we will unpack themes from my book, Adult Conversation: A Novel, such as the taboo parts of motherhood and marriage, feeling erased, dad privilege, trying to save yourself, the elusive search for balance, and more. Equal parts, humor and heart, we will explore how the main character’s journey relates to yours while offering validation, community, laughs, and perhaps some action steps for change. The dates are five Saturday’s coming up soon, and it starts on September 26. For more information or to sign up, go to http://www.adultconversation.com/events.

Brandy:            I want to give a quick shout out to my newest Patreon peeps, Rachel Harper and Heather Allen. Thank you both so much. If you want to join the likes of Heather and Rachel by supporting this podcast, you can go to http://www.patreon.com/adultconversation. It’s just a couple bucks a month, and it keeps this podcast alive. And thank you to all of my Patreon peeps. I so appreciate your loyalty, your dollars, and your support. On to the show —

Brandy:            Do you have a toddler trying to nap right now?

Asha:                Yes.

Brandy:            Because you know that’s not gonna happen, right? {laughter}

Asha:                Well, usually he’s pretty good, but he sees those big flies, and he gets really scared of them. I’m like, “Oh, it’s just a fly. It’s not a big deal.”

Brandy:            But he knows you’re trying to do something.

Asha:                Definitely.

Brandy:            It’s like his internal radar system is like, “No, no, no, no, not today. I know we’re normally good, but…” {laughter}

Asha:                Yeah. “Mommy, Mommy.” Of course. Of course. Far be it from me to expect anything nice or have time to myself.

Brandy:            {laughter} Exactly. How dare you?

Asha:                I know. Right?

Brandy:            Today on the podcast, I’m talking with Asha Dahya who is an author, journalist, and TEDx speaker, as well as a fellow mom trying to juggle work and mothering during this damn pandemic.

Asha:                {toddler talking in background}

Brandy:            Currently right now, she’s trying to juggle a toddler who is supposed to be taking a nap which I think all of us can relate to. Asha runs a women’s news media site called Girl Talk HQ which is all about female empowerment. She claims that one major difference between her site and similar ones is that hers only focuses on positive news. Well, I’m about to ask her how she’s looking on the bright side of things these days. {laughter}

Asha:                {laughter}

Brandy:            Welcome, Asha. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast.

Asha:                Thank you so much for having me. It’s a real pleasure to be here.

Brandy:            Of course. {laughter} I can hear your cutie pie.

Asha:                Oh, my gosh. How do I turn myself down? {laughter}

Brandy:            No, you’re good. I’ve had to learn in doing this, especially during the pandemic, that this is going to happen.

Asha:                Yes. I mean, I’m furiously texting my husband like, “Come on.”

Brandy:            If this isn’t the most relatable thing in the entire world, I don’t know what it is. And it’s so perfect because today we’re gonna be talking about how the hell we juggle all of this, and your son is just perfectly — this is what we’re all doing all day. All day, right?

Asha:                Yes, it’s a balancing, juggling act from one minute to the next, and this is why I feel like more people and more big companies should hire moms because we’re so adept at doing fifty things at once and really great at time management.

Brandy:            Yes!

Asha:                But we’re not so great at self-care, so maybe that’s something we should work on.

Brandy:            True. I’ve been kind of on the job market just checking some stuff out lately, and I got my resume all ready. I have some things to put on there, but there should be a category for motherhood that’s like, “I can drive a car and also my arm can go completely to the other side.” I mean, I don’t know what job that’s helpful for, but the skill set of motherhood I feel like really applies to a lot of situations, but there’s really kind of nowhere to put it. So, you’re absolutely right.

Asha:                I feel like there’s more conversation and more room for, “Okay, how do we incorporate the skills and the experience of motherhood into so many different facets of life?” I’ll be waiting with eager ears to see where that conversation goes.

Brandy:            {laughter} I don’t know if I’ve got anything to offer there.

Asha:                {laughter} I’m gonna try and show up with clean clothes on.

Brandy:            Okay, so we start small. That’s number one. I am so looking forward to discussing what this wild time has looked like for you, but before we do that, what is something that the listeners need to know about you?

Asha:                The way I would summarize who I am or give people a little bit of an overview is that I was born in the UK. I was raised in Australia, hence the accent. My background is Indian, so I’m from a family of immigrants. My great-grandparents were born in India. My grandparents and parents were born in East Africa. They all migrated under the British Empire to England, and then my family and I moved to Australia. I did most of my growing up there and started my career in media there. I moved to the US in 2008 to further my TV hosting and producing career. It was the worst year to move, especially the United States, because the economy crashed, but there you go. That’s young, naive, stubborn me. But also, this was in February 2008, so I had no idea what was coming later that year. I come from a really super conservative religious background. Especially when I moved to the United States, it was something that I wasn’t really aware of how political it was. I got married for the first time when I was 24, and that didn’t turn out so well at all. I ended up getting a divorce at 29, and then I got remarried again in my early 30’s. I’m still married to that guy. He’s lucky. On bad days, he’s lucky.

Brandy:            {laughter}

Asha:                I’m just kidding. Who cannot relate to that, right? We have two beautiful kids together. My background is in hosting and producing. I’ve kind of branched out into using that experience, almost two decades of experience, in creating Girl Talk HQ which I started as a way to kind of create a digital community while I was going through a divorce and leaving this massive church community as a way to kind of find solidarity with other women and girls who have been through just things and struggles. I wanted it to be a place where we could have authentic conversations because coming from my TV background, I was very immersed in entertainment and pop culture. That was the bread and butter of what I did. I was an entertainment reporter. I did some news, but mostly pop culture. That was when my life took a real sharp right turn or left turn or whatever you want to say. I found a whole new direction because of those difficult experiences in my life. Honestly, it led me to where I am today in the best possible way. I wouldn’t want to ever go back there and experience it again, but I’m thankful for who I am and what I’ve learned because of it. That’s me in a nutshell, and I’ve done so many things that I never thought I would do. I never thought I would be able to do a TEDx talk. I never thought I would be a published author, but here I am. I’m learning to be open-minded and leave myself open to what opportunities life has. This is coming from someone who’s super Type A and very control freak and all of those things. That’s kind of where I’m from, what I’ve been through, and where I am today.

Brandy:            Lovely. Yes, it seems to be that there’s a pattern. There’s so many of my guests that — and maybe it’s just the kind of people that I’m drawn to or I find interesting or who I connect with — but there’s a lot of people who’ve been through transformation because of things that didn’t go the way that they had hoped they would. There seems to be so much wisdom that comes from that. I think that I’m drawn to talking to people about that and hearing about that. I’m excited to unpack some of that and to delve into that in a little bit. Where are you at with being a mother during this pandemic? Are you having meltdowns? Are you hiding in your car for free time? Are you forcing yourself to think positive? You have two little ones, right? How old are yours again?

Asha:                Yeah. My oldest is three. He just turned three, and my youngest is eleven months. She’s almost about to be one in October. They’re very little. They definitely require a lot of hands on attention. A little bit less so for my older one because now he’s three, and he’s just started going back to daycare. They can both walk now which is very, very helpful in a lot of ways. We just potty trained my oldest one, and he’s doing really great. In terms of your question about how am I doing, I feel like I’ve got run the gamut and gone through that cycle again and again. Every few weeks, it’s like — I’m trying to describe what — maybe a cycle or a stage? There’s like different stages of pandemic like the stages of grief. I feel like some weeks, it’s like, “We’re doing great. I’m exercising and eating less sugar. We’re waking up on time.” Other weeks, it’s like, “Just leave me alone. I just want five minutes.” It’s definitely been an interesting roller coaster. I’ve learned a lot about my emotions and how I handle stressful situations both for good and bad. It makes me sad, but then it makes me happy to know that I’m not the only one going through that. I think everything that I had that maybe was just simmering below the surface before this, it’s brought it out because we’re just in close quarters all the time. But on the flip side, which is happening at the same time, is that there have been a lot of beautiful moments that I’m really thankful that we have had which I don’t think we would have had were there not a quarantine period, especially with the kids being so little and both my husband and I are getting to spend so much quality time in these early formative years has been really wonderful as well. So, if all those crazy things can exist simultaneously, they have for me over the past six months.

Brandy:            Oh, yes. I think you’re so right about that. I laughed when you said I’ve learned a lot about my emotions. I think that that right there, for so many of us, like, “Wow, I didn’t know that I could go to those extremes.”

Asha:                Right?

Brandy:            This staging or this phasing in the cycle that you’re talking about, I definitely feel that too. I feel it on a bigger scale, like you said, where there’s weeks that things feel like everything’s going fine, and then all of a sudden, I’m like, “Why do I want to be in bed for the entire week?” And then I’m like, “Oh, I’m probably depressed. Is everybody depressed?” And then the next day, it’s like, “Wait a minute. No, I’m normal again.” It’s so wacky. And then, within every moment of every day, there’s mini cycles.

Asha:                Yes.

Brandy:            You can have a day that’s going well, and you’re like, “You know what? Part of this is a blessing,” and then in the next minute, it’s like, “I can’t take this one more minute!” It just feels like you have sea legs. I feel like I can never quite get on the land.

Asha:                And steady. Yes. That’s such a great description because it’s like whiplash from one emotion to the other, and it’s a 24-hour cycle or less. “This is me now?”

Brandy:            Right! This is a question I’ve asked on the podcast before on other episodes. I’m just so interested in what people have to say about it. My listeners are probably like, “Brandy, give it a rest.” Is this pandemic version of ourselves the real us, or is the pre-pandemic version of ourselves the real us? I don’t know the answer. I don’t know if this is who we really are or if who we really are is when we’re not in a constant stress state. So, what’s your take?

Asha:                Yeah, that’s a good question. I feel like it could be a bit of both. I can’t obviously speak for anyone else, but for me, it’s definitely brought out things that I would just push to the back of my mind and be like, “That’s not a big deal. I’ll deal with that later. It’ll sort itself out.” By the way, it has never sorted itself out of any situation in my life including my first marriage. I should have learned from that.

Brandy:            {laughter}

Asha:                I keep telling myself, “When we get through this part, then we’ll get back to normal,” but who knows how long this normal is going to be? Is it a matter of adjusting our perspective? Like, “Okay, this is normal now.” Or, do we just keep holding out hope for what life was like pre-March 2020? I don’t know. I’m just taking it day by day and just trying to mitigate my own stress and anxiety and trying to find ways to find the peace in my brain more so than anything else because it’s just so much going on in our heads. It’s just finding those moments for myself, having some peace, and also being gentle with ourselves. I’m definitely am not gentle on myself enough. I don’t know what normal looks like, but then are we just all frogs in a boiling pot?

Brandy:            I don’t know either. One thing that you said about how this pandemic has accelerated certain things and that you thought, “Oh, that’ll sort itself out,” and then you’re like, “Oh, actually, it really doesn’t work like that.” I’ve heard somebody close to me say that the pandemic is like an accelerant for everything that you had going on in your life and things that weren’t being tended to.

Asha:                Yes.

Brandy:            I think that is absolutely true because you have nowhere to look. You cannot distract yourself anymore, so I think people who tend to be more of a distractor nature, who have that personality type, you can’t just let your busy day take you away from thinking about what’s really in front of you. Along the lines of your saying, you know, “I’ve learned a lot about my emotions,” we’ve all had to be with ourselves, and sometimes nobody but ourselves (and of course, our children and our spouses, can’t forget that). It’s not totally comfortable, and to then be prodded and pushed in this survival mode, I think it’s been a messy journey for most of us.

Asha:                I love to be organized, and I’m very time conscious most of the time. When I had my second baby, I feel like my anxiety kicked into a higher gear. We moved into a bigger house, so there were more spaces to clean. Then all of a sudden, I was like, “Oh, my gosh, dinner time is going to be even more stressful. We’ve got to be by the clock even more, even more.” Then the pandemic hit and then all of a sudden, it was like we were able to slow down. We still kind of keep to the kids’ schedule, but there’s less of a, “If we don’t get to bed on time and get a good night’s sleep, then tomorrow, when we do the thousand and one things that we need to do, it’s never going to happen.” But now it’s like, “Well, tomorrow we’ll just wake up and have breakfast when it happens.” That part of me I think has been really good in that I’ve been able to just slow down. A lot of that was my own pressure, and that took time for me to learn that, whereas, I was always like, “Gotta get this done.” Even my husband would say to me, “What’s the rush? Don’t worry. He’ll get to bed. It’ll happen.” Now I am much more like, “Okay. Yeah, he’s going to get to bed at some point. He’s not going to stay up forever. We are going to get through dinner and things are gonna happen.” It’s just my own stress that I’ve learned to deal with and not be so hard on myself when it doesn’t go according to plan. I think that’s been the case for a lot of people during this pandemic. What does it look like to make a plan during this time especially as parents?

Brandy:             Yeah, and how does it look to have to let go? I wanted to go back to what you were talking about when you said, “Is this our new normal? Can we go back?” As it relates to all of the impossible school decisions and daycare decisions we all have to make, I’ve really been thinking about that lately because my daughter’s school goes back in a couple weeks. I’m super torn about what to do. What you said reminds me of something because I’m trying to figure it out. I want to be helpful and socially responsible and help move forward, and I’ve really been racking my brain lately. I’m just talking about my daughter because my son’s doing 100% online, and he’s loving life with that. For my daughter, who’s a second grader, I’m thinking, “Is it the more socially responsible thing to do to just keep her home and to not even get involved and to not add another vector in the mix? Or, is this really what our new normal looks like? Is it more socially responsible for me to get involved, have her go back to school during this hybrid program, and be one of the parents that’s trying to do the right thing and trying to pave a way with the rest of the community that’s going back to see how we live like this and how we can get a sense of normalcy back?” I’m feeling like there’s no right choice, and I think we’re living in a time where there are so many choices that we don’t know what the right answer is. I’m definitely feeling torn about, “Do we do everything online? We don’t go out in public, and we wait for — I don’t know what we wait for, but we wait for that thing, whatever it is. Or, do we try to try to do our best in creating what this new world looks like?” That’s where my mind has been, and I’m curious with you choosing to go back to daycare, what was that decision like? How has it gone?

Asha:                Yeah, that’s a good question. My heart goes out to you. It’s such a difficult way to juggle with two different kids of different ages. Frankie was in daycare five days a week at the beginning of March, and we were working a lot. I was getting just getting ready to release a book, so I was getting really busy. Then, we had a newborn, and we had a part-time nanny. All of that stopped, so then everyone was home. We’ve started to get a little bit busier lately, and my husband is a photographer. His schedule is freelance which is great because he gets to be home a lot of the time, but then there are stretches of days or few days a week where he works really long days on shoots. We’ve been lucky that some of the shoots have been at home with literally just one model and him, and it’s very safe and responsible. It’s been really great, but it got to the point where I look at my son, and he is just so playful. He loves interaction. He misses his friends. We’ve gone to the beach and the park a few times and done those socially distant hangouts with other parents, usually one family at a time, and families we know who have been socially distancing as well. That’s been great, but having that day-to-day brain stimulation and interaction has been — I definitely feel like in the last couple of months, he’s been missing that.

Brandy:            Yes.

Asha:                We decided, “Alright, let’s explore what are our options are. How many days a week? Maybe we only need two or three days.” So, we thought, “Okay, let’s do a three-day week. Let’s look around.” We had found a really great, smaller home daycare which was brand new and just opened up near us. The house was brand new. The lady who runs it is a child psychologist, and we applied. The price was great, and we thought, “This is going to be awesome. It’s five minutes down the road.”

Brandy:            Oh, perfect.

Asha:                Then, we get a call from another daycare. We were on the waiting list for these two really great Montessori daycares near us since October last year, so almost a year. Now of course, with so many parents choosing to keep their kids at home, they’ve got all these spots open. They call us up, and they said, “Hey, we’ve got a spot for Frankie. Do you want it?” I was like, “Yes, we’ll take it.” They’re like, “Great, okay.” I got off the phone with her, and I’m talking it over with my husband. Then, we were like, “Do we take that spot?” I said “no” to the home daycare. We agonized over this, and I really internalized it a lot because I really wanted him to get in there. I love their curriculum and just their whole setup. The classrooms are beautiful. The thing that really kind of stuck with me is that they wanted kids to wear masks for eight hours a day, and that we had to pay for five days a week regardless of the number of days we chose which I totally understand because they’re a business. I understand that, and they’re really lovely people. They’ve got this really great socially responsible system with masks for kids and hand washing. They were really trying to encourage parents to potty train their kids as much as possible just to mitigate germs and all of that. For me, I know my son, and just to get him to wear a mask eight hours a day just didn’t feel right for us. I had a lot of anxiety over that. We ended up saying “no” to that place, and that was like my ideal place for him. We ended up going with the home daycare. The teachers wear masks, but they don’t require the kids to wear a mask. Honestly, it’s been great. He’s got one of his little friends goes there as well. There are only a few kids, so that’s not like there’s a risk of potential spread with 20 or 30 kids. There’s only a handful.

Brandy:            It sounds like they’re their own little pod sort of a thing.

Asha:                Yeah. It pretty much is. It’s close by, and it’s just been great to be able to send him there the last two weeks just to have that space. I haven’t had any regrets about saying “no” to the other daycare and sending him to this smaller daycare. Also, I realize that it’s not just about making sure he gets the right stimulation and has a lot of fun (because he loves it), but it’s also about us being able to have one-on-one time with our daughter, Zoie. The whole situation — I mean, those three days until the Monday when I had to call back the daycare and say, “Sorry, we’re not taking the spot,” it was the most torturous anxiety-ridden weekend I’ve ever had since the beginning of the pandemic and on a personal level because I was like, “Are we doing the right thing? Should we train him to wear masks? Do I feel like I’m throwing him into a world where he doesn’t need to be doing that just yet?” I called other moms, and I was texting with them. “What did you do? How did you go through this?” They all went through the same situation of agonizing over what is right and, “What is my gut telling me?” They’re like, “We had no idea what was right, and our gut intuition radar was all off because of everything that’s going on.” You just have to make that list. Well, we did. We just made a list of like, “What do we need? What’s right? What boxes get ticked the most? Alright, that’s the path we’re going to go down.” I think it was just a matter of weighing up every single little detail. I haven’t regretted that decision, so I know that, “Okay, we made the right one for us and for him for right now, and we’ll assess when things change.”

Brandy:            Has he come back home with a with a fever or anything yet?

Asha:                No. I do think about that.

Brandy:            See, that’s great because I keep thinking about how if I sent my daughter back, how that’s inevitable because it’s kids and germs and colds. It’s not necessarily that it’s COVID, but I’m like, “Can my nervous system handle her coming home with a fever, and then I have to figure out if we quarantine everyone? Do we get her the test? How do we handle that at all?” Those are the questions that keep going through my mind along with, “How can I be socially responsible, but how can I be part of the group that figures out this brave new world? Or should I do that?” Everything is changing on a daily basis. We found out that our school district tried to apply for a waiver, so they don’t have to follow the same state guidelines.

Asha:                Oh, really?

Brandy:            I’m sure there are other parents out there who are like, “Yeah, we don’t want to be beholden to our Governor’s standards.” I’m not one of those people. It actually made me feel better, so if the waiver gets approved, that’s going to change probably my choice, too. My husband and I laugh. We have my daughter in this 50/50 hybrid and online program, but you can move to all-online at any time. We’re calling it the pullout method. At any moment, if we have to pull out and just completely go online, we will. My thing, and I think a lot of the parents out there maybe are in a similar situation, is by making these changes, my daughter would have to change her teacher. With my school’s online program, it wouldn’t even be a teacher at her school. She would be with kids she’s never met before. I think, ultimately, all of us, no matter what we choose and no matter if it’s opposite of what someone else would choose, I think we’re all trying to find what is the least traumatic for our kids.

Asha:                Yes.

Brandy:            Everybody has a different idea of what that is, but I sort of realized the other day why I’m in this spiral about it. It’s because there is no choice that’s not traumatic in some way, whether that’s low or extreme, but I was realizing that we’re not wired as mothers (and I think as parents in general) to pick which trauma we want to give our kids. I know this sounds really dramatic, but it feels kind of like our schools are asking us, “Well, do you want us to use the knife for the rope on your child?” We have to pick which form.

Asha:                Oh, gosh. What an analogy.

Brandy:            I mean, I know. It’s awful, and it’s dramatic.

Asha:                But it’s true.

Brandy:            But it definitely feels like, “Well, in which way? Is it going to be the way where kids go to school, and they’re wearing masks, and it doesn’t feel anything like school, and it’s not normal, and people might get sick, and then they might have to stay home. Are we gonna do that trauma? Or are we going to do the possible trauma of not having social interaction and being with a brand-new class and being in front of a computer for eight hours a day?” It’s like, “I don’t know what necessarily the right answer is.” So, I think what you’re talking about and just thinking about it in your head and trying to make that decision, I think all of us are in that in some way. It’s really an awful place as a mother to be because we’re not wired to send our kids towards trauma of some kind or towards something that has no ideal choices.

Asha:                Yeah.

Brandy:            I think for me, I keep looking for a way out. In my mind, that’s why I think it keeps putting me through the loop is because it’s like, “Brandy, there’s got to be some loophole here where something can sound good.” I’m almost like, “Brain, there isn’t. Stop it. Just let me live.”

Asha:                I’m so glad you mentioned that word “trauma” because that really is what it is. It’s obviously varying degrees for different people, but when I was having a conversation with my mom about which decision we should make and my thought process — she lives in Australia with my dad, and they were saying because their grandkids are here in the United States and in London where my sister lives with her two kids who are a little bit older, and they’re going back to school in London. She was like, “I’m just so heartbroken. My heart goes out to all the kids out there. How are they gonna deal with it?” I’m like, “Yeah. I think that’s part of it for me. I feel so heartbroken thinking that this is the world that these little kids are gonna grow up in.” It’s like, “How do I tell them, ‘I’m sorry. I don’t know how to change it.’” It’s just so hard.

Brandy:            I know, especially with the little ones. I have this conversation with my son, who’s 13, quite often. He’ll say something like, “Oh, Mom, I just miss at school, at lunchtime, or in passing periods just seeing my friends, and we all talk about it.” And I just tell him, I’m like, “I’m so sorry, dude, that this is what you have to deal with.” I understand that we cannot have no trauma for our kids. Also, it feels like we shouldn’t have to — I don’t know. Maybe, I’m wrong here. I was gonna say it feels like we shouldn’t have to choose which form of trauma, but maybe this is like all the other generations who’ve had awful things that they’ve had to choose as well. I try to look at this as this is part of that grit and that resiliency that we want our kids to have, but then I also don’t want to be like, “Well, there’s a silver lining here.” I mean, I guess ultimately it really does suck, and to be able to tell our kids, “I’m really sorry that this is what you’re having to do,” – at least I can be having these conversations with my kids. But for the little ones, they maybe don’t know any better which may be great because they don’t know what they’re missing on as opposed to the older ones.

Asha:                It’s a little bit of both. He’s at the stage where he understands that it’s normal for him to see us wearing masks if we go out and about. He wears it if we if we go to the shops. It’s fun for him because it’s only like 20 or 30 minutes at a time, but he doesn’t fully understand what the virus is, what it’s called, and how it happened. All he knows is that there’s a lot of germs out there, and we always have to wash our hands and change clothes when we come back from daycare and all of that before we touch anything and go hug anyone. He understands that, and any more than that, it might get a bit too complicated, but that’s right. At least he knows everything that is like on a need-to-know basis for the toddler age, and I’m fine with that. I’m happy to take on all the stress that he doesn’t need right now because I’m sure you can tell with your kids that as they get older, they have their own stresses and their own worries about things. It’s just trying to find the best way to deal with it and communicate it to kids. Like you said in other generations, I think about our parents, or especially my great-great-grandparents and grandparents migrating from different countries and going through so many different turbulent times in their day in age that I’m thankful we don’t have that. But it’s still just like, “Okay, we deal with what is in our lives right now and the circumstances that we have.”

Brandy:            Exactly.

Asha:                I feel like as moms and as parents, we never want to see our kids hurting. We don’t want to see them upset. Just the thought of my son going, “Oh, I miss friends. I want to see friends.” One of his really close friends moved. Their family that we’re really great friends with, the only family that we were really hanging out with, they moved back to Australia because of all of this. We’re like, “Oh.” He always says, “I want to see Leo,” and it just breaks my heart.

Brandy:            Oh, of course. We’re wired to protect them. To not be able to do that, I know for me, I feel like I’m malfunctioning. What you’re talking about has me thinking, too, that when I’m worried about if we have to switch my daughter, and she has to have a whole new teacher and change everything up, and she won’t know any of the kids, there’s my privileged mom point of view which is like, “Well, that would be awful.” And then there’s my like, “Okay, Brandy, let’s bring you back to the real world and real struggles.” That’s not actually a huge problem or maybe even a problem at all that your daughter has to change teachers. Think about all the people and the underserved populations and people who deal with racism all the time who have had so much worse, who are homeless. I mean, there’s so many different things, and I don’t mean to make it like — I’m never like that person that’s like, “Well, it could always be worse,” because you’re like, “Shut the fuck up,” to that person. So, I’m not trying to do that, but I’m also trying to put into check what my white privileged version of trauma looks like might not actually be trauma with a capital T.

Asha:                Yeah, I think it’s all perspective, and that’s all part of how we deal with our own stresses and anxiety. I think just by taking a step back and being like, “Alright, the worst is she’s going to stay home with me, and she’s going to be safe and all that.” I think it’s all a matter of perspective. We learn along the way. I mean, we don’t have all the answers going into it. We may not have all the answers on the exit, but that’s okay. We have to take it a day at a time and not be too hard on ourselves.

Brandy:            Absolutely. I’m curious, at the beginning of the pandemic, I remember seeing a meme that said something like, “…and just like that, no one ever asked a mother what she does all day.”

Asha:                Oh, yeah. {laughter}

Brandy:            Even though I felt a twinge of hope that maybe our unseen work was going to be seen by the world and society, I feel like the weight of the pandemic just quickly fell onto our shoulders as the economy forced itself to resume even though the support systems didn’t. It’s like everything just defaulted to “women will handle this,” “mothers will make up for the school,” “mothers will quit their jobs.” I mean, out of all my mom’s groups, I see women talking about, “I’m having to quit my job. I cannot juggle all of these things.” And obviously, I’m not on dad’s groups, but I don’t see any dads posting about any of this. I don’t hear dads having this conversation. I’m just wondering, what’s your take on that? Have you seen this happening? Have you known people who’ve had to quit their jobs? Do you feel like the weight of this pandemic has been put on the shoulders of women’s since you work so closely with women’s stories?

Asha:                Yes, definitely. I mean, maybe there are some exceptions, but I haven’t necessarily come across them yet. At least in my circle of really close girlfriends who are moms as well, it’s just that whole idea of, “Wait, it wasn’t meant to be like this. I thought we were all at home together. How are you still on the couch while I’m like busting my ass making dinner and cleaning up?” It’s just been really hard, I think, because I’m one of those people that takes a lot of pressure on myself and wants to try and do everything myself. That’s definitely part of my own fault and my own flaw, but it’s like that whole idea of “all the things that were simmering under the surface already have now become exacerbated as opposed to fixed because of the pandemic.” So now, we’re locked in a house most of the time, and I think it was you that posted that meme about the guy proposing to the woman like, “Will you be my wife and my life will largely remain unchanged while you change everything about your life?” I’m paraphrasing it horribly, but that just sums it up perfectly. It’s like, “How have I had to sacrifice my body, my mental health, my focus on my appearance and just brushing my hair and things like that, whereas you have so much time to watch YouTube videos on your phone?” I mean, I’m not saying this in a bad way to dis out my husband, but there have been so many times I’m just like, “Please get off your phone. There are two kids: one for me and one for you. Let’s just divide and conquer here. Come on.”

Brandy:            {laughter}

Asha:                It’s been hard.

Brandy:            Just for people who didn’t see that thing I had posted, it was from this lady named Sue Rynns. It’s a New Yorker cartoon, and it’s a guy proposing to a woman. It says, “Would you do me the honor of taking on even more responsibilities while my life remains largely unchanged?” It was just like a hit to the gut because it feels so real. I’ve said this in past episodes about how it’s not even personal, it’s like the conditioning of the male in our in our society. It’s not even that we would maybe say “no,” it’s just why can’t we share? And I know, there’s so many nuances and reasons. I’ve had this conversation with my husband about employers. Part of it stems from employers will seemingly, and I believe that if more men demanded it, they would bend, but employers are not bending. At the beginning, it felt like employers were realizing like, “Oh, my gosh, everybody’s kids are home. We don’t know what this pandemic is going to be like.” Everybody kind of got like a soft spot to be in. Then, it was like quickly thereafter, all of a sudden, I know my husband was working more than he worked even before because some of what he does is related to this a little bit. I’m like, “So, where did it go where we like had compassion for the fact that all this is being dropped on us?” I think if more people, and I mean men specifically, would stick up to their employer and say, “Listen, we had this pandemic hit. My kids have been home non-stop. My wife has other things that she does. She has work that she does. So, for an hour or two every day, I am not going to be available.” I know that’s a huge risk. I know people are probably like, “You’re crazy, then people lose their jobs.” And so maybe for the people who would really lose their jobs, you don’t do that. But then, I think there’s also this group of people who are high enough up who they could be the people that are making this change. What if that started happening so that there was more equality? All I’m asking for is equality here. It doesn’t feel like much.

Asha:                No, it doesn’t, but if you’re in that group where you’ve always been privileged, equality can feel like oppression. I think you’re right about the culture of how we treat especially women in the workforce. It starts from the top, and while it’s frustrating that a lot of people on top are still largely white and male and they will only listen to people who look and sound like themselves, that’s okay for now to kickstart that change on a bigger scale. Those people have to step up and really just ask for that and try to pave that way because we can’t shoulder not only the burden, but we can’t shoulder having to make the change as well. We need to be in this together as well.

Brandy:            Yes.

Asha:                It also speaks to a larger scale of — not to get super political but looking at America as the only industrialized country in the world that doesn’t have a federal form of paid leave that every parent has access to, not just people in certain states, or if you work for a company that has a certain number of employees. Everyone. I come from Australia, and everyone has maternity leave there. When I told them that we don’t, they’re like, “What? What do you mean? What do you mean you don’t have long service leave in America?” I’m like, “Yeah, that’s just not a thing here unless you work for certain types of companies or institutions.” Things like that which certain legislators, all female, have been pushing for a number of years, and now as people are finally realizing that there’s a huge problem in our society when a pandemic like this hits and not only do we not prepare for it on a policy level from the high level, but then systemically and culturally, we don’t have support systems and pillars in place to really catch those people when they fall when companies close down, when people don’t have income, and when people can’t buy food the same way. All of that stuff has become a lot more exposed, and it does trickle down to people’s individual lives. I think we need to really reassess. I don’t like conversations when people go, “We need to get back to…” I don’t want to go back to anything. I want to go forward in a new way, really have different types of people and different leadership at these leadership tables and boardrooms and halls of Congress, and just to really make decisions that serve a wider population because clearly what we’ve been doing has not been designed to serve a lot of people. I think there’s a lot more room for that, and here’s hoping that will happen. Especially, I hope more women will run for office and bring that life experience. Everyday people like us — I’m not going to volunteer for tribute to run for office ever because it’s not something I want to do.

Brandy:            Yes, same.

Asha:                But I’m happy to use my platform and my voice to talk about this thing and spark dialogue and be part of any local actions and anything that I can be part of like sign a petition. I think we definitely need to, as well as dealing with our own individual circumstances, realize, “Okay, well obviously, we’re not the only ones dealing with this. How do we create change going forward as a country because this is something that affects all of us?”

Brandy:            Yes. It absolutely does. It affects our marriages. It affects our relationships. It affects our work. I just keep thinking there’s a such a more humane way. I think the numbers are showing that there are more people like us getting involved in politics which is great, but then there’s a part of me that’s like, “Okay, so wait. We bear the burden, and then we have to fix it?” In a different way, there’s other systems like that. Racism is a system like that, too. “Oh, so you’re gonna be mistreated, and then you’re also going to have to fight to get equality.” There are so many systems that are like that where the victims of it are actually the ones having to do all of the heavy lifting. Sometimes, there’s just not the bandwidth available, then you throw a pandemic on it. It’s just wild to me sometimes that we live the way that we do. I sometimes just shake my head, speechless, as I think many of us do. Can I feel hopeful that the future will be different for our kids? I certainly hope so with maybe some of the ways that they’re being raised differently. It’s a hard pill to swallow, and it has been during the pandemic, for sure, as a mother.

Asha:                Yeah, it is really hard. What you said about having to force victims of a certain system or an injustice to really stand up, it’s like when the “me too” movement really exploded a few years ago forcing so many victims to retraumatize themselves by sharing their stories publicly — just the story of Weinstein and Cosby and a few others, I feel like that should have caused a whole army of men to be like, “Hey, we are the good ones. We’re going to stand alongside, and we’re going to create change in the places where it’s needed. Don’t worry, we got this. If you want to share your story, that’s great. We support you, but you don’t have to do all the heavy lifting by yourself.” But instead, it’s like, “Well, not all men…” It’s like, “We know not all men…” Come on, where do you go beyond that? The status quo is not working for a lot of people. I think we’re in a really great time for potential optimistic change if we continue going, but it is hard because we’re struggling with our daily lives as parents and as mothers and as individuals. But then it’s like, “Okay, we’re looking at the bigger problems in our country and around our world. How do we take on all of that?” I have no answers. I’m just throwing it out there, and please, someone else out there, fix it.

Brandy:            Yes, I know. That’s the thing, like what you’re talking about, is the moment that you realize nobody is coming to save us, and we have to band together which is a lot of the reason why I do the work that I do — even just to maybe validate for people who feel like, “Isn’t it crazy that nothing is ever being done about this?” Even just to say to somebody, “Yeah, you’re not crazy for feeling that way.” The section that I am so passionate about, obviously, is the motherhood angle, but there’s so many systems that I’ve talked about on the podcast. This is why some days it feels like you just want to stay in bed because it becomes so overwhelming.

Asha:                But I think that’s where each of us can find our niche. Like you were saying with you, it’s motherhood. We don’t have to do all the things. We can find something that really strikes a chord in us and be like, “Alright, let’s start there and see where it takes us.”

Brandy:            Yes, absolutely. Has the pandemic changed or accelerated your point of view on anything related to female empowerment or patriarchy or anything? Is there anything that just became really crystallized for you throughout this?

Asha:                Yeah, I think it has for sure. One of the things is — and you mentioned it just earlier about how there’s no one out there that’s going to come and save us. At the beginning of this pandemic, I had a book release date set which was March 18, and the book that I wrote is called Today’s Wonder Women: Everyday Superheroes Who Are Changing the World. It’s a collection of fifty interviews and essays of women from mostly North America, but also around the world, who are just doing incredible, brave, badass, inspiring things. I had this whole east coast tour planned. We were going to go on The Today Show — when I say we, I mean my publicist and I. It was great. I spent all this money, and then all of that just stopped. I had to cancel all my travel and all of that. Now, I’ve been finding different ways to try and talk about the book while also finding time for myself. So basically, it never happens, but there you go.

Brandy:            {laughter}

Asha:                One of the things that I’ve really had a little more time to think about is, “What is it about this book and what I’m doing with Girl Talk HQ and my passion in general that is really important to me? Am I doing it just because it feels like I’ve gotten on this train and I’ll just have to keep going, or do I really care about this stuff?” That’s been really great for me to have that just extended period of time to reflect. A quote that I really, really love is, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” and it was written by a South African poet named June Jordan. She wrote it about a lot of activism that was happening during the apartheid, and she documented a lot of the ways Black women were really standing up and organizing grassroots and actions, but they didn’t get a lot of the attention that the biggest figureheads did. One of my really close girlfriends, who’s an Emmy Award winning documentary filmmaker, always says to me, “There’s no knight in shining armor out there that’s going to give you a million dollars to get you to make that TV show or that film. You can do it yourself.” She’s done that a lot with her projects. It really made me realize that a lot of us women use our talents, our voices, our stories, our experiences, not just to benefit ourselves, but for the betterment of other people.

Brandy:            Yes.

Asha:                I really love that. I’ve seen a few different documentaries about women who ran for congress in the midterms in 2018, and hearing about their stories. These aren’t women who are necessarily very rich. They don’t come from wealthy families or well-known families. They’re just everyday women who experience things and like, “I want to create change. I see a problem. I’m going to rise up, and I’m going to do something about it.” For me, that was all the women in my book, but also women that I have seen just in my life and throughout the work that I’m doing that have really inspired me to go, “Okay, well, if I’m not going to just wait around for someone to do something for me, what am I going to do? What am I passionate about? How do I use my resources to do something that’s beneficial to others and creating change?” It doesn’t have to be changed on a huge level. I mean, it can be, but it can be like impacting one person’s life or just in your household or your community whether it’s starting a meal drive for new mothers in your neighborhood or whether it is trying to create new legislation that’s going to help more mothers have access to maternity leave or money in those early years where they need it and they’re not working as much. There’s just so many things that I admire women for doing, and I think that’s good. I want to be part of that ongoing cultural collective of people amplifying that and bringing that to the surface and talking about it more.

Brandy:            Yes. Oh, my gosh, when you said about how the women that you’ve interviewed for your book, and just women in general, that a lot of times when they are moved to get behind something or run for office or whatever the case may be, it’s for the betterment of the entire culture. That just so resonated with me because so many women that I’ve talked to — I feel like almost every woman that comes on my podcast, when we talk about, “How did you get into this?” It was because, “I went through something or I was with somebody who went through something, and I wanted to support anybody else who would ever go through that.” It’s such a beautiful thing. Obviously, it’s not everybody, but I definitely see when you find somebody who’s passionate about something, there is usually a reason like that. It’s just such a beautiful thing to say, “I just want other people to know that they’re not alone.” Even just that feeling and the feeling of community that so many of us have, and I think motherhood really does that to us because after we become mothers, we’re like, “How do I do all of these things?” We have questions, and we all of a sudden have a whole new language that we speak about: spit up, being up all night, nipples, and all this stuff.

Asha:                Yes. {laughter} 

Brandy:            You have to find other people who speak that language. I always think it’s interesting how with all this the school stuff and like, “Are we homeschooling? Are we online?” –My mom groups were just going off, and all the moms are like, “How do we fix this? How can we pull together? What can we do? How can we provide for people who don’t have enough?” All of these things where they’re coming together, and then I wonder. It’s so sad, but I don’t think dads have these same communities. It makes me wonder that they probably don’t need them, but then also, maybe, they do. Would dads love to have this community?

Asha:                Yeah, in a different way. I think so. I hear from my husband a lot. He’s very close with a lot of his close friends back in Australia, and every now and then he’ll say, “Oh, I’m homesick. I miss my friends.” He has surfing buddies, but it’s not on the same level. I think that guys maybe haven’t been taught the same way we have, as women, and that whole idea of community. I think they would benefit from community and sharing their problems in a way that they don’t have to be competitive or out-masculine each other or things like that and just really have that bond from a sense of authenticity and complexity, rather than, “Oh, this is me. I’m black and white. I’m a man. See you later, guys.”

Brandy:            Right. They’re just not conditioned to seek it out and probably accept it. Common sense would tell you that every human would benefit from community like that, that’s authentic and supportive. It makes me feel both ways. It makes me feel sad on one hand, and it makes me want to raise my son different so that he values community and he wants to start community. But then, it also, of course, makes me a little bit rageful because it’s like, “Well, if you’re not building a community, then when something like this goes down and we have to figure out school stuff, I’m the one who’s built a community, many different communities, so then it falls on my shoulders because I’m the one that has done the building. But also, you weren’t conditioned to do the building, so I’m not mad at you. It’s not personal, but also build the communities.”

Asha:                Yep. I think it’s all in how we can make the choice to raise our sons and daughters differently. It’s like, “I don’t want to blame people like my husband because it’s the system and the culture that he’s brought up in, so I don’t blame him.” But at the same time, it’s like, “Oh, my God. There’s only so many things I can tell you off of that.”

Brandy:            Yes.

Asha:                When he says to me something like, “Oh, man. I don’t know how you do it. I don’t think I could do it.” I’m like, “Don’t say that because you could do it. Don’t sell yourself short, and don’t fake me out thinking, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m the only one who can do it.’” It’s all about how do we change the culture.

Brandy:            Right. It’s, too, if you had to do it, you would do it. I mean, how many times have you said to — maybe your kids are too young, but maybe you’ve said to your spouse, “If I wasn’t here right now, what would you do? You would have to find a way.”

Asha:                I’ve said that so many times.

Brandy:            Yes. This is a thing that I say all the time too. That’s the thing is when it’s like, “I don’t know how you do at all.” It’s like, “It’s necessity.” When all of a sudden you have a baby that’s crying that needs to be fed and it’s not working and then you’re trying to heal from birth, you suddenly realize, “Oh, shit. I need people.”

Asha:                Yeah.

Brandy:            What inspired you specifically to get into the female empowerment niche? Was there something specific that happened to you, or was it more ideological? Does it come from your cultural background? Where did that stem from?

Asha:                I’ve thought about this a lot because it’s not like one big, bright, aha shining moment, but there have been a couple of things that I can definitely identify. Growing up, my family, although we’re Indian, we were never big Bollywood fans. My mom, especially, would really love independent Indian cinema where there were stories about women who were hard done by their village, and they rose up and overcame and became the conqueror and helped all these other women and the outcasts who then became the hero or became the Prime Minister and all films like that. In the back of my mind growing up, that was what I was exposed to just subconsciously through her, and she was always very understatedly inspired by that. My mom had our own feminist tendencies without ever having to say it, but now that I look back on it, it’s like, “Yeah, of course that’s who she was.” Even to this day, we text each other like, “You gotta watch this film on Netflix. It’s great.” That’s been one thing that I can point to. A couple of years ago, when I went back to Australia and I was cleaning out an old closet and just all these old folders that I’d kept, I found this folder where I’d started through my college years collecting articles in women’s and teen magazines. None of them were about celebrities, but they were all articles about women who started an organization to help trafficking victims or to help people who go through breast cancer and all these amazing articles and snippets and stories of everyday heroic women. I was really blown away because I don’t even remember why I started collecting that. Maybe I got to a point where I’m like, “I’m sick of the whole celebrity thing. I want stories of real women.” Maybe it was the inspiration for my mom, but I just didn’t know how to put words to it. It was those two things that were definitely kind of like a seed growing in my life, I guess from an early age. But then, what really propelled it forward, I would say, was going through a divorce and leaving my very ultra-conservative church background. In that church community, it was a very large church, and I was very, very involved in all sorts of things. I was singing in the band. I was doing Bible studies. I was taking Bible classes, theology classes, and things like that. But then, when I was going through a divorce, I thought, “Okay, I’ve got to step down from all the ministries and things.” I was very public-facing person in those activities, and when I stepped away, no one called me. No one reached out to be like, “Hey, we haven’t seen you in a couple of weeks. Is everything okay?” Not one person. I think what bummed me out the most was that none of the women that I was friends with reached out to be like, “Hey, is there anything that I can do?” No one. The only people that did reach out to me were — there were a bunch of like super fundy guys who were like, “Oh, you shouldn’t get divorced because God hates divorce,” and just trying to shame me.

Brandy:            Uh, great.

Asha:                Not knowing anything about me, I was like, “Block. See you later.” But then, there were a couple of friends who — it’s sad because I’m not really friends with them anymore, but there were a couple who reached out to me and said, “Well, Asha, you have to…” and they would just go through the list of rules and go down that checklist of what those religious circles really kind of drill into you. I felt really abandoned and isolated, and it just bummed me out that no matter how many details I would tell them, like, “This guy is doing this to me. He’s threatening this. Here’s all the emails and text messages. Here’s what his parents are telling my parents.” Like, “Hello?!” Surely this is gonna make them be like, “Alright, no worries. We got your back.” It was like, “Well…” Just that equivocating on, “Hey, I’m really going through something here, and I’m alone. My parents are on the other side of the world. I don’t have anyone, and you are my closest friend. You just left me high and dry in favor of following the rules.” It just really, really bummed me out. I was just disappointed. I was upset. I was angry. At that point, I was almost starting Girl Talk HQ. I was figuring out what I was trying to do with my careers. Then, it kind of clicked to me that I want to use my media and career experience, and I want to marry this experience that I’m going through right now with a divorce. It was like two divorces. Leaving the church which I’ve been part of since I was born — although, it is a little bit of a different landscape in Australia. I will say that it’s not as political. But nevertheless, that was my life growing up. Then, going through an actual divorce. It felt like, “Well, where’s my community? Where’s my family? Where is that sense of fellowship and intimacy and all these things that are drilled into me from this religion?” All of a sudden, it was gone because I had broken one of the rules that were set in place. It was really shocking and eye opening to me that I didn’t even have a community of women that I could rely on and speak to. The only person that really did, that I am still friends with to this day, she was also going through divorce in that church. We’re still friends, and we commiserated a lot. If it wasn’t for her, it would have been a lot harder in having work to distract me.

Brandy:            Oh, wow.

Asha:                But I think that really solidified for me the importance of female friendships, not at the expense of anything else, but just for me as a young woman of color growing up in a world where I never felt like I fully fit in looking at media and looking around me, but realizing that, “Well, I have an opportunity to create something, create a community, share my story, find all the stories, and bring women together. I wasn’t afraid to do that, and so I’m going to do that.” I think that’s what really started for me. It’s definitely evolved and refined itself along the way as I’ve written for this blog and written this book and done the different media projects that I’ve been involved in, but I’ve learned so much about who I am as a person, what I believe in, what my values are, and just learning about feminism, female empowerment, just the idea of more women in public spaces, and the representation of women in media and public office and even in religious circles.  At the leadership level, we don’t see too many of those. It really started my own journey, but also my passion for wanting to uplift other women who have a story to share or who were craving that authentic and complex, flawed, just real connection with other women as well.

Brandy:            Yes. Oh, my gosh. What an awful realization that the community that you had invested so much of your time and your heart into basically dropped you the second that you weren’t following all of their rules. I’m so sorry you went through that. That had to be, like you said, like a second divorce.

Asha:                Yeah, thank you. I mean, I look back on it now and I think and I know that I’m not the only one because I’ve since connected with other women from there. We’ve spoken and shared just really awful, traumatic and just really depressing things that they’ve gone through different to me, and it’s just like, “Oh, that’s so disappointing. Where is that authenticity? Where’s are those genuine relationships that we’re supposed to cultivate as part of our belief system in that church anyway?” Obviously, I’m not speaking for religion on behalf of everyone because everyone has a different experience, but I do know that there are so many like me who’ve experienced the same and have found community elsewhere in just finding other people who have been through spiritual abuse and trauma. They’ve bonded on that and created that community. There is a huge ex-evangelical community online if anyone is interested. I think that really solidified for me, “Okay, this is this is what I meant to be doing in life. This is what all that exposure to those independent Indian films were about from my mom, my immigrant background, and my media experience. It’s now all going to come together, and you’re going to be doing this.” I feel like I’m still in that infancy of that journey, but it definitely feels like this is my space. I don’t feel the need to compete or feel inadequate in any other way because I’m just kind of creating my own thing, I guess.

Brandy:            It’s funny that you said that about finding those old articles that you had ripped out about inspiring women. It’s like your book seed was planted so many years ago. Did you know that? When you finally got the like, “Okay, I’m gonna do this,” did you remember anything from before that you had been interested in it before? Was it a seed that you knew in that moment, “Someday, I’m going to compile stories and put this book together,” or had completely forgotten? I think that’s such an interesting thread, and it sounds like it was kind of an invisible thread.

Asha:                No. I think it’s an invisible thread because I hadn’t thought about it at all until I’d seen it in front of me cleaning out that closet. It was such a confirmation to me because it made me realize, “Okay, it’s not random. I’m not just following some trend or trying to copy what someone else is doing. This is something that I wanted to do for a long time.” It is funny, like you mentioned, ripping out those. This was a thick folder, like the folders that have those plastic inserts and the paper protectors. I mean, that was chock a block full of articles. I don’t know how long I was collecting these for, and hopefully my mom hasn’t thrown it out. I don’t think she would have, but you never know when you’re clearing out so much stuff. It was really cool to see that the early version of me was laying the groundwork in little ways even though I didn’t know it at the time, and I didn’t realize it until years later. I had completely forgotten about it as well, so that was like a cool reminder.

Brandy:            I’ve talked to people who say, including a therapist who says, “When you’re trying to figure out what you want to be or what you want to do in the world, go back to what you liked doing when you were a kid.” Hearing about your story, it reminds me of when I was a kid there were so many things that I liked to do. I was such an independent kid when I really look back on it, but one of the things was obviously writing. I would just sit at the computer, and I would write stories. Then, I would bind them in a book. What’s funny is like, “Why wasn’t I an English major or a creative writing major?” It’s like your mind goes to this different place, and I know my parents were always a business-minded family. That’s always where, subconsciously, the rails were kind of put, but I think about how interesting it was that like “little Brandy” back then couldn’t have known that she would end up actually wanting to do that as an adult. I feel like the same thing for you, and I’m wondering for listeners out there, people must have moments where they were a child and they planted some seeds that they didn’t later know would bloom when they were an adult. I just think that’s an interesting idea.

Asha:                It’s so beautiful too. When we’re young, that idea of the naivete (and not in a bad way) is like we instinctively know who we want to be when we’re at a young age, when we can’t even put words to it, but then life takes over and culture takes over and media takes over. We get distracted, but at some point, I’d like to think, hopefully, most of us find our way back to that. It’s okay that it takes a number of years because we have to live life a little. We have to go through stuff, and we have to have those experiences that force us to be drawn back to, “Okay, what is our first love?” It’s like The Journey of the Alchemist, for anyone who’s read that book it. I read that book year ago. My husband gave it to me to read, and I was like, “I don’t really understand this. Cool. He finally goes back to his home, and he finds everything. That’s great.” But now, I’m like, “I get it now!” It’s almost like you have to be ready and willing in that place of wanting to find that, and then you realize, “Okay, this is this is who I am.” It can be so many things. It doesn’t have to be one thing. Yeah, that first love that we have.

Brandy:            And the obstacles that get in the way. I have a client who I was working with (because I do book doula sort of writing consulting stuff), and this woman was telling me (which I think is a really common story, I also saw at the writers retreats I went to) that she’s a mom. She said, “I’ve had this idea for a story. I’ve kind of written little pieces of it here and there, but it just feels silly. What am I doing as a grown adult woman coming up with ideas for a story? It seems very frivolous.” All the moms, we’re in this like grown woman, many of us suburban, “You are now all about your kids bubble,” that we don’t see creative people in our real life. We don’t talk to them. We don’t share these things. You walk around as a creative person in this suburban mom world, and you think you’re a weirdo because you think — I mean, I do this all the time where I see something and I write down a little note that’s under the tab “next book” because it’s such an interesting character trait or the quirky way somebody does something. Then, I think, “Nobody else does this. Am I the only one that does this?” I’ve accepted it, but talking to writers at the beginning of their journey who haven’t accepted it yet, it’s like I feel so lucky to be able to say to them, “You are allowed to love story. That does not mean you are not a competent adult or that you’re being silly.” It’s just so interesting that sometimes people need the outside validation with creativity that, as an adult, you are allowed to do that thing. It just kind of blows me away every time.

Asha:                Yes. I love that. I mean, that’s so interesting to hear that you hear that from people in your writing community. I mean, a grown ass woman wrote Harry Potter, and people probably thought her ideas were really stupid. “Hogwarts? What is that? Go get a real job.” Probably so many people said that to JK Rowling, and here we are today.

Brandy:            Yes. I can imagine her at gymnastics practice sitting in the room that everybody has to sit in. All the moms are talking about Instapot recipes or whatever, and she’s over here writing, “Muggles. That’s the word. That’s what I’ll use.”

Asha:                Yes. “Gryffindor, what a name.”

Brandy:            “Then, they do this. Oh, my gosh. Then, there’s this cloak that’s invisible.” Meanwhile, the other moms are like, “Um, what about picture day tomorrow? Do you have the picture day outfit?” That’s how I feel all the time. Especially, when I was writing my book and I would be a gymnastics practice writing away, and I just hear all the conversations going. I’m like, “I’m such a freak. Also, I can’t be anything different, so I’m not going to fight it.” I feel like it’s an important thing, like what you’re talking about, for people to look at, “What did you love when you were younger?” And then also, the other part is, “You’re allowed to still love that thing.”

Asha:                Yeah, absolutely. Giving ourselves permission to be who we really truly are inside and finding time to strip away all those messages and barriers that we’ve put up because of what we’re “supposed to be.” It’s like, “Yeah, how do we do that?”

Brandy:            Yes. Asha, can you tell us where we can find you online, and will you repeat the name of your book and where people can find that as well?

Asha:                The book is called Today’s Wonder Women: Everyday Superheroes Who Are Changing the World, and you can find it at http://www.todayswonderwomenbook.com. You can buy it on Audible, as well as Amazon and Target Books. The links are all on that website. You can check out http://www.girltalkhq.com. Brandy has also written a fabulous article about her pandemic book on there, so check that out and all the other amazing stories.

Brandy:            Thank you.

Asha:                If you have a story to share and want a place to share it and don’t know where to start, please get in touch by going to that website. I’m on Twitter and Instagram at @ashadahya and @girltalkhq, so check it out, check us out, check me out, get in touch, and do all the things.

Brandy:            Oh, gosh. I just want to say for the listeners out there who are feeling like, “Oh, maybe I should tell my story,” and are feeling like, “But maybe my story’s not as interesting,” do it. There’s something that’s so important about having somebody hear your story. I didn’t necessarily realize this when I started the podcast, but so many people who have come on the podcast afterwards tell me, despite if I did a good job or whatever, “Thank you so much for just hearing my story and making me feel like it’s important.” It is. I just want people to know that there’s more to telling the story than just what you give other people. You also get something from sharing your story. I just don’t want people to discount that, so if you feel like you feel drawn to do it, do it.

Asha:                That’s very beautifully said. I love that.

Brandy:            Aww. Thank you. Asha, thank you so much for making the time to be here. It sounded like your little one maybe fell asleep.

Asha:                I think he’s asleep. There’s no noise in the background. We have a victory today, people. {laughter}

Brandy:            I feel like we’ve won the war, or at least, we’ve won the battle today.

Asha:                Just for today.

Brandy:            We’ve won the battle, maybe not the war yet.

Asha:                Yeah.

Brandy:            Thank you, again, so much for the work that you do and for coming on here and giving us insight about all of the things that are going on in your life. I just so appreciate you. Thank you.

Asha:                Thank you so much. This conversation has been so great and so refreshing and therapeutic for me, so right back at you. I’m really thankful for you, Brandy. Thank you for the work you do as well.

Brandy:            Yes, the medicine of adult conversation during a pandemic. Sorry, I had to say it.

Asha:                {laughter}

Brandy:            Like I mentioned earlier, talking all this out with Asha, the part about which choice is more socially responsible, and then my epiphany about the trauma with a capital T versus lowercase T, and how my privilege really played a part in that, led me to switch my daughter to 100% online schooling. I’d been gearing myself up to send her back to school a few days a week, but I realized that the amount of emails and back and forth about opening and closing and the mental spin I was in about all of this and how I felt uncomfortable and not ready but then sort of ready was not worth what we would be getting with in-person learning. Our teacher had showed us what the classroom would look like, and it was bare. There was no lending library, no flexible seating, no sharing supplies with your neighbor, and a masked teacher and classmates. It had been stripped of all the most fun parts of school and the connective tissue that my daughter most looked forward to, like art time and friends. So, I just thought to myself, “I’m putting myself through all this chaos and avoiding a teacher switch for my daughter to go back to this? Maybe going back to a potentially unsafe sci-fi novel looking classroom might be trauma with a capital T, whereas being in a loving safe home might be trauma with a lowercase t or none at all.” But I held my breath and made the switch, and I was surprised at how much immediate relief I felt. All the emails keep coming through about the new updated opening plans, like every day, and there’s always updates and ways that they’re trying to get around the rules. I don’t have to click on any of these emails! It is so freeing, and I have so much more mental space now to overthink other things. {laughter} So, this feels like the right decision for us. My daughter has been doing great with it. Not only that, but she’s making new friends because she has to, and she’s learning how to adapt. While I was worrying about what this switch would do to her, it’s shifted to, “What is this switch doing for her?” I hear her talking to these new friends that she’s never met before and telling me about how excited she is because in the chat, they’ve been asking each other to be friends because a couple other kids are new kids, and I realize this is actually an opportunity for her. I’m happy that I switched my attitude on that, but I know there are so many parents who feel the exact opposite and that their in-person classrooms do offer their kids something valuable. I get it. There are no right choices in this moment while we’re all struggling to do what’s best for our kids and ourselves with no ideal options. The only right choice is not sending your kid to school sick, so good luck to everyone out there or in there, whichever you choose. As always, thanks for listening.

** As always, thank you to Scott Weigel and his band, Seahorse Moon, for providing me with that jaunty intro and outro music. You guy are awesome. Check ’em out on iTunes.