Wednesday, December 30, 2009
As anyone who knows me well is aware, I hate the winter. I hate driving in the snow, struggling in my tiny tin car to stay afloat, I hate the pervasive cold, the constant grey, the wet, the inability to get warm- the list goes on and on. The decision to stay in Utah instead of go to graduate school in Arizona was only a decision at all because I literally did NOT want to stick it out for another winter here. So, part of my decision to stay here was a bargain with myself to try and figure out a way to like the winter.
I stocked up on winter gear- boots, snowshoes, Yaktrax, a down coat, waterproof socks, long underwear, etc. I found a friend who likes hiking in the winter and doesn't mind me tagging along. As soon as I get health insurance, I am going to go skiing with my crazy skier of a sister. I am also taking St. John's Wort, Vitamin D, and fish oil every day to help stave off the inevitable Seasonal Affective Disorder that usually sets in from too little sunshine. So far, I feel like it's been a great winter and I've enjoyed it as much as I think is possible for a distinctly un-winter person. I will always prefer sunshine, but I have definitely gained an appreciation for snow that I didn't think was possible.
One of the things that has helped me the most has been my walks with Ari, my sweetheart of a pitbull. We have a park across the street from our house and she and I get out as much as I possibly can and go walking around the winding trails in the wilderness area of the park. It's not a crowded place most of the time, especially when the snow is falling.
She's one of those dogs with a sort of athletic grace that makes her beautiful to watch as she bounds through the snow. We throw a ball every little while (because the ball is basically GOD HIMSELF in her book), but mostly we just ramble in silence, through the snow. It's this silence that has given me a deep appreciation for winter. The silence that snow brings is not a new phenomenon to me, but it's accessibility on a daily basis definitely is. It is as if the entire world closes in around you- or rather opens into a vacuum of silence- and all there is in the world in suddenly myself and the dog. It recharges me on such a deep level that I find myself longing for it on days I cannot go.
With three more months of winter left, for the first time in my life, I can actually say that I am happy that everything is exactly the way it is right now. And that is truly a gift.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
It’s my last day at the job. Everything is in place. My things are cleared away, files deleted or passed on, keys out on the table. My blonde little replacement is sitting up front, doing her thing as if she’d been here for forever.
I am thinking about grey.
The woman who has made my life a living hell for the past year got me a goodbye hubcap. Yes, a hubcap. My car only has three. I came to work this morning and there was a card and a hubcap on my desk. The thoughtfulness overwhelms me. Amongst all other things, she is and has been kind. Crazy and obsessive compulsive and controlling, but kind too. And considerate. She is, to me, the living proof of my thoughts today.
You cannot divide life into black and white, good and evil. Nothing is wholly one or the other. The Yin/Yang concept of Eastern philosophy makes sense, but I think it’s even more muddled than a simple black and white divide. We bring it all to the table, every day. The upbringing of our parents, the neuroses of our histories, the scars and fears that haunt our footsteps, our anger, our savage competitive drive. The sunsets we’ve seen, the small kindnesses and miracles that have been bestowed, a kiss on the forehead, an unexpected birthday phone call, empathy, a loaf of homemade bread, a funny movie. All of it muddles together.
How do you know when it is time to go? I am learning to recognize the signs. The things that were once exciting and new are tinged with the pain and cynicism of regrets and unforeseen costs. The worn-in tired feeling. The lack of surprise for any bad turn. They have treated me with unkindness, with blindness, and deceit. They have also paid for me to live and walked with me and lived alongside me as life has passed by these two years. Often it has not been good to be here, especially in this last year. But just because it has not been good, doesn’t mean it hasn’t been worthwhile.
I have had a lot of time to research and grow. I have had the good examples of successful women who try to balance careers and families and how to do that and how to ask for things and not be considered a bitch. I have had a space to put my things and expand. I’ve walked around this block hundreds of times. I’ve gotten flowers here and kissed boyfriends and had absolutely awful days where the fact that there was work to be done was all that saved me from wallowing in despair.
It’s time to go. It’s time to go. I am so thankful for the going. I am scared too.
It’s never simple. You can love people who hurt you and feel sadness at leaving a job that made you unhappy and feel nostalgia for places you couldn’t seem to get away from fast enough. But I’m grateful for the complexity of it.
I was here.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Every great intellectual movement of the past has involved a relatively small, diverse group of individuals putting together ideas and collaborating with one another. Consider in America the transcendentalists; Emmerson, Thoreau, etc., who knew and spoke with one another. Or in Paris, the philosophical circles of existentialism headed by Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. We have always relied on one another for support-- for other heads on which to bounce our ideas. I personally view blogging and reading blogs as the modernist equivalent (at least in capacity) to such collaborations. Blogs are, when they are at their best, discussions about concepts and ideas. They are a way to pass on news, to report from one's window the world outside that may not be available to others elsewhere.
Thanks to blogging, I have a better understanding of history and it's implications in modernity. Thanks to blogging, I am able to access some of the smartest and most informative political and legal opinions in the nation. Thanks to blogging, I am able to learn about international issues in Africa and elsewhere. Thanks to blogging, I get tough grammatical questions answered. Blogging is a support system for feminism. And sometimes, it's just plain fun.
I don't think it's a waste of time. I don't think it's frivolous.
Monday, July 27, 2009
If anything, for me, Sgt. Crowley is a good example of how all of us, especially those who are in the business of helping others (police, social workers, politicians, healthcare workers), need to actively seek out our own deep-seated unquestioned biases. Whether it's latent racism, xenophobia, homophobia, etc., we all have deep ugly parts that, if unquestioned, can and will hurt the very people we are trying to help. I think this is an example where a pretty good man (Sgt. Crowley) was put in a situation where some of his unquestioned biases surfaced to bad effect.
Anyway, last week, I was both heartened and annoyed at Obama for his comments on the issue. Heartened because he commented, stood up for Gates, and bravely asserted that race relations are still a sensitive issue within our supposedly "Obama post-racial era." Annoyed because he so blatantly did NOT have all the facts on the situation and yet made a judgment call which then escalated the entire conflict.
Today he apologized. Said he was sorry he'd spoken without the full amount of information needed to comment on the subject. Talked to both Gates and Crowley and tried to smooth over things on both sides. Defended his decision to comment on the situation and still stuck with his original defense of Gates, which I thought was commendable. He is the world's most powerful man and he is a black man. I'm glad he's involved in conversations about race. His is a needed voice.
He said sorry. Why do I love politicians that know how to say sorry? And not just over big, youcaughtme sorts of things, but over something seemingly small that he didn't have to take on? Because it means that he is still listening. And a president who is still listening to anyone outside his advisers is a better president BY FAR than any we've had in recent years.
He didn't lie when he said he was big on communication. And I love him for it, even if I don't always agree with him.
*Update: This is a crucial blog for anyone who has any interest in the concept of implicit racism.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
I didn't begin that way. Growing up as the oldest child in an almost Victorianly strict household, reading provided some of my deepest joy and wonder. I devoured everything I could get my hands on. Books were consumed two, three, four times a piece and puzzled over- even the ones I didn't like or understand, such as "Are You There God, It's Me Margaret" which, to my 9-year old Mormon mind, seemed completely incomprehensible.
I don't know where the sudden snobbery in reading came from. I think it started in college somewhere. I began undergrad as an English major and was thereby subjected to literary snobbery at its epicenter, where one could not be considered a true appreciator of the art if one preferred say, Barbara Kingsolver, over a compilation of literary analyses on King Lear. We took Emily Dickinson, (up until that point one of my favorite poets) and picked apart her spindly little poems until they were so many letters of the alphabet lying on the ground. My professors were big into postmodernist constructions. Somewhere along the line, reading became less of a pleasure and more of a goal.
This is not to say that my post-collegiate years have been spent soley slogging through ridiculous "works of literature"- which is always what you call a book you hate. I've read some really great books in my quest for literary snob of the year.
Robert Bolano, however, broke me of snobbery, I hope, forever.
If you are not familiar with Robert Bolano, he is a Spanish author whose post post-modernist novels have caused critics the world over to rave about his "genius." His novel, 2666, was published post-humously and in unfinished form, yet was hailed as one of the books to read in 2008. So, I picked it up.
The novel is ginormous. Probably 1200 pages. I'd like to say that there's a plot, but there really is not. It is better seen as a compilation of stories that may or may not bleed into one another and then abruptly end. It's monolithic. It's dry. It's post postmodernism.
I didn't finish it. Around page 400 I thought it was going to turn around and get good. At page 857, I gave up. Slogging through 200 pages in which Bolano details the murders and rapes of the women of Sonora, I began to get indignant. Seriously. THIS is what we consider good literature these days?
N+1 has a good op-ed piece about Bolano that pretty accurately characterizes his style:
Why then, you begin to wonder, are you reading these books? What for, if they are each going to eschew psychology, characterization, pretty language, and neat conclusions, and if the narratives are all to devolve into shaggy-dog Iditarods mushing after some fugitive poet or novelist about whom—even if he ever turns up—we learn next to nothing? Why read and write at all if these empty Chinese boxes constitute the only goods ultimately in receipt?In Bolaño, literature is a helpless, undignified, and not especially pleasant compulsion, like smoking. At one point you started and now you can't stop; it's become a habit and an identity. Nothing is so consistent across Bolaño's work as the suspicion that literature is chiefly bullshit, rationalizing the misery, delusions, and/or narcissism of various careerists, flakes, and losers.
Why indeed? As I started reading about yet another Sonoran woman, 5 feet 7 inches, anally and vaginally raped, throat slit, found out a trash heap, I recollected back on a piece of advice Stephen King doled out in his marvelous little book, "On Writing." Life's too short to read crap. With the millions of great books in the world, reading something you don't like is a waste of time.
And so I put it down. Since then, I've read a ton of great books and a couple really terribly written junk-food novels- pretty much nothing that would qualify to be on the world's list of 100-Most Influential books of our time and I've pretty much enjoyed all of it. Influential is overrated. I want a good story, beautiful writing, and characters I can get into.
Robert Bolano, you can kiss my ass. Thank you.
stick, slick with sweat, like some oppressive second skin refusing to shed.
the urge to peel
-anything! to remove that silken suffocation-
best intentions (the careful, shimmied application; nightstand corners and jumping dogs successfully avoided)
are quickly shot to hell
in hot pursuit
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
I’m talking to a reporter who’s doing a story about what “messages” celebrities send with their weight-loss/weight-gain narratives. In her own words, she wants to know: “What was your reaction to Kirstie Alley’s and Oprah’s latest revelations? Did their descriptions of the shame and humiliation they felt about it make you feel normalized? Hopeless? Angry? Other?”
I wanted to include my response here:
I think the first response I had to both Oprah and Kirstie Alley was simply questioning why they continually choose to share their "pain" and "humiliation" with the rest of us. Do they think that their bodies are some type of report-card grade that has to be authorized by the general public? These women, especially Oprah, are pretty private about many areas of their personal lives- why do they feel their bodies are public property? Kirstie Alley's fame for the last decade or so has been based solely on her weight loss and weight gain, so it's not surprising to see another tabloid cover confession, I guess I just wonder why she allows that to be marketed to the degree that it is when she is a talented actress and undoubtedly has other things going on in her life aside from her weight.
Society has an ongoing conversation about younger celebrities who market themselves with their bodies (e.g., Paris Hilton/Kim Kardashian's fame spawning from sex tapes), but I think that Oprah and Kirstie exemplify the same cultural pressure to submit their bodies to scrutiny in the name of fame that the younger generations do; except, rather than being directly tied to their sexuality, it's to their weight (which is then connected to sexuality, but also a whole host of other "ills" such as laziness, selfishness, and stupidity). It's like they're Weight Sluts. We can envy Oprah for her billions, her fame, her success, her life, as long as at the end of the day we feel like we're better than her- that lazy, stupid bitch who can't keep the weight off.
Update: Was interviewed by the New York Times for my commentary. We'll see if I am actually quoted in the article that they post. Either way, I'll be posting a link to the article to this website as a way to further this interesting conversation. :)
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
To a very nice girl. A girl that is head-over-heels crazy about him. A girl who wants more than anything in the world to marry him. And, I should mention, a girl that I am friends with. And this is the part where we all say congratulations! and clap our hands for love, once again, conquering all and bringing people together.
Except lately, I've felt slightly behind in that cheer. Like that person always a measure behind in the song, or a beat too late when everyone is clapping in time.
A friend explained to me once that each year of her life feels as if it simply builds on the other years; builds, but doesn't replace the people we were before. So, in her mind, her 21-year old self still exists, her 5-year old self still exists, her 14-year old self still exists. And they all take up space and crowd for emotions. And, to me, it makes a lot of sense. The times I want to throw a huge fit and fling myself to the ground kicking and screaming and yelling "No! NO! NO!!!"? 3-year old self. Random road trip to California? Definitely 17-year old self.
I think this concept of selves explains a lot of my feelings about this marriage. The 26-year old self is super happy for them and wants nothing but the best. The 15-year old girl that was hopelessly, madly, achingly in love with him? Yeah, not so happy.
I realize this makes me sound slightly schizophrenic, but I think everyone has conflicting emotions from time to time. Times when you've been happy and sad. Times when you've been simultaneously angry and relieved. Dueling emotions, I think, are pretty common and I think they're usually the mind's response to sudden, unanticipated changes. They're what happens before we've had time to sort things out emotionally.
So I've felt slightly conflicted about it. I confess to avoiding Facebook for the past few days in an attempt to not get daily updates about the plans, or pictures of the ring, or whatever. Not because I've wanted anything to be different (I most certainly do NOT), but simply because every time I go to it, I have felt this swell of differing feelings and it's been disconcerting.
Last night my ex called me to give me updates about the wedding plans. He and the fiancee are making a trip out to Utah to hold a celebration with the friends and family here who will probably not make it to the actual ceremony. He wanted to know if they could use my house for the festivities. I have a good house for parties. A huge, flat yard with enough space for a good volleyball game. A beautiful living room with floor to ceiling windows that lend a gorgeous view of the mountains and the valley below. It makes sense to have it at my house. And so I agreed. And in a month and a half, we'll have a party for them here and it will be great, I am certain.
For some reason, this conversation was what I needed to get my emotions straightened out. I think it's because, in some strange way, this party is a way to satisfy all selves. It's a way to prove to myself that I kept my promise to him all those years ago- that I would love him for forever. It was more than a boyfriend thing- during that time period those people (the five of us) were my family and I still consider them thus. It's a way to spread that love over to her and solidify to the world that, in my life, they are now one and the same and, in a sort of Godfather sense, any person of his is a person of mine. It's a gift I can give. It's an affirmation of my long-standing belief that if you love someone, you love them for life. Without fail, that love changes and morphs and becomes something entirely different than you ever thought it would be, but at the end of the day, it's still love. And that's something worth celebrating.
So, with hands clapping synchronously to the beat, I say congratulations! I love you both.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
I guess my take on "labeling" is this: When you are a member of a group of society that is currently and historically marginalized, I think identifying yourself as part of the group is important. Not only does it allow other people within your (race, gender, sexual orientation, etc) to feel supported and less alone, it gives other people who know you the opportunity to confront their biases and prejudices in an empathetic setting. That is, because they care for you, they may see the group you belong to in a more sympathetic light. This is the motive behind the mass "coming-out" parties within the gay/lesbian communities and I think it's an effective way to advocate for change without getting in anyone's face.
To me, identifying myself as a feminist means that I unequivocally believe that women in today's society face a gender disparity. It means that I am willing to have a civil conversation about gender inequality with people who don't agree with me. It means that I support women who are marginalized. It means that I pay attention. It also means that I am willing to be a challenge stereotypes about feminist women: that they are angry dike bitches who want to get rid of men and rule the earth.
Friday, April 17, 2009
The blogs are a-twitter with this Magical Woman, come to teach us Lessons. What fools we are! we self-castigate. Here's a dowdy lady who doesn't look like an American Idol contestant and we judge! Because she hasn't received validation from the patriarchy, we assume she's unworthy! And we were wrong! Stupid, stupid, shallow idiots! We judge! And are found wanting! Ad nauseam!
There is indeed something worrisome about plucking someone from obscurity and feting them for a week or so to make the rest of us feel better, reducing her to a two-dimensional character who reaffirms our belief in the Power of Dreams, never mind that Boyle seemed neither miserable before, nor particularly turned by the attention. (Indeed, she seems insufficiently willing to play the role for many of the interviewers, who seem reduced to portraying her as "lovable character" rather than "tragic redeemer.")
And sure, I guess I get that sort of criticism. I think there are definitely people out there who want to take Ms. Boyle and use her as a representation of the Great Hope for All Mankind or whatever- journalists, tv people, talk show hosts, sure. But that wasn't why I loved watching that performance.
I loved watching that performance because when you watch her sing, the sheer joy of singing almost overwhelms you. She is SO happy to be there, to be singing, to be on that stage (regardless of who she is or where she comes from) that you can't help but be moved by it, and the audience is and the judges are and for one beautiful moment you and everyone else are caught up in the triumph of music, of the moment, of the song, of her beautiful voice. For me, it was about that one pure moment of just utter love- not the stupid analysis that comes after it or the humble beginnings from which it sprung.
My brother and I had a discussion yesterday about whether it's rational to care about people you don't know. In this discussion, I was definitely the idealist of the two of us. I argued as rationally as I could that caring about others is not just the moral thing, but it's a necessity in a world where everything and everyone is so intricately connected. After the conversation though, I realized that although that's part of it for me, a large part of why I care about other people is because I want to believe in magic. I'm not talking about insipid tricks or potions or whatever- I'm talking about those very rare moments when the world seems to connect and life seems...possible. When you believe that all the shit that's happening in the world today can be overcome and even if not by you, by someone somehow. Susan Boyle's performance is an example of that for me where everyone is so surprised in those few brief moments that something (guard, cynicism, etc) is let down and everyone laughs and the whole world seems alight with childlike wonder. I want to believe in that.
And in things like this :)
Monday, March 2, 2009
He wrote some things that I love and some things that I hated. We don't see eye to eye on what it means to be a woman, but he certainly understood things about being a man. His essay, "The Disposable Rocket" was one of my favorites in college. He wrote a lovely poem called "Dead Dog," which makes me burst into tears every time I read it, including this evening.
To create in this world is a risky experiment. It takes a tremendous amount of self-confidence to attempt to put anything out at all. If you're even remotely in the loop, you know that there are people better than you out there doing exactly what you do and saying what you say. No small amount of self-delusion is necessary to keep steam after that realization. Then there's the fact that some people, even people you love and respect, will not like what you create and will say as much. You can hurt people you love by creating. John Updike, for what it's worth, created anyway, for decades, and I think that's courage worth appreciating.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Right now, in Utah, you can be fired for being gay. Not just that, but you can also be fired for APPEARING gay.
Because that's how we roll in this state. So bigoted and biased that we would rather treat human beings like second class citizens based on ONE factor of their personhood, rather than confront our fears and biases. That's totally what God would want though. You know. Because HE hates those gays. Oh wait.... But that's right, God DOESN'T hate the gays- last time I checked, in fact, He was giving out orders to love everyone. But dammit all, it's gotta be tough love. God may love those gay people, but He sure as HECK doesn't love their perverse fornicating ways! So the best way to "love" them is to completely deny them any and all basic civil and human rights. Hopefully that will convince them to repent and return to normalcy. It's all about LOVE!
I want to bash my head against a wall.
You cannot hate people for their own good.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Having worked in a domestic violence shelter, I can attest to the fact that the situation that Jezebel's Megan describes is really quite accurate. Law enforcement officers aren't monsters and members of the prosecution aren't sadists, but the system is absolutely 100% overwhelmed. Good police and prosecutors can handle the overload with grace and empathy. Others, due to lack of training or lack of emotional ability, cannot. It's a hard, tragic, shitty situation for everyone. My heart goes out to all involved.
Update 1: Excellent interview with Elizabeth Mendez Berry, author of "Love Hurts"- an article looking at domestic violence, specifically within the hip-hop culture.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
The parents bought me a new car stereo this past Christmas (thank you thank you thank you) and I've immediately reverted back to my old habits....listening to KOZY 106.5 and NPR and 90.9 and the occasional ridiculous Beyonce "Put a Ring on It." It's been a lovely lapse in music pretentiousness. Fuck taste!- give me LOVE SONGS AFTER DARK!
Anyway, so when I was growing up, all the kids used to listen to X96. The source for all things "alternative." And, you know, I still have a real affection for the station. It brings me back to the old days of tooling around in Lauri's old station wagon, of waterballoon stakeouts, of childhood and youth. It's still one of my "favorites" buttons.
My year-long absence from the radio may account for this next question: Where are all the ladies in the "alternative" music genre? And why are they not getting radio time?
I love women musicians. Most of my favorite artists are women. There's gotta be a ton of them in the alternative young-hipster-toocoolforschool-generation of upandcomings. WHY are they not getting play? It bothers me.
That's all. If you need me, I'll be over listening to Delilah and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me.
Monday, January 19, 2009
I've said this before- I do not think America is a great country because it is God's land, or because it is a righteous moral nation. I do not think we are a country that has used its power benevolently or for good. However, I love this country for the individuals who live within it; amazing, powerful individuals who are willing to stand up against the current and protest. MLK was one of them. Not the soulless, hammed up guy that they taught me about in elementary school, thankfully, but a man whose life was full of choices. Some of them he made poorly, to the detriment of his family and himself. But I am ever thankful that he made the choice to stand up and continue standing, no matter what the cost. I love him for that. I love America for giving birth to that.
This was Gene Robinson's prayer yesterday at the "We Are One" concert that Obama attended. It is my prayer too, as MLK day and the inauguration take place.
“O God of our many understandings, we pray that you will bless us with tears -- tears for a world in which over a billion people exist on less than a dollar a day, where young women in many lands are beaten and raped for wanting an education, and thousands die daily from malnutrition, malaria, and AIDS.
Bless this nation with anger -- anger at discrimination, at home and abroad, against refugees and immigrants, women, people of color, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people.
Bless us with discomfort at the easy, simplistic answers we’ve preferred to hear from our politicians, instead of the truth about ourselves and our world, which we need to face if we are going to rise to the challenges of the future.
Bless us with patience and the knowledge that none of what ails us will be fixed anytime soon, and the understanding that our new president is a human being, not a messiah.
Bless us with humility, open to understanding that our own needs as a nation must always be balanced with those of the world.
Bless us with freedom from mere tolerance, replacing it with a genuine respect and warm embrace of our differences.
Bless us with compassion and generosity, remembering that every religion’s God judges us by the way we care for the most vulnerable.
And God, we give you thanks for your child, Barack, as he assumes the office of President of the United States.
Give him wisdom beyond his years, inspire him with President Lincoln’s reconciling leadership style, President Kennedy’s ability to enlist our best efforts, and Dr. King’s dream of a nation for all people.
Give him a quiet heart, for our ship of state needs a steady, calm captain.
Give him stirring words; We will need to be inspired and motivated to make the personal and common sacrifices necessary to facing the challenges ahead.
Make him color-blind, reminding him of his own words that under his leadership, there will be neither red nor blue states, but the United States.
Help him remember his own oppression as a minority, drawing on that experience of discrimination, that he might seek to change the lives of those who are still its victims.
Give him strength to find family time and privacy, and help him remember that even though he is president, a father only gets one shot at his daughters’ childhoods.
And please, God, keep him safe. We know we ask too much of our presidents, and we’re asking far too much of this one. We implore you, O good and great God, to keep him safe. Hold him in the palm of your hand, that he might do the work we have called him to do, that he might find joy in this impossible calling, and that in the end, he might lead us as a nation to a place of integrity, prosperity, and peace. Amen."