Monday, May 17, 2010


Mikey is dead.

This is the second time I have written that sentence since it happened, though in the interim between writing it, I have said it (to myself, to others) what now seems innumerable times. I have been afraid to write it. Writing is so permanent. I am frequently paranoid about writing things down and destroy evidence of anything I write that may be particularly incriminating later. But with this, I cannot take it back. I cannot destroy it. Because he is gone.

And I need to write about it because writing, in part, is how I deal with the world around me. But I don't know what to write about. If I write about all the memories of Mikey, all of the love I have for him, and only tertially touch upon the fact that he is dead, it seems like a lie. If I delve too much into the pain of losing someone I loved so much, it feels unseemly- too expositional- too emotional- not enough Mikey too much me.

I cannot seem to write about him in the past tense.

Worden (2002), gives the four processes of grief:

1) Adjust to the reality of the loss. (He is gone. He will not return. After I found out he was dead, I called his phone and left him a voicemail telling him goodbye. As if I somehow expected him to receive it. )

2) Work through the pain of grief. (It feels like the ocean tide. The pain comes in and it overwhelms me and eventually, it recedes and I can move forward, knowing all the while that it will come again. I don't know how long it is supposed to take- I feel almost awkward trying to deal with time in this perspective- I'm sure some would say that time isn't the important thing here, that the pressure to grieve and move on is natural, but to stick with it through its natural cycle. I'm sure there are all sorts of rules for this- I just don't know them.)

3) Adjust to the environment without the deceased. (I find it terribly ironic that, in the lowest circumstances of my life these past three years, it has been Mikey who has stepped in and sat with me in my despair and my sorrow. And now, when I again find myself in this place, the one person who has always unfailingly been there, is the one person who cannot step in and say all those right things that he is so good at saying, or tell all those stupid jokes that he is so good at telling, or give those big, lanky, all-encompassing hugs, or sing all those beautiful songs that somehow made things a little easier. Adjustment indeed.)

4) Emotionally relocate the deceased and move on with life. (How can I take him with me into the present? How can I honor him best? How do I keep such a dear friend close in my life, despite the fact that he is no longer living? This is a process I have not figured out yet. Not being religious anymore, I do not have the easy out of supposing that he and I will again reunify in another life. I was reading Dawkins' book, The God Delusion, the other day and he mentioned that it is almost a certainty that in every person's life, they will, at one point or another, consume a water molecule that has passed through Oliver Cromwell's bowels. For some reason, I found this oddly comforting.)

It is a process. It is a process I did not anticipate and, if he'd given me the choice, I wouldn't have signed up for it. But here we are. He is learning how to be dead, and I am learning how to grieve. He loved me and I loved him and that certainty makes this very difficult time worthwhile. He is worth grieving for. He is worth learning from. He is worth remembering.

"The pain of grief is just as much a part of life as the joy of love; it is, perhaps, the price we pay for love- the cost of commitment."

I am ok with paying that price.

Monday, May 10, 2010

On not being an A student

I'm not an A student. I am A, A-, B+ sort of student, meaning overall, I'm probably at best an A- student. I try not to let this bother me, try to realistically analyze the fact that while I may not get the best grades in the class, I certainly learn the material and in fact may just not be that great of a test-taker, have skills in other areas, blah blah blah. I can make all sorts of rationale for it, and in truth, if this were someone else's issue and they were telling me about it, I would definitely not feel it to be that big of a deal, but, unfortunately, I do feel like it's a big deal and it totally bums me out any time I get anything less than an A.

It doesn't have anything to do with me being a perfectionist or anything- anyone who has looked at my car or my backpack or my room will tell you that I don't suffer from any sort of obsessive compulsive tendencies. In life, I generally try to aim for the stars and feel pretty content if I hit the moon. If my bread falls, if my garden doesn't grow, if my Blockbuster calls about yet another movie I haven't returned, if I need 30 "breathers" while on a hike, I take it with a pretty even hand.

I think my total disregard for my standard "hey, may not have done it perfectly but at least I tried/hadfun/didn't totally suck" attitude has to do more with the fact that I really hate feeling so fucking average when it comes to academics. I'm that nerdy kid on the playground who doesn't really rock at sports, isn't popular, isn't rich, isn't particularly ANYTHING, but damn I can read a book. Funny how grades bring me back to that mindset. A-'s seem like the epitome of "Also Ran." I don't think I'm totally alone in wishing that I was the absolute rock star at something, ANYTHING. Books/grades/school have always seemed like my best bet at being above average (because it sure as hell wasn't going to be anything else). However, reality deems that I face facts: I'm not a rockstar in school. I'm solidly middle of the row.

So what do you do with a solidly middle of the row aptitude? How does one deal with the fact that despite an enormously inflated ego, you're just not as smart as you think you are? I guess appreciate the humility of it all? I really have no idea. I guess I should get started finding out.

The Middle Way

So I have some pretty negative thoughts on pornography. Negative as in, even typing the word makes my teeth grit together and my blood pressure rise.

The other night, I was at Piper Down with some friends. For some reason, all their television screens that night were showing porn. Not just boobs, but full-on female nudity, girl on girl action, etc. I'm not even sure what the show was about, but it seemed along the lines of some Girls Gone Wild action- except with full sex scenes, etc. When it first came on, I tried to ignore it and pretend it wasn't happening- tried to ignore seeing all the guys I was with watching it, etc. But as time went on and the seemingly never ending parade of boobs and sex kept coming, I just felt myself get angrier and angrier. I mentioned to my friend that I was thinking of asking Piper if they wouldn't mind changing the channel. Her response was just to "ignore it." Another friend of mine chimed in and said the same thing, that it wasn't that big of a deal. And I basically snapped a gasket. I told him OF COURSE it wasn't a big deal, to HIM, because he had a PENIS. I told him that it was impossible for him to understand the perpetuation of objectification and degradation toward women that comes in conjunction with pornography because he was a man. I was angry. Not at him, per say, but at the entire situation. Even now, I'm fighting back the urge to make this a post about the shittiness of porn.

Anyway, after my rant, I sat there feeling waves of anger just rolling over me. I really felt emotionally spent. I was worried that my friendship might be compromised due to yelling at my friend about his laissez-faire attitude. I wasn't having a good time. And the naked girl parade was still going on in full force. My anger had essentially accomplished nothing positive.

In Buddhism, there's talk about finding the Middle Way. As someone who does not identify as Buddhist, I apologize to those with more expertise on the subject than I have if I misinterpret the concept, but I believe it's the concept that in all things, balance is key. This applies to the normal, boring things like diet, sleep, exercise, sex, etc. However, it also applies to things like emotions, where allowing a particular emotion/mindset/belief to become entrenched is also a way to become out of balance. In fact, it seems like most of the focus on balance, regards this emotional upset that occurs when we attach to our thoughts. You see this focus on awareness and disattachment to thoughts in cognitive psychology too- I just think the Buddhist concept of the Middle Way is an appealing viewpoint.

Anyway, so I've been thinking about the concept of the Middle Way for a while. I think, for me at least, it gets tricky around things like politics and feminism and other ideologies that I subscribe to. How to be an effective proponent and supporter of things I believe in and yet not allow the beliefs about them to overattach? That's where it really gets tricky.

So for now, I'm practicing letting go with porn. Digging right down to the nitty gritty of it and admitting that, for as much as I utterly loathe it, all that loathing isn't going to stop girls from stripping for the camera in order to win "Most Sexy" or "Best Boobs." In fact, my loathing essentially accomplishes porn's initial intention- it deidentifies these women for me- I stop seeing them as individuals and can only see them in the context that they are displayed. I stop caring about them as human beings and instead feel resentful that they are playing active roles in supportive a sex culture that commodifies them- essentially putting them in the role of "other"- which then places me in a similar role to men who only see them as an objectification of sex. The only difference is how we each moralize it.

In other instances of successful letting go, I've noticed that it doesn't make me any less of an advocate. In fact, approaching things like this from a more positive, less attached position often times means I've been able to more strongly explain my positions without all the emotion. Hopefully, that means that next time, instead of becoming Mt. Vesuvius next time Piper does Girls Gone Wild night, I'll be fine with simply asking if they could turn the channel. And if they don't, that will be fine too.