If I’m going to write…

8DCFCB26-5F06-4FED-98E1-890CC0160C71-21836-00001156218188DC_tmp…may as well record it somewhere I may see it again.

Week 6 journal, PHIL 155, Spring 2017, SMCC

When children are asked, “If you could have any super power or special ability, which would you choose?” some might say super strength, or to be able to fly, or to read minds. And some might think that the greatest super power they could ever wish for is invisibility. The ability to move through space and time without being observed, without being held accountable, without being responsible to or for anyone or anything you see when you cannot be seen yourself. But there are times when being invisible is painful and damaging, when it is isolating and demeaning.

“Among the tribes of northern Natal in South Africa, the most common greeting – the equivalent of ‘hello’ in English – is the expression sawu bona. Literally it means ‘I see you.’” – Excerpt from Bennett J Sims quote, PTK 142

Last night, an Academy Award was given to a man who has been accused of sexual harassment and misconduct against multiple women. A woman who is an anti-sexual assault activist and a survivor of sexual assault had to present him with this award. Today, other activists and survivors are saying, “I see you. I see your struggle and your pain, your strength and your courage. I see you when the Academy did not.”

“It means that until you see me I do not exist; when you do see me, you bring me into existence.” – Excerpt from BJ Sims quote

Last week, the president rolled back protections for transgender students that required schools that receive federal funding to allow students to use the restroom that correlates to their gender. To those trans students, Laverne Cox said, “I see you.” To the world she said, “When trans people can’t access public bathrooms we can’t go to school effectively, go to work effectively, access health-care facilities — it’s about us existing in public space. And those who oppose trans people having access to the facilities consistent with how we identify know that all the things they claim don’t actually happen. It’s really about us not existing — about erasing trans people.”

“Ubuntu is the key word used to shorten a phrase in the Zulu language that translates ‘a person is a person because of other people.’” – Excerpt from BJ Sims quote

Last month, an executive order resulted in legal Visa holders being denied entry to the United States, being detained in airports around the country despite their right to enter freely. To those detainees the ACLU said, “We see you. This is not right and we are going to take this to court for you.” And the people said, “We see you,” and donated $24 million to the ACLU to support this action.

I walk through life invisible to my community. To the woman at the bar who says, “You know this is a gay bar, right?” I’m equally invisible to strangers. To the countless new acquaintances who have seen my ring and asked, “And what does your husband do?” And there are times when that invisibility is like a super power. It can protect me from street harassment, or not getting an apartment, or losing a job. It makes women in restrooms smile at me instead of pointedly looking at me, and then at the door, and saying, “This is the WOMEN’S room,” as frequently happens to my partners and friends.

But I reject this super power. I reject this invisibility that the world projects onto me with its stereotypes and narrow-mindedness. I come out and come out and come out, because if I am ever going to be seen, I have to make myself seen. Some folks don’t get that option. They can’t hide the color of their skin, or practice their religion without the outward signs that make them targets. They are seen, but not in the sawu bona way. They are told, “You do not get to exist. We refuse to see you.”

I feel like we are moving backward in many respects in this country. Like so many, I give what I can in the ways I can, I go to the events I can, I make the calls I can. But no one can do it all. And sometimes I have to remind myself that I can’t change things singlehandedly for any entire group of folks who are invisible to this administration. But I can say, “I see you.”

WWKD?

Read more…

Proper Sorrows

Shortly before I moved back to Maine from San Francisco, I was subject to a devastating life change that sent me into the deepest depression I had experienced in my life. Good news for my dear friend Erin, who was composing a photography series called Proper Sorrows.
The name of the series comes from the 19th century when women were institutionalized, often in their own homes (see The Yellow Wallpaper), for experiencing “undue” or “prolonged” sadness over events in their lives like miscarriages. There was a mourning period that was considered “proper,” and beyond that, women were considered hysterical, and subject to treatment. Signed off on by their owners — err, husbands.
So, as much as I hate being photographed, I agreed to be part of the project. Erin made it comfortable and easy, and I love her results, even if I don’t love looking at myself.
Here is the shot she ended up displaying as part of the exhibit.
I thought of this today because the last time I remember feeling like I do right now, I was crying soundlessly in a chair on my back patio. I am devastated to my core and I can’t see any light at the end of any tunnel and I really don’t want anyone to try and convince me to see things differently just yet.
Allow me my sorrow. Let me decide what is proper.

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Today.

Today, a car almost hit mine head-on when the driver turned the wrong way up State Street out of a driveway at the bottom of a block. The oncoming vehicle I had no way to avoid felt familiar.
Today, I wanted to apologize to every little girl I saw in the grocery store.
Today, I cried in front of strangers and friends.
Today, I wondered if my pharmacist was just better at putting on a customer service face than I am these days, or if he was not bothered.
Today, I attended, and left, a vigil that did not feel like where I wanted to be.
Today, I supported and comforted others who are mourning because it is the only thing I have to give that does not take from me what little I have in reserves to function.
Today, I wondered where I could go and feel safe, and I had an answer.
Today, I am broken. Today, I am fucking destroyed. Today, I am unable to trust more than half of the people around me. Today, I cannot understand. Today, I want to know WHY.
Some of these things will also be tomorrow. Some will be Friday, and next Wednesday, and January 20.
What I am not today, is unable to go on. And I know that that is not how many of us feel.
If you today, are unable to go on, please, please reach out to someone who will help you not have to. We can hold onto the rest of the pieces so you can just exist, in stasis, until you are ready to move. We can make the phone calls and mail the rent checks and call the bosses and do the grocery shopping. We can change the sheets and get fresh kleenex and pick up the kids and find that DVD. If you can’t do these things for someone else but you have a few dollars to share with someone who can, donate to one of the organizations below, or the ACLU, or your local worker’s center or pride committee or women’s health clinic.
We need each other more than ever. Let’s pair the resources with the need and get each other through this.

http://www.thetrevorproject.org/
24-hour Trevor Lifeline: 866-488-7386

http://www.translifeline.org/
US: (877) 565-8860 Canada: (877) 330-6366

Crisis Text Line
Text NAMI to 741-741
24/7 crisis support via text message

Imperfect ally.

Part one of a two-part post, which was written second, but which needs to come first.

I fuck up. Often. And on many levels.
I get defensive.
I try to recognize when I feel defensive, so I can check myself. Defensiveness is often a sign that my privilege is leading the way.
But I don’t always see it.
Sometimes, I don’t realize that I’m being ableist, or racist, or transphobic, or otherwise Othering.

Sometimes, I learn this by being on the sidelines of a conversation that could well have involved me. That always feels a bit like I’ve dodged a bullet: if I had said that thing that that person said, which I would have said if I had been a part of this conversation and not just observing, then I would feel defensive and also like a horrible person. Now I’ve learned that that thing is not an okay thing to say, and also why.

But sometimes, I am the person who says the thing. And I can beat myself up about that for days and weeks and months after I’ve learned why it was a terrible thing to say and what it really means for me to have said it, but I can never take it back.

I’m trying to learn how to lift up the voices of communities to which I do not belong, in spaces where I have privilege they do not have. I am trying to center those communities rather than speak for them. And as I was typing this, I realized that part of the problem is that, I’m not asking them how to do it. And that’s in large part because I’m afraid that I will be told that it isn’t up to them to teach me, because haven’t they got enough to do just trying to survive in a world that wishes they wouldn’t? And it is 100% valid for them to say that.

I don’t know how to fix the disenfranchisement, discrimination against, and outright slaughter of people I consider community and family. People whose lives I value. People whose fate could be mine, if the bigots of the world could see past my presentation, which they perceive one way, and know me for the perverse individual they would think I am if they knew my truth. But I want to. Maybe not “fix,” but “work toward a fix for.” Whatever I can offer, but don’t know how to give.

Knowing “just enough to be dangerous” has greater consequences in some situations than others. How can I be a better ally now, and continue to grow in that capacity?

Moderation, redux.

Temperance. From Phantomwise tarot deck by Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus

Temperance. From the Phantomwise tarot deck by Erin Morgenstern

I knew before I started writing this blog post last night that I had already written about moderation at least once, some time ago. I was thinking about it again because it only took a week for me to decide that writing about a word a day is too much.

You know those savings plans where you put away a penny on January 1, then 2¢ on January 2, etc., so that when on December 31 when you add $3.65 you’ve saved ONE MIIIIIIILLION DOLLARS? So it’s great cumulatively, but the whole point is that it’s just a tiny bit a day, so you don’t really notice it. Similarly, writing about a word a day is more like a daily reflection: interesting to think about, and maybe it’ll shape an interaction I have today, or impact how I see something today, but it just doesn’t have the teeth for long-term impact. The same way that ONE MIIIIIIILLION DOLLARS is really only $668: nice to have, but not going to buy me that new car.

So I’ll work toward my emotional/spiritual “new car” here, whatever that looks like, by setting an intention, but not a goal. There’s no end to my evolution, as long as I stay where things work.

Feelings day.

Things I have Feelings about tonight, and something like a briefing on what those feelings are:

David Bowie: I feel (1) less-than, that I don’t have profound David Bowie experiences in my past that make his passing painful for me. (2) angry, that I wasn’t exposed (heh) to David Bowie until, really, last year when Sarah Holmes found out that I’d never seen Labyrinth (and probably reconsidered our entire friendship but thankfully has not disowned me), and corrected this problem. (3) alienated, as is often the case when Big Important Things happen that rock large sections of my social circle because they belong to a larger pop culture community.

Shadow of the Hegemon: I know maybe one person who has read this book, and if he has, our opinions and experiences are vastly different. Also, his philosophical muscle is developed to the point where his thoughts about my reactions would certainly feel over my head. Despite that, I would absolutely bring him my feelings about the religious and moral condemnation that occurs between Bean and Theresa if he weren’t taking care of his ailing father right now. Hell, maybe I should – maybe it would help, be a distraction. But I’m not going to take a chance at that not being the case.

Love: too many perspectives, objectives, opinions, to relate what it all comes down to really. But people, places, and things, all have their say. And sometimes I feel like there is no space left for my words, my thoughts, my feelings, my questions, even if I’m directly involved in the conversation. But that’s my own stuff to work on.

Yes.

This secret from Brian Andreas (creator of StoryPeople) is exactly what I was thinking when I came to write this post. He has another story called “Say Yes,” but this one is better for me personally.

I feel like maybe 2015 pushed the winter away a bit so I would have long enough to prepare to say Yes to more this year. I am saying yes to adding activities to my days, saying yes to new experiences, saying yes to spending time with new people, saying yes to getting out of the damned house even when it’s cold out there. I’m sleeping well for the first time in probably my entire life, and I know that’s contributing to my energy level and my overall mental health as well as the obvious physical benefits. Whatever combination of factors is making it true, I’m finding that I want to say yes more than I have in a while. It’s a nice feeling.

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Patience.

It may be a virtue, but it’s not one of mine. At least, not tonight when I’m waiting for my first ever yeast dough to rise. I’ve received verbal hand-slaps telling me to walk away from it, but it’s soooo hard!

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Listen.

Several years ago, I was presented with the notion that in conversation, people tend not to listen, but rather to wait for their opportunity to speak. It didn’t take me long to see that that was exactly what I did more often than not, and I’ve made a conscious effort to change that over time. There are other ways that the word “listen” informs my days as well, especially recently.

More than ever, even than when I worked for a magazine focused on audiobooks, I’ve been listening to at least as many books as I’ve been reading. This requires that I actually hear every word, rather than skimming or taking in whole sentences with my eyes for the gist rather than truly reading it as it was written. As much as I enjoy reading, I often get so caught up in the story that I don’t want it to be “interrupted” by lengthy descriptions of the surroundings, or of family histories, or other “non-essential” bits. But, when I am forced to listen to them rather than having the option to skip to the next part I think is important, it becomes a much more fulfilling experience.

Finally, I’m listening to myself. My true self, my authentic self, the self that loves me and believes in me and knows what is best for me. This self lets me know when I need more sleep, or that my body wants fuel, or that’s it’s okay to say no. This self doesn’t berate me for my choices, doesn’t allow me to feel like I’m participating in willful inaction rather than purposefully engaging in my life. When I wake from an extra-long night of sleep and feel refreshed (yes, that’s why I’m writing this morning instead of yesterday), this is my reward for listening rather than pushing through to some arbitrary number of hours of activity. When I feel satisfied and strong after a meal, it’s  a reminder that my body knows better than my brain what it needs to carry me through my days. Every action, or decision not to act, can be driven by either a positive or a negative thought. By choosing to listen to my kind and loving self rather than the unkind voice that shames me for my choices, I experience happier, healthier days. And nights, because sleep is so, so good, y’all.

So, I’m trying to listen. To other people, to the words my eyes might otherwise miss, to my best self. It isn’t always easy, but it’s always for the best.

self talk