What makes a good person?

16 Nov

I have been dwelling a lot lately on the people I know and love who voted for Trump. I was, in the immediate aftermath, angry at them – even the ones I already suspected would vote for him. It was sort of fine that they were voting for him back when I thought he didn’t have a chance of winning. Don’t get me wrong, it was disappointing – but I just felt like it was a difference of opinion and that it would gain me little to argue with them about it or try to actually change their minds – my way, the way of progress, the way of the future, was going to win. As those who have been reading lately will know, I now regret my hands-off approach. I wish I had engaged them better, and more often. I vow to do better moving forward.

But I’m left, now, with my feelings toward them. The anger has faded a little, I am mostly just disappointed, in the way a parent might be disappointed when the child they thought they raised better acts out in unexpected and distressing ways. I thought I knew who they were.

I thought they were “good Christians”, and I thought that really meant something to them. Each time another Trump incident went viral, I thought “this is the one – this is the thing that will change their minds about supporting him, they have to see now”. I assumed that, in the end, his bigotry, his immaturity, his sexism – and, just, how woefully underprepared he was – I thought all of this would come clear and ultimately would stop them from being able to cast a vote for him. Or, rather, I hoped for it. Because, let’s face it – I had already seen in their rationalizations that they had the capacity to ignore the worst facets of Trump. I just hoped that their better selves would carry the day. I am deeply disappointed that didn’t happen. But when you talk to many of these people, they feel the same about my support for Hillary – how could I gloss over x, y, and z (nevermind that x and y aren’t true, and z doesn’t begin to compare to Trump’s alphabet of problems)?! Surveying our cultural differences right now is to look out across a deep, wide canyon that seems unbridgeable – it is so easy to lose hope.

These votes for Trump have forced me to acknowledge things about people I like that are hard to acknowledge:

  1. They have different ideas of fairness and equity than I do. They believe we all start off at the same spot and then where you take yourself is up to you – where they acknowledge that some people start worse off, they believe if those people just work hard they can overcome it. Maybe they don’t believe racism and sexism and classism are institutionalized, or that certain people are disadvantaged from the word ‘go’ for no other reason than the color of their skin or the set of genitals they were born with.
  2. When they saw Trump mock a disabled reporter, or heard him call Mexicans rapists, or talk about grabbing women by the pussy they, at best, didn’t see those as deal-breakers. Why weren’t those deal-breakers for them? Because they aren’t disabled, aren’t Mexican, haven’t been sexually assaulted? Maybe they even thought some of it was kind of funny or true? I have no way, really, of knowing. I know these people don’t have bad intentions, but I also see what they have been able to overlook. How could they overlook those things?
  3. They want fundamentally different things for our country than I do, and they have a lot of company in that (but, importantly, not a majority). Maybe they think marriage should be between 1 man and 1 woman. Maybe they think abortion should be illegal. We may disagree on the social issues – but larger than that, we disagree on the fundamental question of whether our country should be open or closed, for others or for ourselves, global or local. We have different ideas about how we should be taxed, about how the government should spend money, and about what kind of laws we should have all based around that simple axis: open or closed, for others or for ourselves, global or local.
  4. They may not be good people, even though they are nice people.

This last point brings me to the real meat of this post today.

They may not be good people, even though they are nice people.

That is the thought that has been occupying my mind lately – because I haven’t really decided if it’s true. I don’t know what it means to be a good person, but I keep reaching for some general definition. I am reaching for a definition that defies categorization – that defies politics and religion. I think maybe the word I am reaching for is actually “ethical”.

And under that definition, which essentially can be described as “right” or “moral” behavior, I don’t know what matters – intent or result. Because the result is that a racist, misogynist demagogue has just been elected to our nation’s highest office. And the intent in their vote was, indeed, to elect him. But was it to elect a racist, misogynist demagogue? Or was it to elect someone they thought would better serve their interests and world view? If it was the the latter, does it matter? If you voted for a racist, misogynist despite his racism and misogyny are you morally superior to those who voted for him because of it? I think the answer is yes, but only just – because, you see, the result is the same.

“But,” my little lamb brain keeps bleating, “but, these people are nice people. They are kind people. They do things! They volunteer at soup kitchens. They serve at church. They treat their employees well, and hold their friends close. They raise big-hearted children who are also kind and nice and do good deeds.” Does all of that get thrown in the garbage because of one vote? Or even because of a lifetime of votes?

I don’t have an answer. It’s not a rhetorical question. What do you think?

Here is some further reading, all articles I read in the last several days that help illuminate my thought process:

This piece by Jamelle Bouie who essentially falls on the side of arguing that intent doesn’t matter. “There is No Such Thing as a Good Trump Voter”

Elizabeth Gratten argues similarly that “the decent white woman who voted for trump does not exist”.

This New York Times piece about women who voted for Trump is a great humanizer.

And, lastly, I like to read the National Review from time to time, even though I can find many things with which to object, because the articles are well-written, arguments are well-reasoned, and it gives me insight into how people who think differently than I do feel about particular issues. This piece is about the appointment of Steve Bannon as Trump’s chief strategist. There is much to pick at and disagree with, but ultimately I am encouraged that leading conservatives are also concerned with the appointment and voice their opinion that, regardless of his own beliefs, his pandering to the alt-right is cause enough of concern. Here again we see that interplay between intent and result.

I won’t erase my anger

11 Nov

It’s the Friday after the End of the World – or so it feels. I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions and experiences these last several days. At times I almost forget – I see now the appeal of not participating. In those moments when I’ve been able to opt out mentally and emotionally for a precious hour or so I can see the beauty in focusing in on what matters in my own little universe: my partner, my cat, my new couch, my comfortable little home.

Inevitably it comes crushing back down at some point – the reality of the situation we find ourselves in rushes back in and disrupts my oblivious little dream universe where I was so happily ensconced watching cat videos.

On the night of the election, just as Donald Trump was beginning his victory speech I posted on my Instagram. I said:

I never thought this would happen. I’m heartbroken, lost, afraid. And I don’t have any kindness or forgiveness in my heart for all those who supported him or simply stood aside and allowed him to rise. Not tonight. Maybe not ever. I didn’t like when Bush Jr won either election – I cried when he won his second term. But I am beyond tears tonight. I am full of white hot rage. And I am so sick of the decisions of dumb white men being the ones we all have to live with. Fuck you all.

 

Two days later, my brother posted his response:

“Ugh… this racist, sexist, elitist rant is beneath you… and so very misdirected. Delete it and try again. Exit polls show Clinton did worse than Obama with women voters, Hispanic voters, black voters and young voters. Maybe try spitting some of that venom at the Democratic leadership for fixing the primary and playing right into Trump’s narrative that the system IS rigged. #thanksdnc#trumpbringsouttheworstinpeople

Noah and I have a great relationship – I love him dearly and he is the best big brother I could ask for. But our conversations around politics this last year or two have been fraught. At one point, I backed away from the conversation because I was getting offended and I didn’t want to engage in something that might make me very angry at him – I didn’t want to taint my opinion of him or strain our relationship. I’ve now come to regret that.

As I wrote the other day, I should’ve pushed harder and engaged more with the people in my life (liberal and conservative) who I have disagreed with. I should have tried to understand them better and to present more cogent arguments to them supporting my own theses. Instead I shied away from confrontation, from conflict, from difficult conversations and discomfort. But I realized yesterday, with my brother in particular, that I also shied away from being angry at him. I didn’t want to be angry at him or I didn’t think I should be. Meanwhile he had no problem being angry at me and expressing himself forcefully. In the end, all I did was silence myself.

Since I wrote my original Instagram post I’ve had time to reflect and recalibrate a bit. I am still angry at dumb white men. But now that we have more exit poll info and analysis, I am also angry at dumb white women. I’m also angry at third-party, protest, and abstaining voters. Noah’s underlying points are all valid: I am and have been angry at the DNC/Democratic party apparatus and leadership – I never said I wasn’t. The fact remains that the brunt of my anger is not reserved for them – and that showed in my initial reaction to the election results. My response to him on the post says everything about how I feel about his trying to police my reaction: “I won’t erase my anger, for you or anyone”.

I own my first reaction and I own the reactions I continue to have since then – they are all genuine and they are all valid. Away from the heat of anger I may have used less inflammatory language – I don’t really think not having a college degree makes you dumb, for example, but my beliefs are largely unchanged. Let’s break it down:

I’m angry at “dumb” white men and women because “Trump’s margin among whites without a college degree is the largest among any candidate in exit polls since 1980”.

It also should be noted that he won whites with a college degree, but just barely. So it’s fair to say whites as a whole are pretty disappointing this election. My take on this has been echoed elsewhere, but it basically comes down to this: if you held your nose and voted for Trump because he ran as a Republican, or because you thought with him in office you had a better chance at having policies you prefer put in place or continued; if you really didn’t like the things he said about Mexicans, or women, or the way he mocked a disabled reporter, criticized a Gold Star family, or has said Muslims should be put on a registry; but if you maybe equated those types of transgressions to the types Hillary Clinton has committed; and then you went ahead and voted for him – you are complicit in fomenting hate into our highest national office. Likewise, if you voted third party or didn’t vote at all because voting for his only real opponent was abhorrent to you – you are complicit. The message you sent to me and to many others was not “I am a racist” or “I am hateful” or “I want to repeal women’s rights and gay rights and send us back to the 60s” – the message you sent was “I don’t care that Donald Trump is all these things and wants all these things”, the message you sent was “my own conscience, or my own policy preferences are more important than your equality, your autonomy, your very survival”. And we heard you, loud and clear.

That is why so many are in mourning now, why so many are so angry, sad, and defeated-feeling. More than half the country decided on Tuesday that they would rather see Donald Trump in office (or would rather fail to stop him from being in office) than to help protect the most vulnerable segments of our population: minorities, the poor, the uneducated and disadvantaged, the LGBTQ communities, immigrants, and women. More than half the country decided, largely by dent of their own relative privilege, that the effects of a Trump presidency on themselves would be negligible or maybe even positive and didn’t give a shit about the effects it may have on others. So yea, to say I am most disappointed in all the people who showed up for Donald Trump is putting it mildly. I am second-most disappointed in all the people who didn’t show up for Hillary Clinton. Somewhere a couple bullet points down that list, I am also disappointed in the DNC/Establishment and the ways in which the Democrats have continuously failed not just the progressive left but the country as a whole.

To understand why that’s further down my list than, say, Noah’s, I offer this testimony:

All of my life, I have faced misogyny and sexism – it is lived experience for me and literally every woman. From cat-calls to condescension, I walk this gauntlet daily. All of my life, I have watched and listened as men in power – overwhelmingly old, white men – have tried to tell us what to do and how to live our lives. And it wasn’t just us they were trying to exert control over – it was black people and immigrants and gays and people practicing other religions (or no religion). Then I have also watched as these same old, white men successfully convinced poor and otherwise disenfranchised and disempowered white people that the problems they faced had nothing to do with capitalism or big business interests taking over government or the exploitation of overseas labor or changing technologies or inequality – but rather had everything to do with black people, immigrants, gays, Muslims, and women. I have watched as many of these white people have swallowed and internalized that messaging and made enemies of myself and my friends. Many more white people haven’t done that, but they have sat in their ivory towers, indifferent to the suffering of those below.

Hillary played the game a little too well – she had to in order to get ahead as a woman in a man’s world, but it compromised her integrity – she became part and parcel with this troubling, undemocratic system. She has made choices and alliances I would not have chosen for myself or for my ideal candidate. But – and this is important – by the time November 8th came around she was the only person placed to prevent Trump’s rising to the presidency. A male candidate with her bona fides – and her mistakes, missteps, quotes, and history – would have beaten Trump – I have not a doubt in my mind about that. It is incredibly painful to live with that knowledge but it is just another in a long line of indignities heaped upon women and all the other disenfranchised groups deeply affected by this election result, who are constantly reminded that we are less-than in our daily lives, and have now been shouted down by more than half the country once more.

So, yea, there’s a reason white men are numero uno on my list of where-to-direct-the-most-ire – I have suffered already at their hands for too long and now face a litany of further abuses and indignities. They overwhelmingly went for Trump in some demographics, less overwhelmingly (or not at all) in others, and many of them simply sat it out. You can argue that blacks and women and Latinos didn’t come out for Hillary as much as they did for Barack – but I won’t place the blame for her defeat there when the demographics look like this:

election

We tried. There were just more of you and you used your power to deny us ours.

So, again, I won’t erase my anger. I don’t regret what I said or take it back. If you’re one of the white men – or white people – who voted for Hillary, I’m sorry you’re taking flack right now for actions that aren’t yours to take ownership of – but that is the price that comes with privilege. That is the price I pay as a white-presenting woman who makes good money and lives in Portland, OR – I have to listen to the flack for white feminism and for this just like you have to. I’m sorry, it kind of sucks, I know. But it’s important and the best way for you to be an ally is for you to just shut up and listen – to shut up and take it, even if it doesn’t feel like it’s yours to take, and then to tell your friends. Not all white people are like you, they don’t all understand. Help them to understand.

What are you going to do?

10 Nov

For me, as for many of us, these past two days have been full of anger, fear, confusion, and – most of all – reflection.

I can’t say I’ve come here to write something particularly inspiring or informative, or to offer a single, coherent solution. I’ve come here to vent and to process and to collect my thoughts and I welcome your own thoughts and comments.

I’m allowed to feel fear and surprise.

Whether or not I should have seen this coming, or should have been more afraid than I already was before is now a non-sequitur. This is the reality we have found ourselves in and I’m allowed to be afraid, and I’m allowed to be shocked and surprised and let down.

I’m also allowed to be angry and to mourn, and to feel shame and to shame others for their choices.

I will have no one telling me I can’t be angry. I don’t care if you thought Hillary Clinton was not a great candidate – I am still allowed to mourn her loss, not just because of Trump’s win, but because we were standing on the precipice of shattering the highest of glass ceilings and we did not get to do it. I am disheartened, let down, disappointed, and angry at everyone I know who voted for Trump or did not do enough to stop it (the latter group includes myself). I will not apologize for shaming those who support him, I will not apologize for feeling ashamed of myself for not doing enough to oppose him.

I’m taking stock of my own failures.

What more could I have done? I know conservatives – I work with them and a few are my clients. Because of the avenues through which I know these people (work), I was not as aggressive as I otherwise might have been in reaching out and conversing with them. I regret this. Jobs and clients come and go, this presidency will leave a lasting legacy for decades to come. We had plenty of conversations that always ended in friendly promises to “agree to disagree”. This is not helpful – letting people remain comfortably ensconced in their own ignorance is not helpful. I don’t want to look back at my actions 20 years from now and wish I had been more vocal and more visible – during Trump’s tenure as president you can bet I will be much louder and much more present and I will be challenging the conservatives I know and love, to be and do better. I will be challenging the liberals I know and love (some of whom sat out the election or voted third party) to do the same.

I need to develop new strategies

Saying I will be louder and more present and will challenge people more seems, at first glance, like taking a more combative approach. It is true that I feel I have been too complacent – but it is not true that I will stop being kind or open to hearing other viewpoints. I need to do the research. I need talking points. It’s not enough to come to these conversations with passion – I need to come to these conversations with concrete knowledge. But it’s also not effective to just throw facts and figures at people – I need to first learn what their concerns are and then come back to the conversation armed with ways in which my approach, our approach, addresses those concerns more effectively than theirs. And I need to help them understand, truly, why I feel the way I do. I need to step out of my comfort zone – I need to be able to handle discomfort better. If having a tough conversation strains a relationship, I need to be willing and able to do that. Challenging someone to change the way they think is just that – a challenge. It’s difficult, but necessary work. My buzzwords these next several years will be “gentle challenges” – I want to start ongoing conversations that nudge people slowly in the direction of justice, kindness, fairness, equity, and love. I will focus less on “winning” arguments and more on sowing seeds. I will tend and water my plants over the long haul, hoping they will eventually grow and bloom.

I need to show up

I still believe there is value in writing blog posts, in posting on social media, in solidarity – and I will keep doing those things. But I also need to get up, get out, and get in the streets and “on the ground”. I need to donate money. I need to attend rallies and events. I need to put in the hours.

I need to listen

I need to listen to all those people of color and other marginalized persons currently posting on social media about how this is a white problem that white people have to fix. It’s all too easy to say “I didn’t vote for him, I did my part, I’m half-Mexican, don’t blame me!” – it’s much harder to simply listen, take the criticism, and try to figure out how to influence those in power around me who I have much better access to than many communities of color do. I need to listen to all the people who voted for Trump, to listen respectfully and really “hear” them so that I can figure out why they voted for him and then we can work on addressing their concerns and making them feel included in this country’s successes. I need to listen to all the people who sit out this process and understand how we can better engage them  – what would need to change in order for them to participate?

There are, however, certain Trump supporters and, just, people I will not listen to, respect, or value – and I will not apologize for that

I have no time or energy to deal with bigots and people full of hate – I will not waste my breath on them. Even after all this, I still trust they are the minority and their numbers are shrinking with each passing year. I will not waste my time on them. I will also not apologize for refusing to legitimize them or their concerns. There is, however, always an open spot at my table and by my side for anyone coming from this community who genuinely seeks a way out of it.

I don’t know what this election was “about”

Depending on who you read and listen to, this election may have been the result of any one of the following:

Misogyny

White Supremacy

The Economy

Anti-establishment sentiments

The divide between women and men, between educated people and non-educated people, between young and old.

I’m sure it is about all of those things each to some extent, but I don’t know who to blame or what to point to as the ultimate deciding factor. Which makes it hard to know where to begin the work. Maybe the best course is simply to choose what I am most passionate and knowledgeable about and start there.

I still do believe that Feminism will save us all

Just don’t use the “F” word. We need more women in office – we need a more representative democracy. We need to make sure our rights are secure. We don’t need to “open up” white feminism to make room for people of color or for men – we need to go to them, to meet them where they live, and to take their causes on as our own and, in the process, to create a new, inclusive feminism for everyone. Ultimately, feminism is about equality – and that is where we will find our greatest strength, in fighting for and championing the equality of all during these dark and turbulent times.

Here’s what I’m going to do

I just donated $20 to the ACLU and I hope you will consider donating your money or time to organizations that matter to you, as you see fit and are able. I am hoping to give more money, more frequently, in future.

I’m going to write and make art.

I’m going to delve deep into conversations with people who think and feel differently than I do, with the intention to learn to be and do better and to help them do the same.

I’m going to get involved on the ground level in my local community. I’ve been listening and skirting around the edges and hemming and hawing for months (years, really) – I’m jumping in now, no more equivocating on the sidelines – there is work to be done, even here in our supposed lovely little liberal utopia.

I’m going to bring it home – I’m going to hug my family and focus on what matters.

I’m going to practice self-care. All of the above is not to say that I won’t be taking deep breaths, stepping away from certain parts of my life and re-prioritizing others. I cannot possibly hope to lift others up without caring for myself as well.

What are you going to do?

On Being Late

4 Nov

I have been late nearly all of my professional life (and most of the last two years of high school, too). Except for a brief, shining moment when I regularly worked 11-7 or 1-9. But now that I work an 8-4:30, I have been late nearly every day for a while now.

I could tell you the myriad reasons this happens. I’m not a morning person, traffic is heaviest right when I leave – blah, blah, blah. I could also tell you the myriad reasons I use to justify it – I often stay late, who cares what time I’m here if I work hard and produce results, the phone barely rings the first hour I’m in the office, etc., etc.

However, ask most anyone who is chronically late to work and they will likely tell you: it doesn’t feel great. Your morning routine is harried and stressful – the slightest traffic hiccup makes my blood pressure skyrocket. I cringe when I open up the text I have going to my boss and coworker to let them know I’m running late and see the 10 other messages above it saying the same thing. My boss is kind enough to act like he doesn’t notice or care, but I know he’s keeping track and it could possibly affect any future raises or bonuses. My coworker feels put upon and frustrated, understandably. She’s a friend, too, and knowing I cause her consternation weekly makes me feel bad.

You’d think all this would be deterrent enough, and it is when I think about it later. But none of that goes through my barely-awake brain at 7 am when my first alarm goes off. Unfortunately it is this person who is doing the decision-making in that moment, not the rational, guilty-feeling person who exists by 9am.

The funny thing is I am almost never late to social events – I am, in fact, often ridiculously early and end up sitting at the bar by myself for a bit, or what have you. It makes sense on some level, right? Never late to fun things, always late to work? But it makes less sense when you break it down to never late to things that happen once a week or so, and always late to something consistent that happens 5 times a week.

Tardiness exists in a spectrum of people who don’t get the big whoop and people who think it is the worst thing ever. Predictably I have always fallen into the former camp. The only reason I have ever felt bad or felt pressure over it has been because I know I am disappointing people who I respect and value, and then again because it’s just the way the rest of world thinks and works so it’s hard to exist in the world without conforming to it at least a little. I work part-time as a stylist and, being appointment-based, I understand the importance of timeliness – I am almost never late. I confess to not thinking it matters very much if my coworker has to answer phones for 10-15 minutes longer because I am not there, or if my boss needs to wait that 10-15 minutes before I can type up a proposal – but it matters to them. And, since I respect these people and want to do my best work for them, that should be enough.

Again, tell me all this at 7am when my first alarm goes off. The message doesn’t get through. So this coming week, I’m going to try a few new strategies and see if any of them help:

  1. I’m aiming to leave the house by 7:20am. If I kept the same getting-ready routine I currently have, that would mean getting up at 6:50am. I know myself and I know how infrequently this would actually happen in practice, so….
  2. I’m going to try to change my getting-ready routine. I have never loved showering at night because I feel gross by, like, 2pm the next day – but I’m going to give it a try for a while and see if I can make it work. That way, I can just pop up in the morning around 7 or even 7:10 and do the minimal amount of prep left to be able to get out the door by 7:20 still. I may get some face-blotting wipes and dry shampoo, or some other “tools” to help me get through that next day intact.
  3. This will also mean some experimentation with sleeping on wet hair or blow-drying just before bed, as well as my morning styling. I’ll also need to figure out a good way to get my eyes “awake” – since a shower in the morning is so far the only thing I know that does that.
  4. If the showering the night before doesn’t pan out – I think I’ll just try setting my first alarm earlier so that I can get the same sensation of “sleeping in” and pressing snooze but actually be up and out of bed by that 6:50 mark still.
  5. I also need to try to get in bed sooner, and/or to take less time to fall asleep. I am not a fall-right-asleep type person, it takes me 30 minutes+ typically from the time I get into bed to the time I fall asleep.
  6. To help accomplish this, I’m going device-free after 9pm. I can read or do a crossword or play solitaire, but no screens.
  7. Much as I loathe it, I am also going to try to keep a more consistent schedule on my days off. I want to sleep no later than 2 hours past my usual workday wake up time (I currently frequently sleep 4 hours+ later on days off). That way it’s still a treat, but it doesn’t throw me completely off-whack. I might enlist Kendall to help wake me up since I also hate the idea of an actual alarm on my day off, but we’ll have to see if he’s brave enough (and I’ll have to be less annoying to wake up).

All of this, by the way, just makes me die a little inside. I think at least some of my resistance to this is a resistance to being forced into a box I don’t want to be in – not the job, just the world it is exists in, the one I have always felt not-a-part-of as an insomniac night-owl procrastinator. This is something I struggle with on the regular re: my “normal” job and my “cool” job. My identity has been so wrapped up in what I do for work – I never envisioned for myself a 9-to-5 existence and now that I’m part of the rat-race, there are aspects of it I resent and resist even now, while loving my actual workplace and the people who inhabit it. It’s all very confusing, and I think a big part of it has to with transitioning into the depressing side of adulthood – where you have to make better choices: go to bed early, eat well, don’t drink too much! And you sort of lose some of yourself in the process. Or at least that’s how it feels.

Anyway, keep your fingers crossed for me and if you have any tips, tricks, or suggestions, please leave them in the comments or on the link on my FB page!

❤ Emi

 

 

 

 

Peace

1 Nov

I had a moment yesterday. It was an approximately 3-hour long moment – you know the ones. One thing didn’t go the way I thought it would and then I just sort of got lost. And the being-lost had nothing to do with the thing that didn’t go right – the thing that didn’t go right was not a Problem. The stuff that followed was.

Do you ever have those moments when you just spiral out and away into a very dark place within yourself? A place where all your insecurities are laid bare, where all your fears rise to the surface, where your sense of self-worth takes an absolute plunge, a swan-dive from the highest building in that brain of yours? I was stuck there for 3 hours yesterday. Honestly, I was lucky it was only 3 hours. I’m still smarting from it today, but the worst of it was over after those 3 hours. I’m grateful for that.

Yesterday I felt very not enough.

Yesterday I felt very alone.

Yesterday I felt unheard, and uncared about.

Yesterday I wondered why I am here. Whether there is a greater purpose to my life or if it’s just another life, not special, not treasured. I think what really happened yesterday is I came up against the reality so many of us meet from time to time that we are not special, our lives are not Great. We are utterly and inescapably ordinary and common. But most of us keep a veil down over that knowledge most of the time. Sometimes the veil gets lifted and we are face to face with it once more.

These are always times of great reckoning for me. They are depressing as hell, but they spur me onward – they encourage me to improve the ways I define myself so that next time the veil is lifted it will be just a little bit less scary. I’m okay with being ordinary, with being mundane – what makes our ordinary, mundane lives special has nothing to do with other people, with worldly achievements and great accomplishments and accolades. It has everything to do with the people we choose to love, the things we love to do, the small scraps of contentment we can find along our way. In the face of the Darkness, it’s easy to forget all this or to let it all fall away and to see, simply, nothing.

Yesterday night I was unraveling. Today I have started the slow work to knit the pieces back together once more. It never fails to amaze me how much damage can be done in 3 hours, or even 3 minutes – and then how long it takes to crawl out of that place that took zero time to fall into. I think maybe the reality is that it’s been slow-building, I’ve been slowly slipping and falling – those 3 hours were just the bottom 3 (I hope that was the bottom). But it sneaks up on you all the same.

But tonight I will see a dear friend for a half hour or so, I will go home and cuddle my cat. I will make dinner and prep food to feed my family for the next few days. I’ll try to go to bed early. These next few days I will be kind and gentle with myself – as kind and gentle as I can be with my unrelenting schedule and these trains of thought rumbling through my mind. But I am also beginning to look forward to a life less full or, rather, full in the right ways. First, I have to determine just what that means, for me. And then I actually have to act to make it so.

It for sure means more baths, more candles, more sleep, more & better food, more silence, more free time, more time alone, more journaling, more blogging & writing – in short, more and better self-care. But the problem is that it also means less of other things, the topmost of which being commitments and responsibilities. I feel like I’ve been not-making these tough choices for some time now and it’s finally coming to a point where I can’t live like this anymore.

If I were a doctor, prescribing myself medicine, I would prescribe: certainty, predictability, stability. I would prescribe Knowing, which is a tall order indeed. I would prescribe self-assuredness and commitment. But I would also be cautious and prescribe Being-Okay-With-Not-Knowing, just in case the Knowing didn’t take (because it almost never does).

I prescribe myself Peace.

 

 

 

 

Comfort food

25 Oct

Today I have been scrolling through an all-time favorite blog of mine that I have lost touch with in recent years. I used to be a good blog reader – I used my Google Reader and set up all my favorites and religiously read through every single new post every day or two. I don’t entirely blame Google Reader going the way of the dinosaur, but I do a little blame that for my drop in blog-following. I tried Feedly for awhile and, if you can believe it, it was too fancy for me. Google Reader was utilitarian, where Feedly had too many bells and whistles for my tastes.

I think I also started getting all my non-news news from Facebook – instead of following particular blogs that interest me, I’ve moved to liking their Facebook page or just clicking on interesting links as they are shared by friends or otherwise pop up on my feed.

There are still sites I regularly visit, but those are almost universally sites with a strong Facebook or Instagram presence that I’ve clicked through from. It’s a little scary when you think I used to go out and get all that info and now I am only seeing what comes right to me – it’s a definite sea-change.

Anyway. Where was I?

Right. Posie Gets Cozy. Alicia’s blog just screams fall and winter to me – even in spring and summer. “Cozy” is the operative word and it really comes through. She takes amazing photos that make you just want to go cuddle up under a blanket (preferably in her beautiful home, preferably while she’s cooking a hearty stew or baking a beautiful cake). What I love most about her blog is that, even though everything looks so perfect and you wonder how she does it with a 4-year-old in tow, it also looks and feels very lived-in, very real. She seems down-to-earth.

Today, particularly, with the gloomy, gray day and my lack of tasks at work I am longing to be home, with something simmering on the stove, reading a book by the window with the cat at my feet.

I am on a “diet” (read: lifestyle change) to improve my health and lose weight. I got a diagnosis of pre-diabetes earlier this year, which has since been downgraded to, like, pre-pre-diabetes. Basically, we’re still watching it, but I’ve done a good enough job backing away from the cliff that they’re easing up a bit on calling it pre-diabetes. I joined a medical weight loss program and it has been eye-opening. The great part about the medical aspect is I have labs and regular follow-ups and have been given a ton of information about my body and the particular (and sometimes peculiar) ways it works. It is all very personalized and that has been super helpful, but at times also super discouraging in that when you find out the way your body processes sugars is basically fucked or the way your thyroid works is fucked – that can feel a bit insurmountable. And then it makes you feel like some level of poor health is inevitable. And then you just want to eat an entire chicken pot pie. Or whatever.

But Fall itself has also make me want to eat chicken pot pie. And potatoes. And cookies. And lasagna. Basically, all the high-carb stuff I’m not supposed to have too often. When I first started eating this new way, I was excited to see all the delicious fats I am still allowed to have – juicy steaks and hunks of cheese and greasy bacon. But I miss pasta, and rice. Mostly, though, what I miss is the mindlessness. I miss being in the mood for a food and just having it. I miss ordering whatever whenever wherever.

I have been cooking a ton, but reading Alicia’s blog today made me miss the peculiar thrill of getting a bee in your bonnet about trying some dish and then just going home and cooking it that very night – which is an urge that almost exclusively comes over me in Fall & Winter,and almost exclusively involves comfort food. I’ve found some good recipes, but I’ve yet to find a low-carb recipe that gets me that kind of excited –  Fall-cooking excited. I’ve yet to find what I would call comfort-food in this low-carb universe.

I always hit this point when trying to eat better where I just think, “what’s the point?” What’s the point if I’m going to miss out on these spontaneous moments? If I’m going to miss out on Fall Cooking? If I’m going to miss out on the whatever, whenever, wherever joy of life? I think there must be an achievable balance, but I’m having trouble finding it right now. And these pictures of homemade baked mac n cheese aren’t helping.

 

Hobbies & Passions

21 Oct

Today I was reading a post over on The Billfold about hobbies – how much they cost and the value they hold even if you don’t keep up with them. It got me thinking about my own list of spottily-attended-to hobbies and crafts.

I’ve always felt a bit of disappointment when a new hobby doesn’t reveal a hitherto-unknown talent. I keep thinking (hoping) that there has to be something I’m really good at that I just don’t know about yet. I flit from vague interest to slight curiosity and each time am disappointed when I am:

a. not immediately amazing – “my secret, hidden talent is finally revealed!”

and/or

b. not enraptured with this new hobby – “finally, I have found my passion!”

Like I just need one or the other. I don’t demand of my hobbies and interests that they all be stuff I’m good at – but just once I’d like to find something I just can’t get enough of. Yet nothing seems to be able to hold my attention. Up til now I’ve always taken that as a failure of sorts. But the post mentioned above helped me to re-frame these investments of time, energy, and actual cash money as valuable in and of themselves, regardless of outcome.

It is valuable to have something that helps you kill an hour here or there, even if you’re not particularly good at it, even if you don’t want to do it all the time.

It’s valuable to have something to do that isn’t watching TV – something to do that pushes you out of your comfort zone and works creative muscles that are otherwise threatening to atrophy.

It’s valuable, even, to give your mind the room to wander while you attend to something with your hands that isn’t particularly demanding.

For all the times I have wished for a hobby or interest that was all-consuming, I now find myself content with those that have consumed me for even 30 minutes at a time.

Passion has always been a tricky beast for me. I’ve lamented not seeming to have it in any area of my life while I watched my peers consumed and compelled by their own. I have amazing friends and acquaintances who are, among other things, professional filmmakers, ceramists, actors, musicians, activists, stylists. I have an even greater number of friends who are social workers, teachers, baristas, administrative assistants – but who doggedly pursue outside interests in their time away from their “day jobs”.

Part of it is perception, right? Like maybe what I am taking to be this huge passion for another person is just something they do often. I cook all the time and I do like to cook, but I would never say that cooking is a passion of mine. There’s a distinction for me between “stuff I enjoy” or “stuff I do a lot” and “stuff I feel passionate about”. I think what I’m learning is that it’s okay to just have stuff you enjoy doing that fills the time. Not having a passion doesn’t equal not being interesting or worthy, in much the same way that having a passion doesn’t necessarily make you interesting or worthy  – it just means you’re obsessed.

I guess I’ve always longed to be obsessed, consumed, enraptured, engrossed, immersed – by something, anything. But I’ve landed in a place where I think it’s okay to just be occupied, engaged, distracted, and amused instead.

Now if I only I could translate the same kind of thinking that I’ve managed to do about my hobbies to my professional life…