Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Way too personal

Dear Mom,

I'm not sure how to write this, but I'm sorry if I was difficult. My father's love, no his adoration, of me was something I got used to. I was accustomed to, and when you seemed to want more from me, I didn't know what it was or how to give it to you.
No, that's not right, either. I knew that you expected more and I wasn't sure why. Dad seemed to understand and was happy with less, and I was OK with that. At 14 I didn't understand that you wanted the child I was before the head injury back, because I didn't really understand who that was.
I knew I was smart. I'd always known that. I even knew I was smart after the head injury that left me comatose for ten days. At 11 years old, I knew I was smart. I was still reading hard books, or trying to. I was still good at math. I was still ME, I was just me with a lot more growing up to do.
This might be seen by people who don't know me. By people who don't know that I taught myself to read when I was three. People who don't know how much I might have lost. If you, reader, are already tired of listening to me, click the back button. You don't know me, and you don't know what I put my parents through.
Because Dad wasn't sure what to expect, because he was sure this was going to be awful, that any recovery was just going to be impossible, that if I was LUCKY I might still have lists in the bathroom of what to do in the morning, and what to do in the evening, it was easier to live up to his expectations. He knew that this was going to be bad, and he wanted to prepare me for that.
Perhaps he didn't even understand the preparation for college that you were looking forward to. The seeing ALL the places around the country where I might discover who I was meant to be. And you wanted me to want that, to want to see the rest of the world.
I'm not being too hard on you. You wanted me to have the opportunities that I might have had if I had not stepped out into the street at the wrong moment, if I had not gotten in the way of an automobile. If I had not spent 10 days in a coma a month before my eleventh birthday. Mom, you wanted me to have options.
Dad wanted me to get well, too, but he was used to adjusting expectations, and moving them down, I think.
We can't ask him now, at any rate.
But I'm sorry that I didn't understand that by setting standards you wanted me to know that I could reach them. That by asking me what I learned in school, that you wanted to engage me in school. You wanted me to have the life that perhaps I could no longer see an an option.
And to thank you, I became more closer to the parent who asked less of me. Who was willing to settle at a lower point, but was perfectly happy with the results in the end.
That was exceptionally not fair to you. And I'm sorry.

And perhaps I am being too hard on myself, too.

Friday, July 7, 2017

What Privilege Looks Like

She came into my branch, no she came to the branch where I work, for an meeting.
"How are things going?" She asked, pleasantly. We had always gotten along, and I felt this administrator was in my corner.
"Things are OK, if you can ignore what Trump is doing in the White House," I tried to say, but as soon as I said "doing" she cut me off.
"I don't talk politics," she said primly, as though reminding me to chew with my mouth closed, and I stared at her.

A few seconds passed of silence.
"Things are fine," I told her.
"Good," she replied.

The event went as planned, and the woman said goodbye to me before she went back to her home office, but I had a bad taste in my mouth.
Not discussing politics is probably a good idea when you work with the public (as I do) because we have to help everyone who comes into our building and we never want to give the impression that our collections were chosen because of politics, or we help people because of our politics. Being viewed as a safe space is crucial to my organization, and we work to preserve that, but doesn't that mean that some element of politics shines through?

Being able to say "I don't talk politics," primly is a way of saying "this is not an appropriate forum," or it's a way of saying "we know that we don't rock the boat."
Perhaps I'm wrong, because my organization depends upon political goodwill. We need the funding from government officials, and this coworker knows that. When an earlier administrator tried to rely more on private funding he did not get support from the employees or administrators, but I still feel that saying "I don't talk politics" is an exercise of privilege because you can decide that politics are not important to you.
But you're just fooling yourself. Of course politics are important.

Black Lives Matter. There is no Planet B. We're all in this together, damn it.
The ability to choose what you care about it, or decide that "those issues don't affect me," is privilege. It's the same thing that leads most of us to think that the wealthy are just planning to buy their own new planet when we've destroyed Planet Earth beyond repair. They'll do the same damage to the next planet, too. Because some amount of privilege allows you to not need to learn from your mistakes.
The Ego in the White House is all about doing deals and not worrying about politics, because he thinks it doesn't matter. It does matter.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Not Loving It

I understood the desire for the slogan "Love Trumps Hate" from Secretary Clinton's campaign, but I thought it was a bad idea. I thought it was a bad idea because Love doesn't really trump hate, unless you're living in the novel A Wrinkle in Time. I also thought it was a bad slogan because because it repeated the opponents name (though I suppose that wasn't really Secretary Clinton's fault) and because Trump wasn't preaching hate, he was preaching fear, and that's different.

Fear is a tricky emotion, because it's often not rational, and fear doesn't often get a situationally appropriate response. I am afraid of mice and rats; no, I am phobic of mice and rats. Very briefly my apartment had mice (we have not seen evidence of them for YEARS) and I put out traps. I was talking to my father who, very sensibly, said, "You know, the mouse is more afraid of you than you are of it," and I practically spit out my water.
"Don't be ridiculous!" I told him, "The mouse isn't BIG enough to be as afraid of me as I am of it." He laughed at me, and while I understood what he meant, I didn't think it was relevant.
I don't hate mice. A small white mouse in a cage is kind of cute. I understand people who have them for pets, but I just don't want them living in my apartment. Sound familiar?

During the 2012 campaign the Ego in the White House wasn't peddling hate, he was peddling fear; fear that a world that people understood was gone forever and he could save it for them; Fear that good people were being overlooked or taken advantage of by BAD people, people who weren't playing by the rules; Fear that the world you remember with your rose-tinted glasses is never coming back and it's THEIR fault (fill in who THEY are for yourself, it's probably a different them for different readers).

On Independence Day my husband and I attended a We Will Not Be Banned Rally organized by the Council on American Islamic Relations, because it is imperative that we who do not live in fear stand up with those who might. I'm sure somebody wants to tell me to "sit down and check your privilege!" Well, fuck off. Those of us who were lucky enough to have been born here have a responsibility to make sure that our voices are heard as the Ego in the White House tries to make us all afraid of each other. I love this country and what it stands for, and it does NOT stand for forbidding people from coming here for bigoted reasons based on fear.

The next day the New York Times ran a story about how the current Administration is trying to find illegal aliens and deport them, and they're going far back to find people who have overstayed their visas. The Current Administration is deporting Iraqi Christians. These people often voted for Trump because he was going to deport MEXICANS, not them, not people who fled persecution and led respectable lives in the United States, raised children and have grandchildren 40 years later.

These people backed for Trump, and convinced their relatives to vote for him, because Trump was talking about the BAD immigrants, not them.

To get Martin Neimoller's quote wrong; First they came for the Illegal Immigrants, and I did not speak out, for I was not an illegal immigrant. Then they came for those who had overstayed their visas, and I did not speak out, for my visa was in line. Then they came for the petty criminals, and I did not speak out, for I was a law abiding individual. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.

People backed Trump because they didn't realize that fear can move easily if you don't fight it. If you allow yourself to be afraid of one person, it's not difficult to let that fear spread. If you try to get to understand what you are afraid of, or get to know the person whose existence (or perceived success) frightens you, you have cured the fear, and that cure is what trumps hate. Love is blind and often has no reasons, knowledge is different. Knowledge is a cure that doesn't necessarily resolve all fears, but can tell you which ones are based on reason, and which ones are just emotion masking as fact.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

fear

A bomb startled the voice into silence and as I opened my eyes in my bedroom I realized that thunder had woken me from a dream.

I could not hear the rain hitting my window. All I could see was light flashing outside, with booms coming closer. Flash! Boom! Flash! Boom! FLASH! BOOM!!

Please tell me this is just a rainstorm. I can't hear the rain.

Just tell me this is a rainstorm. It's too early and I can't quite seen the clock. I don't want to sit up and focus to learn what time it is.

Does it matter what time the bomb is dropped?

Will it drop in the morning?

North Korea doesn't have enough airplanes that could get a bomb over here. Probably not even enough...I do know that a missile is sent in a bomb that is shipped over here and it is THAT that North Korea doesn't have, though North Korea does seem to have Nukes now, and I don't know how many people in North America are happy about that. I'm not too happy about it, but I take some comfort in that fact when I realize that it is four in the morning and the flashes and booms have neither stopped nor quieted.

I get up. I hope it's raining. I don't know why I can't hear rain drops against my window, but I can't. I've heard dry thunder, but it's not common in New England. Yes, New York City IS New England. While it does not resemble any of the stereotypes of New Englanders, New *York* State is certainly part of *New* England according to geography. And Dry Thunder is a Midwestern thing. Flashes of light without sounds are...No, flashes of light without sounds can't be bombs because the bomb would make a sound, too. If it were a nuclear bomb it would make a sound. If it were a nuclear bomb dropping nearby it would kill me quickly and I wouldn't have time to worry about it.

That's an odd sort of comfort, isn't it?

I don't want to return to thinking about my father knowing he was dying slowly than he wanted to last January. I don't want to think about that anymore. But you can't unknow something. That's the problem with learning the truth; you're stuck with it after that, unless somebody else tells you a lie that you choose to believe instead. But wouldn't you know you were lying to yourself?

Do we know that The Ego in the White House is terrified? Or am I just projecting? If I *AM* projecting, is it a projection of the fear that I am not comfortable learning to live with on to the Ego? Or is it an awareness that if I were in his place I'd be shitting in my pants just like (I suspect) he is. Is that last sentence a question (I am not sure if my fear is just my fear projected on to him?) or is it a statement of fact (I'm sure he's terrified and has no idea what to do). Because I am certain that the Ego in the White House is terrified and thought it would be much easier to just walk into the White House, look at people and say "Fix this!" and they would do it. Because he is the President and we have to do what he tell us to.

Ha, motherfucker! Looks a lot easier from a distance, doesn't it. A lot of things are like that.

The worst possible place to be during the nuclear holocaust would be on any underground transit during rush hour. The power would stop. The trains would be crowded. We would have no idea what was going on.

If somebody announced that the reason the Q train had stopped just inches from the Canal Street stop is because the bomb had dropped and we've lost all power, I wouldn't believe them. I'd assume that was a random crazy person. If the conductor announced it....I don't think the conductor would. I'm pretty sure that somewhere in MTA training, they do not recommend encouraging people to panic on trains, particularly during rush hour, so we would just stay on a crowded, stinky train, waiting for something, while the radiation started to leak into the subway. What exactly would the conductor tell us, anyway?

Friday, June 30, 2017

Summertime

The longest day of the year has come and gone. I am a year older.
These things happen within two days of each other. I turn a year older while the days are still getting longer, and then we turn around two days later at the longest day of the year, and while the days continue to heat up, they are getting imperceptibly shorter.
I am 45 and certainly middle aged. I may even have reached the half-way point, though we won't know for a while.
Mortality is a funny thing. It creeps up on you and while my father's death was a harbinger of it, I still am not certain I believe it. I am special. It won't happen to ME.
Of course it will.
Summertime is the time to entertain these thoughts because there is plenty to distract me from them when I get depressed. There's a concert somewhere. There are movies; big ones, too. Big budget movies that studios hope will drive people into theaters even more quickly than the 100 plus degree heat will.
The heat hasn't come yet, actually. Not here in New York City.
"Hot times summer in the city. Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty." One of the perils my parents didn't warn me about was which songs from my childhood would stay with me forever. I'm not sure why this one did, (it's certainly a little older than I am, in terms of music sensibilities) but it has. The oppressive heat of the summer when enforced leisure time is no longer fun, but there's hope for something coming that will distract from long hot days with nothing to do.
Shut up. I'm sure the person reading this is someone who had to work during the summer starting at a young age. I didn't. My parents sent me to a nursery school that seemed to go on for as long as I wanted it to. My elementary school had a day camp so the younger children could stay active and then when I was 8 years old I was sent to ANOTHER day camp, one that specialized in music, and I found I could be homesick 5 blocks from home because I was tired of practicing playing piano in a room by myself. The book I was reading was in a bag on the floor, but I knew I should be practicing, so reading to distract myself from the fact I that I was bored had not occurred to me.

I was a good kid, and did what I was supposed to.

And that behavior has continued, almost.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Outside Your Bubble

Let's get this straight, the "information bubble" is caused by living in a world where you avoid seeing and hearing the voices of people you don't agree with. The link "outside your bubble" does NOT give you this, because the vast majority of people who read an article with the headline "U.S. denies visas to gay, bi men fleeing torture in Chechnya" from lgbtqnation.com WANT the U.S. State Department to get their collective heads out of Rex Tillerson's ass and fucking issue Emergency Visas to individuals who are going to be killed if they are left in their home country.
Thinking outside your bubble is talking to people who think that LGBT people should live in closets and not express their sexuality and that the state HAS every right to kill them. You know, assholes.
And really, why DO you want to talk to them?

Are we going to change people's minds by telling them "we are all one people"? Is anyone going to "see the light" by realizing that their Uncle Fred and his friend George have been lovers for years, but they don't talk about it, and therefore nobody talks about it. With all due respect to Harvey Milk, as a species we need to look down on other people. It's not specific to Americans. French look down on non-speaking French people. I think they look even further down on people who think they can speak French, but really can't, at least not the right KIND of French.
I think the problem is we want the people who think differently from us to get to know us, so that they can understand we're right. And that's not how you form alliances or build bridges. You build bridges by just realizing that we're all in this together.


And no, I *DON'T* want to learn that my next door neighbor voted for Trump because he hated Hillary. I don't want to talk to him, and I don't want to find out how stupid he is and learn tolerance for him just the same. Why should I? I don't know how to talk to people that stupid, and I'm sick and tired of trying.

A big problem is when the information bubble becomes invisible; When you don't even realize you're tuning people out, because you're so stuck with your own thoughts. That's bad, too.
So how to do we solve this problem of people cherry picking their facts? Can we? Should we even try?


Do we have any choice in the matter? I mean, if we want to survive, don't we have to?

Friday, June 2, 2017

Water is Life....Life is Water

We know that we need water to live. We know we need clean water to live and having to boil water before drinking should not be necessary, which is why we have created pipes that deliver clean water to people's houses.
Water is a substance that cleans us out, helps our systems work. It is also what wears against our coastlines, creating pictures like this:






Life is water.



Life is not the sum of our experiences, but a force that pushes against us, attacking us daily with things we cannot understand and which we must bend or yield to, or figure out how to avoid.
For instance, there is a woman sitting across from me on the subway, who is clearly angry about the newspaper she's reading. I can allow her anger to infect me, also getting angry (though I cannot know what she's so upset about unless I investigate) or I can dodge the whole issue by reading my own newspaper, and letting the news affect me the way it will. In these days, the first year of the Ego in Chief's Presidency, the news will upset me, unless it's about a few moments of resistance, which may or may not have any effect on the Ego in Chief.

My father died a year ago, and my mother is becoming a widow.
My mother became a widow a year and a half ago, when her spouse of over half a century decided to stop cancer treatment and allow the various ailments attacking his body to win.
My mother is a widow. Saying that mother is becoming a widow suggests a process, a metamorphosis, and that the process will change her.
My father's ailments were not attacking his body, but were attacking the systems in his body that continued his life. The medications he took to treat these ailments produced other problems and they did not all make his life easier.
The collective ailments drove a hole in my father's life and wore away at his independence as he needed to take medications that were injected, swallowed, or rubbed into him in order to continue to live.
In order to continue to need other people to help him live, Dad's sense of independence was worn away and his sense of self was altered or made to be aware of the interdependence of us all.
The ailments that attacked my father's body did not win, but merely wore down my father's desire to live. Living is not winning. Living well may be winning, but then who would lose?
My mother was a good caregiver, but her life was filled with aspects of being a caregiver. When being a caregiver was no longer her prominent role, she changed.
She did not change, but things she allowed herself to feel, changed.
Feelings wear at us. You don't believe me? Have you ever been angry for a day? Have you never felt the weight of fury wash over you and been aware of how lighter your shoulders feel when you scream that the milk has gone sour because NOBODY remembered to put it away after Sunday brunch?
Weeping is allowing your sorrow to flee your body through your eyes. Sighing is allowing the tension your are holding to exit in a controlled fashion; not as you pant when finishing the race, but as you finally wrap that last crepe and look at work well done.
Everything that happens can affect you, and your mission is not to say that your partner's death won't change who you are, but that you will remain true to the person...
Fuck that. The man you chose to spend your life with was a force that helped make you who you are. And when he is gone, you will change and discover things that he might not have liked, but he's no longer there to tell you. What he would have liked is not up for discussion, because he took himself out of the game. What he would have thought, felt, said, is a mystery and its absence is a force of its own. Negative space that you might as well recognize, but there's no need to fill it with something else.
The negative space is a force of its own. Its absence forces you to feel what might have been there, should have been there, or would have been there, if life had not worn away at that spot.

Many years ago someone told me he was a product of his experiences. I nodded, sagely, because he was telling me that people had hurt him and he was waiting to be let down by every new person he met. I wasn't going to let him down, I thought. I was going to show him people could be trusted.
He let me down by lying to me. All we were to each other were tools to prove that our prejudices were right. Did I provide him with a new experience where women were truthful? Or did my allowing myself to be worn down (see, there's the metaphor again) by his deceit prove him right? I don't know, and I no longer believed what he would tell me would be the truth.

I have a picture of my grandparents and great grandparents. I keep it with me at work, thinking "all of them would have been proud of who I turned out to be," but I don't actually know that. My mother agrees that they would have been proud of me, but since only three of them lived long enough to see me become anything, we can't possibly know what these ancestors would have thought now. How their lives would have worn away at their thoughts. We can only interpret and project.
And we must project, because even what you're reading right now is interpreted through your own lens of feeling, misinterpreting, understanding my life through a lens I don't see through.
All those interpretations change what we see and feel. Even the words we hear might be different. And the world attacks us with experiences we couldn't imagine, and all we can do is try to stay true to something. And even that something might change over time.
Let your life wash over you; it won't make you clean, nobody said life was clear water, but it is a force. It will change you, we just don't know how.