November Again

I’m exhausted tonight.

In the past twenty-four hours, I’ve put up with anger, tears, and disappointed expectations.  I’ve felt limited, helpless.  I feel like I’ve run out of options.

And that’s not a feeling I enjoy.  Because you have to live in a world where there is a tomorrow.  Where the sun will come up in the morning and you’ll get another chance to try again.  Where no word is the final word and the book can always be rewritten.

Someday we won’t just travel hopefully.  Someday we might actually arrive.  But for now, an infinite number of second chances is wings and breath and broken locks.  I have to write in pencil  and build on sand. 

I just want to get away into the brown and the rain soaked chilly air that is late fall and hunker down for the season.  Fall is beautiful and I need that tonight.

Tomorrow might be different.

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Morning Interrupted

This has happened too many times.

I woke up early this morning and decided to take my cup of tea and my book outside to enjoy the grey, foggy weather.  Perfect.  Still in my pajamas with a blanket wrapped around my shoulders, my biggest concern was the spider sitting on the chair next to me.  Until you drove by.

For some reason, safely enclosed in your too-big white pickup, you felt the need to disturb my Saturday morning mystery novel. Honking your horn at least seven or eight times, to make sure I noticed you, you slowed down and shouted “HEY GIRL” with that edge to your voice.  At first I started to wave, because you must be a neighbor saying hello.  As I realized I had no idea who you were, my wave faded and my next response was a little less gracious.  You got to drive on and leave the situation behind, but my peaceful morning was ruined.  

You’re hardly the first to do this, you know.  I can’t count the number of times I’ve had strangers leer out from the safety of their car windows to honk, shout, and whistle.  You might say something rude, comment on my appearance, or just intrude, but it is not welcomed.  Let’s get this straight.  This is not a greeting, a friendly wave from across the pond.  This is a conscious intrusion on my person. 

 These actions don’t come from one screwed up person. They stem from a society that values male privilege over almost everything else.  They come from a culture that tells you that you are owed my attention, simply because you are male and I am female.  These things never happen to me when I’m walking down the street with a man.  They don’t happen when John is standing next to me.  They don’t happen when I have a [male] friend by my side.  Because they happen when you see me as vulnerable.  When you assume I am alone and weak and have no source of protection, no one else who is in control of my body, my space, and my thoughts.  When there is no other man there, you feel like it is your right to intrude.

It might seem innocuous. You might think I’m making mountains out of molehills here.  But if you think that, its only because you’ve never felt threatened this way.  I was in my home, in my space, I was physically on my own property, and someone still felt the right to disrupt me.  Someone who had no connection to me, no history with me that could justify their interruption.  I did not know that man in the overcompensating pick-up.  He had no reason to honk and yell other than because he wanted my attention. Because he saw I was a female body and nothing more to him.  It left me feeling disrespected and vulnerable.  He wanted to take advantage of my presence there and there was nothing I could do about it.  Even in my own home, someone could take advantage of me, simply because of my gender.

Every time someone makes a joke about vulnerable women.  Every time someone says they “raped that test” or “the other team was raped” or any use of that offensive verb other than to indicate a traumatic experience where one person was forced into sexual contact without enthusiastic consent, every time a women is paid less than a man for the same work, every time our legislation seems to value controlling the choices of women more than any other type of governance, every time a man is pushed towards STEM while women are encouraged into the liberal arts, every time an upset woman is told her emotions are the result of PMS or jokes are made about those irrational ladiez…All these things, and a million more, contribute to a society where I can walk down the street safely with a male escort but I can’t sit in my backyard without being accosted.  

Don’t enter my space without permission.  Don’t assume I’m flattered by your attention.  A stranger commenting on my appearance leads me to believe I’m only the sum of my physical parts.  A stranger yelling and honking suggests I exist on a very singular plane.  I am more than a single story.  I am strong, I am smart, I am resourceful, I am funny.  I do not exist for the sake of anyone else, unless I so choose.  I am not your personal plaything simply because history validates YOUR kind.  

I am not “girl”.  Do not harass me on the street.  I shouldn’t have to say this but treat me and other women like what we are: people. Because when you don’t, not only do you hurt me, but you turn yourself into a monster, into a single story of misogyny. Women shouldn’t have to fight for the basics of human decency.  But we still do.  And we do it for you as much as for ourselves.

It’s time to stop. 

Cloudy

An old and worn out shirt on my shoulders. Bright and white but ripped despite the numerous attempts at patching.  High quality, but tested by time.  Its too hot when the sun breaks through the clouds, but my bandeau isn’t enough in the shade.  I sit and I work and I think about how long it has been.  

I see you standing there, face turned to the wind, catching whispers of neighbors, scents of growing plants and putrefying vermin.  You are simple and wise and loving and foolish all at the same time.  You’re a dog, so you don’t have to figure it out.  You were once bred by Mother Nature to live and fight and breed and die like the rest of us, but someone sometime intervened and now your every bone is bred for comfort.  You’re a mistake but you’re a perfect one.  

Words float from my pen, from my lips, and in the emptiness upstairs.  They rattle around and they return without watering the earth, without bringing forth a crop one hundredfold.  And I wonder what I’ve accomplished.  And I realize this isn’t the wondering I was made for.

I dream of gods falling from the sky, of life being bigger on the inside and I know these dreams make waking more worthwhile.  I think we have to have an idea of where we want to go to spur our feet when we’re tired of running.  Dreaming is dangerous.  I’ve learned that in my travels.  But you die just as surely as soon as you face reality.

So put down roots if you must.  But be careful what stream feeds your body and what sun beams down on your photosynthesizing hands.  Because you take it in and sustenance will change you.  You’re a shirt that can’t be patched.  A scent on a breeze. A tree beside a muddy river and a dog that can’t survive alone.  And the world will understand someday.

Healthy is the New Skinny

Its been a while since I posted.  Graduation, life decisions, moving, finals, blah blah blah busy.

But a friend posted a link on Facebook today to an article about fitness and health.  And it got me on a rabbit trail and I post it all here for you.

http://gokaleo.com/2013/05/20/i-am-overweight/

http://gokaleo.com/2012/03/27/im-calling-for-a-new-paradigm/

http://gokaleo.com/2012/06/17/your-discipline-is-showing/

For some background, why these articles struck me is that they are written from the perspective of a woman who needed to get healthy.  And then her quest to take it even farther.  And she wasn’t looking just to get skinny and wasn’t dropping weight in an unhealthy manner.  And yet, she felt unhealthy.  Lowered libido, fatigue, irritability, irregular period, body dimorphism: all symptoms of disordered eating.

At her lowest, her BMI was still 22.1, well within the healthy range.  She was eating 2200-2300 calories a day (and burning appx 2600-2700).  By the look of her diet and exercise plan, she could have been training for one of those fit model body building competitions I see lots of acquaintances joining these days.  And yet, she wasn’t healthy.  A body fat percentage in the single digits was killing her.

And it made me think how our diet obsessed and appearance obsessed culture is killing so many of us too.  Its killing our personalities, our energies, our joy and enthusiasm for the world around us but it is also killing our goddamn bodies.  Whether you’re looking at Vogue or at Fitness Weekly (or whatever freakin’ health magazines people read, obviously I don’t know), you’re looking at a lie.  I almost said fairy tale and maybe that would have been appropriate, but its time for some stronger language, people.

There is no one body type.  There is no one standard for healthy.  Our bodies are built to survive. They are individually tailored to our needs.  And most of them are damn good at what they do.  Some of my friends are thin, are beautifully healthy and thin.  They were born thin and they will die thin.  And that’s wonderful. Some of my friends are beefy and covered in muscles.  I don’t understand it but they love running and exercise and they are beautifully beefy.  Good for them.  Some of my friends (and me) and fantastically squishy and curvy and perfect that way too.  Don’t be unhealthy.  Sure, don’t stuff your face with McDonald’s french fries (unless you’ve been drinking and then PLEASE DO).  But please, don’t be unhealthy.  Don’t work out until you have no body fat left (you need that shit!).  Don’t juice yourself into a frenzy.  Don’t restrict and nom on saltine crackers when you need a freakin’ cupcake.  Your body is smart.  It can tell you what it needs.   I love kale.  And bread.  And I feel sick when I spend all day eating Jelly Beans.  So I try to remember to eat mostly kale and bread.  And I substitute wine and dark chocolate for the Jelly Beans because my body loves wine and dark chocolate.  I may not lose weight or tone up, but I feel healthy.

I don’t feel healthy when I obsess about hitting the gym, when I restrict calories to be healthy.  When I try to restrict my eating habits, I’m not healthy.  I’ve gone nuts in both directions.  And my body has remained essentially the same.  Maybe that’s a sign that for me, 120 pounds with some healthy curves is just the way I’m meant to be.  If it takes three hours at the gym and 1000 calories a day to have a little extra muscle and a little less fat, maybe that’s too high a price to pay and maybe it’s not something I even want.  My body is different from anyone else’s.  And maybe I need a little extra fat to stabilize my hormones (surprise, fat does that) and to regulate heat (I’m always cold) and to promote normal organ function.  You might need less than me or even more.  So your body might look different.  And that is just fine.  In fact, its fucking wonderful.  I can love the way you and I look, no matter how much skinnier, how much buffer, how much heavier, whatever!

I’ve danced on the edge of body dysmorphic disorder and I’m tired of looking in the mirror and treating my perfectly healthy body badly.  I am healthy most of the time and I know it.  So I like wine and chocolate more than I like the gym…so what?  My body functions really freaking well.  Why is that less important than the fact that my thighs touch?  Who decided that sameness was perfection?

I’m ready for some diversity.  And that’s really hard to say because society is so detrimentally focused on appearance.  I’d say that women have it the hardest, but its not easy for men either, let’s just be honest here.  And I’m exhausted of chasing a pipe dream of bodily perfection.  There are so many other much more important dreams to chase.  And I need my body healthy to catch them.

Bobby

Two roads diverged in the wood.  I didn’t know which to take so I sat down at that grassy fork, back to the red covered bridge and waited.  Waited for wisdom, for clarity, waited for Robert to show up.

I waited for one of the roads to look less wonderfully new or less devastatingly familiar than the other.

Waited for one of the roads to look less devastatingly new or less wonderfully familiar than the other.

I sat and I waited.  And I sit and wait there still.  At the boundary.  At the borderland.  At la frontera.  At the fork in the road.  At the choice.

I’ve been here once before.  I thought it was picturesque and I captured the moment on my film and on my heart and walked away.  Little did I know that life doesn’t let you walk away.  It brings you back in a circle to the question and the decision you were avoiding all along.

It’s not all bad at this crossroads.  Like I said, picturesque.  But I can’t stay here forever and I can’t run away again.

So I look, I observe, I capture, I write.  I stand for a while and then I sit again.  I’ve made this grass and gravel into quite a throne.  It has come down to this, like it always does.  A moment in time, a decision, a future.  It can get overwhelming if you let it, but I fear to let significance slip through my fingers.

I’m still here waiting and Robert, I wish you would come and give me some direction.  But I have to travel this road alone, don’t I?  At least for now.  At least in this.  There are a million branching rivers in front of me and I have to take these steps on my own.  Not lacking companionship, but gaining self.  I wonder who I’ll meet in the wood.  I guess I have to take a right or left before I can find out.

But I don’t know where to turn.  And it could make all the difference.

Friday Night Lights

Who asks you to write a 3-5 page single spaced executive summary?

Thats like an extra 10 pages of writing…which is basically a whole new section on my capstone.  Ain’t nobody got time for that.  If you can’t be bothered to read my actual paper, why should I write an extra mini paper for you?  Especially one that is that long. I gave you a nice page overview.  If that’s not enough…well, go ahead and look how many fucks I give.  Boo.

The Twenty-Four Creed

I believe in red lipstick.  I believe in its transformative powers to lift your spirits and give you courage.  Red lipstick is the physical manifestation of the beauty that hides inside you.  Of course, lipstick comes in many shades.  And beware, believers who would judge a brother or sister for choosing a light pink or a deep maroon.  All shades are welcome in this body.

I believe in photography.  I believe in the grainy, underexposed moments captured on film.  Those images are captured souls.  No matter who or what leaves you, those photographs will be an eternal reminder of the messy, the beautiful, the eternal.

I believe in feminism.  My experience with the struggle to face the world on equal footing.  And I uphold your struggle to do the same, in whatever arena.  Lay down your swords, but fight your battles.  Never give up, and never let life douse your fire.  Your burning passion is our redemption.  We must believe that we can change the world.

I believe in music.  Jeremy Messersmith sings the liturgy and the Gin Blossoms play the offertory.  No  matter how cheap and overplayed or how beautifully obscure, music speaks in a language that you learned in your infancy and that you desperately need to remember.

I believe in novels.  In beautiful works of literature and in murder mysteries.  It is a spiritual practice to lose yourself in a story and we are all richer for our adventures deep within the bent and weary pages of a favourite book.

I reject envy and all his empty promises.  I reject the need for power and the drive to succeed at the expense of the other.  You have been baptized into individuality and symbiosis.  Reject the temptation to view life as a zero-sum game and learn to rejoice when your sister rejoices and weep with your weeping brother.

I believe, more than anything, in your right to choose.  I believe this life has been given to you and no one can take it away from you.  You deserve to be happy and you have a god given right to decide what that means.  You’ve been given yourself, and no one has a right to take that from you.

Have some faith.

April Fools

I wish it was a joke that I still haven’t heard back from my schools.  I won’t hear back from one of them, I know, until after I graduate.  And I have no positive reinforcement on any of my job applications.  On top of that, the majority of the jobs I’m applying for these days are things I don’t even want to do.

I don’t care about my resume.  Or rather, I’m tired of caring about my resume.  I’m tired of caring if it looks childish or if it convinces you, my prospective employers, that I’m a professional.  Its not that I’m not dedicated, passionate, or competent.  I am all those things and more.  If I do a job, I do it well.  I promise.  But please, don’t make me jump through these hoops and pretend I like pant suits in order to succeed.  Because then I start worrying about if I can succeed as me.  Or if I have to become a type-A, straight-laced, clean desk type of person in order to get a job, or even worse, to make a difference.

I want to succeed as myself.  That’s no excuse to slack off. But it’s no excuse to settle either.  What does it profit a man to gain the world but lose his soul?  I’m waiting for the right fit.  The place that feels like I’m diving in and pouring myself out for my work, but doing it on my terms.  But I’m running out of time.  I spent my whole childhood believing that God had a plan and was directing my life and if She could come through with that soon, that would be great.

What do I do?  Where do I look?  There is so much and so little at the same time.  And I find myself wasting time because I don’t know where to start.  I don’t want to be a coffee-shop member of my generation.  Not that there is anything wrong with that lifestyle if it is what you want, but its not what I want and I know I’d give into it so easily.  But I don’t want to just take a 9-5 white collar job either. I just want to live and I want space in my world for all 64 colours in my box of Crayolas.

And why do I even complain about this?  Its not like job offers from any side of the spectrum are pouring in?  Its fine.  But its not fine as well and I’m just ready to know.  I just want to be able to plan.  Because I feel so stuck right now.   Some more colorful word for purgatory.  Where accounting classes and information technology and government inefficiencies are supposed to cleanse my soul and make me ready for professional paradise.

Ugh.

Well [Sartre]

It’s a day for starting over.  Its a new chance.  Everything will be just fine, I’m sure of it. I have no way of really knowing, but in these cases, isn’t it best to err on the side of whatever you need to tell yourself to thrive?

Starting over is terrifying.  New roads, new dawns, new experiences.  They are all exhilarating and devastating at the exact same time.  Life is a constant process of violently tearing down what used to be and growing new beginnings from the ashes.  I don’t know why I, why we, ever expected it to be any different.  Look at the world around us.  It’s in constant flux, constant change.  Winter freezes the world and rips everything we knew to shreds (or at least it does here in my Middlewest).  Then spring comes and from the snow covered ground peep crocus and daffodils and green beans.  And then a year later, it happens all over again.  Eventually you find the evergreens that last you through the seasons and  you start seeing that the deciduous trees are not so dead as they seem.  But for a time, while we’re young, the world spins so damn fast.

And that’s good.  We’re not meant to slow down, to wait, to get comfortable.  “Up from the ashes grow the roses of success”.  Creepy movie, valid point.  We have to make mistakes.  We have to crash and burn.  We have to live at top speed and go the wrong direction if it least it means we get moving.  And life won’t leave us hopeless.  We won’t stay orphaned.  Abandoned and destroyed and left to die.  We’re adopted into a world of beauty and hope and growth.  A world of endless nightfalls, but also endless sunrises.  And someday, after we’ve learned to stop fearing the dusky twilight, we’ll start to see that its followed by the starts.  And we’ll learn to love the night as much as the dawn.

I was driving to St Louis on Friday and listening to the Wicked soundtrack along the way and I was struck by how many times they used the phrase “For Good” as a wordplay on its implications of finality as well as its opposition to evil. Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.  And I wanted to believe that its true.  That we can use the phrase “for good”to mean the end, the final chapter, the finishing touch, the last word; because in the end, everything will be good.  And if its not right yet, then we haven’t reached the end.  Until good has vanquished pain, fear, doubt, evil, it’s not over.  I imagine someday, we will come to a moment where we breathe in and say “Yes, this is what I’ve always been looking for.  This is how I knew it was supposed to be. It is well with my soul.”  And that will be the moment we know we’ve reached the summit, we’ve reached our final destination, we have run our race.

Good is our goal and our destination.  Our every action and our every hope.  Even the darkest night is just a precursor to a brighter dawn.  Everything seems so chaotic and so destructive at times, but I have to believe there is a goodness that will come.  For now, though, I’ll lace up my boots and learn to appreciate these winters.

James Blunt

Who isn’t flawed?  Who is perfect?  Who deserves what they get?

I was watching Saturday Night Live last night and the host (Kevin…something? I don’t know what he is famous for but I liked his jacket) was telling a story about a homeless man he encountered in a Panera Bread restaurant.  It was supposed to be funny, clever, and just a little self-deprecating, but it broke my heart.  The host kept describing how dirty the man’s hands were, comparing him at one point to a monkey spreading the plague.  Unless that’s some cultural reference that I’m missing, did I really just hear a homeless person being compared to a diseased animal?  In what world is that acceptable?

When did we get to the point where we laugh at the misfortunes of others?  That shouldn’t happen at any point, but especially regarding a social problem that is so often the realm of the vulnerable and the dispossessed.  The homeless population in our nation, in any nation, are subject to such stereotyping and anger.  But how often is it their fault?  How often is it the demons of mental illness, war, or a million other circumstances outside their control?

And I started to hate how we build these walls around the imperfect and the beaten down.  Hell, we even build walls around the fortunate and the well-to-do.  We categorize and classify and judge.  We write people off as good or bad or beautiful or ugly.  We see the pain they cause, the problems these hands create and we get upset.

But aren’t we all in this together?  Aren’t we all just screwing up and starting over and screwing up and starting over?  Lather rinse and repeat.  Who is perfect?  And who deserves the life they get, good or bad?   Life happens and we do our best with what we get.  I think we all could use a little more grace.