A couple times a week, I start the morning with a whole-body-work-out yoga routine. At the end of the video, the instructor introduces the “rest and receive” time, where you lie on the floor in what’s called “corpse pose,” with a quote from Sylvia Plath. “Remember, remember that this is now. And now. And now. Live it. Feel it. Cling to it. I want to become acutely aware of alI I take for granted.” I could remember this quote, much like every song I’ve ever heard, after the first time I heard it; I have the auditory equivalent of a photographic memory. A therapist once made the incredibly validating comment that it is really important to have a specific memory; to cultivate remembering details. I don’t have to cultivate it; it just happens. This sounds like a neat party trick, but it’s actually super annoying to a) remember everything you ever hear, including horrible songs and really mean things people say to you and b) be the only one who remembers things like conversations, agreements, etc. Turns out, though, that this kind of memory that I’m good at, is about the past. Continue reading A Good Memory is the Key to the Present
This day last year, with about an hour of 2015 to go, I was 30,000 feet in the air going through what I can now say was tiny turbulence compared to the last 12 months and was told this would be the hardest year of my life. My only reflection on it is, “It f*ing better be.” I leave this year wondering if anything will work out (personally, nationally or globally) and hoping that I might be able to stop waking up in the middle of the night sobbing. I’m glad I’ve reached the age where a year feels like just several months.
Thankfully, I started learning German this year and they have a perfect word for this: Lebensmüde. Life-tired. From an article on the Book of Life: “We believe ourselves to be firmly attached to life, but a lot of our behaviour attests to something more interesting and troubling; an occasional longing to give up our hold on existence. It is deeply useful to have this word to hand on gloomy days when it feels like nothing will ever work out.”
2016 wasn’t really anyone’s year so instead of wishing you a happy new year, I’m going to say that I hope, for myself as well as you, that this incoming year will reveal and affirm why we’re still here.
We hear a lot about how narratives are powerful, that if you want to move someone, tell them a story, that we are creatures of story. As a writer, I’d like to eat all that up. But our culture is rapidly composting story into gossip and substance into insincerity. Journalists claim to “go where the story takes them;” what if that story is of a dangerous hate-spitting buffoon who doesn’t even really want to be president but gets himself elected anyway? Is there no moral obligation to do more than repeat ad nauseum atrocious and odious things he does and says, thereby normalizing them and desensitizing the public to them? Continue reading Can We Please Talk About How We’re Talking About Stuff?
The only response I have to America’s election results last Tuesday is this. Those who are against everything Trump stands for can show it by looking out for all who this election has just made much more vulnerable. On some level, who that is is obvious; these are people whom Trump has specifically targeted – pretty much everyone but straight, cis, wealthy, white men (which, no, is not “just as sexist and racist” as Trump. If I see only white men doing something, it’s not sexist and racist for me to call out white men; it’s speaking the truth. Also, reverse racism is not a thing and reverse sexism is not a thing. It’s the epitome of privilege to demand that the term sexism or racism be applied equally without fighting for actual equality among all). But, really, if we truly mean it when we say “we have to look out for each other,” we need to start paying attention to those who are silenced, endangered or invisibilized when: Continue reading Vulnerability, A Definition in the Trump Era
I’m taking a break from my new focus on vulnerability to say a few things about the election. I have a really hard time with people encouraging everyone to “get out and vote” without also encouraging people to become informed before they vote. Personally, I’d rather you not vote if you’re not informed. Not voting doesn’t increase the value of some diehard’s vote as much as voting without knowing what you’re doing does. And it does take time. You can’t really just show up at the ballot box and expect that the little blurb on the bill or person or proposition is going to tell you everything you need to know. It took me four hours to fill out my ballot. Here’s some thoughts on the most stressful choice on the ballot this year:
It’s been a few months since I’ve written anything here; my last post attempted to wrestle with the loss of a friend, not through death but through abandonment, the second “lifelong” best friend to tell me I’m not good enough. I’m angry, I’m tired of being set up and I want to rant. But the refusal to be vulnerable, to admit our fears (outsourcing them as blame or shame instead) and to strive to remain connected and responsible to each other is, among other things, exactly why this country is so close to electing an extremely dangerous man as our president.
So I’m doing a new thing with this blog, which I’ve retitled Burning By Heart. Vulnerability is hard; anger is hard; fear is hard; change is hard. My hope is to explore the connection between vulnerability and fear, to strive to heal my own anger and to invite those who are willing – who think listening, carefully forming opinions and learning is more important than asserting the right to think whatever you want – into the kinds of conversations we seem unable as a broader culture to have but really need to. I’m going to start with a raw topic for me and, since I’m not claiming to be perfect, I’m unable to talk about this without getting at least a little mad. Continue reading Vulnerability, stop one: to breed or not to breed
I have, these past several silent weeks, been searching for a way to process grief. Most of what I’m finding follows a back-and-forth formula of the dehumanizing expectations of emotionally stunted and immature Western culture and the reality of those who have lost a loved one. The bit about our culture being emotionally damaging and even abusive is validating, but the large majority of articles I’ve found on grief are not helpful. No one has died recently in my life. I am mourning the loss of three core friendships. And our society has so discarded or misused the word “friend” that, if you find it a struggle to get over the ending of a friendship, you’re weak, “too” sensitive, codependent and just need to get new friends. Continue reading If No One Died, Can I Still Be Sad?
I had thought I found a new voice. Friends noticed a difference and I was filled up by their affirmations and encouragements even as I was facing a new way of being: sad not mad. But 30 years of loneliness, isolation and taking people far too seriously than they seem to want to be taken titrates a rage with a particularly long half-life. Continue reading Sad Lady, An Interlude
I have a dear and longtime friend who has worked very hard to understand me, who does so well generally, and who has been integral to my life since 2009. He’s also been unfairly (to him) busy in a way that’s not allowed him much rest or time to do things that are nourishing for him and in a way that makes me think we’re sort of losing him, at least as anything more than a shell of a person. I’m going through some deep pain and some ancient pain; I wrote him a very long letter explaining one aspect of this pain in detail and had been waiting for over two months to give it to him. I don’t need everyone to understand this particular thing I’m going through (most people won’t, given how deceiving a surface-level view of it is) but I really needed this friend to.
There’s a story in the Old Testament where Moses strikes a stone and water gushes out. Nevermind what he strikes it with; de- and recontextualized, this is my story of self protection. Literally, self preservation. The stone is my anger. The water is sadness so deep I don’t perceive how I’ll outlive it. It’s been there since I, age four, learned that trees can die and so can bunnies and flowers and dreams. My porcelain-doll sister was only five months old at the time; she, too, would die? Even if she (and I) did everything right? Continue reading Sad Lady, An Introduction