Joyyyy

I’ve been thinking a lot about power and privilege. The spaces we create even when we lack. The negative space we create even with the best intention. I recently learned that my great, great grandmother’s family was lost in a Trail of Tears type removal. That she was the only one to survive a death march, a walk to nowhere. I recently learned how close I came to not existing, to not being, and for what price? Out of all that death, what was gained? I find myself not heartbroken, but angry. Seething. Jaw tight, chest ache, seeing red mad.

I wonder then, how we can ever get over ourselves. How do you ever work through the weight of white guilt? How do you ever atone for white privilege? How do you ever stop seeing others as Them as not me, as something to distance oneself from. How do you ever stop thinking of yourself with all the jewels to give, with all the prizes to bestow? How do you ever separate yourself from the privilege you breathe, from all the ability you wallow in?

I’m tired of white people using their white privilege to make me feel bad, to make me feel guilty, for using my brain and my pain to make their world better. Oh, now you realize what you’ve created? Now you see the monster. “Society”; “one foot in the world” … what world? Your world. A world of your making. One we’ve all contributed to; one we’ve all acquiesced. I refuse, I must, I have a right to this joy. I have a right to seek joy and feel joy and be joy. I have a right to sit in the sun with my Chinese man and not feel anything other than joy.

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Your white skin

Sometimes when I’m at work all I can think about is how white it is. I sit there and I think this. Immerse myself in the whiteness of the room. Yes, there are people from other states. Yes, there are people from other countries. People with accented English. Yes, there are people with vastly different backgrounds and futures in the room with me. But everyone has white skin. None of them have experienced racism or racial bias or a micro aggression. They’ve maybe been called names, judged as stupid or less than because of their gender or the people they love, but it’s not the same. It’s not the same. And I sit and I think and I imagine…I think about all the things they say are wrong and how different I would feel sitting in that space. I can’t know. I try to know. I don’t know how to get them to know. I declare to them their race? I concisely articulate their bias? I don’t know how to say what they are. So instead I just say something, the thing that comes to mind that makes sense. And I’m not surprised when I’m talked down to in response. I’m not surprised when I’m combatted. I’m not surprised when the white people don’t realize their whiteness.

People are assholes

It’s Mother’s Day and commencement day. I want to write. I want to make sense of this tangle in my mind. But today I am restless. Restless and day-dreamy. Sometimes I make up new words.

The novelty of graduation has worn off now. I found them significant when I was 18, when I was 20, when I was 23. I think it hit me around 25, when I skipped my third and most recent graduation, that I realized I had become disillusioned and jaded.

This is the fourth graduation celebration I’ve been a part of at my work. They look fantastic, the graduates, in their make-up and best clothes. The styled hair, the shiny shoes. It’s enough to make you feel like capitalism is worth it, to enable one to look so damn good. To have an excuse to dress to the 9s. To feel special and smart and accomplished for the day or days it takes to celebrate.

The first year I got caught up, wondering who these graduates would become. This year all I could think about was what they had learned, what they had gained, what they have to show for their time. What did they earn in exchange for the dark folds of cloth and awkward fitting caps?

In the years since I’ve graduated, I’ve learned how to cook, how to exercise, how to sleep and spend my free time. I wonder if they learned how to ask for help, how to deal with bullies in the workplace?

Did they learn how to recycle, did they learn how to live on a budget, did they learn how to make time for themselves? Do they know how to manage depression, how to meditate, how to learn a new hobby? Do they know how to talk about race, class, or gender with people they like or dislike?

It’s Mother’s Day and I’m grateful for my mother. She taught me to trust myself, she taught me to hear my voice, she showed me how to be alone.

A recent college graduate asked me the other day, how to get what you want in bed?

I didn’t know how to say the simplest thing, you ask. I didn’t know how to explain that first you have to figure out what you want, and then you have to ask. You also have to ensure the person you’re with is capable of listening, of seeing, of sensing, of asking in return.

I did not learn this in college and neither did she. We do not learn how to talk about periods and sex and babies. About lust or drugs or sustainability or proper skin care.

I graduated multiple times but none of them taught me about fine wine or liquor. I didn’t know how to taste for quality or pairing. I still don’t know if I fully understood my privilege or intersectional oppression. I still didn’t know how I wanted to be seen. How I wanted to be heard. I still didn’t know what I was capable of.

All these things make me doubt the purpose of the graduation ceremony. Of its worth and place in our society. It seems like a sick, cruel joke. Here you spent all this time and effort and money but just wait until you learn you have very little to show for it. Wait until you have to negotiate a salary or barter at a market. Wait until you’re snowed in without power. Wait until the first time you have to do your taxes after buying a home. Wait until you have to choose a new hire from a pool of candidates. Wait until someone looks to you for meaning and guidance.

Wait until you realize how funny it is that nothing is what people pretend it to be and no one is who they’re trying to be.

the standards

What are the standards we live by?

I read and shared this article over the weekend, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Mostly, the cycle, rather than reduce, reuse, recycle, is live and let live. But do women really have a choice, ever, within the patriarchy? Do you still make the most of what little choice you have because the patriarchy? I try not to talk about body image ever. I cannot remember the last conversation I had about the shape, size, or thickness of my body. I don’t complain about my body. I don’t talk about when I feel bloated. I don’t discuss my diet with anyone. People ask me about my exercise routine and label me “fit” and I evade, evade, evade. If I can help it, my body is not a subject, is not an object, is not something we are going to dissect and analyze and ponder over. It is not something I’m going to complain about. My relationship with my body is my own and it is intensely private.

I don’t weigh myself. Don’t own a scale, don’t step on the scale at the gym. I am weighed once a year at my doctor’s office and even then I avoid the number. I don’t ask or bother to remember the number I’m given. This is privilege, the fact that I can ignore my size, my weight, the space I take up. Because I take up very little. Because that is acceptable. Because my size is acceptable, I can be unseen. I can go unacknowledged, or acknowledged without comment. My privilege grants me the freedom to move about a space without being policed. Mostly.

I watched “Tiny Shoulders: Rethinking Barbie” over the weekend, and I thought about the doll. Barbie did shape what I thought of as beautiful. Even watching the documentary, I was drawn in by Barbie’s beauty all over again. How much I had admired that face and that hair. How badly I wished my legs would grow longer and my hair straighten and thicken and my cheekbones would expand. Something. To say children don’t idolize Barbie and measure themselves against her is ridiculous and naive.

I played with Barbie dolls for the majority of my childhood. I had a bleak, sad existence and Barbie gave me an escape. A place where I could be anything, but most importantly where I could be single, independent, and in control. (As noted by many of the key voices in the documentary.) But this was not the original goal or purpose of Barbie. Barbie was not meant as an escape for children, but as an ideal. As an “if only.” If only your life could be as good as Barbie’s. She’s a fashion model. A fashion icon. She has her own car, house, and grocery store. I had a Barbie horse and camping set and camper. I had a convertible and kitchen set and even a tiny revolver. Barbie kills. Barbie was all the lives I knew I would never have, but I could also pretend hers was a possibility. I could in those quiet moments suspend reality, and pretend that something else was possible (even as I questioned the audacity of my play). Barbie taught me self loathing as much as she taught me the power of imagination and creative play. How bittersweet is the taste of escape when you know it’s only temporary.

It killed me to watch grown women cry and stress and worry over the future of Barbie. Of a doll. I wanted to shake them and tell them, this does not matter. But it does, in the patriarchy. It does matter, a child’s toy. A plastic female body. Of course, in a world where women have to be everything, Barbie has to be everything.

When are we going to decolonize this shit? When are we going to break the patriarchy? When are we going to truly  make a world for women and poc to live the way they want to live, where we can stop pretending to be cogs in this machine that was built on our backs, and will never truly be one in which we can succeed?

There’s something bout that work, work,

I am a lot of things, but a white man who finds all the meaning in his life through his work I am not.

I don’t mean to throw the white man under the bus so absolutely and so swiftly, or to dismiss any notion that a white man could find meaning in his life through other means. But I’ve lived in the world long enough to recognize that most white men are taught and thus believe that the meaning of their lives comes through what they do and how well they do it.

I say this because I’m not not a morning person. I like the morning when I wake up of my own accord, when I have all the time in the world, when I can make the morning what I want. I say this because I hate routine. I hate waking up at the same time every day and falling asleep at the same night every night to ensure I sleep enough to wake up not miserable with the alarm the next morning. I hate leaving my house around the same time and driving the same route the same distance to take the same walk up the same stairs into my same office. I love my office. I love the butterscotch yellow of the walls. I love the way the sun streams right through the windows and into my eyes as I sit at my computer and type. I love how I can close the heavy door and just be quiet.

But I don’t need routine and structure and schedules to give me meaning, to make me feel, to show me the way.

I don’t mind coming to work every day. I appreciate having health insurance (although I don’t understand why health insurance is tied to employment) and paid vacation. I know that without my job I would eventually wither away from doing nothing. My job provides adventure and goals and ideas. In many ways it has given me life. It has helped me create a community; it has helped me sort out what’s important; it has helped me ask important questions of myself. It has helped me grow and thrive.

But as a result of being employed full-time, I have also begun to question why I thought it was so important to be employed full-time. This job has exposed me to issues of racism and classism and sexism. Issues I knew existed, but really didn’t need more to experience. This job has exposed me to levels of ignorance in people I wish I had never discovered. This job has broken me, and I have learned hard lessons. I learned not to connect my self meaning to my job meaning; to recognize my job is not my purpose; to swallow the hard truth that being gainfully employed does not solve all my woes, does not feel like much of an accomplishment after all. In fact, I don’t value any value that is assigned to my role or how well I do my job. Most importantly I have stopped believing in capitalism. I have become alive to the meaningless consumer-driven lives so many people are happy to lead. I am disgusted with our constant need to earn and buy, deposit and spend. Of course, I enjoy having money to buy things. After living a long time without having money to buy things, I now know a deep sense of relief that comes with having money to buy things. I now walk with the lightness that comes from financial security, with the peace of mind fueled and nourished by biweekly direct deposit.

But I also recognize now, this chicken and the egg dilemma, this rat race we’ve created. I am not interested in the constant workflow. There will always be more work to do. I am not interested in racing, racing, racing through my work only to stand with hands and mouth wide open for more work. I was not born to work. I am not a creature of work. I am not interested in your busy-ness. Business. I am a creature of life. I am a creature of long sleeps and big, late breakfasts. I am a creature of quiet moments in the sun, long walks in the afternoon. Books and words and writing things. I like to think and ponder and laugh. This system we’ve created around productivity and schedules and paychecks feels increasingly archaic and borderline defunct.

Snownesia

The snow falls. Fast and light. I want to hate it, but truth is I don’t. Truth is I’m grateful for it. Truth is I sleep deeply, warmly, contentedly in the bed and on the couch. I sleep better than I have in days. I cook slowly, taking my time, using all the ingredients in the fridge. The garlic, the onion, the zucchini, the sage sausage. I turn on public radio and listen carefully. I stare out the window, pointlessly, my eyes unable to measure the accumulation of the snow, only to notice the falling of it. I use the snow as an excuse to have breakfast dessert. Cookies after my eggs. I use the snow as an excuse to make all the hot drinks from the cardboard packages in the cabinet. The kettle hisses and clicks. I pour.

I use the snow as an excuse to save myself. To remind myself what the fuck I’m doing. I’m thankful for the Internet. Thankful for the blog. How I write now. I can come here whenever I want, and I can type in a word to sum up how I feel, what I’m asking: “loneliness”, “food”, “love” and up they come, the entries I’ve made. Myself returning to myself. Her from then and her now. Here she is to talk to me, to accompany me. I thank her. She knows me.

Patricia Lockwood: How do we write now? 
“That your attention is in one sense the most precious part of you, it is your soul spending yourself, to teach you that there’s always more.

That your attention is a resource that can be drafted, commandeered, militarized and made to march — like youth, passion, or patriotism.

That your attention can be diverted and used to power the devil’s Hoover Dam.

That we live in a time where people pay to be locked in a room together and have to find a way out. That this is fun to us now.”

Finding the answer to my question, what am I searching for? I’m searching for the motivation. I’m searching for the reminder that life in a sense has always been unjust and painful and utter nonsense. I read Zora Neale Hurston; I read Mary Crow Dog. I read the women and the men who know this. The wind howls, and I watch the squirrels come down from the tree. Where do the squirrels live? I expect them to be crusty with snow and ice. Ice in their brown crevices. They are dry and dark against the snow. Skipping across the drifts like spring, like children. What do they think of time?

“The scaramucci is not just a unit of time, it is also a unit of conspiracy against you, and the work you were put here to do.

The feeling you get after hours of scrolling that all your thoughts have been replaced with cotton candy — or something even nastier, like Runts or circus peanuts — as opposed to the feeling of being open to poetry, to being inside the poem, which is the feeling of being honey in the hive.

The single best way to give the morning back to myself is to open a real book as I drink my first cup of coffee. I’m not sure why real books are best. I think the pages remind me that I have fingerprints. I think I like to see what I have read lying sweetly by the side of what I’m about to read, like a wife.”

I do small loads of laundry in the washer. I do not move them to the dryer. It is quick to hang the few things up. I do not feel like checking if the dryer vent is free of snow. I do not feel like going outside. I want to hate the snow, but I cannot. The music plays, and the snow falls.

When I was a child I would imagine the life of my ancestors. I would sit outside in the grass alone and imagine what it was like to be native, to be indigenous, to be free. I would turn my bicycle into a horse and ride, like people did after the Spanish invaded. I would climb the pine tree in the back. Spend afternoons in the skinny branches. I would relish the feel of dirt on my skin. Sweat in my scalp. I would yearn for more space to discover, more nature to attend. When the snow fades, I will walk for hours. I will remember what the weekends are for, but now I forget, I have snow amnesia. I am too distracted to maintain a routine. I stare out the window and wonder where the squirrels go. I think this is what I need to keep myself alive.

Always complaining about the guys

I’d never had a boyfriend or even slept with a man, and I didn’t particularly like going on dates with men or hanging out with them, but I thought that was normal — all of my friends constantly complained about the guys they were dating.

Why don’t we talk more about this? The near demonization of the other sex that we do in heterosexual dating world? I thought it was normal for women to dislike the men they slept with. I thought it was normal to feel unsure, to feel distanced, to feel unheard, unnoticed, unrealized when in love because that’s how everyone I knew felt.

I know differently now.

For a long time I thought I just had unrealistic expectations for men. just. I thought I knew too much. I had gone to college and graduate school and outsmarted myself from the dating pool. I couldn’t expect men, any man, to be where I was intellectually, and of course, that was my fault. I couldn’t expect a man to be a feminist; I couldn’t expect a man to be racially aware, sensitive to issues of racism, prejudice, and oppression; I couldn’t expect a man to see the nuances of the human experience, of our lived lives. Every man I met would be shaded in to a certain extent, but always ultimately missing that final outline. Missing those final pieces. Incomplete. I would wait for the gap to show itself. The law student war vet who casually used words like “nepotism”, who didn’t pressure me into having sex the first night we met. The traveling college student who laughed at my jokes and sat with me in silence. The smooth talking med student who found me on social media. The engineer(s) who seemed patient and open to my adventure-seeking soul. So much potential would glimmer around the edges of our encounters, but inevitably the moment would come. The text message or the date or the head shake. The moment when I would realize the end of their knowing. The end of their empathy. The limits of their love. And my friends seemed to put up with much less. So I thought, fine. I will be alone. I will stop seeking the company of men in that way, and women aren’t really my thing, so I’ll be alone.