Dog days x10

Do you know how disgusted I get with the patriarchy?

The man who asks me to help another man with an application. The man who calls me, leaves me a voicemail, emails me, helps himself to my office when I tell him I’m unavailable. The man who wants me to smile and be nice, even though the situation warrants disappointment, anger, critique. In order to survive, I’ve been told, you have to know things, you have to prove yourself, you better be prepared to be ridiculed. I have held myself to these standards, to rise above the rest, only to find that the men around me have gotten by without. The men around me who have slid right in, without any of the knowledge or skills or talent that I have broken my back to develop. I didn’t get here on a favor. I didn’t get through on an understanding. I’ve had to prove myself every step of the way. The proving has been constant. And now I’m expected to hold back, to keep my complaints to myself, to hide my disgust as I watch another man take advantage, overstep his bounds, not understand the work involved, or the way things work. Even though I, yes, have learned it front and back and in my sleep–the way things work and how to fix them. Not so for the patriarchy. Fuck the patriarchy.

 

Those old things

It’s been 5 years now. Five years since I started posting to this g.d. blog. Although they say the Internet didn’t work until 2010, not really. Not in this iteration as we know it today.

I don’t know what I was lacking before, why it took me so long, but I remember the boy who told me to keep writing. Some stranger I met at the Urbana Sweet Corn Festival. We sat on the floor in my apartment and he read my writing and said it meant something. Said it mattered. I didn’t know this boy, but I took his word for it. Isn’t that the way? Women needing a confidence boost from strange men. I wonder, whatever happened to him?

I come home and I pretend like I’m going to do other things. Like I’m not going to plant myself in the corner of the couch and turn on Insecure. It is just so fucking familiar, while at the same time, being so fucking strange. Being single, having the best most ridiculous friends. Life in LA. I don’t know shit about LA. It makes me all nostalgic for the way my life used to be. Maybe what my life could be, if I’d stayed in Tucson, or somewhere. If I had stayed somewhere.

Those people I would meet and text–giving them the power to make me feel so light and giddy one second, knowing in the next they would make me feel worthless and hopeless.

What do I miss?

There was the night I picked up everybody in my car on the way to Hannah’s house party. Loaded up my blazer, not knowing what to expect when we crossed the lawn and got through the door, but feeling so safe in my group of people. These people I had chosen.

There was that day I walked over to Catya’s in my new khaki shorts and she cut the threads out of my back pockets to open them up. And then I met up with Suzi and we went to that goofy dinner with my college ex. And Suzi saying, “he just doesn’t seem like someone you would date.”

Walking to the bar after class and sliding my backpack in the booth and taking a shot with my waiting friend. It was spontaneous and it was fun and it was always new. I miss that. I kind of miss wanting that. I’m glad I have it. I’m glad I can pull it up and admire it.

But I don’t miss that feeling we seemed to be chasing off. Was it loneliness? Was it fear? Was it desperation? Was it age? Was it life? Were we coping with our inability to cope with life? With the myriad responsibilities we juggled and dropped and brushed off? Something we kept barely out of reach. Together.

I didn’t know when I moved to Wisconsin, I’d be giving all that up. It seems silly to say, but it’s true. We were something; we had something. I thought it was me–I didn’t know it was us–that all of us together were something special. That sometimes a community can only exist once, can only thrive somewhere –given the right conditions. I thought me being me, oh, you know I’ll recreate this wherever. But that wasn’t the slightest bit true. So I watch Insecure, and I remember. I’m reminded of something important I had, even if I can’t quite put it together now. I know it when I see it.

Ordinary thoughts

I’m still thinking about that man on the street, and the feeling of uneasiness that erupted in my chest without notice. My fight or flight response with the needle throwing itself into flight. Here is a man standing in a yard looking and not looking at me in broad daylight. Why am I afraid?

Here I am as a white woman walking through the neighborhood, knowing I can walk through without being questioned or threatened. No one will wonder at this white woman in this pretty dress with this expensive bag, “Does she belong here?”; “Is she up to no good?”; “What right does she have?” ; no one will chase me out, chase me off, lock their doors at my passing, at my presence, at my being. No one will gather their children or clutch at their dog and scurry away.

If anyone does harass me, it will be because they want me to feel affirmed in my attractiveness and fuckableness. Thank you.

I think of all the privilege I carry into spaces. My worst fear most often being that I will be disliked–when there are so many other fears I never have to consider, never have to confront. So many things I don’t carry on my shoulders, day in and day out.

  1. What does it mean to be white in this world?

We drive to Door County and I am cognizant of keeping my camera phone tucked away. There are bright, breathless moments, but I keep my camera phone away. Trying not to participate in this culture of consuming, viewing, geotagging. Trying to keep the pristine places pristine and the views to myself. What does it mean to always have a community in wait? In wait of the picturesque scenes I may or may not share. In wait of the world to narrate and consume it?

2. Why do we pretend to exist? Why do we want to pretend at existence?

Is our life only worthy if we are photogenic and brightly colored? Or, are the things worth sharing, only worthy if they are photogenic and brightly colored?

What is my experience if it’s not on Instagram, if it’s not liked by dozens, if it’s not part of the larger story we tell ourselves that the world, the places, are worth being seen? What story are we trying to tell about ourselves when we tell the world of all the things, the places, the sights we’ve seen?

What if I keep all of this to myself and no one ever knows? What if my life is not about creating pieces for others to live through? What if my life is not about creating an image for others to believe in? What if my life is not about buying and doing; what if my life is about the thoughts in my head? What if my life is about asking all the questions with no intent of finding an answer? What if I believe my life is not about constantly celebrating, or coming up with constant proof that my life is worth living? What if my life is not about reaching my full potential? What if it is just this?

3. What if my life is hardly worth living at all, in the mundane sense that so many lives are hardly worth living, because so many lives that are being lived are not worth it?

It being the recognition you think you deserve for living a very regular life. Or, for being unable to recognize that your life is unordinary. That your life is irregular. That regular is subjective. Normal is only what you can see from your bedroom window.

And if your life is only ordinary in the sense that it matches all the lives being lived outside of your bedroom window, is it worth recognizing? Do you deserve to feel special for living a life like all the people outside of your bedroom window?

Even if all the people are faking it, even if everyone is striving for the same sense of feeling special?

You don’t know what you’re doing–you don’t know what’s important–is it my role to care? Is it my role to help you realize your ignorance? Is it my role to challenge you to be better? Why should I give you the mental space you haven’t bothered to give yourself?

I’m still talking about privilege.

Today

“I want you to experience that love. To open your heart, despite the fact that there is much to fear. Do not let fear stop you from loving, ever, because it is, in the final analysis, the only thing that blunts the terror of existence.” -Steven Barnes

I was late to every single meeting today. I did not go an hour at work without a meeting, from 8-430. I started my day in a mindfulness learning community, staring at the deep red cracks on the surface of a craisin, pondering its taste, pretending not to hate it for the sake of the exercise, before I realized I was late again.

I had rich, layered conversations with student after student. So many thoughts. So many avenues of thought. So much knowledge.

I walked home from tutoring. I came upon a man who made me nervous, but then he paid me no mind, and I thought, how do I answer to this stereotype? How do I answer to my bias? I came upon a little girl playing on the sidewalk. She chased the hem of my dress with her fingertips, threatening to follow me home, and I thought, if I hadn’t walked this way, I would have missed this moment of joy. This silly interaction with this tiny human.

I went to yoga. I stretched and pushed and fucking breathed. Hollowing out my belly, exhaling completely, leaving feeling invigorated and awake. More alert than when I had arrived. I drove home in the dark, listening to misogynistic rap music, feeling like…

I set my intention for tomorrow to be a breath of fresh air. To help others feel lighter. To wake up the edges of the mind. To feel that hum in my scalp. To tingle throughout the day.

What is the love that you seek? Where do you feel like it’s worth it to be afraid?

New moon in virgo

New moon in Virgo is supposed to mean new growth, I think. New opportunities, I think.

Friday I was so exhausted after work that I caught myself spacing out during my tutoring meeting. My tutee read and read, and I listened without listening, was almost lulled to sleep by her steady rhythm and quiet voice. I couldn’t follow the story’s logic. Could not follow the point. I apologized to her for being so out of it. The weekly brain drain of the academic semester. I ran (sped) to Jaime’s after. Eager for a release. Eager to use my brain in another way. I drove us the long way to Indian food and we drank tall Indian lagers and shared a basket of naan. I lost myself in our conversation. We only sat for an hour and a half but it felt like longer, felt like forever, in a good way.

Saturday was the perfect fall day. I had Luna coffee with Katie, enjoying the Saturday morning sun and that crisp, brisk feel of fall. I enjoyed being up and out of the house so early, when I didn’t need to be. I wandered into Rock and Body, unsure of what I would find. Unsure of how I feel about rocks with powers. I bought the labradorite because it looked alive in the sun, like it had a little blue beating heartbeat in its edges. Like it will keep me warm as the semester stretches out and I forget the pace of my insides. As I lose myself in the pace of time which, less and less, feels like mine. I returned home and walked and walked. Watching the trees and the water in the river. Feeling the drastic shift in the season, feeling the drastic shift in lifestyle, feeling as northeast Wisconsin prepares for hibernation and the winter that shapes the rest of our lives.

You don’t have to shovel humidity. We went to a party around the corner and Jaime and I hid in the club house. I stood in the grass in the sun and didn’t feel apart.

Sunday I was up and alone in the kitchen. Feeling capable and ready. Whatever comes.

 

Contentious

“A 2008 series of studies from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Women and Public Policy Program found that displays of anger from men in professional contexts are often viewed as responses to external circumstances, while the same from women are seen as representations of their personality.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/08/elon-musk-new-york-times-interview-ceo/567835/

In 2015, I was called into a meeting with my boss because 2 professors had complained that I was “cold” in meetings with them. I scoffed at this, to my boss, and explained maybe it had something to do with the professors attending every meeting unprepared and uninformed. That we continued to meet needlessly because their lack of preparedness held us back, kept us from making progress with their project. I was tired and weary of doing all the actual work, including holding the mental weight of the project. I had decided I was not a fan of these faculty members professionally, and that probably showed in my body language.

I was still told by my boss to work on my communication skills and my body language. I was given a talk on the importance of workplace politics. I started going out of my way to smile at and greet the two professors. It’s become a habit, my big crocodile grin and my overly loud greeting. I have to admit, it was a good move on my part. My coldness made them uncomfortable, but my over the top friendliness downright scares them.

I am too much in my body sometimes. Too careful with my words and motions. Too strict with myself. After years of controlling my body, monitoring every gesture and every expression, I now break out in hives. My body has forfeited, has retreated. I wake up with my heart pounding and my limbs twitching. My body terrified of everything. I spent too long in a perpetual state. Knowing no one else had my best interest at heart, primed to run at the slightest cue of danger. I’ve had to stop and fight now and my body gets so confused at the emotions, unsure of the reactions, it breaks out. My skin goes red and hot. The heat from my chest leaking out to my veins. I watch it spread. The physical sensations made real, tangible. I run my fingers over the welts in my skin. Years of hiding now made visible.

We eat off the same plate. The tomato juice running off the sides of the omelet. I eat quickly, mindful of his fork under my chin, stabbing at the bites I’m saving for myself. It feels good to share so completely. It feels good to fight for fun. It feels good to know what’s coming, today and the next day. I wash the dishes in return of the free meal. I do my part because that’s what I was raised to do, only I also do it out of another place, a new place I’m not familiar with. A place of joy giving rather than guilt tripping. A place where I am not keeping score, I am winning the points.

Insecure

Sometimes I miss being that girl, the one who was so scared, she never stopped. She ran right through high school and college and two graduate degrees. She got job after job, befriended person after person, found high after high.

I chased late nights with strangers, I chased achievement and recognition. I chased all the ambiguity my head could handle. At my happiest with big goals to achieve and new things to figure out. I didn’t realize then what I know now, that I had built a fortress of discovery intended to keep me from everything. Mostly myself.

It felt like freedom though, all that nothing. Being overcommitted and distracted. I wasn’t as important as everything else I was doing. My emotions, my thoughts, all that could take a backseat to my striving.

Who am I now without all that nonsense? I don’t feel free anymore, but I am still free. It’s the same fight, isn’t it, after all this time. Sometimes I’m tempted to throw punches like before, even though they don’t land the same. Trying to remember my training. Always reminding myself of what we learned. It’s just like, fucking tiring, and the escape was so easy. The running comes natural. It’s my reflex. It’s my knee-jerk.

I have better form now, I just don’t wanna use it.