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.

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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.

 

Always asking

There is productivity in doubt. There is comfort in discomfort. There is something else behind the story we tell ourselves. A student asked me about vocation today. How did I get to where I am now? The road that led me here is long and windy. It veers off into brush. It is impossible to see at some points.

I recounted the way to her, but it has changed so much. Is always slightly different every time I revisit the way. Erosion, new developments, abandoned sites.

Vocation I don’t know if I believe in. I believe in the space I’ve found around me by asking the questions: what is vocation; do I have a vocation; what is my vocation. I believe I have gifts that fit in the world. I believe there is something about me that is unique and that I should offer up to the world. That most wanting of places. But

Maybe all I have to offer is my existence. My doubt. My questions. Maybe I am here to be the no-man. To frown and consider and disagree. Maybe that is important to the world. Significant change from my small moments. My insignificant doubt.

I am on track to thrive and not just survive (?) I spent so much of my life going through the motions, trying to get somewhere, anywhere. Just waiting and hoping I would float when the time came.

Sophia asked me what advice I would give to someone her age. Just to confirm, I asked her age: 21. I had to sit for a second and try to recall my 21 year old self. What would she need to hear?

There isn’t a right answer. You are not getting a grade. Not for life. Not like this. Just do it. Just live it. Just see where it goes. You are energy in motion. You will be recycled.

I want to love the questions. I want to live the questions. But I also want to know. How? Now?

Write me

“Oh, we’re losing a good one.”

Was the response of one of my college profs after I told her my plan to attend graduate school for library and information science.

A good what?

I studied English literature in college, blindly following my skillset and my desire to achieve. What will get me through? It was my best subject in school–words, sentence structure, definitions, grammar, spelling–all of it came easily to me. Like breathing. Like sleeping. And anything was better than failing.

But I’m smart, and I was good at other things, too. Biology, history, trigonometry.

It was more than my ability to formulate a sentence that led to my pursuit of study. I started writing from an early age. Trying to write before I knew words. Some of my childhood books are covered in my nonsense scribbles, the original story obscured. Somehow, I understood I had something to say and an ability to transcribe it—to make it known. The combination of pen, hand, and paper.

I wrote a story about a princess when I was very young. A short story with illustrations too. The princess died at the end. I forget how. And it was the joy my mother got out of this story, her sharing it with my not godmother that left me really feeling something. Like I could do and make things and as a result produce emotions from the people I loved. It was more than recognizing the power of words. It was worshipping that power, and surrendering myself to it. The capability of sentences. The potential of stories.

As a community college student, I took every English class offered because the out of state school I hoped to transfer to advised it. Except the one on myths I dropped. I was sick of that guy, the professor who yelled at me when I presented him with my withdraw request.

I saved my textbooks. Feeling like I needed the poems I had underlined, the contextual history I had memorized, the stories from places I’ll never be.

And I became overcome at the university I transferred to. Living in the library. Sprawled out around my laptop. Typing and printing and revising. Who knows how many words I wrote in two years.

There was the paper on rape I wrote for my American women history course. The one the prof said I should submit for the women and gender studies competition thing. But I couldn’t handle the additional writing I imagined it would take.

There was the paper on period blood I wrote for my feminist capstone. The one on Shulamith Firestone. The paper on the Bhagavad Gita, I admit was not very strong. The paper on French cinema I completely bullshitted. All the Virginia Woolf. The monstrous in literature. The Old English translations.

I felt so done after those two years. I was writing all the time and I felt dried up, spent, out of things to say. My whole life had become focused, centered, scheduled around writing and my writing needs. I forgot the magic, emotional potential of writing. I became distracted by the academic, argumentative, well-reasoned writing. All the logic I had to build my house of writing with.

I maybe flirted with the idea of applying to a masters program in english as a backup plan. As a maybe if then. As a what else could I do. Where else could I go. But I wasn’t poached. My professors seemed to like me, and I felt like my voice, both spoken and written, was well valued. I felt appreciated. But I didn’t get the sense from any of them as I planned life after college that I would be missed. That my voice was distinct or necessary. None of them approached me with thoughts on my future. Except Dr. Suzi Park, who urged me in her Korean American way to retake the GRE. But, Dr. P.

And so Dr. Hoberman’s response to my graduate plans caught me off guard. I found myself for the first time, wondering what positives could have come if I had been denied entry to library school. If the very thing I spent months fretting over hadn’t come to be. I found myself for the first time questioning what I was giving up, what I was losing, by turning my back on writing.

But writing intimidated me. Even though my papers drew praise from my professors, I fought desperate anxiety and imposter syndrome every time I opened up a word document. Every blank page was like a walk on the plank. Mere steps closer to my demise. Utter doom. Every beginning sentence was sheer torture and a round of indecisiveness.

And I let that fear decide my future. I let it take me away from the writing world and into something I thought was more practical, would keep me fed and warm.

But oh, how I miss it. How I lust after it.

I find myself reading about writing. I read Leslie Jamison in The New York Times and I think, how do you do what you do. How do I do what you do. Could I ever do what you do. Write and read and write some more. Could I cure people with writing? Could I find people with writing? Could I make something useful of the world with my writing?

It follows me. It hums about me. An energy I can’t see. My writing life. My writing urge. This sense that something has to come of these words. That something can be said about everything, about anything. That I should be writing.

That I should be building and planting and growing. Seeking with my words.

The Man

Of course this article is publishable in 2018:

When the Cause of a Sexless Relationship Is — Surprise! — the Man

I blame the patriarchy. I blame toxic masculinity. Women are taught men want sex all the time. That’s why we can’t walk home alone at night. That’s why we carry our keys in our knuckles as we cross the grocery store parking lot. That’s why we wear the push up bra and the high heels (partly, kinda, sometimes). How we navigate being fuckable in a world that teaches us we are objects to be had, rather than agents of our own sexuality and sexual lives.

What a dumb system –that men are taught to prioritize their desire for sex, while women are taught to be ashamed of their desire for sex. Yet, some men and women are supposed to somehow figure out how to have sex with each other. How do you ever navigate the sexual understanding, the sexual world of another person? Across this great divide. If we were all in a relationship with someone of the same gender role, I wonder what the world would be like? If we weren’t trying to engage in across the aisle sex? So to speak. If you took gender roles out of sex ed. If you took the patriarchy out of the uterus, out of the ball sack.

Some of this is related to what’s happening with the MeToo movement, right? Women are taught it’s not okay to speak up, women are not given the words for navigating their sexual desires and their sexual escapades. Heterosexual women are taught to lean in to men’s desires, for the sake of their survival and the sake of their sexual experience. Men are only given so many words. Neither party is granted much complexity in their expression or understanding of sex. Everything is sorted along this binary of good or bad, when so much exists in between.

Yours and Mine

I am obsessed with women. Is that right? I am obsessed with the gendered experience. How we learn to be in this world.

On a lazy, sleepy whim this afternoon, I watched the Amanda Knox documentary on Netflix. I’ve put off watching it for months, assuming as I usually (falsely) do, that I know the story. Knew her story, even though I can only remember watching the Lifetime movie version of the case and nothing else remotely factual comes to mind.

I was struck immediately by the sexism apparent in some of the key players — the journalist and the Italian prosecutor. I was struck by the latter’s old school Roman Catholic persona. I was struck by the lack of, as Amanda calls it, “objective evidence.”

Mostly, I was struck by her.

And I remembered why I thought I knew the story. Because I, too, was a 20 year old college student in 2007. Amanda Knox and I were born 2 weeks apart. And I thought about how at age 30, how different the world is now, but especially, how different it must feel to her now. The context of the years. I sat around and thought about her case from the perspective of the U.S. in 2007. I tried to remember what the world felt like then, who the President was then. How the country felt as we slid into recession. What it was like to be a girl then. How the white girl abroad seemed then. How easily I consumed the narrative at the time, of the monster that she must have been. I remember thinking for sure she was guilty, and how arrogant she seemed in the news briefs. How her American eyes and cheekbones seemed to flaunt her guilt. How doomed I thought she was.

How easy it was to hate a beautiful woman in 2007. To assign her all the guilt.

Now, going back through the story, how quickly that assignment is erased. How easily my mind moves to empathizing with her. To reading over her words with sympathy, to trying to imagine what Meredith Kercher might have been like. To befriend the British girl in the flat. How much the U.S. has changed in 10 years.

I think about miscarriage of justice. I think about prison. I think about all the people who live through this. I think about all the circumstances that allow this, that lead each individual to the cell. The perfect storms. One time I told a friend about Angela Y. Davis and her book, Are Prisons Obsolete? and I remember the friend looking at me with near disgust, aghast: What will we do with the bad people?  And I try not to think about all the good people in prison. The less than perfect people. The dumb mistakes and the serious mistakes — theirs and not — which led them there. I try not to think about the ruin of prison, and the luck of pretty girls, and the fate of ugly men.