Indebted 

http://www.buzzfeed.com/kirstenking/i-dont-owe-anyone-my-body
And this is what I mean when I say I know myself. This is what I mean when I stress the importance of being that giant. This is what I mean when I act a bit “stand-offish”; when I don’t laugh at your jokes, or return your text, or ask why. Reading King’s article made me nauseous. I squirmed across my bed as I read it face down on my belly. I could feel her tension, her unease, her disregard for her gut feeling and her too late realization that if she continues much longer she will end up very upset with herself. With the world. 
I did a brief stint as the girl who cares, as the nice girl, first when I was 14 and again when I was 20. Both times I found myself in rooms with boys I didn’t want to be in. With that sinking feeling in my gut that I should’ve listened when I recoiled at his first laugh or nod or “gift.” Whether that was a note or a dinner or a video game or a cigarette or a beer. And that last time when I was 20 and realized I had slipped up for the first time in 6 years, I promised myself that I would never find myself in that situation again. Never risk that sick feeling again for fear of offending some boy or out of fear for appearing to be the angry bitch. 

My anger sustains me. So for the rest of college and all the years since, I’ve been the angry girl, sometimes actually pushing boys away from my drunk friends. Leaving full beers on the bar no, thanks. Stepping on boys toes on the dance floor I said I don’t want to dance. Elbows in their ribs. Getting up and switching seats on the bus. No. If you can’t hear it from my mouth, then hear it from my body–hear it from whatever pain I can elicit. I hope my rudeness offends you. I say that as a Hispanic female. I don’t have to be  chatty or nice or white or quiet or sweet.

I don’t owe you anything and I don’t fucking care if you like it.

Carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man. 

x,y,z, and a have coffee

What have you conquered today? This year? So far?

“There’s a giant leading me to god knows where.”
What are you looking to conquer? I’ve conquered myself. I decide to do something and I don’t fear it. I hurt and I push through it. I express the emotion that I feel. I work through the emotions that seem wrong. I focus on what feels right. I don’t give anything unless I’m prepared for it to be taken. I don’t ask unless I’m prepared to listen. If I’m going to look, I’m prepared to see. I conquered all the voices in my head that told me I couldn’t do it, wouldn’t do it. She told me I would fail and would fall in the black hole of doom, but I kept trying and now I’m here. She sounded like me and she looked like me, but she was an implant. She was built by the hands of nurture. I destroyed her with the might of my nature.

Now I have her. She is the giant whose shoulders I perch upon. She coaches me through my run, what else have you got to do today? might as well keep going. She pulls me through my weights, it’s supposed to hurt. She motivates my research, what do you have to say to this? She is a bit stand-offish with those girls who want to be my friends, Tell them to suck your dick. I’ll be an asshole for you. You need alone time. I’m laughing at you in solidarity. Stop talking. Don’t give me that bullshit. Well, what else do you expect? 

But she is also kind. She buys girl scout cookies from my coworker’s child, even though she is supposed to be saving every penny. She takes time out of her day to chat with the women from my workout class, even though she knows they don’t get my jokes. She smiles at the cashier’s hello and makes small talk with the woman who owns the clothing boutique. She reminds me to stop being, and then I am.

Because there is no giant. It’s just me. It’s all me. And that is fucking empowering. That makes me feel free like Lana with the Flag over her bare shoulders, billowing in the breeze. That puts me to sleep at night and breaks my face out into random grins and taps my feet and sways my hips and sings aloud while I cook dinner for myself. I’m filled up with me. It’s taken me a bit, almost 3 decades, but I finally understand why I chose to be alone. Why I didn’t fight when I was left; why I took those risks and said those things and left. I get it now. It feels good. I am good.

I shrug my shoulders and don’t make mistakes

It’s January 28, 2016. I am closer to 29 than 28. I have one foot out the door and one foot poised to hold me in the door. Always straddling the line. Those borderlands where I flourish.

I meant what I said earlier about not re-reading what I write. Don’t do it. The context is completely lacking and that is often necessary to inform my story. You can go back and read the lines, even read between the lines, and maybe glance my meaning, yet the moment has passed. My rationale for writing has faded. It was the best feeling in the moment for me; it prompts me; and then it passes. Some day maybe my writing will be good enough to capture that feeling, to hold it intact, to capture it whole and keep it precious against the elements of time and new knowledge and the inconsistency of self. Me changing my mind or growing or falling out of touch. The inevitable erosion of my meaning. I hope to write well enough some day so that you won’t need my context or the structure of my feeling to relate or fully understand. Because sometimes I write when I’m delirious and tired. Sometimes I write when I’m hungry and desperate. Sometimes I write when I’m distracted with people. Some day, you won’t need to know it was the day I wore the blue sweater or the red hat or forgot my lunch. I can only keep working until I get to that some day.

And thank you isn’t enough. Thank you is a phrase I say to strangers willy nilly. Thank you for not bumping into me. Thank you for using your turn signal. Thank you for pausing. Grateful sounds trite and shallow. Passive and weak. What is the phrase? What is the meaning? I just want you to know, I’m searching for the sentiment that isn’t empty solely to give to you. I’m searching for that phrase, if you’re my girl, then I’m your man, you know? At least, something similar.

“wanna give back the things I plan to take” because I will undoubtedly piece out our moments together. I only guesstimate at your reactions and how the moments appear from your point of view. I write them down. I try to knit them together–your moments and my moments. They mix up and are tainted by my lack of context, by my red hat, by my feeling for that moment. I try to create the very thing I do not believe in–capital T truth. Not to hold it up to the light in all its perfection, more I think to remind myself that it is a haphazard futile undertaking. More I think to remind myself that when the moments come together on their own, the light will shine through. I will get it. It will make sense and in the moment I’ll look back at myself trying to construct her slipshod shanty and smile. I told you so.

Far from the madding crowd

My memoir will be titled, We drank tea and read books
Chapter 1 will be called, “We sat on the floor”
I won’t come home to you in my bed, but maybe some day I will. I won’t be around to watch that baby learn to walk and talk, but maybe some day I will see him get his first job. I won’t be around to hold your hand as you fight with your husband, but maybe some day I will be at your wedding. I won’t be there to eat dinner with you in the evenings, but maybe some day I can be there to help you find a good book for your bath. I won’t, but I will. I don’t write it because I want to make it so. I don’t want to imagine it, although it’s easy to do. I would much rather live it. I would much rather write it to relive the messiness, the confusion, to find the story in the tangle. To find the single thread of my life embedded there. As I go, the story will pull and tighten, but I will still recognize the individual strands. The mess will make sense to me, even as it frays and fades and rewires, so I will write about it. I think that is love. Finding your sense in the madness. Understanding that the madness is here to stay.

Connect me 

“It’s a meadow. It’s a whole meadow. I wanna go in there.”

I miss wandering the bars in my tennis shoes and drinking cheap beers until wandering to the breakfast place for pancakes. I miss crashing lunches I was invited to at the last minute even though I’m not hungry. I miss drinking liquor out of plastic Gatorade bottles on the steps in the middle of the night. Trying to pinpoint the cardinal directions with the angle of our bodies. I miss calling people who are asleep at 3am even though I’ll probably regret it when the sun comes up. I miss dancing in the dark bar until my tshirt is soaked through. I miss sitting at the bar eating pretzels and making fun of the bartender. We used to drink, but that’s not what I’m commemorating. I miss getting ice cream after work. I miss staying at the library until 2am and walking back through the dark and the quiet. I miss riding the bus through the neighborhood with my earbuds in. I miss riding bikes to the pool. I miss walking 2 miles by myself every day. I miss feeling connected and spontaneous and having a community. I had a place before. I don’t know how it happened, but it did. I made a place for myself. I keep chipping away at this place but it’s not the same. I like being alone but it’s almost not as worthwhile. The people that made my time worthwhile made being alone even better. Being alone has to have a bit of novelty to it…maybe? Before I was with people and we kind of naturally suited each other. We would eat Indian food on the grass and lie in the beds even though we weren’t tired and we would be really friendly to strangers and then laugh because we knew they weren’t like us. And I guess I didn’t think it before because I took it for granted, but it was special. We were special. And it’s not like those bonds have been broken–they’ve just had to change. I’ve been expecting new bonds because that’s usually what comes next. But not this time. This time is different. This time it’s just me. Sustaining. I’m trying to figure out what that means to me. 

Why do you travel?

I dabble in the world of travel, and out of both personal and professional interest I read a lot of travel advice columns, travel blogs, travel memoirs, travel reflections (this is spelled correctly, but WordPress is confused about the word reflect). It’s always interesting that what seems to be missing is the why. People expound their motivations for wanting to travel: their dissatisfaction at their job, their desire for adventure, to see the world (so obvious, is this really necessary to add? Don’t you have eyes and are always seeing? You can see the world from your TV, your computer. What do you mean by see.)

Travel alone blogs encourage women. See the world websites proclaim. “But why?” I ask. Why are you telling me this. My friends and younger cousin travel and they talk about the places they’ve been but they never say why they did it. I feel like there’s this emptiness, this vacuum around travel as a claim of yet another experience without anything attached to it. There’s no travel emotional/mental baggage. Why not? Even my own family, when I tell them of my travel plans, doesn’t ask why. They’re quick to say why not, but not to ask me, “seriously, why?”

I travel to remember the other selves in the world. That sounds philosophical and lofty, but it’s true. I travel to learn the perspective that exists beyond myself; to practice my empathy; to question what I value as normal; to question what I deem regular; to shake the structures of what I’ve been taught and what I take for granted.

The only way I know how to see myself as another is to walk their sidewalks and eat at their cafes and travel on their buses. I breathe in their pollution and drink their cold water and feel their air on my skin.

It is strange to relate this point back to something…so close to home, to put it literally, but I struggle with the viral-ness of Making a Murderer. Yes, I do live in Green Bay, I tell strangers. Yes, Manitowoc, Wisconsin is 40 miles from my home. Yes, I am familiar with the Wisconsin accents and the snow-covered grain bins and barns and wavy stretches of land are the picturesque views I take for granted every day. But it’s more than that. At least once a month I drive the stretch of interstate from Manitowoc to Green Bay that the Avery family has surely driven hundreds, thousands of times. I know the order of the green road signs as surely as they know them. I know the color and the shape of the prison, fondly known as GBCI in town– that marker of home, that all familiar site as I pull off the interstate and turn in the direction of De Pere. I know the smell of the beaches which drifts over into Manitowoc on summer days. I know the tone of voice people use when they claim to know the family, either family, portrayed on the show. People I see every day at work claim Manitowoc as home. Claim this story as something from their own life.

So I struggle a bit with the memes and the social media fodder and the jokes– the jokes told at these peoples’ expense. Because I’ve traveled their travels and I can imagine their thoughts as they drive the same roads and see the same sites I see. The dark strip of interstate upon entering Brown County with no street lights and no signs and for a moment a feeling of utter desolation. The sections of road that the snow plows and salt trucks seem to miss every time. I can imagine their reactions. I can map their feelings to these places. So it’s hard to keep chuckling with everyone else. It’s hard to keep scrutinizing with strangers at parties. It’s hard to hear judgments passed. You don’t know what happened and I don’t know what happened and maybe we’ll never know what happened. But I can understand what’s happening.

That is why I travel. To see the present as it is. To place the present in context. To be present. To understand that my presence is not your presence, but I have a choice to bridge that gap or to leave it gaping and open and untraveled.

 

Mr Roboto

“We have moved from multi-tasking to multi-lifing.”

I’m obsessed with robots. When I dream I dream about the inside of your head and moon orcas (don’t google it, that’s not what I dreamt of) in a biosphere and wires stuck to a face and energy and thunderstorms so powerful cars and trees slid sideways.

As I continue to read Alone Together I become more obsessed with deciphering our programming. Trying to understand our network of connections. Trying to understand the affect we perform by rote, the objectification of each other’s presence in our constant connection–accessing only the parts we like; responding to only the parts we approve– the projection onto any absence we sense. What parts of you am I taking? What parts of you am I filtering? Why am I ignoring the sum of your parts? Because you break yourself down for me.

We go to public spaces not to interact with one another, but to be alone with the people in our portal–in our virtual reality. We need the silence to focus on the text we’re sending. We treat people with physical presence as absent. I ignore the girl in the store on her phone as she ignores me. We both know neither of us is present in that moment of shared existence.

We mourn an unanswered text because of a perceived absence–the absence of a virtual presence. We feel tethered and obligated at all times of the day…to what? And then we become demanding. Demanding of the absence of physicality and demanding of the presence of virtuality. I don’t see you because my phone is in my face. I don’t see you because my phone is in my hand.

I think of your words and the name on the screen. Not a person, just a bunch of words, yet I have a relationship with the bubbles of text on a screen. They mean me and you. I’ve let that text come to represent and sustain the physical absences in my world. I’ve let that text replace, supplement, the constant absence of my loved ones. My loneliness is more present than ever when we interact through our screens. I yearn for physical presence only to find it inevitably tainted by our interactions with our networked virtual worlds. Our screens are inescapable.

We signal a presence through our screens. Why is it so important to be present there? For whom? To whom? But then we have little concern for the presence of our real selves. We blatantly ignore every incremental absence we create when we glance at our screens. We fill the world with noise because we have disappeared into the black hole of computer code…the black mirror.

Absence and transience have defined me. Is my experience replicable in today’s world?

With our black mirrors, do we ever leave home? Are we ever isolated? Do we still understand displacement? Do we still comprehend novelty? Detachment? Not the temporary kind which we plan to share later, but the real kind that goes undocumented, unnoticed, impossible to truly share? If we can always be elsewhere are we ever somewhere?

Companionship with convenience is ever possible, so now we’re too inconvenienced to try. We feel entitled to amusement and compliancy in all our interactions. Meet it or be dismissed. We feel entitled to control our interactions with others. We determine the duration; we turn them on and off. We control the tone. We control the where and the when. I want to strangle my students when they can’t bask in the ambiguity with me, and I find this sneaking into my daily life with my friends and family who can’t wait for a return text or meme or email. Remember when life was one big fucking question mark? Do we feel so entitled as to have taken that away from ourselves as well?

We’ve lost the patience for ambiguity and with it I fear, the ability to invest in figuring out ourselves. The most ambiguous of all. We’ve replaced living the question of ourselves with the performance of ourselves in the reflection of our black mirror. Our statuses and memes become our texts and our emails. They replace our in-real-life time together. They supplement our genuine wit and comedic talent. What will we lose next? I read fiction when I can’t travel to learn about the world. Now people scroll their feeds and live through the experiences of others, or copy their goals off of others. What will happen to the stories? To our stories? If we’re content to let the false selves of others inform our experience, then seriously, what is the point of living.

Im trying to understand the quirks that make us human and identify with the empathy we hold afar, even if that’s our singular defining characteristic. I question the short temper I take with my students–when they ask me the same question multiple times, when they don’t do their research and blame me for their lack. I question my frustration with my peers and colleagues, who overthink things or act short-sighted. I question my ridicule of the girl at the bank, who couldn’t quite decipher changing my dollar bills into rolls of coin.

What of it then, if we continue to short-change each other of our human quirks…as we continue to move further away from practicing our humanness, as we continue to restructure and reframe the very social interactions which define us. If we continue to rely upon our walls and our fears …what will we be analyzing ten years from now? How lost will we be in the new automaton? Where do we go from here? Maybe the old will become uncanny. Maybe we will circle back. Maybe we’ll have vintage, hipster human relationships. Maybe we will finally have to disconnect to hear ourselves again. Maybe it won’t come until we are forced to disconnect. I wonder if we’ll ever be present again.

What do we want? An art exhibit says, “Love is what you want.”

But I argue that terms and conditions apply. We want to be loved in a specific way for specific qualities by specific people. We project our favorite selves, expecting those to be loved, not realizing the angles other people see us from, which we can never hope to glance. Forgetting how different our own voice sounds outside of our heads. Forgetting when we look in any mirror that our reflection there isn’t how we appear to others. Forgetting the faces we often pull in a pose isn’t us at all. Isn’t what our loved ones see at all. Those who continue to love us despite our best efforts.  Those who have danced with our worst selves but keep coming back, song after song. Who have felt beyond our projections and become acquainted with our fear of ourselves. Our fear of rejection. Do you make me go away, dismiss me from your screen because you really want me to be gone, or because of all I’ve described here? Is life really so hard that you have to have it: Me in your mobile available at any time? Or me in your mobile dismissible/forgettable at any time? Which makes you feel better? Which helps ease the tension you wade through every day?

I’m pauseable…is that how you prefer me?