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I ran 4 miles today.

I spread the sheets on my bed. A good run should feel like that–smooth, tight, snug, flat. Strips and streams. A surface to pass. It rains all around me. I sit on the edge of sleep: the waiting room to sleep. The sky is gray, and the trees seem garish above me. Orange and sharp. Violence at random to the eyes. The leaves fall away, and I’m surprised by the expansiveness of the sky. How open we are to everything else, now, this time of year. How exposed my days will seem.

You came in this morning before I had a chance to brew the words up. To make a page or two. I spent the rest of the day…lingering. My thoughts out of reach. Out of touch. And like so, my switch from thoughts to words never got flipped.

I sat in the back of the car. My finger reached for the button, and the window came down. I leaned my face into the wind. Cow shit and wet dirt. Leaves decaying somewhere. I listened to you talk. How funny it is to hear you plant the same seeds with another, and to watch their reaction differ from mine. I leaned over into the seat. The smooth fake leather of something. I wanted to sleep like that. With the window open and the car moving and my eyes closed and your voices ebbing in and out. This is the feeling–this is the meaning of home. The point. When I was young, I used to pretend to sleep in the car. Just to have the quiet. Just to listen to the voices ebb in and out. My parents never knew.

A lot of the time they thought I was missing the things, but I was there the whole time.

My quiet is my presence. I don’t think my words will be what you remember. They can’t keep. It just is.

Diversity pieces 

Life is all about negotiating your self-perception with how you’re perceived. Believe it or not. 

Navigating ambiguity and navigating assumptions. 

I’m not open to whatever those assumptions may be, but I’d argue that I’ve tried to be prepared not to know. It’s better if I don’t know…better if I don’t have a self-fulfilling prophecy dancing around in my head. 

I’ve spent the last few years much more conscious of that tension between who I think I am, who I want to be, and how I’m perceived. I’m trying to be prepared to figure it out. To live my way into the question. 

I’ve been lucky (?) to have had experiences in my life that have informed my understanding of how others perceive me. I had an early understanding of my biracialness and was able to articulate it as so in a safe space with my mother (my blood before I was blood) where being mixed was okay. I had the opportunity to grow up with people very unlike me–ethnically, socioeconomically–in almost every identity category, I walked lines my peers did not. They consistently challenged my understandings. They made me question that I saw what I thought on the horizon. 

And being a woman, I’ve been hurt (physically or emotionally) by almost every male I’ve encountered. My worth has been challenged, at times dismissed, consistently throughout my life. This has provided me with a pool of resilience that at times seems like it should be drained. But I balance the dismissal of my personhood with the dismissal of my heritage, and I feel better. I feel less alone with these sides of me, who can relate to one another.  I recognize as I’ve branched out into the world that there are people like me, but it’s been comforting to know too, why I so often strike out with some. Like the cheese, I often stand alone. I have been picked last for teams, and it hurts, but most times, I’m able to find a lesson in it. I’m able to find my safe space inside of me and move on. I’m able to recognize how those moments say more about the executor than about me. 

My first time in graduate school, some of my peers, who identify as black, raised concerns they had about our graduate program. They pointed to incidents of bias and prejudice and wanted to have discussions and make their points regarding racial discrimination heard. We were called together as a department to discuss. I didn’t get it. I felt like, yes, I’ve experienced all this too as a Hispanic white woman. I was dismissed and it hurt and for a long time I had feelings about it. Finally, one day, it clicked for me. That was an early #blacklivesmatter event. I couldn’t grasp it then, but I get it now. 

We are always growing in our understanding. We always have the potential to reshape and reform. I shine the light on my ignorance, even though a lot of times that light should be swinging out the other way–onto another.  I’m not an expert, but I’m comfortable in my identity. I’m comfortable letting the light in. 

Unveil

“Although being a teacher may make my days relatable to a child attending school, I think my daughter is most interested in unveiling the mystery of what I do when I’m not with her. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a software developer, a cashier, a blogger, a doctor, a bus driver or a stay-at-home parent, because it’s not about the minutiae of the work. It’s about sharing what makes us laugh and what bores us, the mistakes we make and what is hard for us, the interesting people we meet.” –This Article

Sunday I sat on the porch and read a book of short stories. In my running clothes, inadequately dressed for the breeze, I sat with my legs criss-cross apple sauce at the top of the stoop and read. It was eerily quiet Sunday. The leaves fell so softly and the squirrels rustled infrequently. I was surprised there wasn’t a Packer game on TV–it was that quiet.

I realized how funny I probably looked, sitting so low and so prominently at the top center of my porch. Our porch that is lined with chairs. A chair for every taste. Plastic, rocking, cushioned, small, big. Yet me, on the wood, with my feet on the concrete, the damp and the cold seeping through my thin running socks.

I sat and tried to read, thought sentences of my own instead. I thought about us at the wedding. I thought about how the day had turned into not being about them, the happy couple all dolled up in their matrimonial finest, but instead about us, us on the beach in the sand in the cold eating bread walking and nodding and me not talking. I thought about that. I thought about how your existence has brought me some things and taken others. I thought about where I would be now if I hadn’t met you. I made space for you and tried to leave it gaping and open. I tried to let you be, make sure you had room to turn and flex. I was relieved when you left. I didn’t feel anything in the space where you had been.

I found myself, on the drive home, practicing the words I would say to my housemates. How do I tell them about this day? What is good to share? What would they like to know? I think about what it is like to share with someone else those mundane details of my day. I think about how nice it is to sit in the morning and talk about nothing while I drink my orange juice. I think about how sometimes when we lie in the dark you say a sentence or two that gives me insight into your day and the thoughts you have. I think about Jeffrey Eugenides, “and that they hadn’t heard us calling, still do not hear us, up here in the tree house, with our thinning hair and soft bellies, calling them out of those rooms where they went to be alone for all time”

I think about how I don’t want to know your brain. I don’t need to be inside of your head. But I do want to know. I do want to know the things that make you stop and smirk and nod. I want to know the things that you find boring. I want to know why I ask questions I already know the answer to. Because I still want to hear you say it. Still strive to check my assumptions. Still want that feeling. That confirmation. Still like telling myself, I knew it.

I’m absorbing. I’m absorbent. Absolvent.

Forgive me, because I still want to know, who you are when you’re not with me.

And I want to hear you tell it in your own words.

 

 

What if

I’m not even supposed to be here.
I woke up in my bed on a dark, northeast Wisconsin morning. My bedroom window, cracked open, let the damp morning air seep in. I hustled into running shorts and to the bathroom to move my toothbrush around my mouth and down to the kitchen to pack lunch. I tried to minimize the weight of my steps on the carpeted floor, cautious of the resulting creeks and bumps which might cause my housemates to stir. I moved not 1, but 2 cars into the street. Making space to back my car out of the garage and down the driveway and into the cold, crisp, dark, leafy morning. Black streets. Black sky. Headlights all around. Quiet but not empty, the streets of Green Bay at 6:30 in the morning.

Being outside alone in the morning reminds me of standing in library stacks. The insulated hush of morning, the muted space between the shelves. Reverent. Respectful of the time our brain needs to wander, to search, to leak incomplete snippets of thoughts. Undetermined time and space.

I follow the dark curves of the road. I walk through a lighter campus, leaves on the ground that mark my steps, not a soul in sight, but a distant humming, minds starting to perk, mouths starting to move, an expectant feeling rising from the windows of the dorms. The day is coming.

I am cold in my shorts. I pull the hood close around my ears. I think I am cold, but I know if I stop thinking I am cold and just feel the cold, it will be more comfortable. I will just be in the space. I maintain a steady pace, getting closer and closer to the lights of the gym.

I am not even supposed to be here. Am I in Michigan, getting up to write a paper, going to a job analyzing responses and reports and numbers? Am I waking up in a still-new apartment on my own? A different kind of quiet completing my days?
But I know that this isn’t right. If I wasn’t supposed to be here, I wouldn’t. If that reality I spent months building was supposed to actualize, it would have. Maybe the quiet strikes me so because it does not fight me. It does not push me away, it welcomes me in, and I step into it. I breathe into it, and I feel it absorb me up. Takes me over. In an hour I will walk back the way I came, wet from my sweat, flushed from my exertion. The dark will be gone, the leaves will be swept, and the quiet will be pushed back to the very corners of the day, biding its time to swoop in again, to fall around my ears again, to wake me up and carry me through.

Consent

Dr. Harry Brod is on campus this semester, leading us in all things masculinities and gender talk.

He gave a talk last night, which you can find, almost word for word, here: http://www.mediaed.org/transcripts/Asking-For-It-Transcript.pdf

Finding this in duplicate form on the Internet is not appealing to me.

I was disappointed first by the turn-out. In a room built for close to 100-150 people, there were 40, sitting apart and scattered in the auditorium.

Second, I was disappointed by the analogies. I admit I found some use in the right of way metaphor. The idea that another driver has to give you the right of way, but…

Mostly, I was annoyed. Although I respect Dr. Brod and have mostly enjoyed listening to him talk this semester, as a woman-person, I am generally tired of hearing men talk about consent. I am mostly tired of hearing about consent from a dude’s perspective. I am mostly tired of having to live in a world that does not understand or try to articulate the female experience, despite contributing and shaping it.

As a female person, you are told to want and not want. You are told to feel guilty and be proud. You are told you are beautiful but imperfect. You are told to eat and not eat. You are told to try and not try. I can understand why sometimes no means yes and yes means no and yes is silent and no is louder than you intended. I can understand the ambiguity of those moments when your face is inches from another face and you for a second have only existed in this moment and can’t for a second fathom another moment. When you are for a second not just yourself, but every woman. (The personal is political) When you are not just your body, but your future body, your past body, your childrens’ bodies. When you are, for a second, strong and weak and confident and empty and cold and hot and sure and not. I get that.
You can’t know what it’s like unless you have it. Unless you have the trifecta–the uterus and the ovaries and the mammary glands. Unless you have the man looking at you. Unless you have walked down the street and been called out for being a female person. Unless you have stood in the bar and had your ass grabbed by a stranger. Unless you have been looking, standing in your own body and told that despite everything–despite the food you eat and the runs you take and the haircuts you get–it is not your own. Still up for grabs.

Turning the corner, leaving work, driving your car, shopping the grocery–like a toy in the claw machine.

You can’t know it and no analogy will help you to bridge it. No analogy will give you the insight.

I can tell you, the telling gets old.

Sandra Cisneros- “Everything that is most mine belongs to everyone now.”
When you are female person, everyone wants a piece of you. And it is hard sometimes, to determine who is worthy. Who wants. If you even want. It is hard to balance your own with theirs. The giving is tiring, the giving is expected.

It is not just about “yes”; it is about the etymology of the word yes, as every female person has had to think, say, and try it. It is about wanting yes.

Can you own a word as a woman?

Jeanette Winterson – “Who taught you to write in blood on my back? Who taught you to use your hands as branding irons? You have scored your name into my shoulders, referenced me with your mark. The pads of your fingers have become printing blocks, you tap a message on to my skin, tap meaning into my body.”

The light comes in

This is the hardest thing.

Throwing myself to the wolves.
Over the cliff.
Knowing the jump won’t be fatal.
The bones will not hold. The rocks will tear and crush and break.
But will not kill. And yet I let myself fall.

My heart has pounded us this way, right to the edge. Chasing after something.
Some days it feels so separate from me. What do you see that I don’t?
What have you heard that I missed?

The landfill of my human garbage. I see it there over the cliff edge.
It will smother, but not suffocate. My breath will catch, but continue.

“Anyone whose goal is something higher must expect some day to suffer vertigo. What is vertigo? Fear of falling? No, vertigo is something other than fear of falling. It is the voice of the emptiness below us which tempts and lures us, it is the desire to fall, against which, terrified, we defend ourselves.” -Milan Kundera

You grit your teeth and bite your cheek. Nothing has prepared you for this.
The ache you feel, the ache of the unprepared. All those years you thought you were training, practicing–useless.
That voice you strained to hear–you realize now, too late, what it was saying…

“There’s nothing you can do. You’re going to lose. You’ve already lost.”

And I thought it would be something different. I’ve been practicing to feel the wrong thing. This music cannot be read, cannot be played. This map goes to nowhere. The one I drew. Nonsense. Impossible to map. So carefully I stepped. You’ve done everything wrong.

Not even a bread trail eaten by birds, but sugar swarmed by ants.

I’m breakable. I’m cracking. I’ve splintered. I have to say goodbye to that likeness in the mirror. Somehow you knew all along. It’s okay.

Summa cum laude

Why the College Degree Seems to Be Deciding the Presidential Election

“And polls indicate that Mr. Trump may be the first Republican nominee in 60 years to lose among white, college-educated voters.”

“High-school graduates who were once able to sustain themselves in the middle class had nowhere to turn as the better-paying jobs went to more highly skilled college graduates, Mr. Carnevale said. And those laid-off workers form the group that Mr. Trump’s populist rhetoric appeals to the most.

For example, for many non-degree holders and working-class voters, Mrs. Clinton’s college-affordability plan doesn’t attract votes because it won’t change the numbers in their bank accounts, Mr. Carnevale said.”

This divide really bothers me.

I struggle with it, as I move and breathe and live on this college campus. As I talk shop with professors and administrators and cocurricular advisors and students pursuing and students attained.

I struggle to make the arguments I should be making for my purpose, my job, my projects. I struggle to engage when I should with the people who are talking through the windowpane of their PhD or their Master’s.

I was the first one in my family since Aunt June to graduate in 4 years, to pursue the postgraduate education. I go home and it chafes. My experience with theirs. My “success” and their resentment. Frustration. My patchy safety net. Their carefully laid foundation.

“You don’t do anything with these hands!”

No, that’s why I have 2 Master’s degrees.

They dream for you, but they end up imagining you right out of their reality.

What can we succeed on? What do we want to be about? What are the options we need to sustain?