Hipsters suck

I dunno. No one ever asks. Why would they? My story is your story is my story. Does my anger count too? Is my anger constructive, worth it, important?

You tell me we’re going to eat at KFC, and I’m not going to eat at KFC. I grew up white trash, lived as white trash long enough that I don’t find it funny or fun to ironically act like white trash. KFC was what we ate at my great grandparents’ parties. KFC was what we ate when we had the money, when mom didn’t want to cook, when she wanted to do something nice for us. My brother got his first job at KFC, and was promptly fired. The first of many. No one even took notice.

I’m not going to fucking KFC, but no one asks why. My anger is too much, is enough. I’m verbally abusive? Yeah, well, I was raised by verbally abusive parents, so you know, this is the pattern. I grew up amongst Mexican Americans and this is the style. I grew up poor white trash and self-deprecating is about as good as it gets.

You can be ironic on your own time.

You don’t have to ask, but for fuck’s sake, try not to assume. Is that too much? Is this enough? Why am I even asking for your approval? Why are your feelings more important than mine?

Why is upper middle class white irony the stuff of everyone’s fucking dreams?

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Independence Resistance

I used to love the 4th of July. It would mark the true north of summer, that somehow we were in it; yes, this is it, it’s happening, summer. We’ve been living it. We’ve had so many days up to now and we’ve got so many days after this, and isn’t it glorious, summer?

As a child (how old are you? when you picture yourself as a child?), July 4th meant my dad was off work, it meant we would all sleep in, it meant cousins and siblings, and aunts and uncles and pool time and grill time. It meant throwing poppers at each other across the cooling parking lot. It meant eventually climbing up or venturing out to see the fireworks. We would drive downtown to park near A-Mountain and would take bets on whether or not it would catch fire this year. We would sit on desert grass among all the other Arizonans and wait for the show. We would drive home in the dark and I would feel dry-sweaty and tired and content, full of steak and beans and chip’n dip and pepsi. That sweet arid smell in my nose, of burnt desert, of hot sand, of melted sugar on the concrete.

Almost twenty years, I had those glorious 4ths. Climbing up on the roof of my sister’s house, standing in the bed of my dad’s truck, staking out space and stretching up and staring intently at the firework show. But then I grew up, and it became a different day.

One year it was sitting alone in my car on a random Indiana side street. One year it was a muggy drive to Southern Illinois to sit in the park with my sister; one year it was a flight to Austin, Texas to get drunk on a boat in the middle of a lake; one year it was camping with the Smith family; one year it was a house party with dozens of strangers dressed thematically. Instagram photos with the flag. Small town parks and cotton candy and mixed drinks in solo cups.

But last year I cannot remember. It is a blank in my mind. Wiped clean from my memory banks. Was that the day I went for a walk to the East River? Did I come home and sit on the balcony and watch from my own roof? Did I watch a movie instead? Did I walk somewhere, anywhere, to feel a part of the crowd? Did I take off work? Nothing. No resonance. Something has altered greatly in me, in my belief in this country, in my ability to feel like this great experiment is working. That we are going somewhere, have done something, are making progress. It all feels so empty, so tainted, the stars and stripes. And it always has been, hasn’t it? All those years I was sitting in the shadow of A-Mountain, all those years I was lying poolside, it’s been tainted. I just now am bothering to take notice. It’s not what have we become? It’s what have we always been? What does it even stand for? This pride in those 3 primary colors. This showing, this outpouring. The closed streets and the party vibe and the loud, obnoxious, bright, triggering fireworks.

Will I remember this year’s celebration?

I went to the park for a birthday party. I took my work husband, my friend, a dude who’s gay and chicano and Not From Here. It was the party for a new girl, a one year old, and her mom and her aunts and her great grandma were there. People Not From Here. People who know other languages and other places. There were other party guests–People Not From Here. We were an eclectic mix in the park. The kids kept getting confused–the large group just next to us, are they part of us? Are we all here together? But that group was more uniform, less hodgepodge, more of the same.

Misfit academics we were, but no one really talked about what we don’t talk about. After the cake and the pinata, the two of us went to an empty bar that was open downtown. Not my favorite–pre-mixed margaritas and overly creative, white people tacos. Advertising “The Real American Taco” as their special. I couldn’t… A taco with an apple fritter on top, “fried apple pie”; I couldn’t tell if it was a bad joke or something else, “The Real American Taco.” Are all tacos American? Where is America? What is America? Who is America? I wanted to ask the brown-skinned bartender with the name I couldn’t pronounce. I wanted to ask the black couple who came in shortly after us. I want someone, anyone to tell me. Is this America? Are we America? Will we be America?

I was home by 6p and sat in front of the TV until I couldn’t justify it any longer. I went to bed and set my alarm and got ready to work the next day. Is this resistance?

 

Of one nation

Another story I forget to claim as mine.

I was born in the Sonoran desert. For many people, this means nothing, this is not an anecdote, or a truth, or a fact, nor does it bear any ounce of significance. For me though, as I get older, and as I watch this country deteriorate, fester, mold, it has become something else, another chip on my shoulder, another weapon in my arsenal, another thing that I thought was on the periphery, that I thought of as an accident, but in fact, was another seed. Another thing that matters, when I’m surprised to find what matters. Why isn’t there someone in your ear, holding your head in those moments: pay attention to this, it will be important later.

That’s what I need. A light bulb, a sign, an alarm bell. This will be important later.

The Sonoran desert is beautiful year round, orange and tan and pink. In the summer, the saguaros reach tall and green, the ocotillos look thinner and browner. The mountains get sharp and distinctive in the blues of the sky. Monsoon comes and streaks the desert sand. Everything gets a little softer. The ground doesn’t relent, and the rain water puddles, floods, fills the spaces. In the winter, everything is in bloom. The birds hang out. The snow slides down the mountain. The desert is always quiet enough. It is a deadly, dangerous place though. Rattlesnakes, jumping chollas, wildcats, scorpions. Some days feel 130 degrees. The sun is relentless. The Grand Canyon state is actually the sunshine state. Even the rain, when it comes, rushes and pulls, obliterates, sweeps us away.

I grew up 45 minutes from the Mexico border. I grew up in the company of people who didn’t speak English, wouldn’t speak English. I grew up among people who knew borders better than me, traversed them weekly, daily. The complexity of migration. I grew up shopping in malls and eating in restaurants with people who drove up for the day, people with Mexican license plates. I got older and moved away and met people I thought were like me, who came from Mexico, but I would tell them, my family is from Mexico and they would say, “where?” “where did they cross?” “where did they come?” and I would wrinkle my face in confusion. We’ve been here all along. But somehow that made me less than, because my family didn’t cross. Because I bore the name, but not the language. Because we’ve been here. Because our home happens to fall within these borders. Because the desert that is mine did not require a pilgrimage or a fight or a flight. How I feel when I feel I’ve never been allowed to belong. How have the dynamics of power shaped your life? What are the various ways you’ve been told who you can and cannot be?

I remember being very young and asking dad, where do we come from? how did we get here? And his response never evolving, but not detailed enough to really teach me, “We’re from Tucson.” How could Mexicans be from the U.S.? I did not learn enough in history classes. I did not understand the lines on the map were subjective. My backyard, but I did not understand that to be home means you don’t go down the list recounting the homes of each grandparent to the final great. You are here, where it all began. My family is bi-national within the borders of one nation. How does this happen? What does this mean?

But I did understand the permeability of the border, the necessity of the flow of people. I did understand that so and so’s grandparents, parents, wife, children, lived across. I did understand how many people in the shopping mall drove over with their birth certificates. I did understand that just an hour away was a different country, but the same world, my same desert. I watched on the news as bodies were found. I watched on the news as people delivered water to cubbies under random seeming shrubs. I lived beside people who needed the border to remain permeable. I lived beside people who were born on the “right” side of the border, but still treated as if they came from that other side. I lived beside people who grew up in towns that were split by an imaginary line. I lived beside people whose daily activities were dictated by a nonsense idea. Country or country.

We drove up to the mountains and I saw the natives living there. Descendants of Apaches. Tohono O’odham people. I watch as the pecan trees disappear and the tents come down, and the white people continue to move in. Turning my desert into something it’s not, a place of glass and smooth clay buildings. A place with grass and swimming pools. A place of sunburns and golf courses. Six lane highways and passports. Order when before there was beautiful disorder. The chaos of the sand.

I’ve watched how claiming a place requires detachment, impermanence, flexibility. I’ve watched as people die not to claim a place, but to be in a place. I’ve watched as the land gets blamed for the people’s rules. Demonized. I’ve watched as the people-less landscape becomes a place. Gets a name. Has new rules. And my family watches, from the corners, as their home grows further and further away from them. As it’s changed by strangers. As it’s staked out and divvied up and renamed. I’ve watched as it becomes war-zone like. Defended and invaded. The death in my backyard.

How do I learn from this? What do I gain from this? What am I supposed to take away from this? Another story I didn’t know was mine.

It’s okay to feel despair

This is my world now. I had the birth control implant removed and the surging, constant waves of anxiety have stopped, but I still find myself crying at the smallest things. I cry in the shower, I cry on my bicycle, I cry on the porch. I pass a black cop on his bicycle and we say hey and I start crying. As if this black man is the black man and if the black man can be a bicycle cop, then maybe good things are happening in the world somewhere. I speak broken accented Spanish with the lady who sells tamales because she is so nice to me every week and she encourages me and how she knew I would understand her Spanish I don’t know. “Tamales están frío.” But we speak with our clumsy tongues and for a moment hope surges in my chest.

I cry at the beach when I see the Asian family cooking food under their tent. I cry as I watch the little Latina carry buckets of water up to the sand castle she’s making with her siblings. Everyday life things, people just living their lives, and I want to believe it’s not so bad, but I know it’s so bad.

When I was younger, I used to obsess over civil unrest: Abraham Lincoln’s presidency, Harriet Tubman’s activism, the Civil War, Civil Rights protests, Rosa Parks, Nazi Germany, Holocaust Europe. And I used to tell myself, you know who you would be. You know what you would do, and I would make myself sick with my certainty, sick with the small actions of others, sick thinking people could let the world turn into what it should not be. Yet I find history repeating itself and all I can do is cry in public, cry without shame, cry because I feel so small and so big all at the same time. Helpless and capable and aware.

I went to a bbq yesterday with a bunch of white people who complained about the heat and their jobs but no one mentioned the state of the world or the atrocities we are living through. I got sick and sweatier from sweet wine and escaped feeling drunk and blurry but so glad that is not the world I live in. I turned on twitter and I turned on Instagram and was reminded of all the people I know living different lives–protesting and posting and adamant in their outrage. And I felt better knowing this was my world. This sad, tortured, helpless feeling world where we know what’s wrong and what’s right and we don’t pretend our lives are carrying on as normal, as so many people think they should.

The world now

I live in many different worlds. I grew up always knowing all these other worlds existed, could feel them just beyond the pale, just beyond what I saw and thought and heard everyday. I yearned for them. Yearned to break into them and out of the world I felt stuck in, assigned to, resigned to. Leap forward and out, I thought. Never look back.

I realize now you can cross worlds, but you can never fully abandon them. You become a world hopper, always a foot somewhere else, even when you’ve pulled out. They are always with you, even when you are not with them.

I live in this world: where everyone is well read and caring and intelligent. People know names of things and dates of things and have been places. They have eaten foods unknown to them and slept in time zones alien to them and tried on many different lives just for size. I share a world with people whose parents sacrificed for them and led them and taught them how to be better; how to do anything, but mostly how to be better, how to become more than the generations before them.

I live in this world: where no one is well read and homemaking is a competition and being broke is just around the corner, just a couple sleeps away. I live in a world where college is not a thing and newness is not a thing and your life is good enough for you because it would have been good enough for your daddy’s daddy’s daddy. I live in a world where everyone is perpetually offended.

I live in this world: where I am alone everywhere and I can be nowhere and the river and the trees and the beach and the fine cocktails and the sunshine and the quiet are enough to sustain someone through the bad times. What are bad times? I can’t hear the bad times over the crashing of the waves. Ring again tomorrow.

I live in this world: where I think all the time but still don’t know how to make the thoughts turn into words that will matter or make a difference or have meaning beyond what I see and feel and think and know.

I live in a world where I have so much, and I live in a world where I have very little, and I live in a world where I have a bird’s eye view and I live in a world where it is comfortable to be comfortable and I don’t want to forget all the other worlds when I am in just one world. I know that it is an impossible worry because I will never become what I am afraid of becoming, but still I fear it, so it is.

To be the child taken from your parent is, like, the worst thing you can ever feel. To be pulled away and wrestled into a car and to be held down so you can’t look out the window and to know you should stop screaming, because in a way your screams are making it worse, but you understand you can’t stop screaming, because this is happening to you. All these terrible feelings you’re having are real. And your screams reverberate in the car and you can see where you are but at the same time you feel like you are in a tunnel and you can’t see anything, the world is diminishing around you, the world has diminished. You grieve for the rest of your life until you understand that you are grieving. You finally stop pretending that the horrible memory that you tucked and reasoned away as just a dream, wasn’t just a dream, but actually happened to you, and no one ever talks about it because please, god, just let them forget, but you will never forget. Because that was when the world changed. That was when you wanted the world to end, but you began to understand how all these worlds can go on existing, how they can exist all at the same time. How they will keep on existing even after you’ve escaped. How some of us end up in a world of someone else’s making.

This is called post-traumatic stress disorder. And you know it will repeat itself. That bad things happen in a loop.

God created the heavens and the earth but God has yet to destroy anything. This is a live model.

“Americanah”

It’s been 12 days. I’ve walked about 80 miles. I’ve bused hundreds more. Countless to and fro. Countless stops and turns.

I feel this should actually be an addendum to my other blog. The Ireland of that writing has vanished. Vanquished. Maybe it never existed. Maybe it ceased to exist because I chose to write about it in that way. Maybe my imagination was just that powerful. I knew it as I circled St Anne’s in Shandon. The ice cream store gone. Was I just lost? No, I knew it with certainty–in the 5 years passed, it had closed and changed and been reborn. I walked back down the hill. I knew it moments before then, as I walked up the hill, pacing myself behind the other American tourists headed for the same sight. There had been no American tourists in that neighborhood last I visited. I had hardly seen any Americans last I was in Cork. Something was off.

Tourism has boomed in Ireland since 2013. Every Irish I mentioned this to responded with excitement. Ever optimistic, ever pleasant, those Irish. “Yes, it’s so exciting!”

WiFi was available mostly everywhere. Passwords printed on menus and posted in door frames. Tourists with their faces in their phones. Locals with their ears plugged by headphones. Not a single person, from anywhere, bought me a pint and asked if I was on holiday. Not a single person offered their travel story to me, in turn. I did have a nice chat with the German girls I’m bunking with. They are so, so young. I feel decrepit. The hostel common room is calm and quiet, even as people are gathered to watch the World Cup. People sit in small groups or type on their phones.

Something has escaped us. The first time I set foot in Europe, I was 21 and naive and had just seen Taken. I was convinced we were all going to be drugged and raped. The Americans girls in Europe. I was over anxious, overprotective, wary of wandering without purpose. I had a hard time opening up to the other travelers we met on the bus, in the pubs, lying in the beds next to us in the hostels. Everyone had a story and everyone wanted to know, where are you from. Shop owners, bus drivers, everyone was interested in conversation. No one knew when to stop. Anything was interesting. We were all in this together.

I had a brief chat with the bartender at Ned O’Shea’s. I had wandered far into Stoneybatter, thanks to my trusty iPhone, I can now step confidently into the streets of a strange city. I had wandered far only to be told the place wasn’t serving food but Would you like to have a drink with us? I am a lot of things now at nearly 31, but I am not a girl who drinks alone on an empty stomach in a far away town many many minutes from her hostel. I begged off to the bartender and wandered back in the direction I had come. I said to myself, I’ll go anywhere, the first place I see advertising fish and chips. I don’t care. Moments later there it was, on the corner across from the Brazen Head. Ned O’Shea’s.

The Asian bartender gave me a drink menu and I pretended to consider the Smithwicks, the Jameson, the wines. I told her, “I’ll just have a Guinness.” She smiled at me and poured the pint. I pretended to look at the menu, before ordering “the haddock.”

“The fish and chips?” She clarified.

Yes. I sat at the bar and stuffed myself. Another story for another time is how much pleasure I’ve found in traveling alone. Taking the bus, the train, the cab alone. Sitting alone, eating alone, sleeping alone. Discovering alone. All of it. Like I was meant for it.

The Guinness was almost 6€. Years ago, a pint had been 3, 4€ at the most. Now it was the same as the Corona. The same as a sad import. I felt cheated in this knowledge. I felt cheated in all my knowledge. The empty bus rides. The busy city centres. Where had all the love gone? As the pub filled with World Cup watchers and a group of obnoxious British adults, I closed my tab with the bartender and left. She mourned my going, “Guess it’s too loud for you now.” I didn’t realize she had wanted to be friends and I questioned my decision to leave. But it had been almost an hour and a half. And it was too loud not to go.

I tried to see Ireland as I saw it before. What was it before? Something special, something different. Now, everyone is drinking coffee and ordering donuts, having burritos for dinner. Everything I’ve ordered has come out instagrammable. No one has cocked their head at my accent. One person did ask me for directions. Everyone looks the same. You can’t tell one nation from the next. Indiscernible citizens everywhere.

Ireland has come into its own and has joined the modern world. Not that they weren’t modern, before. Just that, I felt, they were committed to doing their own thing and distantly interested in the States. Just like you watch a cute dog at the park or that popular reality show everyone talks about at work. Just to keep tabs. Yet, with the Trump presidency, Ireland has cast off from us. Ireland is fine without us, thanks.

Everywhere is fine without us. We are not what we were before. We’ve let the dirty laundry out. I’ll be surprised if we ever recover from this. If the world is ever interested in “America” again.

I guess that’s what I felt as I walked around Ireland. A feeling like, why wouldn’t the American be here.

How do you say depression?

dep.jpg

Richard died four years ago. The anniversary is quickly approaching, and I think of it now because of this, but I also think of it now because of something else.

I went to a dear friend’s wedding this weekend, and I was reunited with other dear friends. Among the usual chatter of “you look great” and “I’ve missed you” was something else I wasn’t expecting. A “where have you been” feel. When we did the math, I realized it had been years since we’d seen each other. Jobs have ended, classes have started, moves have happened, relationships have sparked.

I found myself confused, disbelieving, it has not been years. But thank god for social media, I can prove myself wrong. The things I’ve captured since I last saw these friends…the time that’s passed. The memories I have of our last time together…it’s been years since.

I left the wedding with mixed emotions. I felt sad, like when will I see these people again? I felt hopeful like, I’ve done something right with my life to know these people. I felt guilty, too, but more than that. There was something burrowing underneath the guilt, gasping for air. I felt a missing. I felt…a lack. Where have I been for two years? How did I let so much time pass without reaching out to the people who once were my life? How did I not spend any time– or even think about spending any time– with the people who I once shared so much of my life with?

So, I reflect on the past two years of my life, and even though Richard’s passing was four years ago, I know the last two years would have been insanely different if he were still alive.

When Richard went missing something inside of me shifted, drastically. Where there had been confidence and hope and belief… a purpose, if you will, there was suddenly a black hole of doubt and grief. What once kept me going, what once sustained me, was drained. Just gone. And beyond this hollow, my shield, my guard, were down. Out.

As my mental/emotional state deteriorated internally, so too did my external world. My professional world crumbled, at first slowly, starting not long after Richard’s death, and then it completely shattered in 2016. I had nothing to keep me going once my job became pointless. I was living, living, living, trying, but then I lost my support system at work that summer. Both of my mentors left. I had been making moves to do other things. I’m always the one with the back-up plan, but I quickly realized I was in no mental state to take on those things either. I had applied to PhD programs, and been accepted, but I deferred first one, then another enrollment deadline. I was in talks to apply to other jobs at my alma mater. I had been referred to first one, then another. I started one, then left unfinished, another job application. I was out of breath. I had used up all my mental and emotional stamina. After twenty some years of running, I just couldn’t do it anymore.

I had prepared and prepared and prepared. But then, Richard died, and my heart took its last shaky step, and then it was like the world decided to take a shit in the deflated space left by my heart. Where once I had felt resilient and capable, I now only felt loss.

I started going to therapy in August of 2016. I started learning about anxiety and mindfulness and meditation. I realized how all my planning to run had saved me before, but would likely not save me this time. With the help of my therapist, I saw how I was only trying to run away from myself this time. As I delved into why I wanted to run away from myself, I got worse.

In March of 2017, I fantasized about falling asleep and never waking up. I dreamt about dying. I had all the hope in the world that I would stop living. Stop thinking, stop breathing. That something would come and put a stop to the hopelessness I was feeling by putting an end to me. Anywhere but here.

I recognized these thoughts as unhealthy. I recognized this as outside of my normal. I found another therapist. I was diagnosed with seasonal depression. I was given lots of reasons for why and how and what to do next. Having a diagnosis helped, but wasn’t enough to cut me out of the black cotton I could feel surrounding my brain. I walked around in a suit of pain. I felt so vulnerable all the time. When I was with people, I was usually drugged. Something to keep me going. When I was alone, I was usually crying or asleep. Something to keep me going. I knew I had to keep living, despite my desire to not.

I look back on that time now and do not see myself. I see her entombed in grief. Entombed in this ugly orbit of hurt.

I didn’t realize it then, but I realize it now: I stopped. I stopped talking to my friends. I stopped reaching out to the people I loved. Conversations were impossible. Text messages were overwhelming. Everything in me screamed to be alone, to be left. To be empty. I had no excuses, so I didn’t make any. Instead, I tried my very best to have a minimal existence. It was so much work to exist in my self, with my self. I had no idea how to exist for others. How to be present outside of myself, beyond myself.

I spent the year trying to escape while trying to be present.

Something is awake now in my brain …I can only describe it as a kind of rebirth. Something that curled up and went into hiding, went off to hibernate, has finally roused. And I am here now, and I am looking around now, and I am amazed at everything I’ve missed. All the time that’s passed since last I was awake to bear witness.

Two years I let that grey wool numb my brain. But I’ve done the work, and I’m back. I can take on the world again. I can be in the world again. I can love and live and hope again. I can feel something else besides me. I can feel and think of someone else besides me. I am free of the trap of my hollow, shallow doubt.