Archives for category: Life

My life is in the middle of a lot of transition right now. I’m used to the sort of physical/locational things by now. The change which takes up a lot of my thought, though, is that I am learning how to be feminine, and how to dress well and look good. I didn’t from childhood through around 20-22 because I was a tomboy “on principle”. What this actually meant, I am sorry to say, is that I looked around me and thought that a girl couldn’t manage to be both smart and pretty. I didn’t see anyone who was clearly both exceptionally intelligent and beautiful, and I definitely knew, being a bookworm, that I wanted to be in the smart camp. I thought a *lot* of stupid things when I was younger, like that all punk music was stupid and sounded the same (until I was 15), that justice meant one thing in all places and times.

So now I have figured out not only that I can do both, but also that my love for playing dress-up hasn’t actually faded at all. And I look good in pink. There was a time when I would have-did-refused to wear pink, again on some not-at-all-thought-out “principle”. I don’t really know how that worked, now. I think I meant that wearing pink would have allowed others to make certain assumptions regarding my abilities and such, but you know what? First of all and less importantly, my enormous breasts do that anyway. And second, I’m not in charge of other people’s assumptions. They’ll make them, or they won’t, and nothing I do can affect that, not really.

But even so, this whole thing is new and it fits strangely. Some of the seams rub, and it’s a bit loose here and there. So by way of making it more comfortable and to reassure myself that I haven’t been losing my mind/fooling myself, I will spend the next several posts discussing the book I am currently reading*. It’s called The Religious Case Against Belief and it is most excellent. I read it once before, a year or so ago, and this time I shall read it carefully and take notes. It’s the kind of book with the kind of information that needs to be spread around among the populace.

*That is, one of the books I’m reading. And if anyone wants me to also talk about The Hindus, An Alternative History or The Idiot, I’ll gladly do so.

I get my horoscope for fun, and this week it gave me a really good idea: to take some time to go over the past year and reflect on what I’ve learned, how I’ve changed, and what has improved.

I have learned that Seattle is the only city I’ve met that I think I could happily live in for the rest of my life, even though it is passive aggressive and unfriendly and hipstery as hell and a little defensively stuck up. I love it anyway. It feels like home when nowhere else does.

I have learned that getting over a shallow feeling of creepiness and accepting the comfort and inspiration of sitting and sketching Bruce Lee’s grave makes me feel calm and capable and happy. I have spent hours there and I would happily spend hours more.

I have learned that I can be pretty and girly and dressed well, and smart and geeky and tough, all at the same time. It’s a classic mistake, but I didn’t realize I was making it until I started to stop.

I learned that if a wolf goes into a den of coyote pups and begins killing them, I will feel sad but cheer on the wolf anyway.

I learned that I want summer vacations on the Oregon coast.

I am starting to learn how to be a friend again, and I definitely know how much I resent having to stay home because I don’t have money to go out/drive to civilization.

It’s been 12 years and I’ve lived in a few different areas and I’ve given it an honest shot more than once: I definitely sincerely dislike West Virginia for all kinds of reasons and want to never live here again. Actually, once I leave, I’d like to never come back, but I know that won’t happen. However, I will stick to my guns and never go to Clay County ever ever ever again, so help me God.

This year I finally began to grasp my own worth and ability. Recently, two of my favorite professors wrote me recommendation letters that made me cry–partly because they were so good, and partly because some of what they said surprised me. It shouldn’t have.

I learned that I will find the same problems in Buddhism as anywhere else, for real this time. I knew it intellectually, and now I know it emotionally.

I just learned/realized that I don’t know things until I know them emotionally.

I learned that the Avett Bros. make the best blogging soundtrack for me.

And finally, I finally learned how to write every day.

In my mind, authors can be technically skilled and excellent or bad, and those two categories have essentially nothing to do with each other. As Alberto Manguel said,

There may be no poem, however powerful, that can remove one ounce of pain or transform a single moment of injustice. But there may be no poem, however poorly written, that may not contain, for its secret and elected reader, a consolation, a call to arms, a glimmer of happiness, an epiphany. Something there is in the modest page that, mysteriously and unexpectedly, allows us, not wisdom, but the possibility of wisdom, caught between the experience of everyday life and the experience of literary reality.

Further, I feel that–let me put it this way. I have no personal use for the craft of art/film/media reviewing because that person’s taste is not mine. All they can tell me objectively is how successful the art was technically, and as I’ve said, that doesn’t matter so much to me. Authors, directors, actors, painters and musicians are all a matter so intensely personal that I think of finding good ones, ones that suit me, almost like Tetris. Like Rocky said, I’ve got gaps, and some artists fill those gaps and some don’t.

Neil Gaiman fills my gaps so completely and successfully that I never imagined another creator could ever reach the same level. I’ve followed him since discovering Sandman in high school. I own very nearly everything’s he’s written, and I adore all but one of those things. Seriously. In his entire career, the man has written just one story that I don’t love and marvel at, and I will gladly cop to the fact that I have a hard time reading “The Problem of Susan” because I grew up in Narnia and am not quite brave enough. It’s not him, it’s me–and, I’m certain I’ll get there eventually. I’m patient with good literature. And myself.

I started watching the new series of Doctor Who a few years ago, just after Tennant began. I can’t remember now why I started. I never watched the old Who when I was younger. I tried once, but I didn’t have any context for the wobbly sets, and it just looked crap, and I couldn’t get past that. So David Tennant was my first Doctor. I was watching and loving it, looking up everything else he’d been in–Taking Over the Asylum was breathtakingly good. He was so sweet in that that it hurt, and I loved it. It was all going swimmingly, like the first days of any romance…and then he appeared. It was there, right at the beginning of “The Girl in the Fireplace”, but of course I didn’t know what I’d seen until it was too late.

Steven Moffat.

My attentions turned, as completely as a girl in a cheesy vampire novel when she first sees the Boy. For the first time in my life, I wept at a TV show. And I wept hard. He crafted a story as perfect for me as anything Neil Gaiman ever wrote, and I was stunned. I had no idea it was possible. Believe me, I had the usual stable of favorite authors–Heinlein, Borges, Spider Robinson, others–but I thought Gaiman was the One. I thought that there was a one, for heaven’s sake! Like so many before me, I thought wrong.

Tonight I watched the final episode of Sherlock, Steven Moffat’s latest creation. I’ve not read all the Holmes stories yet, but I know how they end. Batman is of course my hero par excellence, and when I read Holmes’ explanation of how his mind was an attic and therefore he refused to fill it with junk, I could have outshone the sun with delight–he was Batman! (I do know it’s the other way round, except it isn’t because time is a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff, and this is my timestream we’re discussing.)

I called the ending of the show tonight, the moment Holmes entered the pool. And even with this handicap, I was still shocked and delighted-I’m talking huge emotional payoff here-when the end finally came. The fact that I could see the set-up, see where all the pieces lay, and still get caught by surprise–that is Moffat’s genius*. I am flabbergasted. I pray the Writer’s Prayer:

Please, sweet Ladies. Just ever give me one moment, one scene, a single line, that good, and it will all be worth it.

*Unless that was Mark Gatiss, in which case my threesome with Gaiman and Moffat will surely have to expand.

I’ve re-enabled comments on here on all posts in future, including this one. Here are the rules:

1. As the man said, “Don’t be a dick!”
Being a dick means, among other things/to me, being homophobic, being racist, or otherwise not allowing for the possibility that you might be wrong. Basically feel free to argue a point, but don’t use absolutes and don’t argue so in such a way as to undermine others.

3. Blogs are not really public forums; they are house parties. This is why people can be blocked or invited. So, this is my online home. Please respect it as such.

4. When I moved away from my best friend at the age of 5, my parents got us one of those split heart best friends necklaces to share. I kept my half until this year when I finally threw it away. If I got rid of that, do not imagine that I will hesitate to delete nasty, undermining, or otherwise inappropriate comments.

I sincerely doubt that anyone will violate any of these rules, but I’ve found that laying out clear boundaries avoids conflict in the first place. The best advice I’ve ever seen about posting comments you’re not sure about is to take an hour and then return. Then, imagine that the comment is to your favorite teacher. Do you still want to post it?

All from the ruling overturning Proposition 8. Find it. Read it.

“Plaintiffs challenge Proposition 8 under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Each challenge is independently meritorious, as Proposition 8 both unconstitutionally burdens the exercise of the fundamental right to marry and creates an irrational classification on the basis of sexual orientation.”

“That the majority of California voters supported Proposition 8 is irrelevant, ‘as fundamental rights may not be submitted to a vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.’ West Virginia State Board of Education v Barnette, 319 116 1 US 624, 638 (1943).”

“Never has the state inquired into procreative capacity or intent before issuing a marriage license; indeed, a marriage license is more than a license to have procreative sexual intercourse. ‘It would demean a married couple were it to be said marriage is simply about the right to have sexual intercourse.’”

“When the Supreme Court invalidated race restrictions in Loving, the definition of the right to marry did not change. Instead, the Court recognized that race restrictions, despite their historical prevalence, stood in stark contrast to the concepts of liberty and choice inherent in the right to marry.”

“The evidence did not show any historical purpose for excluding same-sex couples from marriage, as states have never required spouses to have an ability or willingness to procreate in order to marry. Rather, the exclusion exists as an artifact of a time when the genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and in marriage. That time has passed.”

I want to have a party, with cake and ice cream and champagne!

As of yesterday-but-it-was-meant-to-be-today, my husband and I have been married for seven years.

If I were to describe these years, it would all sound like the most saccharine, candy-coated, tooth-aching nonsense, and I am certain it is of no interest to any but he and me. Let if suffice to say (and isn’t it typical of me to be Spartan in speaking of my own emotions?) that I do not think we could be happier, and that I see no end in sight.

Also this weekend I met my new niece, who is only 11 weeks old. My first words to her were in French, and when I held her I sang songs to her, such as This Land is Your Land and (Her Name) Is A Punk Rocker. It was an excellent visit, and I’m so glad we got to see her before moving to Korea.

I believe that the unexamined life isn’t worth living. I really believe that: I would rather die than live my life as a cog in my culture, merely going through the motions and doing what is expected of me because someone said so.

I believe that for those people who are inclined to make art, the inclination is a direct order from God/the Universe/the Creative Urge/Bob. I believe that the Universe and God in essence want to see us do something creative with all this stuff they have lying around. They are creators and they want us to join the party. I believe that they understand when someone can’t or won’t or just isn’t interested but that for those people who are interested…we having an invitation to join the gods. I can’t imagine that it would be wise to refuse that invitation.

I believe in doing my homework, and I know that I am blessed because I generally enjoy it.

I believe that for as little as I tend to stand up for myself, my Mom, my Dad, my friends and lots of other people who love me think I should. I have a good head on my shoulders, and lots of people have helped put good ideas into it and I am very capable of making good, if unconventional, decisions. And I believe that doing your homework is essential to any decision-making.

I believe that I am too attached to homework to be a good Taoist.

I believe that adhering to convention is deadly poison for the life of the mind and of the soul, which is to say, for life. One cannot adhere to convention for reasons of one’s own, after all: if you have reasons of your own, it isn’t convention anymore.

I believe that I am to spend my life in another way than most people do–getting a house, having kids in a couple years. I believe that I am to travel and experiment and above all write. Always write.

I believe that my destiny is not written by God’s hand in the stars or anywhere else; I believe that I create my destiny every day that I wake to greet the sun, with every decision that I make. I choose it and shape it and carefully, gently nurture it like the delicate, tender seedling it is.

I believe that the easy way is almost always, almost inherently bad. And that in most cases, easy and conventional are synonymous.

I believe that most people these days need reminded that being tolerant does not mean liking or approving of another way of life. It means being freaked out or disgusted by it but not stopping others from living that way in spite of how you feel.

I believe that world really can get much, much better, and I refuse to settle for anything else.

listen to the mustnts, child,
listen to the donts
listen to the shouldnts,
the impossibles,
the wonts
listen to the never haves,
then listen close to me…
anything can happen, child,
anything can be.

— Shel Silverstein.

Over at The Goat Rope, a friend of mine regularly gets his bloggy inspiration from literature and philosophy. His last round on the Analects of Kong Fu Tzu got me really excited, so I’ve decided to cherry-pick from some of my own favorites. Please ruminate, and possibly also enjoy.

“The little prince was now white with rage. ‘The flowers have been growing thorns for millions of years. For millions of years the sheep have eating them just the same. And is it not a matter of consequence to try to understand why the flowers go to so much trouble to grow thorns which are never of any use to them? Is the warfare between the sheep and the flowers not important? Is this not of more consequence than some fat red-faced gentleman’s sums? And if I know–I, myself–one flower which is unique in the world, which grows nowhere but on my planet, but which one little sheep can destroy in a single bite some morning, without even noticing what he is doing–Oh! You think that is not important!’ His face turned from white to red as he continued: ‘If some one loves a flower, of which just one single blossom grows in all the millions and millions of stars, it is enough to make him happy just to look at the stars. He can say to himself: ‘Somewhere, my flower is there…’ But if the sheep eats the flower, in one moment all his stars will be darkened…And you think that is not important!'”
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery, from The Little Prince

“Mistaking the false for the true
And the true for the false,
You overlook the heart
And fill yourself with desire.

See the false as false,
The true as true.
Look into your heart.
Follow your nature.

An unreflecting mind is a poor roof.
Passion, like the rain, floods the house.
But if the roof is strong, there is shelter.”
-The Buddha, from the Dhammapada

“If you look to others for fulfillment,
you will never truly be fulfilled.
If your happiness depends on money,
you will never be happy with yourself.”
-The Tao Te Ching

“From the point of view of time, we say ‘impermanence,’ and from the point of view of space, we say ‘nonself.'”
-Thich Nhat Hanh, from The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching

“‘When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,’ said Piglet at last, ‘what’s the first thing you say to yourself?’ ‘What’s for breakfast?’ said Pooh. ‘What do you say, Piglet?’ ‘I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?’ said Piglet. Pooh nodded thoughtfully. ‘It’s the same thing,’ he said”
-A. A. Milne, from Winnie-the-Pooh

“Life is…perplexity, continual and essential perplexity.”
Jose Ortega y Gasset, from Some Lessons in Metaphysics

“The Zen assignment is to be human [natural, spontaneous, mindful, nonsuffering]. Sitting is the homework.”
-Jeff Ruff, Buddhism class

I found this draft from the end of March.  I’ve decided to go ahead and post it.  I have told my parents, and in-laws, about what happened.  To make it a little more clear, and because I feel that by speaking about this I deny the abuser control over me, I’ll explain: starting when I was 5-almost-6, for about a year, I was raped by a boy my age who visited his grandparents next door–and that’s one of the reasons I want to talk about this: he was my age.  Growing up, I never ever heard anyone say that kids could sexually assault other kids.  It was always, “Be afraid of grown-ups (and only men, too).”  That’s incorrect.

A week or so after I wrote this, I went to the local rape crisis center.  The counselor there helped me find a therapist, and both women helped me actually finish the school year–with decent grades, no less.

Here’s the draft, written just a few days after my memories started coming back.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_trauma

I haven’t told hardly anyone yet. I told my husband when I figured it out, and then my sensei, and the sister I am close to. It happened when I was 6-7, and I haven’t told either of my parents. I have no idea how they would react. They surprise me a lot, and not always in the happy ways.

Last week or so, my sensei used a word that equates men who fail at being masculine enough with female genitalia, and I was shocked and hurt. I mean, I was sitting there with a vagina…anyway. After so many years of (mild to less mild)abuse and neglect from friends and family, I don’t really react to things right away when they hurt. I’m getting a little better, but it still basically means being more vulnerable to someone who just hurt you, and I just can’t quite manage that, most times. Living means getting hurt, and having friends means letting them hurt you–they don’t mean to, but they will. This is how people work. They mess up. I get that. And I know that in order to have good relationships, I’m just supposed to sort of trust them and lay my heart out on a table and pass around the hammers…that’s what it feels like, anyway.

I don’t tend to be honest with these few friends I have now. I don’t be as sarcastic or cutting as I am. I don’t speak up enough to make the mistakes I make all the time, because if I mess up maybe they’ll leave. I have to be better than I am, all the time.

After a few days I wrote an email to my sensei saying that what he said hurt my feelings, and don’t do that. I tried to make it a little funny, and I made a point of saying that I had never stood up for my feelings to him before, but that I thought that now our relationship was strong enough that I could do so and not break it. He emailed me back 2am last night, and I started crying almost as soon as I started reading, and this really puzzled me. He was being really fair and honest, for all that he evaded the hurt feelings part–and I think that’s because he just didn’t understand why they were hurt, to such an extent that I think he got distracted from that they did really get hurt. He didn’t understand, and thought that I would understand it just as a joke, and he seemed hurt and said that the email had a lot of hostility and it seemed to come from nowhere.

After sobbing for awhile and trying to puzzle it out and feeling worse and worse about myself by the second, I finally noticed that I was replaying that word in my mind, and that it was being accompanied by images from the series of sexual assaults I suffered when I was small. Every time I thought that word, it felt like a punch in the face, and then came those images and feelings…

I wrote an email back falling all over myself apologizing. Part of the sobbing was because I hurt or upset him. I didn’t explain further. I didn’t tell him how much it bothered me, or why, or what was happening now. I couldn’t–I tried several times, and erased the few times I managed to actually type some words.

I cried for another couple hours, and then slept, and then dreamed.

I dreamed that I was back in Clay County.

Context: we moved there when I was 16 and it was the most utterly miserable time of my life–the only place where I have actually cried myself sick (which is really overwhelmingly awful, by the way). My parents were both depressed and fucked up, Mom was in and out of hospitals, I had to care for my sisters, sometimes there wasn’t enough food, or heat. The high school was one of the most abusive, ignorant, soulkilling places I’ve seen in America. I don’t go back to Clay County now. Not for anything. Not the family reunion, not funerals.

I was back in Clay County and I was naked. I had to find an apartment to live in. I was looking all over town, and there were these buildings owned by this white guy with brown hair and beard, overweight, accent. He started commenting on me from the moment he saw me–horrible, lewd, graphic, violent things. I was naked. I couldn’t stop him. My family were there then, and we’d picked an apartment. He was still saying things, making gestures. No one stopped him, or noticed. Finally he said something right in front of my dad and my husband, and I had my little orange safety knife and in one quick motion I slit his throat. There was milk in with the blood at first, for some reason, and my husband put his arm around the guy’s throat to try to stop the bleeding.

At first I didn’t care, exactly. I was upset that I had betrayed almost every principle I try to live by, but I didn’t regret having attempted to murder him–I don’t know how that makes sense, it’s just what I felt. But then I did, and I called 911 and got my favorite shirt and my favorite sheets to help staunch the bleeding, to show that I was sorry. My husband was sitting behind the guy, who was now very small and totally wrapped up in sheets. He was gleeful. He pulled back the sheets to show me the wound, and I freaked out and yelled at him to put them back so the guy didn’t lose any more blood.

I woke up before 911 got there, with a blinding headache and salt on my face.

I wish that were the end. I wish that it was just one bad night and a really fucked-up dream. But there’s today, too. Today I have skipped class. I haven’t done any work. My mind feels like most of my brain is missing. I can’t focus on anything. I lost several blocks while driving earlier–I’m not driving again. I haven’t felt this depressed in a long, long time. I’ve had some very unfortunate thoughts, the nicest of which was that really I should just not have friends. The one who called me a cold, hard bitch was right and I am toxic and I should just sort of quietly retreat and let them have nice lives.