Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.
Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance.
It feels surreal. It is happening again. But this time more so. This time I am losing so much more than I have ever lost. I almost can’t conceive of it.
Except when I lost my grandfather. He was my best friend too. The person I could talk to about my doubts and hopes and fears and dreams. Like this time.
Only this time it is more. It is losing my best friend and my love. It is losing it all.
Yes. But where to direct it? To myself?… some. To him?.. some. To others?… I don’t know.
I have given up being angry at the universe, or g-d, or a higher power. I don’t think they intervene much, so how can I be angry? Because of what they can’t do? I used to get angry because I thought it was a matter of choice. That g-d just didn’t care about me or my happiness. But I don’t give him that much credit anymore. It hurts too much to be that angry at g-d. And is too fruitless.
I am tempted to bargain. Bargaining requires something on the other side. Bargaining requires me giving something for something and I honestly don’t know what i have left to offer. After I have offered my life, what more is there? I guess I can promise all kinds of things, but if I promise more than I can deliver, where will that leave me? And if I promise just to get certain things, won’t the things be spoiled because I promised something else to get it? I can’t reason my way to this. I can’t bargain or cajole or promise. He has to come to me because he truly wants me.
I can feel the tentacles of it, squeezing my heart. Tears rush up unexpectedly. I try to control them, but I often can’t. I cry on subways. I cry in public. I cry in my pillow in private moments. I hurt. I cry. I smile to wave it away and pretend that I don’t feel the weight on my heart. My wonder that it continues to pump even as it breaks. I consciously wave away the swells of pain. The swelling hurt inside. If I breath deeply, I can redirect my thoughts to something good. To something hopeful. For a moment.
The chant I keep repeating in hopes that my heart and soul will just… accept it.
I was listening to NPR this Saturday. Yes- I love NPR’s Saturday line up and am a total nerd. Anyway, I was painting my room and listening to NPR’s quiz show “Ask me Another”. One of the host’s is a former Wiffenpoof, and as part of the theme of the show, he sang a song called “Gal from Kalamazoo”. And as he sang this upbeat number, I began to cry. Just so you have an idea of what I was crying to:
I was listening to upbeat swing and all I could think about was how much I still miss my grandfather and how much music ties me to memories of him.
My grandfather was not a great vocalist, but he loved music. There are few memories of him where he didn’t sing some swing or jazz tune. The last time I was with him, we drove 40 miles, ostensibly to get a square ice cream cone, but really to spend time talking. He put on a jazz channel and all the way to Swan Valley and back he quizzed me about who the artist was, and where else I had heard it, and who else sang it, and on and on. In his scratchy voice, he would hum out tunes like “Cowboy Joe” or “Someday he’ll come along” or “Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly” or the a-b-c-d-e-f-g-h-I got a gal from Kalamazoo”. And even though he died 22 years ago last June, I remembered like it was yesterday. I have only a few pictures of Grandpa. He was a big handsome guy who you liked to be seen with. He used to hug you long and tight until the condensation of your breath on his sweater turned cold. But if I could have a memento, it would be a recording of his voice.
This got me thinking about all the men in my life, and frankly, the ones I connected with were all into music. My dad loves music and he loves to dance. Music was the chronology of his youth. It became part of the biography. Even today, if I hear an artist my dad would like, it is hard for me to not get excited. It is one thing we have always shared. My pop has a lyrical tenor and gorgeous baritone voice, one of the prettiest I have ever heard anywhere. Prettier than many professional singers actually.
And then there is M. My M, who uses songs and lyrics to express all his deepest and sincerest thoughts and wishes. It sounds corny, and maybe it is. But he truly finds expression in his music. There are so many times when he has sent me a song and told me it reminded him of me, or us, or something in life. Funny, sad, sweet, hard- if it is in a song, it gives him a way to express something that he can’t say any other way.
This might be why I love radio, and music, and sound as much as touch- because it is touch. Sound is the only physical medium that can be saved where someone can truly touch you from beyond. Sound waves are physical. They physically affect you, your skin, your heartbeat, your body. Grandpa’s voice was almost as good as Grandpa’s hugs.
So, when he would call, and you answered, and he would immediately break out into the most cheesy Stevie Wonder song of all time- and tell you he “just called to say I love you”, you knew it would be a good day no matter what else happened. You felt hugged.
I miss those hugs still. But at least hearing Gal from Kalamazoo was like a tiny hug from beyond.
I read a piece today extolling the virtues of taking and keeping photos to make you happy. Not sure I buy it. In fact, I know I don’t.
People are photo crazed right now. Somehow they feel if they don’t document and post all the moments of their lives, then they didn’t happen and aren’t real. They take pictures of everything, as if that is the only possible way to remember. I have seen more bad selfies, pics of food, or even family portraits than I care to.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t like an occasional pic of my nieces and nephews. I do. They are cute and I like them, so it is fun to see how they are growing and changing. But to be honest, once a quarter will do. There is no reason to document every moment. There is no need for photos for 90% of our lives. Digital photography, and the incorporation of cameras into our phones has made it seem almost mandatory to take pictures of everything, but it really isn’t. Before you take a pic, think very carefully about how many times you really plan to look at that pic and whether it is really worth sharing, then BE MORE SELECTIVE. If the picture is for your own joy, think about how many times you will actually go back and look at the food you photographed, or how often you will actually glance at the selfies with the double chins that obscure where you are and what you are actually doing there. If you are taking it to brag, I mean “share” on facebook, review whether inflicting that photo on the facebook newsfeed is truly necessary. How many of those photos really need to be taken and shared? How many are just … well… stupid. I know people like to share photos with family and friends, but a friend who selectively shares is soooo much more interesting than someone throwing up every moment of their lives onto the internet.
You could call me hypocritical. After all I write a blog and spill a lot of personal crap on it for people to look over. But, I guarantee that if I describe a meal on here, it will tell you so much more than a pic of baked eggs with tomato remoulade could ever tell you. And the best meal I ever ate was not photographed, but I can still remember it. In fact, I can still remember the smell of the melting smear of goat cheese mingling with farm fresh tomato and herbs. And that was only the first appetizer. Have we become so addicted to the visual that we forget that we have other senses that invoke memory, often much better? I have other objections to photographs as well.
First, photos lie. Yes, I know that is counterintuitive, but they do. When people are facing a camera they have enormous pressure to smile, even though they are not happy. As a case in point, my cousin decided that my grandfather’s funeral was a good time to take a family photo. Never mind that this now seems insane. It was inherently practical because the whole family was there. So, what did we do? We gathered around grandpa’s fresh grave and grinned for the cameras. I look like I am beaming, and inside I was so bereft. I acted for the camera just like we all do. The whole family is there, grinning away, as the sun poured down on the long turned over hole that had just been covered, as we said goodbye to one of the most important people in our lives. We weren’t happy. We were mourning, but there we are looking goulishly delighted around grandpa’s resting place. The photo is a big lie.
It wasn’t the only time in my life that photos portray something completely false. Once I went with four other girls to Monticello (the home of Thomas Jefferson). I went with two fellow interns and their sisters/friends. The only reason I was invited was that they needed someone old enough to rent a car. When we got there, they broke off and I was left to explore the grounds alone. Before we left, they were taking pictures and I offered to be behind the camera. Someone saw, and offered to take a pic of us all. I was saying no, but there was all this pressure to be in the pic. So, the pairs split and put me in the middle. The photo looks like a group of five girls who are all laughing and smiling and having a great time together. The truth was, I was asked to chauffeur and got pressured to look like I was part of a group that I wasn’t ever in. In fact, I can’t even remember the girls names because we never did anything together again. My sister-in-law (a photo addict and thief who rummaged through photos from my bin of prints people have given me) decided it was a great picture to include in a photo album that my brother compiled for me. So there I am, among girls I don’t really remember, who basically used me to get a rental car. The photo spoils what was meant to be a thoughtful gift. I wish I hadn’t ever allowed for it to be taken.
The other problem is that there is a bad adage that a photo is worth a thousand words. This is ridiculously untrue. In fact, a photo without words providing context says NOTHING IMPORTANT. Words are required to give a photo meaning. The who, what, when, where and why at minimum have to be provided for it to have any real impact. Recently, my friend shared a photo of himself and his girlfriend at Dodger Stadium in baseball caps. If I hadn’t known that they were at the playoffs without me, then the photo would have said almost nothing. I knew the context, but if I didn’t, it would look like just another grinning selfie. And that was actually a photo I liked!
Obviously there are good reasons to take some photos. And photography can be art and preserve important and sacred moments. All I am saying is, let’s bring back some selectivity and style. No one wants to see a photo for every evening out that you have ever had. Or every meal. Or every day. Not even you.
I have been a horrible blog keeper here as of late. I have been a little busy. I am working with a pretty influential man in banking circles and his schedule keeps me hoppin’ too. Also, M and I are moving forward and planning some things, or at least trying to. I have always written about my life, what I think it funny, what I think is important, my anxieties and pain, my hopes and dreams… me. But now that I have someone else so important to me, there is a delicate balance between what I want to talk about and considering another person’s privacy. This is one reason I don’t mention other people’s names in my blog too often. BUT I want to write. I have been writing offline. But I like writing online. I like my friends here. And I like to have my writing reach others. My journal just isn’t enough. SOOOO, I am back. I am going to post at least once a day for the rest of the year. If any of you like to read me and share with me, then keep me to it!
I have resisted writing about Newtown until now. I know it makes me late to the game, although it is crass to even think of it as a game. I was too emotional over it. Over 6 months ago a sociopath took assault weapons and handguns with extended clips into an elementary school and opened fire on six year olds out of jealousy and callousness. They were six. All I could imagine as I watched the coverage were the screams, disbelief, confusion, terror and pain that those children must have felt as they were gunned down. Even now, as I think about it, my heart feels troubled in ways I can’t begin to explain.
Now that a short amount of time has passed (and yes, 6 months is short), I have been able to collect my thoughts about it and hope I can still add a few things to the conversation.
Since the attack, we have been debating the idea of gun control, limiting access to assault weapons, who should have those weapons and who shouldn’t.
The answers have been varied from emotional appeals to insanely crude. Gun sales have gone through the roof. Newtown parents have been threatened and some have accused the media of “creating the event” to scare us into giving up our liberties. http://en.wikipedia.or /wiki/Sandy_Hook_Elementary_School_shooting_conspiracy_theories
Though the idea that the “media” (said as if it were one centrally controlled body- a ridiculous notion in the first place) would create such a tragedy to scare us all is beyond paranoid, it does show how far people will go to defend their own narrative. They will twist things so they can fit the facts to how they think instead of forming their opinion to the facts. I am not immune to this, (although I am immune to fanaticism of that nature) but I tend to look very coldly at my own emotional reactions knowing that my opinion is highly effected by them. For example, I am not neutral on guns to start. I don’t like them. I understand them. I have held them, handled them, shot them and I don’t like them. I know people who do and I know they are good people. My own father loves the history of guns. He loves the look of them, the feel of them, the intricacy of them. His father was in the military and was a hunter. We inherited two of grandpa’s hunting rifles. And I think people appreciate guns on many levels. Some people who built guns are artisans. They made beautiful guns.
They are beautiful. They are examples of effort, craft, and imagination.
They are also built to kill.
People like guns because when you take a gun in your hand you feel powerful. You feel a little less vulnerable. There is a little rush of adrenaline that says “Hey, bring it on world.” But examine that for a minute… What power do you have? When you take that gun into your hand, you have taken on the power to kill. To kill birds. To kill rats. To kill vermin. To kill animals. And to kill a person. The power rush is the power to kill and not be killed. That false invincibility is the sense that now you have an edge. Now you can kill. I personally don’t like having that power in my hands. It is uncomfortable. Can it be a useful skill? Yes. But it is still the power to kill.
In the movie Witness, an amish boy sneaks in and takes the gun of a police officer that the family is hiding from bad cops in Philly. The mother finds the boy pretending to shoot things and asks the grandfather to speak to him. The grandfather sits down with the boy on his knee and explains why it dangerous for him to have a handgun. “What you take into your hands, you take into your heart.” That is the power you take into your heart. The power to kill. We can call it the power to defend. We can call it the power to protect. And both those can be true. But both are derived from that original power- the power to kill. So, that is my bias. I am uncomfortable with guns. I don’t want to bring that feeling into my heart.
Now, if I sound like a naive peacenik who wants to do a kumbaya dance with Bambi, you should know, I don’t want to make all guns illegal. There are legitimate and worthy gun holders and gun users. The bad guys do have guns and our police must carry them. Hunting is a legitimate use of guns, and necessary to the health of the environment. I don’t want to banish all guns. But there is simply no reason why we all need to be able to buy any kind of gun we want at any time we want and any kind of ammunition we want. No legitimate reason at all. It can be regulated just like speech. We can’t yell “FIRE” in a movie theater, and we shouldn’t be able to buy assault rifles or ‘cop-killer’ bullets.
This debate has been highjacked by people ranting about the Second Amendment who couldn’t give a shit about our freedoms. They didn’t oppose the misnamed patriot act. They don’t care about our freedom of religion. They don’t give a crap about miranda warnings, or any of our currently threatened freedoms. They care about money.
So when horrific events like Newtown happen, they decide that the answer isn’t less guns and violence. They say the answer is to arm the teachers, arm the students, arm the world.
This is what this looks like:
Before you think I pulled this from some crazy place to exaggerate the NRA’s position, this was a photo published in National Review defending the NRA’s position. They don’t see anything wrong with this image. This looks all american. This looks good to them.
The reason it looks just fine in their eyes is what they are really seeing is:
All the NRA cares about is helping gun manufacturers make money. There is nothing else that they care about. They would trample the second amendment in a chicken fart if they thought that it would help them make money. NRA should actually stand for New Revenue through Arms. They think nothing of turning our children into soldiers on the ground. For them, it is just a new customer base, just another revenue stream.
There is no difference between those that would arm our children and those that force children into military servitude. Want some examples? How about the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda? Or Hezbollah, the Shi’a militant organization in Lebanon?
They are all exactly the same. They are all about teaching children to use the power to kill. They are all about teaching our children that violence is the answer. To have violence beget violence beget violence.
The are all about encouraging our children to take that power into their hearts. And they are salivating over the profits.
The power to kill comes at a price. Our soldiers, all trained to kill, have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in record numbers. They are also committing suicide more often than they are being killed by the enemy. Why? Most often they say that they can’t live with what they have done- They can’t live with having killed. Is this the price we want all our children to pay? Do we all want them to either live with the idea that they should know how to kill or to have to figure out how to live once they have killed? Do we want to turn our schools into militarized zones, and our students into soldiers?
Recently, I was listening to a podcast that Krista Tippet did with Maria Tater, a scholar who studies the ideas and shifting nature of fairy tales and how that reflects societies. (On Being – Krista Tippett) During the discussion, they brought up the popularity of dystopian literature for young adults, particularly The Hunger Games . During the discussion, Maria makes the comment that instead of stories about children struggling to grow up, we have stories about children struggling to survive. Stories about children thrust into kill or be killed situations in the name of wealth and power. But I actually think these are stories about children struggling to have childhoods. Who have their innocence stolen from them as the realities of poverty and violence are manipulated by those with wealth and power.
So, the question comes down to what kind of society we want. Do we want our children in the world where they must struggle just to stay children? Where violence rightfully begets violence? Where money is the most important god? Where we turn our childrens hearts towards the power to kill? Where we are happy to have them carry that burden?
If so, then prepare yourselves. Because in that world, it makes sense that a sociopath would enter a room and slaughter six year olds. Afterall, if the six year olds have guns, they have the same power to kill, right?
I don’t want that world. I want a world where that kind of callousness is shocking and unimaginable- because it should be. I want a world where we prize our children’s innocence and safety. I want a world where we don’t bow to the power of the market as a barometer of freedom and goodness. I want a world where we can speak about these things and recognize exactly what we are speaking about.
I don’t know anyone from Newtown. I don’t know the parents of the children or the teachers that lost their lives or the family of the murderer. My only connection to the entire tragedy is that I know children that I love and I don’t want them to grow up thinking that they must take the power to kill into their hands or hearts just to feel a little bit safe. Cause- c’mon- in that world, they will never feel safe and never have a childhood.
I was recently reading Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly. If you haven’t heard of Brene Brown, she is a researcher on shame and vulnerability that has given two amazing talks on TED. (if you don’t know TED, google it and listen. Well worth it!) Anyway, Brene was such a smash her TED talk has had 6 million hits and she now calls herself, jokingly, “Vulnerability TED, the action hero”.
Anyway- I digress.
She has a chapter in her book where she is talking about true vulnerability and how to achieve it. She says that trust is a necessary element of vulnerability. That to be truly vulnerable you have to trust, but that to trust you have to allow yourself to be vulnerable.
So, I have friendships that have grown stronger because I have been vulnerable and that vulnerability has been answered with trust, understanding, love, support, kindness. Most of the important losses that I have had in my life have had to do with a lack of vulnerability, or feeling that vulnerability was too great a weakness. All my greatest regrets have to do with my unwillingness to be vulnerable.
In her book Brene compares building trust to a marble jar. As you are vulnerable and people do the things that build trust with you (keeping promises, sharing secrets, remembering important events, cheering for your success) you will deposit more marbles in the jar. If you feel like people haven’t acted in good faith, then marbles begin to come out of the jar. My biggest marble loser is when I feel like someone is secretly happy when i fail or have bad moments. That is sort of the definition of “frenemy”. I can’t stand people like this, and I have had a few in my life. Not many lately, but some have frenemenic (made up word) behaviors. You just get the sense they don’t cheer for you or hope for you. Marbles go fast…
Lately, I have had a few friendships that have faded. In fact, I had one where the person told me early on that she thought I said mean things about other people so she didn’t want to tell me about herself. That is certainly understandable. Although I doubt what I said was with any ill intent to anyone else, I can see why it would raise concerns and red flags. The funny thing is that this person has told me more negative things about more people than anyone else I have met in a long while, which makes me think this is also a bit of projection. So, lost marbles?
Now, I bitch a lot about small things. Sometimes I do it cause I am frustrated and need to vent. Sometimes I just think that it is funny because life is absurd. And sometimes I have a real problem. But I never do it to find a solution. Ever. I never share my foibles, fears, whatever, looking for a fix. First of all, I am bitching because I have thought about it. And when I have a real problem, what I really want is just someone to hug me. And that is tough, cause there don’t seem to be a lot of huggers out there. I mostly don’t need advice. I have thought through the issues many times. There is rarely an issue that I haven’t looked at from many many sides and ideas. Sometimes I think that is the problem as much as anything. 🙂 So when I am vulnerable the last thing I need is someone who spouts solutions. I need someone to understand. I need someone to know how I feel. I don’t feel alone because I don’t know the solution. I feel alone because it seems like I am experiencing something alone.
This has made my relationship with M kind of interesting. Luckily, he is a fairly empathetic person in general. He gets it. BUT he is also a Mr. Fixit. He just has to fix things. He can’t help himself. I have had to look at him and say- “sweetie, I know you are fixing it, but I can fix it. I need you to listen and hug me.” The good part is he mostly laughs and says ok and hugs me. But then he also says “now, can I please go fix it”, which makes me laugh and I say fine and let him go fix what he can. The only thing that saves us is the understanding that we can say directly what we need. This saves our marbles.
Now, I have examined my faith in G-d a lot lately (not my religion, my personal faith) and I realize, I don’t trust God. It isn’t that I doubt his existence. And I actually trust Christ, which is pretty interesting considering that M is jewish. (but that is another post). I don’t trust G-d the father. I tried. I invested lots of marbles there. I felt like I was very vulnerable to him, but without much in return. My marble jar with G-d is empty. I haven’t felt a return on my vulnerability. I haven’t felt like G-d kept his promises to me, or that by living a certain way I was getting certain blessings. There is a proverb- “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and he will direct thy paths”. I tried to trust in the Lord. I asked what the path should be. And I came to the conclusion that G-d couldn’t care less about my paths. I have never felt direction for my path in any way.
You know when I started feeling hope about my path? Pretty much came to the end of my marbles, said screw it, threw it to the wind. I don’t know my path. I don’t know what is next. BUT since then I have moved, tried, fallen in love, been hurt, been happy, been alive.
I am vulnerable to the world and filling my jar, but only after I lost my marbles.
Actually, my passion isn’t business. It is politics. World politics. American party politics. Political natures. Politics of art. Politics of music. Politics of religion, relationships, marriage, business. I don’t like to practice politics (in fact it sometimes makes me sick) but I can’t help being fascinated. The things that drive the polis, the people; that is what my mind is into.
So at the moment I am thinking and reading about hair. Why hair? Well, like a good New Yorker, I was reading The New Yorker a couple of weeks ago. (btw- I have read it for years, but now that I live in new york I got a subscription. Actually it was a gift from M for my birthday. anyhoo, tangent…) There was a story on the affects of the Arab Spring, and the Egyptian revolution in particular, on Egyptian women and the new pressures to wear the hijab (head scarf) since the ascension of the Muslim Brotherhood. Although it hasn’t been encoded into law, there is evidently a strong populist movement that is threatening and making it extremely uncomfortable for women to be seen without it or for it to be too bright. This is the whole country, but it is a growing sentiment. One of the women in the article was quoted that it wasn’t about modesty, it was about power. Well, of course it is.
If we have learned anything from the last election, it was that women’s bodies continue to be (and may always be) inherently political. Why? They birth the polis. The hand that rocks the cradle controls the world… so to speak. The more that women are controlled by men the more men feel they have real power. The more women loose the controls, the more political power they have.
Which leads me to my next point… SO, reading about hair, I have learned that blonde is considered more feminine, while brunette is considered more rational. (Never mind that I object to those to being considered opposing… irked) And if you want to be successful outside the home, your hair should be darker, shorter, straighter, ie.. more masculine.
And I realized once again- my rational, analytical, creative, incisive brain (I flatter myself) is in a body that people see as fun, silly, traditionally sexy. Never mind that this is a stupid opposition- as if fun and silly and analytical were complete opposites. This is not the human condition. We are never either/or. BUT, back to my discovery.
I am a short (5 foot), curvy (38, 29, 36), curly haired natural blonde with blue eyes. I should be MM or BB or at least DD (doris day, is it weird that so many sexy blondes have names that have repeating initials? I should be either RR or MM, I guess…) I am built for fun. As I call myself, I am fun size. ( I do flatter myself a lot here. Many would consider me heavy or even fat, but oh well- size 8 here when I should be a size 4. whatever) But the ideas that the curl or color of my hair, the shortness of my stature, or the size of my boobs has anything whatsoever to do with the abilities of my brain is just… well, absurd. This is not a new idea to me. I have been accused of being inherently less virtuous simply because I have big tits. (yes I use the word on purpose here) I have had to lower my voice to be taken seriously. I have found that wearing my hair straight, and wearing glasses gets me more respect in meetings.
And that brings it back to power. After all, establishing these rules, these norms is about controlling a narrative, about establishing fitness for leadership, and about power. Whoever establishes the rules, defines what makes someone look right or not, controls the dress, controls the image, controls the sense of it all, they control the story.
Well, I am upending this story. I am about to conquer the world in my short, round, curvy, fat-assed, curly-headed body. If no one lets me have a seat at the table cause I don’t seem to portray certain things- well, watch me build my own table.
I am done with the power structure imposed on my by either men or women. 🙂 And to the women in Egypt, may I just say- REVOLT!