“After all, you know there are days
when even thirst runs dry
and prayer’s lips harden.” ~ Adam Zagajewski, from “Tierra del Fuego,”
Wednesday afternoon. Sunny, hot and humid, 94 degrees.
Last night I had this very intricate dream in which I was retelling a family history story to a friend, something that my mother had told me. I was using letters, news clippings, and photographs that were in an old trunk. I kept getting facts wrong and forgetting key players. I was very frustrated because I hadn’t written down what my mother had told me, and now it was too late to ask her.
It had something to do with a great great grandparent owning an old hotel in Norfolk. There was a criminal involved, and a distant relation that no one knew about. It was actually a pretty good story. Wish I could remember more.
Anyway, it’s hot as blazes, too hot to go outside because my head is exploding. I had a wonderful conversation with my legal representative, the one who is going to be at the Social Security hearing with me in August. This is my second go round on the hearing route. That I am underwhelmed at the prospect is an overstatement. This whole thing taxes me mentally and physically, but hey, some person with a list can sit there and say what jobs I can do, and I can’t say a thing, can’t make the argument that not a single employer out there is going to want to hire someone who cannot give 100 percent, someone who is guaranteed to have to call out of work frequently because of pain issues . . .
whatever . . .
I have sat here for four hours, going back and forth between this supposed post and my e-mail, my tumblr, and comparative shopping on different sites for water weights. The fact is I just cannot turn this into a post, no matter how hard I try. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, it’s that I have too much to say, but so much of it involves other people, and I just don’t feel that I can talk about some of these things here even though I really, really need to talk about a lot of these things.
Suffice it to say that my head is rumbling at about a point 5 on the Richter scale, even after giving myself one of those painful shots. The glare from the screen is making me squint, which isn’t helping my head. And I am no further along in making words flow than I was when I started, so . . .
whatever . . .
Music by Banks, “Waiting Game”
Who Needs Us?
The quiet, the bitter, the bereaved,
the going forth of us, the coming home,
the drag and pull of us, the tome and teem
and tensile greed of us, the opening
and closing of us, our eyes, in sleep,
our crematorium dreams?
The brush of us one against another,
the crumple on the couch of us,
the spring in our step, the sequestered dance
in front of the cracked mirrors of us,
our savage suffering, our wobbly ladders
of despair, the drenched seaweed-green
of our tipped wineglass hearts, our wheels
and guitars, white spider bites blooming
on our many-colored skins, the din
of our nerves, our pearl onion toes
and orangey fingers, our effigies
and empty bellies, our plazas
of ache and despair, our dusky faces
round as dinner plates, our bald pates,
our doubt, our clout, our bold mistakes?
Who needs the footprints of us,
the glimpse of us in a corridor of stars,
who sees the globes of our breath
before us in winter, the angels
we make in the stiff snow,
the hack and ice of us, the glide
and gleam and busted puzzle of us,
the myth and math of us,
the blue bruise and excuse of us,
who will know the magnified
magnificence of us, could there be
too many of us, the clutch and strum
and feral singing of us, the hush of us,
who will hear the whisker of silence
we will leave in our wake?
“Sometimes it is the smallest thing that saves us: the weather growing cold, a child’s smile, and a cup of excellent coffee.” ~ Jonathan Carroll
Wednesday early evening. Sunny and mild, 59 degrees.
I must admit that I was shocked to receive the notice from the WordPress people that my blog is five years old. I really had no idea. That first year, my posting was erratic, with a total of only 135 posts, with just two in that first February of 2008. By the end of the year I was posting almost regularly and beginning to hit my stride. In fact, I’m not even ashamed of most of that first year’s posts, which is saying something.
Blogging was a new beast for me, and I only got into it because of a professor who gave us the assignment to create a website of some sort for his class. It was a very open-ended assignment, and several people in the class opted for WordPress blogs. Not being familiar with WordPress, I went the difficult route of purchasing a domain name and paying for hosting. I remember those initial attempts at coding my own site not at all fondly. It was painful, and the end result was . . . pitiful.
After noticing the WordPress address in other people’s assignments, I finally got a clue and moved to a platform that did the coding for me, provided me with options for layouts and widgets and all of that good stuff, and I have had no desire to move since. It’s a good fit for me: ridiculously easy at the best price of all—free. I am forever thankful that there are people out there who like to code and even more, who like to share that coding with those of us who can’t.
“Make voyages. Attempt them. There’s nothing else.” ~ Tennessee Williams from Camino Real
So when I began this blog, what did I hope for, what did I expect? I don’t know. I remember being excited beyond belief the first time that someone actually commented on a post. This is wonderful, I thought. Someone out there found me and read me. How cool is that? And then when that stats counter went past 100 hits, I wanted to break out the champagne. One hundred hits! One hundred!
They like me. They really like me, a la Sally Field.
Okay, then I came back to earth when I realized that people were getting that many hits in one minute, when I saw that there were people with hits in the millions. Ooh, blog envy. It’s not a pretty thing, and that first year I was filled to the brim with envy. Why couldn’t I glam onto a phenomenon like Mudflats, or some such thing, and be propelled into the blog elite? I know, I know. Petty.
Really though, I guess what I wanted was to be able to say anything that I wanted, without fear of repercussion or ridicule, and I wanted people to read me, and okay, I wanted them to like me. It mattered, that whole liking thing. But then something quite unexpected happened: I began to enjoy myself. I found other people to read. I realized that I wasn’t such a strange bird, after all, and I began to care less about being liked and more about having something to say.
Year two (2009) saw me finding a groove, deciding on a format that incorporated quotes and images and trying to have an underlying theme with each post. And then when I began tumblr in June of 2010, I think everything kind of clicked: Here was the companion to my writing blog, a source for quotes and images to complement my words.
“I felt once more how simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else.” ~ Nikos Kazantzakis, fromZorba the Greek
And, well, here I am five years later. And here are some of the things that I have learned along the way:
People can be very supportive, surprisingly so.
Politics is very polarizing, and even on a personal blog such as mine, haters can be relentless in trying to make you see how very wrong you are about X or Y.
You can either ignore or engage haters, but be prepared for backlash.
If you are going to write about your life for all to see, you have to be mindful of the privacy of the other people in your life.
Not everyone has signed on to make an appearance in your blog, so don’t be surprised if they get upset when they do.
Cyber-stalking can be very disconcerting, regardless of how lame it might seem.
The best way to get readers is to be a reader.
The Golden Rule applies in blogs: If you don’t want people to steal your content, make sure you are just as judicious in attributing other people’s words and images. When in doubt, don’t use it.
Cite formal sources, or at least provide links to them.
Spam. Get used to it.
“What the river was showing her now was that she could flow beyond the brokenness, redeem herself, and fuse once more.” ~ Ursula Hegi, from Stones from the River
Blogging has been a lifeline for me in so many ways, helping to keep me sane (somewhat), and grounding me, giving me that tether to the outside world, especially now that I am less in the world than I used to be. A few observations:
In such an unreal setting, I have made some very real connections, and I have met people through this blog with whom I would love to share a cup of coffee and some cake.
As the world has become more connected via cyberspace, we have become less connected physically, depending upon computers, tables, and phones to do what we used to do face-to-face.
I recognize that this shift is actually good for some people, particularly those who stay close to home, for whatever reason.
There are people out there who I may never ever meet who actually care about my well-being.
Grief is a subject to which people can relate; this astounds me because the first time I thought about writing about my ongoing battle with grief, I really wondered if to do so was such a good idea.
Dogs always make for good copy.
There are still some subjects that I cannot quite bring myself to broach. You may find this surprising.
I will occasionally self-censor.
“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” ~ Edward Abbey
The other aspect that I want to address is that of the act of writing itself. I know that I go on and on about not finishing my novel, about not having an agent, about not being a real writer (whatever that is) . . . and all of this is yet another prime example of how I don’t believe in myself enough, how I am my own worst enemy. With that in mind, I thought I’d force myself to do a bit of analysis:
I spend at least two hours on each real post, i.e., not the Jon Stewart Videos or reposts from other people. Two hours.
My posts average 1500 words.
Inevitably, I learn something new with each post, whether it is discovering a new artist, or coming upon a new place, or even reading a new quote by someone I had not heard of before.
For me, each post poses a tacit agreement with my audience: I will do my best to impart some kind of information, and with any luck, that information will touch you in some way, either making you laugh, or making you pause, or making you want to read more.
I take great care in ensuring that my writing is grammatically correct because these words reflect me. If I cannot be careful with language, then what is the point?
Even though it may seem like it sometimes, I don’t believe that there is any such thing as a throw-away post; even if I’m just posting an image, I try to make that image reflect my state of mind.
The blog is about choices, from the very small (what color to use for the headers) to the very big (what to use for my title), and in between, (does this image reflect what I’m thinking?)
Good, bad, or indifferent, I put myself out here, over and over again, and I don’t regret it a bit.
By the way, this is post 1200. Thanks for sticking with me through the years. Thank you for commenting, for sending me e-mails and cards, for enabling my chocolate addiction. Thank you for five years. I wonder if there will be five more.
like this morning, when the wild geese came squawking,
flapping their rusty hinges, and something about their trek
across the sky made me think about my life, the places
of brokenness, the places of sorrow, the places where grief
has strung me out to dry. And then the geese come calling,
the leader falling back when tired, another taking her place.
Hope is borne on wings. Look at the trees. They turn to gold
for a brief while, then lose it all each November.
Through the cold months, they stand, take the worst
weather has to offer. And still, they put out shy green leaves
come April, come May. The geese glide over the cornfields,
land on the pond with its sedges and reeds.
You do not have to be wise. Even a goose knows how to find
shelter, where the corn still lies in the stubble and dried stalks.
All we do is pass through here, the best way we can.
They stitch up the sky, and it is whole again.
“They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” ~ Andy Warhol
Tuesday afternoon. Hot and hazy.
The house is mercifully silent. Everyone left for Busch Gardens this morning, and they are not expected back until this evening sometime.
I love having the kids home, but I also love my silence, love hearing nothing but my playlist in the background, the tick of the clock, and the occasional sound of puppy paws on hardwood floors. Silence is seriously underrated.
I have always been this contradictory: While I loved being around groups of people and talking for hours, I also valued the time I spent alone, reading or writing. Perhaps that’s why being an only child did not bother me except upon those rare occasions when I felt I needed an older sibling, never a younger one, and since older was impossible, I remained an only.
Of course, the big drawback to being an only child is that your parents focus entirely on you—good or bad, though to be quite honest, I was a very good child. We won’t discuss my teen years, in which I was a terror, as most teens are.
A friend of Alexis’s who is a few years older, has a daughter who is 12. That is so hard to imagine, mostly because she is a contemporary of my daughter, but also because I remember when Alexis was 12. She was still sweet and smart and had not yet decided that she wanted to be neither as that was just too predictable. My Uncle Nick used to comment all of the time how Alexis’s name was on the marquis of her middle school every other week. He would see it and call my mother as he was bursting with pride. She won science fairs, literary contests, you name it.
That all ended with high school . . . It’s as if their hormones build to explosive levels between 11 and 13, and then all hell breaks loose. Overnight you become stupid simply because you are the parent. Overnight they become omniscient, simply because they are teenagers. I do not envy teens and that raging imbroglio that is adolescence. It’s too bad that a TARDIS cannot truly move people from one time to the next, skipping all of the angst in between, but of course, if that were so, how would we ever learn?
“All night love draws its heavy drape of scent against the sea and we wake with the allure of earth in our lungs, hungry for bread and oranges . . . We are sailors who wake when the moon intrudes the smoky tavern of dreams, wake to find a name on an arm or our bodies bruised by sun or the pressure of a hand, wake with the map of night on our skin, traced like moss-stained stone.” ~ Anne Michaels, The Passionate World
Last night I had a very strange dream: I was walking down Hampton Boulevard with a backpack. I had left ODU and my office there without my car as I was quite upset. I was sharing an office with Mari and some other people from the old days, and Mari was acting horribly towards me. She walked away as I was speaking to her, and she said, “I have no desire to drink tea with her.”
So I began the long walk home (to my parents’ house), which is a walk that I take often in my dreams. It’s about seven miles or so, along busy streets, but for some reason, I walk this route often. In the dream, I arrive at the crossroads of Little Creek Road and Hampton, and I stop to repack my stuff. As I’ve walked, I’ve accumulated more stuff, and it has become quite heavy.
I’m in a flea market/antique store, and I spread all of my things across this mattress to try to decide what I should keep and what I should leave behind/donate. I decide to call my father to pick me up from my current location, and amidst my things, I find my old pink razor phone. I put off making the call until I’ve sorted through everything.
Then the surroundings morph into a more exclusive antique shop, and another woman from my past is there, and she is suggesting that we go ahead and take some of the antiques that belong to a female museum patron. I tell her that I don’t think that’s a good idea, but she starts taking things off the shelf. Meanwhile, my black lamb has gotten loose.
Fast forward a bit, and my museum director is there, and he wants to know if I’ve stolen any of the antiques. I tell him that the only thing that I took from the shelf was something that the woman had given me. I ask where my mother is, and he says that she’s being questioned. I walk down a hall and fling open a glass door to find my mother sitting at a boardroom table with about five other people, one of whom is the owner of the antiques. I declare that my mother will not be answering any more questions without an attorney.
Then the officials in the room bring in a container and begin removing antiques and placing them on the table. They ask me about each piece, and I tell them that I do not know how they got into the container, even though I know that the woman from my past took them. They accuse me of taking them, and I tell them that it wasn’t me.
I leave and push my now-packed suitcase before me down the road, crying that they hadn’t believed that I did not steal anything.
Weird, very weird.
“The lake is quiet, the trees surround me, asking and giving nothing.” ~ Margaret Atwood, “Surfacing”
After I finish this post, I’m going to float in the pool a bit with the puppies. Then I plan to work on the bedroom some more; we still need to switch the night stand and move the old trunk into the living room, and for that I will need Corey. Almost everything else in the shuffle has been done. Unfortunately, once again the dining room table has become a repository for those things left misplaced, so that means another few hours cleaning the table and sorting through old mail and various other things.
Oddly enough, Eamonn said that he wanted to cover the one wall that still shows writing on it. I think that he does not want his new girlfriend to visit and see all of the notes from other girls, i.e. “xxx luvs eamonn” (fill in a name, as there are several). Actually, I’m thinking of using a dark color on just this particular wall and then white on everything else. I’ll have to ponder that a bit more.
What is interesting is how both of my sons are now taking an interest in refurbishing the house, when just a few years ago they really didn’t care. Brett even made the offer to Corey a few nights ago to contribute some of his savings to help finish the renovations, but Corey told him that that money was his and that he should keep it in his savings for if and when he decides to move out. It was a very sweet offer, but not one that we would feel at all comfortable in accepting.
“Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
Let’s see . . . what else is on my plate at the moment? There is so much, yet so little. I have rebates that I need to send, a few official requests, other types of paperwork. It’s all so mundane. Given the choice between alphabetizing my CDs (yes, I still use CDs as I do not have nor do I want an mp3 player) and doing paperwork, it’s no contest—the CDs.
And, oh yes. I do alphabetize and categorize my music and my movies—drama/action, science fiction, history, comedy, documentary. Doesn’t everyone?
When my books weren’t all packed in boxes, they were also alphabetized and categorized: poetry, fiction, non-fiction, art, etc. I love organization in certain aspects of my life, and I abhor organization in others. Well, let me explain: It’s not that I abhor it, but performing the actions necessary to keep those aspects organized is so taxing and unsatisfying.
As I’m typing, Tillie is napping on Eamonn’s bed. It’s her new favorite spot. Just a bit ago, she was remonstrating me quietly, trying to get me interested in going outside. When I ignored her, she went to sleep. It’s funny how much like a toddler she is: all play all of the time . . . unless it’s time for a nap.
I wonder what the black lamb in my dream meant?
“There is immeasurably more left inside than what comes out in words.” ~ Fyodor Dostoevsky
I’ve been contemplating what I wrote yesterday. It’s still with me. I’m not certain that I did a good job of explaining myself.
Yesterday I found myself self-censoring again. And that really bothers me. I do not say all of the words that have built up inside me as I worry how these words will be taken out of context and used against me. I had thought that I had moved beyond that, but as yesterday witnesses, I have not, but I know that I must move past this, move beyond this feeling that someone out there is watching my every move, just waiting for me to stumble, even though that is the reality.
I grow weary of this non verbal tug-of-war. I tire of the incessant vexing nature of it.
When I was in high school, I took my first psychology course. Of course at that time, Freud still held a great deal of sway in the field, and I learned all about the id, ego, and superego, about the theory of the Oedipal and Electra complexes, and while all of this information was vastly interesting, the key thing that I took away from that course was this: there was an actual name for people who vacillated wildly between low and high mood swings: manic depression (or as we know it today: bipolar mood disorder).
I cannot tell you how much better it made me feel to know that other people jumped between highs and lows, that it wasn’t just me.
You see, at that time I had never seen a therapist, had not been put on any kind of medication. And as a result, I used to find myself suddenly in tears, or just as suddenly, filled with this unabating energy. My close friends called me moody, which I suppose was apropos. My parents called me sensitive. When in fact I was suffering from a true disorder, one that had been studied, one that had been named.
When I say that I wouldn’t want to be a teenager again for anything, this is one of the reasons why: To be filled with raging hormones, and to be prey to mood swings over which I had no control, and to be told that it was “growing pains”—can you even begin to imagine my frustration? Of course, were it a few hundred years ago, I would have been thought to be possessed by demons and tried for witchcraft.
Small favors, I say.
Anyway, I was going to mention this tidbit yesterday, but I didn’t. I hit the backspace key and erased the words, made it appear as if they had never existed. But they did exist, and to delete them simply because I do not want to supply more fodder to my stalker is cowardice, at least, that’s how I view it. And one thing that I am not is a coward.
I face what comes my way unflinchingly. Does this mean that I do not feel fear? Of course not. But as Shakespeare put it in Henry V, “back into the fray”:
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect; (III,i)
More later. Peace.
Music by Amos Lee, “Colors”
*All images can be downloaded as wallpapers.
Things I Didn’t Know I Loved: After Nazim Hikmet
I always knew I loved the sky,
the way it seems solid and insubstantial at the same time;
the way it disappears above us
even as we pursue it in a climbing plane,
like wishes or answers to certain questions—always out of reach;
the way it embodies blue,
even when it is gray.
But I didn’t know I loved the clouds,
those shaggy eyebrows glowering
over the face of the sun.
Perhaps I only love the strange shapes clouds can take,
as if they are sketches by an artist
who keeps changing her mind.
Perhaps I love their deceptive softness,
like a bosom I’d like to rest my head against
but never can.
And I know I love the grass, even as I am cutting it as short
as the hair on my grandson’s newly barbered head.
I love the way the smell of grass can fill my nostrils
with intimations of youth and lust;
the way it stains my handkerchief with meanings
that never wash out.
Sometimes I love the rain, staccato on the roof,
and always the snow when I am inside looking out
at the blurring around the edges of parked cars
and trees. And I love trees,
in winter when their austere shapes
are like the cutout silhouettes artists sell at fairs
and in May when their branches
are fuzzy with growth, the leaves poking out
like new green horns on a young deer.
But how about the sound of trains,
those drawn-out whistles of longing in the night,
like coyotes made of steam and steel, no color at all,
reminding me of prisoners on chain gangs I’ve only seen
in movies, defeated men hammering spikes into rails,
the burly guards watching over them?
Those whistles give loneliness and departure a voice.
It is the kind of loneliness I can take in my arms, tasting
of tears that comfort even as they burn, dampening the pillows
and all the feathers of all the geese who were plucked to fill
Perhaps I embrace the music of departure—song without lyrics,
so I can learn to love it, though I don’t love it now.
For at the end of the story, when sky and clouds and grass,
and even you my love of so many years,
have almost disappeared,
it will be all there is left to love.
“That is why the bird sings its songs into the world as though it were singing into its inner self, that’s why we take a birdsong into our own inner selves so easily, it seems to us that we translate it fully, with no remainder, into our feelings; a birdsong can even, for a moment, make the whole world into a sky within us, because we feel that the bird does not distinguish between its heart and the world’s.” ~ Rainer Marie Rilke, “Notes on Birds”
Friday evening. Warm, not too humid. Possibility of storms.
Last night I dreamed of a vast field, green and yellow and a storm approaching from the distance.
Today I spent the longest time in the pool so far this season. Tillie and Shakes joined me, which meant that splashing ensued, but it was still quite peaceful. Everyone else was in the house, so it was just me, the dogs, and lots of birds. It’s nice when it’s just the dogs because when I fall off the raft or talk to myself about my belly, they just look and listen as if I’m talking about cookies.
The mockingbirds are back. As I floated, I watched two small mockingbirds attack a much larger crow. I love mockingbirds, not just for their songs, but also for their fearlessness. They are the rebel songbirds; I like that about them.
The blue sky was dotted with puffy cumulus clouds, and thankfully, no leaf blowers or chain saws were in earshot, so overall, it was a peaceful few hours, except for the hole in my raft. I bought two rafts at the discount store, and one has a hole in it already—it’s never been used. You get what you pay for, I suppose, but these will have to do for now.
As a result, I got the beginnings of a nice tan on my front, and nothing on my back. I’m not too fussed about it, though. It’s not as if anyone ever sees me.
“Has it ever struck you . . . that life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quickly you hardly catch it going? It’s really all memory . . . except for each passing moment.” ~ Tennessee Williams, The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore
Well, I had two doctors’ appointments this week. Have you ever had one of those doctors who just loves to do tests? My gastro guy has turned into one of those. He wasn’t always like that. We talked about the results from my last two tests, which essentially show the same things—my digestive system is whacked—and then he mentioned another test. I told him that I really didn’t think that it was necessary.
I think that I need to find a new gastro doctor. I mean, now that I’ve been poked and prodded from both ends, perhaps I can find someone who will now discuss treatment options with me instead of talking about more tests and referrals. This particular visit was part of the cause for my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day; that, and more peripheral drama.
My other doctor’s visit was with my PCP, who is also starting to sound like a broken record: It would be nice if we could get you off some of these medications . . .
Really? That never occurred to me. Which ones do you think I can do without? The pain medicine for my back? The cholesterol medicine? The headache medicine?
So she sent me to the lab to have more vials of my life blood sucked out, and I’m certain that she will not be happy with the results because I have yet to begin my exercise regimen. I know. I know. I really do need to at least walk, but it’s mighty hard to steel the self for three or four miles when the vision is impaired from squinting as a result of the jack hammer that is at work on the skull.
Just saying . . .
“I thought how true it was that the world was a delightful place if it were not for the people, and how more than true it was that people were not worth troubling about . . .” ~ Katherine Mansfield, Violet
The ongoing drama at my house is not really something that I feel comfortable talking about as it does not directly involve me. Rather, Corey and I are on the periphery of events that are unfolding, and our role is pretty much relegated to support. I’m fine with this, especially in this particular situation.
I’ve been pondering the concept of people in the past few days. You might find that a bit odd, but not really. I mean, so many people come and go in our lives, and I firmly believe that each person leaves a little something behind, even if it is only a brief memory of an afternoon, or a remembered line from a conversation, or a sense of keen dread when remembering certain individuals.
I will admit that I am one of those people who usually causes one of two reactions in people: either strong dislike or undying loyalty. I’ve wondered what it is about me that causes this, and most probably, it is because I tend to speak my mind. I have found that, especially in a certain types of men, this is not a trait that is welcomed in a woman, which only makes me more vocal.
But at the same time, I know that in the past, I got along better with men than with women. I have found—at least in the workplace—that a group of women always has a very specific dynamic: one of extreme competitiveness, either for real power or perceived power. It’s that whole clique formation thing, perhaps a carryover from high school and the concept of mean girls. I know that it’s one thing that I do not miss at all about working full time.
Women can be absolutely brutal to one another, and that saddens me. It truly does. When I was an undergraduate taking Women’s Studies courses, I remember a lot of discussions about the sociology and psychology of females and the unspoken need to one-up another woman who may or may not be a competitor. As in, for example, the Queen Bee Syndrome: the woman who reaches a position of power who then does everything she can to make sure that no other women get promoted (there is only room at the top for one).
“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” ~ Edith Wharton
I know that I’ve talked about these things before in this forum, but when I think back on some of the women I have left by the wayside in my own quest for fire, I am, most certainly, abashed. For example, I remember years ago when I managed the document production department for a government contractor. The art department was particularly troublesome.
The first graphic artist I hired was a seemingly nice woman. What I didn’t realize, even at the time, was that she was so insecure that anyone else I hired had to be willing to be subservient to her.
In my way of apology, it was my first time supervising so many people, and they were all female, until I hired a guy who had been in graduate school with me to work as an editor. Anyway, the senior graphic artist took a strong dislike to another artist I hired, and as a result, she (the first) took every opportunity to plant little tidbits of doubt in my ear. I was just naive enough to fall for it, and the end result was that the second graphic artist lost her job.
Now in my defense, she was habitually late and/or absent, so that was reason enough, but I never should have fallen prey to the constant brainwashing that X was really a terrible person, a bad artist, unproductive, ya da ya da ya da . . .
My point is this: I was stupid. The woman who reveled in spreading seeds of discontent was insecure, petty, and immature, and as a result, everyone lost.
“What horrifies me most is the idea of being useless: well-educated, brilliantly promising, and fading out into an indifferent middle age.” ~Sylvia Plath
I would like to think that such things would not happen now. I’m older, wiser, more patient, and less prone to be swayed by idle gossip and venomous rancor. I wish that I had had these traits when I was in my 20’s, but of course, hindsight proves to be the greatest teacher of all. I think back on myself at that time and how certain I was of everything, how unwilling I was to bend for fear it would be seen as weakness.
I love it when young women declare to the world, I am not afeminist. I would never want to be that kind of woman.
What is the old saying? Feminism is the radical notion that women are people too (I’m paraphrasing). So many women of my daughter’s generation view feminists as men-haters, as lesbians, as hairy-arm-pitted radicals.
If only they knew. I was in the second wave, after the bra-burners. But if not for women like me who did not allow men on the staff to pat my bum or to call me sweetie, women in their 20’s would not have half the gains they have in the workplace. Fifty-one percent of the population is female. The number of women on corporate letterhead is still growing.
Women are in politics, in the boardroom, in private practice; they are partners in prestigious firms, and they are chief of staff. No longer are women in the service confined to bedpans and bandages. They can fly fighter jets.
At the same time, feminism is all about choices: those women who choose to stay home and raise their children, those women who choose not to get married, those women who choose to have careers and families. And all of this is because of the radicals of the 60’s and early 70’s, and those of us who came after and picked up the baton.
“’How does distance look?’ is a simple direct question. It extends from a spaceless within to the edge of what can be loved. It depends on light.” ~ Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red
I remember that sometimes it really did feel as if we were fighting in the trenches, with our power suits, pumps and briefcases. Take us seriously—the unwritten banner across our chests.
I remember the male general manager who did not want to promote a woman on staff because he did not like her laugh. I remember the male executive who asked me to microwave his lunch. I remember the teacher who told me that I should seriously consider a career in politics. I remember wondering if it would ever get better.
It did. And I did.
What seemed so far in the distance to me when I was just beginning my career is no longer unattainable simply because of gender. Yet for all of it, women still seem to be hardest on other women, and I’m not talking about in the insane vernacular of real housewives women. For every male who stood in my way in the workplace, there was a female who did the same.
I wonder if it will always be that way. I wonder if that is an American socialization thing, or if it spreads throughout countries all over the world.
The computer is beginning to misbehave, and I haven’t even inserted my graphics yet, so let me close with this: A man asked Cher is she wasn’t a bit old to still be rocking. Cher replied, “You’d better ask Mick Jagger.”
More later. Peace.
Music by Grace Griffith, “My Life.” (Thanks, Leah in NC)
When I Am Asked
When I am asked
how I began writing poems,
I talk about the indifference of nature.
It was soon after my mother died,
a brilliant June day,
I sat on a gray stone bench
in a lovingly planted garden,
but the day lilies were as deaf
as the ears of drunken sleepers
and the roses curved inward.
Nothing was black or broken
and not a leaf fell
and the sun blared endless commercials
for summer holidays.
I sat on a gray stone bench
ringed with the ingenue faces
of pink and white impatiens
and placed my grief
in the mouth of language,
the only thing that would grieve with me.
“I believe fervently in the nature, in truth and imagination, I believe in the blood, in life, words, and motivations.” ~ Gael Garcia Bernal
Well, my computer is still broken. The part that Corey ordered did not fix the problem. Of course it didn’t because it cost less than $20. As is usually the case, the part that I probably need to fix the problem will cost much more. I don’t know for sure, though, because Corey cannot find the part I need (CPU fan) anywhere.
Surprised? Not really.
It’s Wednesday afternoon. The heat wave finally broke, and temperatures here are hovering around 90° F, about normal for this time of the year. Speaking of which, how did it get to be the end of July? The fact that I am constantly surprised by how late it has gotten never ceases to surprise me, but you would think that I would have grown accustomed to the incongruity of time passages by now.
Anyway . . . the sun is shining with a few puffy clouds scattered about in the sky. The Jack Russells are currently asleep beneath the chair in which I sit, so I suppose that all should be right with the world, but it is not.
This past Sunday night, Alexis called me to let me know that one of her best friends, Jennifer, with whom she works at the thrift store, had been admitted to the hospital. Alexis said that the doctors had found three brain tumors in Jen’s brain. I had to wait to write about this as it really threw me.
“It is dark inside the body, and wet,
and double-hearted. There are so many ways
to go, and not see, and lose
the feeling of the thread…
and never reach the fabled center.” ~ Larissa Szporluk
Of course, this is not about me and my reactions, but at the mention of brain tumors in a young woman of 26, I found myself once again railing at the injustices of fate. Jennifer has a five-year-old son named Reilly, who she absolutely adores. She is a single mother who works hard. She is also one of the nicest people I have ever met.
When Alexis was much younger, I was a bit wary of Jennifer because he family is so dysfunctional, but I realized that it doesn’t really matter what kind of family you come from as it matter more what you do with yourself on your own. I mean, I always thought that I would never have any problems with Alexis because we have tried so hard to give her a normal upbringing, whatever that is. I mean, a home, food on the table, values—but that did not stop her from unexpectedly running wild in high school and causing me endless heartache at the time.
So I suppose that what I am saying is that I initially misjudged Jennifer. Now she is faced with a great unknown, and her biggest concern is not her own health, but her son’s reaction. Then earlier today, Alexis phoned me to tell me that the latest tests show five tumors, not three: three in her brain, two on her spine.
Five tumors. Twenty-six-years old. A five-year-old son. No health insurance. To try to pinpoint the worst aspect of this situation is fruitless. It’s all bad, horribly, terribly bad.
“Come stand with me
under the summer shower –
healed of world-madnesses” ~ Paul Reps
Alexis has been taking Reilly to school in the morning before work and picking him up after. Jennifer’s younger brother is taking care of Reilly in the evenings. I told Jennifer that Reilly can come over here anytime someone is needed.
In the meantime, Alexis has diligently informed all of their mutual friends and kept them up to date. One of Jennifer’s dearest friends drove into town this morning.
No word yet on when the big operation will take place. No idea on whether or not any or all of the tumors are removable as the neurosurgeon won’t know until he cuts her open. And then, of course, the wait for the biopsy results on each tumor. There was some confusion today about what kind of operation she was being taken in for, but I told Alexis that if the estimated time is only an hour, then it’s not the big operation; more probably, the doctors are inserting a shunt to drain of some of the fluid build-up in Jennifer’s brain.
That I have this knowledge in my long-term memory is both a blessing and a curse. I can sit her on the sidelines and inform Jennifer and her friends and family about some of the things to expect. I can try to explain some of the tests to Jennifer so that she isn’t so stressed. But in the back of my mind, all I can think about is the day of Caitlin’s surgery, the hours and hours of waiting, taking Valium and hiding in a room away from all of the well-meaning people who had come to the hospital to support us. And more hours of waiting, only to be told the news and the prognosis.
Five tumors. One tumor. Five times the chance of something going wrong.
Corey reminds me that Jennifer is a woman, much stronger than an infant. But by the time the tumors were found, she was already in a much-weakened state. You see, Jennifer has been sick for months. She has gone to a few doctors about her headaches. One told her that she was depressed and needed to eat bananas. None of them did a CT Scan or an MRI. She also went to an oral surgeon to remove an infected tooth, which everyone thought might be the main cause of her health problems as she had put off getting the tooth fixed because of the lack of insurance.
Eat bananas. I am reminded of other callous remarks tossed out so nonchalantly years ago by doctors denuded of compassion, and how I had enough rage to kill someone. There is rage again.
“Whatever our struggles and triumphs, however we may suffer them, all too soon they bleed into a wash, just like watery ink on paper.” ~ Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha
There is rage at fate and rage at life. Rage at injustice and those things over which was have no control. But mostly, for me at least, there is a sense of emotional rage at the fact that on top of everything else, Jennifer is lying in ICU wondering and fretting over how she will ever pay for her hospital stay, her medicine, her operations.
This young woman, who works for less than $9 an hour, who has no benefits, no sick leave, nothing, earns no money each day that she is out of work. Her job is not guaranteed, but I believe that the people for whom she works will hold her job. But the reality is not when Jennifer will be able to go back to work, but if. And then what? What does she do to exist if she is unable to work. She has no long-term disability coverage as I do. And as much as I bitch about how my coverage is menial, at least it is something.
It’s hard not to be angry at the world, not to want to call someone and just scream at them. Perhaps a Republican Senator who cannot wait to repeal Obama’s healthcare reform. After all, healthcare is provided for members of Congress, as well as their families. It is not provided for people like Jennifer, people on the fringes of society who are not layabouts, drug addicts, or welfare moms who are supposedly living on the comfort of unemployment and government assistance, or whatever other derogatory term is being bandied about.
Jennifer is one of those individuals who does not rely on other people or the government to provide for her, and look at where she is now. Try telling her and people like her how tax cuts for the wealthy are going to help.
I’m sorry. This wasn’t meant to be a tirade on politics, but it’s hard not to think about the bigger picture when someone you know is being engulfed by it. Jennifer isn’t just a statistic; she is not someone who falls into category A or category B on some political demographic chart used to measure the invisible part of American society—the part that drives ten-year-old cars that are falling apart and are glad just to have transportation, the segment that lives in questionable neighborhoods because the rent is more affordable but pizza deliveries are not available because of the danger, or the people who spend money not on nights out on the town or designer shoes.
Jennifer is a member of that group of single, working women who must budget one-fourth of her take-home pay for her son’s daycare in lieu of trying to get health insurance for herself and her son. And now she is part of that group that has the uninsurable pre-existing condition, that label that makes obtaining health insurance well-nigh impossible.
So yes. There is rage.
And so we all wait, each of us in our own fashion. We wonder what news the days will bring, and we try not to think of possibilities.
More later. Peace.
Music by Sia, “I Go to Sleep” (originally by The Kinks)