Monday, October 24, 2016
As a non-religious person* I feel as if religious people think me incapable of feeling awe over the world and life in general. They are, of course, wrong. I am humbled by life, by what evolved and by what we’ve created. I often find myself thinking about the immensity of what we’ve accomplished by moving away from sleeping under the stars to arrive at these highly structured and complex lives. How is it possible to not be able to fully comprehend that span of time and also feel as if was just yesterday?
I found myself once again marveling at that sense of progress when I picked up The Federalist Papers tonight. I vaguely remember “reading” (aka skimming) sections in high school so when I saw a used copy up for grabs a year or so ago I let nostalgia (and a sense of guilt) talk me into taking it home with me - where it’s sat on one bookshelf or another ever since.
Maybe it’s the sheer lunacy of this election that sparked a real interest a day or so ago, but whatever the reason, tonight I cracked open the yellowed cover and began reading the introduction.
I’d forgotten that the papers were originally written as a series of letters to the public. If you’d asked me, I’m embarrassed to say I wouldn’t have been able to share that bit of information but as soon as I read that detail the high school history lessons came flooding back. Reading that made me wonder, will anything written today rise to the same level of prominence a hundred years from now? That isn’t me dismissing today’s scholars or thinkers.That is a genuine question; I’d like to be more in tune with think pieces on history, science, etc.
The question is more of a nudge for myself to be proactive and thoughtful about waking up the dormant curiosity about life that used to spur me to learn HTML/CSS, to read psychology journals just for the hell of it, for example. With the way this election is playing out (that Trump is a legitimate concern is mind blogging), it would be easy to dismiss the current populace as being less well read or learned but to do so would require a certain amount of delusion and hypocrisy - as much as I would like to think I shouldn’t be included in that statement I can’t say I’ve been doing a very good job of staying on top of what’s happening in the country, much less the world. I’ve been living an insulated life lately (let’s define lately as the last several decades, shall we?) and thinking about these three men (Hamilton, Madison and Jay) as being so dedicated, focused, and daring as to take on the grand, visionary task of starting a new government makes me ask, “What have I done lately?!?”
I’m certainly not thinking I’ll be the mother of a new nation, but at the very least I could afford to be a little more connected to what’s going on around me, to do a little more living outside of my head. It couldn’t hurt and could only help.
Also? This bit from the introduction written in this edition published in 1961 amused me given the current fame and popularity of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton:
The story of how Hamilton persuaded and plotted and bullied his way over the months to the narrowest of victories in the New York convention is an epic of American politics that deserves to be better known.
Mission accomplished. That line alone has made me want to see the musical more than every article I’ve read, every news clip I’ve seen about the many awards the musical has won. What can I say? I’m slow to understand what’s happening sometimes. See above about living more outside of my head. In its own way, I hear that the musical is awesome (in the truest sense of the word) so, in the pursuit of awesome things in this life and world, maybe I should see about tickets.
But maybe first I should buy a few scratch offs as I hear the tickets are not cheap!
*Perhaps when those of faith stop thinking of atheists as kickers of puppies and stealers of candy from babies I’ll be able to use the label for myself without the awkward contortions.
Sunday, October 23, 2016
Graduation night is memorable for two things. One, that I was allowed to go to an all night event. Without rehashing overly dramatic history please just trust me when I tell you that my mother allowing me to be out of the house past midnight, much less all night, was unprecedented. I probably told her it was required. Having immigrant parents who were unfamiliar with the American school system had its pros and cons. It’s curious that I don’t remember how I made this possible but I did. And that led to the second memorable thing.
“I have a present for you,” my history teacher said. I was surprised and happily took the present. He watched me unwrap the book and said he thought I would enjoy Barbara Kingsolver. Having never read her I wasn’t sure but it was my only graduation present so he could have given me a pack of gum and I would have been just as pleased.
“You’ll get the second present in the mail,” he continued.
“I don’t understand,” I said, confused and trying to remember if I’d ever given him my address. “What is it?”
I’m not known to be a patient person, this has always been the case so I couldn’t let it be. I think he finally understood because he told me he’d given me an A for the year.
“But I don’t deserve an A,” I said, thinking about my less than stellar third quarter grades.
“It was clear something was going on. And you’re capable of A work so I didn’t let one quarter affect that.”
I thanked him and the rest of the night is a blur. I didn’t have many friends so I think I wandered around watching people enjoying themselves, listening as they made plans for the summer or talking about going off to college.
I would be living at home while driving the short miles to attend classes at George Mason but that was a couple of months away. I had no idea then that it would take me fifteen years to complete my four year degree.
All I knew that night was that someone had noticed I had been floundering. That this teacher who valued my opinion, who listened when I participated in class, who patiently tried to answer my questions even on subjects and classes he didn’t teach, believed I was capable of better even when I myself didn’t.
I think and talk of him more than most people talk about their senior year civics teacher I’m sure. But he was a beacon during a time in my life when I needed those rays of light. I was fortunate to have had several good and a few great teachers in my life. He was the only one who ever acknowledged my pain, however. When you grow up being told you have no pain, that you are not allowed those feelings, when every other person believes you when you cheerfully say, “I’m fine!” - the one person who says, “I see you” is memorable.
This is why, some months back, I turned to Google to help me find him. I’d idly searched in the past with little luck. But when I found myself once again recounting the grad night story to a friend I decided it was finally time find him and share just how much that moment - well, the whole year - meant.
Using my much lauded (by me but that doesn’t make them any less good) search skills I finally found a quick bio on an old website. From there I discovered a Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. It looks like he stopped teaching a few years after I graduated which seems like a shame.
And here we are. I’ve drafted the email a dozen times over but haven’t gotten anywhere close to sending it. Conventional wisdom would have me believe he would enjoy hearing how much of a positive impact he had on my life at a time when I sorely needed positive interactions. But I can’t quite figure out how much of the story to share. Yes he noticed I was in pain but I didn’t volunteer the cause of it. So how to properly convey how much his kindness meant? If someone doesn’t know you’re in the middle of the ocean, tired, desperate, devoid of hope, will he understand the value of the lifesaver?
I don’t know. And so I write and edit and delete. I’ll send it one of these days. Until then, even if he doesn’t know it, I’ll continue to tell the story of the civics teacher who gave me more than a less than deserved A.
Wednesday, October 05, 2016
“He’s such a dork,” I said about someone today. The person who heard this laughed and laughed some more after I continued. “And that’s not meant in a negative way. I’m a dork,” I said.
This was proven yet again when I was reviewing the list of domains I own on GoDaddy and saw that I own muttering.rocks. Now, I immediately knew why I would have taken the time to buy it; as I’ve had it on the to do list for years now to move the Unconscious Mutterings game to its own domain (I also own unconscious-mutterings.com so the game isn’t lacking a home). What I don’t remember is actually purchasing the .rocks domain. Since it expires in February 2017, it’s a safe bet that I bought it this February but there is not a single teeny tiny whiff of a memory.
Back in the early 2000s I had upwards of 25-30 domains (but only used two of those at the same time, mind you). It was a dorky (see, it came back around) little game (though expensive) but among geeky internet folks buying domain names and sitting on them was a bit of a past time. (Of course, for some people it was an attempt at striking it rich when some big company came calling wanting to buy one from you. Never my intent; mine were so specialized for my interests that I would have been shocked if anyone had ever asked.)
The question, every year that a domain is about to expire is, “Do I still want to have this? What am I going to use it for? Will I ever use it?” Okay, three questions, or one with several parts. Either way we slice it, I tend towards keeping domains because some I’ve regretted letting go.
Such is the case for vain-girl.com. About a decade ago, I thought that maybe journaling about my attempts to lose weight and exercise would help the cause. I didn’t want to bore the regular readers (so cute, like there were many. But, there were more than one so readers is the right word!) of the blog so I decided to start a new blog at that domain. Thing is, it never really got much traffic so it was hard to maintain an interest without some outside accountability. So I stopped journaling and eventually let the domain lapse.
A year or so after that, a friend asked me if I still blogged at vain-girl.com. No, I said, why do you ask?
Because it’s a porn site now.
I paused and then asked, “It’s a porn site and you still felt the need to ask me if I was active on it?”
He shrugged and said, “Well, who knows with you?”
I laughed and called him a dork (it’s a theme!) and regretted that my pretty little domain was being used for such tawdry purposes. A year ago, on a whim I pulled up the domain on my browser and was elated to see that it was once again available! I rushed (how does one rush online?) to GoDaddy and brought the domain back into the fold. Funny how I recall that moment and that decision with such detail but muttering.rocks is such a mystery.
The brain, who can predict what will stick?
Monday, October 03, 2016
Sometimes seeing a news feed full of smiling happy babies, parents bragging about their kids, cute announcements about new pregnancies or photos of newborns in the quintessential baby blanket is too much to take in. When that happens I deactivate my Facebook account until I stop feeling so emotional. I don’t announce these breaks. For all of my joking about being self absorbed, about being my own favorite subject (all true, though, as most jokes are. I kid, I kid) I don’t like to call attention to those moments. What’s the point, really? There’s nothing to be gained by it. So I quietly go away and quietly come back. And rarely has anyone commented on that.
I was trying to explain Facebook to a friend the other day. Though she doesn’t have an account, she asked me if I’d seen a certain bit of news. “No,” I said, “I disabled my accounts weeks ago.” This prompted her to ask if anyone had reached out to see if something was wrong, if I was okay. I laughed, “No,” I said. “That’s not how Facebook works.”
I believe that and, yet, I also wonder, if I were closer to people, maybe it would work that way?
I remember when I started blogging back in 2000; back then, if you were someone who posted on a regular basis, not posting something for a few days, a week, would trigger at least one “Hey, are you okay?” email. It isn’t that I think people cared more but I do think having to actively visit blogs created a level of investment that News Feeds don’t provide. You had your list of ten, fifteen, twenty blogs that you made the rounds on, and you could get to the point where you felt connected to someone. How deep that connection truly was, of course, is a question.
But now, in the days of 5000 friends lists, and endless ability to follow or subscribe to content, the act of taking in information is more passive and impersonal, I think. “But,” she protested, “haven’t they noticed that you haven’t posted or liked an announcement?”
“I’m sure not,” I said. “That’s just not the way it works.”
Facebook has allowed me to stay in touch with friends and family in El Salvador in a way that hasn’t been possible in the past; for that I appreciate the service but it has its cons. Though, truly, when it comes down to it, I don’t blame the service entirely, or at all, really. If this tool isn’t the one I need right now, then it’s on me to use any number of other services at my disposal. And maybe I will. Or maybe I’ll just reactivate my account. It is strangely fascinating to me how little I’ve missed it this time around, and at three weeks and counting, this has been the longest break I’ve taken.
I’m not ready to see any cute babies, just yet though. So I’ll continue the self-imposed ban for a little while longer. Maybe I’ll even use the time I would have spent scrolling and commenting by tackling some of my unread books. Wouldn’t that be something?
Saturday, October 01, 2016
Are you ready to make fun of me, I asked?
Why, the friend replied.
That’s when I brought my arms forward and showed him the lovely wrist braces and shared that the doctor had diagnosed me with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
You’ve had quite a year, he said. I reminded him that it’s been quite the two years.
Last year basically started out with a diagnosis of cancer, it ended with a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis, which isn’t quite as (or at all) lethal but it’s painful as hell. If you haven’t had to deal with it, just trust me, it is. That lasted all the way through March of this year and now, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (or, CTS, if I may) on both wrists.
When the subject of my migraines comes up, I share with people that 20+ years of living with migraines has made me accustomed to being in pain but that doesn’t mean I get used to pain. So trying to get a good night’s sleep lately is basically impossible.
The hysterectomy had ripple effects that I’m still trying to cope with. The added pain issues don’t help; I don’t believe I get whiny when I’m in pain but I do get emotional and dealing with those moods takes a lot of mental energy. It’s draining on a lot of levels. But, such is life. At least, if I squint a bit and use a lot of imagination, I can make believe my wrist braces are more like Wonder Woman bracelets and I get to feel like I could take on any villain that gets in my way. Provided, of course, I don’t actually have to hit or block anything. That would be super painful!
Wednesday, September 28, 2016
I’ve always liked pretty clothes but I haven’t always felt worthy of buying them for myself. Then a job promotion four years ago forced the hand a bit; I felt I needed to upgrade my wardrobe in anticipation of a more visible role. With the lack of plus size clothing in stores I turned to shops online to fill the closet. This has had mixed results. Because I am
cheap thrifty, I rarely buy items at full price, choosing to wait, instead, for the sales. Often this means buying items during final sales which cannot be returned resulting in one of three things ... 1) the item fitting me just right, 2) the item being a tad small or, 3) the item being too big. The tad small items became aspirational and the too big items were destined for alterations.
Do you know how expensive alterations can be? I had no idea. After having two skirts altered I determined that that particular habit wasn’t something I could really do on any sort of regular basis. However, for a while I had no problems as I generally chose items that fit well.
Fast forward to spring 2015 (wait, is that a fast forward from four years ago or a rewind a year? Hmm, details. Moving on) when, after my hysterectomy, I went on a shopping spree that attempted to help me forget the cancer, hysterectomy, being left barren, etc. (Did I just etc the thing that still makes me cry every week? It appears I did. Go me!) When playing a numbers game, no matter the game, you end up with a higher probability of making mistakes. So, I ended up with way more un-returnable clothes than I had anticipated.
I didn’t really give it a lot of thought, however. I would wear the stuff the fit and put the rest in the closet. It wasn’t until I had to pack things for the recent move that I really got a sense of how much I’d bought and was unable to wear. I’d decided to donate big piles of clothes, many of the items still with tags or never worn, when I remembered that I’d seen someone on Twitter post something about shopping her closet. “Hmm,” I’d thought, “Maybe that’s something I should look into.”
That’s how I came to set up a “closet” on Poshmark, a site that lets you buy and sell new and used clothes.
I was happy when several of my items moved within a couple of weeks of listing them on the app but nothing’s moved for days now.
As with anything online, this probably requires more energy and time than I’m wishing to give to it. At some point, obviously, my inventory would die down as I don’t see this making me enough money to turn over my wardrobe on any kind of regular basis. But I can see how bargain shoppers could make some money out of buying things on sale in stores and then listing them online. Too much work, as I said. For now, especially with the December vacation coming up soon, I’m happy to make any extra money I can, especially when it doesn’t require more than listing items that are basically just taking up space on my shelves.
If you have things you no longer want to have your in your rotation you should check out Poshmark.
Thursday, September 22, 2016
On any platform, however, oversharing is considered taboo. Or else “awkward.” Awkward is a ubiquitous teen word to denote socially unsanctioned behavior. It usually implies first- or secondhand embarrassment when you or a friend step outside the rules. Awkward doesn’t sound overtly judgmental or negative; it’s deliberately vague.
The above comes from an article in Wired about teens and social media. I read it a day or two after posting my previous post. So I could do nothing else but laugh when I read that quote. The girls, I’m sure, if they were to ever see the raw, painful post about my wish for a baby would label it the very definition of awkward. I knew as I was writing it an subsequently deciding to post it that it would fall under the TMI side of most people’s scale but, for me, writing/blogging is about the raw and painful. It was never just about posting the bland, non-descript parts of the day to day. So, while I acknowledge that the previous post was full of angst, I’m more than okay with having posted it.
That self-consciousness is nothing I miss about growing up and growing into my own. I still have doubts, clearly. To paraphrase Steinbeck, “to be alive is to have doubts.” The trick is to figure out whether one should care about them or move on. That’s a life long lesson. Indeed.
Friday, September 09, 2016
If there has been a day when I haven’t thought of you, I don’t remember it.
I have considered your name
I looked forward to your hugs
And sticky hands making a mess on my clothes.
In my mind, I have decorated your room a dozen times over.
I had a closet full of toys that were meant to be passed down to you.
Three years ago I packed up a box full of them and sent them to someone who would hopefully love them as I dreamed you would.
The box also carried my tears.
How, I wondered, would I teach you two languages?
I always thought, I said today, I’d frame this map and hang it in my child’s room.
I dream of you over and over again,
The happiest moments are those early minutes of my day when you’ve not yet faded away.
People tell me, meaning well, that I shouldn’t give up waiting for you.
I kept a couple of toys for you just in case.
And I still consider names.
I have always thought of you.
And I wait.
Thursday, September 08, 2016
Not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton’s Humans of New York post resonated with me.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told I’m intimidating, intense, unapproachable, unsociable and, the always favorite, bitchy. All because I’m not built to be everyone’s best friend. At times I’ve thought (though not any time in the recent past), “I should be nicer, softer. More people might like me then.” And then I’d remember that I have no patience for being something I’m not.
It’s easy to say one shouldn’t be thin-skinned or that words don’t matter but they do. Now, do they have to matter for ever? No, obviously not but it takes effort at times to shake something off. Having a sense of humor has helped and embracing the term bitchy as well. You’ve heard me say or seen me write that I always feel like I’m too much and yet not enough. That sentiment certainly has its roots firmly grounded in a lifetime of having to navigate a world where I’m expected to be independent, competent yet quiet and pleasing.
But don’t worry. All of the above was typed while I had a huge smile on my face.
Monday, August 22, 2016
If typing in the wrong URL for the login page isn’t a sign that I haven’t been posting enough, I don’t know what is. As is usual, there are things I think about writing but to actually type the words, that seems like an insurmountable task…
But enough of that. Let’s write about something that has been rattling around in my head for a couple of weeks. A coworker and I were on the topic of childhoods and discipline and I decided I would share an anecdote with her. Despite the fact that I come off as being a sharer (and an oversharer, I’ve been told) I do hesitate to say some things. Talking about the way that I was disciplined growing up, or, giving actual details, that’s something I reserve for people with whom I feel comfortable. This particular moment happened when I was 9 or 10 and I had gotten into trouble over something. As I walked away from my mother I muttered “bitch” under my breath. I hadn’t meant for that to be overheard but overhear it she did. Before I knew it, I had been spun around and a hand was traveling across my face. The smack was hard enough that it cut open an eyelid. And here’s the part that’s been bugging me since I told this story a few weeks ago.
I couldn’t, you see, remember which eyelid was cut. I have a scar on an eyelid but it’s so small that it’s hard to see or feel now. I remember feeling embarrassed, as if I was making more of the moment than I needed to because the scar wasn’t big enough to locate without doing some close inspection.
The absurdity of that feeling, however, didn’t hit me until a few days later. And it reminded me of how normalized abuse is in my life, or the history of it, anyways. Thankfully I’ve been able to structure my life so that I’m long past that but the emotional scars are still there. At some point, a few days after the conversation, I found myself laughing at myself. “Oh, Patricia,” I thought, “really? You’re embarrassed about the fact that your scar wasn’t bigger? How about feeling something about the fact that you have any scar at all?”
That’s the insidious thing about abuse, the invisible thing that people just don’t understand unless they’ve lived through something similar. The scars heal, they may even look like they’ve disappeared, but the emotional impact of abuse, there’s no way to fully grasp that because often the person doing the surviving, the living, the moving on has no clue about how deep the chasms go. You think you’ve got a grasp on things and then a small moment of embarrassment reminds you of how sad, painful, and ludicrous your existence was at times.
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