Wednesday, August 24, 2016

What's so F'n great about being a girl?

“So, what’s so awesome about being a girl?”
My daughter can’t think of a thing.
And frankly, I’m coming up empty, too.

My dear son is just lying on the floor listening to his sis and me talking, he pretends not to hear but I know he hears us. He is very quiet, intent, he’s got those listening ears ON.

First, my daughter says something about how it sucks to have a period.

I have to concur. But because I’m a mom and my daughter is my daughter, I must also try to spin the whole period thing into something grand and beautiful. Moms have to say that shit. It’s in the Mom Rules, so I add that bit about the awe and how amazeballs it is to be able to have babies.  “But women can bring new life into the world!”

And my daughter says, “So you’re saying that women are special because they can have babies? What about women who don’t want to have babies? Are they worthless? If you define what’s good about being a woman in terms of reproduction, then women who choose not to have babies and women who are physically unable to have babies have no value. Do you really want to go there, Mom?”

And I have to admit that NO. I do NOT want to go there. I DO NOT WANT TO GO THERE. Because having babies is NOT how we define the value and the potential of being female. NO.

“And did you know that fetuses suck the iron and calcium right out of their mother’s bodies. You know that, right Mom?”

“Yes, my dear. I do know that.  You know what else, sweetie? Carrying a baby totally does a number on a woman’s body. I mean, your skin stretches all out of shape and then you’re stuck with stretch marks and floppy belly skin FOR FREAKING EVER. “

My son looks at me and said, “I’m sorry Mom.”

And I say, “Oh no, son. It was totally worth it. Plus, really, my floppy skin is your sister’s fault. I gained a ton of weight with her.”

“Did you hear that Lily? You ruined Mom’s body.”

That comment meets with the ice-glare stare, my daughter’s super power. It causes the speaker to immediately regret having ever spoken ever.

“Having you was totally worth a lifetime of saggy boobs and floppy stomach skin, Lily. I would do it all over again.”

“Okay, so, anyway, being a woman means you can potentially have babies, big deal. It also means that regardless of your desire to have kids, you are going to bleed from your vagina one week out of every four from the time you’re around 13 until you’re 50. Think of all the money women have to spend on pads and tampons not to even mention how physically uncomfortable it is to have a period. Honestly that sucks.”

“Yes, dear. It does suck. And if you don’t want to get pregnant, women are the ones who have to spend money for birth control. That adds up. Plus the US has the highest maternal and infant mortality rates of any 1st world nation, no mandatory paid maternity leave, and childcare costs a bundle. But do you know what else sucks? By the time you go through menopause…”

My son asks, “What’s menopause?”

I say, “Well sweetie, you know…it’s sort of like a second adolescence for grown women, only in reverse….so, a woman’s hormones go completely whack, and she gets all sorts of physical symptoms, like hot flashes, and headaches, and she has mood swings and can get really irritable, and it’s totally a pain in the ass…and it’s because her body is changing from a body that can have babies to a body that no longer can have babies, and  menopause can take YEARS…and so a lot of adult women are walking around trying to do life while their hormones jump around all over the place and they feel like crap. When that’s all over a woman doesn’t have her period any more, which can be a good thing, but getting there is a completely crazy ride, uncomfortable, with some negative health issues due to a deficit of certain hormones, and it can potentially be emotionally difficult.”

And then my daughter adds, “Oh, and don’t forget vaginal dryness, your vagina gets all dried out after menopause.”

At which point my son looks like he’s going to pass out. That bit about vaginal dryness has totally freaked him out. He’s not exactly sure what it means but it sounds bad.

I’m slightly annoyed because I had sort of forgotten about menopause bringing drought to the lady nethers . “Oh. Right. Thanks for reminding be about the vaginal dryness. Yay.”

My son says, “I’m so sorry Mom.”
I say, “There’s nothing for you to be sorry about, son.”
My son asks, “Do you guys hate me?”
 I say, “Hate you? Of course not!”
And his sister is significantly quiet.
And I shoot her my superpower glare, which is a look that conveys without words, ‘Say something reassuring to your little brother NOW.’
She relents and says, “You haven’t done anything wrong. It’s not your fault you’re a boy. I blame dad for that.”
And I try very hard not to roll my eyes.

“So,” I ask, “is being a boy really any better? I mean, can’t we agree that sometimes just being a human being is hard? There are shitty things about being male in our society, too.”

And my daughter asks, “Like what?”

“Oh, I don’t know, guys are expected to be tough, not to have a range of feelings.”

I can tell this line of reasoning is leaving my daughter unswayed so I go somewhere I probably shouldn’t go.

“And what about having an erection when you don’t want to? That would be embarrassing.”

“An unwanted erection? I’m sure that would be embarrassing, but surely it’s not on the same scale having cramps and all that. And do you think a rogue erection is more embarrassing than bleeding all over yourself at school? The occasional embarrassing untimely erection isn’t even close to having a period.”

Yup. I agree.

“But how about the fact that men are shamed for showing any other emotion except anger?”

“Well, so. Women are stereotyped as being over emotional and men are shamed for being vulnerable because emotional vulnerability is associated with being female. So it really all just boils down to women hating again. “

“True that. And women are expected to cry and get hysterical but if a woman gets angry she’s labeled a bitch. So there’s that part, too.”

And my daughter says, “Yeah, and honestly, that emotional crap…I’m not really an emotional person. I’m not “typically” girlie in that respect, so that doesn’t apply to me anyway. What’s so fucking good about being a girl?”

“Well, I don’t know Sweetie.”

“You’ve got the fact that women make significantly less money for equal work, and the fact that married women who work full time still do the majority of the housework and childcare…”

“But,” I say, “on average, women live longer than men do. There’s that.”

“Oh great. I get to live to be really really old. Wow. That sounds GREAT.” Her words drip with the special sarcasm only a 17 year old girl can produce.

At this point I don’t even mention the fact that most elderly women live in poverty after a lifetime of working and raising children and doing all the housework, and straight women have the near surety we’ll outlive our male life partners and live on a paltry income alone and forgotten.

So I just leave that part out because it’s sad.

And then I have it. I have the answer. “You know what’s so good about being a woman?”

Both kids’ eyes are on me.

“Are you ready? No. Never mind. I can’t…”

“Oh my God, Mom. Just say it.”

“Well, the only thing that I can think of that’s sort of good about being a woman is…No. Seriously. I can’t say it.”

And both kids are just staring at me….and so because I am pretty much known for saying all the most inappropriate things in front of the children I think, why stop now?
And I start again.

“Okay…. the only thing that I can think of that is sort of good, great, sort of good and actually maybe great about…about being a woman is…multiple orgasms.”

My daughter says, “EXCUSE ME?”

And my son says something that sounds like, “WHA?! HUH? HAHAHAHA!!!” and he’s rolling around on the floor turning a truly stunning shade of crimson while laughing the way only a 13-year-old boy can laugh when his mother has just spoken the word “orgasm” in his company.

So I continue, “Well, you know, men, they pretty much get the one orgasm during sex, they ejaculate and then they’re done for a while, but women, women potentially can have orgasm after orgasm.”
And I realize perhaps this time, I really and truly have said too much. And I jump up from my chair and start to get busy tiding the dinner mess we’d left on the table hours ago. Because suddenly I feel a little exposed.

And my daughter says, “Mom, do you really think that bleeding from your vagina one week a month for 40 years, 10 years of menopause, making 30% less than your male co-workers, the pain of childbirth, the toll that pregnancy takes on a woman’s body, institutional sexism, violence against women, living until you’re so old everyone you love is dead…do you really think that being able to have multiple orgasms makes up for all that?”

“Well…uh…does it make up for all that? Gee…uh…”
I think it over for maybe a few seconds too long.
“Well…no. No. I guess you’re right dear.”

But in my head I’m thinking, “but it’s something..."

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Hope is a Green Dress

Happy Wednesday, good readers.

I was feeling so super good there for a while.
But all things pass, the good and the bad.

The bad seem to linger though, while the good stuff evaporates like Isopropyl alcohol on your skin, leaves you feeling a little chilled tensely anticipating the needle prick that inevitably comes next.

Yeah, so there's that.

I guess I'm reluctant to unload completely here.
I'm depressed.

This is my default setting.

But I don't want to make other people feel bad.

I want to offer other people a hand, some comfort.

I don't want to suck all the life out of the room even though I'm feeling completely shit.

It's sort of like finding a dress a certain shade of green that would make me look like something out of The Walking Dead, but knowing it would fit someone else and be just the right color to complement their hair or their eyes.

Hope is like that for me today.

It's going to look great on you.

You can do anything.
Be brave, be strong.

And if that's a dress that's just not going to work for you today, put on your favorite dirty shirt and jeans and endure.

We'll endure in yesterday's dirty clothes together.

My wish for you today though, is that you're decked out in hope.
You're resplendent.
Hope looks good on you.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Great Pretender

Yesterday I was talking to a person who doesn't know me very well.

We were talking about the upcoming election. 

The name Donald Trump came up, as you can imagine it would.

I mean, how could it not?

And we briefly talked about the Trumpster's obvious pathology. I mean, really, how can some people not see the dude is a classic narcissist? It's so clear. 

But maybe not everyone had a narcissist for a father, those lucky assholes.  

Narcissists are charismatic.  People are drawn to the persona.

 Narcissists spend an inordinate amount of time cultivating this image of themselves as special, bigger than life, smarter, more capable. 

Some people are drawn to the narcissist because on some level, they think the narcissist's magic will rub off on them. 

It won't, but I can understand the desire to associate with the gregarious bold bombast and bask in the glow of their accepting gaze. 

But, the narcissist always turns on you. You aren't going to be his darling forever and when that day comes, oh dear. Seriously. If you haven't lived with it, maybe you wouldn't know what happens next. But it ain't pretty. 

And so without skipping a beat in the conversation, my thoughts went from the Great Orange Windbag directly to memories of my own crazy-ass sadistic narcissist pop, lightning speed. 

Seemingly out of nowhere, with no segue, no explanation, I said, "Wow! I sure am glad my dad is dead!" 

And this look crossed my new friend's face; it was an expression that conveyed the listener's common decency. It was a look that seemed to question my humanity. 

What sort of monster blurts out during an amiable conversation, "Wow! I sure am glad my dad is dead!"  

So how did I respond to my horrified new friend?

Well, I laughed like a crazy lady. 

Because of course I did. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

just some random bullshit

Wednesday was supposed to be blog day, but I’m a slacker by nature and I let my self-imposed deadline pass, as usual.

Or have I? Because I’m just writing some bullshit down right now, so maybe this is the blog post. Maybe things are unfolding as they should.

Or whatever the fuck.

I’m sitting here in a pool of my own sweat, which frankly is better than sitting in a pool of someone else’s sweat, so that’s good.

I’m stuck in a place where my chest feels like it’s going to explode, sort of like that scene in Alien, you know the one. Maybe my heart is an alien.

I’ve been working on a series of self-indulgent poems and I think I have a title, My Heart and Other Winged Insects…I like the title, at least for now. Who knows.

Yeah, no. I hate it now. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter…etc etc, my heart crap, it’s been done better by better and it’s been done to death.

But how else do we explain that horrible amazing feeling? That feeling that life is just too too much, that your heart is too big for the bone-cage it’s in, that it’s clawing its way out splintering sternum and ribs as it makes it way from your body like a moth breaking its way through its brittle pupal case? Hellooo? Mixed metaphor much? 

Jesus, I wish I was just a normal Shmoe. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

making coffee: sort of a work in progress...

I was thinking about our daily rituals, the things that keep us grounded, the things we do every day without thinking, the things we do in our own way to our own standard for our own pleasure.

I was awakened early this morning by an ill family member who eventually settled down to rest so I was left awake again at stupid o'clock. I shuffled down stairs and the cats followed me.

I took a detour into the "powder room" to "powder my nose" and one of the languid sisters pulled open the door with her perfect little clawed paw, because, what's privacy to a cat? Right? so she came in and she and I had a little chat, and then I washed my hands, just so you know I'm all about the hygiene, and I fed the cats, and filled their bowl with water, and then I set about to make the coffee which as I've gotten older has taken on a level of complexity that seems self indulgent.

A thought dawned on me out of the blue,  that making coffee had turned into a ritual, one I was  not consciously  aware I was performing.

The fact that I'm the only coffee drinker in the house and I'm willing to perform this multi-step procedure for myself  points to a desire to honor myself. Also to caffeinate myself and jump start my sluggish heart, but if it was just about utility, the coffee making event would be less of an event.

First there is the filling of the kettle. I like the old kettle, it makes me happy. I can't say why, I don't know why, but certain objects have a look about them that please us, and the kettle pleases me. Then I grind the lovely fragrant coffee beans in the old red Krupp grinder that had belonged to my oldest brother who lives in  Oregon. Every morning as I pour just the right number of shiny black coffee beans into the grinder I think of my brother. I think of the age of the machine, how it still runs so well, the mystery of how time passes, and then, I push the button on the grinder and the morning silence is completely shattered. The cats, every morning, every single morning, hear that sound and jump a mile in the air, then turn to look a me with accusing eyes, offended by the noise, deeply resentful. Every morning I laugh, because, I am simple, and it always strikes me as funny how the cats jump in surprise and then glare at me. At some point you'd think they would be used to the sound but no, and it's always funny to me, you might think at some point I would cease to be amused, but no, so the cats and I are more alike than I may like to think.

By now the happy kettle is starting to make its drum roll almost boiling sound, which I also find to be a lovely thing. I turn off the burner, pour the freshly ground coffee into the glass french press, the one my mom gave me for Christmas, it's a pretty thing, it looks fragile but isn't or I would have broken it by now, and I pour in just enough water to create a slurry and I stir it with a little wooden spoon and I delight each time in that wee little spoon, and then I pour in just the right amount of water, place the cover on the pot and start to prepare the milk, which makes me think of some friends of mine, it's a long story, but I'm thinking of some dear people while I warm the milk, first I shake the milk, and I use whole milk now, which seems like an extravagance but I like it better so I use whole milk, because liking it more is a good enough reason, which in the past it would not have been but now it is. I put the milk in the old Pyrex measuring cup nuke for just the right amount of time to achieve the appropriate temperature.

I go to the cupboard to select the morning's mug. Will I choose the brown flowered mug the kids gave me for Christmas a few years ago? The green one that has the perfect handle? The large white one with the oak leaves, 'made in England' printed on the bottom that used to belong to an old fellow a neighbor of my friend Ruth who passed away two years ago, she was such a sweet soul, bless her heart?

By the time the milk is warm and the morning mug selected, the coffee is brewed and I push down the plunger on the french press. I still think pushing the plunger is cool.  It pushes down with a little resistance as the coiled spring exerts just the right amount of pressure and the grinds are trapped below.What a clever invention.

I pour the coffee, I watch it pour, I pour it from a certain height because the sight of it and the sound of it please me, and then I pour in the warm milk in just such a way, I achieve the right shade of brown, not too light not too dark, then I take the foam (I shook up the milk first, so foam, yes, foam) and place that on top, which always makes me think of my younger days and working in the cafe, and I'm good with the foam and I take care to place it just so. It's perfect.

I always take the first sip while walking from the kitchen to the dining room. One might think the proper thing to do would be to wait, I mean, this is a ritual practice and rituals are about discipline and solemnity, but the process was unconsciously designed to honor myself, and I am an impatient person. I don't want to wait for that first sip of coffee, so I don't wait, I've been waiting long enough.

Most mornings everything comes together just right and the first sip as I cross the threshold from kitchen to dining-room is an affirmation and stands above the day. A small act to nurture myself, an affirmation to honor myself in a day that will be spent in service to others.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Too Pooped to Pop

You know that awkward moment when you need to use a public restroom to take the first poo of the day, and you know it's going to be an earth shattering shit splattering mega event? And you're in there and trying to keep the noise down, sort of like that time when you were on xmas break in college and you brought your 'friend' home with you and you're trying (unsuccessfully) to have quiet sex in you childhood bed with your parents "sleeping" on the other side of  2 inches of drywall and an assortment of Nirvana and Peal Jam posters?

You know what I'm saying here?

So you're taking your morning crap, feeling a little self conscious, trying to keep the noise down to a dull squilch, and you flush that shit away and wash your hands really good and you check your teeth in the mirror before you go, and you're looking, eh, it's morning, and you just shat/shit/shitted, whatever, you look like you only without that haunted look of a person who desperately needs to shit because you just did, and you leave the temporary sanctity of the public toilet room and you find a line of people waiting, people with that haunted look that you no longer have, and you know and they know that the horrible odor is something you did, the heinous smell is the smell of the inside of your bowels?

Nope, me neither.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Context is Everything

So recently I wrote vaguely about life coming unraveled and how we are constantly having to make and remake our  lives and how if we think about it, the process is elemental. Eventually we’ll all be released to our literal elemental selves and then be reconfigured into new life, which to me is the most holy and beautiful idea of all time. I get a lot of solace out of that thought.

And so, while I was thinking about life and unraveling I was thinking, what lead to my decision to tear out all the stitches of my adult life? I mean, Huh? WTF?

And so I’m gonna give you the straight story. Or at least the straightest story I can. I’m not really a straight person, I see the whole world as a whorl, spirals, loops, circles.


For my entire life, I was incongruous. I felt out of context.



Let me try again. 

I was fractured. I was broken into pieces. I never felt like I had context, I never felt like I was constant. Every day I’d wake up and think, who do I have to be today? Maybe yesterday I met a friend on the street and we chatted easily and I seemed engaged and we seemed to connect as people, but inside, I was not really there. So the next day if I ran into the same friend on the street, I might just nod or wave awkwardly because the person I was yesterday isn’t the person I am today.
I would engage with people but have no recollection of what we did or what was said. Every time I’d meet with people, even good friends, I would fret about the interaction. I wasn’t sure I could be consistent, I was always worried  that people would notice I was never the same person from one interaction to the next or sometimes from one minute to the next. I worried about this with everyone, from my spouse to my friends and everyone in between. Family even 

The only constant was the gnawing sense that I was lacking.

I don’t think most people feel this way. I think Jeremiah Sniffnugget-Worthslothford  goes to bed knowing who he is and wakes up feeling like the same guy. I think most people probably think of who they were as children and see who who they’ve become as an adult and are able to see a pattern of how they got from small human to large human. Most people have a core self.

Like a lot of people who experienced trauma as children, I did not have a core. I was just pieces rattling around in a body.

I made all of my life choices while unaware of my capacity to have a unified Self, all the decisions I made I made from the perspective a person with no history, no context.

I grew up in a home where it was dangerous to be a person so I became blank, re-configuring my outward persona moment to moment based on what I thought would keep me safe, and I did this all without knowing I was doing it.

I wasn’t until fairly recently that I started going to a therapist who uses EMDR, a technique that has helped me immeasurably but that I don’t feel like describing right now. You can look it up if you like, or I’ll write about it later and fill you in. It’s interesting.

Anyway, the thing is, it wasn’t until just a few weeks ago I actually felt like most of the pieces of my self were in their proper place. I actually felt like something fell into place. It was a physical sensation, and I thought, OH. Hello. I’m here.  

It was stunning. I was stunned. I felt the pieces fuse together. I don’t think I’m totally put back together, but it’s sort of like having 490 pieces of a 500 piece puzzle. There are enough pieces that I can see the whole picture.  

I haven’t been a cohesive human since I was very very small. So for the first time in 48 years, most of me is in place, and it’s weird. Good. But weird. Good and weird.

Good because I still have 30 years (hopefully) or so to live as a mostly whole person. But weird because I’m looking at all the choices I made when I was not whole and I’m thinking, Oh no. Some of this is wrong. I made huge mistakes. I did the best I could but I made so many choices based on the experiences and needs of a broken person. 

One of the things I know I got RIGHT, 100% right, is having my kids. Because my kids are the best people I know and I adore them and if I had to endure a horrible childhood again and endure years of depression and anxiety to guarantee that I had the same kids again, I would. I would do it all again. Because those kids are 100% right. No doubts, no regrets.

But some of the other stuff, it’s not working now. I find that life looks different when you lead with your strengths instead of your fears. 

So far, life as a mostly whole person is still hard. My heart constantly feels like it’s either overfull or breaking but what’s different is that now, most of the time, I don’t feel like I’m going to die, I don’t feel like a fraud. I wake up and go to bed feeling like the same human being. And best of all, when I’m with people, it’s a joy to be there with them. I'm there with them. We're together. It's amazing. 

This is totally new. It makes me a little giddy actually.  I know I'm a person and I know where I am. I'm here. Helloo. Hi. Hey there. I'm here. 

Thanks for reading.