rockinlibrarian: (roar)
I've been unearthing roots of current subconscious feelings a lot this week, like spontaneous psychoanalysis: "That's impressive," my therapist said, "you've done a lot of work!"

"Not really," I said, "I just ruminate about these things. I don't DO anything about it." I mean, it's all well and good tracing your self-denial and hesitancy to WANT anything back to a simple and understandable Ice Cream Incident at the age of six, but what can you do, go back to 1984 so you can tell that six-year-old "It's OKAY to be disappointed, you're NOT selfish, maybe we can try again to get ice cream later"? Being able to see clearly what had happened and knowing objectively that that six year old did nothing wrong and should not have been so harshly punished by her own inner demons, can't magically erase the layers of loathing and mental mechanizations those demons put in place to keep punishing that inner six-year-old whenever her 38-year-old self tries to even HAVE her own wants and needs.

They keep whispering, "Stop whining! You've got it good! You have nothing to complain about, you live a life of privilege!" Little white girl, comfortable middle class home, two loving parents, good at school (not counting homework*). You lived a sheltered childhood. Oh, sure, try to pipe up something about how lonely you were, start to mention "bullying," but we all know bullies have done much worse to OTHER people. Bullying is supposed to involve physical assault! Nobody ever hurt you. Never mind that when you actually look back and describe various situations you think, "Holy heck, girl, no wonder you have social anxiety." Didn't hurt you.

The irony is, the inner demons are doubling down on all the bullying that did, in fact, happen on the outside. They are being bullies, bullies you can't escape from because they keep following you around inside your own freaking head. That's why you still have anxiety dreams involving school cafeterias, where everyone is laughing at you, and everything you say and do just makes the laughing worse, and you literally blow up and start SMITING people and, well, they STILL point out that you're obviously a freak because normal people don't SMITE people and you're all worked up over nothing.

Note: I'm going to get into the current political situation again here, so, you know. But I'm still not talking about politics, per se, I'm talking about bullying. And subconscious roots.

And the fact that walking down a street lined with campaign signs for a classic psychological (as well as apparently physical) bully can be triggering.

I told you, when I devoted a whole post to this election, that I normally don't have strong feelings about politicians. They're all flawed, they're all skilled, it's just a matter of weighing their traits and comparing it to the job and deciding from there. I was very objective in that post. The FACTS favored one candidate far over the other. But the truth is my strong feelings about this election aren't completely objective, because one candidate literally makes me nauseous. Not hyperbole. I'm not insulting him here, saying "he makes me sick" because he's ugly or I don't like his ideas (although I don't). I'm saying he causes a reflexive stress reaction in my body that makes me feel sick. I am LITERALLY SICK of hearing his voice and seeing his smug, hateful, punchable face.

I saw an article on Twitter last month, see what I wrote:

And because the embed doesn't actually let you see the content of the tweet I was quoting:



And if you're like "On a site called 'Everyday Feminism,' yeah like THAT'S not biased," shut up and read it. Well, read it if you ARE like that. If you can just see the headline and are already nodding like, "Yep, absolutely true, I KNOW," then don't read it because it's freaking triggering. Or in my case, read it, discover it IS triggering but it EXPLAINS SO MUCH so you're glad you read it.

THOSE are the things I experienced at the hands of other kids (and in some cases, probably unintentional, from adults--not my parents I must add) as a child, and the things I saw other kids, some of them very important to me, experience and fill me with rage. THOSE are the experiences evoked in my subconscious when I have those cafeteria nightmares.

And, like the article said, it's incredibly triggering to see these behaviors flaunted by someone running for the highest office in the country. When I see his smug face, he reminds me of every kid who picked on me or my friends at school. The decades of simmering frustration bubble back up into the present and all I want to do is PUNCH HIM, and with him every other bully who has ever crossed my path. Did you hear about the guy who sledgehammered his Hollywood Star yesterday? Oh, say what you want about the evils of vandalism, I'm not condoning him, but I TOTALLY understand him. He just DID what all us victims/loved ones of victims FEEL. And, more kindly than sledgehammering the guy's FACE, which is what we really burn inside for (not saying we genuinely want it with our minds! We just FEEL that want).

This ISN'T political, this is primal gut instinct. Don't try to tell me his opponent is a bully, too. You may not agree with her, but if you think she's a bully then you don't understand what a bully is. It isn't just insisting that you're right-- that's called being assertive. A bully is something else entirely, and victims recognize it when we see it, if only subconsciously through reflexive stress reactions. I went into my therapy session on edge yesterday, and said I kept thinking about bullies, and my therapist kept asking if something had happened that had triggered it, and I said, "No, it was just seeing political signs along the road." She nodded immediately and said, "Ah, of course, you've been Trumped." She didn't know my political affiliations! I hadn't said anything specific! But I'm willing to bet I'm not the only one of her patients who has this reaction, and she knew EXACTLY what I meant. People are only getting bullying flashbacks via one particular candidate.

Anyway, to bring it back around, walking the kids to the bus stop along a street with sign after sign supporting the Bullying Poster Boy is... somewhat disconcerting. Even the kids think so. Of COURSE the kids think so-- not just my kids, SO MANY kids, not just parroting their parents' opinions, but genuinely their OWN: "Why do people like him? He's MEAN." Leave it to the kids to cut to the chase.

"Well," I say, "people like him... because... maybe they just believe his lies?" I don't know how to explain. I understand how many people in communities like mine have just had enough of the Liberal Elite, but to actually support this monster instead? THESE people are not monsters. These are ordinary folks who give me cheerful hellos, who have lent a hand on occasion, who have families and full lives.

Maddie's friend and her older sister run out of their house (one WITHOUT a campaign sign) to join my kids at the bus stop, their hair in cornrows, bright smiles on their dark faces, and I get another mental nudge. How does THEIR family feel, living on this street? Oh, maybe people are just as nice to them. Maybe they see them as "GOOD ones, not like Those Others." Or maybe not. But how would I know? Perfectly inoffensive white lady with Resting Nice Face? Nobody feels threatened by me. Who knows how many people who are perfectly decent to me aren't nearly as decent to someone else?

Bringing me back to childhood again. Or adolescence-- do you know how socially acceptable it was to pick on my best friend in high school? Kids I didn't previously think of as bullies would join in freely. Maybe they felt it was okay to side with the bullies when the person being picked on seemed so different from them, too. Maybe they felt it was safer. Maybe that's how the people on my street feel.

I'll admit: I wasn't completely immune from this behavior myself on occasion. The song "Hey Mickey" always kind of haunts me-- people in the marching band had made up alternate words for it, directed at this awkward nerd of a kid whom I didn't particularly like either, and although I knew I shouldn't find it funny, it WAS funny. But gosh, what was it like for that kid, when even I couldn't help laughing at that song?

But luckily for my retroactive pride, I was more often the kid in the middle. The one defending a friend to another friend who was saying terrible things behind--or in front of-- her back. "How did the others react when you defended the person they were picking on?" my therapist asked. I blinked a little. "Well... it was weird. On the surface they called me things like 'goody goody' or whatever, asked why I cared, told me to stay out of it because I was wrong," I said. "But on some level-- I think something in them kind of respected it? Because they weren't like 'If you're friends with them you can't be friends with us,' or anything overtly cruel. I think they KNEW that, with the situation reversed on them, I'd stick up for them, too, you know? So they didn't want to alienate me too much."

She smiled as if I'd finally hit on obvious proof that I didn't have to be so afraid of speaking up for myself. But it's so much easier to stick up for other people than for myself. Sticking up for myself against outside bullies (or even just nice people who disagree with me) would require me to first stick up for myself against my inner bullies, and they are super-persuasive.

But maybe that's why I'm so privileged. Maybe I can't handle any more to battle inside me. But outside me? I can keep standing up for others. And maybe people will actually, every so often, listen to me.

So that's why I keep speaking up, trying to get people to listen to each other.

My therapist suggested maybe I'd have better luck standing up against my inner bullies if I thought of it as doing it for my childrens' sake. Still really hard. But it feels right.

I have enough trouble dealing with internal bullies. I refuse to put up with outside bullies, no matter who they're picking on.



*Last night after I tucked her in and left the room, Maddie out of nowhere piped up, "Mommy, did you ever forget to do your homework as a kid?" HAH, girl, we don't have time to have this discussion right now! 
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
My dad is a big genealogist, and when I say big, I mean he was into it WAY before Ancestry.com, when you had to do serious legwork, travelling all around the country and even world to pour over decades of paper church registries and the like. By chance I eventually settled in the town that one of his favorite ancestors had lived in, my great-great-great* grandfather on my dad's mom's side, a blacksmith, guardsman, and Civil War hero. My dad wrote a (self-pubbed and extremely limited in distribution) book on the guy and his squadron's history, which supposedly once was in the Local History collection of the library I now work for, though I can't find it there now. I have to smile every time I drive past the corner where this several-greats grandfather's blacksmith shop had been, just because I can hear the enthusiasm in my dad's voice as he once pointed it out to me, every single time.

Ancestry.com has certainly added new ways to track genealogy, though. And recently, through DNA testing, it unearthed an unpleasant truth: the man he so admired, who'd done so many great things, wasn't his great-great-grandfather after all.

My great-great-great (or however many) grandmother had been 15 when she married this man. And five months pregnant. And according to the DNA trail, the father of that boy she carried (my g-g-grandfather) was one of three brothers, one of whom was a teacher, another of whom was eventually locked up in an insane asylum, and all of whom were at least twice her age. Was it the teacher, taking advantage of one of his students? Was it his younger brother, and they locked him up for being a serial rapist or something? Does it matter? Whatever happened, it was at LEAST a STATUTORY rape, if not full-blown. The blacksmith/war-hero was a family friend, who married the girl to save her from what in that era would surely have been scandal and ruin. "It makes me admire him even more," my dad said sadly, "to have raised this boy as his own even though he knew he wasn't actually his."

I wondered a little at my dad's disappointment when he said that. So this hero's blood didn't run in our veins after all. But he still RAISED our however-many-greats grandfather. Did it matter that our DNA came from a rapist, or did it matter more that the boy ended up calling a good man Dad?

(It's a bit like the part of the Gospel of Matthew they read on Christmas Eve, which always makes me roll my eyes. Ol' St. Matt goes off on this long, long genealogical report, tracing the genealogy of Jesus from Abraham all the way up to Joseph. To JOSEPH. Who, in the very next verse, he explains is NOT ACTUALLY JESUS'S BIOLOGICAL FATHER, ANYWAY. Like SERIOUSLY, Matt, what was your point?! UNLESS it's more important that this man, who happens to have serious Jewish blood going way back, RAISED the boy Jesus as his own. Because maybe that's more important than the bloodline after all? I don't know, don't lecture me on theology, I'm just observing. Anyway, this is only tangentally related, because this post is about bad stuff in the past, which makes this story very different depending on whether you believe Mary had been raped like my g-g-g grandmother or she had indeed conceived the child via the Holy Spirit. Or you believe the whole story was made up period which makes it moot. But in that case, the Holy Spirit answer's the one in the story so it is still good).

I got onto this subject today because I started puzzling over something I'd seen on social media (ah, social media). The other night the First Lady spoke at the Democratic National Convention, a lovely speech full of hope and integrity, and she noted that now two little black girls lived in a mansion that had been built by slaves-- look how far we've come! Think how much farther we can go! And for some reason a bunch of people, instead of hearing the message of progress, got stuck on "wait, did she just say the White House was built by slaves? How DARE she say the White House was built by slaves!" and I'm like, "uh, because it WAS? It's not like you can't learn this information through a picture book. Or even just, you know, ASSUME, based on the history of the region." But these folks were really riled up about this. If they couldn't deny that there were a lot of dang slaves "employed" in the building of our nation's capital, they had to start insisting that well, they were slaves, but they really weren't treated that badly.

I'm like what is your ISSUE? She wasn't trying to slander the holy edifice that is the White House by referring to a negative-but-well-documented fact about its history, she was trying to say Isn't it GREAT, that once people that looked like my family were enslaved and would they ever have imagined a family that looked like them would be living here as the Family in Chief but here we are? Hooray! Our country is getting better all the time! Is it really that important that the history of our country is far from perfect?

It got me pondering the ways history is told, and how a lot of these people are the same ones who complain about "revisionist history," and how they want to stick with the TRUE history, which is the history they learned growing up. You know, like how George Washington chopped down a cherry tree as a boy? So what these people are looking for, I guess, is Golden, Gleaming History, History that is a role model for us to look up to.

I finally got my ears on the Hamilton musical a couple months ago. 1) gosh it is SO GOOD; 2) one thing that struck me is how much it put the lie to the idea that the founding of America was some stately, well-organized thing like the back of a two-dollar bill. That's another thing people who like Golden Gleaming History like to talk about: "The Founding Fathers thought THIS" and "The Founding Fathers did THAT" and "WHAT would the Founding Fathers say?!" And yet, listening to this, it reminds me that the last thing the Founding Fathers were was a unanimous monolyth on the issues we would face as a nation. SOME Founding Fathers wanted stronger state governments, weaker federal; SOME wanted a stronger federal and weaker states. SOME Founding Fathers did indeed keep slaves; but SOME Founding Fathers were outspoken abolitionists. The notion that the Founding Fathers were the last word on every issue is based on this Gleaming concept of History, a History that has no room for Cabinet Battles and dirty deals and blackmail, because that would mean we COULDN'T use it as the final word in an argument.

It's literally part of the conservative mindset-- not just politically conservative, but the whole idea of conservative-- to want to hold the past up as ideal. That's what conservatism is about: change is bad, the good old days were good. If you hold this mindset, it's a little earthshattering to face up to the not-so-good parts of the past. If your ancestors came out of history on top, it can feel like a personal affront to hear that they weren't perfect. But it's not just political: we all have a little conservative side of us, a part that holds tight to stories of how things ought to have been and believes in them. My dad's a pretty progressive guy, but it did upset him to learn of the smudge in his family tree that seemed to take away his claim to good blood. And me-- as a kid I had a really hard time with this concept. To find out anyone great had a not-so-great side? To uncover the dirty laundry of history? Heck, to find out how many of my favorite musicians were "druggies"? Frustrated me, man. I couldn't reconcile it. If these things were BAD, why were we learning about how GREAT they were?

But I was younger then. I've learned about shades of gray. Which is why it's surprising when so many people my age and older are still stuck in this black-and-white mindset.

A thing I've always hated since I discovered it is the Your Fave Is Problematic thing. It's almost like the opposite of the History Was Great and Never Dare Say Otherwise mindset, but is the exact same thing, really. You think something's or someone's so great? I'm going to POKE AS MANY HOLES IN THEM AS I CAN. SEE, NOT GREAT. So a fan says YOU ARE SO WRONG, THEY ARE GREAT, YOU SUCK, and the "problematic" folks are like "NO, THEY SUCK, AND IF YOU LIKE THEM STILL THEN YOU SUCK." WHAT, people. Why does everything have to be perfect or terrible? Why can't things just BE with all their nuances?

Back to the topic of dark spots in ones ancestry. I've always felt uncomfortable with the use of the word "we" to describe anything that I, personally, was not involved with-- "we won" or "we lost" or "we did this historical thing because...." I don't like my sports teams referred to as "we" unless I'm on them (ha). I don't like my country referred to as "we" if it's something out of my control-- like, back to sports teams, Olympians-- "we" do not get so many gold medals, those people who are way better athletes than most of us could ever imagine being got them; and I especially don't like it when referring to events that happened before I was even born. We settled in America. We drove off most of the native people. We defeated the British. We nuked Japan. Our ancestors, maybe. And maybe we've even benefitted from horrible things our ancestors did.

But we don't have to take it personally. It happened. And who cares whether it was your ancestors or not. What are YOU going to do? Who are YOU going to follow? I've got a great-great-great grandfather who was a rapist, but my great-great grandfather was raised to be a good man by a good man, instead. You're not bound by the past, so you don't have to fear it.

What happens NOW, is the question. That's what Mrs. Obama was saying the other night, not "feel ashamed of your history" but "look back on history and how we have improved and how we can keep on improving!" Look back to look forward.

I think I've made sense here, it's hard to tell because I've been super distracted by our library Harry Potter party happening on Saturday and I've been making chocolate frogs all day, which involves a lot of back and forth while waiting for things to set. But anyway.


*I THINK I have the right number of greats
rockinlibrarian: (love)
I have two friends I, admittedly, might love even more than my other friends. I fell madly in love with each of them at our first real meeting, and since then just thinking about them brings me a deep feeling of inner sunlight, pure joy that such people exist. They shine with inner beauty. I met the first one in high school, I was in 11th grade, she was in 10th, we were at a newspaper staff meeting, a bunch of people were discussing something I had strong opinions about but couldn't put into words, and I was becoming more and more frustrated and fearing that I was on the verge of tears (and when I say "fearing" I MEAN it), then she piped up and said it for me. And she kept doing it, putting my thoughts and feelings into words (except she was technically putting HERS into words but you know), mixing in wise and beautiful things I hadn't even thought of, unintentionally making me feel more completely understood than I had ever felt, and by the time the bell rang I wanted to tell her all my deepest darkest secrets, things I'd barely considered telling myself let alone anyone else. Be my most bosom friend! this voice in my head screamed from that very first meeting, and through partially the luck of already having best friends who were also best friends with each other, she eventually was.

Of course, as it happened, I'd somehow chosen for my Most Bosom Friend one of the most unpopular girls in school. She was bullied, constantly and carelessly, even by people who weren't generally known to be bullies.* It put me into a rage I have never felt on my own behalf, though I'd had my share of bullying (though mostly in elementary school, not high school). HOW COULD THEY NOT SEE how perfect and amazing she was?! It so happens one of the things they needled her about most often was being a lesbian. Now, this was back in the day when NO one was out in high school, not even the extremely flaming kid who always sang Madonna at karaoke. You didn't admit it, you didn't discuss it, you wouldn't dare-- probably because kids got bullied so mercilessly for even SEEMING gay. I am always so amazed when I see and hear today's teens-- the bullying still happens, but, my, how far they've come. Anyway, back to the mid-nineties, NOBODY was out, certainly not Angie. It was all speculation and stereotyping on the part of her tormenters. So I, bursting with utterly naive loyalty, shouted** at them, "If she was, then I'D be dating her! So there!"

Let's skip ahead to Friend #2. I met him at the start of my second year of college, trying out for the marching band.*** A mutual friend had told me to seek him out because he'd be in my section and he was the "nicest boy [she had] ever met," so would certainly help me out. And he was indeed hopelessly nice, and he did indeed help me and everyone else waiting for tryouts. But eventually everyone else there wandered away and we kept talking, going beyond our mutual niceness into Completely Hitting It Off. I felt so comfortable with him that talking, for once, came easily, so easily things started slipping right out of my mouth without me thinking about them. I spotted a large electrical outlet on the wall, and "That electrical outlet is staring at us so mournfully" slipped out, but before I could think wait, maybe I should have said that in a way that actually makes sense, he peered at it, too, and said, "Yeah, I see what you mean."

"You DO?" I sounded utterly flabbergasted, which might have been what made him start giggling, and once he started I couldn't very well not start, so we sat there giggling hysterically over an electrical outlet. And that was when it snapped in my head, this same instant deep mental and emotional infatuation I'd felt when I'd met Angie, except this one was a BOY. So the mental/emotional jolt kicked my body into the mix, too. So instead of thinking "Please be my bosom friend!" I thought "I am so DONE FOR. This could very well be The One."

See, here's the annoying thing about attraction: you really can't choose it. It happens in whatever way your body is programmed to react. I've seen some people define mental-emotional attraction as "romantic" and physical attraction as "sexual," but "romantic" is a confusing term. By this definition I'm a "panromantic," because I fall madly in love with anyone and anything, but, like, so? It's just intensity of LOVING, is all, and I'm all for loving. But physical attraction? I only ever felt that toward guys, and even then, only toward a few particular guys who managed to attract me mentally and emotionally first. Turns out there's an actual word for this type of inclination, "demisexual." And because I'm only physically attracted to the opposite sex when I am, I'm "demiheterosexual." Well, on the spectrum of sexual preference I suppose I'll allow a little slide toward Karen Carpenter's Voice (just her voice) and probably Peggy Carter, because DANG, PEGGY CARTER, but... we return to my bold yet naive proclamation to the bullies back in high school: "if she was, I'D be dating her!"

Because she was, and I wasn't. There it was. I'm freaking straight. My body was infatuated with this GUY, just like society said it was SUPPOSED to be. And yet he wasn't, either. My two dearest, most beloved friends were both tentatively coming out of the closet, and there I was attracted to the wrong one.

I wasn't the greatest friend I could have been through their coming-out processes. I was too jealous and frustrated. Why was sexuality such a MIXED-UP THING? Why did society say I was the normal one when I was the one who DIDN'T FIT in this triangle?

While I pouted, as Angie tried to explain what she'd been going through to the back of my pouty head, a different awkward coming-out story was happening much more successfully across campus. Randy, my Friend #2, had tentatively come out to many of his closest friends, but the thought of telling one of them made him really nervous. I mean, this guy was obnoxiously male. He was politically conservative and freaking outspoken about it, a gun nut and an ROTC-er, exactly the stereotype of a homophobe, right? He was also a psychology major who was well in the habit of reading people, and he knew very well Randy was acting weird around him lately. "So, are you ever going to tell me what's bothering you?"

"Wha...? Nothing's bothering me," Randy mumbled in his obviously-lying voice.

"Should I tell you what's bothering you? Okay then. You're gay and you're afraid to tell me because you don't think I'll be okay with it."

"How did y-- who told--?"

"Nobody told me, it's just obvious." And to Randy's bewilderment, he continued on, completely unfazed. He was beyond okay with it, to be honest: he flat-out exploited the great resource that was a gay-best-friend-wingman. Randy had so many dreamy-eyed girls following him around, why not introduce them to someone who could appreciate their charms? Then came the day that, in the middle of planning a new D&D campaign, they ran into one such girl and decided to recruit her for the game and here we are almost seventeen years and two kids later....

So basically, it all worked out. Well, Angie and I had a bit of a blowup that worked itself out mainly through letters (because we'd always both been better at writing than talking) and left my heart utterly shattered for quite awhile but gradually that healed, and we're all happy sexually with people we're actually sexually compatible with and the genuine love of friendship is big enough to not be jealous and selfish anymore. I love them both thoroughly and unpossessively just the way they are.

Why am I telling you this? Mostly, to explain that I'm straight. Unless you count demisexuality as some kind of Queer orientation which technically it is sort of as a variation of asexuality but come on it's NOT THE SAME THING. It means I can get happily married to one person of the opposite sex, that is the FRIGGIN AMERICAN DREAM. But that's what I mean. I am totally sexually acceptable by society.

Usually when people say that, it's in a gay-panic way, "But I'M not like THEM." Well, I AM saying I'm not like them. I don't have to face what they face. I'm free of the judgments and curses thrown at them by people who see them as disgusting deviants, lesser humans who've forfeited their right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I am pointing out to you that I AM NOT A VICTIM OF HOMOPHOBIA, so you understand fully where I'm coming from when I support LGBTetc causes. THEIR causes. Not mine. I have no ulterior motive.**** When I speak up about depression or public libraries, I've got those motives, those "Don't hurt ME!" motives in doing it. This I am doing for THEM.

I don't know-- sometimes some members of oppressed groups are offended by people outside the group taking up their cause, but I feel like, if real change is going to happen, you need people who AREN'T among the oppressed to say, "No seriously, this IS wrong." It's going to take men, for example, to stand up to the other men who perpetuate rape culture-- to say "Actually dude, no, that's not funny, that's gross." Because why would they take women seriously for saying that, when it's obviously women they don't respect? In order to bridge us vs. them thinking, you need somebody in the middle, to say "sure I'm one of YOU, but I stand with THEM."

I get overwhelmed by the world's injustices to the point that most social-media stand-taking turns me off. I avoid posting the "thoughts and prayers are with so-and-so" junk because it honestly sounds more like "look how caring I am" than "I care and this is important to me." And when guns are involved, that just makes so much more of a mess of awkwardness. But this past weekend when there was a massive massacre at a gay club, I caught something genuine in the posts from my, er, QUILTBAG friends-- a genuine fear, utter shakenness. Definitely not the impersonal righteous rage that usually accompanies such tragedies.

And I saw, particularly, these two dearest, most beautiful friends I've been talking about, post about their horror. These two people whose social media feeds are usually filled with beauty and humor. How can anyone see these two, see the extraordinary love and beauty they put into the world, and write them off as evil because of the way their bodies feel attraction? They aren't rapists. They don't hurt anyone with their orientation. They're just people whose bodies work a little differently from yours and it so happens that these two are flat-out gifts to humankind, so OPEN YOUR EYES AND SEE THE BIG PICTURE FOR ONCE.

So yes, that's why I'm an unapologetic***** Ally in LGBWhateverCollectionOfInitials Rights issues. It's a little personally stronger for me than other issues in which I can merely be an Ally because I have these two huge luminous people in my life. But the same point goes across the board, you know. The People are People and You Can't Judge Them By One Aspect of Their Personality Unless That Aspect Is Actively Hurting Others point. Like, take a look at the perpetrator of said gay club massacre. He was an awful person because he chose to freaking KILL a whole bunch of people. But some people look at his name and say "HE'S GOT AN ARAB NAME! IT'S THOSE HORRID MUSLIMS AGAIN! EVERYONE KNOWS HE DID IT BECAUSE HIS RELIGION SAYS HOMOSEXUALITY IS EVIL, SO LET'S STOP MUSLIMS!" Dude, supposed CHRISTIANS persecute and sometimes kill people based on their sexuality. THAT happens far more often in this country, THAT happens all the time. But, you know, I'M a Christian, and most of my closest friends and relations are Christian, so obviously CHRISTIANS aren't horrid viruses that need to be stopped. :P Again, judge a person by what they DO, not who they ARE. Any time I can reinforce THAT social lesson, I jump on the Ally Train as well, but I can't put quite the same knowledgeable FORCE behind it that I can Gay-for-Short Rights, because the only Muslims I know are library patrons I know only by general decent behavior and reading habits. I still fight for their rights. But I admit to more of a bias toward fighting for the people I actually do know and love personally. Make sense?

Makes TOO much sense. It's still personal, still tinged with a bit of selfishness in that way. But maybe if we all acted like people who are different from us COULD, possibly, be one of our dearest friends in the right circumstances, we'll stop and think before making sweeping judgments about Their Sort. Maybe if we remember the beautiful people we know who are nonetheless hated for who they are, we'll remember the countless beautiful people we may NOT know among the faceless Others out there.

Maybe we'll stop and think and choose LOVE, and I'm not talking about sex. REAL LOVE.

Thank you.


---
*If you have skipped this link, go back and click and read it now. It is heartbreaking and courageous and beautiful and most importantly, in her own words, in her own story, not just mine from the outside.
**okay, maybe not SHOUTED, but me being angry and forthright at ALL is so odd that it sort of feels like shouting to me.
***Which, if you're curious, I did not end up making. That year there were just an AWFUL lot of clarinets trying out. More amusing perhaps was when I tried out my senior year and instead of the competition being tight, I just flat-out flubbed the audition, and as Randy was the section leader that year and therefore one of the people evaluating me, he was quite embarrassed and literally couldn't talk to me for the rest of the day.
****Unless it's to ease my guilty conscience over what a crappy friend I was at the time of their comings-out. I suppose that could be part of it.+
+Technically, we observed years later, Randy hadn't actually ever directly come out to me. Like Jason, I just figured it out myself, because it was obvious. I just wasn't HAPPY about it then.
*****As unapologetic as I get, anyway.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
I touched on my personal problems with Lit Analysis in my last post (which, by the way, I have edited to include thoughts on Agent Carter's season finale, if you care), and as I continue to read a wide variety of opinions-expressed-as-truth about shows and books and etc, I thought it might make a good GeekMom post. So I pulled up something I'd written before about Lit Analysis to see if I could pull any of it for a new piece.

This had been one of a series of "memoirs" I'd written about my first years of college during my last year of college. Yeah. Kind of stretching the word "memoir" here but whatnot. As I read it I both laughed and cried. The bits and pieces I might use in an article would need a lot of reshaping to sound like a proper article, but I kind of want to share the whole thing as-is right now.

(I think I shared the one I wrote about my birthday once a long time ago, too. I'm going to go look for that! Oh, it was friends-locked because I used real names. I've un-friends-locked it due to like three people actually ever reading this while logged in on LiveJournal anymore. If anybody is called out by name in this who would not like to be, let me know!)

I'm not going to change or remove names in this one, either. Just shout at me if you think that should change. I've added a few notes and edits to clarify things for people who didn't know me in college, and taken out some chunks that are completely off-topic, but otherwise, I'm leaving it. I want to get other stuff done today!

And so I present to you "April 1997: The Trouble with Lit Analysis":

As written by me about 15 years ago! Not editing at all! So don't judge current me! Unless in a good way! )
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
For as far back as I can remember, my dad has made a big pot of New England Clam Chowder every Thanksgiving. Sure we have the turkey and stuffing and the rest of it, but the clam chowder is his particular contribution to our large extended-family feast. He always said it was more likely to have been eaten at Plymouth Rock* than turkey and stuffing, anyway.

Some years we'd show up and there'd be no other appetizers out, and we'd skipped lunch BECAUSE, and I'd be SOOOOO STARVING because I was a kid and had no sense of LATER, but clam chowder was gross. GROSS. Still, every once in awhile I'd get desperate enough for a few spoonfuls and a lot of oyster crackers. And over the years it grew on me and my tastes matured and the spoonfuls got bigger and the oyster crackers got less.

Today when I tasted it, "gross" it was not. It wasn't even soup I tasted. I tasted a cozy festive space that blocked the cold outside. I tasted a house crowded with love and laughter. I tasted football games blaring out of every TV even though no one particularly CARED who was winning (unless the Steelers were playing). I tasted the anticipation of a feast and a vast table of desserts and even of the Christmas season itself.

I had seconds of the clam chowder that tasted like so much more than clam chowder. Turkey and stuffing, well, anybody can have turkey and stuffing, any feast day. But New England clam chowder actually tastes like THANKSGIVING now.

So I give thanks for clam chowder, for the family that shares it, and for the man who makes it every year, whose birthday, coincidentally, is also today. Happy Birthday, Dad, and Happy Chowder Day, Everyone!

--


*Although, please people, can we stop with that association already? It's an offensive association, but that doesn't mean THANKSGIVING should go the way of offensive (unlike, say, Columbus Day. WHO CELEBRATES COLUMBUS DAY?!). We don't need to drag Thanksgiving down with it. Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, and that never goes out of style.
rockinlibrarian: (hi maddie)
Ten years and one month ago today yesterday (I got busy!), this happened.*

If I'd been paying attention, I would have pointed it out last month, but I got distracted (I've READ stuff and I did a whole lot of sewing, and of course there was day to day LIFE involved). But I'd PLANNED to point it out, because people with hugely popular Official Blogs are always pointing out their five year bloggiversaries or even one or two years, and I'm like "TEN! TEN YEARS! And still no one takes me seriously!"

But of course, it wasn't a BLOG, per se. It was a LiveJournal. At that time only college students used Facebook, and as for the rest of social media... well, I'm not entirely sure the phrase "social media" even existed. LiveJournal actually WAS social media. You followed your friends. People'd post pictures, surveys, memes, short cryptic passive aggressive comments that no one besides the poster understood, links to news articles, and there were LOADS of "Communities" on every conceivable topic. Just like Facebook and Twitter, and supposedly Tumblr but I still don't understand why that's considered a community-building place and I've been there two years already (no CONVERSATION! Just reblogging and adding comments that other people may or may not even see!). So I had friends on LiveJournal, ones who would tell me I should join. I think it was my old college roommate who specifically said, "It's something I can really see YOU getting into." I don't even know if her LiveJournal still works. Let's see what happens if I put it in here. [livejournal.com profile] gloworm59 Huh, it DOES still exist. But it was last updated six years ago, which means this one has been happening over TWICE as long.

Anyway, she was right, obviously. Because here I am, still using it, if only once a month or so (and I must admit I RARELY look at my Friends Page anymore. Most people I care about there link to their posts through other social media, so I KNOW when to go look!) And I enjoyed participating in the meme-survey-quiz-things whenever they showed up-- I miss surveys, to be honest, somebody give me a survey! -- but the thing I REALLY appreciated, which flashier social media could never offer me, was the LENGTH. The opportunity to write whatever was on my mind and actually get feedback about it.

It's like in middle school, when our english teacher would ask for volunteers to share our daily journal entries with the class, my hand would always shoot right up, because finally my peers would get to hear all the stuff I was thinking about! It was my chance to TALK! It was so much easier to talk that way than to talk out loud!

So right, Tumblr does offer length, but not, like I said, an easy way to get FEEDBACK. I LIKE comments. I LIKE the discussions that come from comments. I wish I got more comments.

And at the same time, I'm glad I'm just a little LiveJournal blogger. I'm glad I'm relatively invisible. It's this weird balance between letting myself OUT THERE and having somebody else acknowledge that I have something to say, and protecting myself-- the louder your voice, the more nasty voices find you and tell you to shut up.

I mean, here's an issue I've noticed for a long time: people can be nasty on the Internet. I know, duh. But while some people are just trolls, some people are actually well-meaning. They feel they're standing up for what's right by pointing out what you've done wrong. BUT they cross the line and turn it into a huge issue, make it personal, won't drop it long after you've moved on, fill it with hate. And for a long while a lot of people I admired thought, because these people's MOTIVES were good, or because these people's voices were traditionally unheard (like when they were calling out a person of privelege), that protesting this kind of behavior was just further oppression, further silencing of the seldom-heard. So I figured I was in the wrong, because I'm a spoiled straight white girl. But lately I've been noticing more and more people acknowledging what I noticed all along, that sometimes good motives don't excuse outright mean behavior.

And I think, hey, so maybe my gut instinct was RIGHT, here. Maybe I should have believed in myself, stood up against what I could see was bullying even if it could be argued as justified. I still need to remember that even I can sometimes be RIGHT.

So the other day at the library I was scrolling down my collection development spreadsheet, just looking at all the authors' names. All these people who managed to write books and publish them in the past year! When I was a kid I thought I was special for being a writer, the ONLY ONE... well, that I KNEW. Even when I met Angie, my best friend, in high school, and discovered that she was an absolutely fabulous writer, part of me was like "No, I'M the writer! ME! She's not as MUCH of a writer!" even as the rest of me was like "Don't be an idiot, Part of Me, this story she wrote off the top of her head is hilarious and awesome and not at all what YOU would have written so it's not like there's not room for BOTH of you to be writers!" So anyway twenty-some years later I'm looking at this list of a thousand-some names of professional, paid writers, and those just the ones who've published something recently for anyone under 18 that might be worth purchasing for a public library...

...being online, blogging and following other bloggers, has really driven home how MANY writers there are in the world...

...but for some reason the other day when I looked at that list, the thing I thought was "Maybe I could write something if I changed my name to Belinda."

That wasn't just a random name I picked. Belinda was my alter-ego as a very small child. Princess Belinda of Switzerland. I actually got the name from the Ogden Nash poem about Custard the Dragon, which my mom used to recite. (Not the Princess of Switzerland part. That I made up myself). So I guess it taps into that pure, brave soul-child of mine, the one who isn't afraid to put her vast imagination Out There. I don't think I was thinking that in so many words at the moment, it was just a gut-thing: "If my name was Belinda, I could be a writer again." Like, that IS the name of my inner soul-child, and maybe it's HER who can write.

But it seems kind of funny to adopt a pseudonym now, when here I am on the internet under my real name for over a decade. NOT writing fiction, even. Writing my innermost thoughts, putting them out into the universe in hopes someone else might see them and understand. Somewhat protected by the unprofessional backdrop of LiveJournal, by the anonymity of Not Being Famous. Fully exposed, but not where anyone's looking. Well, where SOME people are looking, which helps. Because I like that validation, that if I DO speak up, somebody might listen.

So here I am. Ten years I've had a voice, a small voice, a largely drowned out voice... but a voice nonetheless. And sometimes just having the voice reminds me that sometimes I actually have something to say.

----
*Note that the userpic is set to "default" and the "Current Mood" theme has changed over the years, as neither the building in the default userpic nor the baby in the Current Mood pic actually existed at the time of that post. Also, that baby learned to ride a two-wheeler the other week.
rockinlibrarian: (christmas)
If you've been waiting for me to stop whining and post something more librarianish, fear not, because I'm totally going to do a Spring Programming Roundup as soon as I get back to work so as to get my planning schedule so as to remember what I actually did this Spring. Meanwhile, I'm digging around in my psyche some more instead, because something's on my mind that I still can't quite get a handle on.

I'm sure I've mentioned before that I was a famous crybaby as a child. Not even as a child-- I've had my moments as an adult, too, which I've always attributed to my depression. But I've just started wondering if it's not more complicated than that. That it's my sensitivity that makes me cry, but it's my shame about it that makes me depressed. And, ironically, cry more. Except for all the times I don't. The many times I've deadened my emotions, held the tears in, taken a deep breath and kept on plugging, feeling proud of myself for growing and improving.

Except maybe I haven't actually been growing and improving. Maybe I've been turning myself in on myself, bottling myself up, filling myself with negative energy, SHAMING myself so deeply that I can't move. Maybe I've just been digging myself into this deep rut I've been despairing ever getting out of lately.

But you have to understand. It wasn't like something sad had to happen for me to cry about it. Sure I cried at sad things. I cried when I got physically hurt. I cried when I was scared. I cried when I was frustrated, when I was angry. I cried when I didn't get my way. I cried at EVERY. SINGLE. NEGATIVE. THING. that happened, or that I even just percieved as happening. Any negative feeling that arose in me, no matter how insignificant, bubbled out through my eyes.

(Ironically, it was often the REALLY sad and REALLY bad things-- the things OTHER people cry about-- that barely seemed to phase me. I could be philosophical about those. It was only IN THE MOMENT emotions that made me cry).

But I picked up on how shameful this was really young. Sometime before I was five (having moved at age 5 makes remembering whether something happened in early childhood or not much easier) I know I picked up on this message from somewhere: "Crybabies are being selfish. They're doing it to manipulate* others into giving them their way." But I'm not, I thought. I don't DECIDE to cry. It just happens. This frustrated me, this knowledge that people thought I was doing it on purpose. And being frustrated made me cry. And NOW I knew to be ashamed of it.

It alienated me from other kids-- more than my nerdy smarts, more than the physical ugliness I just assumed I had that would make people not like me, more than my different way of looking at the world, even probably more than my occasional know-it-all attitude-- it was the crying that really separated me. That was what the bullies would taunt me about. That was what my "friends" would roll their eyes about or decide they didn't want to associate with me in front of the cool kids. That was why my actual friends would be overly gentle with me, try to shelter me from things, even though I knew that's what they were doing and it just made me feel worse.

I often wondered if they ever knew that I hated my tears even worse than they did. Again in my head I was screaming, "I AM NOT DOING THIS ON PURPOSE! I AM NOT TRYING TO MANIPULATE ANYBODY! I DON'T WANT YOUR SYMPATHY! I DON'T WANT TO BE CRYING RIGHT NOW!" But of course my shame made me cry even more, which made me hate myself more, which made me cry more....

It got to the point, in high school, where-- okay, maybe I HAD "improved" about it. Maybe I took small bumps a lot more easily than I'd used to, and maybe that is a good thing. I was crying over less things, but I FELT WORSE about it. I felt like I could never shake that Crybaby label, and to some of the other kids, at least, I hadn't. I remember one girl, a friendly aquainance at least, who did a whole speech about me in our 11th grade Speech class-- never naming me outright, but referring to real situations we'd been in-- it was CLEARLY me, and I was right there in the same class listening to this speech passive-aggressively directed at me-- all about how people shouldn't cry over things, they needed to Man Up (that phrase wasn't used, but that's the general idea) and Deal and "just wipe those tears away." That one IS an exact quote, because I can still see her, hear her, concluding her speech with it, along with motions. I was SO ANGRY. I was about to boil over with rage. But what do I do when I'm boiling over? CRY. But I obviously couldn't do that, not right then, in front of her and the rest of the class who'd just listened to a speech about what a baby I was.

This is kind of a culminating incident, that I wrote about here, my closest what-you-might-say brush with suicide. Come to think of it I think it was the same girl. Maybe it was just her. Maybe she had a Thing about crying, herself, that made her uncomfortable around me. But at the time it was EVERYBODY. The whole world hated me for crying too much. Okay, maybe they didn't all HATE me, but they still thought I cried too much. So I hated me, even if it was just the "me at school" I truly hated.

Because even if she was the only kid at school who directly labelled me a crybaby, our culture in general doesn't like tears. It doesn't like crybabies. It assumes tears are either for manipulation or a sign of weakness. You'd even get the so-called "feminists" (Sure glad I've since learned what true feminism is all about) complaining about female characters that cried, that this was a stereotypical weakness. I'm such a failure to women everywhere because I cry a lot! I'm a failure as a selfless Christian good person who doesn't take things personally! I'm a failure as a writer because writers need to be able to handle criticism and rejection! I SUCK BECAUSE I HAVE OVERACTIVE TEAR DUCTS!

I think I should have taken it as a sign that these cultural attitudes were wrong, because they made me angry. Part of me knew they were unjust. But I just turned all that anger in instead.

Again, I just feel like saying to the world, You will never hate me for crying as much as I hate myself for crying. You have NO IDEA how sensitive I am to this topic. You have no idea.

And I have no idea. I'm so confused right now. Because it's only just occurred to me, yesterday in fact, that all this shame is NOT HEALTHY. That I'm NOT growing by hating my oversensitive side. AND YET I still can't help feeling ashamed about it. I mean, the times I've gotten teary when I've been corrected at work-- my current job, now, as an adult, which I love and know I am definitely not a failure at-- being corrected still makes me embarrassed, and being embarrassed makes me cry. But if I cry, will my supervisors write me off as being Unable to Take Correction? OF COURSE THEY WILL. And so I'm still ashamed of it, even though part of me KNOWS it's not that I can't TAKE correction, it's just that I've got to react to the embarrassment that way before I go fix my mistake. And since I'm ashamed of it-- I cry more.

There are so many situations where I absolutely do not want to cry, but how do I balance that out-- how do I keep a calm composure without hating myself for how hard it is for me? I feel like learning to accept my oversensitivity is a REALLY IMPORTANT PSYCHOLOGICAL THING FOR ME TO DO, but it's still so problematic.

--
*I'm not sure if I actually knew the word "manipulate" at that age-- I probably did, I was always a nerd that way-- but I understood the CONCEPT people were getting across just fine.

EDIT FOR POSTERITY, AND ALSO BECAUSE I FIND IT INTERESTING AND WONDERFUL AT LEAST: Disqus just reminded me that it was this article, particularly the description of Meg Murry, that got me thinking on this and inspired me to write this post. As you can even see from my comment on it, I felt "like I should elaborate but that's all I really have to say...." Well, this post was me elaborating! Yay, Meg Murry, I love you yet again! ...Now I don't know whether to add the Year of the Tesseract tag to this. :)
rockinlibrarian: (hi maddie)
Hey, kids!

Do you enjoy when I ramble aimlessly on the Internet? Well, you're in luck! Today I need to use you in lieu of my private paper journal, because the heel of my right thumb is injured and I'm finding it exceedingly difficult to write with a pen for an extended period. Meaning, longer than a paragraph. I just tried and it's not working, so here I am, because even though I can't seem to MAKE anything of my writing (for now, for now! To everything there is a season! as my dear friend E. Louise Bates reminded me last time I felt down about that online), I apparently still must write SOMETHING daily to keep my head on straight.

I got stabbed with a steak knife, if you were wondering. This is why loading the dishwasher is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. J had foolishly stuck it in the silverware holder moments before, point up, which is not a wise thing to do, by the way, and he still can't seem to forgive himself, but I think he did a rather fine job of redeeming himself by coming to my aid afterward, as I was going helpless. "I'm okay, I need to get a bandaid," I said, going to wash my hands, "I'm bleeding a lot. Um, could you get me a bandaid? I don't think I can get it open," and that's when I started getting woozy and had to collapse on the floor.

Please say I'm not the only one who has this problem with injury? Like Anne Shirley at first, I feel like I'm missing something because I've never PROPERLY FAINTED, but I come NEAR enough to it for all sorts of stupid reasons. I get surface booboos all the time, being a klutz, and I almost don't even notice those (hense my immediate "I just need to get a bandaid!" reaction), but just a bit DEEPER than surface and I start to pass out. Part of my deep mistrust of gym teachers is rooted in the time we were supposed to be practicing cartwheels in 5th grade and I came down on my thumb wrong, pulling it backward too hard, and this Woozy Reaction hit me so I tried to go sit down and the gym teacher would NOT HAVE IT. How injured could I BE, really? And I'm like I KNOW it's stupid and I'm barely hurt BUT I HAVE TO SIT DOWN OR I WILL FALL DOWN ANYWAY.

So J applied pressure and bandaged me up and talked me through the feverish faint until I could actually sit up again, and then cautioned me against overtaxing the hand until it healed, so then I laid down and watched Netflix for the rest of the evening. And there went my plans for today. Go to yoga? Weed the garden? Write with a pen, apparently? I am SO MAD that I'm not ambidextrous.

So anyway, I must do my rambling here instead of in my notebook. Normally first thing in the morning when I write, I often write a bit about what I dreamed, but last night there's nothing sticking out as PARTICULARLY memorable. OH, OH, except this part about how people in an Irish village have to be sacrificed to the fairies every New Years Day but the group of us slated for sacrifice managed to avoid this this year through strategic elevator deception and possibly fireworks? I'm not sure. That's where the not PARTICULARLY memorable part comes in, because I don't remember that part.

Yesterday we were playing Rifts, a "tabletop" RPG, over Skype with J's best friend. The two of them can talk minute details of RPGs they will never get around to playing for HOURS, but every so often they'll get a block where they can both sit at the computer and chat over the microphone and actually PLAY, with ME around to be a third player, because it's boring to have less players than that. I enjoy playing from a storytelling standpoint, if not to the point of minute details, but the difference between making up a story out loud vs. on paper is frustratingly apparent, at least when you're trying to play a spy with advanced interrogation skills, and the rest of the team is waiting for you to ask just the right questions and you're sitting there making fish faces until you burst out "My CHARACTER knows what to say, but I don't!" Why IS that? I don't think it's merely a matter of confidence. I think there really might be a short circuit in between my putting-things-into-words center and my mouth center. There doesn't seem to be that problem between my brain and HANDS, which is why I can SAY everything I'm thinking in WRITING. Not that I'm exactly Queen of Improv here, either. I guess it's just less of a problem to take your time remembering the right words when you're putting them on paper and only letting someone else in on them when you're all done (if ever). Or, maybe, taking things back and trying out DIFFERENT things to say, and what order to say them in, whereas you have to make a snap decision on what you're going to say if you say it out loud.

So it's possible that the only reason I'm a better writer than a talker is because I'm indecisive.

I'm reading Jaclyn Moriarty's A Corner of White-- I KNOW! I KNOW! I'M ACTUALLY READING A NOVEL FOR ONCE!-- and it's because I love Jaclyn Moriarty that much, so much that I can finally get around to reading a book AFTER the sequel is already out. Anyway, in the part I was reading last night, a teacher tells his students about Isaac Newton writing himself questions to think about and answers in different handwriting, so that changing his handwriting can help change his thinking in new ways, too. And I thought, well, THAT'S something I need to try. Now, writing with my left hand would certainly be a change in my handwriting, wouldn't it? But I don't want to mess my journal up with it!

This time around, when I had to buy a new notebook for journaling the other week, I bought a sketch journal. No lines! My heart cried out for it. I still WRITE more than draw-- I doodle on lined paper, too. But so far I think the only doodle in this so-called sketch journal is Paul McCartney's bass. This is okay! I had no intention of using it for drawing. It's just a different surface for journaling. Of course I tend to draft things on the backsides of scrap paper, anyway. Stories, letters, complicated blog posts (not my concert review, though. That was actually drafted, for the most part, IN my journal itself. Along with the doodle of Paul's bass). Random rants to the ghost of Diana Wynne Jones. It feels less like you're wasting paper that way than if you do your jotting in a nice lined notebook. But journaling is more linear, so I don't mind-- nay, I PREFER-- to do that in a nice self-contained spiral-bound, in non-smearing pen. But I have yet to see if there's a difference in the way my MIND works, journaling with no lines versus lines.

Now I'm journaling on the screen, with a keyboard, with the full intention of hitting "Publish" when I'm done. But I don't know if even THAT has changed WHAT I would have written THAT much. I explained a few things more than I would have in my private journal. But even my private journals have a bit of an audience. There's SOME imaginary person, far in the future, that I direct them to. It's something in the shaping of it-- not TRULY just random thoughts, but an effort to turn my random thoughts into COMMUNICATION. What would I SAY right now if I had a captive and unwaveringly-supportive audience?

And that's about it. Thank you for being here for me, Livejournal, when my thumb would much rather occasionally hit a space bar than continuously support a pen. I bid you good day.
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
In what is coincidentally now a series of posts --okay, two in a row-- about Influential Teachers I Have Had, today I want to eulogize my favorite professor from Library School, Dr. Margaret Mary Kimmel.

As you can see from that obituary, she was quite an influential person at large, let alone to her students. She brought her good friend Margaret K. McElderry in to talk to our class once. Not to mention organizing whole peace rallies at the SIS building with her good friend Fred Rogers. What strikes me as curious about this obituary though is that this piece of sentence-- "Friends knew Ms. Kimmel as an incredible storyteller"-- is the only mention in the whole article of what I remember most strongly about her!

She worked magic with the spoken word. She wasn't loud. She didn't do voices. She certainly didn't act physically all over the stage, confined as she was to her scooter most of the time. She just had a way of pulling words together that made you want to listen. I remember one time... well, that was what she said, in fact. All she said was, "In fact, ONE time, years ago, I-- well, never mind that now, it's too far off-topic," and the entire class let out their breaths at once. That was the most I ever NOTICED how palpable the magic got when she told stories, just because it was cut off so suddenly. She roped us so thoroughly in just by STARTING to tell a story.

Naturally, "Storytelling" was one of the classes I actually TOOK from her. Whether I'm any good at it myself is... well, not even debatable. I'm not-- not out loud, not without the written word to fall back on. But that class sure made me APPRECIATE storytelling. She sent us to the Three Rivers Storytelling Festival, which was the Greatest Thing I'd Ever Seen and I swore I'd go to it every year from then on, even though somehow I haven't actually managed to since. Why don't more people seek out plain old storytellers? The closest most people get are stand-up comics. But then, even some stand-up comics are actually just funny storytellers. I saw Bill Cosby live in college, and I noticed that with him-- he wasn't telling JOKES. He was telling STORIES. It adds a depth to it.

My first library job once I had the MLIS was as a long-term sub in an elementary school library. There were three students scheduled for "all-day Kindergarten" (while most of the kindergarteners did a half-day) who had an empty period in the middle of the day, when the "specials" teachers rotated taking them and basically just letting them hang out in their rooms. The times they came to the library they mostly colored and watched PBS, which happened to be showing Mister Rogers' Neighborhood at that time. And one day I heard a different familiar voice coming from the TV. "LOOK GUYS!" I squealed to the unsuspecting kindergarteners. "See that lady talking to Mister Rogers? That's MY teacher! She taught me how to be a librarian!" The kids were neither all that shocked nor impressed by this, and proceeded to continue their coloring. But I was enrapt at least.
rockinlibrarian: (rebecca)
Read the first sentence of this Young Writer's Program campaign and have to write something.

In my elementary school, the head teacher of the 6th grade teachers was an imposing man. Not that he was abnormally LARGE, but he had a powerful barking voice and a reputation for not suffering fools. He'd been in the Army.* He even looked eerily like Hulk Hogan, a detail that actually meant something to kids at that point in history, which he'd occasionally exploit for cheap celebrity appearances at assemblies.

As an abnormally timid child, I wanted nothing to do with him. I was glad, then, that I KNEW I wouldn't have him for class. Our school had an unadvertised practice of sorting kids for reading and math classes strictly, fastest to slowest, and I was always in the very fastest classes. Mr. Rodgers, everyone knew, only taught the SECOND-fastest 6th grade Reading class.

Until, naturally, MY sixth grade year, when the top two Reading classes were resorted into two equal advanced-track levels. There I was in Mr. Rodgers' classroom after all.

It was clear he really wouldn't suffer fools. But he also only used that bark as a last resort. Most of the time he kept his voice gentle, good-humored. He gladly advertised his fannishness for the Three Stooges and PeeWee Herman. He liked to laugh, and to make us laugh, and it was the good sort of laughter-- the laughing WITH laugh. He'd laugh for being happy.

Most importantly, he'd laugh whenever I wrote something that I meant to be funny. He appreciated it.

Each week we had to write our spelling words in sentences, and because I was a writer-geek child, I did my very best to link every one of those sentences into a story. Mr. Rodgers loved that. Nearly every week he'd ask me to read my "story" to the class, and because I was always one of those weird shy people who came to life when asked to actually PERFORM,** I always did happily. Helped, I think, because he always listened with a huge smile, punctuated with a nod or a chuckle.

He'd do the same for other kids, sometimes, so I knew it wasn't just some weird teacher's-pet thing he had for me. It was a genuine thrill in seeing us create good things. Which pleased me even more, that, as far as I could tell, I was thrilling him most often.

I've probably said this before, but the one academic thing I've never been good at was getting my homework done.*** But only Mr. Rodgers ever scolded me for it in THESE words: "I expect much better from you." I couldn't just brush that one off like I could the "You need to be more responsible!"s!

So eventually he became the first adult outside my family who ever read the "books" I wrote on my own time. I waited impatiently over the course of a week or so for him to finish, though having since been on the other side of The Teacher's Desk it's a wonder he finished as quickly as he did. I think part of me hoped for a loud, "This is brilliant! Let's get it published!" so I was a little let down when the only feedback I got for the whole 70-some pages**** was a post-it note. But it said, "This is good. It made me smile. Keep writing, Amy!"

Sometime in my early adulthood he had a stroke, but I saw him in passing just a few years later while I was subbing at my old elementary school-- hobbling through the halls with a cane, relying on student teachers to do the heavy stuff, but still, THERE, unwilling to give up inspiring kids to learn and create. He did finally retire a few years back, and I asked around among my old classmates on Facebook but nobody seems to have heard anything about how he's doing now or even if he's still alive. A couple months back I saw a Write a Letter to Thank a Teacher! thing for Teacher Appreciation Week or something, and I thought about writing this then. But a letter to someone whom no one seems to know if he's even alive?

Well, why not. That's what blogs are for.

Here's to the teachers who encourage, everywhere.

---
*Or it could have been that he actually WAS, still, in the National Guard, but it's hard to tell with kid-rumors.

**Note: today I have a job where I frequently read aloud in front of a highly-opinionated audience. I love that part. The most terrifying part of my job is when I have to MAKE PHONE CALLS. There are many different KINDS of social anxiety, you know!

***This is still hard as a parent. Except now it's not MY homework.

****Handwritten by a kid, with illustrations. Not 70 double-spaced typewritten pages. Still.
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
I wanted to catch up on READING this blog I found before I posted about it, but it's taking me longer than I'd like (I'm looking at it as reading a book, and we all know how persistent I've been about THAT process lately), and anyway at the moment I feel a bit annoyed, which is a good way to get me to post something (that actually relates to ANOTHER potential post that's been tumbling around my head lately-- anger=drive-- but I guess I'll get to that one some other time, too), so darnit, here you are anyway, now. I must share! We shall NOW all finish catching up TOGETHER!

Anyhoo, a couple of weeks ago I found a link to this article, about a woman-- a CHILDREN'S LIBRARIAN in fact-- who's started a Tumblr blog called My Husband's Stupid Record Collection, in which she listens to her husband's stupid-only-in-that-it-is-stupidly-LARGE vinyl collection in order and writes about it.

OH-EM-GEE. THIS WOMAN NEEDS TO BE MY NEW BEST FRIEND. That is so totally what I want to DO with my life! Systematically go through a whole stupid record collection and write about it! (It's probably the true ulterior motive behind my imaginary marriage to Martin Freeman! I'm totally imaginarily using him for his record collection!) It only really WORKS with a massive vinyl collection, I'm afraid. Sure, I could write about new-to-me music I find online. I could go through MY husband's CD collection if I thought it contained any hidden treasures (it doesn't). But it's not the same. It's not that I'm a vinyl purist, sound-wise-- it's that there's something ritualistic about listening to a record. The putting-it-on-the-turntable, setting-the-needle-in-place process, and then SITTING, LISTENING.

The annoyance that nudges me to post comes from, apparently, some outsiders' attitudes toward the project. Did you know there's apparently a gender divide to music geekery? And so this blog is either a musically-clueless girl bringing her fresh perspective to the male world of music collection, or it is reinforcing stereotypes ABOUT how girls are clueless about record collecting? (Reading SOME of the comments to this post she wrote in response to the detractors, basically comments in which detractors said "You're still wrong," which is super-annoying but seems sadly to be the fate of Internet discourse, anyway, that was what made me annoyed this time). Where do these ideas COME from? In my house growing up, sure, the music-collection geek of the binary-gendered couple was my dad. In this house right here? The music geek is me. Absolutely not the guy. I certainly never thought of it along gendered lines. Just, you know, individual people and their hobbies lines.*

My dad passed on his music geekery to me from long before conscious memory: playing the piano for me as an infant, offering me music lessons as a given (the way I remember it was he brought some fliers home from some lesson-offering friends and said "Would you like to learn the piano or the violin?" Which, MAYBE he was asking if I'd like to learn either at all, but I definitely HEARD as "You will learn one of these, which will it be?" Luckily I already WANTED to play the piano), quizzing me on singers and songs, getting so involved in the Band Parents that I'm pretty sure HE had more friends at my school than I did, and, yes, digging out his totally massive vinyl collection for my perusal and eventual use on my college radio show. Now, HIS record collection I could definitely write about. The special thing about his collection is that it's mostly 45s instead of LPs-- as a teenager he'd worked for a deejay who paid him in records. LOADS of Promotional-issued 45s. He's got this famous misprint of "Penny Lane" with a few extra trumpet notes at the end, that deejays were SUPPOSED to destroy once they got the official release instead, but hey. Technically, I'VE got it. He officially gave me all his Beatles 45s, but they must be somewhere still at his house... which is funny because now I also have his RECORD player.

My best friend Angie had a record player in college, and her roommate Jen and I would dig up obscure records from our parents' collections just to bring to school and sit around their room, listening. (Okay not JUST-- I DID have my radio show for which I was constantly lugging a bag-and-a-box of vinyl around). My only really great contribution to this was Donovan's "There Is a Mountain," which I made everyone I met listen to at some point, and okay, you can debate if this was a GREAT contribution or not (but if you choose to debate with me on the topic, you ARE wrong). Jen dug up the marvels. She found the "Da Da Da" song that was on a Volkswagen commercial at the time-- not just the song, a whole ALBUM. She introduced us to "Hocus Pocus" by Focus, which is awesome but to be honest we mostly just made excuses to say it aloud. I'm sure there were more, but those are the only specifics I can think of at the moment, beyond that they sampled the Doors' "The Soft Parade" for all the system sounds on their computer, so the computer would announce "THE MONK BOUGHT LUNCH" every time you turned it off, but they had that on CD, not vinyl, so like I said. Not the Same.

I'm really not so off in wanting Sarah-of-her-husband's-stupid-record-collection as a best friend, because she reminds me an AWFUL lot of Jen. Even in looks, they're built alike, with similar smiles, and have the same super-straight banged hair, and glasses when blog-Sarah is wearing glasses. Jen ended up marrying a musician-- a drummer of nearly every possible genre, a true music geek if ever there was one. No one can deny that Jen's husband is a BIGGER music geek than she is, but that doesn't make Jen NOT a music geek, just because she (like Sarah, like me) chose to devote her career to books instead (Jen's a writer/English professor, not a librarian, but basic gist holds).

This is an example of a broader issue of Geekdom. The "what makes a TRUE Geek of Such-and-Such?" question. And there IS a gender thing that comes up in that question, most famously in the "Fake Geek Girl" concept. This title usually refers to girls who like comics and conventions, where a few of the guys who like comics and conventions just can't seem to believe that is possible. But of course GEEKINESS is much more than comics and conventions. The word "geek," used in a neutral-to-positive sense, seems to mean "a person who takes joy in their favorite things to the point of studying, collecting, debating, and otherwise going on and on about them, unselfconsciously and irregardless of those things being seen as 'cool' by the mainstream," most inclusively. But you can't deny that some of those favorite things are considered more "geeky" than others, and "Geek Culture" just generally assumes a love of speculative fiction, comic books and/or superheroes, games of all sorts (but especially NON-MAINSTREAM games), and anything BRAINY or NERDY (I still think "nerd" is a subset of "geek"-- a more academic and outright-uncool geek). I'm an utter nerd, and therefore (subset, you know) a geek. I use big words, not to impress people, but just because they come out that way. I love learning new and weird things, I like to THINK about things, I absorb useless trivia, I'm passionate about my favorite things, and I love "Geek Culture" because it's full of people LIKE that; and I DO love speculative fiction, though mostly as written for younger people, and I love games but video games make me dizzy, and I like superheroes but comics make me dizzy, too... so when people say "Fake Geek Girl" they're usually not talking about ME.

Rock music, in and of itself, is not considered "geeky" that way, but a) it's nonetheless MY biggest Geekdom, and b) the culture surrounding it ALSO tends to assume that This Isn't a Girl Thing. So I relate.
I even did a whole salute to "Fake" Rock Girls last year for our Video Blog. I'm not going to repeat everything I said there here, partially because I want to get us away from the gender issue now. WHAT MAKES SOMEONE A GEEK FOR SOMETHING, male or female? CAN you draw a line, saying Because you are not as Extreme In Your Geekitude as me, you're not a Geek of this topic? Because you direct your passion on this topic in a different WAY than I do, you are not a Geek?

I always think of Star Wars for that last question. Star Wars is very important to me, emotionally. Did a Vlog about that one, too. But I still remember when my aforementioned friend Jen-- I DEDICATE THIS WHOLE POST TO JEN-- first gave me her email address, which incorporated the name "Wedge Antilles," and I was like "What's that mean?" and she was like, "WEDGE WAS THE ONE REBEL BESIDES THE MAIN CHARACTERS WHO MADE IT THROUGH ALL THREE STAR WARS MOVIES!" and I was like, "Oh, really? I don't remember him." Because, unlike most "Star Wars Geeks," I really didn't have every ancillary detail memorized. I was too busy marvelling about life and death and sacrifice and mercy. I'm a BIG PICTURE Star Wars geek-- a forest type instead of a trees type. But there's a certain contingent of Geekery devoted to mapping the bark of every tree in the forest, and a certain contingent of THAT contingent that believes you're not a true Geek unless you, too, are a bark-mapper.

I'm a bark-mapper of the Beatles forest, though, which may be part of why I feel most comfortable claiming that as my biggest Geekdom. But it gets a little scary when your Geekitude is judged on quantity, because there's a LOT of bark in a forest, and even if you SHOULD get through mapping it all, by that time some trees have died and new ones have grown. And sometimes I feel like a sorry excuse for a music geek because I've gotten so BEHIND in the past seven years (as I have with everything. KIDS KILL BRAIN CELLS, in case you were unaware). Plus, I'm on the Internet, surrounded by other bark mappers, who are familiar with so MUCH obscure music and trivia-- my specialized knowledge pales! I mean, come on, "There Is a Mountain" is on Donovan's GREATEST HITS album, for cryin' out loud!

Bringing us back to Sarah-of-her-husband's-stupid-record-collection. If you actually read her blog, it's clear she is NOT a clueless outsider. She LOVES music! She LOVES to listen and to dance and to go to concerts and to discover MORE of it! But a) she loves it in a different WAY than her husband and the other bark-mappers-- a more emotional way, feeling it physically, is how she describes it. And sure, there's lots of DETAILS she doesn't know-- a lot of stuff I knew that she only just learned. But she also knows stuff I don't know (starts off her Blonde Redhead review by saying she listened to them a lot in college-- I've never so much as HEARD of them), and stuff I DO know but I'm fairly sure is really NOT common knowledge (does the average person REALLY have any idea who Syd Barrett is? Also by the way, am I stupidly pleased that she loves Barrett? It's so weird but so wonderful).

The point IS loving it. Or hating it as the case may be. The ENTHUSIASM. Geeking out over records is not a contest to see how much you already know. It's sitting around the turntable making discoveries for the first time, or sharing your underappreciated favorites with your friends, or even gawking over truly horrible things you've dug up, but learning and feeling new things is all PART of it. You lose that vitality if you make it dependent on what you ALREADY know.

Now I really miss Jen and Angie and their record player. Oh well.

--
* In a flip to this, a few weeks ago the 5yo, listening to the radio, out of nowhere said "This is a BOY singing! Boys don't sing!" "SURE they do. Whatever gave you that idea?" I replied, genuinely bewildered. "Well, DADDY doesn't sing..." she said. "Well yeah, but that's DADDY. Not BOYS. The Beatles are boys. And haven't you ever heard Pappap sing?" and I vowed in my head to make sure to get the kids to more of my dad's choral society concerts. He also sang in the church choir at Easter, and I made a point of MAKING SURE THEY KEPT NOTICING THAT the whole time we were there.
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
Last week, a tree fell on our house. I was in the upstairs bathroom, the room directly under the point of impact. My initial reaction was to burst out laughing at how this had been immediately preceded by one of the guys cutting it down saying "Uh-oh." A few yards and an attic crawl space from being beaned to death by a falling tree,* and all I could do was appreciate the comic timing of that loud "uh-oh," followed by the smack of a huge bunch of branches right outside the window.

A bit later I was able to expand that reaction to laughing at the irony of the entire situation. We have a series of very old, very tall, very rickety pines right on the property line-- on one side or the other, but all a threat to either our house or the neighbors'. So when said neighbor came over to ask permission to work in our yard so as to remove one of those trees that was on their side of the line, I said, "Oh yes, we're concerned about those trees falling on our house, too." So when the first tree being removed instead falls DIRECTLY ON OUR HOUSE IN THE PROCESS... seriously, you have to admit that's funny!

"How are you laughing?" people would ask me later as I tried to tell them what had happened. "How are you TAKING this so well?" Well, no one got hurt. Insurance is handling all the repairs. Sure, we're going to have to pay a lot more, to take this opportunity to replace the entire roof that needed it anyway; and to replace ALL the siding because they don't make the kind we have anymore to match; and to take this opportunity to get the house properly insulated because it turns out it ISN'T (and that will save money in the long run). And that's kind of exciting. Sure, we probably WON'T get to fixing the retaining wall or painting the shed as per the original plans for this summer of having-more-money-than-we-used-to, but hey.

And you know what? We've never been as friendly with those neighbors before as we have since they dropped a tree on our house. The guys at first cowered in terror from my husband, and took some time to get their heads around that he HADN'T come out screaming-- or shooting, everybody knows about his hobbies-- at them, but instead just expressed concern about no one getting hurt. "What good does getting mad do?" he said. And, as it turned out this had been our neighbor and his buddies themselves trying to do this tree removal instead of a professional company-- and they were definitely not going to try again WITHOUT a professional company, J said, "When you do, let me know, we can go in together on it and get the other trees done, too. Talk to you later, we'll have some beers and barbecue!"

All the personality type descriptions of me that come up feel the need to point out that, as an optimist, I need to be careful not to ignore problems or refuse to acknowledge that there's Bad Stuff about even the things and people I love. That was even TODAY'S Type 9 "Enneathought for the Day" in my inbox: "As average Nines accommodate themselves, they idealize the other person, who can do no wrong. Values and beliefs are seldom questioned. Watch for this tendency in yourself today." I snorted. Well, it's true I'll tend to go with whatever anybody else says rather than stand up for what I want, and that IS something that's been on my mind since yesterday evening, when the hubs and I had an argument about what colors to go with for the new siding and trim. He wants grayscale for easier repairing. I want the exact opposite-- even our current blue-with-white-trim is too bland for me. I want COLOR. Sensible color. I'm definitely leaning toward this particular shade of green, which looks lovely with some browns and a touch of red. Last night I spent a great deal of time dreaming I was studying green houses, and how to compromise with roof color. I also dreamed I was trying to unlock these pictures I couldn't access of the Time I Swear I Really Did Meet Julie Andrews and She Said She Liked My Gardening (note: I have never actually met Julie Andrews), and this lady kept wanting to give me acupuncture in the shape of India. But anyway, my point is I'm sticking to my guns on this, and we ARE going to have SOME color in our new house covering.

And, okay, I do tend to ignore problems, either hoping they'll go away or waiting until I ABSOLUTELY HAVE TO DEAL with them, which could be dangerous especially in medical situations (but you know what happens every time I go to the doctor, after trying to rassle up babysitting or some other rearrangement of schedule? "Oh, you just have a pretty bad virus. Get some rest and drink plenty of fluids." AAAGGHHH!)

But refusing to acknowledge the bad or thinking loved ones can do NO WRONG? I kindly disagree. I am all too aware of The Dark Side. I'm probably MORE aware of the Dark Side than the average person.** That's why disasters and tragedies and horrors seem to SHOCK other people more than they shock me. Not saying bad things don't make me sad, or angry, or slightly sick. It's just that they're so common. If I was expected to cry in outrage EVERY time I encountered a tragedy, I would never stop. So I choose to focus on the beauty or the humor or both.

A common refrain of those who take a pessimistic view is, "We're just being realistic about it!" Dude, let me tell you about being unrealistic. Do you know what goes on inside the head of a person with chronic depression? It's utter negativity. And it's utter BS. Choosing to focus on the positive allows me to actually TAKE ACTION in the world. Focusing on the negative makes me give it all up to hopelessness. Now, I can see where acknowledging as opposed to ignoring problems comes into this. Ignoring problems is not taking action, either. But there's a difference between "HERE'S A PROBLEM. LOOK AT THIS PROBLEM. GASP IN SHOCK AT THIS PROBLEM. OH NO, WE HAVE A PROBLEM!" and "Well, THAT'S something we need to fix. How are we going to do that? I'm sure we'll find a way."

As for idealizing people... I AM very good at seeing the good in other people. I AM inclined to Not-Hate people everyone else can't stand-- and often I DON'T see what their problem is until it's pointed out to me. But usually, I do. I just don't care unless it's actively causing a problem. Like there's a book vendor who has a history of coming to our library. I do not want to work with him. I wish they'd stop letting him come in. He's a horribly pushy salesman. Last time he showed up, unable to find anyone who actually orders books to talk to, he just asked some of the others to look and see what they might be INTERESTED in, and then went and ordered them all for us anyway. I don't like him. But only as a book vendor. I'm sure his family is very proud of what a good salesman he is, how he supports them and all. Just because I don't want to work with him doesn't negate his worth as a human being. It doesn't give me the right to insult his fashion choices or make assumptions about his politics. It doesn't mean I'm going to start a campaign to have all my followers find his Twitter handle and bully him online-- "well HE'S a bully, serves him right!" No, not really. I just don't want to deal with him trying to sell me books.

In one of my childhood books-I-wrote, there's a line at the end where I said (I'm the narrator of that book) something like, "The others have been treating so-and-so better after I told them that she makes a very good book character." Maybe the whole empathy-from-reading-fiction thing is what's kept me realistically-optimistic about people, instead of idealizing them or hating on them. I've always liked looking at people as potential book characters. Imperfect characters are way more interesting than perfect ones. I like quirks. I like wondering about the pain and/or hopes beneath the surface of people. I like comparing the different ways people react to the same situation.

And so I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt.

And what's wrong with that? Is it really better to say "This person is a jerk because they have this terrible fault," than "This person is wonderful in these ways! Oh yes, they're not perfect, but I wasn't talking about that right now"? I mean, sure, if someone has done something reprehensible, they ought to be punished for it if at all possible, and it's wrong to let them get away with it (for example, on one end, Justin Beiber's DUI issues, or Woody Allen's sex abuse thing on the other). And I admit when someone gets a lot of praise whom you know has been, to put it mildly, Imperfect, there's that urge to say "...but!" It's my John Lennon problem. It bugs me when people talk about him like he WAS the Beatles, like he was the genius behind it all, because he wasn't. He was only a so-so musician, particularly compared to Paul. And that whole Icon of Peace thing... excuse me, John? Who mistreated his wives and girlfriends? Rude, crass John? GEORGE would make a much better Icon of Peace-- or Ringo. From a personal day-to-day standpoint, Ringo embodies living a life of Peace better than any of them. DARN IT, PEOPLE, STOP IDOLIZING JOHN. And yet... John. Funny, clever John, who would have made my life by writing either "Across the Universe" or "Julia" alone, and he wrote BOTH of them. I can't not love John, warts and all.

I just don't see the point on dwelling on problems that can't be undone. There comes a point where you realize what a crapball the world can be, what idiots humans are, what atrocities and injustices happen at every moment, and you give up on it-- or you notice the good things that keep on happening, even among all the bad. You notice the wildflowers that have overgrown the tracks at Auschwitz, the strangers sharing supplies with each other in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the smile on the person you pass on the street, just acknowledging you, just saying, "Hi, I see you're there, and you're a person who could use a smile today."

Focusing on the good is not the same as refusing to acknowledge the bad. It's just not letting the bad win.

----
*one of my grandfathers was killed by a falling tree, this is serious business!
**seriously, "The Imperial March" is playing on my computer right now. I'm not even kidding.
rockinlibrarian: (hi maddie)
Well, darnit, folks. I've got two potential posts bubbling (and a couple more sitting in pots waiting for an open burner), and somehow I can't sit down and write them. I have this much trouble with BLOG writing-- no wonder my career in fiction hasn't gone anywhere! I spend most evenings watching the Olympics, because if I skip that I'm haunted by MISSING them, even though I spend most of the time reading with the Olympics just ON in front of me. But tonight I just want LESS NOISE, so I'll write a post instead. Only I'm so good at avoiding it.

The amazing thing is that that paragraph there actually fits nicely with one of the things I wanted to post about. Here, first off, you may have seen this Tumblr post from Melissa Marr floating about the other day, even if you're not on Tumblr-- that there's actually a link to my response, which contains the link to the full original post (oh Tumblr, how I loath thy complications)-- anyway, it's about the unassertive habit of apologizing before you ask a question, before you speak, as if your voice is a horrible intrusion that has to be softened over with sorriness. You really have to read the post and my response because I'm not going to reiterate it all here, but I'm definitely jumping off from there.

Anyway, being that it's the story of my life, I clicked the Notes to see what other people may have been adding to this post. There really wasn't a whole lot added, but I caught one guy starting off with a "This is so true, but it isn't just women, I get lots of this from men, too," and, with the discussions of privilege in last week's entry/comments section still in my head, thought, "Oh poor dude, you are going to get your privileged male butt slammed for that argument"-- but actually, I DID see only one response to his long and helpful though a bit clueless-to-privilege post, (that links to both his post and the response), and it was quite polite. Which is nice, because even if it might come across as ignorant-of-the-ingrained-patriarchal-women-silencing-of-culture... I actually agree with him. Sure, the patriarchy may increase the problem, but the problem's BIGGER and DEEPER than that. And to be honest, the INSISTENCE that it's all just a matter of subtle sexism feels, to ME, like it's missing the point, trying to change the conversation, avoiding the real problem. Well, for me, at any rate.

I may be weird, but I've never felt much sexism, myself-- maybe because I've always leaned to Traditionally Female career paths; and I've always looked at anyone expressing any "girls can't"-such concepts as being Just Mindbogglingly Stupid, and not anything more dangerous. But I HAVE felt second-class. THIRD class. Worthless. Whatever. I just didn't attribute it to femininity. An adviser well-intentionally handed me Reviving Ophelia in college after I tried to explain my self-esteem struggles to him, but it really just frustrated me. It was missing the point. It wasn't my girliness or lack thereof that bothered me-- that had anything to do with my self-esteem problems. It was the bullying from other girls that I heard in my head whenever I tried to EXIST in a social situation. I always felt girls judging me (Curiously, there WAS another response to that Tumblr post that mentioned how other girls always felt more judgmental than guys. Not just me, then). Guys couldn't care less about me, and I only cared what THEY thought about me if they-- if HE-- happened to be that One Guy I happened to be madly in love with at that moment. But the girls had the power to make me feel Totally Shut Out.

Which is not to say that maybe there WEREN'T any subconscious patriarchal attitudes involved in any of this. Maybe I wouldn't have become QUITE so withdrawn if I WAS a privileged White Straight Middle Class Male. It's just that I had so many OTHER psychological issues that affected me much more directly. There was the whole twisted situation of my sister's death when I was six-- younger than my son is now-- which I've only recently started to figure out. For years all I thought to think about it was the typical Learning to Deal With Grief process everyone focused on, which was all I HEARD, and I was like, "Yeah, I'm fine. Obi-Wan Kenobi and I had a good talk. Why do we keep talking about this?" But I was totally messed up, just not with grief. With Survivor's Guilt, maybe? Annie was funny and outgoing and brave-- and only three, but clearly already she was the Cooler Daughter than I was, scaredy-cat crybaby that I was. And Only the Good Die Young, curse you Billy Joel. She got all sorts of special attention that last year, and losing her devastated everyone, so CLEARLY SHE was the Angel and I was alive because I WASN'T Good Enough to be an Angel. Surely everyone would have rather had HER around still instead of me. I was just a six-year-old kid. I had no abilities to see the logical fallacies here. But the impression stuck, the impression that I WASN'T the chosen one. The imagery I've always come back to is that I am the Dark Princess, always in the shadow of some vibrant, sparkling Disney Heroine whom everyone loves.* Maybe that Bright Princess started out as my sister, but I soon started projecting her onto EVERYONE, every girl who got the leads and solos in the school shows, every girl who wasn't picked last for sports, every girl who actually GOT whatever guy I happened to be madly in love with. I would always be second-best, always forgotten.

Okay, that's the TRAUMATIC CATACLYSM, but I was already set up to feel like an outcast, just because I'm FREAKING OVERSENSITIVE a Highly Sensitive Person. In the comments of my "Invisibility Cloak" post, E. Louise Bates recced this book, The Highly Sensitive Person, by Elaine N. Aron, which I promptly requested through the library, along with another book by her about parenting the Highly Sensitive Child. I had to laugh at how much the memories of being a reclusive child that I'd written about in that post seemed to be taken directly from this book (no wonder Louise made the connection!). Even the Dark Princess imagery is apparently common among Highly Sensitive types with self-esteem problems-- not so much the "princess" part, but the sense of being the one in the shadows to the shining other ones (it's REALLY BUGGING me, but I can't find the place in the book where I read this to cite it. I KNOW IT WAS THERE). Anyway, it's spelled out, how many things I mislearned about myself and my worth just because I spent so much of my childhood overwhelmed, on edge, and misunderstood. It's hard to shake the deep-down doubts, but I do understand and respect myself so much better from at least a mental, objective standpoint now than I used to. The scariest thing for me-- and the reason I grabbed the Highly Sensitive Child book as well-- is trying to figure out how to raise my SON to not learn these same fallacies about himself that I learned. I already feel like I messed up just because I was in such a deep depression for so much of his early childhood-- that I didn't respond to his needs properly then, and he's already got ISSUES-- with imperfection, with temper, with giving up. And his dad just DOESN'T GET IT, doesn't get that the boy's got a different way of experiencing the world than he does and so you've got to deal with him differently; and because I'M oversensitive and lacking-in-self-confidence, instead of taking a stand when the two of them clash, I just shut down and hide in my pill-buggy way.

Bringing us back to gender differences: Sam's a Highly Sensitive Boy in a society that expects him to "Be a MAN," and his own Dad is just as bad at insisting on language like that-- I really think that's hurting him more than helping him to cope. On the other hand, his sister is... well, if she's Highly Sensitive, it's only in a few particular (and very different) ways. She's extremely observant, has a freakishly good memory, and is pretty empathetic. On the other hand, she's LOUD. She has a constant stream of WHATEVER tumbling straight from her brain through her mouth without any sort of filter. For those of you who are My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fans-- she's basically Pinky Pie. (During her QUIETER moments, she's basically Dot Warner. And she has Claudia Kishi's fashion sense, and there, I'm done comparing her to fictional characters). Which is hilarious and fun in small doses. But the girl's got a Highly Sensitive Mom, and sometimes-- or most of the time-- I feel like a tape loop going, "Maddie, hush, Maddie, quiet down, MADELEINE, you're INSIDE, PLEASE take it down a notch," and there are days I wonder if I should be wearing hearing protection. (They were both like that from birth, too. Sam's baby cry struck me as weirdly quiet even with no siblings to compare him to; Maddie had POWERFUL OPERA SINGER LUNGS). Then I hear about how You've got to be CAREFUL you aren't setting your children up to conform to unfair gender standards-- do you try to keep your daughters quiet but encourage your sons to speak up? WELL YES, BECAUSE MY DAUGHTER IS FREAKING LOUD AND INCAPABLE OF SHUTTING UP, AND MY SON IS TIMID AND THOUGHTFUL AND LIABLE TO MUMBLE.

So, right, my point is, there ARE a lot of factors involved in developing a Sorry-For-Intruding personality type, and saying "Hey you should stop that!" is easier said than done. MAYBE it's phony etiquette enforced by people who think women should be seen and not heard, or MAYBE it's a REALLY INGRAINED SELF-ESTEEM PROBLEM with quite complicated roots.

It's funny, while I was composing this post (over the course of about 28 hours), my dearest best-friend-from-high-school-and-college, the Illustrious Angie, posted this note on my Facebook wall-- Timeline-- whatever it's called: "Amy is awesome. Just feeling appreciative," and it was promptly Liked by seven of our mutual Friends. How funny is THAT? JUST as I'm writing about my life of feeling like a second-rate impostor person, 8 people are, for no particular reason, Acknowledging their Appreciation of my Awesomeness in another browser tab. It was like you could all see me writing this, and all had to pipe up, "YOU'RE not second-rate! You're our FRIEND! WE LOVE YOU!" all at once there in retaliation.

Which just shows how warped our little minds can be. It's still really hard to NOT feel like you're intruding just by existing, sometimes. Angie herself-- she's brilliant, but she has trouble seeing that, too. Much of our friendship has consisted of exchanges boiling down to "YOU ARE SO AWESOME." "I'M not Awesome, YOU'RE Awesome." "No, no, not me, YOU, YOU are Awesome!" Look at her comments to my most recent post, which, even as she acknowledges that she's "a composition teacher and someone whose academic specialization is quote-unquote minority literatures" and has to divide her thoughtful reflections into two separate comments just to make them fit, she still titles "Possibly Useless Ramblings" and concludes with "This probably came out sounding awful; I mean ABSOLUTELY NO criticism of YOU by ANY MINUTE PART of it -- I'm just expanding on some dialogues I've been having lately about this type of thing, and if it's utterly unhelpful then please delete it -- I promise I will not be offended." IN OTHER WORDS, this highly intelligent feminist with a whole lot of knowledge of the topic in question is doing the whole apologizing-for-the-intrusion thing in the comments of the blog of one of her best friends. Oh, us. Poor, confused people blind to our own worth.

I even do it in my own posts sometimes-- that whole opening paragraph here contains an air of "gee, sorry I'm writing, but I didn't feel like watching the Olympics tonight," and if I was writing something Proper, For Real Publication, I'd cut the whole thing. The funny thing about the Internet, though, is even though anything I post COULD be read by anybody with a connection, I feel like a drop of water in a particularly remote and uncharted part of the ocean. I feel so easily IGNORABLE... and so I don't usually feel like I'm intruding by posting anything. So I'm actually a whole lot more assertive here than I would be other places!

That said, I don't MIND knowing that what I post is being read. And there is never any need to apologize for commenting, whether you're my best friend or I have no idea who you are even online. Whoever you are, you have worth, and I like to hear from you.

Particularly because I'd like to have your permission to continue posting things. Just in case my posting is a bother.

---
*I just realized this is possibly a factor in my swooning over Faramir.
rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
In celebration of the long-awaited U.S. return of THE JOHN WATSON SHOW I mean Sherlock, you knew I meant Sherlock-- I need to confess something to you. I, kind of... HATE?...Sherlock Fandom...?

*phew* okay, got that out there. You see, whenever you want to get something like that off your chest, you're inevitably aware that every one of your reasons is hypocritical or selfish or hypocritical or irrational or also maybe hypocritical. And yet SOMEHOW you need to get it out. To WORK it out. To work THROUGH the irrationality to figure out what your problem REALLY is.

Maybe my problem is my uneasy relationship with the entire idea of fandom. I grew up before the Internet. I grew up keeping my various obsessions, with Les Miz or Ducktales or Madeleine L'Engle or Gadget on Rescue Rangers or my crush on Fred Savage (who ME? Get a CRUSH? On a TV STAR? NO WAY) or whatever, a kind of shameful secret. I didn't KNOW anyone who loved these things the way I did (or even at all). Therefore IT WAS WEIRD OF ME. It was weird of me to FEEL so much about imaginary things (or real people I didn't know: because frankly I thought it was weird of the OTHER girls to be hanging up pages from Tiger Beat and sighing over any of the New Kids on the Block or the other Teen Supposed-Heartthrobs in there-- Fred Savage WAS in there, too, but that was part of why my own feelings freaked me out). I'd see a reference to one of my Favorite Things out in the world and I'd BLUSH. I was a closeted obsessive, hiding my intense feelings just because they DIDN'T MAKE SENSE to me.

So I see these kids online and realize they ARE just like me, but they've found an outlet that I never had. So maybe I'm... jealous?

I AM jealous of SOME Sherlock fans-- or some People In General-- of ANY age, I can say. Maybe the adults even more so. Because it's such a THING to love the show SO much that you CAN'T WAIT FOR IT TO AIR IN YOUR OWN COUNTRY and so you find a way to hack the BBC to watch it, or download it illegally ("while preordering the DVD, I PROMISE!" and I don't doubt it but...). I just can't imagine that watching it immediately is THAT IMPORTANT. It's coming. In fact, for U.S. fans, it's been less than THREE WEEKS this time. WAY better than last time's four months. Meanwhile, I've got so many other things on my plate that I just can't justify going though all that effort for a TV show that IS COMING EVENTUALLY. So while all the impatient fans of the world make me want to shout, "Oh come on, why can't you just WAIT?!? Don't you have ANYTHING ELSE to occupy your time?!?" what I'm really saying is "Gee, I wish I didn't have kids to work around all the time when it comes to free time. I miss those days of viewing-marathons and opening-night movie-goings and otherwise-seeking-out-things-I-like-as-soon-as-possible-on-whatever-schedule-I-like." Sour grapes. But then what most gets me is the assumption, after that (or even beforehand-- "Oh come on, PBS," go the comments, "You KNOW we're all going to see it before you show it"), that ALL TRUE FANS would have done everything in their power to see it immediately. Even the PRODUCERS made that assumption at the New York "premiere" of Season 2! And I feel insulted. Who are YOU to decide who a true fan is?

Although okay, maybe I'm NOT a True Fan. I love the show, but I'm an obsessive fan of, not the show, but one of the costars. And I'm a little weirdly protective of My Martin. And it bugs me how many people insist on seeing him only as John Watson. It bugs me how many people can't MENTION him in an unrelated setting (Hobbit discussions, mostly) without also throwing in something about Benedict-- not even just the Bilbo-and-Smaug thing, I mean discussions that aren't about Ben at ALL, and they're like "Ah, Martin's great, so is Ben," and I'm like WHO'S TALKING ABOUT BEN?! Though I thought the Bilbo-and-Smaug questions were getting old, too. (His answer at the DoS Premiere, starting at 45:08 here, about "Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney in the 'Ebony and Ivory' video," just filled me with joy, though. MUSIC GEEKS FOREVER. Which speaking of which? THIS is the greatest thing Martin has done this year, dangit. DOES NO ONE ELSE APPRECIATE MARTIN'S UTTER MUSIC-GEEKINESS BUT ME? Is it just that I so rarely encounter anyone who IS a bigger music geek than me? See what I mean? This is extremely important and it has NOTHING TO DO WITH SHERLOCK!) But this is, of course, my most hypocritical argument of all. I get frustrated because some people are all, "That's a guy in my favorite show!" while meanwhile I'm all, "That's a show my favorite guy's in!"

Maybe this all comes down to that FineLineBetweenLoveAndHate. PASSION is irrational. Maybe if I hadn't gotten so used to holding my passions in, I'd feel less conflicted about them existing in the first place-- for me or for other people. Maybe this is all part of me still needing to make peace with my hypersensitivity, as I discussed last week. I feel things LOUDLY. I not only cry easily, I fall in love easily. I'm Emotionally Pansexual (which is kind of an oxymoron. I'm ...panPHILIAL?). And part of me is still trying frantically to CONTAIN these emotions somehow, and ends up trying to contain the emotions of the rest of the world, too.

I often wonder what I would have thought of the Beatles if I'd been around in the '60s. Would I have stubbornly brushed them off as stupid pop stars all those stupid screaming girls were being stupid about? Or would I have fallen in love anyway, and tried to downplay it BECAUSE I didn't want to think of myself as one of those Stupid Screaming Girls Being Stupid? Or would I have been screaming? -- nah, THAT I can't see. I actually hope it's the middle option. Because that's what I'm doing right now, isn't it? Trying desperately to claim my fannishness and yet make clear that I'm not one of "THOSE" fans? And in that case, maybe I'd be hypocritical and irrational and stuck-up... but at least I'd still have the Beatles to love.
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
I've always wondered if anyone's ever correlated the answers to "If you could have any superpower, what would you choose?" to a more general personality test. My answer's always been "flight," which I think must stem from some longing for freedom and lightness. But I know, out there in the world, "invisibility" is a common answer. My brain boggles at this, the way it boggles at people who consider "going out to a noisy crowded bar" their top answer to "What do you like to do to relax after a long day?" I can't step out of my introverted mindset to make sense of those things!

"I can listen in to secret conversations! I can be a peeping tom! I can get into places I'm not allowed to get into!" they protest when you ask them why on earth they'd ever want invisibility. I still stare at them blankly. Then I admit, "I already have that superpower. It's a letdown, really."

I developed this superpower, naturally, as a coping mechanism. An adaptation to aid in my survival. I read in Time Magazine just the other day (it was an older issue, not sure when from exactly, just laying around my mom's bathroom*), that someone had done a study, exploring sensitivity in babies: the fussiest babies, the ones who were most likely to freak out at loud noises and stuff, nearly all grew up to be introverts. The least fussy ones, extroverts (this explains my sister, also). They figure withdrawal is something people develop to deal with being Really Friggin' Sensitive.

And dear lord in heaven was I sensitive. ANYTHING could make me freak out. I couldn't watch Sesame Street from the time I was three until I was in my teens because it was TOO ZANY for me. One of my best friends has a daughter who receives treatment for Sensory Processing Disorder, so she's a big advocate for getting the word out about it. Not only does this also exactly describe my son, but I'm also pretty sure it explains my own childhood. When my younger brother was diagnosed with mild autism, we'd done some retroactive squinting at the symptoms as exhibited by girls, then at my own childhood, but it didn't quite match. Sensory Processing Disorder though? That's different.

But you know what that looks like in a kid, to other kids? Spoil sport. "We can't play with Amy, she'll just get bumped or something and start CRYING." "Do we HAVE to pick Amy? She'll just CRY when things don't go her way." "She's just doing it to get attention." "CRY-BABY! Stop being selfish, CRY-BABY!" As if anyone would be this way on PURPOSE, I kept thinking. What did they want me to DO? I hated it. I hated ME because I couldn't stop crying, which, naturally, made me cry. The disdain of my peers and the cruelty of the bullies was nothing compared to the utter loathing I had for myself.

All my life I heard "You need to get a thicker skin!" Well, that's great. Where can I buy one of those? My only option was to curl my very being up like a pill bug and hope that the small bit of self I'd left exposed was just thick enough to protect the rest. Voila! The Invisible Girl. Giving off hypnotic suggestions that say "You don't see me here! I'm nothing! I'm no one! Don't worry about me! Just go about your business!" And it worked. I stopped being picked on. I stopped being noticed at all. Well, maybe long enough to be voted "shyest" of our senior class.

You might assume introverts would WANT an invisibility superpower, because we can use it to hide. And probably a lot of introverts do. But they're a different sort of introvert than I am. Not quite so confused about what they actually want as I am, maybe.

I've gotten so good at this Invisibility stuff that I can't turn it off. That's an exaggeration. I've gotten much BETTER at turning it off over the years, or at least turning it DOWN. But still, it was a major factor-- probably The Majorest-- in my failure as a classroom teacher, and in my faults as a parent-- somehow I can't Assume Authority. I am shockingly easy to IGNORE-- like when I want someone to follow my directions and they don't want to. And because it's my Hot Button, being ignored makes me do the pill-bug thing, which just makes the situation worse. "Why do they listen to me but not to you?" my husband asks, seemingly unaware how very aware of that I already am. "I don't know," I mumble, and go psychically hide in the corner until the verbal robotic-wasps-he-didn't-know-he'd-sicced-on-me leave my little pill bug exoskeleton alone.

On top of that... I'm also a bit of a show-off. I like applause. But you don't get applause if you never put on a show.

So, yesterday I was working on another The Soul Tells a Story exercise, a doodle illustrating my Creative Well, with your conscious mind at the top, going down deeper into the subconscious until you reach the collective unconscious at the bottom-- filling the whole thing with whatever images, events, people, or concepts seem to be prominent for you in each level ("describe or draw," the directions say. Mine's kind of a messy, collagey combination). Halfway down, in "unconscious" territory, there's "fear of being taken advantage of, no boundaries, TOO MUCH," which is exactly that oversensitivity issue I'm talking about (Ironically, as a side note, another thing that happens when you make yourself invisible is you tend to get STEPPED ON A LOT, so in that case, invisibility really WAS kind of a bad coping strategy for protection, wasn't it? I have TERRIBLE personal boundaries. I'm just hidden). But on approximately the same level, there's "repressed anger at being ignored or belittled."

I know, academically, that I have a lot of repressed anger. It's a hallmark of being a Peaceloving Type 9. But I never took any note of WHAT I might have to be angry about. But here, because I was in the "unconscious" section of the well, I was thinking about recurring dream symbolism, and I know I've had a lot of dreams where I've completely lost it, massive fits of rage and violence. And when I thought about what was happening in each of those dreams, I was always being either mocked or shunned. Treated as if I didn't have a right to be there. Which, crap, it's really myself that I'm so angry with. It's ME with the crappy self-esteem. Basically, I'm angry with myself for not believing in myself. But since I repress that anger, I'm also repressing the drive to ASSERT myself in the first place. MY PSYCHE IS A TWISTED, TWISTED PLACE.

So I've got two conflicting drives here, fighting each other. One part of me WANTS to be heard, wants to be known. But the other part of me knows it's dangerous to be Out There, nobody who puts themselves Out There is ever free from slung tomatoes, darts, and bullets. Some people can take that stuff easy. But for someone who can barely take the sound of a fire siren? It's really, really scary folks. I'm not sure how you can understand how genuinely scary it is if you're not oversensitive yourself.

Just slightly above that part, in the subconscious of my Well, I've drawn two little figures, both representing the archetypal Mentor in different ways. One's got a kind of flowy-triangle robe with a hood and a long sword, and is labelled Obi-Wan Kenobi. The other is a plump figure with huge boots, layers of scarves and shawls, and a felt hat on top. Mrs. Whatsit. She's been there before for me, with just that one sentence, "I give you your faults." It's that same advice I'm thinking of now. My sensitivity IS a gift, after all. Somehow I need to face it enough so I can harness it and MAKE SOMETHING OUT OF IT. And then I have to put that something Out There. I believe art is important, so why do I keep trying to insist that anybody else's art is important but not mine?

A friend of mine on Twitter the other day mentioned enjoying an actor's performance, and he tweeted back to thank her, even though she hadn't actually @-mentioned him. "That is some impressive self-googleing," she said. "Perhaps he's got a phrase-based search list made on his name, comes up automatically," I suggested, "I'd do that, if anyone knew my name." "Probably," she replied, "though I'm not sure if I'd do that as an actor. There's probs more weirdos than people telling you you're pretty." GOOOOOD point. On the other hand, I said, "I'd probably try it, then change my mind." It's one thing putting yourself out there, another thing to throw yourself in the PATH of the darts and tomatoes. Sometimes that Invisibility Cloak does come in handy, when you need a quick getaway. So you can survive to face your foes again!

So somewhere there's a balance. Somewhere there's a way to let your sensitive, soft sluggy soul out into the world but keep just enough of a shell so you aren't shredded. Maybe you can keep that Invisibility Cloak around, but only use it when it's absolutely necessary. If only I could figure out when that is.

---
*BTW, I was at my parents' house because it was their 40th wedding anniversary, and my sister and I were making them a Fancy Dinner. And my brother was ordered to do dishes. So everyone wish a Happy Belated Anniversary to the couple whose relationship is MOST IMPORTANT TO MY EXISTENCE. THINK about what you'd be missing if they hadn't gotten together!
rockinlibrarian: (love)
Dear J,
Eleven years ago last Tuesday you gave me a little crystal bell ornament-- well, "crystal" in quotes, not leaded, not even blown glass, just a cheap cut glass bell ornament, cheap because there was a not-cheap-at-all diamond ring attached to it. Cheap as it was, I still wouldn't have expected whatever adhesive that had been holding it together to COMPLETELY DISINTEGRATE in the past year: for, when I pulled it out of its box, the brassy ribbon-shaped loop at the top to have fallen to the side and the two little balls that had been (decorative, they didn't actually ring) clappers rolling away entirely, without a TRACE of glue or an indentation or ANYTHING to show that they'd ever been attached at all. It struck me as ominous, but I'm an imaginative type-- heck, though, even from a practical standpoint, it probably DOES say something ominous about the Mysterious Dampness in the attic. But no, these were our wedding bells, and the glue had disintegrated.

How frightfully symbolic! What if the glue of our marriage had disintegrated? True, it is not what it once was. The honeymoon is long over. Can I even call you my best friend when there's so MUCH we just SO vastly disagree about: housekeeping, childrearing, politics, the relative importance-or-lack-thereof of Art vs. Firearms, how to behave in a post-apocalyptic society, music, vegetables? IS it terrible that I feel more fluttery-swoony over a man in a hobbit suit than I do the man I'm sleeping with?

But dangit, I wasn't going to throw out that chintzy little ornament. I didn't know how to fix it with what I had, so I did a little research. Ended up buying a clear kind of super glue that claims to work on glass. Also claims to be water-resistant, which would help against the Mysterious Damp in the attic, and may have been the downfall of the original adhesive. I glued that sucker back together, and now it looks perfect. Like it had never been broken. And, if those water-resistant claims hold, stronger than ever.

So it's ten years ago today that we said "I do," as if that was a magic moment, a one-time permanent bond. People tend to think that way. That "I do" is some big, one-time adhesive application and They All Live Happily Ever After, stuck tight. If that was true, every marriage would end in divorce within a year. That adhesive DOES disintegrate. It dissolves away in stress and poor health and economic woes and existential crises and sleep deprivation and whose-family-when-where tug-of-wars on holidays and the tedium of trying to find something for dinner that will make you both happy every night.

There have been so many more "I do"s since then. I Do when one or the other of us is sick and the coughing keeps the other one up at night. I Do each time I decide to pack your lunch for you the night before even though you're perfectly capable of doing it yourself, just because I know you won't bother to pack a fruit or vegetable if I don't, just because I know sandwiches somehow always taste better when someone else makes them. I Do when I'm so distracted by all the thoughts I'm pondering and all the things I have to do that your trying to get my attention just annoys me, until I fall into your arms and realize a hug was what I'd needed all along. I Do when I'm embarrassed by your political opinions, by the Armory in the basement, but as soon as any of my Cool friends or people I admire says something implying that People Like You Are Evil, I take your side, because I know you and they don't, and I may admire them, but I love you.

Marriage is ACTIVE COMPASSION, a true partnership, a working relationship. FALLING in love is not a choice. Lust, sexual orientation, attraction, these things are not choices and I hope never to imply that they are. But LOVE, ACTIVE love, Love-as-a-Verb, is a choice that is made over and over and over. You always have a choice, when the relationship breaks-- when cracks and dents appear or bits and pieces fall off-- to throw it away. To leave it to continue to disintegrate. Or to grab the Ultra Liquid Control LocTite and patch it up. The glue is in your hands. Love is choosing to use it.

I am yours, you are mine, you are what you are, as a band you would never purposely choose to listen to would say.

Happy Tenth Anniversary of the most public of many, many "I Do"s,
me
rockinlibrarian: (voldemart)
Hey, all, I'm a BLOGGING FREAK this week, aren't I? Remember this during my dry spells.

The thing that's made me start writing TODAY is the conversation that ensued when my video blog* friends discovered this Buzzfeed post: 12 Reasons Why Hufflepuff House Is Actually Badass,** and everyone cheered for their not-so-closet Hufflepuffness, and we naturally got onto the topic of Self-Sorting and/or Letting-Pottermore-Do-It-For-You, and once more I found myself getting TOO DEEP AND VERBOSE FOR TWITTER, so here you are.

Thing is, I was always clearly a Ravenclaw. A Capital-N Nerd. My life WAS my brain, and learning, and even showing off what a huge-know-it-all I was (though, unlike Hermione Granger, I LACKED the bravery and crusading, SPEW-creating spirit that would have put me in Gryffindor. And Slytherin? Pah, it has nothing to do with not wanting to associate with dark wizards, and more to do with COMPLETE LACK OF AMBITION TO A FAULT). Also, though this was established only in 2003, if I've had ANY ambition in my life it has been to Be Luna Lovegood, so there is that.

But reading this article, I had a gut "It's true, we ARE!" reaction. And then I had to think. WAIT. Ravenclaw. I've always been Ravenclaw. But suddenly I wasn't feeling it any more.***

When I look back, I'm pretty sure I would have still immediately put myself in Ravenclaw as recently as maybe a year ago. But I might have been a little bitter-proud about it. "Yep, I'm the brainiac. Completely useless at anything else, but a brainiac."

But I really HAVE changed in the past year. You know I've been working through my self-esteem/depression issues for years, but it's this past year that I feel like I've been making REAL PROGRESS. And yes, that's why nearly everything I post anymore is all philosophical, because I've been spending so much time and energy Working These Things Out. It's still a work in progress, mind you, but... but that's what I'm getting to. Let's start from the beginning.

At Hogwarts at the age of 11, I certainly would have been a Ravenclaw-- as long as they didn't hold that HOMEWORK thing against me. I clung to the fact that I was smart. Only a year or two before one of the books I was always writing contained a scene that went something like this:
Mary Sue Version of Me: "Hmm, maybe [incredibly obvious deduction]!"
Classmate: "Wow, Amy, you're such a genius, you should be in the ADVANCED ADVANCED Gifted Education Program!"
Mary Sue Amy, without trace of reaction: "Well, they don't have that, so I guess the REGULAR Gifted Education Program will have to do."


I swear I actually wrote that. Unironically.

At the end of 8th grade we had an awards assembly, and among the awards were medals given to the student who scored the highest on each separate subject of the standardized tests we'd taken. I got all but one. I think it was the math. Anyway, that was the first I'd ever felt a little embarrassed about it. But at least it was something I could feel CONFIDENT about.

Sure, I was a crybaby whose "best friends" pretended we WEREN'T actually friends around other kids. Sure, I had over-sized glasses and crooked teeth and the physical coordination of a chess piece. But DANGIT, I WAS SMART.

It probably was in about 8th grade, too, because that was the height of my paperback-horror phase, that I read a book (shout out in the comments if you remember this one-- I don't remember the name or author) about a cursed prom/formal dress that left each unwitting girl who wore it without the one thing they were most proud about. And there was a brainiac girl who ended up brain damaged. And it squigged me out. THAT CAN'T HAPPEN TO ME, I thought. MY LIFE WOULD TOTALLY BE OVER.

Fact is, I was a snob. For an unpopular kid with no fashion sense who claimed to hate snobs, I was an INTELLIGENCE snob. I didn't have the patience for people who THOUGHT SLOWER than me.

In high school I read an article about EQ-- how emotional intelligence was more important than traditional IQ in predicting future success. I was offended. So I KNOW they're trying to make people who aren't so smart feel better about themselves, but are they trying to say people who DO have high IQs aren't so great? PAH.

But as I got older, I started to figure out that the article was right. For one thing, a positive thing, I met several people who taught me to appreciate that even people who WEREN'T SMART-- who even had LOW IQs-- had OTHER valuable qualities-- sometimes even MORE valuable. "I know I'm not very good at some things," one such woman, who I'd (take that, snobby-younger-self) come to know as a friend, told me once, "but there are OTHER things I AM good at, so I focus on those!" I've never forgotten that. The world would say I was blessed with so much more natural talent than she was-- and yet here she was, teaching ME something very important that I still haven't quite mastered.

For a not-so-positive thing? Yeah, real life has no use for brainiacs. Who gets paid to take standardized tests?

So for most of adulthood, I haven't taken much pride in my brains. But I still defined myself by them. Now I was just bitter, and resigned that the school system had failed me and I was a failure.

But they say, when real change happens, the old self dies and makes way for the new. And it's possible that my OLD self was the Ravenclaw. And right, I'm still a nerd. I still love learning and memorizing weird trivia facts and doing pencil puzzles in GAMES Magazine, but I don't DEFINE myself by it any more. There are other things I value more. There are other things I want to BE. I'm not STUCK in my old ways of thinking. And it's possible this New Me would fit in better in another Hogwarts house. Right now I AM leaning particularly toward Hufflepuff's open, loving, supportive, and need I add food-appreciating nature.

But as I continue to grow, I could even find myself latching on to a big boost of Gryffindor courage. Who knows, really. But I'll be open to it, whatever it is. I'll still try to be the Best ME I can be.

-----
*which I am on hiatus from for a bit by reason of TimeSuck, but here's three blog posts in one week if that helps any!
**why yes I DID realize there's a lovely GIF of Martin right there two down, but I swear that's not why I'm linking you to the article! ...You have to admit it's a nice bonus, though.
***and no, it had NOTHING to do with the lovely GIF of Martin, which was only being used to illustrate that Hufflepuff House is like a Hobbit Hole. Obviously, Bilbo Baggins would be (the only hobbit ever to be) in Gryffindor, so that wouldn't have been a draw to it. (OKAY, Tolkien nerds, ease off, he's not the ONLY hobbit ever, some of his Tookish ancestors might have gone that way, too, and MAYBE one or two of the Fellowship, BUT IT STILL WOULD HAVE BEEN RARE).
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
They say you can store emotional memories in your body that can suddenly release years later when you work different muscles in different ways-- that when the physical tension comes out, so does the emotional tension. I'm not sure that's what happened at yoga today, but I did feel a release that put me in sudden tears with nary a kleenex to be found in my sweatshirt.

Though it's not something I haven't thought about before. Maybe I wrote everything I need to say on the subject already here just last summer. I was thinking about it at yoga LAST week, too. But it feels more like a revelation today: like the Queen of Muses took her sword to my shoulder and said, "I DUB THEE A DANCER."

I always dance. I dance like no one's watching WHENEVER no one's watching, and even when they are sometimes, to the music in my own head most of the time. But when I actually joined a ballet class, when I was eight, I let the snobby girls in my class convince me that I couldn't be a dancer. Dancers didn't have glasses and braces. Dancers didn't like reading more than sports. Dancers weren't introverts. Dancers liked fashion and makeup and boys. Dancers gossiped. And, even if any of that WASN'T true, dancers had flexible hamstrings and could walk without bumping into things. DANCERS WERE NOT NERDS.

We were driving home from ballet one day, me tearfully explaining how terrible the other girls were and how ALL the kids at school were like that, when my dad admitted that he and mom had considered putting me in a different school, before I started-- a school for gifted kids. A school for nerds (though he didn't SAY that), but in a good way (like the place I ended up going to college). I thought about that. It sounded fabulous. But "No," I said, "That would have been nice from the beginning. But now I'm here, and I'm not going to let them chase me away."

Except that's exactly what I did. I gave ballet the rest of the year, and never went back. I'm not like those girls, so I guess I'm not a dancer.

My senior year of high school we had a new choral music director, so when Musical Season rolled around, he wanted to see an overview of what talent he HAD before he went and picked a show. So we had general, triple-threat auditions-- well, the people who wanted to be in the chorus just had to sing, but anyone who wanted a SPEAKING role not only had to deliver lines, we also had to do the dance tryouts-- even if we didn't want to be a dancer. Well, I knew I wasn't a dancer, but I wanted a speaking role, so I figured my best bet would be just to put as much CHARACTER into my crappy dancing as I could. Well, I DID get called back for a major role, and I ended up CAST in the greatest bit part ever (look up Once Upon a Mattress. Look up the role "kitchenwench." My only job was to run across the stage screaming. BEST PART EVER), but to my complete shock, I ALSO got cast as a dancer. I felt like I stumbled through that, but it WAS fun. And our new director had hired a new dance instructor-- our past dance instructors had always felt like grown-up versions of the girls in that ballet class. This one really seemed to, well, just love DANCING, not the cliquishness that came with it. And I asked her if she'd gotten it wrong, picking me for the dancers. But she honestly didn't seem to know what I was talking about. She KNEW I could be a dancer, why would she think I wasn't?

But yoga-- yoga's a different kind of exercise than you get in gym class. Yoga is MINDFUL-- not the same sort of self-consciousness. Everywhere else self-consciousness is more like OTHERS-consciousness: who's looking at me? What do they think when they see me? Yoga is a calmer, gentler self-consciousness, a looking-in: what am I doing right now? How does it feel? How can I make it better? There's never a sense of competition-- it's all about doing the best YOU can do RIGHT NOW. And there's nothing wrong with cheating if you need help-- pulling in props, making adjustments and adaptations-- because that's NOT cheating, that's just doing what you can do with what you have. And you learn how everyone's body is unique, with its own strengths and challenges. It's only through doing yoga that I've come to understand that I'm NOT inflexible, I just have unusually tight hamstrings. Whereas the muscles that allow you to sit cross-legged and such are unusually limber. I've learned that while I do have a crappy sense of balance, the more I focus, the better I can get. And I've learned that I can shape my body, make it flow, and I realize, I'm dancing.

My body wants to dance, and has been trying to tell me all along. It wants to create shapes, to move with rhythm, to release joy. It has nothing to do with popularity, nothing to do with althletics, nothing to do with style. It has everything to do with expressing, creating, being present. And there's nothing wrong with being a nerd who dances. A dancer is not a slim, fit, conventionally-beautiful, heavily-made-up gossip. A dancer is someone who dances. Nerds can be dancers, too.
rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
Funny, I go weeks without thinking of anything I want to blog about, and then suddenly today I've had at least three questions/situations buzzing through my mind that I want to ask you about. Yes, you. Anybody reading this? I do love to hear from you.

Let's focus on one thing today. This question is for writers: any kind of writer. I know I'm read by real professional published writers EVERY so often, and that might be MOST helpful, but I'll be happy with the thoughts of hobbyists, also. The question is: where do you begin when revisiting and possibly redoing a previous work-in-progress?

This is a silly question, when I think about it. Of all writing skills, this is what I have the MOST EXPERIENCE WITH. I've spent most of my writing career from the time I was about 14 not writing first drafts, but REWRITING stories I'd written before: "Hey, this story I wrote when I was 11 is pretty bad, but it's got some good bits, so I think I'll write it again KNOWING WHAT I KNOW NOW!" That particular story-- the one I first wrote when I was 11-- has been rewritten completely (not counting smaller revisions and edits) at least 3 times, and though in the past few years I've given up on it, some nostalgia made me send it to [livejournal.com profile] elouise82 a few months ago on the off-chance she'd have any idea whether any of it is still salvageable. Basically, asking the very question I'm asking here, except NOW I'M OPENING IT UP BROADLY AND MORE GENERALLY. And thinking about a different story entirely.

This one I wrote for the first time (well, six chapters worth) in 11th grade. I've mentioned it. It started from some flights of fancy my best friends and I took off on during a sleepover. It starred the boy I had a crush on as a spy, the three of us as heroic and/or brilliant journalists and/or poets, many teachers and classmates as, in most cases, villains, and George Harrison's Imaginary (because we made him up) Nephew Billy, who turned out to be a superhero.

Ten years ago I decided to rewrite it, to make it less of a private joke and more of an actual book. I tweaked the characters-- while still inspired by real character traits in real people, they became fully formed and individual characters of their own. I structured the plot. I worked on it for the Institute of Children's Literature's bookwriting course. It got to a This May Be Finished sort of point. But it wasn't perfect. The tone was uneven. The plot was implausible. I messed around with the opening chapters awhile. Bruce Coville read one of these first-chapter rewrites at an SCBWI conference and made my year by liking it, and giving good advice about what I needed to change. Trying to figure out how to solve those issues, I decided to do a complete and total rewrite AGAIN. But I did less than one chapter of a rewrite before I gave up.

But you've heard me, the past two years. I've all but given up on writing entirely. And any more, if I DID make myself get back in the habit, I don't know what's worth WORKING on in the first place.

Today, during yoga class, all meditative and centered during savasana, I started thinking about the characters in that book. Billy and Hannie and Ashlynn and Ian. These very real, very developed, very alive inside-my-head characters. I still don't know what the heck to do with their story, but there's something ABOUT how they popped into my head today right when I was at my most-holistically-healthiest. I really DO need to tell their story. I'm just still not sure how their story WORKS.

I don't know where to go, if I should keep pursuing the Complete Rewrite I started, and if I do how much of the original plot points I want to keep, or if I should go off in a completely different direction (whatever that could BE)-- it was hard enough coming up with the FIRST plot. I'm so in the habit of NOT TRUSTING MY ABILITIES that figuring out what I need to do with it all feels out of my reach. In the end, maybe I don't really know what question I'm asking here. Maybe I have no idea what advice I think I need. I just have these characters I care about and don't know what to do with. How do you KNOW when a story needs to be completely scrapped? How do you say goodbye to characters that still haunt you with their Realness when you just don't know what to DO with them?

Maybe I'm just still too scared to write.
rockinlibrarian: (rebecca)
As I said when I reviewed... or talked about, or something... the first one, not one but TWO movies came out over the holiday season that I had to see in the theater because of my DEEP PERSONAL REASONS, and since I knew I could never write an objective, balanced review of either since I was coming into them with all this baggage, I decided instead to write about THE BAGGAGE and THEN tell you my reactions to the movies, so you'd know where I was coming from. It took me a little longer to get out to see the second one, but I knew I WOULD, because my sister had given me a Dinner And This Movie Sister-Date Coupon for Christmas. So now let me tell you about Les Miserables.

BACKSTORY!
As a geek in her mid-thirties, I've been somewhat bemused and yet intrigued by INTERNET FANDOMS. On one hand, I know what it is to geek out over things, and to find other people who love the same things and to bond with them. But on the other hand, I feel a bit removed-- my own style of visual art is far too abstract for fan art, and I never really got INTO fan fiction-- at least not the kind I want to exchange on the internet. I see people online who WON'T STOP SQUEALING about their one Favorite Fandom, people who even change their usernames to reflect their fannishness, and I'm like "Well if you're all changing your names I by all rights should be THE 'Imaginary-Mrs. Freeman,' BUT I'M NOT because it just seems silly to tie my entire online identity to ONE thing I love"-- though, admittedly, I did set up my college email account to say that my name was Hermione Granger BUT that was back when NOBODY KNEW WHO I WAS TALKING ABOUT so it was more of an in-joke and a subtle bit of advertizing of, yes, a cool bit of fiction I'd discovered and at that point felt that more people needed to know about, and also I only emailed people I already knew, who already knew there was more to me than my feelings for one book series, too...

But that's the point I'm getting to, now, which is, I'M OLDER. I've realized that the SUPER-BIG FANS online, who DO put all their energy and identity into their fandoms, are younger than me-- college-age, or teenagers. I've grown up-- I've got kids and spouse and bills and house and job and all those such things, which limits the sheer amount of TIME I can spend geeking out in a day; but even if I DID have the time, I'm NOT a teenager. I still have my passions, but they're no longer all-consuming. The prefrontal cortex is complete, the hormones have settled down, and I don't have this life-depending NEED TO DEFINE MYSELF TO THE WORLD any more.

I went through that period not exactly PRE-Internet, but Pre-Average-Person-Using-Internet. The Internet seemed science-fictionish and a little creepy to me in middle and high school. Email was the big socio-technological discovery of college, and even then, beyond a few of us naming our email accounts after favorite fictional characters, Defining Oneself By Ones Passions on the Internet was limited, among my peers, to chat rooms and personal webpages built on Geocities.

But what if Internet Fandoms HAD existed when I was a teenager? DEAR LORD what would have happened when I first got into the Beatles? (Still, today, when I was trying to think of any of my fandoms I'd go so far as to DEFINE myself by, The Beatles top the list as likely). But all the other passions-- what would I have named myself, at various times? BandGirl? Animaniac? BroadwayBound?

...about that last one. From when I was about 12 to 15 I was obsessed with musical theater. As shy and awkward as I was, I still thought SOMEDAY I WILL BE A BROADWAY STAR (and a writer. I was always going to be a writer, I just changed the OTHER career I would do to earn money at the same time. And hey, Madeleine L'Engle went that route). And by "Broadway Star" I DO mean "in musicals." None of that purely-spoken-word play stuff for me. There was no POINT in acting unless there were musical numbers (and to this day I don't get why actors should have someone else do their singing for them, in movies. HOW CAN SOMEONE BE TALENTED WITHOUT KNOWING HOW TO SING? ...what. Anyway, obviously I will write more about this later).

I'm not sure EXACTLY when this started. I'd always loved musicals, and we had a lot of soundtracks, and this was about the time of the Great Disney Movie Revival and I spent a lot of time singing to The Little Mermaid and being convinced that if Ariel was known for her BEAUTIFUL BEAUTIFUL VOICE then I was set because I could sing just like her... but no, that did come later, because we had that soundtrack on CD. We got a CD player for the first time the Christmas I was 11. Because my dad had gotten my mom tickets to see some weird French show, and he wanted to also give her the soundtrack to get to know beforehand, and it was only available on CD, so my dad decided it was long since time to move into the high-tech future of the swiftly-approaching 1990s.

So that was it, our first CD, a two-disk set of some stuffy-sounding French thing with a depressed little urchin girl's head on the front.

But OH! that music. Why would an eleven-year-old fall in love with such a dense, depressing story that she didn't really understand, you ask? (Actually, I saw this sort of nifty piece about how tweens like it because it's secretly a SUPERHERO STORY the other week, but don't think it applied to me). Because the music moved me and swept me away! So I studied all the, uh, liner notes-- the booklet that came with the CD-- read the story and the lyrics. My dad got the piano music for it and I tried playing it myself-- I had "Bring Him Home" memorized (on piano-- I had the whole SHOW memorized in WORDS) for years, and can still fumble through a bit of it.

I remember trying to tell the rest of my table in my sixth-grade art class about it, but I hadn't gotten farther than "he was in jail for stealing a loaf of bread" before the others decided that that was STUPID so had stopped listening to me, which is probably for the best because I hadn't gotten to the bit about the "whores" yet and I was pretty sure that was pronounced like "wars."

The next year my parents got tickets for a showing in Cleveland-- tickets for me, too! We went out for the weekend and stayed with cousins, and we took off to see the SHOW, and I got a T-SHIRT, which was a good thing because I'd forgotten to pack pajamas so my new shirt would do!

There's a bit in one of my middle school English class journals where I wondered what my peers thought of that t-shirt-- if they ever saw mention of Les Miz elsewhere, and when they did, if they associated it with me. Because certainly no one else I knew had that t-shirt. No one else talked about the show. It was MINE, my favorite thing, uninfluenced by anyone else's opinion.

I loved it, but only on my own.* I wondered if there was some WAY to get other people to love it. If only, I thought, THERE WAS A MOVIE. All the old musicals, the Rogers and Hammerstein types, had movies, a simple way to introduce oneself to the shows when seeing a stage production wasn't possible. Though my family did our best to convert the people in, well, my PARENTS' lives, by hosting a sort of mass field trip to a Pittsburgh production when I was in 8th grade. I CAN'T remember if this might have even happened twice. (Probably not. I can only definitely remember FOUR particular productions in my life**, but it FEELS like there should have been more).

Insert-- in between the events in that paragraph and this next paragraph, I also read the book. This is one of those instances when bookworm-me's experience with a book IS greatly overshadowed by the adaptation. I did like the book. Although I read a weirdly abridged version-- it managed to skip right over the part of Fantine's story from after she got fired to her deathbed-- censorious abridgers? Whatever. Anyhoo, it's a good story, but it's the music that is MINE.

But it was a few years AFTER I stopped dressing up as Eponine and using the old wooden sliding board in the basement as a barricade, a few years AFTER I decided that, while I loved performing, I didn't actually have the drive to REALLY be a Broadway star, that finally my classmates would know what I was talking about. My last year of high school I took not one but TWO separate school field trips to Les Miz productions: one actually on Broadway, which oddly enough was probably the LEAST impressive production I've seen (not that that's saying much), and another in Pittsburgh, which is famous in my memory for being the event at which the Marius to my own Eponine stopped talking to me-- or I stopped talking to him, I'm not sure which-- starting off a month straight of our Blatantly Ignoring each other. I sat through "On My Own" staring at him, thinking, "Don't you feel sorry for her? Don't you know that's what you do to me? Aren't you totally going to rewrite this story to give her a better ending just from being moved by her point of view? Probably not, this actress has a distressingly annoying voice."

And then I went off to college, and all my musical soundtracks-- because they actually belonged to my parents-- stayed home, and I got a classic rock radio show so my own music collection evolved accordingly, and I didn't think so much about, let alone listen to, showtunes anymore. I actually kind of went off Rogers and Hammerstein and Andrew Lloyd Webber almost completely (with the exceptions of The Sound of Music and Jesus Christ Superstar respectively). Still listened to Guys and Dolls and Into the Woods occasionally, and to Godspell frequently (but that was more hippie than showtune, really). But I don't even have my own copy of Les Miz. I probably would listen to it if I did. And not having it certainly doesn't keep me from getting "One Day More" in my head very, very often (which is my favorite song in the show, let alone one that gets into your head every time there's just one day more until something).

And then, a year or so ago, I hear that they're turning the musical theater love of my adolescence into a movie. And I don't know how to react. A MOVIE. FINALLY. AFTER ALL THIS TIME. STARRING WOLVERINE. WHAT?! Am I excited? Or am I incredulous? Or am I indifferent? WHERE WAS THIS TWENTY YEARS AGO?

But over the next year, an amazing thing happened. The Internet started talking, and I discovered I hadn't been alone. I had NOT been the only tween/young teen obsessed with this depressing, weird-sounding French show. We were ALL out there. We were ALL singing and reenacting on piles of old furniture, dressed in imaginary rags. We were ALL, apparently, identifying with Eponine (deal with it, Cosette), singing "On My Own" to ourselves over every unrequited crush. HAD I BUT KNOWN that there must have been a girl like me in every school, thinking that she was the only one feeling this way... but if we had had the Internet back then? Maybe we would have found each other much sooner.

In Which I Finally Talk About the Long-Awaited Movie***

So where to begin? The first thing is the music-- so glorious, so familiar. Startling how many songs I'd COMPLETELY FORGOTTEN ABOUT until they started again. And then there were blinking sorts of "Oh, wait, WHAT?" reactions every time a song moved to a different place in the line-up, or verses got cut, or words got changed. Granted, most of the changes made sense enough, and I'll come back to some of them in a minute, but the main point is, it was like a rediscovery of the awesome. Though when "One Day More" started I almost cried simply because it's "One Day More"! There on the screen happening in front of me! (I don't know if it was just because the song is so huge for me personally, but it almost seemed anticlimactic on screen. Maybe because it wasn't an Act I Finale here, so it didn't need to be bombastic).

Speaking of crying, do NOT expect to get through the movie unmoved. I was already in tears ten minutes in (at that). By the second half of the movie I think I'd gone numb, so actually cried LESS as everybody and their brother died (NOT SPOILERS! 200-YEAR-OLD TEXT! IT SAYS "MISERABLE" RIGHT IN THE TITLE!), and didn't really cry again until the end. It's amazing the difference I had in UNDERSTANDING what was going on now than I did as a teen-- sure, I BASICALLY knew the story, but things like Valjean's conversion at the beginning, and the political issues, and even some of the random metaphors and turns of phrase in the lyrics, all had new meaning to me now.

But that was all pretty much already established by the musical itself. The real questions are, how does it translate to the screen?

The thing that fascinated me most was the grounding in SETTING. It was pretty COOL onstage, with setting being evoked on a rotating stage with a few pieces of furniture and fancy light effects (and a barricade). But seeing it in REAL PLACES grounded it, and actually brought in more details from the book that had been left out of the stage version, like the details of Valjean and Cosette's escape to the convent, and just the simple, well, SETTING of Marius living in the same building as the Thenardiers in Paris, where Eponine would just pop on over to see him. I love the intricacies, the details, the layout of the cities.

Further grounding the experience was the acting. If you've been following the news articles and such about it, you'll know a big deal was made of the singing being live-- "raw," not prerecorded but performed right on camera. This probably helped in my "I understand this so much more than I did as a kid!" too-- you could really see the context of each line. The focus was on the acting, not on the making of music. And yet the making of music wasn't half bad, either. IT WAS HAPPENING ALL AT ONCE. I had at least one moment of thinking "How on earth can Anne Hathaway keep singing so well when she's crying so hard! She should just be allowed to break down for a bit and the camera will be back for her later."

ANNE HATHAWAY. She just won a Golden Globe for the part, minutes, in fact, after I got home from seeing the movie, THINKING "all the awards she's being buzzed for, she totally deserves." She was stand-out incredible-- stunning, flawless, the kind of acting that makes you go "WOW"-- I mean you'd think it would be BAD to stand out as an actor, that you'd want someone who blends in with the story and doesn't take you out of it-- but it's not the kind of performance that takes you OUT, it draws you IN, COMPELS you. (Maybe she learned it from working with Julie Andrews, who's always one of the first people I think of as AMAZINGLY COMPELLING THIS WAY. Also Martin Freeman. That may just be me, though). I very nearly burst into applause at the end of "I Dreamed a Dream." I was glad SOME other people at least applauded at the end of the movie with me!

Hugh Jackman won a Golden Globe for Valjean, too, and I agree he was also very good (though not QUITE as stunningly compelling), certainly more than I ever imagined when I first heard he'd have the part. But why should I be surprised? After all, I always thought actors OUGHT to be good at singing (this is probably because my school district growing up had a renowned music department, and the school always had musicals-- didn't mix in straight spoken plays until my junior or senior year)! I thought the rest of the cast was well-cast, too-- excellent in acting, in singing, and pretty-good-if-not-excellent in looks. My sister and I both noticed that Cosette actually has nearly the same facial profile as her mother, just with different-color hair, and I was kind of impressed about how much young Cosette and Eponine looked like their older counterparts. Marius I had a weird problem with the looks of, though-- he was perfectly excellent, just something in his looks bothered me. I thought Enjolras had more of the look I imagined for Marius. But my sister thought he was cute, so obviously that was just me. My favorite performance after Fantine was Gavroche. That kid was just perfect. The Platonic Form of Gavroche.

And let's talk about poor Russell Crowe. He's been getting so slammed in reviews that I honestly was impressed when I actually saw him, because he was so much better than the critics had led me to believe. Which is not to say he was perfect. He WAS the weak link, performance-wise. His biggest problem-- maybe his only problem-- was that he wasn't STEELY enough for Javert. I understand making him sympathetic, but that's not the same as making him weak. I had a hard time believing that man could REALLY hold a grudge and keep up a relentless pursuit for decades. But his singing was fine, and otherwise his acting was fine, so I suppose we can cut him a break.

Speaking of faults and of cutting things a break, I feel like I need to apologize to The Hobbit movie now for the fault-- the one REAL fault-- I accused it of in my review. That movie has gotten unfairly slammed by too many critics, so I want to take back any needless criticism of my own. Maybe it COULD have been edited better, but now I'm not so sure, because that occasional feeling of "Are we getting to the point? But no, don't cut anything because I'm busy basking in it" is EXACTLY how I ALSO felt watching Les Miz. Maybe it's just something about watching in the theater-- sitting in a chair like that for so long messes with your patience. Or maybe it's just an anxiousness related to SORT of knowing what's going to happen, but not knowing EXACTLY, so you're on your toes, anticipating everything that's coming later. (With Les Miz I had a little running voice in my head going, "EponineEponineEponineEponineEponineEponine..." the whole first part, and admittedly that little voice was annoyed that she died so soon. There'd been entirely too little time with her!) It feels, both times, like an impatience that WILL abate while I'm watching it again in the comfort of my own home, already assured of what's going to happen, just watching to bask in it.

And I certainly will. "I'm so going to buy this DVD. I so need to own this," I was thinking at the end. So I can watch it any time I want, basking in it, just liked I wished I could so desperately over twenty years ago.

------
*Do I need to point out that I'm playing with references here? Just so you don't think it was an accident.
**This one was an accident. I mean, for all you know it could be a Beatles reference.
***Which sounds like a reference to the OTHER movie I saw. I just like to make things confusing for you.

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