rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
Tonight my second grader had his first Sacrament of Reconciliation, and I took my turn while we were there, because frankly it had been an awfully long time since my last confession. Which was as good a place to start in my run-down of sins as any, being that it's just one of the many thousands of things, big or small, in the past-- since whenever I last went to confession (not to mention all the years BEFORE that, but technically I've been absolved of those) that I've just Not Done. Sins of Omission. Sloth. You know, I've never been a BAD person. I'm marvelous at Not Doing Bad Things. I'm just pretty marvelous at Not Doing Good Things, too. Yay, Not Doing!

But I've become more aware, recently, that this Not Doing is a lot more active of a choice than I might want to believe. It's not just a letting-things-slide. It's an outright NO. I always have a choice, to Do or Not to Do. I CHOOSE the big ol' NO. No, I won't force my obnoxious kids to do the good-for-them things they're trying to get out of doing. No, I won't exercise. No, I won't take a moment to pray. No, I won't bring up That Issue with my husband or my coworker or whomever even though it needs to be done. No, I won't do the dishes. No, I won't get up from this chair.

No, I won't write.

So, step one in doing penance: sit down and blog.


Yeah, I've been putting off blogging, too, and that's one of the EASIER yeses I've made to writing over the past few years. You can tell I've been putting it off because when I opened up this New Entry editor it asked me if I wanted to Restore from Saved Draft, which turned out to be this:

On one hand:

Not repressing criticism:

Discussion I got into on this point:

Two people like me:

What it comes down to:

I'd gathered those links, with those "to remind me" little annotations, because I wanted to talk about how confused the Internet was making me. It's, you know, that Internet Rage thing. When people do something wrong, it seems other people either condemn or defend, and they do it passionately, and they believe with all their soul that THEY are in the right about it, even though other people believe with all their soul it's the other way around. Well, I guess that's the way of most things. I tweeted a philosophical thought I had once, that ones sense of right or wrong is often contingent on whether you value Justice or Mercy more. I was half-joking, though, because it had come from me being angry at the school bus driver for not stopping and waiting for us even though we were frantically waving and running toward the bus stop. SURE, we were in the wrong, we should have been at the stop on time, but I can't imagine being that much of a stickler for the rules that you wouldn't wait one more minute for people who were frantically waving you to stop. But the bus driver's all about Justice, making sure the rules are upheld. I'm all about Mercy, realizing that people make mistakes and doing what needs to be done in the moment, rules be damned (which is just kind of an ironic way to put it and I like it). But prompted by missing the bus or not, a lot of disagreement about ethics and morality really does come down to how much emphasis you put on one or the other. That's the argument at the heart of this Calling-People-Out-When-They're-Wrong vs. Stop-Internet-Bullying-and-Public-Shaming stuff. The former, Justice. The latter, Mercy. But they do both have their place. And as a person who naturally tends toward Mercy, I really dislike the kind of vigilante thing the internet does every time someone does or says something wrong. But maybe I'M wrong, maybe I'M not giving Justice enough import. It reminds me of the trolls who go about calling people Social Justice Warriors in a condescending way if they dare to question the status quo. I don't want to be one of those trolls. I don't think it's wrong to want Social Justice. I'm just gentler about it. Can I be a Social Mercy Warrior?


I started to appreciate just what a beautiful and misunderstood Sacrament Reconciliation is as my son prepped for tonight. I know a lot of people associate Confession with guilt, with sinning. The phrase "Catholic guilt" is a cliche. But it's not about guilt: it's about FORGIVENESS. Everybody screws up. But if you just acknowledge that you have, God forgives you. The weight is LIFTED! As Anne Shirley would put it, Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet!

Hense why I'd rather focus on the good people do than gasp in indignation every time they do something wrong. Because we ALL do the wrong thing, sometimes. But I hope I can be forgiven, and if I want to be forgiven, I have to forgive others, too.

I was thinking today that maybe some of us who aren't putting up a fuss at every misstep of other people AREN'T, in fact, naive about the bad in the world after all. Maybe we just expect it, so instead of pointing out all the bad, we point out the good instead.

Actually I was thinking this yesterday. Because it was Earth Day, and I was on Tumblr, and in quick succession I reblogged posts about Lady Bird Johnson's Earth Day advocacy and Wangari Maathai's Green Belt Movement and this quote about people who make a difference: "They hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters." And I realized how refreshing it was to read those posts instead of more posts about the idiocy of climate change deniers or ... well, not just about environmental matters, but just in general. So much advocacy and calls for, well you know, Social Justice, are about all the ways things and people fail. The Not Good Enoughs.

I suppose some people are galvanized by such stuff. It's seeing the bad that goads them into action. But perhaps I'm too good at seeing the bad. I just get overwhelmed. I see this impossible standard. And that's where my gigantic NO comes in.

NO, I won't speak up, because whatever I say people will find something wrong with it. NO I won't speak up, because I'm too privileged in this world and I know nothing. NO I won't speak up, because I'll be speaking on the wrong topic. NO I won't speak up, because nothing I say will make any difference whatsoever. Why do people get outraged when other people don't get outraged about the same issue as them? There is far too much wrong in the world to feel outraged about all of it. So I have to cover my ears and eyes and rock in my mental corner chanting NO NO NO NO NO.

Don't tell me every time somebody messes up. I KNOW they mess up. Tell me what GOOD they do. Tell me when somebody makes a positive difference. TELL ME IT'S POSSIBLE. Tell me we have a point.

Okay, tell me I have a point.

Tell me I have a reason to try, a reason to say YES to Doing for a change.


I've been sick and it makes me groggy, and we all know I have depression issues, but it occurred to me today that I wouldn't mind being dead. It wasn't a suicidal thought. It was just nihilistic. It's scary because aren't people supposed to have some kind of Survival Drive, some Will to Live? But my brain just calmly asked why? What's the point? What'd be so bad about being dead?

I'd really like a reason to live. But when I get online sometimes my brain just fills up with all these voices chanting hopelessness at me.


The other week-- just last week? I forget-- the network adapter on my computer blew. This did make finishing the taxes a bit of a challenge. But otherwise, I was all right. Being away from social media was NOT making me antsy. I didn't miss it much. When I finally replaced my adapter-- five days later, I was in no particular hurry-- I didn't immediately rush back on. But eventually I got sucked back in, to the old habits of sitting and clicking and refreshing and clicking and waiting for someone to respond to the comment I just posted and wondering if somebody has responded NOW and... watching people get outraged here, watching people be hypocrites there.

But in there, among all that, are my friends, some I've never met, some I rarely get to see in person. If I just give up social media... how will I hear from my friends?

So I'm still not sure. I need to cut back on the Internet. It feeds my NO too much. But within all the NO are scattered Yeses, and I don't want to miss them.
rockinlibrarian: (hi maddie)
I got a composter for my birthday-- a big spinning bucket of a contraption you put all your compost in so you don't have to stir it, as you would a compost heap. This is a handy thing for me to have, because in the 11 years of its existence I have never once stirred the compost heap in our backyard. Freshly decomposed compost would be wonderful to put in my garden-- and there is very little that makes me as happy as gardening does-- but that heap beside the shed had become a resting place for huge branches, invasive weeds, scraps of whatever dead things I pulled out of the garden in the fall, leaves... which, at least the last bit, are all things that DO go in a compost heap, but stir it? I could hardly MOVE it. And certainly I hadn't been paying attention to "feeding" it properly.

As it's a beautiful afternoon and I have this new composter, I figured I'd go out, clear the larger branches aside, and put the soft stuff (the leaves and such) in the bin to turn into NICE USEABLE SOIL AT LAST. But guess what I found under all those leaves?

You're right! DIRT! But not just dirt-- there's dirt enough in the brown, hard mounds beside our yard right now because the neighbors are building an addition and have moved part of the hill. This was deep, black, rich, loamy SOIL. THE COMPOST HEAP HAD DONE ITS WORK ALL ALONG! WITHOUT my stirring it or regulating its composition!

IT WAS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING I'VE EVER SEEN this month. I shoveled it into the wheelbarrow, dumped it in the garden, and felt SO HAPPY for the snap peas and carrots that will take root there in the next couple months.

And as I did I thought, maybe my soul is like a compost heap. It's just this pile of waste that I never properly tend to, but maybe, maybe SOMEDAY, when I find some more practical system for dealing with it, and I clear away the debris on top, I'll find the stuff underneath has been turning into rich, fertile soil ALL ALONG.

Which is the sort of daydream somebody very lazy who does not want to properly tend to her spiritual compost heap would harbor.

But there is one good thing about it. It's hopeful. It's saying that even if I AM crappy at tending to my life, all is not lost. There are worms and centipedes of the Holy Spirit working away down there even when I'm not doing my share. (WORMS AND CENTIPEDES OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. I need to make a devotional painting on this theme now). So sure, if I never bother to clear that top layer away, it won't do anybody any good. But if I ever DO, well, I won't be working entirely from scratch.

Or, you know, compost heaps could have absolutely no bearing on the human soul and I'm being far too optimistic.

But hope's nice.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
The other day I read an article about anti-vaxxers, and the ironic yet scientifically-based truth that being presented with real scientific facts proving vaccines are beneficial has a tendency to make anti-vaxxers MORE anti-vax than they were to begin with. The researcher in question specializes in why people believe passionately about issues to the point of unreasonableness-- not just vaccine issues, but any high-charged polarizing issue. And hearing that they've discovered that people just tend to dig their heels in MORE when presented with contradicting evidence (on whatever issue), makes me feel so HOPELESS. I want to show people a better way! I feel it might be my calling in life to open eyes and hearts of people, to help them learn to listen to and respect each other. But I just see it CONTINUING, the constant hardening of hearts, the constant my-people-are-better-than-your-people, the constant... I don't know, CLOSED COMMUNITIES feeding themselves the same incomplete information over and over, the same biases, the same NOBODY LEARNING ANYTHING. What good does my proselytizing do when the only people who read what I have to say either (most of the time) already agree with me or (rarely, but if I HAD a wider audience this is basically what that researcher is talking about) have already made up their mind to disagree with me?

I'm constantly reblogging/sharing/whatevering stuff about the Importance of Libraries and all the good things that are happening there, I just want the world to KNOW, but I'm preaching to the choir, because again, everyone who follows me is a library lover, and people who aren't, people who DO believe libraries are outdated and useless, they're not listening to me anyway. AND IT'S SO FRUSTRATING.

But the thing that's really got my goat right now is anti-Muslim sentiment. Mostly because it seems to be propagated by the same people who give Christianity a bad name, and I think the hypocrisy bothers me the most. I've been seeing these articles springing up, mostly on Facebook because, you know, Facebook, that either carelessly equate "Muslim" and "Terrorist" or outright state that All Muslims Have an Agenda of Hate and Destruction. The one that most boggled my mind equated The Rise of Muslims with The Rise of the Nazis* because some Muslims had published horrible Anti-Semitic screeds, and I'm like, "Wait, isn't this a horrible Anti-Islamic screed?" If I had actually asked that of the people who had posted it, they would have said, "No, no, we're just trying to get the truth out there!" Except you didn't SAY "Some Muslims are pushing anti-Semitic agendas." You said "Islam must be stopped! The Muslims are trying to trick us into believing they're a religion of peace to distract us from what they REALLY have planned!"

I hope you all see the difference. Of course you do, you read my stuff. And the people who can't see the difference don't care. They think, if they're reading this at all, that I'm being TOO tolerant, allowing Evil to flourish. And, as certain studies suggest, they're probably becoming even more stubborn in their opinion. SO MUCH MENTAL KICKING OF THINGS GOING ON IN MY HEAD.

You know why I'm not being too tolerant by saying this? You know why me posting this IS, in fact, calling out Evil rather than allowing it to flourish? Because I'm a Christian who is frequently appalled by the behavior of many of the most loud and prominent "Christians" in our society. People who beat others over the head with their "Christianity" while simultaneously supporting totally un-Christian agendas. I follow a Jesus who welcomed outsiders, respected those whom society shunned, healed the sick and fed the poor, who told his followers they could not serve both God AND money, who occasionally eschewed the dogmatic Rules of his religion in order to do the merciful thing instead, and who was REALLY BIG on calling out hypocrisy. That's where I learned that word-- church. (Well, the word was "hypocrites," which I thought was a very funny word, being a kid. But as I grew, the more aware of the concept I became...). Because the social and religious leaders of Jesus's community did not practice what they preached, all while claiming to be so pious. FAMILIAR STORY, 'n it, especially here in the United States. When these people embrace xenophobia and us-vs.-them, greed, hatred, war, and then claim it's all in the name of our Christian Nation, it doesn't save anybody's soul, let alone their own. In fact it drives people away from Christianity. I can't count how many people I've encountered who hate Christians, or at least think Christianity is a horrible religion, because of the actions of this prominent and vocal few. know, just like hating and mistrusting Muslims and Islam because of the actions of a prominent and vocal few. A hypocritical few whom the average believer would say have totally misinterpreted scripture to the point where it's completely opposite what it should be.

I am not tolerant of "Muslims" who are terrorists. Just like I'm not tolerant of anyone else who's a terrorist. Just like I'm here being Not Tolerant of those Christians who have warped and abandoned the Gospel in the name of Christianity.

By calling out Islamophobia, Anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, prejudice in any form, I'm not excusing the crimes that people in whatever group have committed. I'm saying your claim of "they're ALL like that" is bogus, short-sighted, and downright dangerous. "Okay, there are SOME exceptions, but MOST of them are like that." Well, I'm sorry you've had bad experiences with the people of that group whom you've encountered. Guess what, I've had mostly good experiences. It's not a matter of me "not knowing what they're really like," because I get that one from prejudiced types, too-- this claim that I'M naive, THEY have experience with Those People, THEY know what they're really like. Is that so? Why do you know and not me? Why do my positive experiences not count while your negative experiences do? ARE YOU NOT SEEING THE DISCONNECT HERE?

So just STOP IT, STOP IT, STOP IT WORLD! THINK before you generalize! I don't care what your political leanings are, your religious or ethnic background is, the amount or lack thereof of your Privilege, whenever you make a statement that claims All Someones Are Something that is not a direct part of the DEFINITION of being a Someone, you need to stop and evaluate where you've gotten your information.

Because it's a big world full of all sorts of different people. But in the end we're all human, and we deserve to be treated with respect.

*yes, I'm aware of the Internet Rule about things eventually being compared to Nazis but I'm not going into that right now.
rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
First of all, I would like to apologize to everyone else whose blogs I "follow," because unless you've posted a review of a relatively new children's or YA book (which I then make note of on my extensive collection development spreadsheet), I most likely have not read your blog for the past month. Unless you're Angie. Angie gets instant-read privileges on account of being Angie. NO OFFENSE, PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT ANGIE, you're all lovely too, but we can't all be Angie. And it seems hypocritical, because I like to think that all the people who follow ME actually read what I post, but when I can't manage to read other people's posts and I ACCOMPLISH NEARLY NOTHING ELSE, EITHER, I'm sure the much more productive people out there with their actual lives can't make time for this blog that only rarely actually says anything useful.

But that works out nicely, and brings me to my actual introductory paragraph, because today I have even less actually useful stuff to say than usual. I'll be going back to old-school LiveJournaling, emphasis on the "Journal"-- a ramble. The only reason it's not in my paper journal instead is I'd like to toss these thoughts out there, see what they bounce off of, instead of having only me to look at them and think the same old circular things about them. So right, busy folks, there are no useful librarian-esque tips, no life-changing philosophical pronouncements, and no gratuitous pictures of Martin Freeman in the rest of this post, so you can go about your business. But if you have a quiet evening and an open ear (well, eye-ear. Unless you're using voice software to read the internet which I suppose you could be doing), or if I am in fact YOUR Angie (in which case I am touched, honored, and a little worried by the responsibility), come on in! Here's what's been going on in my head lately.
Read more... )
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
It's good, in retrospect, that none of you voted for "larger social issues" when I asked social media what I should blog about next the other week, because it turns out that post wasn't ready yet after all. The winning post about "Smaller personal habits" (ie Ones Relationship with Obligation) did coincide nicely with me finishing sewing a dress. Then I did immediately start typing the second-place "hopes and dreams" post (ie an interesting recent exercise from my endless self-help work) that one person voted for, but trailed out as I hit an emotional dip as the week wore on. Me and my stupid self-help books. Me and my self-pitying funks. I couldn't write about my hopes and dreams then because it would turn into too much woe-is-me. And I REALLY, REALLY couldn't write about Larger Social Issues because I was far too self-centered at the moment. I'd come off as a total hypocrite. I'd come off like I was trying to say something Current that I didn't have any right to say, that other people had said better than I could, that whatever. It just didn't seem to be the right time. Just before I woke up yesterday morning I was in the middle of a dream about belonging to a small group of freedom fighters trying to figure out how to survive outside the Corrupt System until we could overthrow the tyrants-- "we'll probably have enough skills among ourselves, like she's an expert on growing tomatoes, so we'll be able to eat tomatoes. And I, I'm a writer, so I guess I can keep us entertained in our seclusion... oh wait. I'm a WRITER. I NEED TO WRITE THE TRUTH OF WHAT'S GOING ON AND PUT IT OUT THERE TO FURTHER THE CAUSE!"

Then I woke up, got on the computer, and witnessed the reactions to the grand jury decision in Ferguson. Part of me thought, well, now I'm REALLY unworthy to write what I was going to write, but another force was at work inside me. A Divine force, a Calling, the Holy Spirit Itself whispering forcefully NO. YOU NEED TO WRITE THIS. THIS IS EXACTLY YOUR STORY TO TELL, AND PEOPLE NEED TO HEAR IT. Write it on paper today, work it out into something for public consumption, post it tomorrow. You have a divine duty to speak up.

This is why I'm starting out by asking you to read this, no matter who you are. Read it without reacting, just let what I'm saying sink in a bit. Reflect on it. I'm not going to try to explain political issues to you. I'm not going to talk about things I don't understand. Actually THAT'S what I'm going to talk about. The State of Not Understanding. And I want everyone to think about it no matter what they already think about other things.

PRIVILEGE. It's a word that's come up a lot lately in conversations about social issues. It's really easy to misunderstand and get defensive about. But here's the thing: all "Privilege" means is "a particular problem you DON'T personally have." Everyone has Privilege. Nobody has EVERY problem known to humanity. Likewise, along with our Privileges, we all have our own problems, and no one knows exactly what anyone else may be going through. We're all Privileged, and we all have problems, and neither of these things is anything to be ashamed of.

The TROUBLE with our Privilege is when we start to think to ourselves, "THAT Problem? I don't see that Problem. Therefore the Problem must not really exist." Or "...therefore the people talking about the Problem must be exaggerating." Or worse, " must be the people WITH the Problem's FAULT somehow. If only they acted like ME. Then THEY wouldn't have the Problem, either."

The thing is, we don't even REALIZE how self-centered we're being. Somehow we're always able to rationalize, in our heads, how if WE and the people we interact with daily don't have a Problem then it really must not be that bad. And, yeah, by "We" I do mean "Me."

The particular issue I'd originally been going to write about was Feminism. You see for years, even as recently as a few months ago --if you go back in my posts you'll probably find me saying something to the effect of it-- my reaction to anyone's talk about sexism was the first one above. "Sure, sexism is wrong and just plain stupid, but is it really as BAD as all that? People can just do what they want, right? Who cares what some stupids have to say about it. I'm a woman and I've never felt held down by the patriarchy. Anyway I WANT to do traditionally feminine things like work with children and be a mother." To be honest I felt threatened by Feminism, afraid I was being judged and found wanting because I wanted to do traditionally feminine things. BUT IT TURNS OUT THIS IS THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF FEMINISM, and anyone who tells you otherwise is just secretly (or unconsciously!) reinforcing The Patriarchy even more. It's the PATRIARCHY that calls anything "feminine" demeaning. Female is not LESSER. Any kind of gender expression is valid and none is greater than any other. No one else should have any say in the matter.

My point is, I've come to understand these things much better over time, just by listening to some very wise (and some not-so-wise-but-they-still-make-some-good-points) people explain the issue online. And then a few months or so ago there's this backlash against "feminism" that springs up on social media, not from outright misogynists, but from other women: this "#Idon'tneedfeminism" thing. It took me a few months of observing this and sighing inside a little to realize, "Hey wait a minute. THAT WAS ME. I used to say that all the time myself." Why did I say that? Because sexism was not a problem I really ever encountered. I felt annoyed that people-- these "feminists"-- kept allegedly speaking for me as a woman without knowing what I ACTUALLY needed. Yes, I DO have trouble speaking my mind and standing up for myself, not going invisible or making myself small, but this isn't the patriarchy's doing or the doing of Men in my life, these are just my own psychological issues and my Type 9 tendencies.

BUT SO WHAT. So I have different issues. But there are LOTS of other women WITHOUT my issues who DO feel the oppression, and they've been saying OVER and OVER that this oppression is real. Why should I brush off what they're saying just because I'M not feeling the oppression? How self-centered can I BE? "I don't have the Problem, therefore it must not be a Problem"? It's utterly irrational, and even worse, it's utterly un-compassionate.

Here's a feminist issue that is now hitting me close to home, and eventually ties into my overall theme here: my daughter is SUCH a comedian. She's naturally funny, and she's always clowning around. And yet there are people out there who still insist women can't be funny. I don't want her growing up with that attitude in the air! I want her never to stop believing (and enjoying) that she's funny! Which, admittedly, is kind of difficult to encourage right now because she's in this phase of telling truly terrible jokes-- when she says something like (and this is one that makes more sense than some of them) "What did the pen say to the piano? 'I WILL PLAY YOU!' Get it?" and you're sitting there trying to find the balance between encouragement and constructive criticism and just trying to figure out what she said in the first place, it's hard to laugh appreciatively.* But as she told me the other day, "Just because you don't GET IT, doesn't mean it's not FUNNY."

Which is what I'm talking about here. Just because you don't GET what someone else is trying to tell you about their Problems, doesn't mean it's not TRUE.

Let's get back to the Ferguson issue. Whatever you feel about it, it's likely your impressions are shaped by where (and from whom) you're getting your information. Me, I was on Twitter when Mike Brown got murdered and the protests started and the police force there turned into a militia. I saw on the spot tweets from the journalists who went there to try to get a story and found the police trying to silence them from reporting the truth they saw, and what I saw was mind-boggling. This police force was OBVIOUSLY way out of line. There was NO WAY this story could be spun in their favor, not with this kind of evidence, not with them TURNING JOURNALISTS THEMSELVES away. And yet somehow by the time the story got to the mainstream media-- particularly the more conservative outlets-- it had become about rioting, looting thugs and the police force that had to use extreme measures to keep order, which did not reflect the truth of what had happened at the time. I mention the conservative outlets not to make this politically polarizing, but because it's these conservative outlets that are usually all about Gun Rights. My Gun Nut husband talks all the time about how the average citizen needs to be able to arm themselves in case a Police State should come to power. GUYS. GUESS WHAT. A POLICE STATE IS TOTALLY IN POWER IN FERGUSON. This is EXACTLY the scenario gun nuts fear could happen if they lost their rights to bear arms. And yet, what do these same news outlets espoused by the gun nuts (and the gun nuts following them) DO? Proclaim their support of the police.

There's a disconnect there. I think anyone who claims they need the right to bear arms against a government gone out of control and then turns around and supports the government gone out of control needs to take a really serious look at what they really believe. Do they want to stand up for citizen's rights? Or do they only want to stand up for the rights of PEOPLE LIKE THEMSELVES?

That's a tough question to ask yourself. YES, by asking that, I'm implying you may be racist. Here's the thing: before I saw what was going on in Ferguson, before I heard the other stories of other incidents in other places that came out again in the wake of it, I was more racist than I believed, too. Sure I treated everyone I met equally no matter what they looked like, but I admit that, when I heard stuff about how mostly black people get sent to prison, how cops keep shooting black kids, I did crinkle my forehead and say, "well, maybe they just commit more crime?" Ferguson was HUGELY eye-opening for me. It wasn't that I had chosen to be racist before. I was just Privileged to not have to face those sort of situations, to not know anyone personally who had to face those situations, and because those situations were so unbelievable, I allowed myself to disbelieve them.

The other day I reposted on social media a link to this essay on The Mary Sue, about the personal stories of real people who've dealt with poverty in these modern-day United States, the "Land of Opportunity." It's called "My Hunger Games." There's been a saying going around since the Hunger Games became popular enough that people could refer to them as a metaphor and other people would understand: "If you don't believe we're already living in Panem, you must live in the Capitol." One of the MAIN THEMES of the Hunger Games series is that the people in the Capitol are so completely blinded by their Privilege that they don't even REALIZE the problems out in the Districts. They accept that propaganda the government feeds them about how the people in the Districts somehow earned whatever quality of life they are living, that Life Is Good and It's All For the Best. The reason the government fears Katniss is that the people of the Capitol LIKE her, so they LISTEN to her when she points out the injustices, so gradually more and more of them GET IT. They drop their blinders and start to join the revolution.

I'm not calling for revolution today. I'm calling for self-reflection. I'm calling for each of us to really examine the way our own privileges may be clouding our ability to face the real needs of our fellow human beings around us. I'm using "us" purposely-- I'm not pointing fingers, I'm not trying to get specks of dust out of your eyes with a plank sticking out of my own. I'm showing you how I'VE grown in understanding in just these past few months, when I never even realized I had growing to do in these areas. I STILL have growing to do. There are STILL issues about which I am privileged that I still don't quite GET, that I still internally scrunch my forehead at and think "But why don't they just...?" There are still issues I feel too self-centered over to deal with properly, like the "We Need Diverse Books" campaign, which makes Reader Amy go "YAY!" and Librarian Amy go "SUPER YES!" but Writer Amy keeps INSISTING on taking the wrong way and keeps hearing "SHUT UP AMY YOU'RE TOO 'NORMAL' THIS IS JUST ANOTHER REASON WHY NO ONE NEEDS TO HEAR WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY" instead.

But ironically, this time, my "normalness" is EXACTLY why I NEED to write this post, why it's my GOD-GIVEN RESPONSIBILITY to write this post. Because I have been blinded by my Privileges and have found my eyes opened. That means there's hope for anybody. For ALL of us to stop and observe and grow.

For Thanksgiving it's always good to express gratitude for the things we take for granted, and our Privileges ARE all the things we take for granted. But just saying "I'm thankful for my Privileges" seems a little squicky-- it reminds me of that line in "Do They Know It's Christmas?": "Tonight thank God it's them instead of you." Ugh. THAT'S not what I mean. But what I AM most thankful for is this opportunity I've had to learn. I'm thankful for this opportunity to grow. I'm thankful for the strength to overcome the voice in my head that keeps telling me to SHUT UP instead of write, so that I COULD write this, and share this, and hope it will help others to learn and grow as I have.

*I brought her a joke book home from the library yesterday. I think this qualifies as both encouragement AND constructive criticism. She's very happy about it. One Mom Award for me!
rockinlibrarian: (wwii)
I briefly considered trying NaNoWriMo since I don't have One Book to work on this year, but I had a feeling that would be like trying a marathon in my current state of fitness, so instead I said, "Okay, I will just get into the habit of writing every day." THAT hasn't been doing all that well, either. Granted, I spent the first week of November sleeping off a horrible flu-like thing that SHOULDN'T HAVE HAPPENED BECAUSE I GOT A FLU SHOT A MONTH AND A HALF AGO DANGIT, but even that week I had moments where I thought "I don't have the energy for housework, so nothing's tugging at me and making me feel guilty for writing, so I should get lots of writing done!" But HAH. I barely got daily JOURNALING in.

Then I got distracted making a dress. I replaced my sewing machine a few weeks ago, and now it's just HERE ASKING ME TO MAKE STUFF. I've been looking forward to making this dress for a long time, with a pattern I'd made up myself based on this gorgeous dress I saw on a totally-out-of-my-price-league boutique site which I can no longer find a picture of, so I pieced the pattern together by mixing up parts of dresses and other patterns I already had. Then a month ago I inherited a huge pile of fabric from my grandmother-in-law's house, which included two swaths she'd already paired together which seemed perfect for the dress, and when I actually cut the pieces out it turned out to be EXACTLY THE RIGHT AMOUNT of fabric of each color. It was creepy! It was like it was MEANT TO BE! I love the results, but they're not exactly what I expected. I'd been going for a sort of retro feminine cocktail dress type thing, and yet somehow what happened looks EXACTLY like it should be a costume for The Sound of Music.
Picture 33*
Which I still love. I've always been slightly obsessed with all Maria's dresses in that movie. And though the green fabric is heavy and I'm pretty sure Mim-mim had originally intended to make something tableclothy out of it, I don't THINK it looks like it's made of old drapes. But it DOES look a bit like I intend to do some kind of Alpine dancing in it. NOT THAT IT ISN'T AWESOME. I'm just not sure that I could wear it to a hip cocktail party** without being mistaken for some sort of ethnic entertainment.

Along with the huge box of fabric, I also got a bunch of notions and wrapping paper and casserole dishes and Pe-pa's ties that I mentioned last post, and most remarkably, a little yellowed paperback from 1943, VOGUE's Pocket Book of Home Dressmaking. It's a treasure trove of tips, if you ignore the obviously dated stuff.

Of course, why ignore ALL the dated stuff, because this paragraph on the back cover is just plain interesting: "Above all, you will help the Government in its conservation program, by waging war on waste. And when peace comes, you will want to continue to make the distinctive clothes that you have learned to make with this step-by-step handbook." That's a sort of fun thing to read and go "OOO!" But that's OBVIOUSLY a product of history. Another line on the back copy struck me even more, even though it doesn't scream out its era so blatantly: "It proves that sewing need not be difficult, but actually fun."

Heh, I thought. Actually FUN? I wouldn't even think of sewing if I didn't find it fun. Who sews because they HAVE to anymore? Putting aside wartime shortages, though, there WAS a time when sewing ones family's own clothes oneself was considered a necessary chore. You bought material and patterns, not ready-made clothes, unless you were well-off enough to afford a tailor. It was something that was just EXPECTED of the lady of the house.

But everyone I know who sews nowadays does it as a hobby. Sure, it has benefits, they can make useful things usually cheaper and more personalized than if they just bought those things. Maybe they even sell some of their creations on Etsy. But none of them do it because it's EXPECTED of them.

I wondered what it would be like if I HAD to sew. If I was REQUIRED by my family, by society, by available resources, to MAKE everything my family wore. Would I still get excited finding particular patterns or materials? Would I still want to show off what I'd made when I finished? Or would I dread having to hem another pair of pants?

It's one thing to make it a gendered obligation. Sure, there were probably lots of women who didn't like to sew and didn't like being expected to sew merely because it was "Women's work." But if I, someone who DOES enjoy sewing, had lived in a time or place where I was OBLIGED to do it, I'm not sure I would have liked it so much either. For example, take the other most prominent half of Home Economics, the half that IS still usually EXPECTED of people (although not as OFTEN in a gendered way): cooking. I DO love cooking. I love eating even more, but I also enjoy pulling together a meal and substituting ingredients and generally making something scrumptious to share with others. BUT in my house I am THE COOK. The other adult, if left to his own devices, might forget about plant-based ingredients entirely. Oh, wait, ingredients? Forget ingredients, the less pieces, the better. All-in-one ready-made for him. So basically, here I am, the one that HAS to prep all the meals every day. The one that HAS to find a meal to at least partially satisfy four people with very different tastes, one of whom is extraordinarily picky to the point that he's bordering on underweight, one of whom is slightly less picky but is weird about Things Touching and, again, is even weirder about VEGETATION, and one of whom isn't THAT picky yet somehow doesn't like SPAGHETTI WHAT IS WRONG WITH HER. (I am the least picky eater, but admittedly I AM the only one in the family who doesn't like ham. What is wrong with ME). I get SO SICK of trying to please this crew. I get SO SICK of HAVING to come up with dinner every night. That's really the problem. It wouldn't be so bad if I didn't HAVE to do it EVERY NIGHT.

It's funny how chores become such CHORES. My kids are still at the age where they think doing the dishes is the most fun thing ever, which would be great if they actually got the dishes CLEAN. But as soon as they're old enough to do it thoroughly and seriously, and I try to GET them to do the dishes, how long do you suppose the fun will last?

Life is full of obligations, but it doesn't seem fair that obligation should so suddenly and thoroughly turn things Not Fun. Really, what's the difference? What is really the difference between WANTING to and HAVING to? If people only did the things they WANT to, how soon would we fall into chaos? Or would we? Would the people who WANT to do all the usual obligations just step in and pick up the slack for those who don't? Anarchy isn't so bad because there's somebody who will do anything? Or will they? WHO KNOWS? How can we use this tendency to dread obligation to our true advantage?

I always say that about Christmastime, though-- that I wish the people who didn't enjoy the process and stressed out about their holiday obligations would just let their obligations slide and let those of us who DO love getting ready for Christmas take up all the slack, because we do it gladly and with joy and give it freely to even those who don't feel like giving it back. But Christmastime is one thing. The rest of the year, the drudge of everyday life... we may need those obligations too much to say "Only if you want to!"

OR DO WE? I'm really just confusing myself now. I suppose we never can know for sure.


*Also, my daughter mugging. After this picture on the computer are at least five more goofy selfies.
**because I go to so many of those
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
Today is apparently Respect Life Sunday, meaning that although the Gospel was about the vineyard with the horrible tenants problem, the homily steered off onto the issue of abortion in society and HOW is it that so many people find it acceptable when, say, it's illegal to crush a bald eagle's egg? As I listened I became horribly sad.* This was rhetoric I'd grown up on, this plea for the sanctity of life and how do we allow the murder of innocents, and I agree with it. But online I have encountered many of the folks on the other side of the issue, and have learned from them that the issue isn't nearly so clear as I'd grown up believing, and it bothered me that people who never heard both sides would never understand it.

And I think of the vineyard tenants who won't hand over the fruit and instead keep killing the messengers. It's easy for anybody to put themselves in the place of the messengers, the people they disagree with in the place of the tenants. The parable always works. So maybe people need to be thinking more about the fruit than who's who. Maybe we all have to learn to listen to messengers before we kill them, even if, in other instances, we might be messengers ourselves.

Because here I am. I'm going to be a messenger today. It's a relatively safe way to be a messenger, writing on a blog with an average of 28 readers, judging by my Google Analytics. But it's what I've got, and I am going to, by nature of what I'm going to say, disagree with most of you on a hot-button topic (and before you shut me off, I'm going to be talking about even more than that, too. Actually I am right now). Because If You're Not For Us You're Against Us, right? Well, too bad. I am hereby going to be both For and Against all of you.

"You can't do that!" you yell at me. "You need to make a STAND! You can't wishy-washy between things!" You assume I'm being wishy-washy. I'm not. I believe strongly in what I'm saying. I've picked a third side. It's a side I've found by listening.

So, right. My family is full of women who are Pro-Life Advocates, beautiful strong women actively involved in beautiful work for beautiful reasons.** So, you know, it hurts when the Pro-Life movement is brushed off as something misogynistic because that goes against my personal experience with it. You would not think that if you saw these loving women in action, if you listened to what THEY were saying.

But that is exactly the problem. Nobody sitting in the midst of Pro-Life activism is listening to what the other side is saying, either. Well, maybe some are. Like me, for example. When I compare what I hear on one side to what I hear on the other, misogyny is not the problem I'm hearing in the impassioned pleas of the truly Pro-Life people in my life. The problem I'm hearing is PRIVILEGE. They're speaking from this ideal of an unexpected human being coming into a world where they'll have everything they need to survive, with the support of two loving parents. Confronted with the facts that not every pregnancy happens that way, they perfectly innocently wonder well WHAT were those people doing having sex, then? It's not being judgemental as much as just NOT GETTING IT. A lovely cousin of mine, forgive me referencing her here, I'm not calling her out so much as just trying to show an example, anyway she referred to having had to deal with a "crisis pregnancy" of her own so she understood in on of her Pro-Life shpiels-- except no. I mean I don't doubt that for her personally it was a crisis, being unmarried in a conservative family, still looking for work. But she was an adult (if young by modern child-bearing standards), and her family is loving, and her boyfriend was-- IS-- a wonderful supportive man who married her soon after and they've happily raised their now-large brood together for 20 years. Not the same thing as a teenage kid raped or at least abandoned by the father, whose own parents can't even take care of themselves. Not the same as someone in an abusive situation. Not the same as someone who can barely feed herself, let alone a child. It's a privilege to be able to see a baby as a blessing. *I* had trouble seeing my children that way, some days!

The Pro-Choice people I've met online opened my eyes to that privilege. I think many of them would consider ME Pro-Choice now because I agree with them that making abortion illegal at this point in time would be very dangerous. Because I recognize that even though I would never make the decision myself to abort, I don't have the right to make it for other people. But I still don't think abortion's okay. It still bugs me when Pro-Choice advocates say a fetus is not a person (what, and if it's born extremely premature? Still not a person?)-- there may be an argument to be made about exactly what POINT a fetus becomes a person but it's certainly a lot earlier than At Birth. It bugs me when they laugh off the idea of Personhood. I DO disapprove of the use of abortion as birth control by people who DO have the resources to support the child. So I'm not going to jump up and say "YOU'RE RIGHT! THE PRO-LIFE CAUSE IS BULL! LET'S TEAR IT DOWN!"

I actually think we're all focusing on the wrong thing. We need to think about what it means to TRULY be Pro-Life, and we need to get ourselves far, far away from political pundits.

Here's the problem with abortion legislation. It's championed by conservative politicians. "Conservative" by definition means "I like things just the way they are." To like things just the way they are is, guess what, a privilege. That's why so many financially well-off people are conservative. That's why political conservatives are more likely to be from majority populations, from historically dominant populations. Your white straight male. Since, as I said, the anti-abortion mindset assumes a traditional nuclear family in order to use the "babies are a blessing" line, it has become a politically conservative issue as well and has gotten tied in with all sorts of other concepts that are, ironically, NOT PRO-LIFE. Laws touted as being Pro-Life that actually show little knowledge of medical sense, that shame needy women, that are basically men wanting to control women's sexuality. That's not what I want when I sign up for something that says I'm "Pro-Life," and I'm sure that's not what most other Pro-Lifers actually want, either. The birth control issue is of course a knotty one because that IS also against Church teachings, but too often they're lumped together politically in a way that doesn't make sense (doesn't better access to birth control equal LESS ABORTION?). But most importantly, most insidiously, the same politicians who claim to be Pro-Life with all this legislation THEN GO ON TO OPPOSE THE LEGISLATION THAT WOULD GIVE CRISIS POTENTIAL-MOTHERS THE SUPPORT THEY NEED. Oh, they skew it so you can't tell it's happening. They make sure to feed you all the stories about people who abuse the welfare system, ignoring the many more people who legitimately need it. They say people working minimum wage jobs are just NOT WORKING HARD ENOUGH. They make you believe that people who are struggling in the world probably earned it, and feed your own unacknowledged privilege with the belief that things REALLY AREN'T THAT BAD for anybody (unless it's THEIR fault) so stop complaining.

Which sounds pretty un-Christian to me. Politicians have ruined what it really means to be Pro-Life.

So maybe it's time we fought back. Maybe instead of shaming unwed mothers we support them. Maybe we give them systems that will allow them to find child care while they work. Maybe we ensure better family leave options. Maybe we help them out of abusive situations instead of insisting that maybe it's somehow THEIR fault. Maybe we give them a world they're not afraid to bring a child into. THAT will turn the tide of abortion.

But who's going to listen to me? We live in a society where everyone listens to the news outlets that tell them what they already believe. If you've read this long into my post, you probably already agree with me, too. If you're too firmly on one side or the other, you clicked out a long time ago. Or you're just going to spew your opinion in the comments without having actually read or thought about anything I said because obviously if I agree about anything the other side says then I'm wrong. But I don't get those kind of comments very often. Actually I rarely get comments at all. I LIKE COMMENTS, YOU KNOW! They let me know someone is listening! And in cases like this, I too often feel I'm just shouting into the void. Because everyone's made up their mind already.

The truth is, this post was inspired by the abortion issue. But it's really about listening to people. Hearing what the other side is really trying to say. I believe there are more truly good people in the world than there are bad, it's just sometimes we don't know it because we get blinded by the propaganda of the people we sometimes agree with. And when we only listen to the people who think like us, we'll never know for sure.

*It didn't help that my children were misbehaving at the same time, which is, you know, frustrating.
**In thinking about my frustration with my misbehaving children, and how my dad was effectively a single parent when he took us to church too, I remembered, no, my grandma came with us, too. And then I started missing my beautiful grandmother, and... okay I am basically an emotional mess today. Anyway, if you're going to diss Pro-Life Advocates as a whole, be aware that you're dissing my grandmother and I AM NOT GOING TO TAKE THAT FROM ANYBODY TODAY. YOU LOVE MY GRANDMA DARNIT BECAUSE SHE LOVED YOU! I DON'T CARE THAT SHE NEVER ACTUALLY MET YOU, SHE DID!
rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
Trying to drown out the quiet,
the thundering of possibility,
the space that whispers to be filled
by you

when you're not even sure there's enough of you
to fill where you already are

the quiet asks too much

or knows more about you
than you do

(Post-Script: the past two nights I've had random bits of dream in iambic pentameter. My subconscious is way more clever than my conscious is. It's annoying. My conscious does free-form and thinks it's accomplished something)
rockinlibrarian: (love)
This is what I woke up pondering in the middle of the night. I might blame Cat for creating a whole blog for such Lycoris-type questions for us to ponder (and this one I answered is sort of similar). Or I might blame this great post from Cheryl Klein and a series of tweets from Rae Carson I read yesterday, both of which discussed how helpful it is to take an objective look at stuff YOU don't like but other people LOVE just to figure out what it is that it must be somehow doing right. I might blame a chance run-in with one of those Martin-Freeman-haters, who allow the fact that my Imaginary Husband can't stop running his mouth and has said a few stupid things in his day completely sour them and blind them to the far greater amount of AWESOME he has done and said, and I get cranky when people irrationally hate people I love. I might blame violent football players, because we keep hearing about THEM a lot lately, too. Most likely it was all these things swirling together, keeping me up, making me wonder if I should just GET up to write this but then worrying that I'd fall back asleep just when I was SUPPOSED to wake up, instead.*

There's something in online culture I might call the "Your-Fave-Is-Problematic" syndrome. At least, it's most obvious in online culture, but in light of Cat's question about forgiveness, I guess it exists everywhere, in any situation. It's this idea some people have that, if they can see there's something wrong with something that other people like, suddenly it's all "THAT THING IS WRONG! HOW CAN YOU LIKE A WRONG THING! YOU OBVIOUSLY DON'T KNOW THAT THING IS WRONG IF YOU STILL LIKE THAT THING! STOP IT!" That's what Klein** and Carson were talking about in the things I linked above-- instead of immediately tearing down what other people love, you might want to focus on why they love it and you might learn something from it?

But how much wrong IS too wrong? Don't people kind of have a responsibility to point out problems that need to be changed? How much problem negates all the good? Where's the line between forgiveness and letting injustice get away with it?

Let's take our violent football players. These are people who have done things both immoral and criminal, and yet so many people are willing to overlook reprehensible behavior by their favorite players because the game is that important to them. The game's not that important to me, though. I don't feel like football really offers the world anything it can't get elsewhere, and certainly it's not like there aren't other players to take the place of reprehensible players, if necessary, either.

But what happens when you get into ART? Art, where everyone has a unique voice, and one silenced voice can't simply be replaced by another? I know fans-- and or former fans-- of people like Woody Allen and Marion Zimmer Bradley have had to wrestle with these feelings when their artists turned out to have horrible dark sides. And you have artists who've harbored horrible opinions-- like H.P. Lovecraft might be a LEETLE more excused by his time period than Orson Scott Card is today. But I haven't had to wrestle with those things, never having held strong opinions about the art of any of those people.

But shall we discuss John Lennon? John Lennon with his history of domestic violence? John Lennon with his art that IS very important to me? I admit I can sometimes feel conflicted about John, particularly in the face of his many more blind-worshipping fans. Dudes, he was NOT the sole or even main creative force in the Beatles. Dudes, he REALLY wasn't a paragon of peace. But if I'm not playing devil's advocate against his idolizers, I forgive him his faults. For one thing, he DID change his ways, in the end. Surely we can't still hold him bound for sins that he himself came to regret as well? And for another thing-- well, "Across the Universe" will never not make me blissfully happy, and nothing about its author can ever change that. --Could it? WOULD it have been different if he'd remained an unrepentant wifebeater? Maybe people would see him differently. And yet not a note of "Across the Universe" would have changed.***

This wasn't what kept me tossing and turning. Kevin Clash was. This is the one instance where the sins of the artist, uh, clashed so dramatically with my admiration for him that I still can't work it out. It still makes me angry, still feels like a betrayal. WHY, Kevin? Sure, other fallen types have done worse, but you're NOT SUPPOSED to fall. You've done SO MUCH, SO MUCH GOOD for children around the world. You've done so much for early literacy and you've brought so much joy. You should be a hero! You WERE a hero! But heroes are allowed SMALL, PERSONAL vices, like addiction or bad tempers or careless negligence. Statutory rape? Even if technically "consensual"? Can you still be a hero with that taint on you, or not? It DOESN'T erase the millions of people whose lives he's improved through his work with the Sesame Workshop. How can that be erased? And yet, anymore when I see Elmo, I just get sad.

I suppose part of the solution is to stop dealing in absolutes. Stop having heroes or villains. I just wish it was easier for people to accept that in-between place where reality lies.

*So I've also been working on another finding-myself book, Wishcraft, by Barbara Sher, as recced by my dear friend Angie, and the other day the exercise was figuring out the perfect environment for me to thrive in. The most important detail I came up with was NOT HAVING TO DO ANYTHING AT A PARTICULAR TIME in the morning, so I could wake up when I woke up and immediately grab my journal and just write until whenever, without HAVING to get up so as to feed children or get them to school or, on weekends, entertain a husband. I JUST WANT A MORNING JOURNALING TIME THAT WON'T REQUIRE ME TO WAKE UP BEFORE I'M READY.

**TECHNICALLY, she was quoting someone else in her post, but she posted it in the first place so as to talk about this, and she's the one whose name I know, so I'm giving her credit here ALTHOUGH TECHNICALLY I KNOW THAT'S NOT PERFECTLY ACCURATE, shut up you Amy's-Posts-are-Problematic folks.

rockinlibrarian: (love)
When I was in middle school I created a secret identity for myself. Her name was Alexandra Ellen (we shared initials), and she was going to write notes to kids in the school who looked like they needed cheering up-- notes that told them someone else had noticed their good qualities, that someone else believed in them, was cheering them on, even if this someone else was someone named Alexandra Ellen who didn't exist. I hoped she'd become a movement. I even confided in another girl whom I thought would "get" it even though we were little more than friendly acquaintances at the time (we actually became better friends later), and she DID, to my relief, get it, enthusiastically offering to help out. She even made up her own alias, Lila Denise, which it's funny I remember that after all these years.

Because unfortunately I never got up the courage to START sending even-technically-anonymous notes to people, so the movement fell flat before it began.

Decades later I got involved in Darcy's Lycoris Letters project, where I, kind of, made up for that failure. Now I wasn't writing to kids I'd been quietly observing in school for years. All I had was a name, an address, and a question that person wanted to ask the Universe (with, usually, a little bit of background info). And whatever experience and/or knowledge of human nature I happened to possess myself. But the idea was still the same: you may not know me, but I see you, and I care, and I want you to feel a little bit better about life.

It was awesome. The questions eventually ran out, but my desire to answer them didn't. I went back to writing fan letters and friend letters and Internet comments. I like Internet comments. I like being able to tell people that the post of theirs that I just read in passing is awesome. I like responding to sad tweets with tweets of love. It helps, a little, to make things feel right.

The other day The Mary Sue posted an article about a woman who'd discovered her husband was secretly a nasty Internet troll. I won't link directly to the article because this post is supposed to be spreading HAPPINESS. But I sent the link to my husband to say, "YOU'RE not secretly like this, are you?" He wrote back, "whats a troll. well i mean I know what the monster troll is but what is a internet troll?" (see, you have to admit his email grammar IS suspicious*). "Someone who goes out of their way to harass complete strangers online," I explained. "Like, not just disagreeing, but making personal hateful comments and basically saying things anybody with half a conscience would never say to somebody's face, but because it's online they justify it by the relative anonymity of everyone." His reply: "ohh no I am defintly not an internet troll... I live to say that type of stuff to peoples face!" Which is alibi if I ever saw one. But anyway. This is setting up the next paragraph eventually.

Co-Lycoris writer Cat, a psych major with a passion for social justice, was always on the lookout for ways people could reach out in the darkness, and found a site called Need to Tell Someone, where people can just anonymously post stuff they need to get off their chest. But people can also anonymously respond to each post. And it DOES attract a lot of trolls, but it attracts some genuinely good, supportive responses, too. Every so often I drop by there to see if there's anything I can respond to (and occasionally get my OWN anonymous garbage off my chest). It's like an instant, mini, totally anonymous Lycoris letter. Many of the people who post there are apparently quite young. I feel a rush knowing I can give an accepting voice of experience to these kids in pain.

This morning, typing away in those anonymous comments, I caught myself feeling that rush. "AMY!" I needled myself. "Do you realize what you are? You're an ANTI-Troll! Saying supportive things anonymously on the Internet gives you a rush!"

Of course I've just outed myself here, which kind of ruins it. It's no longer quite so anonymous. Well, it is, but I'm not presenting myself un-anonymously as someone different.

But I have a good reason for outing myself. I need to recruit Lila Denises. I can't respond to EVERYONE on the Internet by myself! But I certainly can't be the ONLY Anti-Troll on the Internet. If it's so easy to say hateful things with the anonymity of the Internet to hide you, why shouldn't it be just as easy to say caring, helpful, loving things this way? I KNOW there's more love in the world than there is hate. So why do we let hate dominate us? Why don't more of us let the anonymity of the Internet give us the bravery to be kind?

Look, I admit I still don't always have the bravery to be kind in real life. But yay, anonymity of the Internet! Every little bit is something.

*I'm joking. He's dyslexic, actually. Which is not to say that Internet Trolls can't genuinely be dyslexic either. ;)
rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
The other day I jumped back into The Soul Tells a Story by Vinita Hampton Wright. If you've been hanging around here awhile you might remember me talking about this book, its beautiful discussions of the way art and spirituality intersect, the way it poses soul-searching Hard Questions that dig way deeper into your motivations than most other writing prompts you might encounter. I'd left off on it just before a chapter called "The Beauty and Danger of a Creative Life: Why the Wonder Brings Darkness With It," which may have been WHY I'd left off. I've been having serious fear-induced blocking issues with my creativity, after all: the last thing I needed was MORE reason to be wary of it. But as it turned out, the chapter told me nothing I didn't already know intimately. I'm IN the Dark Stuff already! If anything, it was further proof that I am, actually, a creative person.

I found myself utterly tickled by a paragraph explaining that artists tend to fall in love easily because the artistic mindset and the-emotional-side-of-being-in-love are both heightened ways of experiencing the universe, and I fell so deeply in love with that concept that I woke up the next morning intent on writing a post about it. Only I got so distracted by breakfast and children and the Internet that hours went by and I found I'd lost the desire to blog. So obviously my best bet was to procrastinate further, by searching for tips on how habitually-procrastination-prone EnneaType 9s like myself can stop procrastinating. Mostly I just found lots of evidence that, yes, we are really good at procrastinating.* I didn't think the blog post could happen in this state, so I went back to the book to reread a bit to see if it put me back in the mood. After all, I hadn't even READ the Hard Questions for the chapter yet.

Wait. HAH. In typical Type 9 fashion, I'd gotten so excited about the Beauty of a Creative Life that I'd managed to forget entirely that this chapter had actually focused on the Danger of it. I'd even forgotten why I called the Hard Questions "the Hard Questions" (hint: they're not actually called that). And these Hard Questions? There was a list called "Worst-Case Scenarios":"The phrase or sentence I most fear writing down..."; "The secret I most fear coming to light"; "The emotion that frightens me most"; "The location associated with my darkest moment"; "The failure that would shatter me most"; "The biggest mistake I could make"; "The cruelest thing I've ever said or done"; "My greatest regret so far"; "The one thing I dread more than anything"; "The possibility I worry about most"; "The thing I need to do but can't"; "The one person or event that can make me angriest in the shortest amount of time"; "The grief that won't let me go." Those are the SHORT questions. The big one was "Write a three-page essay that explores the darkness you have either found in your creative work or feared you would find there. Write quickly and don't edit... [after a few days go back and] make sure it flows well and would be understandable to someone who knows nothing about you....Come up with some sort of structure and revise accordingly." That, oh Best Beloveds, is what you're reading right now. The revised, moderately explained edition.

See, the thing about 9s is that we're actually pretty good at DEALING with the world's Darkness, push come to shove. We're good in a crisis, should we happen to be dropped into the middle of one. But we're not so good at FACING the Darkness. We'll go out of our way to AVOID dealing with the Darkness. We're a bit like the Wizard Howl, having to trick himself into being brave because otherwise he'd slither right out of it.** THESE QUESTIONS WERE ASKING ME TO LOOK MY OWN DARK SIDE RIGHT IN THE EYE AND DESCRIBE WHAT I SEE. That's the DARK NIGHT OF THE SOUL for a 9!

But having journaled since my early teens, and being a rather 4-like sexual-instinct 9, I'm a bit more introspective than the average 9. I CAN DO THIS. Maybe it'd be more the Long Dark Tea-Time than the actual NIGHT of the Soul.

Never mind it's taken me five paragraphs and two footnotes to get to the point where I actually DO discuss my Darkness.

If you were to ask me, flat out, to give a name to my own personal Dark Side, I'd tell you I've always identified with Wednesday Addams. She is the living-- okay, fictional-- EMBODIMENT of the Dark Side of Me. On the surface I may be this painfully nice, sweet, quiet, innocent girl-- on the inside is Wednesday, a morbid, snarky, sullen witch who's utterly unimpressed by what anyone else thinks. But I love Wednesday! I love secretly BEING her! I wouldn't MIND-- and probably SHOULD BE-- letting her come to the surface more often. So somehow I don't think that's the answer. That morbid, snarky side of me is NOT actually the Inner Darkness I need to face.

I decided to start with whichever of the Worst-Case Scenario questions I came up with an answer for first. The Location Associated With My Darkest Moment popped into my head immediately: I saw myself sitting in the Oak Grove at college trying to process what, looking back, I see now was a genuine Dark Night of the Soul moment (although it was morning), when I had to face a horrible truth about myself and what I'd thoughtlessly done to someone I loved. It had taken a long time-- years-- to fully recover from that. God help me, I wouldn't have to go through THAT again just to answer these QUESTIONS, would I?

But it opened up the tap-- literally, it made me cry for a moment, but I pulled myself together and quite calmly started answering more questions-- and more of my fears and regrets and demons poured onto the page. My fear of being wrong (that's a product of my 1-wing, since we're on the Enneatype stuff), because it's like every added wrong thing is more negativity in the world (which, yeah, is a 9's problem with having a 1-wing). Fears of anything bad happening to my kids, not just because they're my babies whom I love more than anyone else in the world, but also because I fear having to FACE anyone SHOULD they have (even unwittingly) caused harm to my kids, because I don't think I could forgive them-- I'm not sure I forgive myself for all my failures as a parent and how they might manifest in the future. The regret that I never did anything daring with my life BEFORE I had a family. The dread that I never WILL, that my life has gone stagnant. The deeper dread that the only way I CAN ever learn to live life fully is to give up my family and strike out on my own.

Now, none of these things were a surprise to me. Even if it might be hard to make myself sit down and write them, I've written about them all before. I've written SO MUCH in my journals-- and even here on my blog-- about my battles with chronic depression, which I even refer to as The Darkness-- because it IS, it's a cloud that settles over everything, blocking out light-- you can actually see a difference in the colors when you're depressed and not. I've written about this stuff so often it seemed pointless to write it again for the sake of this exercise.

So what about the darkness I FEARED I would find in my work? That would be more revealing. I KNOW it's fear that's causing my writer's block. I KNOW I'm slithering out of it just like Howl slithers out of his dangerous responsibilities, even as I feel called to DO it. I pondered, and the answer hit me: it's not so much what I'm afraid I'll find there. It's what I'm afraid I WON'T find. You know the Fear of the Blank Page? It's that. But it's more than that. It's the fear that even if I DO put something on the page, there will still be nothing there. I've filled dozens and dozens of notebooks FULL of blank pages, but have I written anything there, really? Anything that MEANS something? Anything with a POINT? What if I write and write but I never write anything that needs to be said? That's really the driving obsession (in the clinical, totally negative sense of the word) during my depressive periods: what's the point? What is the point of MY EXISTENCE? Maybe I'm afraid of that known liar, Depression, proving itself right in my writing, and I'll never find in it a point, or meaning, or a happy ending, or even God. I fear finding the chaos of nothingness instead of the logos of Story.

Let me explain. If I had to sum up what I believe in in one word, it would be logos, a Greek word which, in the Gospel of St. John, is usually translated as "The Word." But logos actually connotes something bigger than just words: order, logic, meaning, sense. Cause and effect. My whole world-view is founded on these things-- that there's an underlying meaning that holds the multiverse together into a story. No matter how bad I might be at following a religion, my faith in The Word-- God as logos-- is so ingrained that I have trouble understanding what it's like to think without it.***

But, if THAT's what I fear I'll find-- a lack of God-- certainly there's a way to get past that. There are thousands of people who manage to be atheists without having existential crises. Me, I don't know how. HOW, oh atheists out there reading this (and this isn't rhetorical, I really want to hear your answers. I'm trying to LEARN here!), do you answer the questions, "What's the point of me? Why am I here? Why don't I just go die?" I have enough trouble answering those questions even WITH the fallback answer of "God loves and has a plan for each and every person, even me." If I DIDN'T have that answer, I'm not sure I could get through my Dark Times.

The irony is, this makes sense even WITHIN my spiritual worldview. Most atheists pride themselves on basing their beliefs on only hard evidence, which is, when you think about it, exactly what a Type 9 is supposed to be incorporating MORE of into her life. My challenge in growing into an actualized human being is to learn to ground myself, in my body, here and now. To an atheist, the here and now is all that EXISTS. But I'm out there drifting in the numinous without any substance-- I need to reconnect with substance--in a sense, cultivate my atheism!-- in order to actually DO THE WORK of God. FURTHER irony: the word logos I identify with? Being that it means logic and reason, it is sometimes used, philosophically (less so in theology), as the opposite of the emotional. So in other words, it's ALL ABOUT being grounded instead of dreamy!

It's also strange, but facing the fear of meaninglessness by accepting it is weirdly liberating. Like, if nothing really matters, then it doesn't matter what I write, so I can stop FREAKING OUT about not knowing what to write and JUST WRITE ANYTHING. Which is, of course, the only way the bits that DO mean something will ever make it out onto paper in the first place.

Thing is, I'm not an atheist. The theme of church today was Trust in God and good will follow. We sang one of my lifelong favorite church songs, "Be Not Afraid," and my faith was THERE and fully participating. My faith will ALWAYS be there, it's just the way I am. But I have faith in the irony of my need to be more atheistic-- to stop expecting things to Just Happen, to get more involved in the here-and-now-- in order to live truly as a child of God.

Now the question is: did I successfully pull my Dark Side up and put it into words here, or did I just distract myself from true introspection with philosophical ironies that are fun to discuss?

Well, it's interesting, either way.

*My favorite sentence was "9w1 [that's me] has a kind of refinement and poise, because of the one-wing's desire to be perfect. But 9w1 is more likely to lie down and take a nap than the more workaholic 1w9." What, that isn't how everyone deals with perfectionist moments?

**Howl, a 9, gee. Seeing that vanity is considered a hallmark of 3s it might be tempting to put him THERE instead, but no way. He's too much of a slitherer-outer to be a 3. Maybe a 4 with a 3-wing. But what with the slithering-out, and the maintaining multiple identities, and the falling-madly-in-love-until-it-gets-too-REAL-then-abruptly-running-away... yeah, quite likely a 9. HUH. And I always identified with SOPHIE.

***My original "three-page" freewrite of this topic here took a tangent into ranting about Philip Pullman. When it came time to form this into a Proper Essay for the Consumption of Others, I realized my musings on Philip Pullman didn't really fit, structurally, but I enjoyed it SO THAT'S WHAT FOOTNOTES ARE FOR. If you're new here: I've always had a PROBLEM with Philip Pullman. Oh sure, he's a great writer, but somehow, whenever I read an interview or an essay written as HIMSELF, it ALWAYS rubs me the wrong way, even when I AGREED with him. Sure, he IS a sometimes controversially-outspoken atheist, but quite a lot of atheists say things I agree with just fine, and even where our beliefs seem to differ I often get the feeling we merely define a few words differently, or have different understandings of what God or religion IS. Philip Pullman doesn't even allow me THAT much. But writing this I realized that, unlike most atheists, it isn't merely a matter of not believing in an Old Man Creator In the Sky-- Philip Pullman doesn't believe in logos! It's not that our worldviews are DIFFERENT, they're OPPOSITE. They CLASH! Weird story though-- some weeks back I took a "Which Fantasy Author Are You?" Internet survey, one that was quite long and in depth and therefore you'd expect it to be more accurate than usual. GUESS WHO MY ANSWER WAS. Maybe Philip Pullman is my shadow self. Maybe HE'S my Dark Side! Sorry, Wednesday! You've apparently been supplanted!
rockinlibrarian: (librarians)
A friend of mine asked me for book recommendations for her 8-year-old goddaughter reading at a 6th grade level, and mentioned how her parents and teachers were finding it hard to find books that "challenged" her but were still appropriate for her age level/maturity. This is an incredibly common dilemma, judging by how many times I get this question, let alone every other children's librarian I've encountered online or in real life. "I always want to ask the grownups in these cases," I said to my friend, "is it really necessary that the kid be CHALLENGED by reading? Why not just read to enjoy? Obviously she's got the reading thing down pat, it's not like she needs to WORK on it." Maggie Stiefvater posted a nice take on this recently, that we've got this whole weird idea that Books Make You Smart And Therefore If Your Book Is Not Properly Challenging Your Brain Then What Is It FOR? Goes along with all the SHOULD ADULTS READ YA snobbery and the Reading Level Fallacy in general. Once you're a fluent reader, GREAT! HAVE FUN! READ WHATEVER YOU WANT. You don't have to keep pushing until you're reading scholarly papers at your leisure.

But this time I started thinking, maybe instead of continuing to try to find challenge in reading, maybe it's time to APPLY ones reading skills. Creating something new and bigger instead of just continuing to consume.

Like take a wordless picture book and write a (worded) story to go with it (any excuse to get people to appreciate wordless picture books). Or retell a familiar story in a new setting. Write fanfiction. Write blurbs to encourage other kids to read favorite books. Learn how to write a carefully-thought-out-critical review.

I wasn't INTENDING to make a great philosophical statement out of it. I was just coming up with alternative ways to challenge a young reader instead of just saying "NOW YOU MUST READ HARDER STUFF," and what I came up with was CREATIVE literary projects. But self-centered person that I am, I was thinking about ME, to be honest. I'd just read this article on productivity that Kristi Holl had linked to, pointing out how we can be very "productive" by getting all sorts of Necessary Things Done but how that's COUNTER-productive to creativity. The part that was sticking with me-- which wasn't even the main idea of the article-- was the difference between Reactive and Proactive tasks. Creativity is Proactive. It has to come from you. Reactive tasks are all the things other people ask you to do, or tell you to do, or you have to do because you need those dirty dishes to be clean so you can use them again. THIS is the problem with my LIFE! I realized. I keep trying to be a Better Person by keeping up with reactive tasks, but I won't SHINE as the truly unique individual I am unless I allow myself to be PROACTIVE. I'm... really bad at that. I sit there thinking, "I wish somebody would just tell me what I should do!" even though, naturally, when they DO tell me what I should do, I resent it. :P

I guess technically my literary challenge suggestions are "reactive" tasks too, particularly if they're assignments. But what they AREN'T is mere consumerism. They're making, doing, adding to creation. They're a way of giving a kid a little agency in the world-- and a sensitive kid like that, who's bound to be exposed to a lot of tough topics earlier than others just because she's reading more, is going to need to feel all the agency she can get. And, speaking from experience, the more out of habit you get at being active instead of passive, the harder it IS to act. So she might as well start practicing now.

Okay, this is good advice for ALL kids, not just advanced readers. But it's still going to be my go-to response from now on.
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
Here's a post that's been at least seven weeks in the making, because I keep thinking ALL THESE THINGS I want to say about my Latest Favorite TV Show, but then I'd see another episode and think, "Wait, maybe I'd better see how THIS plays out, first," or then I'd think about how I want to recommend it and I don't want to be spoilery and then after awhile I thought, well, maybe it's too LATE to tell people to watch live so maybe I should just wait until the end and recommend you watch it as a WHOLE, in one gulp, after the fact, on Hulu or Netflix or DVD eventually or, as I've been doing all along, on iTunes. Also then I'd be surer my theories weren't totally wrong. But I've had LOTS OF THOUGHTS swirling in my head for a long while, and NOW, finally, that the show is over, I'm going to SHARE them, in as non-spoilery a way as possible. Which I honestly think I can do. Because I'm going to finish off this post with a lot of my usual philosophical ponderances that are far more INSPIRED BY than DIRECTLY ABOUT, so...

...WHICH ANYWAY that bit of sentence there coincidentally describes my favorite show of the past couple months, Fargo. It's a miniseries-that-might-eventually-become-an-"anthology"-series-with-a-new-cast-and-storyline-every-season, a ten-episode story. It's... inspired by the movie of the same name: it takes the general setting and themes and tells its own story with its own characters and a few callbacks, here and there, to the original --you eventually find out that it DOES take place in the same universe as the movie, 20 years later, but you don't NEED to be familiar with the movie to enjoy it, and if you DO love the movie, you don't have to worry about it trying to recreate something that was fine already. The movie-guys gave it their blessing, so it's all good.

To be honest, I only heard about it because my Imaginary Husband is in it. I'd never seen (or even WANTED to see) the movie, and the show was on FX, a channel we don't get, but the more I read about it in my daily Martin-stalking perusal of social media sources, the more intrigued I got, and the more I realized I'd end up Spoilered if I wasn't watching along, so I gave in, decided to be legal about it, and bought season access on iTunes.

I don't regret a penny. I LOVE this show, and I love it for so many reasons that don't have to do with Martin (it might help that he's playing an awful person-- it's easier not to get distracted by his charm when he HASN'T GOT ANY). It's to the point where I watched an hour-long panel featuring OTHER cast members without even caring whether or not any of them at least mentioned Martin And His Brilliance (I can't say the same for any Sherlock panels. Oh, I've watched panels without him, but only in case people talked about him!) BECAUSE IT'S ALL AWESOME ANYWAY. So now I'll present my case:

Things I Love About Fargo That Have Nothing To Do With Being In Love With Any of the Leads:

1. The PURE STORYTELLING. That's the benefit of this miniseries format as opposed to your typical TV show. It's not just stuff happening, but stuff building to an inevitable CONCLUSION. It's fine-crafted.
1a. It's a moral universe. Which doesn't mean there aren't truly horrible people doing truly horrible things. It's more a sense that, no matter how dark and twisted things get (and they get very dark and twisted), Good will Ultimately Triumph and Evil will Ultimately Get Its Comeuppance. Because actions have consequences.
1ab. Speaking of morals, every episode is named after a fable, parable, or philosophical question. It gives the whole thing a mythic quality. You can also dig deep into the symbolism if you want-- and there's loads of symbolism-- and you'll be delighted how well it holds up to scrutiny, but you don't have to. You can watch it on many levels. Though, personally, I really dig all the symbolism.

2. On the other hand, the other benefit of a miniseries as opposed to a MOVIE is the time to develop characters, setting, and increasingly complicated plots. Whether it's a seemingly random detail that later MEANS something or just an unexpected character trait, you never feel like you're watching the same old tropes playing out in the same old ways, even WITHIN this archetypal framework. It's full of surprises. A friend on Facebook said she loves the show "though it's a bit odd." Odd is totally what makes it worth watching! It's like nothing else!
2a. Like where else have you ever seen a couple of hitmen who communicate in sign language? For that matter, how many deaf hitmen do you see on TV, period, just, you know, because that's who he is? I was, personally, surprised how attached I got to those characters. But that's the thing. UNIQUE, UNEXPECTED CHARACTERS.

3. Speaking of characters who refuse to be tired stereotypes, let's talk about our hero(ine), Molly. People talk about the need for "Strong" Female Characters but why is it so rare to find one that's just plain REAL? Who's smart but makes mistakes, who's strong but has emotions, who's NORMAL-looking and all the prettier for it? It's hard NOT to adore Molly. The few people I've seen online who DON'T adore her end up trying pathetically to justify their dislike through the same textbook arguments people-who-just-don't-like-female-characters ALWAYS give. Side note-- in one scene in the finale she was wearing the same slippers that I happened to be wearing while watching! It was awesome!
3a. Likewise, in real life Allison Tolman is STILL AWESOME. So glad they discovered her and cast her even as the only unknown in the main cast. SHE CANNOT STAY UNKNOWN. SHE IS TOO AWESOME. Yes, I'm totally girl-crushing on her.

4. Speaking of crushiness (and no, I'm still not talking about you-know-who), but good Golly do I love the romance in this show. Oh yes, there's romance! But not the swoony-passionate kind (heck, the sex that shows up occasionally is the very opposite of romantic-- you'd never see our HEROES being so animalistic as all that). It's subtle, sweet, and totally adorable, and now I totally want to quote things that would be spoilery to prove it (hint for people who've seen it: "spleen." That's all), so you're just going to have to take my word for it.

5. Okay, the acting's good across the board, and yes I WILL brag talk about Martin now. The transformation he undergoes over the course of the series is jaw-dropping (and yet somehow believable!). But I'll admit, he and his Mephistopheles, Billy Bob Thornton, will be up against each other for Lead Actor In a Miniseries for all the awards, and I HONESTLY CAN'T DECIDE who deserves it more. Because Thornton's villain, Malvo, is so genuinely scary. It depends which episodes you've been watching most recently, who stands out more. Plus there's Allison Tolman, as I mentioned, who'll be in the running for awards under "SUPPORTING Actress" only for because-no-one's-heard-of-her reasons (but THAT MUST CHANGE! ALL THE PARTS FOR TOLMAN! ALL THE GLORY FOR TOLMAN!). And I haven't yet mentioned Colin Hanks as her total sweetheart, Gus. If Martin had played HIS part, I'D be done for. But Martin's playing a total creep instead, and the show is all the better for it.

6. Finally, and probably most importantly, The Clowns of God Effect. It's laugh out loud funny one minute and utterly horrifying the next. Sometimes in the SAME minute. I LIKE my stories like that, that can make you laugh AND cry... or gasp in horror. Combining emotions just makes all the emotions THAT MUCH MORE POWERFUL.

Things I Don't Love About Fargo:

1. Make no mistake, this show is VIOLENT. Brutal, even. But in its defense, it's not glorified violence. It's not there for the sake of being violent. Not like one of J's action movies, or even your typical PG-13 superhero movie (I was thinking about this while watching The Avengers the other night)-- not endless fight scenes among faceless goons. It always serves the story, and you FEEL exactly how awful it is. And yes, not only do a lot of people die, even some animals die. *GASP* So if you're thinking, "Well, if AMY loves this show, the violence can't be THAT bad!" you're wrong. It's just that the violence is sufficiently well-built into the storytelling for me.

2. Admittedly, it can be a little disconcerting to watch ones Imaginary Husband playing a slimy creep. Not because it's freaky to see him being a slimy creep-- he's too good an actor for that: puts you in the moment and you believe in him and are appropriately disgusted when necessary. No, it's because every so often a little of his natural gorgeousness sneaks through and knocks you for a loop. Like in Episode 6-- the episode when he arguably crosses beyond repentance to the Dark Side-- he spends a lot of time barefoot, and dangit THAT MAN HAS PERFECT FEET. The best actor in the world can't make his FEET act sufficiently creepy. So you're like, "I CAN'T BELIEVE THE NERVE OF THAT OH WHAT GORGEOUS TOES I MUST NUZZLE THEM... wait, no, that's wrong." See? DISCONCERTING.

In Which I Get Around To Musing On The Deep Issues Of Character I've Been Thinking About

But for reasons having nothing to do with the actor, it's Martin's character, Lester, I've most wanted to discuss this whole time. The scary thing is, it's this increasingly despicable antihero I identify with most. Well, maybe I'm more like gentle, good-natured Gus, or a certain spoilery ill-fated character who shows up later who's blind to the bad in people and certainly shares some of my tastes, but from an examination of ones psyche angle, my connection to Lester is more important. We share a major psychological issue: we are both highly emotionally repressed. Tightly-sealed steam cookers. Our villain Malvo rolls into town and tells Lester it's OKAY TO STICK UP FOR HIMSELF, and that's true. So why does everything go UTTERLY, HORRIBLY WRONG when he DOES?

(Note: if you think that's spoilery, then the rest of this will be spoilery as well and you can stop reading. I don't consider it spoilery. I think Lester's arc is fairly well obvious from a basic archetypal standpoint-- remember point 1a?, and that's what I'm going to talk about here, while avoiding the SPECIFICS that in my opinion would be true spoilers. I won't give away any of THOSE surprises here!)

At first I figured it was because he let the pressure cooker explode instead of letting a little steam off here and there. I've got my writing, for example. I let my anger out through written snark, which you'd never see from me live in person. But I'm still pretty repressed, especially when I'm NOT writing, and I know in order to grow I have to somehow learn to channel all that inner turmoil and turn it into useful real-world energy. But how? You don't see many GOOD role models of emotionally-repressed people learning to use their powers in fiction. Explosions make for more interesting stories. Not like Lester is ever likely to strike one as a role model.

Early on, Lester still has a chance to redeem himself. Everything he's done has been panicky, out of control-- to deal with the fallout with his soul intact, all he has to do is come clean. Instead he gets tangled up in an ever more complex web of half-truths and flat-out lies, so when he finally takes control of his life it's the LIES he ends up mastering. So THAT'S his problem, I thought. He's embraced a life of UNTRUTHS. If he'd held firmly to TRUTH during his escape from Repression, he wouldn't have gone bad. In fact truth is now the one thing he IS repressing!

But the more he, on the outside, came out of his shell, turned himself into the opposite of the shrinking little man he'd been, the more I realized that, at heart, he hadn't really changed at all. He was still governed by FEAR. He'd just gone from flight to fight. He's still reacting to this panicked voice of self-preservation in his head-- "DON'T HURT ME! LEAVE ME ALONE!" -- it's just that, before, he'd thought the solution was to curl up and make himself invisible (yep, that's me), and later he thought the solution was to kill or be killed (only sometimes literally). Maybe, though, the REAL solution is to STOP LISTENING TO THAT VOICE.

So maybe the key is to face up to Truths and Fears, instead of facing up to people. It's just that people are corporeal and therefore easier to face up to. But THEY'RE not the PROBLEM. It's the intangibles, the Truths and Fears themselves, that we need to deal with, in order to TRULY put ourselves bravely into the world.

However one does that.

So maybe I still don't know the best way to turn repressed anger into productive energy, but at least Lester has shown me clearly how NOT to do it.

One last observation. The social media team for the show decided that #awjeez would be the official hashtag for the show. I guess because this is stereotypical dialect for the area so it would be memorable and unusual and funny, hah hah? Except I totally say that all the time, in real life. I've never even lived in the upper-midwest. Yep. Apparently I'm Minnesotan at heart.
rockinlibrarian: (portrait)
Just read something about Richard Dawkins complaining that fairy tales are bad for kids because they're too supernatural and children must be taught to be rational and skeptical and ladeeda and really his argument is so stupid and so refuted by other people already (Relinking to this relatively recent blogpost that I really liked, for a start) that my only response to the person who tweeted the article was, "He seems like an absolutely miserable person."

But it reminded me of something I thought of a couple weeks ago while lounging upside down with my feet up the wall, wrestling with out-of-balance brain-chemistry, so come to think of it possibly I'm not the most dependable source for wise philosophical revelations, anyway what I thought was a way to sum up a particular worldview of my own:


Which definitely sounds like a line scribbled down by someone with out-of-balance brain chemistry. But it still makes sense in my head even when my brain chemistry's being ostensibly "normal," so let me explain. Even made up things are real. They are words, thoughts, ideas. They are emotions. They are things that can be experienced even if only in the brain. But they DO exist BECAUSE they can set off reactions, and it doesn't matter if the FACTS aren't quite right, because the results still... result. I can't confidently say that the results are the SAME. Who KNOWS what the results could be? But they ARE results.

It's what I think when people wonder something like, "How do I know if it's REAL love?" I'm like, SURE it's real. You're feeling it, right? It may be IMPERFECT love. It may be CONFUSED or even CORRUPTED. You may feel a love that's way more powerful someday. BUT IT EXISTS. IT'S REAL. RESPECT IT.

One of my old roommates had a bumper sticker on her wall that said "God is." I think that's what I'm getting at. "I AM what AM," is the exact Bible quote. EXISTENCE. BEING. THE POSITIVE. Creation is the process of bringing into BEING. But you can be creative without physically making something, and certainly without bringing matter itself into existence. Still SOMETHING had been brought into being, and what exactly it means, what exact effect it might have on the universe, maybe nobody knows, but it still IS.

To say "No, it ISN'T," is destructive. There's really no other way to put it. It's NULLIFYING. And that sucks. Even if you're denying something BAD, you're denying it instead of dealing with the very real implications it could be having. Now granted, people deny and disbelieve things all the time. But as long as somebody DOES believe-- then, you know, Tinkerbell lives. And maybe not even just if they believe. If they just consider.

Maybe I will never fight an actual living dragon, but knowing of the possibility of dragons better prepares me to face the world, whether it's in my head or not. I like experiencing the universe this way. I like knowing that Things ARE.
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
When the #YesAllWomen tag suddenly exploded my Twitter feed the other day, I didn't know right away it was a reaction to a... you know... SHOOTING. Because my Twitter feed hadn't filled with impassioned "WHY ARE GUNS STILL LEGAL?!?!" pleas for once.

For those of you who might be new here, I'm married to a certified Gun Nut (LITERALLY he's a Certified gunSMITH, but as he's currently working as an industrial technician instead of a gunsmith, we will stick to INTENSE HOBBY terminology for now). I KNOW, YOU'RE FREAKED OUT. To be honest, I don't love guns. He already knows that, should he kick it before me, one of the first things I'll do (I mean AFTER the funeral and junk) is sell the guns all off ("B-b-b-ut..." he did begin, but I continued, "YOU'RE the one who claims they're an INVESTMENT"). But I definitely understand his points about how If You Outlaw Guns Only Outlaws Will Have Guns (and seriously, of all the gun crime in America, how much of it IS committed with legally-purchased and/or owned firearms? Not much. Particularly when you think how much gun crime is linked to drug crime, and hey, that's not legal either). And when, every time someone dies from a gun, people explode with their "guns are evil and people who want them to be legal are accomplices to MURDER!" well... now you're getting personal. Whether you mean to or not, you're speaking about someone important in my life. And while he certainly has his faults, he's NOT the sort of person you believe him to be, and... well, let's just say I usually have to avoid social media after a shooting.

But #YesAllWomen-- could it be? People were actually getting to the ROOT of the problem, talking about the MOTIVATIONS of the shooter, trying to fix THAT? I saw this tweet that darnit I can't find now, but it was to highlight the irony of the conservative talking heads who would say "Don't try to make this about gun control!" after every shooting, but now when people are making it about misogyny instead they're like "uhhh... let's talk about gun control!" Heh, I thought. Almost that. ALMOST because anybody doing that switcheroo because they didn't want to talk about misogyny IS missing the point, but, hey, I was one of the people balking at the usual ThisIsWhyWeNeedGunControl reactions after other shootings, and I'm NOT suddenly changing my tune. Because YES. Because having guns does not make someone a killer, and I think it's important to ask "So what DOES make someone a killer?" instead, and THAT'S WHAT PEOPLE WERE DOING!

"Well then... he was mentally ill!" All right. Maybe he was. SO AM I. I am a person with mental illness* who has an arsenal in her basement. But you know? It's the weirdest thing, but I'm not inclined to killing sprees.

So could it be that there are attitudes and prejudices in the very fabric of our society that can make a killer? I think the very BIGness of these things, the pervasiveness of misogyny and racism and homophobia and whatever hateful attitudes drive people to murder, is what makes a lot of people uncomfortable. We don't want to talk about it, to face that these attitudes exist, because it's just too MONUMENTAL to face... and, yeah, we'd have to admit that maybe some of the bits of stone in that monument are OURS. That maybe we're complacent too often when we should be calling stuff out.*** I'm a master of, well, complacentness, and of avoiding problems because they seem too big to handle.

The other week I noticed a defense mechanism my husband and I tend to overuse in our domestic disputes: the "Yes, but" argument. "You need to stop doing this." "Yes, but you do all THESE bad things!" "Yes, but your bad things are WORSE!" And in the end, nobody changes, they just feel offended that someone so problematic could ever suggest THEY were the one with the problems. Struck me that this is how most political arguments work, too. "You're wrong about this!" "Yes, but YOU'RE wrong about THOSE things!" "Yes, but YOU're MORE wrong!"

Defense mechanism. Because we don't want to deal with whatever problem we might have to deal with, we try to shift the attention, shift the blame, and then we end up with this insurmountable stalemate. When if we'd only focused on the specific problem in question, we might have gotten somewhere.

If there's any hope for humanity, it'll come from people who can block out the "YesBut"s long enough to focus on the real problems and work toward real solutions. It'll come from teaching our children to love and respect others as human beings and not means to our own ends or obstacles in our way. It'll come from listening and then acting.

If there's any hope for humanity, it'll come from us realizing we're all on the same side, really. We all just want what's best. So maybe we shouldn't be fighting each other so much. Maybe we should be working together.

*For the record, you might be aware that I tried to wean off my meds the other week. This turned out to be a massive failure.** But I consider it more of a bump in the road: I'm back on them now-- a lower dose, but still-- and the difference is immediately notable. So it's more like, Well, we've all learned something this week, and that's that Amy can live a decent and healthy life just as long as she's got a little sertraline in her system! And we all lived happily ever after.

**Note: I still was not homicidal.

***Within reason. People who see everything through their "I have to call out all the [insert pet cause] injustice in the world and I will find that injustice everywhere even if I have to dig!" glasses bug me. I was just telling @friedapaula the other day that I've decided Literary Analyis (the bane of my college career, at least until Student Teaching) is genuinely Evil, at least the way we were taught in that class-- to look at each work through a specific pre-concieved mindset, forcing it to fit into that strict worldview, instead of letting the work speak on its own (and perhaps learning something from it, yourself). There's a difference between "I thought this character was a stereotype" amid a broader critique and "THIS WORK PROVES THE PERVASIVE BIGOTRY OF THIS AUTHOR." It's like, YES, call it out, but don't let it keep you from seeing the REST of the picture!
rockinlibrarian: (love)
The other night at the library I celebrated Arbor Day (-ish) with a Library Explorers program that basically amounted to "Tree Appreciation Through Art." I'd found this interesting thing for kids comparing famous paintings of trees and jumped off from there, gathering more tree artwork for inspiration, including a lot of drawings I've done. Because it turns out trees are a motif I come back to an AWFUL LOT when I draw, even when I'm just doodling. I'm actually GOOD at trees. Trees and flowers. As opposed to attempts at drawing most anything else that isn't mostly abstract psychedelia. Actually, the trees and flowers show up in the mostly abstract psychedelia. Anyway, so the point is, I was really in to joining in the tree-painting with the kids, and one mom said, "That's really good! You just keep being talented at everything we do here!" "That's why we never do sports," I joked. And I said something modest about how I like drawing trees so just them particularly blah blah blah. But it put two things in my head:

--why not make trees more often? Why not celebrate, USE my talent, even if the only visual art I DID have any talent at was trees? Heck, I remember an art show we had to study in college of this guy whose whole schtick was baking bread into inanimate objects to make sculptures ("His parents were bakers," our professor told us in an off-hand way after showing us about ten slides without remarking on the obvious bread thing).

--During one discussion in library school, a classmate had quipped, "The librarian: Master of All Trades, Jack of None." "Don't you mean--" someone started, and the first woman said, "I meant what I said."

I thought about how my Art in the Elementary School professor in college (NOT the same class as the bread-art show) had asked me why I wasn't an art major since I seemed to have a knack for it. "Um... it never occurred to me...?" Because I went from there directly to Music in the Elementary School, where I was also one of the more musically-skilled-and-loving-it students in that class. And I'd go to Teaching of Science, of Reading, of Math... whatever, I'd ace it. I'd even go to Physical Education in the Elementary School and think of all the things I would have done differently than my own childhood gym teachers to make it clearer to lumps like me that physical education was more than just competitive sports and opportunities for klutzy kids to get bullied. I wanted to do EVERY subject, not specialize, which made Elementary Education seem like a perfect compromise, until I ended up in the classroom and realized THAT was something I definitely did NOT have talent in. But then I'd go do my volunteer work at the public library, and knew that I'd found the perfect environment for me.

In the past few years, since I've had more authority, autonomy, and actual assignments at the library (the one I work at as a librarian, not the one I volunteered at in college), I've been thriving-- feeling that ALIVE feeling you get when you're using your talents to great success. It IS a place where I can be Master of All Trades, and where I'm helping people in a way unique to me. why do I feel like I'm still not DOING enough with my life?

The next day was, according to Facebook, the anniversary of the death of the mother of one of my good friends. My eyes welled up as soon as I saw her picture. I don't pay ALL that much attention to the parents of my friends, but she'd been a particularly lovely woman-- kind and funny, the sort of person you feel instantly at ease with. She'd call ME up just to check in. What a truly special person, who'd touched everyone she encountered so deeply in her cut-short life. She was a Pastor's Wife and Stay-At-Home-Mom-- her social identity tied up completely in how she related to someone else. That's not what the world calls Living an Influential Life. But as small as her SPHERE of influence had been, there was a depth to that sphere that was-- well, enough to put a friend of her daughter's, little more than an acquaintance, in tears seven years after her death. My own mom is much the same-- presiding over a very small sphere of influence, but doing it so well, with intelligence and kindness and a variety of talents-- there's no way I could ever believe her life hasn't been SUCCESSFUL because she hasn't done Great Things In the Larger World.

I've got a bigger sphere of influence than both of them. I'm the public children's librarian. People recognize me at the grocery store. And yet I still can't shake the feeling that I'm FAILING because I'm not the author I expected to be. Because I'm not writing brilliant stories and sharing them with the world, making hundreds of tweens say "THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS BOOK, IT'S CHANGED MY LIFE AND I'M NOT ALONE!"

Why does it matter? Why does it matter when I could be leaving the world a better place for my having been here just by being a Good Person like my mom or Mrs. Sistek? Why does it matter when I'm obviously doing good work as a librarian, hooking people up with the stories and information they need and didn't even know they wanted? There's a social media campaign going on right now called #WeNeedDiverseBooks, which the librarian side of me is all about-- YES! MORE PEOPLE'S STORIES! WE NEED UNIQUE STORIES! --but the writer side of me cringes every time I see it, as this nasty voice-of-the-Lone-Power (I will never be convinced it's anything OTHER than the voice of the Lone Power, no matter how hard it is to disbelieve) takes every opportunity to translate that hashtag into "SHUT UP, AMY, YOU WHITE CIS-HET TECHNICALLY-ABLE-BODIED PERSON-WHOSE-STORY-NOBODY-NEEDS-TO-HEAR! SEE? NOBODY CARES IF YOU EVER WRITE AGAIN. YOUR STORIES ARE NOT NEEDED." I mean, though, SURE as it's the sort of thing the Creator-of-Entropy-Prince-of-Lies would say... but what DOES it matter? What difference does it make if I never publish a book? I wrote some great Lycoris letters, touching the lives of a few specific strangers-- to those people, that was enough, you know? Every time I recommend one of those stories to somebody at the library, that's enough. Every new concept I introduce people to at my programs-- it's ENOUGH. To my family, my very BEING is enough.

Why can't I focus on being the best person I can be in the sphere of influence I've got? The kind of mom who isn't constantly forgetting to sign her kids' school papers on time or to force them to brush their teeth? The kind of homemaker who doesn't let messes pile up until the very last minute? The kind of librarian who PUTS HERSELF OUT THERE more and gets the attention of more potential patrons and financial donors and board members? How can I even IMAGINE having a broader sphere of influence when I'm barely juggling THIS one?

What does it matter if I'm not an author? I barely write anything anymore than journal entries and blog posts and the occasional paper letter, anyway. Why can't I let it go?
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
It's not like I haven't written before about false dichotomies, more than once, but there are times I just get reminded that, too often, false dichotomies exist because the middle ground just doesn't speak up. Easter is one of those times. It's the same people doing it as usual, to be honest-- on one side are those who wield the name of Jesus like a sledgehammer into everything they say, as if every #Jesus hashtag is another entry in the Free-Ticket-to-Heaven giveaway and they are a WAYYYY bigger Heaven fan than all the other contestants so they're NOT GOING TO LOSE; on the other side are the ironically-holier-than-thou atheists who make jokes about belief in general as if only truly STUPID people would ever, say, ACTUALLY CELEBRATE Easter, who honestly aren't trying to offend anyone because they BELIEVE that all the sensible people they're talking to must agree with them about religion. I mean, that's just the random sample of the Internet I saw that gets me THINKING on the topic-- the issues and extremes aren't necessarily embodied by these PARTICULAR people, especially on Easter, and I don't want anyone to think that everyone who posted "Hallelujah!" or a slightly irreverent joke yesterday is necessarily one of these extremes, because, you know, it's Easter and you do those things. But I started thinking about it either way, and sitting in church I knew it was time for me to speak up on the religion topic, at least, again.

For some people, faith, or at least religion, IS an either/or thing. But that doesn't mean everyone's either and or is the SAME. And every time someone equates religion with Creationism I especially cringe. Gosh, I'm truly sorry if you think faith and science can't dwell in peace in one person's personal worldview, because they're both a part of MY worldview, and I can't imagine feeling forced to choose between them. Really, Creationists, when you see the wonders of the universe that science has uncovered, is it really necessary to reject those miracles because they don't fit the very narrow definition of "miracle" humans settled on centuries ago? Really, atheists, when someone believes in a Higher Power, is it really a mark of a Freethinker to assume this means they're superstitious, backwards, and anti-science? The biggest fallacy in this forced dichotomy is the idea that there's only one kind of Faith-- or one kind of religion-- or something. When people make it all Secularism vs. Fundamentalist Christianity, I wonder, what about the Hindus and Buddhists? Jews and Muslims? Pagans and Pantheists of various persuasions? What about the wide varieties of personal belief within single denominations? If someone says "I'm an atheist because I don't believe the world was created by an old man in the sky," I'm like, "Hi, I don't believe the world was created by an old man in the sky, either. I'm a Catholic Christian."

So let me tell you about me and faith. I've already told you I'm a Bad Catholic. But I AM Catholic. I AM Christian. And I DO BELIEVE. But for me it's not about believing anything to the letter, word for word. It's not a prescription, it's a relationship. It's a LIVING Faith. It's being open to revelation, to self-discovery and other-discovery, to understanding and to accepting-without-understanding.

I do believe in questioning ideas and dogmas and just-what-everyone's-always-thoughts. Questioning is how you incorporate what you learn, understand it, make it your own. I do believe in learning about many different ways of thinking and believing. Sometimes another person's faith will help you understand your own faith better. But this is what I MEAN by a Living Faith. It's fluid. You allow it to grow, to change you, to speak to you where you are in your life and personal development. It's not a stagnant set of rules or strict literal adherence to certain stories. There are rules, and there are stories, but they are guides, not Faith itself.

I mean, if religion was all Thou Shalt Nots, it wouldn't do me any good. I'm GREAT at Not Doing. It's easy for me to avoid violence and theft and betrayal and cruelty. Threatening me with hellfire if I step a toe out of line will not make ME a better person, though it might be just what some people need. But I'm the sort of person much more prone to Sins of Omission-- a person whose primary Deadly Sin is Sloth-- so I need to be inspired toward DOING GOOD rather than simply Not-Doing Bad. So I use my Faith to help ME, PERSONALLY, grow in the ways I, PERSONALLY, need to.

So my point is, there are many ways to do religion, and what is right for one person may not be right for someone else (and I'm aware that that statement itself may be WRONG to some people, but that's THEIR Right Way, and them telling me so won't change what I know in MY heart). I think we need to be more open about our own ways, to show that there isn't just one extreme or the other, to help those who haven't found THEIR way to see that it's not a hopeless decision, and to help those who DO tend toward an extreme to understand others' ways of believing.

So this is what I was thinking about this Easter.

Okay, admittedly I was also thinking a great deal about chocolate. And the birthdays of my children and sister which all happened this week so as to make a rather gift-filled day with cake and stuff yesterday too. Also, my sister gave me bongos for MY birthday, since she hadn't seen me closer to my birthday to do it then. I love my bongos. But my kids keep wandering off with them and using them in inappropriate ways (I mean inappropriate for BONGOS, not inappropriate for children and elderly family members!), and my husband complains if I play them around him. So now I need my own personal bongo-playing room. But anyway.

ALSO SPEAKING ABOUT MUSIC AND MY SISTER DID I TELL YOU PAUL MCCARTNEY'S COMING BACK TO PITTSBURGH THIS SUMMER AND I FINALLY, FINALLY, SCORED TICKETS?!?!? FOR MY SISTER AND I? I have now replaced "See Paul McCartney Live In Concert" on my Bucket List with "Hug Martin Freeman." Because that's how likely "See Paul McCartney Live In Concert" was looking there for a long time. BUT NOW IT'S JUST SHORT OF CHECKED OFF. Still have to wait for July to be sure. I mean, we tried to go see Ringo in concert once and he got laryngitis and cancelled. BUT I HAVE TICKETS AND THAT'S AS CLOSE AS I'VE EVER GOTTEN.
rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
The other day as I was trying to teach my 5yo-on-Saturday the finer points of weeding (the garden. As opposed to the library. This gets confusing in certain circles), I remembered how, recently, someone (I forget who) had warned me, "You know when you weed dandelions, you have to get the WHOLE ROOT, or they'll come back," and I remembered feeling slightly bewildered and a little offended that they seemed to think this was news to me. Yeah. That's basics. I've known that since I was a kid. I'm teaching that to my five year old right now. I hadn't said anything at the time, just nodded politely in my usual way, but now I wondered, as I knelt digging contentedly as I've done every spring for decades, if that was part of the problem. I DON'T really say what I know, do I?

Which makes sense, really. Especially in that situation-- is there really any point to do anything other than nod politely? But there was now a voice in my head saying, "Hey, you actually DO know a bit about gardening, don't you? You're not a beginner anymore." Sure, I'm not an expert, either. I'm open to learning more-- excited, even. But I've so internalized how utterly ignorant I am-- in every aspect of life-- that even I have started to believe that I don't know ANYTHING ABOUT ANYTHING. And with the amount of stuff I hold inside in public, it's no wonder if other people have no clue how much I know about things, either.

I've been turning this over in my head since then, feeling like I needed to blog it, but even now I can't quite sort it out enough to explain it. In a sense, I've always known way more than I let on. When I was a kid it was social stuff, gossip, pop culture that I absorbed silently, going unnoticed by those who whispered around me and assumed I was just naive to it all. There were a select few, in marching band, in high school, who suddenly realized EXACTLY HOW MUCH STUFF I might have written in my ever-present journals, and they viewed me in kind of amused awe/fear, and I smiled in amused wickedness, and I let the implication of my blackmail power simmer there happily. But normally, I felt a little conflicted about it. I'M NOT CLUELESS! I wanted the world to know, but at the same time, what was I going to DO? I didn't want to take PART in the gossip, or FANGIRL over the pop culture I wasn't particularly interested in (but I KNEW about it, sheez). ACADEMICS, on the other hand, I couldn't hide. I was good at taking tests. That was pretty obvious. Teachers handed out assignments, I aced them, repeat as necessary-- I KNEW stuff. And I didn't care if people knew I knew THOSE things, because they WANTED me to. That's why teachers GAVE tests. To see if we knew those things. And I did.

But adulthood-- people don't give you standardized tests anymore. Nobody's asking what I know. So I'm not offering it up. Anything. Which IS a problem, because people ARE still grading you. It's just the test is so open-ended you don't even realize you're taking it most of the time. My work evaluations, consistently, for the past seven years I've worked at this library, have been low in one area-- communication. I've gotten better about it over time-- I keep better notes, report my schedule better, the basics of what I do are on the record. But when the director sends me and the other children's/YA programming folks articles about STEM programs and even for gosh sake One Book (a program I WRITE for, for ye uninitiated), and asks if we could be doing anything like such, and my coworkers sigh and say "Oh no, I have enough stuff to do," I blink. And then I say, "Yes, I'm doing that next week/I did that last Thursday/I do that every Monday." And it occurs to me that maybe I ought to be talking my programs up more...?

The problem is, without anyone pulling what I know and can do out of me at the end of every unit, I've even started fooling MYSELF into believing that I don't know anything special. I didn't even notice it was happening-- well, I DID notice that I felt utterly incompetent, but I believed it unquestioningly. NOW I'm AWARE that, hey, my brain has been playing tricks on me, and I'm muddled trying to sort it all out. Where is the line, I ask myself, between Owning What You Know and Acknowledging That You Don't Know Everything? It isn't a line, myself replies, it's a freakin' plane, there's tons of variation on this spectrum that you can hang out in. Really? I ask myself again. I can't find the plane. When I think of what I know-- "Hey, I am highly knowledgeable about children's literature!"-- this other voice pops in and says, "But there are other people who know MORE about children's literature than you do!" and instead of accepting this as an inevitable truth and moving on with what I DO know, I use this to negate whatever I knew instead. Who am I to claim that I know ANYTHING?! So I end up paralyzed by self-doubt.* It's writer's block, but it goes beyond writing into the rest of my life. LIFE BLOCK.

But it's also cheating. Laziness. Dodging responsibility. Don't get me wrong, I don't do it CONSCIOUSLY. It's such a deeply embedded Type 9 psychological tic that I never would have found it if I hadn't been trying to sort this all out. The OBVIOUS problem is the lack of confidence in my own competence. But when I dig deeper, that lack of confidence comes from this part of me that says, "I DON'T WANT TO! I DON'T WANT TO ACCEPT THAT I HAVE THE POWER TO MAKE DECISIONS, TO ACT RESPONSIBLY, TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE! I WANT SOMEONE ELSE TO TAKE CARE OF EVERYTHING! I DON'T WANT TO BE A GROWNUP!"

But I'm NOT incompetent, and I know that very well. I have a working knowledge of many things-- WORKING knowledge. Meaning I should be able to work with it. But I won't ALLOW myself to work with it, claiming that I don't know ENOUGH because I don't know EVERYTHING. But I'm just dodging the work I'm perfectly capable of, the work I was put on this planet to accomplish, whatever that is. I know I'm dodging it even if I'm not entirely sure what I'm dodging. I'm pretending my gifts don't exist, or at least don't exist anymore (I was pretty smart back in the day...), or may exist but are meaningless and of no use to anyone. But it's an act. It's all an act because I'm afraid to face whatever Great Responsibilities might come if I acknowledge that I really DO have Great Power.

So what next? I'm not used to it. I'm not used to acknowledging that I've got Skillz. I haven't the slightest idea how to start. Heck, I still have to talk myself into WANTING to, into WANTING to be the person I'm capable of being. It's so comfortable being lazy, being invisible, letting the world just happen around me. How do you get OUT of that comfy little rut?


*this is an old private joke with myself. It's a line from an episode of Bill Nye the Science Guy about how snakes are never PARALYZED BY SELF-DOUBT even though they don't have legs, so I always say it in my head in a Bill Nye voice, and will use it wherever it works. Like here.
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.


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