rockinlibrarian: (love)
Kind of processing something that happened on Saturday, and I do NOT mean the neo-Nazi rally. Well, entirely. I was working, not following the news—I had no idea what was going on. But I had a slightly eye-opening and uncomfortable interaction that goes along with that news, had I been paying attention to it, and maybe the fact that it wasn't directly connected brings the point home even harder. 

There was a mom with three kids ages 4 and under at the library. They'd been there a few hours and it became clear they were waiting for a ride. The kids were getting restless, and the oldest, a very chatty girl firmly in the "Why?" stage of conversational topics, had struck up a friendship with me. I gave her as much attention as I could manage, but there's only so much answering the same questions over and over you can do, especially when you have other work to be working on ("What are you doing?" "I'm still working on fun library programs we can do here." "What are you doing now?" "Still trying to work on....") and this was going on for several hours. Then her little brother found a roll of stickers and began putting them on every available surface. It reminded me a bit of when Maddie comes to the library while I'm working—granted, Maddie is 8 years old and should know better, but that's part of the reason she now is no longer allowed to come to my programs unless she has another adult to be her guardian while I'm being the librarian, because she tends to take advantage of that awkward situation. 

THESE kids HAD their own guardian, but she was in a pretty harried state trying to deal with them. I know she cleaned up chaos at the Lego table at least twice (and it had become chaos again by the time they left), and who knows about the back of the room that I couldn't see as well. I mean, three kids under 4, getting bored, and she was all by herself. You see, most moms in this situation would have said, "Enough! We're going home!" But she COULDN'T, because they didn't have a car, and their ride wasn't showing. 

But the moment that really made me stop and think was when the mom asked to use the phone, so as to try to track their ride down. "Would I be able to use the telephone to make a really important call—"

"Sure," I said, jumping up to set up an outside line for her.

Her eyes got wide. "Really?" she said. "The other lady said no, you can't do that, the last time I asked."

Huh. I wondered who the "other lady" was. I mean, this was the desk by the teen room—we always had teenagers who needed to call for rides. Why should an adult be any different? I said as much to this woman, who—if you can imagine her saying something both "brightly" and "darkly" at the same time, that's how she responded—an obviously forced cheerfulness to cover some simmering rage: "Well, that lady—some people are like that." 

Have I mentioned this family was black, and the mother had a slight accent? It's important because the meaning changes. This woman has been burned, I realized. This woman is used to being subtly discriminated against. 

You may think I'm jumping to conclusions, but the longer we talked, the clearer it became. See, she HAD a cell phone, but she didn't want to tie it up trying to track down her ride, because she was waiting for an even more important phone call: from her husband, whose birthday it was, and who, she said in the most offhand way, "had been deported." DANG. Apparently devoted father of three kids under 4? And he was certainly well-loved and missed by those kids, judging by the intensity of the "HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PAPI!!!"s expressed when he DID call back. 

And as for that phone—a lot of people take offense to poor people having smart phones, but what they don't realize is those people don't have any other computer, and they certainly don't have internet access at home. That's why she was at the library in the first place. And lest you think she was "wasting time on Facebook" or something.... "I'm sorry I keep eating up your wifi," she said. "That's what it's here for," I assured her, as she continued—again, as if she felt the need to justify her needs to me: "...I just have to get this done, it's important..." obviously, as she'd taken out an Access card to log in— "...What?" she said to her screen. "Why did it... have you dealt with this EBT system before?" she asked me.

"No," I said simply, but before I could say anything else, she said (still in the forced-cheerful voice),  "Of course not, why would you, I'm asking the wrong person." Hey, I thought, I'm a librarian! I'm NEVER the wrong person to ask a question of! I could have continued, made a proper reference interview of it, first for that matter by asking if it worked through the Compass system which I HAVE dealt with before because my son gets Medicaid as a special needs kid, not counting my own financial struggles which just happened to have never gotten to EBT (that's food stamps, for you sheltered folks) levels. But by then she'd already gone away to work it out for herself. 

Oh, right, there was another thing she said—she asked if we were hiring, and I said, "Maybe? We've just been through some major staffing changes," and she said, "I always ask if you're hiring and they always say no, but then I come in and there's some new kid working and I ask 'how did you get hired here?' and he says 'They asked me'—but I asked THEM and they always say no!" 

Again, all these things together just added up and made me realize, this lady has been BURNED. She didn't fully trust me, and why should she, when she'd been navigating a lot of tough experiences with people in authority who SEEMED nice enough, but—some people are like that. 

I felt super-conscious, remembering everything I've read about making sure the library is a welcoming place for EVERYONE, and how some things are so subtly unwelcoming that I might not noticed from my multiply-privileged vantage point. I mean, her kids were beginning to annoy me, but too many people would have seen those kids and been like, "THOSE people—I'm not saying this to be racist, but you know, those Caribbean people just don't watch their kids like we do here." I know otherwise: they were simply acting like kids that age ACT if they've been in a place too long, and the Heinz-57 white ladies with their fancy strollers would have taken those kids home when they started to get out of hand, because they had their own cars and could do that. But this woman had obviously encountered too much of the other attitude, and I wanted to make sure she understood that my annoyance really did come from the kids' behavior and NOT their identity, that People Like Them belong in the library just as much as anyone else. But how could I be sure, when her defenses were always on-guard?

What is the point of this story? To get people to pay attention more. It's all about listening, and not immediately trying to defend yourself. Sure, this lady didn't fully trust me because I was a well-educated white woman in a position of mild authority... was she being racist, judging me by the color of my skin? Technically, yeah, maybe. But when white people get all defensive and claim "reverse discrimination" and "what about MY rights?" and whatnot, they're failing to see what's actually happening. They're failing to notice that people have been burned, that people have been dealing with things they've never imagined dealing with themselves. It's the difference between me feeling a little uncomfortable because someone is wary of me because of direct past experience with people like me, and her being repeatedly written off, outright insulted, denied opportunities, and having her husband taken away from her (and that's just what I know about) all because of her ethnicity, based not on direct experience on the part of others but on their tendency toward generalization and double-standards.

All I'm saying is to be careful. When you feel the need to deflect, to offer excuses like "well they brought it on themselves by—" or of course "I don't see the problem so it can't be that bad," stop, pause, and listen. Maybe there's a genuine reason. What's really going on?

And what can you do to help? 
rockinlibrarian: (voldemart)
I was talking politics with my mom the other day (it's nice having an in-real-life person who agrees with you politically to talk to sometimes), and I mentioned this really interesting blog post I'd read a few months back that unfortunately I CANNOT find now. Sorry. I really wanted to link you to it. It's about how this president—at the time of the article he was president-elect or even just a candidate, I'm not sure—uses language. The article posed that it wasn't so much that he is a pathological liar as much as he's using—I think this was the term—prescriptive language in situations when most people would use (and would assume he is using) descriptive language. Descriptive language describes reality as it is (or as it at least appears to be). Prescriptive language describes reality as the user intends it to be. For example, "You're fired!" The phrase isn't true until it is said, then saying it makes it true. That's an obviously iconic example of how he's used to using this sort of language, but think about it—he's a spoiled rich kid who could get whatever he wanted, with a major entitlement complex—he's USED to whatever he says being granted, or at least, that the making of whatever he says happen is other people's problem. 

As I told her about this, I remembered how some of his original supporters liked how he was a businessman-instead-of-a-politician, so he would "run the government like a business." Right, the kind of business where the Boss is IN CHARGE and everyone must do exactly what he says. That's what they wanted? I guess that IS what they wanted. And THAT made a scene pop into my head.

Shut up a minute, Star Wars prequel-haters, I'm not saying the acting and/or dialogue itself of this scene was fabulous or anything, but it DOES FIT here. You know the scene in Attack of the Clones when Anakin and Padme have been frolicking in the fields of Naboo and he starts teasing her about being a politician and she's like what is your problem with politicians, and he's like The system doesn't work, we need everyone to sit down and work out what's best for everybody and then just do it; and she's like But that's what we DO, it's just that people don't always agree on what the best thing is; and he's like well then somebody needs to MAKE everyone agree; and she's like Hold up you're crossing over into Dictatorship territory here; and he's like Well maybe that's what we need then; and then they go back to flirting as if he hadn't just admitted that he's totally someday going to be the Emperor's Right Hand Man and will totally kill hundreds of innocents to make it happen. 

So I'm like oh shoot, that's totally what happened, all these people are like Hey, a Dictatorship's fine and dandy if I AGREE with the Dictator. Let's give the Chancellor unfettered power because he'll TOTALLY make everything right in the galaxy again because he'll just MAKE it that way! Yay, everybody we disagree with just being TOLD WHAT TO DO! That could NEVER backfire!

...I mean it's not like people haven't totally glommed onto the Rebel Alliance as a symbol of resistance to all this or anything.

Meanwhile, the kids and I have made it to The Last Battle in our Narnia reading. Ugh, we're back to the problematic racist Calormene portrayals, which is ironic, because the real life parallels otherwise are very pro-Rebel Alliance, I mean Resistance. Eerily so, reinforcing that we seem to be living in an apocalyptic scenario. But look: we start out with Shift the Ape creating a False Aslan, which IMHO nicely describes certain prominent folks in the Religious Right preaching the "Prosperity Gospel" and linking the professed "Christian" culture with big business and exploitation of workers and destruction of the environment and other stuff the real Aslan would DEFINITELY NOT APPROVE OF (and omg the dwarfs who are all like "NEVER AGAIN" when they find out they've been had, are all those people driven away from the very idea of Christianity by the actions of these sort of Christians). And, ugh, that Shift, the way he gaslights poor Puzzle—I keep interrupting my own reading and saying to the kids "I REALLY do NOT LIKE this guy!" —personality-wise, and the more he gains power, the more he becomes Our Esteemed President in this scenario, to the point that he becomes the ineffectual puppet of sly Ginger the Cat—that'd be Bannon—and the Calormene general, who is definitely effectively Putin, looking to take over Narnia from the inside (yes, government. Calormen may LOOK like the Middle East, but get over your xenophobia/Islamophobia and look at the ACTUAL ACTIONS). I mean, dang. The Prophet Clive Staples Lewis says we're screwed, folks.

Oh, speaking of which, the end of The Magician's Nephew inspired some interesting/creepy conversations with the kids, too: talking about dying suns, and Maddie's like, "Will the Sun really DIE? Like our great-great-great-great grandkids won't have a sun anymore?" and I'm like, "The Sun will eventually die but not for billions of years, humans will probably die off from something else long before then," which just made the kids like, "WHAT? How could all the humans die?" and I'm like whoa I sat in it now, and said, "Well, like the dinosaurs died off. It could be something like an asteroid strike covering the sky with dust so the sun can't peek through so we can't get food, or it could be—" and then I realized I was heading into frighteningly relevant territory "—the climate just changes so much that it can't support human life anymore, or—" why on earth was I saying this out loud to my sensitive children, it just poured out of my mouth "—when he said that bit about humans discovering a horrible secret like The Deplorable Word that could wipe out all life? I'm pretty sure, since he wrote this right after WWII, he was hinting at nuclear weapons—" SHOOT I'm going to have to come up with a comforting spin on this somehow— but then I noticed the kids had actually stopped paying attention to my nihilistic rambling. But seriously folks. I saw a tweet the other day that was like "Hey, remember those couple of decades we DIDN'T think we were all going to die in a nuclear war? Good times." SIGH.

Anyway, last week I was writing my latest GeekMom article, about Labels vs Symptoms (btw, Megan, someone wrote a glowing response to your comment on that), and I was thinking about Billy (H)arrison's superpowered autistic tendencies and wanted to use some of "his" actual quotes on the matter, so I went into my files and scanned over my related writings, and, let me tell you, some of the plot of my book, which had seemed ridiculous when I wrote it, suddenly looked prophetic. Reading tweets about the president's rally in Florida this weekend made me tweet this, in a series of linked tweets copied here into an easier-to-read paragraph:

"There's a scene at a political rally that is just REALLY EERIE right now. Not to mention gaslighting and attempts to control the media. I don't think it will ever be good enough to officially publish, but I almost want to share it as-is now just to say 'READ WHAT I WROTE DECADES AGO! It was about an OVER-THE-TOP evil take-over-the-world plot! OVER-THE-TOP, I say!' Do you think it would be a bad move to self-publish something I don't think is perfect or up to traditional publishing standards just because I want to share some of the scenes NOW? I mean, it's as good as or better than a lot of fan fiction that's out there. It just doesn't have a built-in audience. (The fact that it has Real Person George Harrison fanfic in its backstory is not obvious in text). But I'm not trying to sell it/get famous from it. I'm just like READ ABOUT THIS RIDICULOUS WORLD DOMINATION PLOT & TELL ME YOU DON'T SHIVER!"

Well, I had several people respond that they WOULD like to read it. I think the easiest way to do it, though, is just share the file (non-editable) right off the Dropbox it's already in.

So here, if I've done this correctly, is the link to Ian and Co, aka The Incredible Adventures of Four Teens Who Are More Than They Appear, aka The One With Billy 'Arrison In It. I'm pretty sure I have not given you permission to edit the document, but just in case, um, politely refrain from editing. And by "editing" I mean "changing the document itself" —I'm all FOR you leaving constructive criticism with the Comments feature or whatever. I'd love to hear your ideas! Keep in mind, if I ever do come back to these characters' stories, it may be ENTIRELY different. I already have a completely new beginning written which has Ian more of a marginally-more-innocent bystander in what ought to have been Billy's adventures, which is most likely how I will take it in the future (I said once that Ian is Watson to Billy's Holmes and that suddenly made the whole concept click into place better). But DANG is this Swish plot relevant NOW, which is why I'm sharing THIS edit as-is.

Now here's something I considered doing awhile ago, which is COMPLETELY OPTIONAL, mind you. But since I'm kind of self-publishing my book, above, there, and I've written other good stuff you might like, and we still need to replace our patio/retainment wall that fell down in the back last summer, if YOU would like to donate to the cause of ME WRITING STUFF, I've got here a nice PayPal.Me link: https://paypal.me/rockinlibrarian  So, whatever you think my book is worth to you, go ahead and pay for it here! If not, don't! I probably wouldn't because I'm cheap (but then again I might anyway if I really love it and am not currently broke—I guess I have done such things before). Because after all it isn't quite up to standard, but it's still pretty fun and I did take decades writing it!
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
Allow me to be frank—I know I'm on the internet, which means *gasp* anyone can see me being frank—but I'm going to have to get a little ugly-personal. Don't freak out.

It's been a rough week. It's hard to say how much you, my reader, already know me, when some know me in real life but just in passing, some know me in real life quite well, some have never met me but are closer to me than all but a few of the people I have met in real life, some know me in passing on the internet, and some just stumbled here randomly hi I don't know what you're doing here but you're perfectly welcome. So I don't know if you know that I'm an utter mess, both figuratively and literally. I am NOT a together person.

But one thing I have always felt confident about? I'm a dang fine librarian. Being at work is for me is a BREAK from feeling lost and incompetent. It keeps me steady, and smart, and productive.

Until last Saturday. See, my literal mess caught up with me, and I guess it hit on my coworkers' last nerves? This is hard to explain, because I'm honestly so confused and I guess not quite so shaken as I was last Saturday, but still just...broken. Like I can't piece it together in my brain. I didn't get completely cleaned up after my program Tuesday night-- to be fair, we were pulp painting, it's quite complex, and I DID clean up MOST of it-- but, maybe it was my lackadaisical attitude toward finishing up that they didn't appreciate? Maybe, but the thing that got me lost was that this somehow earned me a week suspension. A week and a day, actually, as I didn't end up working last Saturday and here I am still off today. Now, Jason points out that I really should have been given a written warning or something instead, that the punishment far outweighs the crime and he is SO TEMPTED to march down to the library and give everyone a piece of his mind but he won't because that's totally something his mother would do and he doesn't want to do something she'd do; and there's a rational part of me that definitely agrees it's all out of proportion.

But the problem is it triggered something, shattered me further. Work was the one place I felt competent, the one thing my literal-and-figurative mess wasn't tainting. For the first time since I've been in this particular job, the thought of going back to work on Monday gives me a jolt of anxiety. I have lost that little piece of confidence. And, talk about an out-of-proportion reaction, I'm just BROKEN.

I don't want you to think I'm being melodramatic. I very nearly checked myself into the hospital that day. Because obviously I'm not good at ANYTHING anymore so there's no point trying until I can get myself FIXED. I didn't, because I figured it would be cheaper to just go home and go to bed, while telling everyone to leave me alone. That didn't work so great either, because except for Maddie, who came in and just hugged me and said "I love you" for awhile, nobody else could manage to talk to me without increasing my stress. In the middle of the night I wrote this poem-- cleaned it up and put it on Tumblr in the morning just because Tumblr seemed like the best format for it. It pretty well describes "how I'm doing," kind of perfectly, if you're asking and want to know the truth.

Well wait, copying and pasting so you don't have to click:
"EFFORT"
I’m not okay
though if you ask
I’ll say
I am
because I pull myself together
I smile, I laugh, I sing
I cook, I eat
I hug and say I love you
I go through the backpacks and take-home folders and
usually
remember to sign things
I pay the bills
eventually
I get where I need to go
eventually
But then you notice the cracks and say
Why don’t you pick up after yourself?
Why have you let yourself go?
If you would
Just
Try to
lose some weight
exercise a little more
make the kids behave
(no, MAKE them)
get her hair brushed
get YOUR hair brushed
make them make their beds
make YOUR bed
watch what you’re wearing
watch what they’re wearing
do the dishes from the start
organize your time better
leave a little earlier
make those phone calls
communicate better
pay attention to your surroundings
don’t leave things lying around
go to bed on time
tell us what you need
If you would
JUST
put in a
LITTLE EFFORT.
Good to know
that’s all I need to do
Just
put in
a LITTLE
EFFORT
If only I hadn’t used up all my Effort
pretending
i’m
okay


The thing is I usually AM okay because I'm holding together and getting through contently enough, it's just I can't take any MORE than that. Technically I SHOULD be capable of more, because more is required of me, and, like, maybe life should be more than just hanging together?

So at counseling on Wednesday I got some interesting news: I now, officially, on my medical records, have indeed been diagnosed with ADHD-light-on-the-H. See back in the day they just called that ADD but now no matter how nonexistent the H they call it ADHD-Inattentive Type instead. I slipped through all these years because of the complete lack of H, because I was well-behaved and smart enough to ace tests even if I couldn't stay on top of my homework and was only half paying attention in class. My brain was good at school. It's not so good at practical life. But practical life is what adulthood is about. You know I've said this before, lots of times, it's just now I've got an official label saying it's real, my brain really DOES work differently than normal. "You've been struggling with this all your life without even knowing why," my therapist said, having just read the above poem. 

So, somewhat tangentally (it's my ADHD! It all becomes clear!), last week we upgraded our cable to take advantage of their Triple Play, which includes phone service, since the main reason we never had before was our home and cell phone accounts were tied together, but now we get cell through J's work, so we were like, hey, and WE NOW HAVE CALLER ID AND AN ANTI-ROBO-CALL SERVICE AND I AM NEVER GOING BACK. But, also, we now get more TV channels, including FX. I'd bought access to FX's Fargo because it was awesome before, but look! Now we have FX just in time for Fargo-showrunner Noah Hawley's new show, Legion, which is a friggin' X-Men spinoff! I love Noah Hawley's storytelling (at least if Fargo is any indication) and I love X-Men, so can it get any better? The answer is, yes, it can, because Legion is also FRIGGIN' PSYCHEDELIC. 

Now I've been thinking of writing a whole post about me and psychedelia-- I've had a draft in the GeekMom Wordpress for about a month now, because I started writing it and then it turned into something else, and it might be really two posts, or it might not, but anyrate. Started when I finally got a chance to listen to the United States of America album I got for Christmas and it totally out me back in touch with a part of myself I'd been neglecting. I've been giving my psych rock collection a workout lately. Anyway, the short story about why I love psychedelia is that it reminds me of my own mind, but ever so slightly more orderly. 

So the main character of Legion has been diagnosed schizophrenic, although it turns out his hallucinatons are really telepathy. So you see the show from inside his head, which is tripped out...but strangely familiar. Me and psychedelia. I've never had to deal with hallucinations (or telepathy as far as I know), but my brain is always RUNNING and tumbling and jumping from track to track and it IS a lot to keep up with, and my dreams-- my dreamworld is nuts, y'all, and I love it--Legion really reminded me of my dreams (also the soundtrack is awesome) (maybe because there's a lot of psychedelia) (also it's made the Stones' "She's a Rainbow" stuck in my head since Thursday and I don't mind a bit).

Anyway, but the point I'm really getting to is that part of the reason he struggles so much with his mental illness is he's been fighting the wrong thing-- he thinks he needs to stop the hallucinations when really he needs to learn to control the input from his psychic powers. I keep thinking of it in relation to myself, how my brain works differently, but I've been expending so much energy trying to compensate for it instead of trying to work WITH it. It's funny, I used to know I was pretty smart as a kid, but most of the time as an adult my self-talk immediately goes to "you're an idiot." Since Wednesday it's occured to me, wow, if so much of my brainpower has gone to trying to compensate for my attention issues... maybe I actually am a genius. If I wasn't constantly trying to fight my own brain, what else could I be putting that power to? If I wasn't using up all my effort on being okay?

There was more on the end here, but somehow it got erased....

rockinlibrarian: (librarians)
A few years back it occurred to me, libraries are SUBVERSIVE. Our whole mission is to give the Have-Nots access to knowledge, and knowledge is power. This image of librarians as revolutionaries tickled me. Since on the surface I am a sickeningly sweet somewhat prudish well-behaved little white girl, I like being also, secretly, a bit of a rebel.

By now it's probably clear to you I'm in a particularly revolutionary mood lately, and you know exactly where my ire is directed. Maybe you're sick of me retweeting stuff on the subject. You remember when I was an optimistic ray of sunshine (with chronic depression) talking about books and music and children (in some order or another), who AVOIDED "issue" tweeting and political side-taking.

I apologize if all this rallying is getting old. I don't want it to get old. I want it to stay fresh. I keep sharing it because I don't want anyone to convince you that it isn't happening.

I think it's only in the past day that I've been able to pinpoint my motivations. There seems to be reason after reason to protest the government. Keep calling your representatives? What about NOW? I'm losing track of all the dangers we need to make sure our representatives resist... which is apparently something rising dictatorships count on. I read this nice article this morning called "How to Stay Outraged Without Losing Your Mind" --she talks about supporting "progressive agendas" but I want to again make clear that THIS SHOULD NOT BE A PARTISAN ISSUE AND CONSERVATIVES NEED TO STAND UP AGAINST THE NEW ADMINISTRATIONS BLATANT IGNORANCE OF THE CONSTITUTION, TOO, but ignore that bit. Anyway, her #1 says GET AWAY FROM THE ONSLAUGHT OF NEWS FOR AWHILE which might make you go "SEE, AMY? Shut up with your retweets, you're just overwhelming us so we don't care anymore!" Again, sorry. But #2 is what I want to talk about right now, and explains why I have such a hard time shutting up: "Focus Your Energy on One or Two Issues."

So which one or two issues do I want to focus on? Which slice of humanity under fire deserves more of my support? For a moment yesterday I thought it was going to be Climate Change, because I've always been an environmentalist, and I was feeling particularly angry about the government science departments being censored. But then I remembered my sensitivity toward gaslighting, and when a fellow GeekDAD actually posted this great little piece about evaluating information sources almost simultaneously with a high school friend posting this great graphic, and when I shared the former on the library's facebook page, I realized I'm not just being suddenly political. I'm DOING MY JOB.




So right. This will be my focus in the Rebel Alliance: Freedom of Information. This is why I will keep harping on about it. I'm not trying to change your political opinions-- well, not outright. I hope your political opinions will become more well-supported by fact. But I am making damn sure that the people will have access to actual facts and will have the skills and guidance to figure out what those actual facts are. That's why I'm standing up against the censorship of scientists and the intimidation of the media. That's why I'm standing up for freedom of expression and Net Neutrality. That's why I'm amplifying marginalized voices. BECAUSE I'M GOING TO MAKE SURE NOBODY CAN TAKE THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION AWAY FROM US.

Because that's what librarians do.

rockinlibrarian: (librarians)
I'm kind of wincing at my own title. You know STORY is my favorite thing in the whole world. You know I'm all about the importance of stories and trying to separate the word "myth" from the concept of "falsehood." Story helps us give meaning to our existence. But we also sometimes use it to justify what we WANT to be true, even when it isn't. It's funny that this was a major theme in this season of Sherlock, too. I'd like to share my thoughts on that, sometime before it becomes too far past to be relevant. I'm also working on two different GeekMom articles at once (possibly three. Come Monday, if I don't get any more time to myself to type before then, definitely three). I also have (as usual, but at the same time worse than usual) a complete wreck of a house to deal with, a bunch of Christmas decor to put away, and a whole lot of commitments taking me out of the house, not to mention the day to day commitments of a family that somehow expects I should feed them everyday (even though they don't like much of anything I cook for them). There is SO MUCH I have to work on, and I haven't even mentioned settling back to do the final handsewing on my new butterfly brocade dress while watching the series of Soundbreaking I finally managed to get hold of, because that's pure leisure time.

But I digress. (Often). I really want, right here right now, to address current events, yet again. We are at a scary moment of history. And if you disagree, this is probably due to the stories you are telling yourself, not the truth. And if you think the people who disagree ARE fully aware of the truth, you are also telling yourself stories, not seeing the full truth. The sad, frustrating, dangerous, and frankly somewhat traumatizing thing is, forces have transpired to fog the truth up for us. Gah, I know, that's vague. But that's the point. It would be nice to be able to point directly at Putin and blame the rise of totalitarianism on the Russian propaganda machine, but that's just part of it. It's easy to point to the new administration, which is doing it blatantly: But again, that's just part of it. If we all called these things as they are, they wouldn't have any power. But the fog isn't coming out of a single sfx machine that we can just unplug. A spun story here, an appeal to People Like Me there, a information miasma without enough librarians, and countless individual stories-we-tell-ourselves being presented as truth in echo chambers among people telling similar stories, and you end up with a GREAT SMOG pouring in from countless directions.

I'm super-sensitive to this fog, which is why I said it's somewhat traumatizing. It's traumatizing for ME. I don't like my mind being messed with. It makes me angry. It makes me frustrated. It makes me really really sad. And I feel like Cassandra when I see it happening and I can't get anyone to believe me (who doesn't already see it happening themselves).

Let me show you how these things happen, using a tragedy that happened down the street from me this past fall as an example (skip the paragraph if you don't want to read a tragedy). Here is what happened, strict facts. A man who had been abusive and outright threatened to kill his pregnant wife showed back up to torment her and threaten her life again, even though she had a PFA against him. She called the police. Police showed up, too late, he's already shot and killed her and now he turns the gun out the window and shoots two officers, killing one, badly injuring the other. The police shut down the area and go on a manhunt for the rest of the morning, only to find the guy had killed himself right after. 'Kay. That's what happened.

Here is one way the story could be presented, and was: the story of the police martyrs cut down in the line of duty by a cop-killer. This angle is still in evidence in our town-- the blue-and-black ribbons are still up all over, the signs that say "We stand with you, Cbg PD!" and "We salute our fallen officers." This angle really resonates with people, which is how my little neighborhood ended up making the national news. Implicit in this coverage is a "Those darn criminals keep killing our fine police officers!" message. And it goes farther, it gets turned into "Why do you keep accusing the police of brutality, can't you see THEY'RE the victims, THEY'RE the ones that keep getting SHOT DOWN because your lies about police brutality make people hate them?!" Whoa, slow down here. The guy shot them because he was a violent maniac and they were coming to arrest him, not because he was part of some cop-killer club or anything, lying in ambush just waiting to pick one off. Officer B truly did die in the line of duty, not out of some political demonstration.

Now look at the way the story was NOT presented. I was surprised when the story made the national news because the sad fact is domestic abusers kill their partners ALL THE TIME, and you don't hear it on the national news unless one of them's famous or something really unusual and gruesome happened or, say, a cop got killed. Is this woman, and her unborn child, and all the other victims of domestic abuse, somehow less important than the police officers who were trying to save her? Is her life worth less? Why is her death not a national tragedy? Oh, sure, the police were in a way innocent bystanders, just doing their jobs, and they got shot. But isn't she equally innocent? Isn't it a tragedy that she's had to suffer at his hands and words all this time, that she tried to get help and protection and it ultimately didn't work? With all the black-and-blue ribbons all over town, in just one place do you see a memorial to her-- on the electric signpost of the drug store where she worked. Her coworkers love and miss her. But everywhere else she's forgotten.

Now imagine what would have happened to the story the world saw if I change just one detail. You see, this woman was an immigrant from Egypt. Her killer husband was an all-american white boy with freakin' american flags waving off the back of his truck (I used to gawk at it, it was something). WHAT IF their ethnicities had been reversed? What if the killer was a Middle-Eastern immigrant and his wife was *gasp* blonde? If you don't think this would change the way this story was told, you haven't been paying much attention. We all have our own Normals, based on where we grew up, where we live now, who we were raised by, and who we were raised among. When we see just a snapshot of another Normal, it's easy to jump to conclusions. Because this, people in that Normal must be this other thing. So we get a bit repulsed by the Others and retreat deeper into our own Normals, where everyone tells the same stories about What Normal IS that you do So we automatically frame what we see in terms of what we already consider normal. The story of the tragedy in my neighborhood takes on a different meaning depending on how you feel toward police officers, what your experiences or knowledge of domestic abuse is like, or how much you know about the culture to which any of the interested parties belong. We group people and experiences into "like me" and "not like me" categories in our heads, and when evidence goes contradictory to it, we rewrite our understanding of reality to fit. Sometimes we change our opinions. But other times we hold tighter to what we used to know as true.

This is true across the board, but people who are still optimistic about our new president have had it particularly bad, lately. They were so excited to get a GOP president-- "GOP! Anti-Obama and Anti-Hillary! That means he's LIKE US!"-- that they fail to see that he's actually NOT. Oh, he's not a Democrat in disguise either, all right. He's not a normal president, period. But he must be good because he says things about Making America Great Again, and that's exactly what we want to hear, so.... Particularly fascinating are the folks in these pictures who admire his Godliness but wish he'd stop tweeting. I suppose because every tweet makes the UNGodliness stand out instead. It makes it hard for them to keep telling that story to themselves. If he keeps it up they may be forced to change their minds about him, and they'd rather not, so just shut up, Donny, and let them keep their fantasies, okay?

Don't run away from reading me here yet, my conservative friends! Don't get complacent, my liberal ones! The Left has their own pretty stories, too. The most problematic one is lumping all President Trumpsterfire's supporters together with the worst of them. They've all made a serious mistake-- yes, you KNOW I think you've made a serious mistake, people who voted for him-- but not for nefarious purposes. Yes, they may kill people by taking away their health care, yes, they may invalidate people's marriages, yes, they may condone the persecution of millions of innocents because of their heritage or genetics, but they DON'T SEE IT THAT WAY. They know different Stories, they either don't HAVE all the facts or they can't make the facts fit into their Stories so they respin them as falsehoods. A few of them--a few-- really ARE hateful, bigoted scum. But when we call the REST hateful bigoted scum, too, it just makes it harder for them to listen to the actual truths you're telling that they need to hear! I've seen too many conservative friends bristling away from the movement toward justice because of this. I found the pictures from the Womens' Marches really inspiring yesterday. Then I saw a tweet from a conservative friend in response to someone who'd said LOOK HOW BEAUTIFUL EVERYONE UNITED EVERYONE IS WELCOME! "...not the Pro-Life ones," she replied bitterly. OUCH. I know what she means. I have no doubt that Pro-Life women WOULD have been and WERE welcomed into the marches, but a lot of Pro-Choicers have a problem how they talk about the Pro-Life movement-- they, too, lump people who genuinely believe in the sanctity of life with misogynists who just want to control women's sexuality. This is a particularly frustrating issue for me, because I grew up in a very actively Pro-Life extended family-- I've done the March for Life myself!-- and I thoroughly understand my family members' actual feelings on the matter, and I truly consider myself Pro-Life, even though from a political standpoint I am technically pro-choice. I don't think the picture shows up in the quoted tweet, here's the one I was referring to: I've had a real hard time at church since just before the election. Remember I said I hadn't lost my faith in God but was pretty disillusioned with the Church? Our pastor, he's a great guy y'know, but the Sunday before the election he said something like, "Yeah, we have to make a choice, and it looks like we have to make a choice between 'Bad' and 'Worse.' I can't tell you who to vote for, but I will say when you get down to it that the most important thing is protecting the Sanctity of Life, and we have to vote to stop abortion." And I'm just SERIOUSLY HAVE YOU EVEN LOOKED AT THIS GUY, HE IS ANTI-LIFE UNLESS IT'S HIS OWN! The fact that the Pro-Life movement has become SO FOCUSED on overturning Roe vs. Wade that they can no longer see that liberal movements have actually done far far more to REALLY protect the sanctity of life (I can't find the article I read about this last summer that uses facts to support this claim, but here's another article I found while looking for it that at least expresses the idea in more detail) is just... so depressing, really. And if we'd stop being so PARTISAN about it, we could SEE this, and actually WORK TOGETHER to truly protect LIFE.

I think the most important thing we need to do is follow Haymitch's advice in Catching Fire, and remember who the real enemies are. I know we find it hard to forgive each other. I know we're angry, we're all so angry. But let's make sure we're focusing the anger in the right place. I saw someone say, "Trump didn't divide America!" -- true, we've already been divided. I've seen others say, "We need to stand together and put faith in the election process and our new administration." Or, the opposite, "We CANNOT play nice anymore. The Nazis weren't defeated because the Allies had a nice discussion and they all shook hands."

BUT. A totalitarian government just LOVES when it can pit its citizens against each other. It LOVES to be all "if you're not for us your against us." There are people TRYING to get us to hate each other, pointing at all the worst actions of the "other" side instead of the many many more right actions. WE CANNOT LET THEM DO THIS. Civil war destroys so much. A revolution, on the other hand? If we all, ALL, take a good look around and see who the enemies REALLY are? It's rough when we're still divided over the stories we're getting, but the fact is the majority of people are GOOD PEOPLE. And when we stick together instead of turning on each other, we can beat this.

I don't know if this whole quoted tweet will show up, but... You see this is the one she was quoting: That original tweet was a little bitter, about how privileged white women are that they don't have THEIR protests broken up by riot police (when there isn't a riot). But Goldeen takes that and says LET'S USE THIS. You see what we can do when we ALL stand together? We can't let anyone try to divide us any more. We need to speak up even when we aren't the direct victims of an injustice. We need to listen to each other and not just assume that, oh, this is only about THEM, or that, oh, I don't see a problem so obviously there isn't really a problem they're just overreacting. If we open our eyes and hearts and stand together, we can keep the real enemies from their nefarious plans. We can make right mighty, instead of pretending might makes right.
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
So, unlike people living in Bubbles of Blue, I was not shocked. Disappointed, absolutely, but not surprised. So why did it hurt so much? Why was I crying? Why have I been unable to shake off the tears that keep coming all day?

I mean, there's the usual. The stuff I've already explained, about why I was voting the way I did in the first place. I want to thank those who voted differently but acknowledge that they're not necessarily happy about it, or who even, plain, don't gloat at all, because for some of us this IS genuinely not just a matter of the-one-we-liked-lost, but the-one-who-won-gives-us-literal-panic-attacks-and-it's-going-to-be-rough-for-us-to-watch-the-news-for-the-next-four-years.

But as I tried to explain to the kids, doing a very bad job because my own emotions belied every "it's going to be all right" I said, it's not like the world is suddenly going to erupt into nuclear war this afternoon.

Besides, WE are lucky. WE don't have to deal with systematic racism. OTHERS are much more directly fearing for their lives.

I began to get the sense that there was something slightly selfish about my grief. It felt so personal, like I wanted to shout "But look what you've done to ME!" at everyone who voted. What HAD they done to me? Voted for a guy who triggers my bully-anxiety, so what, it's not like my health care or marriage legality or right to freakin' live in this country is in danger. Sure I could TRY to nobly insist it was all alturistic, that I really felt so bad for EVERYONE ELSE, but no-- I mean, yes, I DO feel bad-- but no, this personal grief IS INDEED personal. What bugged me so much?

Eventually I unearthed it. It's because I always started crying harder when I read inspiring messages like this:










And most notably, this:


Because THAT is one of my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE QUOTES OF ALL TIME. I was keeping a quote book when I first read Fellowship, and at that I'd jumped up and ran to grab the dang thing because I needed to write that one down. It hit me hard in the chest this morning, like J.R.R. Tolkien had taken me by the shoulders, given me a little shake, and said, "How could you have forgotten what I told you?!"

"I'm sorry, Professor. I hear you. I hear the others. I'm just having a really hard time believing you right now."

WHO NEEDS MY VOICE. I worried for ages that my voice is useless because I'm too Privileged, because I'm not from a population that's been historically silenced. Ah, but then I found it again. I found it not enough to feel that I had any FICTIONAL stories worth telling, but I at least had, not just the right, but the DUTY, to speak up for those who AREN'T as privileged as me. So I started getting political. I started getting BRAVE. I started making statement after statement and long essay after long essay.

And I voted. Because Every Vote Counts.

Yeah, but I look at the returns for my county, and although it was obvious from the signs along the road, it just felt disheartening to see that MY vote, in my county, had been outnumbered two to one.

And I thought about my essays. My impassioned pleas here and on Twitter and Facebook, and the time last week I finally absolutely BLEW UP at my husband for his continued insistence that both candidates were awful so he'd stick with the one who "wouldn't take away [his] guns." And I thought, did it even matter?

Who even reads what I write except people who already agree with me? Who even CONSIDERS what I have to say? WHOSE MINDS HAVE I CHANGED by writing these things? Nobody. Nobody cares. I have no effect. I've failed.

Writing has failed.

So I had a well-timed counseling appointment this afternoon. By that time I'd pinpointed this problem, this stupid selfish thing that was upsetting me. As I said last time, my therapist was unsurprised by my general anxiety about the thing because that was going AROUND in her office. "What can help you from getting stuck here, though?" she asked. "What are you going to do in your own life? What do you have control over?"

She was paraphrasing Gandalf. I smiled.

But my eyes teared up again. "It's just that nothing ever changes. No one listens to me. I spoke, but I didn't change anyone's mind."

"Maybe you've got the wrong goal. Maybe you're going to fail if you go into it thinking, 'This one beautiful essay will CHANGE PEOPLE'S MINDS.' That starts to sound kind of nasty, actually, wanting to CONTROL WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK, you know?" She looked hard at me. "Instead, make the goal to be strong in your own beliefs. Believe in yourself enough to put your beliefs out there. You've done that. You've made something beautiful. It may seem like a small drop, but it's something. A small drop still makes waves.

"Besides, no great social movement happened overnight. Do you think it took just one pamphlet to win women the right to vote? Did Martin Luther King go out and make one beautiful speech and suddenly win equality for all? I bet all the great leaders had days where they came home, said to their families, 'Why do I bother? No one is listening.'

"But what did all those great heroes have in common?"

I grinned sheepishly, because again J.R.R. Tolkien supplied the answer, popping immediately into my head:


Why SHOULDN'T that answer have been ready in my head? I NAMED MY SON AFTER THIS GUY BECAUSE OF THIS SPEECH.

Heroes have lots of chances to turn back, but they don't. That's all. That's what makes a hero.

I could actually feel light seeping back into the wrinkles of my brain, sitting there. I started to believe in the inspirational messages again.

"So, what are you going to do now, so you don't slip back into that stagnant water?" she asked me at the end of our session. "What action are you ready to take, to keep things moving?"

"I--" I started to laugh. "...I actually want to write about it."

The Lone Power is always trying to get me to SHUT UP, one way or another. I've said it before and I'll say it again, because over and over It feeds me excuse after excuse, why I should just give it all up, stop trying to write, stop trying to be heard. It's always something new, but it's always the same in the end: "SHUT UP, AMY, NO ONE NEEDS YOUR OPINION." And it always results in entropy taking over, which is how I KNOW it's the Lone Power's doing.* You'd think I'd be able to catch It in the act quicker now. You'd think I'd recognize it sooner. But I guess that's how It works.

I need the reminders, every so often, that the only thing that makes a hero different from everyone else is that they don't turn back.

Don't. Give. Up.


*God bless you, Diane Duane, I don't know how you so deeply infiltrated my own personal theology, but it sure is handy for expressing my dilemma.
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
I should probably get out of the habit of checking the Internet first thing in the morning, because the anxiety it evokes ruins me for the rest of the day. But then, I should probably also change the radio station on my clock radio. It wakes me with news, and local news, at that, which is why I like it. It's the little Washington, PA, station, as opposed to the Pittsburgh stations covering all of western PA, so it's got local traffic and weather and other stuff about things that might affect me in my day to day life, so it's good to wake up to that way (it's also an independent Oldies station that plays the HUGEST variety of music from the 50s to early 90s-- ALWAYS pulling up obscure stuff or stuff that's fallen out of rotation on the bigger stations-- and I often find myself yelling "I LOVE you, WJPA!" periodically every time it unearths something awesome and unknown. Though I will admit some of the stuff they play on their Cruisin' Sundays PROBABLY should have stayed unknown). But it covers national and international news, and while earlier in the year some of the announcers did express some anti-HeWhoMustNotBeNamed (BecauseNowEvenHisNameMakesMeSick) sentiments, the way the news is covered, itself, when it doesn't outright show a bias towards him, at least WHY do they always have to include a soundbite of him, which in most cases adds no information to the news story but never fails to make my body freak out in response?

Self-care says I should be AVOIDING triggers, particularly when they ruin me for the rest of the day like this, but at the same time they're kind of unavoidable right now, period, and if I stay offline I'll just be facing my own ruminations in isolation. And as an EnneaType 9, I'm all about avoidance. There's nothing new there. I'm all about suppressing my own anger (to the point where often even I am not aware of it), peace-ing out, and pretending everything is JUST FINE. It's a sign of growth for me to face up to things, and to express my anger instead of let it simmer.

It's delicate. I know other people are feeling as sick-- or nearly as sick-- of this election stuff as I am. I usually try to be the bearer of light on the Internet, putting beauty and humor out there to counteract all the negativity. But there are TWO definitions of being a bearer of light: counteracting darkness is only one of them. The other is ILLUMINATING, and sometimes that means shining light on things that aren't so pretty. I feel like if I stop speaking the truth I see, I'll be betraying a Holy Mission or something. It's my duty to speak. And I know I've spoken up before and what difference does it make, everyone has made up their minds and the only people who will read this are the people who already agree with me. But I have to keep saying it.

At this point what I'm trying to say to you, to everyone, right here is THIS IS NOT ABOUT POLITICS. This is not about differences in opinion regarding policies and the role of government in the lives of the people, which is what differences in politics should REALLY be about. This is about my personal feelings of horror at watching half the nation rally around a demagogue. It is about personal gut fear, and how I normally do not feel this way about political figures. Remember, I'm a registered Independent! It's not a simple matter of government size or particular policy!

Anyway, what follows is what I wrote for MYSELF as the only audience, in my journal Sunday morning. Not trying to convince anyone else of anything, just me getting it all off my chest. Some of it I've expressed before in bits. I'm sharing it here because that's all I feel I can do at this point: just put it out there, This is what I am experiencing and I feel you should know. What you do with my personal experience is up to you.

Well I mean, within reason. Don't plagiarize my personal experience and say you wrote it, that would suck of you. It's copyrighted by virtue of me writing it here, first (or in my journal first, me second), the law's on my side, dude.

*ahem*

Sunday, October 30, 2016

There's no CCD today so for once I'm not rushing off anywhere in the morning. I feel like I journal so infrequently now that maybe that's why my brain feels like it's about to explode. I woke up at 8 and still feel tired. I realized, this week, is part of it is current events, but not in some theoretical isn't-the-state-of-the-world-frightening way. No, it's that monster of a GOP candidate, there's no escape from him and, here's the thing, he's a genuine bully who uses all the emotionally abusive techniques all the bullies in my life have used-- the ones that tormented me in elementary school, Angie in high school, my other students when I was a teacher. So it's not just an ideological beef I have with him-- he's genuinely triggering. Just seeing his face or hearing his voice puts my body reflexively in fight-or-flight mode-- by this point even just seeing/hearing his name will do it (notice I haven't used it here).

I'm torn between WANTING to talk about it and WANTING to pay attention to the news, and just taking it easy, knowing that reading the news won't accomplish anything, all I can do is go in and VOTE for Hillary next week and pray enough other people are voting for her, too. If she wins maybe this constant state of stress will let up-- if she doesn't, I honestly don't think I can take having to be exposed daily to that man for the next 4 years. Maybe they'll impeach him sooner than that (they impeached BILL C for less), or maybe he'll bully his way into a dictatorship. Still, ANY amount of time with him continuing to dominate the news is TOO MUCH FOR MY POOR NERVES. It got to the point that yesterday I found myself wondering if the Xanax I got last year was still good. I don't know, maybe it WOULD do me good to take one! But one won't change the political situation, so I'd soon devolve into an addict, popping pills one after another in a desperate attempt to stop the world from hurting me.

It's just... insane. You know, some people find the word "insane" a slur toward the mentally ill. But it's BACKWARD, because I'm the one dealing with actual mental illness here, these anxiety flashbacks, but I'm not the dangerously irrational one. This anxiety is not, in and of itself, irrational, it's an actual warning, my experience and understanding throwing up flashing red lights and sirens: "THIS GUY IS BAD NEWS: DON'T LET HIM BE IN CHARGE." The only thing that makes it irrational is that the warning outweighs my ability to DO anything about it. All I can do, besides casting my own vote, is speak up, but WHO'S LISTENING besides the people who already agree with me? I'm Cassandra, over and over.

Sammy had the bad timing to yell "Vote Hillary Clinton!"  while [J's extremely paranoid Survivalist friend--not exaggerating, anyone who knows him knows exactly who I'm referring to-- which would be pretty much Megan, Megan's the only one likely to read this who would know, but she'll also tell you I am definitely not exaggerating], king of the Libertarian Survivalists, was visiting with Jason last night, so the two of them gaped at each other in shock and finally piped up "Why would you SAY such a thing?!" and Sammy goes "Because Donald Trump's a BAD man," naturally-- see? KIDS know. And Jason,* sounding strangely panicky, burst out "WHERE'S YOUR PROOF?!" at his 9yo son, sheez, I mean MY GOD ARE YOU SERIOUS-- first of all, this is another bullying tactic, throw off someone from expressing their opinion by demanding proof in a way that suggests no proof exists (or at least can be used-- there's also the "your word against mine" version of this technique). Second and MOST important, THE PROOF IS ALL OVER THE PLACE, BLATANTLY OUT IN THE OPEN, as opposed to scraps of incidents taken out of context and blown out of proportion by political enemies or conspiracy theorists, which is all Hillary-haters base their hatred on.  Whereas the far greater faults That Monster has are flaunted out in the open. His supporters praise it as a sign of transparency-- because apparently when it's OBVIOUS someone is a pathological liar that makes him more trustworthy than someone who's just accused of being a liar without the facts backing it up? Well, the conspiracy theorists haven't dug anything up on him! BECAUSE THEY DON'T NEED TO DIG!

This is why KIDS don't like him! Why do KIDS so consistently profess their dislike of him? BECAUSE IT'S OBVIOUS if you're not mired in political maneuvering and bias. He is simply a BAD MAN, and kids can spot the emperor's lack of clothes, just like the story said. I'm not saying kids will ALWAYS be right about politics, just that they can tell when the emperor has no clothes. Like a dog who's normally docile suddenly growling at certain strangers who turn out to be bad. It's gut instinct. THIS IS A BAD MAN.

[Name of daycare retracted], the daycare I went to on Friday, has THAT MAN signs up-- one along the edge of the road I thought could be just, you know, anybody, not the daycare itself trying to make a statement, but then I saw they had TWO HUGE SIGNS, one on each side of the daycare's actual sign, EACH EVEN PARTIALLY COVERING UP THE SIGN FOR THE DAYCARE ITSELF. Hol-Lee-Heck. Well, it's a very effective Halloween decoration, scares the crap out of me. How desperate ARE the directors of this daycare? I mean, I'd find even Hillary signs displayed that way inappropriate for a large non-affiliated-with-any-other-group-that-could-be-biased daycare/school, even if it is technically a private school. It's just-- it's mind-boggling. Obviously the other side has feelings just as strong as mine, it's just THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES. There's no other way to put it. That's what that story was about. I feel like I'm screaming truth into a void.
___

So, that. I've said my bit. Mic drop.

Here's to all of us surviving the next week and whatever comes after.

Now let's see if I can actually accomplish anything practical with the time I have left today.

----

*Note: back during the Primaries, J thought That Man was a horrible joke, too-- but now that he's, GASP, the only one who can save us from CROOKED HILLARY, suddenly it doesn't matter! Yippie! He's outnumbered 3 to 1 in this household and he's highly aware of it-- Sammy's outburst the other day wasn't the only time it's come up-- but...! At least none of us here are trying to put up any yard signs, boy, that would be a fun household war, wouldn't it? Though in all seriousness, maybe I should try to explain my anxiety reaction to him, maybe then he'd get it. But he's SOOOO touchy about it, he's pretty much shut himself off from listening.

For the record, I get that HRC represents everything the poor folks of rural pennsylvania (and elsewhere) hate, but the charges laid against her over the years have been outrageously, excuse the term, trumped up. She's not a bad person, although she might have policies you disagree with. I don't agree with everything she says. But she is FOR SURE competent and I have faith in her to do the best job she can do. I'm not JUST voting against the other guy. I genuinely think, though admittedly not perfect, she'll be good for the job. Her biggest hurdle in doing a good job will be the same as Obama's has been-- political enemies trying to block everything they do. WHICH IS JUST RIDICULOUS, CONGRESS, GET OVER IT ALREADY. Anyway, but that's discussing politics calmly on the subject of actual issues and abilities, something we can politely disagree over, as opposed to DEAR GOD KEEP THAT MAN AWAY FROM THE NUCLEAR CODES.
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
I've been unearthing roots of current subconscious feelings a lot this week, like spontaneous psychoanalysis: "That's impressive," my therapist said, "you've done a lot of work!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



*Last night after I tucked her in and left the room, Maddie out of nowhere piped up, "Mommy, did you ever forget to do your homework as a kid?" HAH, girl, we don't have time to have this discussion right now! 
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
This morning I filled out a survey for the Census Bureau. I kept snorting derisively at my answers to the questions. Gosh, yes, this is a family of four, one mother one father two children (one boy one girl, at that!), living as an individual family in our own house with two cars, nobody's ever been divorced or remarried or blended into other families. Yes, every one of us is white and non-Hispanic, and our ethnic backgrounds are the patchwork of typical European cultures boasted of every white non-Native American whose family has been here for generations. It's disgustingly cookie-cutter, yes.

Then I got to the disability questions, and the laughter changed to something charged with a little more hilarity. "Does this individual physically, mentally, or emotionally require help with walking or climbing stairs?" "Yes," I said out loud, thinking of my extreme klutziness, and my daughter's somehow even MORE extreme klutziness.* No, I checked in the box. I knew what the question was really asking. We're all perfectly capable of walking.

"Does this individual physically, mentally, or emotionally require help concentrating, regulating emotion, or making decisions?" "YES," I said with an even more hysterical laugh. This whole household is a mess of Attention Deficiency. But again, I only actually MARKED Yes under the boy's name, since he actually gets government aid for home/school wraparound services. Whatever his dad's and my problems, it isn't like we CAN'T make decisions. It isn't like we need someone signing our paperwork for us. We accomplish things. We hold down and even excel at our jobs. We are perfectly capable adults.

One hour later I was sitting in my therapist's office, sobbing about my incapabilities, while she reminded me that I should stop beating myself up for failing to be everything to everyone, that it's okay to ask for help even if you think you're SUPPOSED to be able to do it alone.

Does this individual physically, mentally, or emotionally require help concentrating, regulating emotion, or making decisions? I thought again as I sniffled through an attempt to schedule my next appointment, slowly realizing a scheduling conflict and catching it just before the receptionist printed it out. I don't need an assistant to make my appointments for me. But this interaction took a great deal more energy to accomplish than it would for an average person. Just because I'm capable of making my own appointments doesn't mean I don't need to REST for a minute after doing so.

I thought of the Spoons thing that goes around Tumblr and the like, that code for the amount you have to give. I'm not sure the analogy always works for me, but I understand the feeling behind it, and that's what I thought about now: just because I'm not obviously disabled doesn't mean I'm invincible. Just because SOME people aren't as sensitive as I am doesn't mean I SHOULDN'T break down over "stupid" things. Just because SOME people are neat freaks doesn't mean
I should instinctively keep a tidy house. Just because SOME people communicate through shouting doesn't mean I shouldn't be totally uncomfortable and shut down in such interactions. Just because making a telephone call is a thing MILLIONS of people do without trouble every minute doesn't mean I should be able to do it without scripts and deep breathing exercises and a reward for myself when I finish.

Just because it seems like nothing to most of the world doesn't mean it's not huge for me. But it's only a problem if I pretend it isn't.

I am exceedingly fortunate. There is so much I can do, so much I'm even good at. But that doesn't mean I SHOULD be capable of EVERYTHING. That doesn't mean my weaknesses are failures. I'm just Differently Abled.

This is me. I'm a good writer. I'm an excellent children's librarian. I'm empathetic and thoughtful. I'm highly sensitive. I'm demisexual. I'm a good cook but hate deciding what to make. Oh, just in general, I'm indecisive. I'm scatterbrained, inclined to be late, and very, very messy.

Take me or leave me. Don't demand I be anything else.


----
*So last week my cell rang at work and I saw it was the school calling. When I answered I heard someone saying in a pitying voice to someone in the background "...smashed your fingers in the door..." and before I could stop myself, before even saying hello, I said, "This must be about Madeleine." Of course it was. She has a gift, I assure you.
rockinlibrarian: (roar)
My dad is a big genealogist, and when I say big, I mean he was into it WAY before Ancestry.com, when you had to do serious legwork, travelling all around the country and even world to pour over decades of paper church registries and the like. By chance I eventually settled in the town that one of his favorite ancestors had lived in, my great-great-great* grandfather on my dad's mom's side, a blacksmith, guardsman, and Civil War hero. My dad wrote a (self-pubbed and extremely limited in distribution) book on the guy and his squadron's history, which supposedly once was in the Local History collection of the library I now work for, though I can't find it there now. I have to smile every time I drive past the corner where this several-greats grandfather's blacksmith shop had been, just because I can hear the enthusiasm in my dad's voice as he once pointed it out to me, every single time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


*I THINK I have the right number of greats
rockinlibrarian: (voldemart)
If you've known me awhile you probably know that I can't stand politics as they are: the us-vs-them arguing and posturing and refusing to work together. You might know I'm a registered Independent because I can't stand the side-taking. It's true I lean left, but not in a party line way, and most of the time I'm the one that goes "but the CORRECT answer is something completely DIFFERENT from what either side is proposing!" See, my problem is I am, by my very nature, extremely talented at seeing all sides of a situation. Not bragging, stating. This is after all the same trait that makes me obnoxiously indecisive ("but ALL these dinner options have equally valid plusses and minuses!"). Old acquaintances have reminded me that, even as a kid, I tended to get myself in the middle of feuds, trying usually painfully to be friends with two or more people who hated each other (to my credit, I always defended the person who wasn't there to the person talking smack that I happened to be with at the time. No two-faced behavior from me. I was open in my refusal to take sides). I'm a peacemaker. 'Swhat I do.

But the ability to SEE all sides of a situation does not necessarily mean AGREEING with all sides of a situation. It's one thing when the sides genuinely ARE balanced, like in the what-to-have-for-dinner question. But when a Peacemaker like me has managed to see all sides of a situation and has come to a conclusion that the sides are NOT equal, after all, our decisions come rock-solid. And listen, it's easy for me to defer to other people, assuming they know better than I do-- yet another symptom of my indecisiveness, but I'm learning to put my foot down. I'm learning to speak up. I'm learning that I can be RIGHT, sometimes, too. So look, don't try to tell me I'm wrong on this one. I've seen all sides. I sympathize with all sides. But my gosh one side is clearly better than the other, so let me just get it out here so I can point to it and move on.

I know, friends and family, that many of you have, not just disliked, but utterly hated Hillary Clinton for a very long time. You've already made the decision to vote against her no matter what, and the GOP is counting on that. They will be slinging so much mud over the next few months, and that mud looks totally justified. Here's the problem: what's their alternative? THEY have a narcissistic blowhard with no political experience and not much in the way of brains, who yes has boatloads of money which he might claim equals business sense but in truth the money is primarily inherited and his actual business decisions have been relatively bad ones, a hothead who doesn't believe diplomacy applies to him. Or, it applies to how YOU should treat HIM, but HE is immune from having to use it. I'd add here the bits about him being openly bigoted and outright hostile toward women and minorities, but if I did y'all'd just go "Oh, that's just those liberal types being so OVERSENSITIVE again, they blow everything out of proportion," so I won't even bother. Let's just stick with the narcissistic blowhard part.

Oooo, you say, those are awfully mudslingingish words, yourself, you hypocrite! You can't say one side is relying on bashing the other side and then go bash 'em right back! But the difference is Clinton is experienced. She's competent, intelligent, knows how the world works, and her underlings both love and respect her. I don't particularly care for everything she's ever done or said. She wasn't my top choice in 2008. But I've always admitted she's got the chops for the job.

BUT LOOK AT THE BAD THINGS SHE'S DONE, say you.

Okay then. Let's look at this. Imagine that, instead of choosing a President, you're choosing a Service Animal. Sounds kind of insulting, but it's not-- we're talking about choosing someone who is meant to serve and lead you, so, it applies. So Hillary is a Trained Service Dog (again, in this scenario. I am not calling her a dog, I'm weaving a metaphor). She's got all the paperwork. But there's some troublesome notes in the paperwork. Maybe she's chased squirrels a few times when she was supposed to be on duty. Maybe she's even led her unsuspecting masters into danger once or twice. Maybe the paperwork might be fudged, maybe some of the incidents reported have been blown out of proportion, but maybe they haven't. Either way, okay. You decide you can't trust this one as a Service Animal. Maybe she needs some more training or something, maybe she should be retired or taken out of the Service Animal register.

But you still need a Service Animal. So you turn to the GOP and say, Well then, do YOU have a Service Animal we could use?

Well... they hesitate a bit, then dive onward. Well, not a TRAINED Service Animal, per se... but we've got this rabid weasel who crawled in the mail slot. We tried to put a leash on him but he chewed through it, but that's all right, he's got spirit, see?

So look. I think I'm going to stick with the imperfect but actual service animal. The chances she'll mess up at the job are just a LEETLE less likely than the chances the rabid weasel will make a complete mess of everything.

You disagree? You want to argue? Okay, but there is nothing you can bring to light that will make the Trained Service Dog look like a worse option than the Rabid Weasel. Instead, you've got to prove to me that the Rabid Weasel isn't actually a Rabid Weasel. Got it? Prove to me you're not trying to put a Rabid Weasel into office and maybe I'll care what smack you have to say about the Trained Service Dog.

Good luck.

You know very well I still love you. I'm just saying THINK. Just say no to rabid weasels.
rockinlibrarian: (love)
I have two friends I, admittedly, might love even more than my other friends. I fell madly in love with each of them at our first real meeting, and since then just thinking about them brings me a deep feeling of inner sunlight, pure joy that such people exist. They shine with inner beauty. I met the first one in high school, I was in 11th grade, she was in 10th, we were at a newspaper staff meeting, a bunch of people were discussing something I had strong opinions about but couldn't put into words, and I was becoming more and more frustrated and fearing that I was on the verge of tears (and when I say "fearing" I MEAN it), then she piped up and said it for me. And she kept doing it, putting my thoughts and feelings into words (except she was technically putting HERS into words but you know), mixing in wise and beautiful things I hadn't even thought of, unintentionally making me feel more completely understood than I had ever felt, and by the time the bell rang I wanted to tell her all my deepest darkest secrets, things I'd barely considered telling myself let alone anyone else. Be my most bosom friend! this voice in my head screamed from that very first meeting, and through partially the luck of already having best friends who were also best friends with each other, she eventually was.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.


---
*If you have skipped this link, go back and click and read it now. It is heartbreaking and courageous and beautiful and most importantly, in her own words, in her own story, not just mine from the outside.
**okay, maybe not SHOUTED, but me being angry and forthright at ALL is so odd that it sort of feels like shouting to me.
***Which, if you're curious, I did not end up making. That year there were just an AWFUL lot of clarinets trying out. More amusing perhaps was when I tried out my senior year and instead of the competition being tight, I just flat-out flubbed the audition, and as Randy was the section leader that year and therefore one of the people evaluating me, he was quite embarrassed and literally couldn't talk to me for the rest of the day.
****Unless it's to ease my guilty conscience over what a crappy friend I was at the time of their comings-out. I suppose that could be part of it.+
+Technically, we observed years later, Randy hadn't actually ever directly come out to me. Like Jason, I just figured it out myself, because it was obvious. I just wasn't HAPPY about it then.
*****As unapologetic as I get, anyway.
rockinlibrarian: (eggman)
Today is Billy 'Arrison's birthday. It's a thing I still say that only makes sense to a few of my friends now, but still when I see any other references to any other aspect of Geek Pride Day, asking me where's my towel or my lilac or arguing over whether the day has anything to do with Star Wars or not (look, I'm a Star Wars fanatic, but we already have May the Fourth AND a Saturday in October for Star Wars Reads AND nowadays most of December as new movies keep coming out, so we really don't have to claim any more)-- anyway, fan as I am of all those things, I still want to say "...but none as important as BILLY 'ARRISON'S BIRTHDAY," even though it ought not to mean anything even to ME anymore.

Because it DOES still mean something to me. even if I said I've given up trying to give him a story. May the 25th rolls around and I realize I can't ever give up on him. And in the meanwhile, have you noticed, the superhero genre has become more prominent in prose fiction in the past couple years? Both the big comic publishers have licensed their characters out to prose writers lately, and that's not even counting all the stand-alone books about original superheroes like my Billy. And I realize how many of my favorite shows and movies are superhero related and every so often I'll go, "Hey, there's a genre I'd feel comfortable writing in, the superhero genre," and then sometimes it doesn't even hit me then that I'VE TOTALLY WRITTEN IN THAT GENRE BEFORE and my favorite character I've ever created not-counting-D&D-characters* is a superhero.

And then I'll see discussion of superheroes and start to say, "Oh yes, that's why Billy... um, sorry, I keep forgetting nobody knows who Billy is." Today, in fact, on his birthday, the comics fans on social media were talking passionately-yet-vaguely about various developments, none of which I really got any actual idea of but that doesn't matter because that's not what I'm talking about. What I AM talking about was what I saw someone said about different perceptions of what superheroes are FOR. For some, the focus is on "HERO," for others, on "SUPER" (as in superPOWERS). It made me think about the old Marvel vs. DC argument, which I'll admit that I'm on Team Marvel even though I don't read comics, because I find the characters more interesting (and my favorite TV show ever DANGIT ABC revolves around a Marvel character who was little more than a passing reference to a one-time girlfriend in the comics, but anyhoo INDEFINITE HIATUS NOT A CANCELLATION NEVER SAY NEVER) *AHEM* what was I talking about? Right, the old Marvel vs. DC thing. The idea being that DC characters were more Other, like, superheroes as a whole different breed, whereas Marvel characters were more like people who had to deal with superpowers on top of being people, that's all. And that's KIND of what the guy on Twitter was saying, some more HERO, some more SUPER, but on the other hand...

...How do I put this? He was referring more to the purity of heroics vs. dark and edgy anti-heroes (which in the movie universe, Marvel and DC kind of flipped their old stereotypes haven't they? Deadpool doesn't count). But I prefer my superheroes somewhere in the middle. I prefer them not to be the infallible demigods but the regular people who happen to have superpowers instead. But on the other hand, I DO prefer those people to be heroic, not antiheroes (well, except sometimes). I want them to be faulty people who TRY. I want to see what a regular person would DO if they had more power than the average person, and I'd like to see them make the right choices. Because with Great Power, as the saying goes, comes Great Responsibility.

Which brings us back to Billy. When he was very young and training himself to be a superhero, he patterned himself after Superman. But the older he got, becoming an awkward, nerdy teenager (albeit one with superpowers), the more drawn to Spider-Man he became. Here was another nerdy kid trying to figure out how to manage his Great Power. Superman PRETENDED to be a nerd so people wouldn't notice he was actually an all-powerful alien. Peter Parker WAS a nerd. With spider powers. And that's why Billy found comfort in him as a teenager. He needed a role model he had a CHANCE of emulating.

So I take this argument kind of personally, on Billy's behalf. Heroes can be faulty and still have good intentions. Supers can have powers and still have problems. It's what you DO with what you've got that matters, whether your powers involve flight and telekinesis or whether they're just a bit more experience, a bit more money, or a bit more opportunity.

In conclusion... I guess I should keep holding out for a new story for Billy after all.

*Her name is Coriander Lemongrass and she's a Kender if the campaign has Kender but if not she's just an ordinary Hobbitty halfling, and her class also changes depending on the campaign-- right now she's a "thief" because that was the only appropriate class open to her in this campaign, but usually she's had some sort of magic, too-- bard seems to be the best fit. The best thing is, when I pulled her out and dusted her off for this current campaign, after YEARS, I looked up and said in shock, "You know what? Cori is totally Maddie. I CREATED MADDIE BEFORE SHE WAS BORN." 
rockinlibrarian: (sherlock)
As you may know, depending on how closely you follow me on other platforms or know me in real life, we recently took a trip to DISNEY WORLD (*ahem* didn’t mean to shout that, that’s just the sort of thing you can’t help shouting, so, anyway). Here is a little of that if you missed it. My parents went too, but were taking the autotrain, and they took the kids down with them because TRAIN! But Jason is always more comfortable in control of his own vehicle, even if he’s insanely in control of his own vehicle (don’t ride the Teacups with him with your eyes open), so the two of us drove down to meet them.

This, strangers out there in the wide internet world, means we took about a thousand miles of Interstate south from Southwestern Pennsylvania, the heart of Stillers Country, to Central Floria, Theme Park Capital of the World. Straight through the Deep South of America.

A lot has been said about the homogenization of America, even the world. We’re all chain establishments on big parking lots on huge highways, all over. But maybe it’s not that clear-cut. Maybe the similarities just make the differences stand out more. If the US and UK are two countries separated by a common language, the Mid-Atlantic and Southern States are two cultures separated by a common national government. Heck, Western and Eastern PA are different enough. We hadn’t left the country and it still felt totally foreign.

Little things, beyond the accents, would remind us we were somewhere else. Our stopover hotel in South Carolina had packets of Quaker Grits on the breakfast buffet instead of Quaker Oatmeal. Not even both! Just plenty of grits and no oatmeal in sight! Then, oh lord, the radio stations. We had some audiobooks but sometimes we’d search for radio stations and WHY IS IT SO FRIGGIN’ HARD TO FIND A DANG ROCK STATION IN THE SOUTH?! HOW MANY COUNTRY AND CONSERVATIVE TALK WITH THE OCCASIONAL POP STATION THROWN IN STATIONS DOES ANY AREA REALLY NEED. That may be just me.

But speaking of the radio, that brought it home (that we were AWAY from home) even more. There were commercials for gun stores— we have loads of gun stores in SW PA, I should know since I’d probably sent a resume on behalf of my dyslexic husband to all of them, but you just don’t hear them advertised on the radio. One of the ads boasted a collection of full-auto rifles they called their “Wall of Freedom,” which cracked us both up. “We need to move to the South!” he’d exclaim every time it would come on. “We absolutely do not!” I’d say back. It’s like the South took every stereotype about Conservative Americans and FLAUNTED it. It came out in the word choices of their radio personalities and the content of their billboards. My conservative husband was genuine about his wanting to move there (in theory at least)— he felt comfortable, like he belonged. I on the other hand did NOT. The commonality of billboards demanding that I meet Jesus were even more alienating to me than they were to my agnostic hubs, because I could tell by their very nature they’d been posted by people who genuinely believe I HAVEN’T met Jesus, that I’m an un-Christian idolator with my Roman Catholic ways. I gave him that Southern states with higher Hispanic populations, like Texas— or Florida, although Florida is different enough from the rest of the South in other ways too (like, you CAN find a decent selection of rock stations)— MIGHT be okay in that respect because there’d be a higher Catholic population than in this freaky Evangelical Southern Baptist Wonderland. Still, I'd still be a liberal in this area and I could already tell it would be weird. Where we are, in somewhat-rural-somewhat-suburban PA, ideology is pretty well-mixed— the chance that either of us is going to feel like the ideological weirdo in any group is a toss-up. What if you ALWAYS felt like the weirdo?

My biggest take-away from this: NO WONDER PEOPLE CAN’T COMMUNICATE ON THE INTERNET.

Yeah I know. Maybe that was a leap. But the day before we left I’d had an internet conversation with a person who was offended by the use of the word “spade” in a TV show. “I know it’s not meant to be derogatory in context, but because it’s a loaded word in other contexts you’d think they’d think twice about using it.” “Ummm,” people responded, “why would anyone’s brain GO there in this context though? A spade is a kind of shovel.” “Yes, but that’s an archaic term!” the first person continued. “It’s like using ‘gay’ to mean ‘happy’!” I finally commented, “’Spade’ as a gardening tool is not remotely archaic, I just used one this morning (and yes there’s a definite difference between ‘spade’, ‘shovel’, and ‘trowel,’ they’re not interchangeable). On the other hand I have never heard ‘spade’ used in a derogatory fashion at all and am not even clear what it’s meant to refer to, so I surely wouldn’t have thought twice about using it.” For a moment I rolled my eyes at myself for making the comment anyway— why bring that on myself? I’d just look like a clueless white girl to this person who would now find ME offensive. But the person responded thoughtfully, “Maybe it’s an East Coast vs. West Coast thing. Or rural vs. urban: no one I know would have any opportunity to use any gardening tools.” I kind of blinked at this. Sure, I grew up in a school district known for its outstanding Ag-Hort department, but you don’t have to live on a farm to stop by Home Depot to grab a few tools to deal with your yar…OH. I guess it IS theoretically possible, if you grew up in a big enough city and still lived there, that everyone you know MIGHT actually not even have a yard.

Huh.

Made me think of British and Irish people and the way they swear. There are words they say that they don’t think twice about— or if they do, it’s in the way somebody here might think “Should I say ‘damn’? There are children present.” And yet Americans are like “I can’t believe they said that on TV. Oh, and I can’t believe they said THAT one at all! Don’t they know how OFFENSIVE AND HATEFUL THAT IS?!” And said other-side-of-the-pond-er is like, “What? Why are Americans so prudish?” And then the quite-progressive-thank-you-very-much American is like “PRUDISH? No, YOU’RE being MISOGYNISTIC/RACIST/HOMOPHOBIC/WHATEVERTHATWORDAPPLIESTO by using that word!” And the Brit/Irish person blinks in bewilderment, then turns around and wonders how on earth Ron Weasley got away with using “bloody” so much in the movies.

So on the internet you find these people all over the world that have SO MUCH IN COMMON WITH YOU AND YOU’RE ALL EXCITED and then you end up getting into an argument over terminology or ideology that you think is OBVIOUSLY one way and so you’re shocked that these people you THOUGHT you had so much in common with could POSSIBLY subscribe to such abhorrent ways of thinking, when they’ve simply grown up in a culture with different connotations and weights for things!

I write about this sort of thing a lot on here, I know. I’m either preaching to the choir or you just don’t care and never will. But I do. I see so much strife and anger and hatred in the world that just comes out of MISCOMMUNICATION. Of people not realizing they’re coming from totally different places, whether physically or philosophically, and so they ASSUME things about each other and react according to those assumptions. “EVERYONE knows that’s offensive” isn’t true when you leave the culture where your “everyone” happened to be. Likewise “EVERYONE would know I didn’t mean it that way,” every bit. Both speaker and listener need to be aware that sometimes there’s going to be a disconnect, or the disconnect is just going to get wider as each person attempts to defend their own worldview to someone who doesn’t even realize the worldviews are different, and thinks the other is only being obstinate or oversensitive.

I was going to get into how this also applies to political memes, but I don’t feel like it though. It’s not a whole other kettle of fish, though, it’s actually the same kettle of fish. My husband and I have very different understandings of the concept of “socialism” for example. Sure, he knows Donald Trump is a narcissistic jerkfaced megalomaniac, but Bernie Sanders is, gasp, A SOCIALIST WHICH IS A MILLION TIMES WORSE. So what I think is a given good vs. evil-wise politically, he thinks is a completely different given (though I personally find it telling that I’d be fine with any of the current Democratic candidates, and he DOESN’T like any of the current Republican candidates, and yet he’d still vote for one of them before he’d vote for A SOCIALIST OR THAT EVIL EVIL CRIMINAL CLINTON. I don’t know, I think I’ve got the better stand here, don’t you? When HE doesn’t even like his own guys?)

So what I mean is, when people post political memes, they’re usually talking in a shorthand that only people who agree with them politically ALREADY will get. No one else is going to be convinced by it, they’re just going to be offended, because with THEIR understanding of the situation, whatever the dang meme says DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. And we end up bitterly hating people who, in real life, we’d probably like quite a lot. Or be married to, in some cases. Yeah, the hubs and I have tried to have political arguments but it just doesn’t work. Partly because he’s much better at verbalizing than I am so tends to dominate an argument which is JUST NOT FAIR, but also because our own ideas of what government is for are completely unaligned. In our own heads we are right and the other is wrong and nothing we say will make any difference because of that FUNDAMENTAL DISCONNECT.

So I guess I did get into that here. Anyway.

Day to day life is not about politics. We can agree to disagree about politics. Much more troubling is our disagreement on the best kinds of dietary changes we should make to our diet-that-definitely-needs-to-be-healthier-SOMEHOW (I am all for less meat and more salads, he’s all HECK NO but let’s snack less and avoid junk food and I’m like BUT SNACKS ARE HAPPINESS)--it’s much harder to agree-to-disagree on something that actually immediately affects your lives. But the POINT IS, the things people get all riled up about on the internet are probably not as big a deal as they seem. They’re probably just people speaking different versions of what they thought was the same language.

Side Arms

Oct. 1st, 2015 08:04 pm
rockinlibrarian: (beaker)
I have a friend from college, [livejournal.com profile] vovat, who's a pretty opinionated guy. But here's the thing: he likes to DISCUSS issues. He doesn't just pound his own opinion into his readers, he likes to listen to counterarguments and debate them rationally and thoughtfully. I don't always agree with him, but I know that when I don't I can safely tell him so and he'll respond with respect and often a really interesting argument.

Gosh that's rare on the Internet. And it's apparently nonexistent in modern-day politics (which is ironic-- doesn't the word "politics" technically mean "dealing rationally with other people"?). And too often I find myself stuck in the middle of parties shouting at each other and watching them get farther and farther from a solution instead of closer to one.

GUNS are a particularly thorny issue for me. See, I used to be pretty anti-gun, and then I met the man who would be my husband, who is a literally certified gun nut. (SMITH, I mean. He's LITERALLY a CERTIFIED gunSMITH). Talking to him, I came to see his point of view. It's a valid hobby. He's safe and responsible. I'm not like "But why do people even NEED guns?" any more. No gun banning for me. But I'm still a peacenik, and I still see problems with the current gun climate. So I'm not on either SIDE, and apparently that's not possible on the Internet.

So every time there's a shooting, the SIDES start screaming at each other, and I feel depressed because I'm stuck in the middle.

In July Nathan posted about gun issues, and I commented on it, and it was REFRESHING. It was SO refreshing because he HAS that safe space to argue on his blog, and when yet another shooting happened in August and the Internet started yelling at each other again, I went back to find this post, and my comment, just to get back in that safe space. I added a new comment:
"Hey, people on both sides are yelling on social media again and it just reminded me of commenting on this post. Because on social media there’s no point saying anything, it’s always on the defensive, either defending gun owners to GunsREvil folks or defending security-tightening to the SlipperySlope folks. And I remembered writing this comment, and what struck me about the memory was that I actually wrote MY thoughts on the subject. I wasn’t defending any position in relation to anybody else, and trying to tread lightly, I just called it like I saw it and felt totally safe to do so."

So people are yelling on the Internet again, and again I thought of my comment on this post, what a relief it was to SPEAK MY MIND instead of feeling like I needed to argue against two extremes. So anyway, this is the comment in question:

"As a hippie peacenik married to a gun nut, I feel I’ve got a pretty good view of “both” sides of the issue, and the fact that there ARE two extreme sides is probably the most frustrating thing about it. Well, that the sides are extreme, that is. Because if anyone should suggest a moderate compromising solution, ie a GOOD solution, it gets immediately shut down. Every time I’ve got to renew the guy’s NRA membership I just groan, ugh, THEM? They need more of your money to keep spreading their agenda of panic? (Then there’s the lesser-known Gun Owners of America, which J claims is even MORE extreme in their politics. I’m not even sure I want to know. Actually, I think THEY may be the ones responsible for the “MORE GUNS MEANS LESS CRIME” rhetoric). If only they would STOP panicking long enough to accept that regulation is not the same as banning, but they just start screaming “SLIPPERY SLOPE! SLIPPERY SLOPE!” I think people should be required to test for licenses the way they are in order to drive a car, but if you suggest that the NRA starts comparing it to, like, Mutant Registration, or for the less-geeky among them the registration of minorities by tyrannies. BUT HOW IS HAVING A DRIVER’S LICENSE LIKE THAT. You have to earn the right to handle a potentially deadly machine, and then you have proof that you’ve earned that right. It’s not the same as being registered just for BEING.

But then every time there’s a mass shooting I have to listen to people crying that this is why we shouldn’t have guns! No guns! Guns kill people! And I’m like, “People, there’s an arsenal in my basement. I struggle with mental illness. AND GUESS WHAT, I’ve never been tempted to go on a shooting spree.” HATE kills people. HATE is the problem. HATE is the thing we REALLY need less of. But that’s hard to quantify, so we demonize the weapons instead. Which in turn makes the Enneatype 6s in the NRA panic further about their security blankets* being taken away from them, making them even less likely to listen to reason. :P

I’m so sick of it. Literally, this unresolvable quarrelling turns my stomach.

*J likens it to wearing a seat belt, himself."


And that's what I have to say on the matter. Now whenever I find myself lost in the shouting matches again, I can come right back to this post, secure that I DO have my own opinion and it's not anybody else's. We don't have to keep perpetuating the cycle of people just getting more extreme to counteract the people they disagree with. That's not the way we solve problems.
rockinlibrarian: (love)
Yeah, I know, I just posted two days ago, but the second reading at church got me fired up and I have to follow it, by, you know, DOING.

This was the second reading, James 2:14-18 (I'm linking to one translation and copying another-- I THINK this one I copied is the one in our missalette, but either way, you can compare translations and see I'm not making it up):
What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
But some one will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.


Conservative Christianity apparently likes to ignore this passage, and that's a very big problem. Why is the "Christianity" we so often see in the news linked to people who talk up their faith all the time but only ever USE that faith to HURT others? Why is it linked to people who DON'T welcome immigrants and refugees, who DON'T comfort and/or defend the imprisoned, who DON'T feed and clothe the poor? Who, in fact, talk about how the poor just aren't working hard enough and if they'd only just pull themselves up by their metaphorical bootstraps they'd be fine? Yeah, exactly, Just go in peace and be warm and filled. JUST DO IT and if you can't that's obviously your own fault.

I used to be a lot more patient with conservatism. In many ways I still am conservative. But here's the problem with conservatism: what it IS, by definition, is saying "The way things have always been is the way things ought to be. CHANGE will only bring problems." This doesn't automatically make a conservative attitude BAD, because sometimes this is true. But it's not ALWAYS true: sometimes, MANY times, The Way Things Have Always Been is only how it ought to be for YOU and the people you know and love. Your privilege blinds you to the PROBLEMS with the way things are.

One of my favorite songs is "Dialogue pts 1 & 2" by Chicago. Here's the lyrics, because there's a lot of them and it's too long to copy into this post. Anyway, when I was younger I identified a lot with Peter Cetera's character there. I thought it was nice of the guy for pointing out that things really weren't SO bad. I'm an optimist, you know? And I'M doing okay.

And it was only the other day that I was listening to this song and it finally clicked. He's not being optimistic, he's BLINDED BY PRIVILEGE. He "always thought that everything was fine," and throughout the eponymous dialogue he keeps trying to hang onto that, onto his feelings of comfort and security that the questions of his friend are threatening to pop. It's a FORCED optimism. EVERYTHING IS FINE JUST THE WAY IT IS LALALALALALALA.

Except it's not, and by the end he realizes he's been "numb," even as his friend takes comfort from his apparent optimism. But that's GREAT. Because all that privilege and optimism can come in handy for FIXING the problems. That's why everyone starts singing that "we can make it happen" at the end. The privileged guy is needed. He has resources. He just needed to WAKE UP and accept that his own little bubble of reality isn't ALL of reality.

See, the only reason Christianity and Conservatism are linked in this country is because Christianity has been the dominant religion in this country for most of its (the country's, not Christianity's) existence. So if you are a Christian BECAUSE you are conservative, you're not really challenging yourself. It's just a dogma you talk about, a label you accept, because it's the way things have always been in your world. That is not what Christianity IS though. It's not about upholding the status quo. It's about ACTION.

The Gospel reading today further highlighted this notion of Just-because-it's-always-been-this-way-doesn't-mean-it's-good. "You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do...For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it."

This is what it means! We privileged folks have to let go of our comfortable denial of the problems among our fellow human beings! We have to wake up and reach out and BE Christ in the world, Christ who absolutely did NOT use "that's the way it's always been" as an excuse to not heal just because it was the Sabbath, to exclude women from his teaching, to stone sinners to death. The way it's always been does not trump the way it ought to BE. We can't pound the Bible and go on about what good Christians we are and what sinners everyone else is if we're not truly LIVING as Christ for others, and that means mercy, acceptance, generosity, hospitality.

I'm sick of Christianity being co-opted by hypocrites. In some situations the conservative way IS the Christian way, but not here, not now. Here and now Christians need to step up and make sure our fellow human beings actually HAVE food and clothing, that they actually HAVE the ability to go in peace.

Time to show the world that Christianity IS a liberal religion, by showing our faith through ACTION.
rockinlibrarian: (hi maddie)
Ten years and one month ago today yesterday (I got busy!), this happened.*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not repressing criticism: http://www.bookshelvesofdoom.org/blog/2015/3/12/if-you-dont-have-anything-nice-to-say-dont-say-anything-at-all

Discussion I got into on this point: http://www.themarysue.com/anthony-mackie-representation/#comment-1939963578

Two people like me: http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2015/04/02/397039952/jokes-fights-and-controversy-in-a-frictionless-void
http://haikujaguar.livejournal.com/1469271.html

What it comes down to: http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/2015/03/sunday-reflections-on-trying-to-be-better/


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.
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