three things: 1/22/17

FEED: I’ll be feeding for a week off the energy from the Women’s March. The organizers in Austin were expecting 22,000 people but there were between 50,000 and 60,000. I marched with my dear friend Deb and my wonderful daughter Katie, who was able to come after all thanks to her husband’s work schedule. We were near the front of the [alleged] starting point, but there were so many people already on Congress Avenue, in front of the capitol, that it was almost an hour before we started moving.

That’s the Texas state capitol (it’s a replica of the US capitol, but in pink granite). Deb and Katie and I were at the bottom of that paired row of trees on the front lawn, waiting to march down…..
Congress Avenue, the broad street that is the center of downtown, going from the capitol, over the river, into south Austin. It was extraordinary, no kidding.

People like to say that Austin is a big city, but it isn’t, really. Chicago, LA, NY, Boston, those are big cities. Austin is a large town with a WHOLE LOT of people in it. So this was amazing. People came in buses from all around the state, they drove in this morning, just to march here, in front of our regressive state government. It was peaceful. Beautiful. I wanted to hug every single person I saw.

Katie and I, waiting for the march to get started, about an hour before it was to begin. Marnie marched in Chicago, and Marc marched in NYC. Our family represented!

SEED: I’ll tell you this: trolls have zero sense of irony. Yesterday a nasty little troll who lives near Roswell, Georgia left an anonymous comment on my blog that said this:

why don’t you and your radical friends move to Russia!!!!! (subject line: “sick of your bs”)

HAHAHAHAHA! Gosh. Where even to begin. I think it’s a safe bet that this troll is a Trumpeter. Right? That she (for I have figured out who she is) voted for Putin’s puppet. What is it about people like this that always makes them tell us to move to Russia, anyway? Also: trolls love exclamation points. !!!!!

And these extra “patriotic” trolls have their little feelings hurt so badly when an American exercises her First Amendment rights. Choose-your-own-patriotism, I guess.

Also, if you are “sick of [my] bs” I have a simple little fix for you: don’t read it! No one is forcing you. Please, feel free to never read my blog again, I’m serious! Do me and yourself a favor, please. Because I’m not going to be silent so you can be comfortable (and especially not on my own damn blog! Sheesh!).

This is something I really do not understand. I know a couple of people who voted for Trump, and I never bring up politics with them. Never. (Similarly, I never comment on (or read) their political FB posts, ever, but they will slap a comment on mine, what??) Because there is no point, the abyss is too deep. I never bring up politics, and if a conversation by others starts drifting in that direction, I do my best to shift it into a safer zone. But they inevitably bring up politics with me, and you can tell that I have opinions, dammit. (And not only that, I’m super angry about this, which they also know from previous times they’ve brought up politics. What is that about?) So if they do, I don’t hold back. I say exactly what I think, and I’m not delicate about it. They brought up the conversation, and they know my position. I get very upset and shaky inside, because one friend especially I care about so much, I love her dearly, and I don’t want to unleash my anger at her, but I am angry. So it’s completely unpleasant for me, I don’t like it, I don’t wish to talk about it, but THEY BRING IT UP. Again and again. One has said things to me like, “Don’t you agree, liberals don’t think for themselves?” WITH FOX NEWS BLARING IN THE BACKGROUND.

Oh, I’m angry. I’m so angry. It’s not pleasant to have these intense feelings, and I am trying to figure out why my fury is this huge. I really hate unfairness, especially when people who have power wield it over those who don’t — that’s something that always makes me see red. So maybe it’s that, I don’t know, but I’d like to get a handle on it so I don’t stroke out, because I have a lot of political work to do.

Trolls? If you don’t like what I write here, on my own tiny little corner of the Internet, just leave me alone. Please.

READ: So I finished reading A Man Called Ove, which took me so long because I’ve been on a great run of sleeping. Here’s my GoodReads review, in case you’re interested in reading the book:

A Man Called OveA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I was deciding whether to read this book, I noticed that the most common word in all the Amazon and GoodReads reviews was “charming.” And honestly, I couldn’t write a review without that word either! It’s not just that the man called Ove was curmudgeonly charming, it’s that the approach of the book was charming, too. From the funny chapter titles to the way the story is fed out, to the glorious characters, to Ove’s endless stumbling blocks to joining Sonja, every last bit was charming. The general plot was a bit predictable — exuberant new neighbor saves sad old curmudgeon who finds no use for life until she explodes into his life — but honestly? That didn’t matter. I didn’t care. I didn’t care that I spotted the plot arc the moment they met. I didn’t care that the various subplots were predictable. In large part that’s because of the good storytelling, the lovely writing, and the moments of big truth, and in the remaining part it’s because I really cared about Ove, a lot. Really good book, I enjoyed reading it a lot, and always regretted that my time to read is too brief. [View all my reviews]

Now I’m reading another Scandinavian book (Ove was Swedish, this one’s Norwegian) one called Land of Hidden Fires, which I am reading for NetGalley. More on that later. New book club in the house tonight, to discuss Underground Railroad oh heck yeah.

I just like to share!

Through the terrible stress of this everlasting nightmare of our presidential election, I have relied on a number of ways of coping — some have been good, and some have NOT been so good. And I’ve been inconsistent in using the good ones, perhaps because the benefit isn’t immediate and my stress is begging for immediate relief (even though they help me more, and without causing trouble). Yoga, walking, cooking beautiful and healthy food, meditation, those have flickered in and out of use.

My less-good ways of coping have filled me with junk. Other stresses. And even though I know this, going in — as I eat another donut, or another BLOCK O’ CHEESE — I often feel completely unable to stop myself. In New York especially, since Marc keeps a fridge just about as opposite mine as possible, and since he makes things for me like gravlax, my stress eating is less good for me than when I’m in Austin. After I inhale a pound of cheese, let’s say, I feel very crappy (to say the least, and I’m trying to say the least, here).

Another way I’ve been dealing with this stress has been a constant consuming of social media. I am on Facebook non-stop, and while I am reading and responding to posts that present the same political position I share, and that help me feel less alone, it also keeps me stirred up. But it’s become a compulsion, an impossible-to-resist response to stress.

It’s also true that when I’m here in Austin, I sit alone in my house day in and day out. I will have a little social activity here or there, but I sit in silence all day and night, and without anyone else to interact with at all. And I like that! It’s not that I don’t like that. I really do, especially in the days after I’ve been in New York and feel overwhelmed by people and noise and non-stop interruptions. The silence and solitude are wonderful! AND again and again I’ll think about something, or read something, or see something, and turn to share it with…… ah, no one. There’s no one here. No one to say, “Hey, listen to this!” to. And so that’s another reason I hop onto Facebook. Wow, look at this. Hey, you won’t believe this! Ah, read this beautiful thing. Look. Listen. Read. Wow.

I’ve missed my blog. My absence from it has been due to a lot of reasons; I’m doing other writing, long-form writing, and trying to spend my time in that manuscript, and otherwise I’ve been kind of blanked-out with stress and fear. It occurred to me that I could help myself with two of these things in one fell swoop: Instead of machine gunning Facebook, I can collect the things I want to share with someone and put them in a post here. That will have the benefit of making them easier for me to find again, too. Aside from political stuff (which I will not share here because I just really need to avoid it all completely for my own sanity), the stuff I share will fall into the ordinary categories of things I share on Facebook: book recommendations, interesting articles, poetry, images, family stuff.

And so, here goes:

  • Do you know Hélène Cixous? I hadn’t heard of her until I read a quote about her by Lidia Yuknavitch, so I looked her up and now I must MUST read her. This quote seems especially relevant in the United States as we are teetering on the brink of living under a Christian Taliban: “But I am just a woman who thinks her duty is not to forget. And this duty, which I believe I must fulfill, is: “as a woman” living now I must repeat again and again “I am a woman,” because we exist in an epoch still so ancient and ignorant and slow that there is still always the danger of gynocide.” ― Hélène Cixous, The Book of Promethea
lidia
read Lidia.
  • The quote from Lidia Yuknavitch that sent me to Hélène Cixous was from The Chronology of Water, which I highly recommend: “With Hélène Cixous you must close your eyes and open your mouth. Wider. So open your throat opens. Your esophagus. Your lungs. Wider. So open your spine unclatters. Your hips swim loose. Your womb worlds itself. Wider. Open the well of your sex. Now speak your body from your other mouth. Yell corporeal prayer. This is writing.” WOW.
  • Have you ever read May Sarton? I’ve always wanted to and somehow never have, yet, but yesterday Sherlock sent Peggy and me this BrainPickings post about May Sarton and the use of anger in creativity. That’s a thing you hear, right? “Turn your anger towards your work.” Transform that energy into creation. I need to carefully read that piece and think about it, because I hope it has something for me. I am swamped by the experience of anger, overwhelmed by it, and often paralyzed by it. So when I feel it, I become scared that I’ll explode, that I’ll express it awfully, and often I do, and it’s just tough, and especially tough for women. I once asked members of my book club to write about a time they were angry (we were tentatively trying these writing sessions), and one member became absolutely enraged at my suggestion, saying she doesn’t get angry because it’s not useful. The time didn’t seem right to point out just how angry she was. 🙂 But I am in desperate need of learning how to manage anger! It’s my oldest lesson I have yet to learn, so I’m hoping the BrainPickings post and then reading some Sarton will help. Any words you might have on either Sarton or anger will be appreciated.
  • The idea of living in Australia or New Zealand has become kind of irresistible; a thread developed on a Facebook post by a friend who originally shared this video:

[embedplusvideo height=”450″ width=”640″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/2f42PPI” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/9v97xH6Bof0?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=9v97xH6Bof0&width=640&height=450&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=0&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep7574″ /]

[First…I mean, RIGHT????] One friend responded to the video by asking me what it’s like to live here right now, and in the ensuing conversation, I got invitations to move to all the major cities of Australia, with explanations of their great aspects, and a bunch of bids for life in NZ, which is not just gorgeous but is also lacking in snakes. 🙂 They were just so adorable, every last one, and every time I woke up during the night, mid-Trump-panic, reading that thread made me grin so hard.

  • Today’s poem: Carpe Diem, by Jim Harrison:

Night and day
seize the day, also the night —
a handful of water to grasp.
The moon shines off the mountain
snow where grizzlies look for a place
for the winter’s sleep and birth.
I just ate the year’s last tomato
in the year’s fatal whirl.
This is mid-October, apple time.
I picked them for years.
One Mcintosh yielded sixty bushels.
It was the birth of love that year.
Sometimes we live without noticing it.
Overtrying makes it harder.
I fell down through the tree grabbing
branches to slow the fall, got the afternoon off.
We drove her aqua Ford convertible into the country
with a sack of red apples. It was a perfect
day with her sun-brown legs and we threw ourselves
into the future together seizing the day.
Fifty years later we hold each other looking
out the windows at birds, making dinner,
a life to live day after day, a life of
dogs and children and the far wide country
out by rivers, rumpled by mountains.
So far the days keep coming.
Seize the day gently as if you loved her.

Happy Saturday, y’all! It’s going to be a great one for me — birthday lunch with a friend, and the lit crawl tonight with poetry group friends. Also: It’s my BIRTHDAY EVE YO! xoxoxoxo

TODAY"S PHOTO: Marnie is in Seattle to exhibit her new book, and she sent me this picture, note the caption. :)
TODAY”S PHOTO: Marnie is in Seattle to exhibit her new book, and she sent me this picture, note the caption. 🙂

anger

My beloved teacher in all things human had a great song, “What Do You Do With the Mad That You Feel?”

[embedplusvideo height=”240″ width=”350″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/25e20ZA” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/xTs73qO5ehk?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=xTs73qO5ehk&width=350&height=240&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=0&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep1598″ /]

At the time I found him, and first heard this song, I hadn’t yet begun to see just how mad I really was about what had happened to me. If you’d asked me if I were mad I’d be bewildered — “No, I’m not mad! Maybe I’m frustrated a little bit!” — but it would be clear to everyone else that I was very very mad. Even Helen Keller would’ve immediately signed, “What’s wrong with her? She’s obviously pissed off!”

As much as I love that little song, and I think about it a lot, I never felt like it gave me a good answer. And so I’ve spent much of my adult life asking people — women especially — what they do when they feel mad. And I haven’t yet heard an answer that felt like a solution for me, which most likely means I’m looking for something that doesn’t exist, a handy little set of if-then tools, problem solved.

angerI mean, the first, most obvious thing would be: you’re angry, so feel angry! Except I think that’s not at ALL obvious! That’s several steps down the fix-it road for me, because when I begin to feel angry it’s immediately converted into either “I’m so frustrated” or “I’m so depressed.” (Which isn’t to say this is always true of course, but it’s definitely true when my anger feels threatening to me about a close relationship.) (I have zero problems feeling, recognizing, and saying clearly that I’m furious in traffic, for instance.) So often in my life, my anger has been converted so quickly into depression that I wonder the proportion; have 80% of my depressions really just been about anger? I suspect so.

But let’s say I magically get to the point of knowing and being able to say that I’m angry. Then what? The Mister Rogers song says you can punch a pillow. Others say to write about it. I think anger fades almost seamlessly into issues around forgiveness, in many cases at least, so the anger might go away but the thing itself remains, either as a one-time thing (either to be let go of or forgiven) or as an ongoing issue that needs to be addressed.

When you are completely inexperienced at something and begin to try doing it, you are not very elegant. You go too far, or maybe it feels too far but really you haven’t gone far enough. And expressing anger is tricky because just as people are inexperienced expressing it, people are often not very good at receiving it so they lash out, attack you, redirect, gaslight you, or take the opportunity to bring up all the reasons THEY are mad at YOU. So there you are, inelegantly and a bit like a scared rabbit trying to express your anger, and the results can be disastrous.

In the Shambhala tradition of Buddhism, the only one I’m familiar with, the whole purpose of meditation is to help you learn to sit with emotions, to be present with them. Not to run away into a story, not to shut down, not to find a way to ignore them or act as if they don’t matter. And so that’s a start. I can first learn how to be clear about what I’m feeling when it’s anger, and to acknowledge to myself that I’m mad. Furious, maybe. Pissed off. That’s the name for the feeling. So I guess that’s one good answer: what do you do with the mad that you feel? You feel it. You sit there with it, and observe it and don’t run off into your various shady stories. I’m mad. It’s not killing me and it’s not leading me to kill anyone. It’s a feeling, and I can feel it. There. I see what happens to me when I’m mad. My shoulders squinch up to my ears. I frown and grind my jaw. I darken. My stomach hurts. I launch into all these “always” and “never” story lines in my head. Maybe what happens, then, is the intensity of that emotion gets experienced and bled of its power, and then you’re left with whatever made you mad. And then I’m right back where I started. Then what?

I’m still very confused and in the dark about anger, and I want to know: What do you do with the mad that you feel, when you feel so mad you could bite? [lyrics here] What do you do? I guess the question has a couple of critical parts:

  1. What do you do with that feeling? Do you express it in some way? Do you suppress it, argue it away, hide yourself away, lash out? Maybe you have a characteristic-to-you approach, or maybe it’s always different, but I’d sure love to know what you do.
  2. And then what do you do about the thing that made you mad? Do you say something in the moment? Do you come back later and say something about it? Do you always do that, or does it have to be an exceptional circumstance? [me, I never do any of that. I don’t say something then or ever, and the circumstance can be big or small, I won’t talk about what made me angry with the person who made me angry.]

Partly I really do want to know what you do, because I’m curious about women’s experiences of anger. And partly I want to normalize how hard it is to deal with this kind of emotion — because we all feel it! Whether you’re a person who lives in the world easily angered, finding lots of opportunities to be enraged all the time, or whether you’re the opposite, anger happens. So many women are essentially told they can’t be angry and that really infuriates me. 🙂 But it does.

BOYS.

NOLately, I’ve asked every decent man I know, “What is it with boys??!” I’ll come back to an answer one gave me in a minute, after I explain my question.

So I am thoroughly heartbroken by the end of my marriage. I love my husband, still. I have less than no interest in men; as I’ve said elsewhere, I have so little interest in dating I somehow owe something to the “interest in dating” pot just to bring me up to neutral. No. Interest. Period. Not now, and not ever. (People always smile a little and shake their heads and say, you will, just give it time. Nope. I know things about myself that no one else does, obviously, and I know how much and why I mean this. You’ll just have to take my word for it.) But aside from my true lack of interest [period], I’m also still married, and will be until sometime early next year. The state of NY requires a formal separation period of one year before divorce can be initiated. So I am married, and it’s just shy of 4 months from that cataclysm. The cataclysm that still shakes my heart and can lay me low at times.

Because I’m new to town, and because I work alone, I joined some meetup groups to get myself out of my house, and to try to find a couple of female friends. Once I find a couple of friends, I will be entirely resigning from all the groups, because my goal wasn’t to become a professional meet-upper but just to find a couple of women friends. I belong to a bunch of women-only groups, primarily because I’m looking for female friends, but I also belong to a bunch of interest groups that are open to men and women. Because there are women there, that’s why I joined. I am explicit and clear with all men who talk to me: I am not here for dating. I am not interested in dating. I do not want to date. I am seeking friends only. I am not now and will not be looking for someone to date. I’ve even put that in my profile for the various groups. I just don’t know how to be more clear about this, except to perhaps wear a sandwich board sign. Maybe I’ll have to do that. When I first started going to the events I didn’t think I needed to say that until and unless it became an issue. I have learned it has to be the very first thing I say to them.

Despite being so clear — and despite the fact that one man in particular even repeated it back to me, oh, you’re really not wanting to date, I really understand and I’m not looking for that either, you just want to find friends, I get that — they push themselves on me in overtly sexual ways. One tried to kiss me (the one who repeated it back to me). One tried to hold my hand. And don’t get me started on their 13-year-old conversation; I don’t think there is anything you could say that they couldn’t and wouldn’t turn around into a sexual innuendo accompanied by a leer. The kitchen sink, they’d find a way. Fire ants, somehow they’d twist it around. And these are men in their 60s! Educated men, master’s at least. Men from all parts of the country, some from other countries, Europe mostly. It is appalling. I do not want to hate men, I do not want to have to walk away from all of them, I do not want to have to sequester myself in female-only communities, but they are making me seriously consider it.

So this morning I asked a very dear friend, a man in his 80s who considers himself my good Jewish father, what is it with boys. I told him about the man who tried to kiss me. He is very happily married, his grandchildren are young adults, he has a PhD, he’s a very serious person, and his answer to my question was, “well, you are so kissable.”

I’ve quit smiling at them. I’ve become cold and hard when they speak to me. I keep my arms crossed. I tend to every single bit of body language possible, in addition to saying so clearly that I am not interested. I know it’s possible to be friends with men; one of my dearest friends in New York was Craig, and we were close and the line was never even approached, much less crossed. And one of my oldest friends is Sherlock; I love him dearly and would do anything for him, and I know he’d do the same for me (hell, he already showed that). And we are friends, no line approaching worries — not least because I love his wife every bit as much — and it was true even before he married her. He is my friend. Craig is my friend. We are just friends. It is possible to be friends with a man, I know that. Maybe the issue here and now is that people are in meetups for a reason; most are single (though there are plenty of married couples). There are “looking for dating” meetups, but these are not that kind, I do not join those. Still, they’re mostly single people, probably 80%.

The thing that makes me so incredibly angry is their utter disrespect of me as a person. If I gave mixed signals, if I were flirtatious, if I simply didn’t state my intentions, OK, ok. I just don’t know what’s in their heads. I wonder if it’s, “oh, she doesn’t mean that, she just doesn’t know me.” It’s the same attitude that goes a little further to date rape. I am saying no. I am saying NO. NO. NO. I even made a scene once. I’m trying to be able to slap the next man who treats me like that, I just have to remember in time, react in time. They are helping me by making it predictable and common, so I’ll surely get experience preparing myself.

And thus endeth my vent, made partly in preparation for going to a St Pat’s party where I imagine this will come up at least once.