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Posts Tagged ‘personal exploration’

One of the things that frustrates me most in life is when I know what’s wrong, but don’t know what to do about it.  There is no instruction manual, there’s no hint, you can’t flip to the last page for the answers.  Some people like it call it common sense, but common sense is only previously acquired knowledge that is applied to situations which are similar to what you’ve already learned.  If you have never previously been taught how to deal with similar issues, then there is no such thing as applying ‘common sense’ to these things.

When our entire lives have been dominated by what the masculine image of feminine is, there is no basis for applying common sense to much of how to deal with these issues.  You can recognize them, you can understand the damaging effects, but you can still be just as lost as to how to *do* something about it.

Part of that is recognizing that our society is very damaged, but that we have other examples, other societies we can look to for guidance.  These other societies don’t even have to be perfect, they just have to do one thing – just one thing – that demonstrates a better way.  They don’t have to necessarily be countries, either.  They can be sub-cultures, organizations, they can be ancient societies that no longer exist, but if we have some record of them, some understanding, then we can start to build a fuller picture of what is possible.

I remember years and years ago hearing about a certain American Indian culture – I sadly have forgotten which nation it was – and the way they recognize a girl’s first menstruation.

The women would gather together and make things.  Just, whatever needed to be made.  Think of it like a quilting circle or something, it was a social thing they did together.  The young girls would be at this circle, and listen to the women talking to one another.  They were, from an early age, surrounded by the stories and points of view of their elder women.  The girls would learn to make the things the women made.  By the time she reached puberty, the girl would have made many things.

When she had her first menstruation, she would be taken into a tent with other women who would pass on more adult knowledge to her than she would have received with the other girls.  They would help prepare her for the changes she would experience, and the changes to come.  They would teach her things at this time that she would not have learned before.

At the end of this, she would leave the tent, and take the many things she had made – whether it was a doll or a pouch or a beaded band – and each item she would give to an elder woman, and she would tell that woman what trait or character she hoped to learn from her.

This is a very sketchy retelling of what I heard, but the gist of it is this: women mentored younger girls and women.  Women told their stories to younger girls and women.  Women embraced one another’s femininity.

Rather than associating menstruation with PMS, bitchiness, and queasiness over menstrual blood, or worse, associating any negative emotion by a woman with the assumption she must be menstruating, this natural female cycle was celebrated and given a beautiful ritual status.

We have been taught to demonize something that lies at the very heart of our femininity, to be shamed by it and afraid of it, to be silent about it.  Imagine the empowerment of our girls if we embraced and celebrated this cycle!  If we stopped shaming the very thing that we have that men don’t!

When we stop being ashamed of it ourselves, men will not be able to shame us with it, either.

Embracing this fundamental natural fact of the feminine can be a catalyst that guides us towards embracing every other natural aspect of ourselves, from our body hair to our diversity in body shapes, sizes and colors.  From our natural complexion to our beautiful wrinkles, to our hair without straighteners or dying out our marvelous gray.

Age used to mean wisdom and respect.  Now it’s something to be feared, fought, denied, and resisted at all costs.  Why?  Because the 18-34 yr old male demographic that is the golden audience for almost every kind of media produced.

How do we achieve this monumental task of reordering our perceptions about our own bodies?  Turn off the TV, put down the magazine, the insidious truth of advertising is that it only works if it can convince you that what you are isn’t good enough.  Otherwise, why would anyone buy a product to make themselves different?  If you were beautiful, you wouldn’t need their makeup and hair products and nail polish and diet pills and clothes and shoes and botox and teeth whitening strips and three-step skin conditioner and tanning salon.

So the last thing these companies want you to believe about yourself is that you’re beautiful!  That you’re okay the way you are.  Your disharmony with yourself is the foundation to their sales!

There is nothing wrong with wearing makeup.  There is something wrong with feeling that you have to wear makeup.  The weight loss industry in the US is a multi-billion dollar a year wake-up call that their fix isn’t working, it’s just keeping us unhappy, unhealthy, and most importantly, it keeps us pouring our dollars into their businesses.

What if we taught our girls that their self-worth wasn’t proportional to the numbers on the scale?  The kicker is, you don’t teach this in a lesson plan with pencils and text books and give a test at the end.  This is taught by modeling the behavior that your weight isn’t your measure of self-worth, by restricting the media’s access to your house which displays one vary narrow and often not even a real image of a woman’s body, by giving them the tools to understand their bodies, and the tools to stand up to those who try to define them by their bodies.

It can be scary to be the one who doesn’t follow the social flow of what is expected of us.  But what is expected of us is to conform to a male ideal of what female should be.  I put it to you: who made men the expert on what it is to be feminine!?  Men have been “telling” us for decades that they don’t understand women, so why do we let them dictate how we understand ourselves!?

We need to create a culture in which women teach women what it means to be a woman.  Where feminine is defined by females.  Where our bodies don’t need to be stretched and cropped, lightened and Photoshopped to be considered beautiful.

Imagine if we found just one thing about our femininity that we could embrace and pursue with all our hearts, the kind of revolution we could create for ourselves.

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Yes, I’m totally stealing the quantum physics term because… well, it fits.   Or maybe yarn theory would be a better term, since I spin yarn 😉

This isn’t anything new, in fact this is probably retold, rehashed, regurgitated from 10,000 years of existence, but isn’t that what blogs are for?

Take any random ball of knotted string, yarn, thread, rope,… and untangle.  At the end, assuming you succeed, it’s all one continuous string.

Sometimes it’s so hard to discuss one area of life without getting so caught up in every other connected area of life.  But should we even try?  Like that ball of string, there is no area of life that *isn’t* connected.  You can’t tug on this without altering that.  You can’t understand that without looking also at this.

I love watching documentaries.  Even the completely wild crazy Ancient Alien theory documentaries.  I love watching history documentaries and psychology documentaries and sociological documentaries.  And I know I’m not genius, I don’t have multiple PhDs in a wide range of areas… but it’s funny how watching these documentaries it sometimes seems like if they had only brought in experts in some other field of study, that they probably could have figured out whatever it was that had plagued their research a lot earlier and a lot more accurately.

That’s not to accuse them of not doing so.  I’m sure many researchers, scientists, and such often cross fields of expertise to form conclusions.  But it also seems that it isn’t as routine and expected as it should be.

We do this kind of segregation in our own lives far too often.  Sure, sometimes we connect the dots all too clearly (my frustrations at work affect my relationships at home, for example) but sometimes we can’t see the connection, or don’t want to see it…

work – finances -stress – weight – sleep –  gardening – pets – house keeping – allergies – diet – exercise – creativity – relationships – self esteem – work

It doesn’t matter how segregated we try to make these areas of life, they insist on all tying themselves together into a single string, knotted and confused, tugging one affecting the others… there is no such thing as one area of my life… it’s all the same string.

My relationship with my mother affects my house keeping, my housekeeping affects my self esteem, my self esteem affects my work, work gives me a paycheck which affects my finances, which affect my stress levels, which affect my diet and weight, and all of it affects my sleep, which creates a feedback to my diet and weight and stress, which affect my creativity, which affects my self esteem… every aspect of my life is inexorably bound up with every other aspect.

It makes it really hard to focus on certain areas because ultimately the roots have spread so far that I end up having to look at every area which becomes overwhelming.

I watched a documentary on the worship of feminine in the earliest records of Egypt, how the society was matriarchal at the very beginning.  And it got me wondering about how my own views of what it means to be a woman, what “feminine” is, because today we aren’t really surrounded by feminine, we’re surrounded with the masculine idea of feminine.

But then asking what feminine is makes me question if I can even arrive at an answer, precisely because we’re surrounded by the masculine and the masculine idea of feminine, and I can’t be sure that my own opinion hasn’t been so colored by that as to be unreliable for an answer.

Which makes me wonder if that’s why I’ve always had such a hard time writing women in my stories, because somewhere inside I don’t really know what it means to be one, and when I try to write it it comes out wrong because somewhere inside I know that much of what I think I know is wrong, but I don’t really know where to go from there.

I can’t even write “me” in my stories, because I find I really don’t understand myself, or I get lost between what I would do and what I wish I’d do.

And having a hard time writing women only makes me want to do it more, because I feel there’s this gaping hole that I need to explore, this dark chasm that I’ve been afraid to step foot in because the light doesn’t shine far enough to see where I’m going once I start.

That fear, if I’m really honest with myself, keeps me from doing a lot of things that I feel I need to do.  But it also makes me wonder if some of the things I *do* do to try to be feminine aren’t missing the mark, or even misleading myself.

So I have been trying to answer the question “what does it mean to be feminine” and in doing so I’m exploring what other cultures have defined as feminine, or how matriarchal societies worked and were structured.  Because in my culture, I’m told I should compete with other women for a man, I should dress in a certain way to be attractive, I should be a certain weight to be attractive, I should be a certain color to be attractive.   I live in a society that tells me what I *am* isn’t good enough: it sells me clothes and magazines and movies, diet pills and tanning beds, whitening creams and hair straighteners, fake nails and false pretenses.  It sells me “power suits” and teaches the 5 masculine traits to succeed in business.  Nothing about my culture tells me what I am is good.

I work in a male-dominated industry, in a male-dominated department, in a male-dominated industry, because I followed in the footsteps of my father.  Whom I adore without question.  But all of it builds up.

So the string so far is that the question of femininity affects my job, my creativity, my stress levels, my weight, my relationship with my mother, my house keeping… there isn’t any aspect of my life that isn’t touched by my sex and gender, how society views it, how I’ve been taught to view it…

That is my string theory.   Everything is connected.   And it can make it overwhelming to address anything because everything is involved, everything is affected.

But ya gotta start somewhere, right?  So perhaps where I’m going to start is recognizing that I can control certain things, and I can partially control certain things, and I can’t control certain things.

I can’t control what grocery stores and restaurants offer.  I can partially control where I shop and what I buy (finances being a factor, availability being a factor, seasonality being a factory).  But even after all that, I still can control what I eat.  What I eat isn’t just about ‘diet and weight loss’ as some people think.  It’s about physical health.  It’s about *mental* health!  It’s about finances (physical health may mean less doctor trips to pay for).  It’s about creativity (mental health – while often seen as detrimental – I think is critical to creative expression).  It’s about stress (how I eat affects how I feel affects how I deal with things affects my stress) and also affects my sleep.  And all that feeds back into what I eat, because food and stress are far too often linked, craving unhealthy foods or eating too much when stress is highest.

I can’t control what I have to do at work.  I can partially control how well I do it (time frame being a factor, resources being a factor, outside input being a factor).  But I can totally control my *attitude* toward work.  I really do have that choice.  I can either choose to be bitter and resentful, disagreeable and pessimistic, or I can choose to do my best with every job, even if I’m grossly underpaid, even if I think my bosses are insane.  I can bring a positive outlook to myself and my coworkers and help bring my department up instead of down.  That is within my control absolutely.  Which leads to lower stress, and better eating, and… see above.

And now… I can’t control how my society and my culture have chosen to define femininity and women.  I can partially control how much of that I consume.  But what I can control is my choice to seek out other definitions, other views, other ways of thinking.  Even if I can’t change one other thing, I can choose to find this knowledge, to better understand myself.  And who knows… maybe in doing so, every other area of my life will be altered – just a bit – for the better.

Stress at work, lead to the greater consumption of media to distract myself, lead to watching documentaries, lead to hearing about different ways “feminine” is and has been understood in different cultures, lead to a desire to learn… which leads to greater acceptance of myself, leads to reduced stress, leads to better health, leads to improved creative expression, and maybe, just maybe, that might lead to reaching someone else with a message that might help them, also.

We aren’t all different balls of yarn, after all.  We’re all connected.  Tug on me… who knows who else may be affected.

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This is likely going to cause the wrong kind of controversy.  Let me say up front this is NOT a post which is suggesting anyone has to ‘get over’ anything, or that anyone is wrong in viewing the world the way they do.  This is about sharing my view.

There is a real and justified cry about the lack of “people who look like me” on TV.  “Me” in this case being anyone not white.  What I disagree with, however, is the argument that the television is therefore full of people who look like me; me in this case being actually me.

Just because she’s white doesn’t mean she looks like me.  Especially if you consider the level of make-up and even Photoshop involved in many ads these days, she probably doesn’t even look like herself!

Just because I’m white doesn’t mean I look at the TV or movies and see it filled with representations of me.  I don’t.  I see beautiful, skinny, wealthy women who wear short skirts and high heels who feel incomplete without a man.   They don’t represent me.   They don’t look like me.  They don’t act like me.

The very, very rare time that a woman is depicted as anything other than skinny and beautiful, she is usually heavy and beautiful, and her sole purpose is to prove that the heavy girl can still get the guy.  Which is great, except it’s limited to roles where the story plot *is* the heavy girl can get the guy.  The average woman on TV is still skinny and beautiful as the default.

Because of the difference in how culture views each of us, there is also a difference in how we view the culture, and how we interact with it.  They say giving a white doll to a black girl lowers her self-esteem, but giving a black doll to a white girl raises her empathy.   I think this is sort of the same idea.  Any two groups might have very different interactions and reactions to what is otherwise seen as the same catalyst.

When black people see black people on TV or in the movies or other media, they see themselves – because of the general lack of it.  But when white people see white people on TV or in the movies or other media, we don’t necessarily see ourselves.  We often feel worse about ourselves because of what we see.  It fuels our insecurities rather than building our esteem.  It’s like the opposite of the dolls.

The irony is, both groups look at today’s media and see someone other than us.  So it’s entirely accurate to say that everyone who isn’t white isn’t properly represented in media, but that doesn’t mean everyone who is white is.  It’s an oxymoron, but it’s true.

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Wearing high heels is like drinking until you throw up.

There are many reasons you do it: peer pressure, an attempt to fit in, maybe you just think you like doing it… but it always ends the same, face down in the toilet swearing to yourself you’ll never, ever do this again.

And then a little bit of time passes… the headache goes away and the nausea subsides and you can eat normal food again.  And a bit more time passes and you sort of forget how bad it was.  And then you find yourself toying with the idea of doing it again.

Only to end up remembering – when it’s far too late – exactly why it is you promised yourself last time you were never going to do it again.

Wearing heels is like that.

There’s the pressure to be ‘fashionable’, or maybe to add height, or you just like the ‘click-clack’ sound of walking on linoleum flooring in them.

The day wears on, and you’re walking a little slower, a little more gingerly.  And soon you realize your little toe has that really painful blister forming on it, and you have to run hobble to the first aid kit to get a bandage.

By half-past lunch you’re cursing whoever made these shoes and wondering what possessed you put them on that morning, and why on earth didn’t you think to bring a simple pair of flats to change into after that big meeting?

And yet what happens?  You go home, and kick them off and oooohh it feels so good, and maybe you give yourself a foot bath and drink a glass of wine and even as you swear you’ll never wear them again, you find you’ve put those shoes back into your closet… where they’ll lie in wait, lurking for the next time you forget, and slip them on…

Tonight when I get home, these things are going in the ‘donate’ box for the local thrift store!

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I admit it.  I think of myself as normal.  I think that’s pretty normal, isn’t it?  But I am constantly proved wrong, of course, because no one is normal.

I mean, there are *some* things I do that I know aren’t normal, like spinning my own yarn.  But then there are normal things I know I don’t do, like knitting.  And then there’s my friend who is herself about as far from normal as she can be, who loves to tell me how not-normal I am in the best possible way, and yet that’s partly because we’re alike in many ways (who needs a fork, we can eat the eggs and ground beef straight out of the skillet!)

Still, there are times when my perception of what normal should be runs head-long into reality.

Like, it’s really bizarre to me that someone wouldn’t know where to go to buy cardamom.  I like to have not just a well-stocked spice cupboard, but I actually *use* the spices in my spice cupboard.  Regularly.  Not just daily, but meal-y!  Which I know makes me not normal, but only not normal compared to people who think spice means salt, which I hardly ever use, but makes me really normal compared to people who use herbs and spices in abundance.

It’s also really weird to run into people who think letting your pets lick your dishes before you wash them is gross.  Seriously, I’m still going to WASH them.  It’s not like you’re eating your next meal off cat-lick.  I promise, the hot water and soap that can kill raw meat germs will clean kitty spit.  And by the way, get that hand sanitizer away from me, gross.

Or finding out that for some people, 10 minutes is a really long drive and can’t I find any place closer to eat, because my brain immediately says “What on earth could be closer than 10 minutes away? How do you get anywhere!?”  Because for me, a trip to town is 45 minutes, one way.  Whereas they can walk three minutes and get almost everything they need.

And I still remember the time I went to buy a good dress shirt and the lady told me it was wrinkle-resistant fabric, or something like that; that you pull it out of the dryer and hang it up, no ironing needed. And I said, oh, well I use a clothes line.  And I got *that* look.  That look that the 20-something year old sales attendant gave which can only be described as somewhere between disbelief and condescension, as if who uses clothes lines THESE days, it’s 2010! (or was at the time.)

Or maybe I’m just being really unfair to the 20-something year old sales attendant who had likely never conceived that anyone who would be buying business casual dress shirts would consider putting them on a clothes line, because that isn’t exactly normal.

And for as much as I recognize (and am sometimes flat-out told) how not normal I am, my brain just insists on assuming that I am normal.  Because I am the only way I know how to be.  Being something else isn’t wrong, but it’s not something that generally comes to mind when I run into scenarios like the above.

Then there are other times when I experience a strange feeling of culture shock without ever leaving home.  Like realizing my friend in New York has no idea why I think having a good snow fall in the mountains in winter is good, because it helps prevent drought in the summer.  Or having someone from California up who is boggled that we have a store dedicated solely to selling potatoes.  (In season, of course.)

And I realize everyone thinks they’re pretty normal.  Which I guess makes me normal.  Except I’m not.  Because no one is.  We’re all normal in that we’re all different, and we’re all different in so many beautiful ways, that I’m glad there isn’t any such thing as normal, cause life would be really freakin’ boring if there was.

I really like not being normal, and I wouldn’t want to be.  But sometimes I still forget and think I am.

Which means normal is only how I am compared with how I think I am.  If I do something I find not normal, it’s only not normal compared to myself, not compared to anyone else.  And when I do things that are normal, it’s only my own normal, and no one else’s normal.

I just have to remember that everyone is just as normal as I am, as everyone is pretty much the only way they know how to be.  Which means everyone is their own normal, and everyone else isn’t.

Which I guess means I am normal.

Just a different same normal as everybody else.

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I was gonna write this whole wordy rant about this, but really, that’s all it comes down to.   I am not lacking.  My biology is not impaired.  My physiology is not dismembered.   I am not a deviation from the norm.  My vagina is not the lack of a dick.  It’s an organ in its own right.

My worth is not diminished.

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The US, of all countries on earth, the US especially loves to be the standard of individuality.  The individual, not the group, not the whole, the individual is important.  The individual choice is king.  The “Army of One” ideology.  40 acres and a mule to everyone and you rough it out on your own.

And yet in reality, beyond whatever ideology we espouse, we are – as are most humans by nature – sheep.  In all the ways that really count.

We want the choice between Coke and Pepsi, we want the choice of 500 channels on the TV, and we want the choice in which cereal we put in our shipping carts.

And yet for all the choices, for all the individuality we desire, we choose based on what we think everyone else is doing.

4 out of 5 doctors tell us what we should do based on the majority opinion.  Most moms agree that they would do what most moms would do.  After all, the majority rules in a democracy, right?  So the majority must be right, and we want to be right, so we’ll go with the majority.

We don’t want individuality.  We want conformity.  In fact, we demand conformity around us.  We don’t want the person with the pink spiked hair to express their individuality, we want to tone them down into what we have deemed to be normalcy.  We don’t want to be the one who speaks out when everyone else seems to be agreeing.  We don’t want to be the one who stands out in a crowd.  We want to blend in, to go on with our lives, to be unremarkable.

We don’t want individuality, we want invisibility.

We will let evil happen so long as it looks like everyone else is letting evil happen.  Because we don’t want to be singled out.

But when we see someone step forward in dissent, we are more likely to be emboldened to dissent ourselves.

We don’t want to be individuals.  We want to be part of a group, and we’ll find the group that best fits what we want to be to become part of, but we won’t be a group of one if no group really fits us.

We won’t vote for the candidate who truly expresses our ideals, we’ll vote for the candidate we think is most likely to win.

We don’t want to be individuals!  We want to be part of a winning team.

We don’t want to rock the boat.  We WOULD jump off that bridge if all of our friends were doing it, because if they were *all* doing it… they must have a good reason!  Surely someone thought this through, and well, if they decided that was the best course of action, and if ALL of them decided it, who are we to dissent?  Who are we to go against the flow?  We don’t want to think, we want to follow.

We want to assume everyone else has put in the proper amount of thought and process into their decision making and come up with the best solution, and we’re just going to capitalize on their effort.

That’s why commercials show people “just like you” who have made this choice for you so you don’t have to think about it, they already did that.  All you have to do is buy this product and you can have whatever it is this person “just like you” has.

We don’t want to be the whistle blower.  In fact, we don’t even want other people to be whistle blowers.  We HATE whistle blowers!  We hate individuals.  We hate non-conformity.  We hate difference.

We have been conditioned to conform as part of our human nature.  In fact, we have been conditioned to believe that non-conformity not only is bad, but is useless.  We believe that *I* can’t make a difference.  *I* can’t change things.  *I* can’t help.  *My* vote doesn’t count.  *My* choices don’t affect anyone else.

We *fear* difference.  We *fear* change.  We *fear* standing out.  We *fear* being away from the heard.  Stay in the heard, blend in, be the group: you’re safe.  Be the stand-out, be the straggler, be the individual: be dinner.  We embrace conformity unless we think that through individual identity we can achieve greater power.  And it’s this belief that we can have power that overcomes our fear of being individuals.  But we don’t really let go of the group, we merely become leaders of that group, we gain power to control and direct the group.  We *become* what others need to conform to, and then we enforce that conformity on the group.

*I* did this.  *I* made this happen.  *I* deserve recognition for greatness.  *I* deserve to be given power for my accomplishment.   Therefore, you must follow me.

We want to act as a heard for safety, but we want to be recognized as an individual when that recognition brings us greater benefit than anonymity would.  We want to get the raise, we want to get the prize, we want to get the award, we want to achieve the fame, when these things come with positive benefits to us.

We want to act as a heard when it comes to blame, or better yet, treat others as the heard on which to be blamed, but act as an individual when it comes to our benefit or to avoid blame.  *We* failed to achieve our goals, *you* let down the customer, *I* did everything I could.

But even if we crave individual power, individual recognition, we instinctively know that anonymity in the group can give us greater power than individual recognition.  We instinctively recognize the power that anonymity grants us.  From wearing white hoods to hiding behind a keyboard, we allow the group to dictate our actions, our anonymity to become our immunity.  In order to express our power, we prey on the powerless.  The individual.  The stand-out.  The straggler.

We become that which we feared.  We become the predator.  We riot, we lynch, we laugh at the racist joke, all to conform to the group, all to gain power through group action, to conform to group-think.  We don’t want to be the one who stands up and says this is wrong.  We don’t want to be the one who stands in front of the tank.  We don’t want to be the one who goes to the press.

We don’t want to be individuals.  Yet we keep perpetuating the lie, the myth, that we are.  We are, in some ways, worse than cultures who work for the benefit of the group at the expense of the individual.  We will work with the group that brings the greatest individual benefit for ourselves, and sacrifice both the good of the group and other individuals to achieve it.  And especially, we want to ensure the “other group” doesn’t take the power from our group.

If you want to be an individual, don’t think that your choice of car models or soft drink or how you cook your eggs is somehow relevant to your individuality.  It’s your social choices, your choice of “groups”, your choice to remain silent, your choice to speak, your choice to act, your choice to stand-by that will make you a human being or a pack animal.

Which one are you going to be today?  Which one will you be tomorrow?  Which one will you be every time a chance to make a choice is presented?  Which “group” are you going to choose to belong to, and why?

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Indigenous people.  There can be no argument – let me rephrase:  no *serious* argument – that they have gotten just about the worst end of any stick that ever was.

But wait… everyone is indigenous somewhere, right?  I mean, I’m not dismissing the genocide and other attrocities that have been perpetuated on Native Americans, Australian Aborigines, New Zealand Maori, Mayan tribes, Sami and Inuit peoples… the list literally goes on.

But the term indigenous seems to be… a bit… disingenuous.  EVERYONE is part of an indigenous people group, indigenous somewhere.  If you want to really argue semantics, the whole of the human race is indigenous to Africa (though Neanderthals seem to throw the monkey wrench in those works).

Okay, point is, when people discuss the issues of indigenous peoples, it always makes me stop and think, wait… if I’m not from here, where am I from?  Here being, of course, the only place on Earth I’ve ever known.  I’m not part of the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest.  The closest I can get to that distinction is my brother in law.

(as an aside, have you ever stopped and realized, the Pacific Northwest is Canada’s Southwest?  Kinda blows the mind, don’t it.)

My grandparents’ parents from one branch came from Sweden.  I am not indigenous to Sweden.  I’ve never seen the country, I don’t know the language (however similar it is to English) and I know even less about the culture itself.  I don’t know what the traditional dress or folk songs are.  Ethnically I have some Swede in me.  I am not Swedish, however.

I have a bit more Irish/Scottish in me, but see above: I don’t know Gaelic, nor have I ever been to Scotland or Ireland, nor do I know anything about them beyond the typical (or rather, stereotypical) haggis, St. Patrick’s Day, kilts, and whiskey.

I have some ethnic roots in Ireland/Scotland, though the Scottish side I believe is actually Dutch, and then the Dutch were really just the Norse who settled there, and the Norse… And hell, the Norse settled Sweden, too, so I’m Norse.  Where did they come from?

I mean I could say yay, Thor and Loki and mead and Vikings and long boats… surely THOSE are mine, right?  I mean, I know a little bit about them, right?  Well, I at least know enough to roll my eyes at the Marvel movies (enjoyed them, though I did) because they completely messed up the mythology of the characters and why on earth were Norse gods skipping around New Mexico, of all places!?

But no, I know something about the Norse, but it’s all academic and trivia.  I may be ethnically Norse, but I don’t I belong to the Norse culture, nor does it belong to me.  It’s someone else’s culture that I am interested in because if you go far enough back in my family tree you’ll run into people who *were* culturally Norse… but that still doesn’t make it mine.  Not MINE mine.  Not something I feel and identify with.

Because I’m from here.  This is my home.  This is the only place I’ve ever known.  This is where I was raised, where I recognize the seasons not by the calendar but by the garden, where I know the names of the creeks and can recognize the trees and flowers and animals, and know when to expect the hummingbirds and the elk.  This is where I understand the relationship between the snow in the mountains and the river in summer.  This is where I take my shoes off and walk the earth.  This is where the sun and the rain know where to find me, and where I understand how the society around me works.  (or rather, I don’t, but I make a better pretense of it.)

This is the only place I know.

I recognize the pain that my brother in law has faced in his life, the pain his people have felt in being pushed into reservations, in having their culture destroyed, their children taken away, their language outlawed, their land stolen.

I recognize I live on land that shouldn’t be mine.  I recognize I live next to the indigenous people who were put on reservations to ‘make room’ for those who came before me.

I recognize there are people who believe I have no right to be here.  This isn’t my home.  This isn’t where I belong.

There are people who love to spew the old “Go back to Africa” or “Go back to China” or whathaveyou racist nonsense.  Rightfully, I could be the object of such hate, but where would I go back to?  Where *do* I belong?

If not here… where?

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We’re always reminded in one way or another to appreciate what we have before it’s gone.  Sometimes we get the reminder in quite unexpected ways.

I’ve been working on a story in which the main character is experiencing a world where modern life has collapsed, electricity is gone, etc.  She knows just enough to get by for now, but winter is on its way and she isn’t sure she’ll survive.  In the midst of all this, she’s hanging her laundry outside and singing when she realizes she’s forgotten the next line of the song.

And she has no way of finding it again unless she can simply remember it.

There are no computers, no smart phones, no apps that she can look the lyrics up on.  She realizes in that moment that for all she knows, what she’s forgotten is forgotten forever.  For all she knows, no one else remembers it, either, and those words are lost to time.  This should be an entirely insignificant moment in her life, given all that she’s facing, but for her, it’s devastating.

It is this moment that prompts her to sit down and start writing out as fast as she can everything she can remember and doesn’t want to forget.  Every scrap of lyric, poem, saying, story, history or myth, anything she can bring to mind she writes down because in the whole of her small world, she has become the keeper of all that has been, of all that has come before.

The more we move towards computers being our connection to all that there is, the more we risk losing if that technology should ever fail us.  Perhaps not to the extreme that my story shows, but especially with so much music being downloaded, the lyrics aren’t conveniently printed on the inside of the CD cover any longer.  There isn’t a booklet inside the tape case or record sleeve.  There is a lot we may very well lose, to some degree, if we ever lose our modern technology.

It makes me want to breathe new life into the customs of storytellers, of minstrels and bards, of those who memorized or kept vast quantities of songs and stories to tell, passed on from one generation to the next so that it would not be lost.

It makes me want to start a written folder called “The Fall of Technology” and keep all my favorite songs and pictures tucked inside, “just in case.”

In my story, she does end up remembering the line she forgot.  Writing it down manages to bring it to mind and she gets at least that one song out fully.  But how many more has she forgotten?  In my story, she feels the weight of every word she’s missed.  There is a quote from a National Geographic that talks about an age where the entire language of a people was in the vocabulary of the best story teller.  A time before dictionaries.  A time when a word forgotten was lost forever.

Perhaps it isn’t as tragic as losing that last chance to make amends, or tell someone you love them, or the loss of a species… but maybe if we realize that even the small things can be gone before we realize it, then we’ll be more attentive to the big, important things in our lives, too.

Do something today that needs to be done, don’t put it off until it’s too late… you never know when it might be gone forever.

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Don’t touch me.

No, I don’t have to explain why.  This is not a subject for discussion or debate.  Don’t touch me.

Why can’t I say those words?

When someone touches me and it makes me feel uncomfortable, I shut down.  I freeze up.  I laugh with overflowing anxiety and try to step away, and yet they want to know why I don’t want them to touch me.

If I say please stop, they ask why.

If I try to come up with an excuse because the words I really want to say are stuck in my throat, they argue with me as if they can somehow prove that I really do want them to touch me, proven I am wrong.  About my body.  And whether I want them touching me.

Don’t touch me.

I should not have to tell you no for you to stop, you should have to gain my yes before you start.  Why can’t you understand the difference?

Why do you start when I haven’t said you can?

Why can’t you stop when I say stop?

People think I’m strong.  People who know me think I’m so strong that they don’t understand this is where I’m weak.  This is where I seize with fear and try to get away but they won’t let me because if I really wanted to get away, surely I’d *make* them stop.  Because I’m so strong.

Get me off this fucking pedestal, I’m afraid of heights!  Stop putting conditions on me, stop acting as if the burden is on me to make you stop.   Just stop touching me.

Why won’t you just stop?

Why should I have to dress for battle because I decided to leave my house?  Why should I have to wage war for the right to own myself, my body?  Why should I have to make you stop touching me?

Why can’t you just stop?  Why can’t you prevent yourself from violating my boundaries?  Why can’t you understand that when I pull away, it’s because I don’t want you touching me?  Why can’t you understand that if I don’t enjoy this, continuing it isn’t going to make it more enjoyable.

Why can’t you understand that the default condition of my permission is not yes.  Why can’t you see that you don’t own a single part of me, you aren’t entitled to my body, you aren’t entitled to receive one ounce of pleasure that I don’t want to give you.

Stop touching me.

Why can’t I say it?  Why can’t I be that strong?

Just stop touching me.

Sometimes my PTSD gets in the way of the words I want to say.  You don’t need to know my whole history to know that when I stay stop touching me, you need to stop touching me.  This isn’t about what happened to me when I was 6, or when I was 14, or when I was 17, or when I was 27.  This isn’t about my last relationship or my relationship with my parents.  This isn’t about therapy or your best friend or the last one who wronged you.

This is about me telling you to stop touching me.

So don’t touch me.

No, I don’t have to explain why.  This is not a subject for discussion or debate.  Don’t touch me.

There is no excuse to touch a person who does not want you to touch them.  I don’t care if it’s a hug, if it’s a tickle, if it’s a caress, if it’s hit, if it’s sex, if it’s you trying to force them to touch you.  I don’t care if it’s a man to a woman, a woman to a man, a man to a man, a woman to a woman. There is no excuse to touch a person who does not want you to touch them.

How do you know if someone does not want you to touch them?  Ask.  If they can’t answer, assume the answer is no.

Yes is not the default.

Okay is not implied.

Permission is not unspoken.

Consent is not silent.

Victims are not at fault.

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