Pure As the Driven Slush: Heather Corinna's Journal and Diary, Online since 1999

Archive for the 'because sometimes I'm an asshole' Category

Monday, November 21st, 2011

I wound up getting a pretty invaluable takeaway from the Staycation-that-wasn’t.

When it was over — or not over, really, since it didn’t really happen, but you know what I mean — I realized that I had stayed off my personal Twitter without even noticing.  Then I realized that going back on filled me with some level of dread. So did the prospect of doing pretty much anything that involved promotion or standing out from the madding crowd in any way.  While I didn’t get the time off I wanted, I was at least able to get a handful of days separate from my larger work world of late and away from its constant din. In a word, anything potentially extroverted or which carried the pressure to be extroverted made me feel highly anxious and depressed.

Growing up, music, writing and teaching were always my big loves, as they are still. Unsurprisingly, my musical abilities tended to be the ones that got the most attention and focus from others.  Some of that was just because I loved to make music, but I suspect a larger part of it was that making music tends to involve a level of performance that writing (well, until fairly recently) and teaching, especially when you do it the way I’ve always liked to, do not.

The thing is, I never liked performing. I still don’t. What I liked was making music, being a part of music, or even more to the point, being so much a part of music that what I was in those moments was music itself, separate from myself, invisible as myself.  My favorite part of any kind of art has always been the process, not the product, and really being able to get lost inside that process. Before I went to the arts high school I did, I was always in the choir at every school I attended. I remember people feeling very invested in getting solos or not, but that was never my interest. Being in the choir — in it –  was my favorite part.  I especially loved those moments when you’d be singing with everyone else, and all the harmonies would be just right: even though you were still singling just as clearly and loudly when your own voice was more audible, you’d blend in so that you couldn’t distinguish your voice from anyone else’s anymore. It was like you opened your mouth and everyone’s voice came out, and yours was only one part.  It’s the same reason I loved being in the mosh pit during my high school years: things were loud and intense, sure, but everyone was part of the crowd, it required going with that flow or people would wind up underfoot.

I loved being at the arts school. Being able to focus on my writing was fantastic, but I was there primarily to study music, and I loved that, too. At the end of senior year, everyone needed to present their own project, and I was so happy to be able to form a band and be able to collaborate with a group, rather than playing alone. But by the time graduation was coming up, I,d realized that a life in music would probably mean a life performing. Making my living as someone who only stayed in the studio was not likely to be doable (I should have learned a brass instrument, I know). If I wanted to sing, I’d need to learn to like performing. I tried. During my gap year, my friend Joe and I would play open mikes and at a couple bars and I literally tired to see if I could learn to like performing if I just sang and played my dulcimer with my back turned to the audience.  (Yes, really.  I did like it better, but audiences, as you’re probably not surprised to hear, found it a bit odd.) What about street performing, I thought? Maybe that would work. Nope. Also? Fucking brr.

So, when I started college, I decided to stop studying music and focus instead on literature and sociology, and on writing and teaching. There’ve been two decades between then and now, and a lot happened in my life and in the world in between.  And of course, silly me, I decided to write and teach about and subjects that seem perfectly normal and relaxed to me, but also wonderfully complex, so never boring, but which most of the world finds provocative and feels the need to yell about a lot.

But over the last couple of decades, the biggest thing that happened around my little epiphany I’m about to talk about is that it seems to me that our culture has become a culture of constant and en-masse extroversion to the exclusion of all other ways of being.  A “look at me” world. If how a lot of the world seems to be going right now was a kid in class, it seems like it’d be the kid who always has their hand up for every question, even though half the time, they don’t have the answer or weren’t even paying attention to what the question was.

Everything seems to involve marketing. Everything feels like it involves making yourself louder and louder and louder and bigger and bigger and bigger. If you don’t want to be on television — or, if you’re like me and that kind of visibility sounds like a circle of hell Dante would have invented if he’d written the Divine Comedy in the 21st century — it must mean you’re not really motivated to do whatever it is you do. Hell, we have reality television, and people who aspire to be on reality television as a what-I-want-to-be-when-I-grow-up. If you just want to quietly do your own thing, it’s often assumed you must not want to involve other people or make an impact on the world, since making an impact involves being seen as widely, as largely as possible, even if what you have to offer when given those opportunities is less than the best you’ve got to offer. I can’t express how many times over the last year or two I have found myself arguing with colleagues who just don’t understand — they’re not being assholes, they just clearly don’t get it –  why I don’t self promote more, more, more and how I can be highly dedicated to doing what I am without wanting to spend more time marketing myself and my work than time doing my work. It’s gotten to the point where if anyone around me even starts the sentence, “You know, you really should promote yourself better by….” I feel on the verge of tears or shin-kicking, sometimes both.

And in the subject I work in, in sex, I feel like it’s just gotten really bad — and maybe it always was — to the point where the promotion and marketing schtick has gotten so fever-pitch that even smart people I know with great intentions frequently sound like snake oil salesmen to me. I ran from two professional email lists screaming in the last year because where I had been looking for educated community to deepen the actual work we all do, most of what I found was what sounded like a nonstop infomercial from hundreds of people at once, some of whom, it seemed to me, spent more time marketing than actually doing the work, because when they did ask about work-related things, the questions they asked were so rudimentary it made it obvious how little time they spent doing the work they were promoting.

When I’ve been trying to figure out why I’ve felt so burnt out and tired, I kept finding myself very perplexed. I love the work I do. Working with teens and young people, especially when they’re in crisis, can be very challenging, but it rarely wears me out: it tends to energize me instead. I never get tired of writing: I still love the process. Same goes for teaching: I still love working as en educator.  The money stuff is always tiresome, so I often look there when I’m trying to identify a source of stress, but that’s not it. I wish I had more time for my life, still, and for my own creative work, but I’ve been working on that with some measure of success. I keep being asked for things from too many people who seem to forget I’m just one person over here, but as frustrating as that is, I can let mostly those annoyances go when I experience them. I’ve wracked my brain with all of these puzzle pieces and more, trying to find out where, exactly, so much of my stress seems to be coming from.

Then I realized that I somehow have managed to often fall into working in this extroverted mode that doesn’t work for me at all. In fact, it keeps me from doing my best work; from my best self, even. From who I am and the way that I do things best.

I’m gragarious, sure. And very open. Sometimes loud and boisterous. But I’m not extroverted. I’m introverted. It’s one of the reasons I always loved writing. It’s one of the reasons why I’m always much more concerned with getting enough time alone than with getting enough social time, and why I always feel completely perplexed when people ask me if I get lonely now that I live on the island or if I get bored out here. When I was in the UK early this year, Blue took some time off and was home alone for several days.  When he told me on the phone he hadn’t seen a single person in days, I said, “I know, isn’t it AWESOME?” (I think it is. Blue, on the other hand, was a little freaked out by the experience.) It’s one of the reasons I fell so in love with Montessori when I discovered it, where the teacher isn’t the focus, the students are. It’s one of the reasons I still love making music, and tend to save it for cherished, quiet times when I’m alone. It’s the main reason why it’s been very hard for me to have to adjust to the fact that semi-regularly now, I have to do public talks for big groups, something I’ve gotten decent at doing, but am always most thrilled when it’s over. My introverted nature is not news to me nor is it to anyone who knows me well.

And yet. Because — and really, I can’t believe how unaware of this I have been — it seems like the way things have been around this is that this, this high-key extroversion, is The Way you do them, I have tried to do them that way. I have tried to keep my own personal and professional din at something resembling the level of what seems like everyone else’s. I have pushed myself really hard to perform the way a lot of my colleagues perform. Heck, I can actually track this back to way earlier in my life, to times even as a kid where I forced myself to learn to be loud because I so badly wanted to do things, and the only way it seemed I was going to be able to get a chance to do them was if I acted like I was extroverted.

And that, my dears, is what I realized has been making me so incredibly worn out, above and beyond all else.

For an extrovert, see, that stuff obviously feels energizing and exhilarating. Not for an introvert: it gives me an intense desire for a rock to go hide under where I can take a long nap or listen to my records alone all day. An extrovert loves to be in the spotlight. We introverts generally can’t stand it, especially if we’re not at least sharing it, ideally with someone who wants that spot right on them, far, far away from us. My sense is that for extroverts, being constantly visible and in the middle of everything helps them focus. For an introvert, especially for this introvert, it feels like trying to watch one screen while 50 different screens with different things on them are on at once. It’s distracting. For me to see out clearly, I have to start by seeing in: and I can’t do that very well if I’m trying to be extroverted. It’s like extroversion puts a flashlight in my eyes.  Not only does it just feel wrong — wrong like you feel when you’re trying to get somewhere, and someone tells you you’re on the right street, but you are 110% certain you’re utterly turned around –  it makes it really, really hard for me to even remember what I’m supposed to be doing, let alone enjoy it.

The thing is, I — and my other fellow introverts — should be able to be who we are, the way we are, and do what we want to do in life and in the world in our way. It’s no more wrong or right than the other way: these are both ways of being. Not putting out a constant, flashy, look-look-look outflow doesn’t mean I don’t want to do things that have a big impact, nor that I don’t think my work has value: it usually just means that I want to be in the work and focusing on the work itself, and focusing on myself in such a way that I’m the vehicle for it, rather than the other way round.

I thought a little about some of the people I’ve admired most in the world who were clearly introverted: Blake, Goodall, Thoreau, Ghandi, Woolf, Bronte, Curie, Einstein, Dr. Suess, Jung, King, Van Gogh, Chopin, Yeats, Joni Mitchell, Georgia O’Keefe, Remedios Varo, nearly every writer and artist whose work I find most visionary and my father. Then I started thinking about how they’d fare in the world right now, and how hard it might even be to find them and what they did if they didn’t shift to an extroverted model. I mean, would Virginia Woolf really be like, “No, srsly, everyone, COME SEE MY ROOM! Pls RT!” Would Thoreau have a daily photoblog of Walden Pond? Why? How the hell would Chopin have composed anything with one hand on a cell phone? How on earth could activists like King and Ghandi have done what they did as well as they did with the kind of reactive urgency we have right now?

Then I realized that all the people on my list were brilliant people, very self-possessed and visionary people who I feel certain would have found a way to be who they are, and to do things the way that felt right to them, without taking on a way of being that would be more likely to stand in the way of their work and their lives than it would be likely to enhance it.

I am, at the moment, without solid answers about how to do this differently. At the same time, it’s not like I’ve ever really thought about it before: I only, and quite foolishly, just hit upon this awareness last week.

But I’m so very grateful to have gotten to that awareness, even if what got me there mostly seems to have been a lot of deep annoyance, a ton of new grey hairs, distraction from all of the things I actually want to do and which need a level of full attention tough to come by anymore for me to do them as well as I can, and feeling very misunderstood pretty much constantly, all unpleasant things.

For now, I’m just going to start thinking about this. I have a few strategies to start with, though, like staying away from social media I can until I figure out a way to manage it that really works for me, taking baby steps to ask the extroverts in my circles to accept I’m different than they are, doing things more quietly, even if it seems like a gamble to do so, and just reminding myself that the way it seems like everything has to be done isn’t the way everything has to be done.  There are other ways to do things than whatever the predominant model is or seems to be at a given time, something I know and have always applied to near everything in my life and my work, something I tell other people at least several times a day, and something I used to do all the time, so there’s no reason I can’t apply the same here with this, starting now.

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Growing up, one of my favorite things to do with my Dad was to go to Cubs games. And not just because it meant hanging out with my Dad, and also in spite of the fact that when they played the Phillies, my father rooted for them instead which resulted in things being thrown at us. I can’t decide if I liked doing this in spite of or because of the time when I was thisclose to catching a ball, some dude behind us grabbed it from me, and my father went into an invective that seemed to last for DAYS about what kind of putz someone was for taking a fly ball from a little girl. Probably both.

Even though I left Chicago over a decade ago now, I remain, and always will, a diehard Cubs fan.

If you assume I care at all about baseball, or even understand how the game is supposed to be played, you may be wondering why.

I have my reasons, but one of them is that the Cubs provided me — and provide me still — an amazing lesson in owning your suckitude. The Cubs never really acted like they sucked as much as they do, nor did we or any of their other fans. Sometimes it was fun just to see what new, creative way they’d blow a game: they have never seemed to run out of ways to do that, which strikes me as its own genius, really.

Every now and then, the Cubs would actually win or at least actually play well, and that was awesome, I suppose, but I feel like the times when that happened we were all so busy looking for pigs flying overhead or the four horsemen of the apocalypse that we, Cubs fans, were always distracted enough to not get the full impact of the amazing lack of total failure.

The Cubs, especially to me as a kid, made sucking actually seem kind of cool. Like a rebellion, in some ways — Oh, winning. That is so last year. And the year before. For everyone else, anyway. It’s cheap to be a winner: we aim to LOSE, because we are THAT MUCH COOLER THAN YOU. — but mostly they sucked, and then the next game, they got back out there and they kept playing.  And that’s been how it’s been for the whole of my life. Players keep actually joining the team and seem to be excited about it. Fans still fill Wrigley, and the jeers and cheers are full of equal amounts of love. The Cubs seem to basically give suckitude a hug, a kiss, slap it on the ass than have a beer together.  I think that’s pretty super-amazing.

I’ve been thinking about the Cubs lately, because I feel like I forgot these lessons in sucking they taught me so generously. When I was younger, they informed a lot of what I did.  I think, because of the Cubs, no lie, I was a lot more fearless than I would have been otherwise, and a lot less afraid to try things I might lose, fail or just plain suck at.

Lately, I feel like I have been failing a whole hell of a lot. Heck, last week, I had a much-needed staycation planned, and I even managed to louse that up.  One assumes there are no grades given for recess because no one could possibly fail recess.  Clearly, those school systems have not met me. I totally failed recess last week.

I keep feeling like I’m watching some of the people around me excel at things I have tried and tried to do well, but either failed at or…well, failed by my ridiculous standards.  Mind, some of these things are things where I just wouldn’t be down with, or have time for, doing the same things to have that same level of achievement.  Others are things where someone else is simply more invested in winning or succeeding at them than I am.  But with other things, those conditions don’t apply.  Some of these things are things I very much wanted to do very well with, or well with consistently, and tried the same things but got different, less awesome results.

Blue, because Blue loves me and is lovely to me, says I’m being too hard on myself.  That may well be, of course, as I’ve a bit of a reputation for that sort of thing. A couple other friends of mine roll their eyes, and with love, not malice or dismissal.

At the same time, my standards are my standards, and sometimes they aren’t actually higher than other people’s standards. By whatever yardstick we’re using, I feel like I keep failing and have failed a lot in the last year or two with a lot of things.

What I want, though, is to be able to allow for that. I want to have it be okay for me to fail sometimes, or even a lot.  After all, I try a lot of things, constantly, unceasingly, so it’s not like I can be amazing at all of them or amazing at them all the time, nor should I have to be. It needs to be okay — with anyone, but most of all, with me — for me to suck. Ideally, I’d like to get to a place where it’s not only okay, but I can have a Cubbish sort of Zen about it and actually embrace sucking.

I mean, it’s not like messing up, or not hitting the highest bar or just being meh at anything doesn’t have its benefits or offers us nothing.  It offers us plenty: humility, patience for ourselves and others, compassion, humanity, humor, and the ability to have a life that is about something more than achievement or whatever we count as success.  It keeps us playing the game, as it were, to play the game; to be in the process, not the product. I’m sure it offers more than that, those things are just off the top of my head, and I’m not where I’d like to be with it yet, remember. I feel confident that when I get to that enlightened place where feeling like a failure is nothing close to the end of the world, a place of ass-slapping comfort, good cheer and one more reason to just keep going back out on that field, picking up that bat, and trying again, I’ll have a lot more benefits to report.

But in the meantime, I kind of suck.  And dammit to hell, I am going to get okay with that being the case sometimes if I’ve got to fly to those now-unaffordable bleachers and make myself positively sick on cotton candy, cheap beer and completely misplaced optimism towards a team doing well that never has to make it happen.

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

I’ve realized lately that by virtue of being such an early adopter of the internet and having done so right at the gate as a publisher and very visible writer and activist, I seriously missed out on one of the perks a lot of people seem to get to take advantage of.

In short, there are often times when I would really, really like to NOT have to engage in discussions or make criticisms with depth and thoughtfulness and care.  I’d like not to have to worry about what someone is going to feel/say/report that “Heather Corinna” said.  I’d like to be stealthy, and not feel any kind of social responsibility not to hide behind anonymity nor any to be a decent person and a Buddhist who isn’t fucking around about it. I’d love not to have to reread what I wrote even once, let alone several times.

In a word, there’s a post I keep wanting to leave online on at least one article or blog somewhere a day, and it is, simply, something like this:

This thing you said/wrote is seriously stupid, and I think you’re an asshole who is mean and also shitty.

Yep, that’d do it.  No careful analysis, no diplomacy, no “we’re on the same team so let’s work together,” or even “we’re not on the same team, but I know you’re a good person, right?”

Just that.  Without my name, without having to say anything else or engage in any way, without any kind of responsibility.  Just that lazy, drive-by not-at-all-thoughtful letting go that I know happens all the time because I get emails and posts kind of similar to that every day.  They’re more like, “That’s stupid and you’re stupid (or pretentious or arrogant or a dyke or a girl, the most offensive thing anyone can be, in case you were unaware), which I have to say because you’re not being mean or an asshole, even though that’s not stopping me from being both of those things,” but still.  Same gist.  Same words that elicit what I strongly suspect is a very, very satisfying — albeit pithy — feeling somewhat akin to a decent bowel movement of some kind.

One might knock that and call it small, but probably not one who feels chronically constipated, be that literal or symbolic.  I, too, want the online version of metamucil.  I am hoping having said it here just might suffice.

(It won’t, but it seemed worth a shot. And yes, most of what I just said was stupid, I’m being a bit of an asshole, and I literally even talked shit. But at least I’m not being mean.)

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

I very recently started some coaching to help me develop some balance between my work and my life, and to help me create better separation between the two.

It’s probably more obvious to everyone else than it was to me that I needed that, but to give you an example of just how clueless I can be about this, my coach and I were setting a goal so that I could, eventually, get down to a workweek that looked at lot more like 40 hours a week instead of the more typical 60, and even 70 I wind up putting in sometimes.

In doing that, she asked me if I could describe what a day when I was working 40 hour workweek would look like for me.  In my usual Corinna lead-first-with-mouth-next-with-brain fashion, I opened my mouth to immediately speak and said, “Well….”

And then nothing came out. In the back of my head, a very annoying Musak version of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” started to play, because silence was all I had going.  Finally, when I reached the sub-basement of the elevator of my mind, I mumbled, “Shit, I have no idea.”

This seemed ridiculous. Surely it had just been a while, and I couldn’t remember.  So I asked her to hold on a second while I collected my thoughts, and flipped my fingers through the card catalog of my life.

Last decade or so: yeah, no 40 hour weeks there or anything even close. Plenty of years where I wasn’t even just working this one job, including the two years where I was killing myself — but feeding myself, and keeping my organization afloat, both hardly unimportant — by working three.

Let’s try looking at the pre-web years. The year before I started all of this?  Nope, three different jobs.  The couple of years before that? Teaching jobs, nannying jobs, my internship and the farmer’s market gig during the summer on top of all that.  Nope, back to that 60 hour+ week during those years.  I know it’s not even worth considering the years I was running my little school, because even in the five days a week it was open, I showed up every day to prep at 5:30 or 6 and didn’t usually leave until 6 or 7, then showed up one weekend day to clean it.

That gets us to the college years, during which I usually took around 27 credit hours a semester and worked close to full-time on top of that to pay for school and my own bills. When I was in high school, because of the kind of school I attended, we had a longer school day than most, and I worked part-time then, too, so no 40-hour-weeks then. During my gap year between high school and college I think I actually did have close to a 40 hour workweek, but since a whole lot of that year was spent in an LSD-induced haze, I a) have few memories of that year and b) think the ones I have are perhaps a little bit suspect, since some of them contain things I’m fairly certain did not exist in reality.

That gets me to early adolescence and childhood.  While I’m very sure trying to visualize how those days went is of limited use regardless, the fact of the matter is that even during a lot of them, I got up incredibly early, often going to the hospital with my mother hours before school started, so I don’t think I even experienced a 40-hour “workweek” as a child.

Which all led me back to my initial answer: “Well….shit, I have no idea.”

I’d like you to share a rerun of the moment I had in my heart and my mind when I realized it was true that I earnestly had absolutely no experience in my life, neither as an adult nor a teen or even a child, of not being overworked and overextended, and pushing past what is a pretty common limit for an awful lot of people; of having overwork and overextension be my absolute normal, to the point that I couldn’t even access anything in my usually vivid imagination to pull up a picture of what having a life that wasn’t like that could or even might look like. Enjoy the moment with me next where I was whacked a few hours later by what utter insanity that is and how very, very long it has taken me to realize that.

Mind, it’s not like my experience with this is all that atypical for someone like me in terms of my usual economic class, trying very hard to just pay the basic bills and keep my head above water. I come from immigrants, so there’s also that to take into account. I’ve also always worked in at least one of three fields: education, activism and healthcare, which are all legendary for paying very little while demanding a lot from their workers. But do most people in those kinds of situations not even recognize that their normal is….well, too much?  Again, color me clueless.

Setting aside the past, and keeping in the present, one of the big questions is this: why DO I work so many hours?  Over the last year and change, for the most part, I get paid the same whether I work 40 hours or 80 hours.  It’s not like I see an increase in financial support for what I do when I work more hours, like people notice and say, “Hey, that ED seems to be working way more hours than usual, I’m going to donate or donate a little more.” I think most of the time, people just don’t even realize that I’m the person doing most of the work that I am to even consider my work hours, why would they?

When other organizations are short of funds, short on staff, but high on people who want and need services, what do they do? They have people wait longer out of necessity and cut back services: they do not ask their staff to add more and more hours without additional pay or benefits to try and have one person do the work of ten.  They do not suggest that a staff person should just give up their whole life to do their very best to get as close as they can to working 24/7. That is because they are reasonable, fair and probably don’t want their staff to drop dead.  Go, them. Would that my own boss were such a smart cookie who gave that kind of a shit about me.

But she’s really, really got to change or else it’s going to be time for me to find a new boss.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been doing okay. Moving out here to the island has allowed me to live in a beautiful place where everything is not constantly breaking at a reasonable rent. No, I don’t own a house or a vehicle, but as always, that’s okay: those things are my normal, too, but they’re fine as normals. Working more isn’t likely to put those things within my reach. I don’t have the healthcare I need, still, but there’s nothing I can do about that.  Overworking also won’t give me access to that, it just makes me need it all the more. I can pay my rent and my bills every month, I don’t have to worry about being unable to afford to feed, clothe or shelter myself. I can even sometimes give the people in my life in a far worse spot than me a tiny bit of financial support sometimes: less than I’d like to, but hey, as someone not even middle-class, being able to do anything at all is a boon.

I’m actually in the position right now to have a really beautiful life if I want it, if I allow myself the time and space to enjoy it and live it. I’m living in a place I love being in, with someone I adore.  For the most part, my life currently is blissfully free of drama or crisis. I’ve had the opportunity to learn to just be happy, rather than in a constant struggle, be it financial, interpersonal or emotional. It’s even possible that sometime in the future, I might be able to find a way to bring Briana and Liam — who are both part of what I consider my core family in the world — over here, but to commit to that, I’d need to, and want to, commit to having the time to really help with Liam and be around for him. So, my little pipe dream is a beautiful thing, but this sense I’ve had that would be no problem is delusional, since as things have stood, I clearly have yet to learn how to make that kind of time. Promising it to a little kid and his mother when I don’t know if I can deliver it would be unconscionable.

Let’s take another trip to The Department of the Painfully Obvious. I have had pretty much zero time for any of my creative work.  I can manage a little bit of time to sit with an instrument and strum on it some, but have had little to none for more than that, to create (or even publish what IS created!) any visual art, or even just fiddle around to get those juices flowing, to put any real time into writing that isn’t directly related to work. I was an artist before I was anything else in this world, and it’s so vital to who I am and to expressing and exploring who I am for me, and yet.  And yet.

There’s more, but those are the core issues, and they’re pretty overwhelming all by themselves.  But the good news is, I know all of this now, I am painfully aware of all of it now, even if that awareness is in its infancy.  The even better news is that I’m committed to making positive changes and have started doing that.

The first goal is for me to get to a 55-hour workweek. Over the last week, since setting that goal, with one day shy of that week today, I’ve clocked 48 hours.  If I work  only a 7-hour day today, I’ll have met that goal for this week.The week before this I clocked around 70 hours, so that’s a pretty massive improvement.  Now I just have to stick with it which, of course, is a lot easier than it sounds.

It’s been a nice week.  I’m finding that at least once, I have actually felt the kind of sense of accomplishment in packing less into a day, and ending it on time, as I often feel in packing in more than seemed possible and working superhuman hours.  I’ve had some of the kind of time I’ve wanted to have for my partner.  I’ve had some of the kind of time I’ve wanted for myself. I feel slightly less relieved by the idea of being run over by a Mack truck because if I were dead, I’d finally be able to get a nap.

I’m also starting to see some of the things that keep me in this mess.  For instance, while I’m usually really excellent about limits and boundaries in my personal life, and in my professional ethics, I’m recognizing I’m actually very bad with both when it comes to work in the sense of what’s asked of me, what’s asked of myself and what (read: how little) I ask of others. I ask much, much more of myself than I ask of others, and I think the trick is going to be to find what’s in the middle of those goalposts, and move each side closer to it.

I’m also finding out I’m less immune to what others think or say about me around my work than I thought.  For instance, we did go ahead and put up a notice that response time for direct services at Scarleteen will now be slightly longer sometimes out of necessity.  There was some background gossip around that somewhere that I know was about something to the effect of how much I suck, and I was finding that really, really bothered me, even though I know I don’t suck and I also know that anyone who’d make that kind of judgment is clueless about the level of work I do myself and we do as an organization, or what it takes to run it all, especially for this long with so few resources to draw on. Why do I care so much, especially when the chances are that anyone being critical hasn’t put half the time and dedication into their work as I’ve put into mine?  And why am I putting so much of my own esteem into work, and so little into life anymore?  Must to fix.

Guilt is clearly another big trigger for my internal overwork beastie. When the emails keep piling up to the degree there is just no way for me to answer them all in a day, sometimes at all; when people are asking me to do things for them, their projects, their orgs, and usually for free; when I set a limit or politely decline things I’d love to do but just can’t because I am out of hours to do them in and people don’t back off, rather than feeling pissed, I feel guilty. I want to be able to do all of these things, and I’m very unforgiving of myself when I can’t.  So, rather than dismissing or getting mad at people who won’t respect my limits or take some time to get a sense of how much I’m already doing before they even ask for something (or hey, try and ask for things only when they can make a sound offer that compensates me in some way), I internalize and get made at myself and refuse to let myself off the hook.  Even when I know someone has figured out how to trigger a guilt response in me or is clearly looking to do that, I still have to talk myself through why that’s uncool, rather than just falling in line and acting of of guilt.

Of course, there’s also the fact that this is something I need to learn. I am, as I now know, an absolute beginner at this.  I do not know how to work a typical, full-time workweek. I do not know how to have this kind of balance, both because I haven’t usually had the opportunity and because the few times I have, I didn’t take it.  I have to learn how to do this, and my ignorance has been a barrier.  I have to ask for help with this, so I can learn, rather than asking for help with all the work I manage, which can feel like the same thing, but it really, really isn’t.

There’s going to be more, of course, but I think one other thing that’s on the list of things that keep me stuck here is one of the toughest to face, speak or even think about, which is that the person I usually want to be is really not a person I — or anyone who doesn’t want to kill themselves — can be. If and when I am only highly valued or appreciated because I do more work than others and will give up everything to do it, that is not a good thing. That’s a serious problem.  I can’t control whether or not that’s the yardstick by which others measure me, but I can control whether or not I use it with which to measure myself, and I have got to stop doing that. I not only cannot be that person and be healthy and whole, that person isn’t so great, anyway. I’m more than that person. I’m someone who has always had the capacity for a lot of joy, even when things are awful, and who has been really dedicated to milking everything I can out of life, living it completely and fully and with great wonder and abandon and delight. I can be that person, who has value AND still work to the degree I need to to support myself and to the degree I can to do the good things for the world and the people in it that are so important to me. But I can’t be that person, that whole person, if all I do is work and if when I work, I am working so much and so hard that when there is finally a minute when I am not working, I am too physically, emotionally and intellectually drained to do anything else.

I think I’ve mentioned in the past that a while back, my mother found this newspaper article about a relative of ours from 100 years ago. The headline read, “Man Drops Dead After Stint of Shucking Corn.” (For serious. Clearly a writer who thought subtlety was for sissies.)

The story was about how said relative was purportedly feeling really, really sick all day, but had a history of being a very hard worker, and was not going to make an exception that day. He made clear to his co-workers that until all that corn got shucked, he wasn’t going to leave work. So, he did it: he shucked all that corn. Then, as the headline so delicately reports, he dropped the fuck dead.

I feel certain there was a moment in there where dying must have felt very satisfying. A long day of farm work when you are literally taking your last breaths is hardly the best day ever, so it being over — like, really over — must have been awesome for a second.  There may have even been a moment in there where he felt quite satisfied, thinking that he won the Martyr Olympic Gold for finishing his work even though he also finished his heart in doing so, which probably no one else on the team that day could say for themselves.

But I also have this funny feeling that there may have been another moment, probably the very last one, where he had a sudden, likely awful, realization that he just spent his last moments above ground on earth shucking fucking corn for pennies; spent his last day creating a challenge for himself that seemed laudable at the time, but was about the worst, most pointless use of a last day on earth there was. When he had that moment, he probably felt like a total asshole.  Then he died, that assholic feeling being the last he had. It was perhaps paired with the vain wish he had had just one more nanosecond to leave a tip for someone later on down the line like me that his story was not to be interpreted as an aspiration or inspiration.  Rather, it was a warning not to be so damn stupid as to think that last ear of corn matters more than giving someone you love a hug, rolling down a sunny hill, having a laugh, drinking a cool pint, eating the corn instead of working it, or just appreciating the value of your life as something much, much more than merely being She Who Works Herself to Death.

He didn’t leave that message, alas, and some of my family members indeed saw this dude as some sort of hero. When I first saw it, I did too. I thought, “Yep, that’s us, aren’t we so awesome in our badass workiness?” I thought that because I was an idiot who somehow wound up with a Protestant work ethic that would make Luther feel like a hack, even though we don’t even come from Protestants (though I’d be lying if I didn’t say we do come from some idiots, so maybe that explains it).

But I’m starting to get that unwritten message now. I’m going to learn how to leave the last ear of the damn corn unshucked if it…well, if it doesn’t kill me.

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Now that I’m 40, I’ve decided there is something important I should do as I enter what is likely the second half of my life. In a word, I think it might be helpful if I warn people in advance about some things other people over 40 seem inclined to do, things I would not be at all surprised to see myself doing. Heck, I already started doing some of them before I turned 40.

Knowing in advance may or may not make any of them more pleasant or tolerable for others, but at the very least I can issue an apology in advance, and you can prepare yourself in any way you feel you’d like to for the likely inevitable.  So, with no further adieu, I present…

10 Things That May Make You Wish I Hadn’t Lived Past 40
1) I will discuss the failings and delicacy of my digestive system in increasingly greater detail.  People around me, including people who may not even know me, will be told more and more about what I can and cannot eat, explicitly how eating this thing or that one impacts my digestive system and my whole body, and may even be informed of the exact moment when something has gone terribly amiss with little concern for their own desire to finish a meal while not thinking their food to have some sort of diabolical agenda.

2) I will take up some sort of hobby or collection which I decide has more value and import than anything else I have done with my life or you have done or are doing with yours.  I will refuse to call it a hobby, and instead will present it as my lifestyle, my calling, or that one thing which has the capacity to create world peace when all else has failed, and will be astounded that, for example, no one else has figured out that the secret to universal happiness lives in Precious Moments figurines or in weekly fern foraging.

3) In the case I ever knew your last name, I’ll forget it or mix it up with someone else’s.  I may also do this with your first name. And my own.
4) If not a track suit by design, I will slowly (and have already begun this process) come up with my own version of the track suit because a) nothing else will be deemed comfortable enough, b) I simply will not want to have to devote more than two seconds of thought to dressing myself and c) I will feel the track suit is inevitably less painful to the eyes of others than what I will come up with otherwise. However, I cannot promise not to pair said-tracksuit with some very bizarre hats.  Because if you can’t be female getting older and not at least have hats, life just isn’t worth living.  And yes, a When I’m an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple” poster will be displayed somewhere of prominence in my home, and you can’t fucking stop me, you sexist, ageist fascist.

5) I will try and convince you to do things or eat things I am certain are our shared secret to longevity, even if the actual process of eating or doing those things makes either of us wish life would end sooner, rather than later.

6) If you thought I talked too much already, I must warn you, it’s only going to get worse.  And whether or not my hearing actually goes, I’m going to pretend that it has. I’m sorry, what?  I couldn’t hear you (say that thing I have absolutely no interest in listening to). My hearing isn’t what it used to be, you know.

7) I will begin sending everyone cutesy-pie mail forwards I decide in my delusion contain the secrets of the universe, completely forgetting how much it has annoyed the living hell out of me.  I will also ignore any requests you make of me to stop sending them to you.

8) Appearing to revert back to the mindset of my childhood and adolescence, I will relegate all pop culture from my youth and adolescence to the level of religious iconography. If yours is different, it will never be able to be as good or as valuable as mine.  Because you just don’t get it, you know.

9) I will, at least once, be one of those feminists who says something so completely out of touch, out of line or otherwise patently offensive and ignorant that you will feel embarrassed both for me, and for yourself for ever having thought I had anything of value to say or do.  When I do this, I will also be blissfully unaware that with one mere mouthful, I may have potentially undone or jeopardized everything constructive I have said or done in the past.

10) Thought you knew too much about my digestive system? Just wait until I tell you all about my hormones.

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Consider this a bookmark.

In the last month, we’ve had two computer deaths. One of these meant getting a new system, a new system I haven’t even had a chance to get familiar with yet, though it’s been here for a couple weeks now. That new system meant that most of what I used to do most of this site and another couple was now obsolete, and I now have to migrate everything into Dreamweaver. Like, the ten years of site kind of everything. More accurately, the ten years of site kind of everything from someone who seriously talks too freaking much. Let’s remember that I learn any kind of tech by the seat of my freaking pants: it’s insane that someone who makes so much of their living on computers has such a tiny skillset with them. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I have nearly wept with a longing for the manual typewriters I used until the mid-90’s. I want them back. I understood them. They understood me. We had a much healthier relationship than computers and I have.

On the computer FAIL theme, we also needed to upgrade the Drupal at Scarleteen, which broke about eighty million things myself and my tech developer for that site have been driving ourselves crazy to find and fix.

I’ve had to do the HUGE deal that was the fundraiser (which I still have to sit down and do all the accounting for), Scarleteen traffic has been insane and I’ve been busy as heck trying to keep up. I am drowning in teenage crises, to the point that I may feel more stressed out about their crises than they do. I had pieces that needed finishing there that have been taxing. I’ve had phone meetings on various things coming out of my ears.  I have people sending me input on things, ideas on things in such a huge way that I’m dizzy, and can’t keep track of a good, goddamn thing anymore. An internet drama turned into people or groups being at risk that I was also dealing with and trying to help do all I could with. I have an amount of planning for both Scarleteen and the in-person program I direct here in Seattle that boggles my half-crazed little mind.  Money, as usual, is stressful as hell and I want to kill it until it is dead.

I actually made some new year’s resolutions this year, but they are only half-blogged.  I also have photo updates to add, but I have to deal with all the computer stuff and figure out how the hell it all works in order to do that.

In other words, I’m here but I’m not here. I will get things up as soon as I possibly can, but I have no idea when that will happen and if I’ll have any hair left on my head I haven’t pulled out by the time that it does.

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Silence for a week, and then two from me in one day.  Go figure.

The magazine-shillers sent someone else to my door today, someone who clearly intended to work the scam like a pro, rather than easily accept but one no from me for an answer then wind up getting free, drop-in pregnancy options and birth control counseling.

But I don’t think he worked it very well, and I’m wondering how long it took this guy to figure that out.

If this was a hustle, it clearly was mine, even though I had no intent on hustling anyone.  All I intended to do was answer the door.

So, the doorbell buzzes, in the obnoxious way that it does when I’m living under the illusion that working from home means a lack of interruption, and I go to the door.  A man I’d guess to be in his mid-twenties is standing there, in some version of suit.  He introduces himself, tells me he’s not from here and is working on getting a new accent (I don’t know why he says this), informs me he’s trying to better himself by selling these magazines.  I see that he has an identical folder in his hand that the girl from last week did, and I let him know then and there that I won’t be buying any magazines, nor will I be supporting these kinds of enterprises.  I make clear that I fully support him in doing whatever he feels he needs to to improve his life, but that my impression is that this ain’t it.

He doesn’t like this answer.  He starts to go into the whole spiel about the magazines from the start, how he gets a commission, how I need to do my research.  So, I explain that, as a point of fact, I did quite a bit of it on these very groups not even two weeks ago, when I was very distressed about the state of another “employee” who showed up at my door.  I explain that what I found were BBB reports that were not at all good, a few police reports that were really creepy, some ooky self-reporting, and a few youth advocacy organizations and writers which made clear that not only does his employer scam consumers, the biggest victims are the people who work for them.  I then tell him that while I would be glad to grab him a few bucks and just give them to him directly, I would not be giving this company anything.  He says okay when I offer the bucks.

I go inside, get a five, and when I go to hand it to him, he then immediately plays an “I’m so offended” schtick. I want to tell him that given United States politics over the last month, he couldn’t possibly be more offended than I am of late, but I suspect this will fall on deaf ears.

“Why would you give me money?” he asks.

“Ummm, because you came to my door asking for it, and told me how down and out you are?” I reply, as if asked why it was raining in Seattle.  Is this a trick question?  I suddenly feel certain I didn’t get enough coffee today, but that there might not be enough for me to make sense of this if I drank the whole continent of South America.

“I don’t want your handouts,” he says, and I wonder if he’ll get so in character as to spit on it, but he disappoints. “I’m trying to make a respectable living.”

“Okay, then, don’t take it” I say, “but I think to do that you’re going to need to work for someone besides outfits like this.”

“This is a good company,” he says, and we go back and forth a little more about how I’m just not down with that, and how much this could help him out. He states that other neighbors have said similar, and we all just don’t understand the truth about this wonderful endeavor.

I reiterate that I am fine with helping him personally, just not the sham business, though I have little to give since Rockefeller never lived here and wouldn’t have enjoyed even a visit very much.  I mention that if the amount insults him, he should be aware that the fact that that’s all I have in my wallet insults me, too.

He asks how I would feel if I lived on donations. I say that’s pretty much exactly what I do since I’ve worked in the non-profit sector for almost all of my life, and have been scraping the bottom of the barrel since I was born, and I feel as fine as can be expected about it.  Hell, if it’s okay for the Pope, why shouldn’t it be okay for him or me?

I don’t think I was supposed to answer that way.

He then pulls out a fat wad of money and shoves a ten dollar bill into my hand.  “There,” he says, “take that.”  He says this in the way one suggests that a person meet them at dawn with a pistol and a prayer.

I explain that I don’t want it, but he won’t take it back. We do this dance for a little while. He does not know what “Oy gavalt,” means and accuses me of calling him names on top of trying to make him take my dirty money when he wants nothing to do with it.

He also won’t leave.

I then state that I’d appreciate it if he’d take his ten dollars back and be on his way, as I am not going to buy anything from him, nor am I going to stand outside all day arguing about it.  He patently refuses to take back the ten dollars. He huffs, much in the way my little dog does, though I find her more believable.

“How does it feel getting a handout?!?” he asks, indignantly.

“Umm… fine?” I say.  “I’m ten bucks richer than I was before I answered my door.”

We both stand there silent, unmoveable, for a very long minute, until I figure there’s really nothing left for me to do, say thank you and close the door.  he makes a point of whistling very, very loudly as he’s walking away from the house, but I couldn’t begin to tell you why or what he was whistling.  But I know it wasn’t Dixie.

The temptation to knock on the doors of all of my neighbors and tell them that if they handed this guy money, they’d get double back was great, but I resisted, mostly because I don’t know my neighbors any better than they know this guy.

Instead, I headed out to pick up my printing and on the way home, bought myself a shiny new pack of cigarettes and a coffee with my handout I was supposed to feel so bad about.

I’m still waiting to feel bad.  Mostly I just feel adequately caffeinated, which is a relief.

Sunday, September 14th, 2008

So, the other day at RH Reality Check — a fantastic place I love and am so glad to have a column at, but the fundies do tend to seriously abound there — I was discussing what kinds of sex education programs exactly Obama supported for young children which the McCain campaign purposefully misrepresented.  In a word, it’s good touch-bad touch stuff, about personal safety and boundaries, the kinds of things ECE and elementary educators and community educators have addressed for an age. Nothing new here to see, kids.

When someone suggested parents could opt out of this, I had to ask why anyone would, really, and how, exactly, one was supposed to teach that age without ever addressing these issues with children since they tend to come up just among children themselves with some frequency.  I got a response which read,

Here we see why all this “opt-out” business is a sham. If Ms. Corinna’s mentality is pervasive among public school educators, then as a parent, “opting-out” of sex ed for your child is tantamount to entering yourself in the school’s sex offender database.

There is more (fairly fruitless) discussion there, but when I read that, all I could do on this end of the connection was silently mouth, “The fuck?!?”

(And not just because I’ve never worked at a school with a sexual offender database, nor can I imagine that I’d ever, as an educator, finding myself looking to use a child as any kind of weapon, retaliate against a parent or presume that a parent who objected must be abusing their child.)

It wasn’t progressives who have been at the root of, or in support of, sexual abuse panics.  It’s not progressives or educators (or both) who would do children and their families harm by false smears because we couldn’t have things go our way.  It’s not been progressives who look to annihilate, execute, terrorize, slander or otherwise go nuts harming or killing people to weed out “the (invisible) enemy.” The Patriot Act? Vietnam? The Rosenbergs? Lynchings and whites-only swimming pools?  The Salem Witch Trials?  Our current immigration laws? Not us, dude.

And then it struck me: I keep seeing this common theme over the years where it appears that neocons and fundies aren’t so much worried about us making OUR mistakes, or doing things the way we tend to do them.  Rather, they seem much more concerned that we are going to make THEIR mistakes, or use the tools and tricks they have tended to wield (and we have tended to strongly protest) against them.  I also feel like a certain sector of that population is so drawn to the idea of a fearful, omnipotent god simply because they don’t trust themselves without one.  What keeps them “in line,” or behaving in the way they feel they should, is driven strongly by a potential punishment if they behave differently.  In other words, I am seeing a whole lot of projection.

This is but a theory, and it may or may not be apt.  If it is apt, it’s going to be mighty tough to convince a group of people who don’t trust themselves without a certain structure — I’m not entirely sure real esteem can even happen in hierarchy — why some of us can be trusted without it and don’t feel we need it, or even if we share it, see it differently, incorporate it differently in our lives, and don’t feel that those without it are automatically untrustworthy.  In terms of hysterical panics — like the red scare, like the ritual child sexual abuse panics, like terrorist panic — if they see them as valid (and they tend to) and not as grave errors and abuses, it’s going to be tough to get them to see why we disagree, and why for those of us who do disagree, we are incredibly vigilant about NOT doing anything remotely like that as part and parcel of who we are and what our own ethics are all about.   If it is apt theory on my part, what is this really about?  Is it as basic as being about low self-esteem (when it isn’t megalomania), or is that totally simplistic and ridiculous?  If it is that basic, how, exactly, do we help raise their esteem, particularly if it’s trapped in power-over/power-under, and particularly when so often we’re the -under in that equation?

I have an aunt-by-marriage on my mother’s side who is one of my favorite people in that family.  She’s a longtime born-again Christian in a family of Irish Catholics, and I can assure you she wouldn’t be saying the kinds of ridiculous things I keep hearing from people who say they are like her. When we have a conversation, now and then she injects some scripture in, but in the way you have a conversation — it’s an inclusion, with room left for everyone else’s inclusions as well. She voices what she does because she is expressing something for herself, making a connection, looking for her thoughts to be one part of the whole quilt of the discussion.  She’s also always been massively supportive of me and what I do, is a big fan of the book, and is a very potent but gentle caller-outer of bullshit and hypocrisy.  Maybe I need to ask her about this.  I feel like she’d get what I’m saying (or tell me I’m being totally bizarre) and have some interesting perspective.

This stuff hurts my freaking head, man.  Not because I’m an idiot, but just because I’m so tired of thinking about it and trying to figure it out, especially when I’m trying to do so at the same time I’m trying to discuss things reasonably rather than giving it all the hell up, calling them a big doodyhead and heading off to enjoy my rights while I still have them.

Speaking of interesting perspective, I FINALLY came into touch with someone who is pro-life, and who is also feminist, vegetarian, antiwar, antioppression and against the death penalty.   I have been trying to find someone like this for YEARS, because I felt like the ONLY productive discussion I could ever have with someone who was pro-life was with someone who wasn’t kidding around when they talk about valuing “life.”  So far we’ve had some amazing exchanges, even though we’re really just getting started, and while I don’t expect either of us to agree with the other when all is said and done, it so far seems pretty enlightening and awesome for us both.  Cool stuff.

* * * * * * * * *

Over the last couple weeks, I have, at last, met a goal I set last fall of having 10-mile rides here be not only something I can do, but my average ride, having accepted that the 20-mile rides on flat land that were the mainstay in Minneapolis and Chicago cannot happen on the hills here.  I’m peeved it took me so damn long to get there, but 10 is now not easy, but doable, and I can exceed that distance on a good day, too.  Friday morning I actually just spaced out for a while on a trail and wound up doing 13 by accident.  Didn’t space what distance I’d done by the time I had to pedal the long grade up to get home, and my pubic bone still feels like a dart shooting straight up my coochie everytime I sit down or try and do something more pleasant with that location, mind you, but still.

* * * * * * * * *

By the by, we’re starting a new guest-blog series at Scarleteen written entirely by people of color on all things sexuality and sexual health.  I have a nice handful of cool people on board who are going to get started, but I would love to have even more.  Anyone interested? We’re also getting started on our election materials, so if anyone wants to help there, that’d also be fantastic.

* * * * * * * * *

In other news, it came up during a hangout with friends at the house that I’ve had more than one editor make clear that if I were willing to write a memoir about my adolescence, I’d probably have a contract in three seconds or less.

While it’s entirely possible I’ll do that at some point in my life, a) that point isn’t now, b) there’s no way I’d do that unless most of my family were dead, just because the worst offenders would make my life a hell yet again otherwise, and c) I can’t figure how I’d write something that’d mostly make someone want to off themselves while reading it, since so much of it would be about plain old awfulness.

But then it occurred to me that what I could do is simply write nothing but the GOOD moments that occurred during that occurred for me between the ages of 10 and 16.  Given the number of them, you’d have a clear understanding of how awful most of it was for me.  The extra bonus is that it’d also be a very, very short book to have to write.

I’m calling it 57 Minutes of Joy.

Monday, May 5th, 2008

I just got back from a night and a day in oh-so-not-at-all-beautiful Yakima, Washington.

I was teaching the staff of the clinic there self-defense today, and had to try very hard, when telling them how best to keep safe and feel secure, not to simply say “First?  Get the hell out of this town.”

I am relying on Washington natives here to know I need say no more.

Friday, April 4th, 2008

Yeah, I’m pissed off. I have had a seriously rotten day. And this entry will likely last a day at most before I make it go poofie, because I know it’s an incoherent, resentful vent. I have had to fight off a handful of people either asking me to expose myself in ways that are more about them and being provocative than about me or actually helping anyone, and then beg others to not freaking use my face without my permission just so they could have a pretty graphic for their own ventures or a poster child just because (or just because they didn’t want to be one). I have had to read — okay, I didn’t have to — comments out and about with some of the most ignorant crap I have seen in a very long time.

Here’s the thing that gets me the most: what the FUCK is it going to take for people to realize that NOTHING is an invitation to rape, and nothing, other than being able to be raped — something which is the case for any one of us — is going to “spur” a rapist on?

The comments about and around which have gotten under my skin most today is that a rape survivor or someone else (though I’m not sure why someone else would wear it) wearing the shirt would be “asking for” or “inviting” predators to do something. What the hell? Wearing a t-shirt which says, and means “I was raped,” is an invitation to rape? Is going to let a rapist know you’re who they should choose to rape? Why?

More to the point, it might be worth asking, for those this clueless, what they could do to NOT fall under the scope of someone predatory. I’ve talked about it before, but I will say it again: my 76-year-old great-grandmother was raped and murdered in her own home when she was just sitting, watching the tube. What the hell did SHE do, besides be home, be female, and be vulnerable? The first time I was assaulted I just went in to get a freaking haircut, feeling — obviously, stupidly — like, at the age of 11, a neighborhood hair salon was a perfectly safe place for me to be alone, and feeling like, when the guy who cut our hair asked me to walk back with him to the shampoo room, there was no reason I couldn’t walk back there with him where we’d been before. In fact, the whole time he had me up against the wall, his hands all over me, even in that very moment I could not, for the life of me, figure out what on earth was going on and what exactly I did — of course, what I did — to incite such a thing. What the hell did I do? If I had walked in there wearing this shirt, would I somehow have been inviting it more? As in “I was raped, so you may as well do it again?”

Perhaps more to the point, how stupid are these people to think that choosing to wear anything at all (or not) makes any damn difference in protecting them or anyone else? One of the reasons it is so damn hard for survivors to heal is that eventually, we have to deal with the knowledge that most of the time, unless we’re on guard 24/7 (and even then, that’s hardly a guarantee of safety) or stay locked in a panic room alone, there isn’t shit we can do to prevent someone from trying to rape us. That it could happen almost anywhere, at anytime, with anyone we know. That everything we thought we knew about how safe we were in the world was wrong. And that even in cultivating that terrible awareness, there will always be loads of people utterly convinced that being raped is something we can somehow control or even prevent with something as flippant as simple as what bloody t-shirt we wear.

Last year, a friend of mine asked me if I thought it was out of order to tell her five-year-old daughter that most people were stupid. I thought about it, and then told her that, actually, it seemed like a good idea. After all, that way her kid would either have her expectations met or be pleasantly surprised.

I really, truly wish that someone had told me that when I was five, too. I might get this angry and be this disappointed a whole lot less often.

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

Today at the protester corner outside the day job there sat a couple signs. One was an illustration of a baby seal, holding a sign itself that said “Save the Humans.” I’m so not kidding.

I looked once, then again, then turned to Mark (who was driving me in) to express that I had strong doubts that seals would want more people around just so we can continue to club them to death, poison their environment or, on a good day, take them far away from home and lock them up in claustrophobic living spaces at no pay for our own amusement.

I mean, if a seal was going to hold up a protest sign that had anything to do with human beings in front of an abortion clinic, I’m inclined it’d read something like “YOU.S. OFF MY BODY!” or “At least they won’t skin THEIR babies alive,” or “Good Choice! Less People = More Seals.” (Or maybe they’d be protesting the protesters, with a sign that said, “I’M the seal of God, not you!”)  And they’d probably be clapping.