So, up to ten miles round-trip now: I spent an hour yesterday afternoon sitting under a highway bridge at my mid-point near UW.
This is goodness. My hamstrings and quads currently disagree, but what the hell do they know?
It’s really good for me to do my daily sitting out of doors, rather than indoors, and attaching it to movement in some way. It always has been, really. In fact, at the first meditiation community I ever went to in Chicago, I had someone next to me complain once that my bouncing on my feet was bothering them. I resisted the urge to tell them that I knew I wasn’t moving the floor, that they weren’t supposed to have their eyes open anyway, so there, and that meditation is supposed to be all about working to tune out outside static and get in harmony with your surroundings, so they should consider me their special helper then, shouldn’t they? SNAP!
I resisted that urge because any of those comments and most certainly the snap would have been even less appropriate than the initial complaint, but also because I didn’t want to be the snappity-snip in the middle of a giant group meditation, which has absolutely zip to do with my spiritual growth and absolutely everything to do with preferring someone else be caught holding the asshole bag, by the by.
I’ve generally done better with walking meditation than seated. I’m not looking forward to the couple of months here where biking isn’t going to be an option often, but hey: it’s at least a shorter period of time to be away from it than it was in the midwest.
I realize, too, that my best meditating in this new ritual happens twice. It happens once when I take my sitting break at a mid-point — especially with things for my eyes to take in and associate, I’m such a visual learner — and the happy lasts the rest of the ride home, but even more so, it happens the first few minutes I get on my bike. I’m not thinking about the challenge of the hills, I’m not thinking about if it rains, I’m not thinking about where I’m going to go, and I’m not worried yet about being hit by a car: I’m just flying down the street feeling the breath in my lungs, the strong force of my body, and the wind on my face. I feel freed. I’m not thinking about anything but those moments for long enough that I can’t determine when they start or they end.
I think doing this is also me making a certain peace with Seattle that’s been slow to grow. I don’t dislike it here, not at all, but it very much doesn’t feel like Home. I’m not sure it ever will, not completely, and that’s okay — the landscape is just so different than the one that registers as home in my head (which is odd, because I feel very at home in Mexico, even without that registry). It’s beautiful all the same, and it’s certainly home for now. Given how slow everything often seems to be to warm here, perhaps that’s as it should be; that I should be as slow to warm to it and it seems to be to me.
(I’m keeping a photo journal of sorts of some of these sessions here for me to have a handful of visual koans for myself — my bike is being my self-portrait stand-in, it seems.)
* * *
So, for the first time I know of as of yet, I missed out on a big opportunity because I’m not someone’s mother. A production company for a big TV studio contacted me about needing a teen expert and wanting me, but that the gig required said expert being a Mom.
I walked out of my office after this brief conversation and into the kitchen, where Mark was hanging out. I very calmly, but with great resignation, voiced that I’d apparently passed the age where I was going to get penalized for BEING someone’s mother, and entered into the one where I was going to get penalized for NOT being someone’s mother.
I had to wonder if at any point there is an age for women where it’s neither considered too early nor too late for to be mothers when it comes to our careers and our market value.
I’m thinking not.
* * *
I talked to my father on the phone yesterday, who I didn’t know had climbed on a group bus to from Chicago to go protest for the Jena 6 two days ago: he’d just gotten home when I called. Not only am I supremely impressed he was able to battle his worsening agoraphobia to do that, it also makes me really happy.
I know, I know, activism is always supposed to be primarily about whatever cause or group or person you’re being active for, and I agree. But in my father’s case, especially since he feels so useless so much of the time, him being able to essentially do something that was like the civil rights movement work he once did, something he feels so strongly about, and something that made him feel so useful, is a really big deal. Him giving up the $50 that’s very little to others, but a big lot of money for him, to go is important. And it was a great experience for him, being able to go and step up, and also just being able to talk to other people on the bus there and back to whom it all matters. He sounded so happy, so energized.
We have had strange conversations about racism, my father and I. Not so strange, all things considered, but they’re sometimes not what one’d expect from a guy who once took fire hoses in the face to combat racism, and who ditched what easily could have been his best romantic relationship to do that work. He’s very anti-affirmative action, for instance, primarily because he feels like it’s asking my generation to “pay” for something that other generations did. I disagree with him on this point, I always have. For starters, I don’t feel like we’re paying for anything, that there is any sort of price I pay for affirmative action at all: while I don’t have a lot of privilege, I am visibly white, and even with things like affirmative action, privileges are and have been extended to me that are not and have not been to those of color. I don’t see anyone of color taking anything away from me with it, and I also feel like any band-aid we can have while the still wide-oepn wound of racism remains fresh and bloody is important. Really, I could care less about it from my vantage-point: it doesn’t hurt me in any way at all, and even if it did, I’m aware enough of the privilege I do have that when my privilege increases someone else’s burden, I want to do what I can to bring that in better balance. I’ve learned this from a lot of people and places in my life, but it’s odd to be pointing this out to a man who may well have been the first person to teach me to do that. Let’s even say that somehow, policies like affirmative action actually made it so that we whiteys were on the bottom of the olde race hierarchy for a time (yeah, I’m laughing, too): we’ll freaking well live. Everyone else has for a damn long time, after all.
Besides, it’s not like people of my generation are not still doing exactly the things that make affirmative action needed. Oh, if only.
My Pop is often of the mind that the playing field is somehow already level.
Mind, the neighborhood he lives in, the one we used to live in together, is over 80% of color. It’s also exceptionally dangerous, being one of the biggest gang neighborhoods in Chicago, and also THE place for metric arseloads of dealing and prostitution (yes, you’d think he’d realize that that alone should be a big, neon sign that the playing field when it comes to race is hardly level, but alas). White people TIPTOE through that neighborhood unless they’re cops, and no one with half a brain is going to be spouting racist bullshit on a regular basis over there, but only because of a fear of being directly hurt for doing so. He VERY infrequently leaves that neighborhood.
By virtue of barely being off-street, my father also looks that part. In other words, many of the same kinds of biases racist people have against people of color come into play with homeless people, so. I was trying to explain to him on the phone that when I find myself in spaces and situations where no one knows who I am, what my background or beliefs are; when all they can see is what sex I am and what color, I hear this crap a’plenty. When Briana and I were at the State fair in MN during my last visit, we got a serious doozy, as an example.
We saw a bathroom where the line wasn’t too bad, and while neither of us had to go, I figured it was best to go in advance so that when I was about to wet my pants, I wasn’t going to have to stand in one of those lines. So, in line we went. In a few minutes, two or three pre-teen black girls stepped out of the line for a minute, and walked past us, pretty clearly to go see what was taking so long and how bad the wait really was. When they turned around, they appeared to be doing that little bob one does when one has to pee like a racehorse. I asked if they had to go pretty bad, and got given the “ohmygodohmygodI’mgoingtopeeonthefloor” look we all get when we’ve hit that point, and so just said they could just take my place in line, since I really didn’t have to go, anyway, and certainly not that bad.
Behind Bri was a perfect blond woman with her perfect blond children in her perfectly shiny stroller and her perfectly shiny clothes, and the moment I did that, I heard her say, quite audibly, “What is this, affirmative action?”
I made a point not to turn around, because I just did not know what would have come out of my mouth if I did. Bri did turn, and shot her a look, because she then said (not at all apologetically), “I’m sorry, I’m a redneck.” Because that justifies everything, you know. Without the look, she likely wouldn’t have said anything at all, and part of saying what she did was based on her presumption that everyone around her was also racist, because most of the people around her were also white. So comfortable is someone like that in that, that they WILL say something like that, loudly, nearly anywhere because they’ve no reason at all to fear that they’ll be unsupported in their sentiments or be harmed in any way for them.
So, I’m telling my Dad this as an example, and explaining that of COURSE she would not have said anything like that if the girls I let go ahead of me were white. Or her kids. She likely wouldn’t have said anything at all, really. I told my Dad about the time Mark and I were at that B&B in Whiterock, right after Katrina, and how the older Canadian woman who owned it with her husband literally asked me, in absolute seriousness, why “those” people ever “chose” to live in that area way back when in the first place. And how I sat there, floored, trying to drop clues about the history of slavery and the legacy of poverty and the boon of being with one’s family in the hopes that with one, two, maybe even three, she’d realize what freaking stupid things she was saying sooner rather than later. I dropped a lot of clues, and some not so hinty-direct statements. She never got it. We excused ourselves from breakfast early and got the hell out of there.
Oh, I have stories, we all have these stories. But I don’t want to sit recounting them: they’re just too maddening, even to me.
My father just kept saying to me, the other day, that he just could not, would not, believe things were still like this in 2007. He finally at least said that he just didn’t want to. I tried to explain that my impression with this generation in particular (high school and college-age right now), was that I’m seeing a lot of hardcore resentment amoung plenty of youth when it comes to racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, ableism, the works. Plenty seems to feel like and express that asking them to take stock of their privilege and consider it when dealing with others is something they are entitled NOT to do (yes, I know, it’s such an obvious symptom of the thing that it’s not even ironic: it’s plain old literal), that they should not HAVE to do (because it’s such a strain on them to act and speak with compassion), and that I’m a big old asshole for even suggesting they do. So much of the ugly history of racism isn’t something many even know or care to know, and for those who do, it often seems very far away, when it’s really only-yesterday stuff, and in many ways, still-today stuff. I could go on about this for a solid year, really, it’s one of the toughest parts for me of working with young people right now, but the point is, his awareness of this isn’t so great.
My Dad is also all about everything really boiling down to class issues: I got my first socialism from him, to be sure. In some respect, I agree with him, but in others, I really don’t. (And we’ve had similar discussions about sexism.) Mostly, I don’t think we can untangle all of these things so easily, especially given the ways they intersect, and for whom they intersect most. But perhaps more to the point, I don’t find that most people are sophisticated enough, or maybe more accurately have the desire or the interest in deconstructing and examining all of this enough — because when you do, of course, you have to take more personal responsibility for certain things — to be able to even make those distinctions. Plus, it can be about class all it wants, but we still have to acknowledge that not only are more women and more people of color lower-class, but that the impact of classism is greater when you’re dealing with compounded minority.
I also have to remember, though, that my father was and has been exceptionally depressed that all the activist work he did was for naught in many ways, and that that’s a big driver in these discussions and feelings. The civil rights movement absolutely did some good, but it didn’t erase racism: the friends he had who lost lives or health in doing that didn’t lose them for nothing, but they also didn’t lose them for what they’d hoped for. The anti-war movement with Vietnam was important as hell, and made some difference, but here the hell we basically are again, all that history forgotten or dismissed. He didn’t change the world, and he really, really wanted to: he sacrificed a lot trying. It’s very hard for my father to have to deal with the fact that, for instance, racism is still alive and well and not just living in Lousiana and Alabama but also in Maine, New York and Seattle. It’s hard because of what it means about the world, but it’s also hard because of how it makes him feel about himself.
* * *
I’m finally putting up a few new photo sets today, and making more headway in my backlog. The sets going up later today include a set of photos of a transgender friend currently IDing as genderqueer: I’ve been dying to do some transition photos of someone for a long time.
It was her idea to do a series in which she was in her clothing of choice, nude, and then in old boy-clothes. I thought it was a brilliant idea, and I’m pleased as hell with the results. But I’m very glad she suggested it, because it’s not something I’d have felt at all comfortable in suggesting to her myself, much in the same way that I wouldn’t for a minute feel comfortable suggesting that a cisgendered woman pose in stiletto-heels and corsetry and makeup, even if I had some brilliant creative intent, if dressing that way would make that woman feel terribly uncomfortable and put in a drag she didn’t like (and as far as I’m concerned, it’s drag no matter who’s got it on — some folks just happen to like being in drag). As it was, seeing how Amy looked, mood-wise, in the boy clothes, I was RACING to take those shots: it was earnestly painful for me to watch her face kind of fall.
Per the final results, I hate to talk over artwork, but I think the images are incredibly telling. I did almost wish that I had had an assigned-sex woman who doesn’t dig girl-drag to do a sort of mirror of them — one in her regular clothes, another nude, and another in say, hardcore Victorian garb or, say, head-to-toe fetish latex blah-de-bah. But another day (and again, she’d probably have to volunteer to do it herself: I’d just feel so ooky asking someone to stand around like that who didn’t want to).
Next up, finishing Becca’s pregnancy shots as well as my first shots of baby Odin, who is — of course he is — cute as the freaking dickens.