Apr 23, 2016

One of the weirdest parts of Portland, Oregon for me, and the thing I actually find most like living in Santa Barbara, or any other fairly homogeneous, mostly tolerant, is the quiet, sublimated and confused bigotry of a melting pot culture that is more a puree than a stew.

Let me explain, because this mostly seems to happen in liberal cities where everyone believes they are tolerant and loving and embrace culture, but what they really seem to appreciate is a casting off of strong beliefs for something that has a more decorative and celebratory nature: here you will find a variety of foods from a variety of cultures, reimagined, often, and made with ingredients that culture never even imagined. You will find pinatas and menorahs and prayer flags. You will find multicultural music fests but very few mosques and temples.

It is like the renfair of cultural diversity, cosplay for those who grew up with dominant paradigms but like exposure to truly diverse thoughts and cultures and beliefs. We love our punks, our kinda budhist vegan bike riding anarchists, our lesbian jews, our multiracial babies in ironic onesies. We like hues of cultures, but not chunks we need to chew on.

being a jew I often stumble into the center of this more squarely than some. being a "minority", or at least someone who carries a less dominant culture, but looks and feels and smells like the vast majority of beige christianish majority, it is often assumed, even if I outright state my lineage, that I carry the same trappings. and you know people say things around people they feel they have something in common with more unabashadly. so there is that. so I will say I am jewish and they will nod and say it's cool because that is an interesting culture to them that isn't too terribly different so doubt I don't think too much about it. it is a thing I do a few times a year and instead or in addition I get to have a menorrah or something. sometimes they even go a step further and imagine how cool it is to grow up free from the dominant religious paradigm that is causing such stupidity around the world

and I almost choke on my coffee, because the religious paradigm I grew up with includes segregation and women covered head to toe, and food laws so stringent you can never eat out and a full day without electricity and fasting and a variety of other things that are pretty intense and which I carry with me to this watered down and mostly assimilated day. they are me. I carry the beauty and the confusion and the frustration of coming from a culture that I both struggle with and defines me. but I know what it is, and it is a lot to chew.

the other day I read a post about a jewish mom who got an eye roll from a preschool when she asked if her child could bring matzoh for a week (no outside food normally) because he wouldn't be able to eat their crackers or bread or muffins. they made a surprised comment about her being that religious. they were, quite actually, being a public institution required to accomodate in some fashion. and suddenly the cuteness of the jewish kid who drew stars instead of crosses became something they regarded as an annoyance, because there were needs, it was real, he was different, and that was something they weren't interested in dealing with, let alone learning about.

and ofcourse, they didn't recognize it as antisemitism, any more than someone doesn't recognize they part of themselves that says they aren't racist, but rejects dress or slang or accents that are part of another culture. they are fine with skin hues and history, but they reject the actual belief systems and history of joy and oppression attached to that culture. that is problematic and inconvenient and requires a level of introspection of your own

I want to say I am fortunate that the way I carry my culture allows me to not experience some of the more overt racism we tend to express. but part of me carries an anger and curiosity towards those who cannot digest diversity in it's truest form...I think of it is cowardice, because what does it say about you if you can handle dark skin but you can't handle the culture and belief systems that someone carries with them if they are different than your own? are you nervous about loving someone with unique thoughts? does it challenge your own beliefs to experience someone fulfilled by others? or is it simply lack of exposure because even the most hodge podged and atheists societies carry strong and insular paradigms?

I suspect it is all of the above. most people mean well but find it hard to imagine that someone they love and respect has a wholly different mind and history unless they get to truly, personally express it.  and so I think it out job to sensitively remind them that cinco de mayo isn't a chance to get drunk on margaritas, and new orleans isn't all about one street and a party, and jews aren't a cute sideview of semichristian agnosicism, and there a ton of different asian cultures with radically different paradigms and they aren't just here to bring you good food.

there are things to be learned. and they need to be learned if we plan to move away from oppression, in all it's forms, including embracing something as abrasive as anything else: willful homogeneity.

Apr 20, 2016

dewy and lush

whenever I see women who are holding a cup of tea and feeling blessed I want to grow my hair out.

 I picture these ladies making satisfied sounds like "mm" as they sip their tea and snuggle up in a home knit shawl, and am suddenly thirsty, imagining all the water I haven't drunk and all the fruits and vegetables and nuts and seeds I haven't consumed. I want to cleanse and stretch and find a certain peace that will produce the robust and dewy complexion I see. I imagine myself, voluptuous and full lipped, bright eyed and smooth skinned, muscles concealed a smooth sheath of elastic flesh.

This is how I picture one feels catching a sunrise or enjoying the last wisps of a sunny day. Swimming in a river,  you imagine such an image, or meditating a lake. This how one looks drinking a glass of wine on the veranda after a day of recreational exercise and a night of full sleep.

Then I capture a glimpse of myself in the mirror: sharp edges and fine lines, piercing but tired eyes, round, yet somehow lacking a certain vibrant voluptuousness one associates with youth and am forced to admit that a certain ship has sailed. I am not saying that days of beauty or fitness are behind me. Hell there are handfulls of celebrities to show us just how hot a lady over 40 can be. But that other thing. The pretty pretty smooth and soft, glowing and flowing beauty of carefree youth: she, as they say, has flown.

And so I make an appointment for a hair cut.

Apr 19, 2016

What’s new?
It has been one of my least favorite questions. Especially in a year where “nothing much” is a fairly positive answer and the other, more excitable answers I might have would foot to details that might be found mundane or annoying or alienating.
It wasn’t always like this. In youth I found that the constant metamorphosis meant that this question often elicited exciting tails of new romance, adventures, jobs, projects. 
All of these elements might exist in some level, to this day, but what I have found, as time goes on, is that those most likely to ask this question really don’t want the answer: acquaintances, social friends, distant relatives, are asking a question that can only be answered by details that will emphasize the path that has eroded out intimacy, or details too intimate to share with the kind of person who would ask this at a party.
Natural instinct here leads me to the topic of CHILDREN. Kids. To breed or not to breed and the slow and whistling chasm that seems to widen between those who do and don’t make that leap, making this question especially annoying for everyone involved. You are asking me what is new, and I will tell you all about little Timmy and his first tooth, and you will smile and wonder when my run-of-the-mill boring story that only reveals how mundane my breeder lifestyle has become will end. And I will wonder why I didn’t talk about my job or working out or something.
But because this is a sensitive area and people love to defend and object to the reality that this gap exists, I am just going to use another topic, for the sake of metaphor, instead.
Let’s say I got really damn into …vegan movement and conscientious eating. When I went to a party of my old paleo buddies and you asked me what was new I might discuss my latest discovery into my newly fetishized eating regimen and you would nod with a mix of fake amusement and barely hidden contempt as I went into the many ways my new life didn’t cause as much death and destruction as it once did. In contrast, walking into a room full of all natural vegans might yield a different result: excitement over where to find that new fake cheese or joyful pats on the back and we congratulated ourselves on our latest lifestyle choice.
Do I sound judgmental? I mean to. I mean to sound every bit as judgmental and tone deaf as I just did. 
Because all vegans aren’t like all parents aren’t like all health buffs aren’t like all venture capitalists. And some paleo people might be fascinated by this transition, and want to know more, knowing you were an educated fascinating person who took their consumption seriously. Sadly, this isn’t how it always goes, though. 
And walking into a room full of people who tolerate, but do not support your life choices invariably tends to lead to the same tone deaf conversations in which one person asks what’s new out of polite hope that you will pop up with the one thing you once had in common and the only thing they cling to as proof that you are still an asset and not a hold over obligation, and when you predictably can’t produce a lengthy diatribe about said commonality…well, we know where that goes.
I am not done with old friends. I am not done with childless friends or vegan friends or friends who moved to Peru, or friends who can’t get their shit together, or friends from “that” part of my life. Truth be told, I miss them. I am often hoping someone will tell me a story so far from my own experience that I don’t even know how it will end. I mean sure, your decision might sounds completely insane at first blush, or I might expect to find the details of your new tech job dull as doornails. But I also very much may not. It just depends on you and I am going to grant you the benefit of the doubt, even the open respect to imagine that every decision you make deserves respect, and means something to and about you, or you wouldn’t have made it.
But what I am done with are events that are characterized by a bunch of people who have written me off because they lack the creativity to imagine that each diverging life choice is multidimensional and as interesting or dull as you make it, and those who populate it. I am done with friendships that require me to be a ghost of who I once was because someone can’t imagine the value in who I have become. Which is awesome. Maybe. If you like me. And if you don’t see that, you aren’t a friend, and I would rather talk about the TV then tell you what is new

Feb 23, 2016

My close friend lost her teenage son a few days ago.

I won’t begin to speak, directly, to the loss of that beautiful bright light itself, and the all of the direct tragedy and horror that is wrapped up in losing a soul so young. To say that it is heartbreaking is only the tip of the iceberg.

I will save that for another day. Sidestep that conversation for something a touch less horrifying and unpleasant.

Because as the days tick by and the loss becomes a thing the living must deal with, I am struck by another loss as well.

Without putting too fine a point on it, watching a close friend lose a child is a little like losing a tyat close friend, themselves.

Yes, I realize that sounds dramatic. Or maybe self-involved. And yes, I realize that I will go on to have more times with her. Good times, bad times, amazing times, sad times. I am sure of it. I look forward to them all because I am happy to know her as long as she will let me.

But she will never be the same.
Look: There are a lot of clich├ęs around this: Having a child is like watching your heart walk around outside your body. True. You would give one year of your life for an hour of your child’s. Also true.  No one wants to outlive their child. Beyond true. Truth itself.
Watching someone that  you love so absolutely learn to live in this world is terrifying and exhilarating. To lose that, to lose the joy of watching their lives unfold…that is devastating. A phantom limb, a phantom soul. And while you can continue, while you can even go on, thrive, have more joys of your own,  like a chandelier with multiple bulbs, the loss of that joy is like the bulb that will always be out, forever changing the hue and quality of that light, of the mood, of the atmosphere of your world. 

And so I mourn for him and I mourn for her and those who loved him in a totally different way, because that person who was building a future and a life and a family that always included him in it is  gone, replaced with someone who is now a shell and the battle hasn’t even begun to rebuild the rest to something she can barely recognize, at this point, as her own life. The absence of the person  she was ...is palpable, and brings me to tears when the loss of her son doesn’t.

Sometimes I wonder if this is why people avoid people who are mourning, when they wish they could be the person who would be there instead. Because to miss someone in their very presence is a unique ache, a powerless gut punch. And only the love for them itself overpowers that unique horror.

Feb 13, 2016

public service announcement

there are ways, subtle, and not so much so, to let the less secure know that they cannot  feel safe experiencing a full range of emotions around you.

some are more obvious, like mocking or yelling at them, but others are more common, more universally accepted, and just as clear

1. remind them of their past: there is nothing like clearing that moment of sadness or frustration or embarrassment only to be reminded of it, again, and again. nothing will encourage someone not to lose it around you faster than being certain to remind them that the incident is present in your thoughts and encourage ongoing judgement

2. ignore the reaction, notably: tuning someone out, as they escalate, is a sure way to clarify that this is an emotion you are not comfortable with. you don't want to encourage it, you don't want to wade in those depths, and you certainly don't want to work on it with them. trying to bottle an emotion in another? this is a sure fire way to go.

3. comment, without encouraging words: Hard day huh? How awkward! Seriously, the irony is that acknowledging, in a way that lacks empathy, a bad moment can be just as direct a message as ignoring the emotion. Want to make it worse? Add a dose of annoyance. Nothing will remind a human to mask their emotions more quickly than another human pointing out that they are weak, and have no sympathy for that reality

4. denying them that emotion: almost as bad as ignoring, and possibly as bad as mocking,  is the moment in which you acknowledge a bad feeling and let another know that they do not have a right to react as such? the mild version of this is the "bright side" or silver lining. The more extreme is implying that someone is somehow negative or ungrateful or has some sort of disorder or perspective problem because they are reacting to something you don't think is worth that reaction.

So what can you do? How do you make a person feel safe to work through hard times and sad thoughts? At the very least, acknowledge kindly? Can't relate, don't feel safe or comfortable diving deeper: just let them know you hear them, don't have those feelings, but can respect that they can, and if you can't listen further, suggest options if that is what they need.
Even better, validate the emotion, share, if you can, a time you felt the same. Give them a hug, or even just let them be near you feeling that these are feelings they can face head on and work on directly.

Do everything you can to discourage shame, because shame helps no one.

Look, no one wants to be a downer. No one wants to be that person. You know, THAT person, who can't handle their shit, who is always sad or freaking out or acting out. Really. Or, at least the majority of people without severe personality disorders, just want to be thought of fondly. They aren't trying to upset you in order to win a sum gain.

The ugly part of this is: often in order to be holistically, we need all need to be that person from time to time. And whether it is death or destruction or just a bad day at the office that is calling up those feelings, we all deserve to feel safe having those feelings in order to figure out how to address them.

So next time you notice someone going there...going deep down there, consider your reaction.  The smallest attempt to allow them to feel safe can make all the difference.

Feb 11, 2016

another poorly kept secret

that moment, when someone reminds you that you are not allowed to have problems
or, at the very least not handle them as poorly as you have been

and here I had been proceeding with the idea that we were all enjoyable and together if a bit sloppy, loving eachother, foibles and all. right more than wrong, clean more than...
well, you get it.

I wish there was a way to respond gracefully to such words. I wish there was a way to absorb the news of ones failings with a little more grace than apparently I employ in every other situation

but truth be told I was pretty much as bitchy about that moment as I suspect I have been about a bunch of others because as he noted, so succinctly, I am pretty much a mess all of the time these days

and you know what that means, when someone tells you something like that. it isn't that they are concerned and you are a lovely and strong person who seems to be kinda unhappy. they are letting you know that your problems have gotten so annoying and unavoidable and present that they are becoming a part of who you are. that they are an issue, and not just for you. they are letting you know that they are stepping in the mess, and everyone else is too. or they are tired of stepping around it. and neither is ideal.

don't get me wrong, I am not so in the dark about my own emotional state that I haven't picked up that I am having PROBLEMS. Anxiety, frustration, loneliness, and a little indignation and rage. And exhaustion. All true. Not the only emotions I experience, daily, but certainly ones that are making far too frequent an appearance.

and also, please, do not misunderstand: I know that these are emotions that have value, that they shouldn't have to be hidden in a veil of shame. but I also know that I would rather have them be occasional guest stars in my constellation of emotions, not regularly reoccuring cast.

which is to say: I don't think it is possible for me to embrace vulnerability enough to be okay with the idea that I careen through life the embodiment of such resolute unkempt emotions. Or more to the point: I don't want to be that person. I am not okay with it and I don't think anyone else is okay with my being that person either. I am not interesting enough to also be that annoying. But to be more specific:  I don't want to be the person who so clearly has issues and problems, who so clearly cannot handle her shit, that other people are inadvertently absorbing the static and handling them for her, or at least along with her.

I don't want to be a mess, and even though I felt like one up until that moment, some small part of me had been able to believe that the rest of the world didn't know, that I some how was not, in actuality, one.

Live and learn.

I wish I could end this with a feel good point about how you need to see the mess to begin the clean up. How you need to lay eyes on the destruction to know how big a clean up crew you'll need.

Maybe this is true and knowing is the first step. So there is that.

But I can tell you about the clean up crew, and you are looking at her, and I can tell you how much effort it is gonna take, and that is all of it, at every moment. So that is where I'll be for the next long while...over there with a shovel, digging a hole, and possibly a moat.

Feb 6, 2016

we are missing an opportunity

As usual, we are missing an opportunity with this election
And that opportunity is not to be found in a campaign speech or promise.
Please note, one cannot run a fully positive or substantive campaign. Differentiation is found in the positive and negative, and sometimes illustrating what you have to offer must be found in exploring another's deficit.
Similarly, and sadly, as is the nature of our times, the likely efficacy of the candidate is only part of the selling point. So I don't want to get into the fact that a candidate is going to grossly over represent the likelihood of pushing their agenda and strongly under represent the opposition they will face.
People will take everything you say and apply a %. If you offer something realistic people will expect your office to include exactly zilch.

What I am talking about, in my own grass is greener, mildly metaphysical way is something else.
Specifically, what we, the always searching, always snubbing, always frustrated liberal end of the spectrum are missing is the opportunity for celebration.

The front runners are a woman and a man spouting some actually progressive, truly liberal shit.
Not two white guys of middle age, with lots of money and good hair, spouting middle of the road bullshit that represents so very little, not more of the same. Not more of the same.

And the reason we should be celebrating is not because these elements are new. There have been women candidates, there have been progressive candidates for years. There have, in fact, been better candidates with the same attributes in just about every election so far. And we haven't voted for them. We have chosen the guys with the good hair and the least offensive message, and this time though we are painting this election with the angry and resentful, only one of those guys even hung on until the caucauses and he was unusually progressive himself.

Here is what I think...we should be proud and excited that we are actually voting and embracing thoughts and opinions that could make a difference. That we are supporting people who represent a desire for change, and we should be emphasizing that there is no such thing as "they could never win" just because they are expressing thoughts that winners have never had before. We should be shouting that voting is empowerment and the only thing that will stop a candidate from winning is our unwillingess to elect them. And then we should vote for who says the closest to what we want to hear.

That is how we participate, that is how we move forward.

Or we could just keep tearing eachother down and resenting all of the shit going on and making every candidate look like they are a last resort.

All I am saying is: perfect is the enemy of good. And there is such a thing as very very bad.
And we all need to stop fighting like we want to lose the battle just because we are so comfo.rtable feeling the underdog

We need to stop fighting a losing battle.

A promise to my daughter

I can’t promise you I will be fun, or cool, or to love you in the way you want at every point in time.
I can’t promise you I will understand you, or that I will always get what you are asking for or what you think you need.
I can't promise you that you will understand me.
I can’t even promise you that I will always be patient, or generous or kind.
But what I want to promise, today, is that I will love and support you when it is awkward, even when it is inconvenient, even when it is hard and confusing.
And more to the point: that I will use my love for you push the confines of what is easy, what is normal, what is expected, so that I can give you the kind of love you need, whenever I am remotely capable.
So often we let expectations and hopes cloud the reality of necessity. People break their legs on other continents and become republicans. We get on a plane. We love them nonetheless.
But seriously. And truthfully. Being there for eachother will not always look and smell like we hope. The instinct will be the create a shadow of a relationship that allows us to comfortably and cleanly love in areas that least challenge us.
But, It will not be all about warm and well attended family dinners and a speech on your wedding day. 
That isn't love. That is a painting and an indie move.
Sometimes people need you to express love and support in manners that are truly scary, anxiety producing, and even annoying.
That is okay. That is better. That is how we stay alive. That is how we grow.
I promise to model brave love so you may do the same. So that you may recognize, in moments of greatest intimidation and fear, that a door is opening is know yourself and those you love with even greater depth and intimacy. And so that you always feel more secure when you give as much as you can.
I ejected a post that was particularly honest in an attempt to avoid triggering anyone or making anyone feel unduly guilty or concerned
If you read this blog that might be surprising to you, given how I am seldom so considerate.

But yes, even I hold some things…sacred.

That being said, I feel I am remiss if I don’t clarify how it all felt.

I suddenly felt slightly blind. A big wall erected itself, right there, between my eyes and the part of my brain that allows stimuli to come in, to swim around, the poke and this and that, and allow communication and computation and permutation to truly commence. I was sitting there, watching the other people wait, watching the board, and the nurses and the other various front desk and patient information service employees, crossing my fingers and tees, and finding that I could not process even the easiest question. I found myself suddenly alarmed that I would have to drive home. I did not trust myself when I know so many, at the moment, were going to need to trust me.This is why everyone else brought someone, I thought. This is why people call their sister or even the mother in law they cannot stand, to wait with them. Because even though there is no really real reason for them to be there, anxiety alerts the sense and blunts reason and two half brains are better than one partial lobotomy. SO to speak.

The other day my husband noted, as he heals from his surgery, that the pain and insecurity around his physical condition makes even innocuous places seem a little scary.

When you are in a vulnerable the familiar becomes foreign, and even the safest practices can suddenly seem daunting, terrifying.

I have gone through…things, in my life, before. Lost friends and relatives, fretted illnesses, worried on income and other elemental areas of safety. I always forget until I remember and then I really remember.
So here is what I know, again, for the time being, until comfort and ease and the day to day bullshit makes me forget once again.

We should not let people go through things alone. Even if we have nothing of significance to offer. It isn’t about how much stuff you can offer, how much financial support, or wisdom. It is just about being there, being present, giving them that piece of your brain to use when their brain short circuits as it  gets lost in the what ifs and please no factor of things.   A simple “what can I do”, if you mean it, really mean it, is gold.