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June 30, 2009

An Open Letter to Every Man I Know

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 9:16 pm

Here’s an excerpt of a thing I wrote. Like I said before, it’s a small thing. The ways I’ve been sexually traumatized in my life are miniscule and unremarkable compared to the kind of rape, assault and abuse faced by millions of women around the world.

That being said, this still happened and it still shaped me. And similar things have happened to so many girls and are happening to so many girls right now, and I’m not going to continue keeping it under the rug out of fear or shame about how this happens to “everbody” and I should just “get over it”. I’m going to help myself actually get over it by talking about it out loud.

I need to tell you about something.

(more…)

Calibration

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 8:22 pm

He says I’m not a problem; that I don’t need to be fixed. And I love him for saying it. But I still hate the fact that most of the time we can’t make love because what constitutes “normal” sex in our culture gives me PTSD-like freakouts that I don’t understand and can’t explain. And I hate, when they happen, feeling like I’m crazy or I must be ‘faking’ them.

And I mean, I must be faking them, somehow, making them up, right? I must be some kind of psychological hypochondriac. Because there’s no good explanation otherwise. The bad stuff that’s happened to me sexually doesn’t hold a candle to the kind of fucked up shit that’s done to MOST women in our society. So, some boys were douchebags to me when we were teenagers, and once some people “took advantage of me” while I was unconscious, and I’ve been ridiculed for being fat and fetishized for my tits most of my life. So what? This stuff is…annoying. Unfortunate. Kinda terrible, at most. It’s not like…trauma-inducing. Not severe trauma-inducing. Not break-down-crying-hyperventilating-and-choking-in-public-without-preamble trauma-inducing.

Because if it is – if that’s a normal reaction to even the tiny degree of massively privilege-mitigated sexual abuse and gender-based violence I’ve been subject to – then what must most women be going through? And what must they being doing to themselves in order to cope with it in the face of still having to live their lives, work actual jobs, pay rent, maintain relationships, take care of their kids?

I don’t think I’m “too sensitive to live.” I don’t think I’m more or less sensitive than any other human being on the planet. I think I’m more privileged than most human beings on the planet, and that gives me the luxury of more psychic space in which to experience, feel, articulate, express, process and cope with the aftermath of my traumas. And sometimes what I see in that space scares me.

But what scares me even more is how much I – we – don’t see because we, they, everyone is keeping it hidden, gnawing, so deep down inside that we don’t even know that we don’t know it’s there – and that for most other women it’s so much bigger and more horrific than the tiny flecks I’m exposed to, and they’re still swallowing down their own rapes and the murders of their daughters every minute of every day…because that’s the only way to survive. I hate that the most.

June 21, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 7:17 pm

I’m not writing.

I know this is a problem, but some days I just want to say, “Fuck it. What’s the point?”

June 5, 2009

Update

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 6:24 pm

Hiya!

I’m just posting something quick because I’m trying to stay in the habit of regular updates, even if I don’t have time to sit down and compose anything with substance.

I’ve spent the past few days in Limon with the boy, visiting some Ice friends, trying to get some work done, doing a massive amount of relationship processing, and seeing about getting him a job. I’ve also been working out every morning, cleaning and unpacking, sleeping lots, and generally trying to take care of both myself and him. I had my third fiddle lesson last night. Tomorrow we’re going to a big gun show in North Denver, and I’ll probably write more about that.

Working at the computer is still giving me headaches and eye-strain, but I haven’t made time to do anything about it yet.

I am, as usual, trying to keep too many balls in the air. I’m also trying to learn how let go of stuff and be less of a control freak… I’m not sure how that’s going.

While I was unpacking some boxes, I came across an old term paper that I’d written for Simon – a sort of final capstone on all my college Philosophy classes. It certainly wasn’t the most clever or sophisticated philosophical commentary ever penned by a 22 year old but, to be fair, it was pretty fucking good. Seeing it gave me a momentary flash of bitterness and regret – a sort of feeling that’s very new to me, one I didn’t believe was possible when I wrote the paper; a sense of youthful possibility as something passed, of dreams deferred and eventually drawered, of “could have beens” whose windows have closed…

Then I actually re-read the paper which, ironically, was all about the relationship between Heideggarian anxiety and Nietzsche’s amor fati – or, in other words, about possibility and filling one’s life with meaning by embracing the inevitability of death. Suddenly I remembered what it felt like to be 22, in love with the world I was discovering, finding faith in myself, and saying a sacred FUCK YES! to life…And then I drove to Nederland on a whim, pounced on August, and ate some hotdogs.

Anyway.

June 2, 2009

In a similar vein…

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 10:16 pm

The more I begin to feel like I have meaningful results and useful ideas to contribute (or can at least fake it), the more our collaborative group project-planning meetings become one of my favorite parts of my job. I really admire my colleagues and enjoy the way we think together.

In the beginning, when I first started working as part of the team rather than just doing data entry here, I approached planning meetings a little like I was going on trial. Not that I ever spoke or contributed much, but when I did talk, I felt like all I was doing was trying to justify my right to be there (which I didn’t really believe I had) and prove that I’d been getting lots of work done (which, frequently, I hadn’t).

It’s taken me years to get to a point where…I trust that my colleagues really do expect me to know what I’m talking about – and they want to hear it not because they’re looking for proof that I’m a slacker-ass fraud, but because they believe I have something relevant to contribute to the discussion. I don’t always agree. They are far more experienced, knowledgeable and savvy than I am – being that, among other things, they both have PhDs and decades working in the field. But I’m no longer totally shocked when they take one of my suggestions and run with it.

I’ve reached a point where thinking about how to orchestrate our research is more interesting, challenging and fun than it is a daunting confusion. I do still feel a little less engaged than the other people I work with; I feel less ownership over the results. But, to be fair, that’s because I am less engaged. This work is 100% of their livelihoods and a constitutive element of their careers whereas, for me, it’s effectively a summer job. Granted, so is working in Antarctica. Two alternating summer jobs, one for each hemisphere…

Which begets the question: What is my actual vocation?

But after a meeting, which typically last 3 – 4 hours, I rarely feel like going back to work. I don’t want to dive right back into what I was doing before. I want to let the things we talked about percolate for a while and see how they influence my thinking. I want to muse, and blog, and re-organize my To Do List around my updated calendar…

And the thing is: That’s my prerogative. I’m an adult. I set my own hours. I’m responsible for organizing my time, getting my work done, and meeting my deadlines in the way I see most fit.

Yet, despite the fact that nothing even remotely like this has EVER happened, I still haven’t entirely shaken the fear that someone is going to show up at the door of my office and “catch” me “goofing off,” look at my computer screen and shout, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!?

Fighting impostor syndrome is a bitch. I’m lucky that I’ve had such a great group of people around while I do it.

Investment.

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 5:54 pm

I would like to publish something non-academic before I’m 30. Which, given that I’m a breath away from 28, means I should really get on that. In part, this requires thinking about what entails ‘publication’ in the digital age. But, in larger part, it just requires writing a lot. A whole lot. A whole lot more than I do right now.

Here’s a summary of Octavia Butler’s prescriptions for wannabe writers, from an essay deliciously titled “Furor Scribendi”:

1. Read. […]
2. Take classes and go to writers’ workshops. […]
3. Write. Write every day. […]
4. Revise your writing until it’s as good as you can make it. […]
5. Submit your work for publication. […]
6. Here are some potential impediments for you to forget about:

First, forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.

Forget talent. If you have it, fine. Use it. If you don’t have it, it doesn’t matter. As habit is more dependable than inspiration, continued learning is more dependable than talent. […] Persistence is essential to any writer — the persistence to finish your work, to keep writing in spite of rejection, to keep reading, studying, submitting work for sale. […]

Finally, don’t worry about imagination. You have all the imagination you need, and all the reading, journal writing, and learning you will be doing will stimulate it. Play with your ideas. Have fun with them. Don’t worry about being silly or outrageous or wrong. So much of writing is fun. It’s first letting your interests and imagination take you anywhere at all. Once you’re able to do that, you’ll have more ideas than you can use. Then the real work of fashioning them into a story begins. Stay with it.

Persist.

It’s stuff we’ve heard a million times before – but she encapsulates it all so concisely, firmly and encouragingly into four short pages, I want to hang it on my wall. But my intent wasn’t to make this into Octavia Butler Gushfest Pt. 2…

Asa’s agreed to let me take point on coordinating the Writing Group he’s been wanting to start. My confidence in myself as a writer may ebb and flow, but if there’s one thing I have faith in my ability to do, it’s organizing people. It makes so much sense to use that skill in the interest of improving my writing that I feel dumb for not having realized it before. I’ve always thought of writing as something one must do in the deepest solitude – and, in a certain way, just like everyone ultimately dies alone, ultimately you must write alone…

But if my raisons d’etre are to write and build community (which they are), it makes sense not only to write things that encourage community-building, but to write in ways that build community and to build community in ways that support writing – perhaps not just my own.

This is a small beginning place. We’ll see where it goes.

Silliness.

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 5:25 pm

Community. Communication. Communion.

A trinity, if you will.

Or better yet…

June 1, 2009

Speech Sounds

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 4:48 pm

Incidentally, if you know me personally and would like to borrow my copy, just let me know – I’d be thrilled to lend it to you.

Three Quick Things

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 4:40 pm

The Bad

More bullshit on NPR this morning. This time, a story called “Silicone Injections May Harm Some Patients” which starts with the line “Vanity has a price.” The story starts by describing some health problems experienced by women who got silicone facial injections in the 70s and 80s – although these “health problems” sound like little more than mildly embarrassing facial deformations to me. Their most serious example is a woman who, in her 40s, had a doctor fill the wrinkles in her forehead with silicone and now, in her 60s, has small ridges on her forehead that make her look “like a Klingon” (the doctor’s words, not the woman’s.)

Towards the end, however, the story goes on to mention some young trans women – who the reporter calls “transgenders” – injecting non-medical grade silicone, which is sometimes cut with other chemicals and can result in serious burns or, in one case, a silicone-induced heart embolism. The article mentions that these harmful substances are often peddled by unscrupulous people trying to make a buck off of “transgenders” – who are painted in this article as naive, reckless, vain and impatient, and described explicitly as being “so anxious about their appearance they’re not willing to wait for medical hormone treatment to work” – but includes no analysis as to why these women are more susceptible to this kind of predation than the presumably equally naive, reckless, vain, impatient and anxious women at the beginning of the story.

Instead, with her multiple references to what transgender women do – not some of the trans teenagers who attend this particular support group at the LA Children’s Hospital, nor even any specific demographic of transgender women, but just “transgenders” (you can almost hear her trying not to say “trannies”) – the reporter blithely perpetuates a stereotype that all transwomen are poor, neurotic, vain, urban People of Color, recklessly and ignorantly buying and shooting up what apparently amounts to street drugs, in order to get “large breasts and a cuter face…in a few hours!”

Mostly, the reporter talks to the doctor who runs the support group – evidently her only source of information about this issue – but she does interview one of the participants. Here’s her quote:

“I like that my insides match my outsides. And if I feel like a woman, I wanna actually look like one. It kinda eats you up inside. So why not slowly change my outside to match my insides?”

Is it nice to hear a young transgender Woman of Color talk about herself on national radio? Hell yeah. But here’s the quote from the one other silicone-user interviewed:

“I wasn’t told that there could be any problems with it, and so I started a series of small injections into the line from the nose corner to the side of the mouth. [Now,] particularly on one side, it has been lumpy, a little bumpy.”

This woman wasn’t asked to justify her use of silicone – just to detail its tragic consequences. Furthermore, all the early quotes from doctors and dermatologists in the segment are about how silicone injections affected patients – only when they start talking about transgender women does the focus shifts to why people choose to inject it. Even though, in the case of people looking for affordable ways to transition, that answer seems far more obvious and explicable to me than why rich women from Manhattan need to flatten their foreheads.

I think the fact that some transgender folks are in a position where transitioning requires them to put their health at great risk is messed up, important to talk about, and definitely newsworthy – and, to be honest, I didn’t know anything about silicone-injection before I heard the story. So, thanks NPR. But couching it in a story about “the dangers of silicone injections” is inappropriate.

The most annoying, indicative, funniest part of this story was listening to the reporter’s commentary on each of the above quotes. Saying, with exactly the same degree of deadpan, straight-faced, What A Tragedy seriousness, both “Patients have been hospitalized because chemicals mixed with silicone caused severe burns” and “There are other lumps on her chin. And she says one side looks puffy.”

In other words: “Some rich women have lumpy foreheads and some poor women are dying in the ER – and that’s because SILICONE IS BAD FOR YOU! C’mon ladies. Why y’all gotta be so vain?”

That’s transphobic.
(Not to mention mysoginist.)

Thanks, NPR.

The Good

But! In contrast to NPR sucking, Octavia Butler is awesome! I’ve been making an effort to read more works by Women of Color lately. I haven’t been very successful in this so far, which is an issue that deserves its own post, but I have been reading Butler’s Blood Child and Other Stories this week. This is the first of her work that I’ve read. I’d enjoyed and been impressed by the first few stories, but they hadn’t really clicked with me on a deep level…

And then, this morning at the gym, I read “Speech Sounds.” Holy shit. That’s what I said as I read the last sentence. “Holy shit.” Then I started crying, on the treadmill, in front of everybody. It was one of those stories where…I didn’t realize it was coming. Not the ending; there was no major twist or Sixth Sense shocker. But my emotional reaction. Here I am, reading along, interesting story, feeling fine, and then BAM! I’m sobbing.

I don’t want to tell you what the story’s about, because it’s so finely crafted and dense that I feel like even the most cursory description would be a spoiler. But if community, language, and the relationship between them are important to you, you should read it. I can’t guarantee it’ll make you cry. That might just be me. But it’s a hell of a story. And the last line, in its aching simplicity, will stick with me for a very long time.

…And The Funny

This is one of my favorite quotes. Reportedly, it’s something my great-grandfather used to say after a good meal. It occurred to me last night that it would also make a pretty great epitaph:

I’ve had my sufficiency,
Any more would be a superfluity,
And any less would have been a calamity.

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