December 5, 2012

The Grey Visitor

He comes in without invitation.
He has his own key, so quite often I don't even notice that he's been sitting around for quite some time.
Sometimes he's like an old, lousy friend
  No redeeming qualities,
  but he's been there to help me limp through so many years of shit...
  I just feel...
  when he's around 

But it's only a matter of time until he shows his true colors.

He whispers quiet, insidious lies in my ears.
So quiet, they sound like my own thoughts.
       They sound like reality.
"Your weakness is showing.  Everyone is going to see."
Shut up.
"They're going to catch on.  You can't keep up this facade forever."
I said shut up.
"Who do you think you are?  Some one..... worthy?"
"I mean, really.  What have you done to deserve ANYTHING?"

That's when his nastiness really shines.
I discover that he has snuck in when I wasn't looking.
Every day that I've triumphed because he wasn't there have faded.

I have no answer to give.
Nothing I've accomplished counts.
I have no value, no worth.
That lying, stealing asshole.

But I am onto him.  
I see him there, sitting in the corner
That fucking smug grey cloud.

I call him out for what he is.

He lies to me.
He steals my joy.
He tells me that everything is my fault.  But really, it's his.
He takes my fuel, and robs me of the ability to enact change in my life.

I may not be able to take his keys and lock him out forever.
But by god...
I will not listen to his lies.
I will not let him take my victories, no matter how small.

This is my house.  Sit down, and shut the fuck up.
My show is on.

November 20, 2012

Writing - A Retrospective

Written in the Oregon Museum of Art on March 31, 2007

It's an interesting reflection on how I felt about writing, and about sharing my writing, before I began my journey of self discovery in earnest.  This was written after my first divorce, but before I had kids, and therefore before my most severe depression (post partum depression).  It was before the revelations that Psychoanalysis has opened up to me, that helped me realize how much of a writer I really am, and want to be.

I've found my way into yet another museum.  I'm not quite sure what it is about art that I so thoroughly enjoy, but I manage to hit a gallery in every city I visit.  I think a part of me is drawn to the sense of creativity here.  All these artists who must have been driven, to some extent, to create.  That compulsion to invent some perspective not yet seen.

What undefinable value their creations give to the world.

I wonder what it's like.  Beyond the need to give life to their imagination, what does it feel like to be compelled to share that vision?  I've had my moments of creativity.  I enjoy my words, and the formation of my thoughts.  More often than not, the fruits of my labors end up feeling fiercely private.  There are very few with whom I choose to share my little bits & snippets.  I can't imagine exposing my brain babies to the scrutiny & criticisms of the general public.  I envy that in real artists, while I somehow judge it at the same time. 
   Such immodesty.  Such hubris.  Such arrogance.
All because somewhere along the line, I was taught, or I decided, that my creations didn't deserve the same public acclaim of others.  There's always something missing that makes it not quite good enough.  Not that I honestly feel that most of what I've done really is all that fantastic, the general dismissal of it's worth saddens me, even though it's purely coming from within.  I think that's why I've decided to plunge more fully into my journaling.  Even though my moments of truth and revelation aren't all that frequent, I still love my words.  I don't have to write something Pulitzer worthy to make writing worthwhile.  

I'll create with that mindless, selfless passion of the artist.  For the love and joy it brings to just me.

Interestingly, as this draft was sitting, waiting to be edited for spelling and typos, I stumbled on an interesting YouTube video that echoed this sentiment very closely.  I absolutely love his approach to nullifying the fear.

November 16, 2012

"Respect for Human Life" My Ass

*Note:  This was originally composed during the RNC.  But I had some issues verifying the entire story about the young girl in the Dominican Republic.  You can replace that entire paragraph with the same rage directed at Savita Halappanavar's situation.  
Rage.  Feminist rage.  You want to know why I'm an angry feminist?  It's because I'm terrified.  I'm terrified of what I hear on the news.  There are days I cannot listen to the news, because it literally is too depressing and frightening what is actually going on.

Today's panic attack is brought to you by the official Republican platform plank that confers all the rights of a human life on an unborn child. Personhood starts at conception.  I understand on it's face, it's a noble intent to value all human life.  But it isn't valuing all human life - it's valuing pre-born life over female life.  A woman is in the picture, too, you know. If you define life as starting at conception, when a pregnant woman has cancer, her treatments become murder.

This law will determine that the human in the uterus is worth more than the human with the uterus.  Tell me how that isn't a war on women???  Humans with uterii are worth less than fetuses who will not survive if the treatment is withheld and the mother dies anyway.  This is not a hypothetical situation, people.

A teenage girl in the Dominican Republic recently DIED of cancer because of this.  I am not drawing extreme, ridiculous slippery slope conclusions here.  A young woman is DEAD because the laws in her country said that a fetus couldn't be threatened, even to treat it's mother's deadly condition.  Well guess what... Both child and mother are dead now.  Good thing she didn't get her chemo and risk that baby which is now... oh right, still also dead!!  Is that what we want for our sisters and daughters in this country? (Edit:  Apparently.)

Call a spade a fucking spade.  These assholes are NOT pro-life.  How is legislation that will result in nothing but the DEATH OF WOMEN (plus those fetuses the legislation is supposedly trying to save) pro-life?  Criminalizing abortion does not save lives.

Criminalizing abortion kills women.  Not "just" babies.  Not just people (generic).  Women.  People in possession of vaginas.  Disproportionately, specifically, kills women whose only crime has been having a medical crisis while pregnant.

Then there's the other side of how illegal abortion kills women. Abortion is definitely a demand-side market. Women will have a need to control their fertility, whether the law makes that easy on them or not. 

We're already seeing the impacts of overly regulated abortion in Texas.  Women who have a constitutional right to medical care, including abortion, are facing major obstacles to that care, such as 24 hour waiting periods.  In desperation, they're going to unregulated, under informed pharmacies in Mexico to get prescription drugs for off-label use.  The back-alley coat-hanger abortion of the new era is the "black market" pharmaceutical abortion. These don't cause tummy aches, folks. 

One of the drugs women can get is Cytotec.  Moms out there recognize that one?  Yeah, I got it when they were inducing my labor for my first delivery.  In Mexico, it's prescribed for ulcers, and it is used for perfectly legal, early term abortions in the US.  However, since the women aren't getting the meds from a doctor, they aren't getting proper counseling on how much to take, what to do if they experience complications.  It appears that for some of our Texan women are so limited by the laws in their state, their only option is to run for the border.

This is the war on women.  Now ask me again why I'm an angry feminist.

November 14, 2012

Profound Acceptance

Today I finally recognized, accepted and embraced my "thing."  I don't know if everyone has a "thing", but I've always been jealous of people who do.  My dad?  His thing is teaching.  It's in his soul.  Down to his bone marrow, he IS a teacher.  If he never steps foot in a classroom again, he will still be a teacher every day of his life.

*Not Dad's actual classroom
*Not Dad's actual classroom

Me?  I am a writer.

I may never earn a dime with my words.  I may never again make them public.  I may never again put pen to paper and let the word flow forth.  But in my soul, I will still be a writer.  It's something I always have been, and it's something I always will be.  I just never really realized it until now. 

*My actual journal. The pen is a bitch to use though.

It fits as comfortably as thinking of myself as "woman" or "mental health advocate."  The realization feels kinda like getting that last long piece in Tetris that you really really need before you lose the game, and it's just enough to get you to the next level.  Ka-chunk.... perfect fit into the foundation.  (No part of me went blinky blinky and disappeared though... it's an imperfect analogy).
*Not an actual Tetris game

November 6, 2012

In Brief - Election Day Rant

I am friends with people from a wide range of political views.  Some are close, some... less so.  One in particular is a staunch conservative from DC.  She posted a joke this morning saying "Happy Republican Voting Day!  Democrats vote tomorrow!"

I guess it'd be funny.... if it weren't true.  I mean, if the sentiment weren't true.  If there were not actually Republicans out there trying to keep Democrats from voting, I'd find that kind of joke humorous.  Instead, I find it callous, rude, and a sign of what's wrong with that party.  Yes, I can take a joke, and 10 years ago I found the joke funny.  But not when there have been so many attempts to change the laws to make it harder for people who traditionally vote Democratic to get to the polls.

September 9, 2012

On The Value of Social Care

I was laid off from the IT sector back in March.  I'm hoping to take direction change and pursue something that feels more meaningful (though I won't turn down another IT Manager job if it falls in my lap - a girl & her family gotta eat!).  I want to get into victim advocacy or some thing else in the social work arena where I feel I can give back to women in the community.  Earlier today I was browsing the Colorado Nonprofit jobs board, and I came across this posting.  Among the qualifications required for consideration:
  • BA in a related field (social work, criminal justice, etc I'd assume.  Likewise, I assume my math degree does not apply). 
  • 2 years of experience as a case worker.  
  • Knowledge of resources available for DV victims
  • Experience, ability and willingness to work as a team with diversified staff, volunteers and constituents.
  • Experience working with adults and children living with domestic violence.
  • Knowledge of domestic violence, physical, sexual and emotional abuse and its effects on the victims including safety planning, crisis intervention and advocacy.
  • Excellent presentation and training skills.

Seems like you kinda gotta know what you're doing when you walk in the door.  And what do they repay you for this work, knowledge & experience, helping domestic violence victims for 32-40 hours a week?   $14.50 an hour.  That's just a hair over $30,000.  Apparently, there's no money to be made in helping out the weakest among us.

I got to thinking about that 4 year degree requirement.  Look here:
Date Disbursed Type In-School Rate Repayment Rate
PLUS(FFEL) 8.50%
(DL) 7.90%
(FFEL) 8.50%
(DL) 7.90%

Do you see that??? Just a few years after I graduated from college in 2002, the interest rate on college loans SKYROCKETED. I confess myself ashamed that I was unaware of how badly students now are saddled with debt... I've never felt burdened with my own measly $80.73 a month payment (cheapo public school for me, thanks!) but I had always attributed the difference to the increase in tuition. 

According to this random site I found, the average cost of a Bachelor's Degree is $6,585 per year at an in state, public university.  The least expensive universities are about $3,000 per year.  And according to this site, the average 4 year loan burden is between $14,000 and $17,000 (depending on if you went public or private).

So tell me, how is Pat Q Advocate-to-Be supposed to be able to feed him or herself, plus their family, plus pay bills, plus pay off student loan debt on barely $30,000 a year?  Oh right... get a loan from mom and dad... I thought building up debt was supposed to be a BAD thing?

This is a job that I would love to get started in.... But I do not have the money to go back to school now, nor can I afford to get another loan.  I am not qualified to care for these women, and I cannot afford to get the training I would need to take care of them, because the salary is insufficient to repay the training.  I would do it out of the goodness of my heart, but I can't afford to do so just yet.... still need to earn my living.  This is why I've said "When I grow up, I want to be a philanthropist" (I think I stole that from my dear friend Click....)

August 29, 2012

My Phoenix

I published my rape story publicly for the first time about a week ago.  My mind and my emotions have been in a state of constant agitation ever since.  I can honestly say this is the first time in my life that I've really been profoundly transformed by a single event.

For all the graduations, marriages, divorces and children that I've had in my 32 years, never before has a distinct occasion made me feel like an entirely different person like 'Thank you, Todd Akin' has.

I feel like a writer now.  I feel like I know myself.  I feel like I own myself.  I feel like what I have to say is worth hearing, and that people in the world can benefit from not just hearing my experiences, but from hearing ME say them, and hearing MY interpretation of the world.

Writing it was excruciating.  My other half was in the office with me as I wrote. I was alternately sobbing, paralyzed, furious, screaming and numb, and he was mostly just stunned.  He was trying to do his own day job, while trying to decide if he should be calling my therapist or an exorcist.  (Side note:  I'm sorry for putting you through that, love... thank you for standing by me, and letting me work through it!)  After the agony of expunging my experience with the express purpose of publishing it, I actually clicked that "Post" button.  Then came the waiting.  What would the response be?

My closest friend in the world immediately responded in kind, sharing her own "imperfect victim" rape story.  Then after an hour, my brother's girlfriend responded with an amazingly tepid comment.
 "Indeed, a very controversial subject." 
 It was a timely reminder that I'm not always going to get resounding sympathy.  It was a reminder that some people still will excuse Dog's transgressions because I took risks, continuing to blame me for what happened.  Some people are still committed to the societal narrative that puts the onus of preventing rape on the victims, and believe that any woman who doesn't put up a fight to the death gives up the right to call it rape.  I haven't spoken to her since my posting, so I haven't been able to determine any more context for her response.  I care for her a lot, so I give her the benefit of the doubt that she's not in that category.  However, the ambiguity of her response reminds me that there are people who may not be so ambiguous in telling me that it was my fault after all, and I need to have emotional armor prepared for them.

The next response I got was exactly the kind of comment I was hoping for, exactly what I needed to hear.  A man I haven't spoken to since high school (though I might have briefly exchanged pleasantries either at our reunion or just enough that we're Facebook friends...) responded thusly:
 "I hope this helps others and changes minds as well. so much more to express but words escape me."  
I feel like if I made some impact on someone who doesn't listen to my screeds on a regular basis... then making my pain & my imperfect victimhood vulnerable to public scrutiny was worth it.

As the week has progressed, I added my story here on my blog, and linked to it in the comments on Butterflies and Wheels, Ophelia Benson's Freethought Blog.  I also posted it on the Facebook wall for Brute Reason, and she invited me to include it as a guest post on her actual blog.  While there has not been much extended dialogue or conversation started, I've watched my page views climb.  As of noon-ish on Sunday, August 26, my blog stands at 120 views.  From a single link on a single blog, my story has been viewed 120 times.  That feels analogous to saying "120 people saw me stark naked today." It's strangely not a frightening or vulnerable feeling.  Exposed, maybe, but it's like there's nothing for me to fear.

But what was most moving about this whole experience was the anonymous reader who sent me her own story, and asked to share it on my blog as well.  (It's a bit long, so I'm still in the process of getting it into something blog-able, but it will be shared at some point in some form, as per her request).

That my story could inspire another woman to stand up and tell her story - that's stirring to say the least. 

Through this past week, I have been shown that not only do people actually care about the story I have to tell, they appreciate the way I tell it.  I've gotten validation from completely unbiased (e.g. not my friends and family just being nice to me) sources that I do know how to construct a narrative, and I can write compelling and interesting essays that both inform and persuade.  Many years ago, I wrote in a journal that I was very jealous of artists who felt compelled to create their art, whether it be of visual or verbal variety, and then felt compelled to SHARE it as well.  I lamented that as much as I loved to put my words in journals, the idea of putting my little word babies out into the cold, harsh word to be subject to the criticisms of the public was too terrifying.  Writing my experience of delegitimization has finally shown me that I can, in fact, share my words with the world.  I am a writer, I have things to say that are worth being said, and I can say them in a way that no one else can.

So again, Thank you Todd Akin.  You stirred up old pain that I thought I had long ago worked through.  But from those bitter dark ashes arises my phoenix.