my tea’s gone cold, i’m wondering why…

the end of the year has been fairly angsty for me.  planning to have, anticipating having, and actually having our baby has been wonderful, of course, but it really ramped up my anxiety.  for months, i felt like i was on the verge of a panic attack.  i was freaking out and not being particularly nice to myself about it, either.

i felt a little bitter and grouchy about my feeling of distance from the meeting.  it was this weird cycle of pushing myself away, feeling abandoned, and barely coming back, and being annoyed at people for letting it happen.  you know, generally being codependent.

finally, i reached out to m&o, and at the same time, the meal train a friend of ours was setting up for the early baby time was rolling out, and letting myself ask for help started to help things.

but the panics still kept coming from time to time.  and these codependent angries at everyone i care about kept coming up.  i was also commenting a lot on facebook about the wonderful effects of god in my life (ex: “the following comment is not meant to try to convince you to agree with me: for me, my belief in god is not about god’s existence. at some point, i decided that was irrelevant. what i’ve read about the history of religion suggests that there was a time where in certain cultures, there was no idea that god didn’t exist, and that is what the bible came out of, and so questions of “do you believe in me?” were about the kind of belief you have in a friend. “can you trust me?” i was in a rough place then, and i decided, “well, i’m not sure who or what or if you are, but i’ll try that. i’ll try seeing if i can trust in you, who i acknowledge are probably an idea in my head…” and just having this big god-thing in the universe to be grateful to, to vent to, and to hope to, has made my life better. and its existence is irrelevant, to me, actually. but i believe i can trust it.  and for me, god is as much a provable thing as the part of t’s smile that ALWAYS makes my heart dance.”)  but god was feeling really distant, too.

even as i was filled with sense-memories of all sorts of really ineffective coping mechanisms, my body and brain and soul and heart were searching for things that actually did work, trying to find time to sit with prayers and practices that have worked.  but my head was too spinny…

but then, the other day, i struck upon gratitude.  “thank you god, universe, whomever, for t and c and secret and the sky and the ground that holds me and my family and my ten fingers and the lessons of this panic…” and it helps.  i need to remember it.  because it helps.  it really helps. 

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Published in: on 1 January, 2013 at 6:22 pm  Comments (1)  

confessions of a professional grad school applicant, part 3a

at some point last night, as i was trying to fall asleep, i realized i’d forgotten to write about syracuse.  syracuse was the last school that t and i visited together.  it was another rental car trip, right after i got back from boston.  we took the path train to new jersey and rented our car in the mall, after eating sbarro, because that’s what you do when you are in a mall.

the drive up was nice.  hurray for lots of trees.  the most notable part of the drive was that, when hunting for a starbucks, the gps took us to “great wolf lodge.”  we followed this road that looked like it was going to take us nowhere, and then suddenly, there was a giant lodge with wolves “carved” into the front.  we went into the building, and first i thought there was a cotton candy maker and hat shop at the front, but really it was a build-a-bear.  or rather a build-a-raccoon-wolf-or-dragon.  further in, we discovered a fake nature scene with cartoony characters and a native american woman statue in the middle.  there was also a photobooth, and as we got closer to that, we peered out the window and saw that there was a giant, indoor waterpark.  it was crazy.  i asked t if this was what most americans expect out of vacations now and if this was normal.  t didn’t think so.

when we got to the hotel, we discovered that they were having a car show, because some people from the syracuse nationals were staying there, and there was a live band.  that was entertaining, and t wanted to get photos, but she was too hungry to do it right away.  we checked the internet and found out we had multiple vegetarian options, and decided on an all-vegan cafe, strong hearts.  the food was good and there were  a million vegan milkshake options, named after lefty (politically, not handedness) heroes.

the next day, i visited the school.  none of the professors i’ve been in touch with were going to be around, and the student who i’d been corresponding with also couldn’t be there, but he suggested i get in touch with some folks in different offices, and i wound up getting to hang out and talk in the disability cultural center, which was awesome and the person who runs it was awesome and had all those “for every girl who doesn’t want her e-z-bake oven, there’s a boy who wishes he’d got one” types of posters all over the place.  the administrative assistant for the cultural foundations program, which is what i’m interested in, got me hooked up with a student, one of the more burned out students i’ve met on my trip.  i also got a tour and a chat and a TON of syllabi from the administrative assistant, who was wonderfully friendly.

i didn’t know what to expect from syracuse and i’m still not entirely sure what i think of it as a place.  we’d heard it was very cold, and a friend of ours talked about race and class strife, another friend called it “kind of a sh*thole,” but all the tourism stuff makes it sound like an artistic destination spot.  in some ways it sort of reminded me of olympia– the grimy, punkishness of a place where there aren’t enough jobs but people are somehow making it work and where there are lots of non-normative types.  it was a grey day, which is probably what it’s like a lot, but it was odd to be in a town that felt so bleak in the middle of summer.  i liked it, but it’s also very spread-out and strip mally.

on the drive out, we stopped at another of the vegetarian-suggested places, an indian restaurant called dosa grill.  t debated the lunch buffet vs. ordering chana masala off the menu, since it wasn’t on the buffet, and decided on chana masala.  as we waited, we were given complimentary mango lassis, and the people there were ridiculously friendly.  the chana masala became an actual massive amount of food with tons of rice, a poppadum, and 2 chutneys, in addition to a very full container of chana masala.  we both ate enough to be very happily full and there was still a lot left over.

we were driving along and traffic slowed down, and we creeped under a underpass.  suddenly, the most horrible old onions smell filled the car.  first we thought it was from the underpass, but it didn’t go away.  after 5 minutes of appalled giddiness, i looked in the bag, and one of the chutneys had leaked all over the inside and was starting to creep outside of the bag as well.  “the smell is coming from inside the car.”  i put the free paper we’d gotten in syracuse underneath and tried to seal the bag as much as possible.  and then we got in the middle of a ridiculous traffic jam where we went 2 miles in about half an hour, all with this horrific stench in the car.  it was horrible, but it also kept us giggling.

so that was syracuse.

Published in: on 26 July, 2012 at 7:53 am  Comments (2)  

living through the dry, oaty bits.

the first week of 2012 has been full of paradox for me. or maybe not paradox, but big… confusion. big… holding of awkward truths.

objectively and retrospectively, i’m a big fan of breaking open. the change that comes after the world has shattered you and you come back. in the moment, though, it sucks. in the moment, while you are breaking or watching someone break or the world seems to be so irreparably broken, it just needs to stop.

at the same time, sometimes when things are breaking, things also slow down and get soft. circumstances beat at your heart but people who love you are gentle. when my dad died, i had a rotating circle of friends who shared my bed, cuddling me to sleep. right now, things are like that. our house is a house of dazed, sad confusion, but the guests give us love and laughter. as we keep watch in the dark, our friends are the lights.

that is one thing that is going on.

the other thing is the bus ride every day. every day i get on the bus at 6:18 am, close my eyes and open them again at about 7:05 on the last stop. usually i don’t fall asleep, but sometimes i doze a little bit in the middle. then at the end of the day, i stand in front of a gas station and wait for the bus to pick me up.

thursday in the late afternoon, with me at the bus stop was a family. a young woman, a young man, and two kids, one in a stroller. the adults talked about drugs and sex and the baby in the stroller screamed. then the woman took the baby out of the stroller and got in it herself. on the bus, the baby screamed, the young man got off the bus, both children screamed, the young woman hit them, they continued to scream. i’d just finished a day that included one student’s near-violent screaming meltdown that ended with his parents being called and him being picked up early.

friday morning, there was a woman on the bus talking to anyone who would listen. 20 minutes before my bus stop, she started yelling at me to wake up and then at the bus driver about how she was worried this woman wouldn’t wake up. i opened my eyes and grouchily told her that i wasn’t a woman and that i did this all the time and had never missed my stop. she apologized. then she apologized. then she apologized. i closed my eyes. then she told me about her heroin addiction, selling methadone, setting a car on fire, jumping off an overpass, and getting her leg amputated. multiple times. in multiple ways.

these moments make me want to stop, to move away, to live somewhere where it is not so hard. i think what i really need is to become less permeable, to stop carrying these things around. because really my job, as a teacher, is to make sure my students don’t become these people. that’s like, the biggest, scariest job in the world.

all the bus stuff has been rolling around in me for a bit and a clever blog entry title that i came up with was “wrapped up like a douche,” like the misheard version of “blinded by the light” and my desire to wrap myself cosily away from all the bad things in the world, like a selfish jerk… but that’s a little too self-deprecating and crude for a title.

and, lest you think the oakland city bus makes one give up all hope, last night, as i was going to see friends downtown, i walked onto a very crowded bus, and the first thing i witnessed was a girl, about 8 years old, singing to an appreciative woman who i could tell had been a stranger before this meeting, “happy birthday to ya, happy birthday to ya, happy birthday to ya.”

ignore-ance.

in one of my first zines, i waxed poetic about the way the word “ignore” is in “ignorance.” i’m not sure what all i said about it, and it’s very possible that this post is just a rehashing of some epiphany i had at 21 years old.

but one of the things that breaks my heart and frustrates me the most is the way that part of human nature seems to be a certain pride in ignorance. the way that when we don’t understand another person’s belief, culture, or ideas, they must me stupid. the way that so many liberal folk think the bible is nonsense, sort of based on the fact that they’ve never read it.

i had a conversation with someone this week in which i was trying to explain my frustration and sadness over the way that smart liberal folks have in many ways just handed religion over to “the fox news people” (… i never watch fox news, so i was doing it right then, right?). and somehow what that person heard was that i was frustrated and sad because smart liberal people are stupid enough to believe in god. it was the oddest thing, my complete inability to communicate that what i meant was that there really is something in religion for smart liberal people but so many of us refuse to access it.

i’m one of the few people in my group of friends who are my peers that was either raised with religion or who still have religion. and so i see this pride in ignorance a lot. i LOVE my friends and i’m reluctant to say this because it sounds pretty critical, especially since i’m too shy to say it when it happens, but there have been times when we’ll pass a church or something and what the church says on the outside looks so ludicrous to the person and they will make fun of it, but it’s something that makes sense to me. but i can’t express it. i can’t figure out what to say to make it make sense.

we passed a church once that said “church of god in christ” and my good friend just thought that was the funniest thing. “how can it be ‘of god’ and ‘in christ’ at the same time?” and i couldn’t figure out how to explain it…

this post is becoming more about my inability to express myself and be an advocate for my faith than i totally feel comfortable with.

what it was meant to be about, and what i’ve been thinking about the most, is what a part of human nature all of that is. how we choose what we are experts in. how i don’t watch the news, watch sports, stay current in music… but how i get frustrated when someone doesn’t know all the classic movie stars or bad ’80s tv or y.a. lit that i know. we know what we know and we like that we know it and we think everyone who doesn’t know what we know are deficient in some way. and people who know things different from how we know them is also deficient, because they are clearly paying attention to the wrong things.

are there ways to bridge that?

more thomas merton.

It is necessary that we find the silence of God, not only in ourselves, but also in one another. Unless someone speaks to us in words which spring from God and communicate with the silence of God in our souls, we remain isolated in our own silence, from which God tends to withdraw. Our inner silence depends on a continual inner seeking, a continual crying in the night, a repeated bending over the abyss. If we cling to a silence we think we have found forever, we stop seeking God, and the silence goes dead within us. The silence in which God is no longer sought ceases to speak to us of God. A silence from which God does not seem to be absent dangerously threatens God’s continued presence. For God is found when sought and when no longer sought, God escapes. God is heard when we hope to hear, and if, thinking our hope to be fulfilled, we cease to listen, God ceases to speak. Then, the silence of God becomes dead, even though we recharge it with the echo of our own emotional noise.

Published in: on 1 October, 2011 at 12:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

i have a new blog on wordpress, too. i’m really excited about it.

i’m also sort of afraid of it. i’m afraid of how i’ve left this blog alone for so long and how i really want to focus more, in general, on faith in my life. i am aware of how not too long ago i was worried about joining the quaker meeting because i was afraid i liked the people too much. now i am starting a blog about why i like all of my facebook friends, and just last night in the book published by codependents anonymous that i read each night, i read about the danger of making other people your god.

my question is, if perfect love casts out fear, what am i afraid of?

i am afraid that it’s all about me, that it has always been all about me. that god, to me, is myself reflected in other’s eyes. i’m self-aware enough to know that that is sometimes true, and in job-worry enough to let it grow to a mini-boogeyman. and i keep needing to be away from meeting, and while i don’t want to make meeting my god, i also need the connection to keep me grounded.

funny how connection can make me fly away or it can ground me. hmm….

Published in: on 12 August, 2011 at 4:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

my summer of prequels, sequels, and nonconsensual sorrow

Three very important books came out this year: Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal, The Carrie Diaries: Summer and the City by Candace Bushnell, and Sisterhood Everlasting by Ann Brashares. I’m a teacher and as the summer approached, I was thrilled as I anticipated ordering the three from my local independent bookstore. When I called in the order over the phone, my girlfriend put her hand over her face in embarrassment, but I was too excited to care.

Books about girl friendship are my thing. I’m not totally sure why. I read or heard somewhere that every good TV show has as its base a fantasy ideal and maybe as someone who was socialized female but was always unpopular and confused, the cadre of girls who have my back is my fantasy. And I also have a distinct childhood memory of daydreaming about the future of The Baby-Sitters Club. I was excited to have found a series about young girls because we both had our whole futures ahead of us and I could read about their futures as I lived out mine.

The Baby-Sitters Club was my big series as a kid, and I attempted to start a book group about them a couple of years ago but I wasn’t as much on the pulse of my generation as I hoped I was. Fans are putting out “Where Are They Now” articles about them and my friends email me links to those because they know I will be pleased. Last summer, along with the first Carrie Diaries, a Baby-Sitters Club prequel came out. It was fine but I didn’t find it more engaging than just picking up Claudia and Crazy Peaches or anything like that. I’m a big fan of the graphic novels that were published a couple of years ago and I wish there could have been more of them.

Even though I knew of no big Baby-Sitters Club related publishing events, I was still thrilled. I’ve known about Sweet Valley Confidential for about a year and anticipated a second Carrie Diaries book since the first one hardly even got her into New York. I didn’t discover Sisterhood Everlasting until right as the summer began, and that was the one that my girlfriend was genuinely excited about.

The summer started innocently enough. We were actually having beautiful weather and while my girlfriend was at work, I would take Sweet Valley Confidential out into the back yard and read it, stretched out on a towel, even though I do not have a girlish size 6 figure with blond hair, blue-green eyes, and a dimple in one cheek. It was completely devourable, in the exact same way as the original books were- overly dramatic, simply written, and with familiar stereotypical/archetypal characters. There was some surprise gayness, an ending that untangled a lot of the romantic drama, and a list of “where are they nows” for an epilogue.

We had a trip planned for a few weeks into the summer and my girlfriend was planning to save Sisterhood Everlasting for that trip. She would grin when she saw the book, anticipating the joys it would bring. I would grin in response, pleased to be the provider of excellent girly fiction. Eventually she just couldn’t stand it any longer. She decided to just read the book, even though we weren’t leaving for a week. “Bee lives in the Mission!” she told me, as we were cuddled up together in bed. I was trying to extend my girly fiction summer and was reading The Dud Avocado for the first time. I felt the bed shake with laughter. “She had to dig through the trash to find her phone!” So like our impulsive Bee!

And then the bed was shaking again. I looked over, and there was my girlfriend, tears streaming down her face. “This is a bad book,” she said. My vision of myself as Good Provider Boyfriend shattered and I felt like Puppy Killing Boyfriend. She kept reading anyway, and her hints about loss in our own lives and my periodic peeking over her shoulder led me to figure out the tragedy in advance. And I’m going to tell you one part of it, feeling guiltless because it happens very early in the book and because it seems so frustratingly unnecessary as you are reading it. That one part is that, yes, one of the sisterhood dies.

How can this happen? This girl is not Beth March, Walter Blythe, Hilary Whitney, all deaths that you see coming and that have some sort of noble martyrdom in them. This is one of those “What the fuck? Why is this author mean!?” deaths. My theory, looking over Trisha’s shoulder, was that it was for the rest of the characters to grow. But as I watched my strong beautiful girlfriend who has already mourned so deeply in her life already, my opinion was still that the author was unnecessarily mean, even as I tried to comfort us both with my theories that growth would be involved in all of this. I mean, I hadn’t let her read Commencement, and here I had handed her this razor blade apple of a book.

I finished The Dud Avocado and then a reread of Rainbow Valley and then dove into Carrie Diaries: Summer and the City. I have a love/hate relationship with the Sex in the City TV show and movies, baffled in some ways by where the love comes from, having a lot to say about the socioeconomic, race, gender stereotypes and messages. But I’ve seen it all and think of “the girls” as some old friends who I know well and who never change. I read Sex in the City as I was about halfway through watching the series a few years ago and I thought it wasn’t very interesting, except that Stanford Blatch had long hair (I have only since watched There’s Something About Mary). But I grabbed the first Carrie Diaries book as soon as I could and read it quickly. It reminded me of Ellen Conford’s books or some other poky, sort of boring and dorky, sort of scandalous, somewhat dated paperback I would get out of the spinner at the library in the mid-90’s. Like in the other book and the series, Carrie’s epiphanies are not that impressive, but she’s just charming, flawed, and likable enough to keep you going. The last chapters get interesting as she finally makes her way from the suburbs to New York and one of the other “girls” makes a surprise appearance.

Summer and the City is set almost entirely in New York City and reminded me of all the ways being eighteen and naive makes everything seem like an epic adventure. It makes me miss the epic adventures but not enough to be stupid enough to make them happen again. I’ve only been to New York City once and am planning another trip, so the romanticized glamor of New York, amidst fabulous Carrie fashion decisions, made the book a really fun read. Nobody died and more characters from the TV series show up, and I was pleased by this fluffy read as well.

Trisha was staying up late nights to finish Sisterhood Everlasting and in the end she declared it a good book. I stalled for awhile, reading High Fidelity before braving it. Finally, I did. I brought it to a coffeehouse one grey San Francisco morning, and as I read it my insides got chillier and chillier. I got angrier and angrier as I read, telling the author, in my head, that I and the characters had grown plenty before this book and this was totally unnecessary.

The real problem with the book was that Ann Brashares was writing about grief in all of its specific steps and stages from the point of view of three different characters, and it was all completely recognizable. It was a bad, cruel book because it dragged you unwillingly through the steps you already know too well. You see, it’s all about consent. I did not consent to be grieving in the middle of my summer vacation. And I didn’t want to grow. I just wanted pants magic.

And then, like always, it came. I’m a sucker. Each character grew and changed and lived on the page, and I was right there with them, like Bastian to Atreyu. We went through the mirror gates, we faced the Southern Oracle, and when we were done, we were able to wish and hope again. And even though I hadn’t consented to any of the sisterhood dying, it turned out it wasn’t a bad book, because it shook me up, cleared out cobwebs, and actually wound up being fun again, eventually.

Published in: on 4 August, 2011 at 6:45 am  Comments (1)  

sometimes you need a catholic to say it?

“If we try to contemplate God without having turned the face of our inner self entirely in His direction, we will end up inevitably by contemplating ourselves, and we will perhaps plunge into the abyss of warm darkness which is our own sensible nature. That is not a darkness in which one can safely remain passive.

On the other hand, if we depend too much on our imagination and emotions, we will not turn ourselves to God but will plunge into a riot of images and fabricate for ourselves our own home-made religious experience, and this too is perilous.

The ‘turning’ of our whole self to God can be achieved only by deep and sincere and simple faith, enlivened by a hope which knows that contact with God is possible, and love which desires above all things to do His will.”

Thomas Merton
Thoughts In Solitude

Published in: on 25 July, 2011 at 7:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

what i was thinking, as like a new year’s resolution, is to stop getting so caught up in my own thoughts.

haven’t posted in forever. that isn’t news, because you can see that by the fact that i… haven’t posted in forever. though i guess it’s more of a hyperbole than a fact.

have been very busy with my glamorous high school teaching job. missing little people very much. not doing a particularly bang-up job as crec clerk, not doing a particularly bang-up job at anything particularly quaker-related, because i barely ever show up.

it’s vacation right now, and vacation is always a blend of deep relaxation and anxious reflection. i go to deep ugly places that are half true. this time, i’ve found myself berating myself for being a bad teacher, and daydreaming about what my life would be like if my home, relationship, job, and faith community were all in the same place. right now that feels like all i want in the whole wide world.

Published in: on 1 January, 2010 at 6:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

take what you need and leave the rest.

today, i officially became a quaker.

i’m pretty excited. it felt right in a new big way. after my rocky time in between clearness committees, and going to quarterly meeting, and starting to actually really figure out what sort of role i have in the world/quakerism/my meeting, and having so many conversation dates and phone calls, i really REALLY feel part of this whole thing, in a way that i didn’t before i started the membership process. even the one month of seasoning, after my membership request was brought to last month’s business meeting, seemed to add to the richness of the moment.

it was pretty delightful. the elderly gentleman who was sitting next to me (who has come to the used bookstore i work in & who i visited in the hospital and loaned a book to that he keeps promising to return…) leaned over to me when my membership request was announced in business meeting and said, “i don’t know who that is!” and i laughed and pointed to myself and said, “that’s me!”

the moments afterward felt big somehow in this way i wasn’t expecting. it’s more of a formality in a way than the clearness committee, i think, but it felt less formal than that initially felt. i can’t express it except that i felt like we were really all part of a each other, and that i was really loved and respected by them (and i loved and respected them as well), which was so good.

and then it came time to ask who would be part of my welcoming committee, and the friend to my left offered to be part of it.

***

i sent out a text message that i was officially a quaker to a couple of people– and got a response that the person thought that had already happened and that i should blog about more nonquaker things. they’re right, i think, but i think i also just need to blog more in general. it’s hard, though, without internet in my own home, and the weird busyness of my life lately. frequently, when i get online now, i have to DO things– organize things for the young adult friends group, having email conversations about the state of our meeting in terms of race, diversity, young people, service, and a whole lot of other things, organizing one one one conversations about those things and others, organizing social justice conversations with people from my job, trying to find a bed on craigslist, applying for a summer job, figuring out what i need to do for employment in the fall… the list goes on and on. and isn’t super interesting as a list, i don’t think.

but here are some non-quaker things in my life right now.

* as of yesterday i have a bed and will no longer be sleeping on a folded in half shiatsu mat that my feet go off. it was free from this really great woman in oakland. yesterday, my ladyfriend and i took a zipcar truck to go get it and to move a couch from her friends’ house to hers.

* since the bed was free, i splurged and got 2 new pairs of pants and have set aside my ersatz attempts at trouser crotch patching for the time being.

* i’ve been having some really fun breakfast dates with a girl i went to college with who recently moved to the city.

* i’ve been eating beets as much as i possibly can. and have discovered how amazingly i can change a “just pasta, red sauce, and cheese” dish, if i put it in a casserole dish in the oven.

* i’ve had a lot of days off from my job at the school due to various holidays, including chinese new year.

* i scheduled a social justice conversation at my house on monday but the only person that showed up was my co-facilitator. that was sad, but it’s nice just drinking tea and chatting with someone in my house, and i should do more of that.

* my housemate had a friend stay over on our floor for a few days, and i kept getting into really long conversations with him in a way that’s totally different with how i interact with my housemates.

* yesterday, that housemate was diagnosed with one of those really scary staph infections that are resistant to basically everything. she doesn’t seem as worried as she did when she thought she might have it, so… that’s good?

* i’ve been booking up tons of my evenings and mornings with conversations and meetings and stuff and it’s been really good.

* my school job has been by turns frustrating and amazing. i’d say way more about that except for confidentiality and… TIME!!!

and then there are the myriad things that are going on in my psyche & soul that are not really quaker-specific in the grand scheme of things, but that have been hugely helped along by my quaker practice and community (with plenty of help from spiritual books from various traditions, conversations with non-quakers, co-dependents anonymous literature, and life in general). i want to write about those, too, and will some day, hopefully. but now i have to clean the store.