Sunday, October 23, 2016

ladies, if you come across a man . . . .

everything matters

When my baby sister, and only sister, was in college, I was in in late twenties/early thirties and, at age 28, I had become a mom. My sister, admittedly an adolescent and known in the family as a sourpuss brat, her brattiness often attributed to her being the baby of our large family and, thus, spoiled. If she was spoiled, I helped enable that!

We were discussing some political issue. She was emerging as more conservative than the family I had grown up in. Born when I was 14, then she moved two states away to live with our mom's second husband who was definitely a conservative Repug, not a South Side Chicago Democrat (go CUBS!! win the series, please!!!).  . so she and I were chatting, I don't remember what, but probably something political.

Suddenly she said, scorn dripping with each note of her words, "People your age, you think everything matters." Her dripping, sneering, disgust for me for thinking everything matters is still palpable.

I said "everything does matter" and I silently recalibrated how I saw my sister, noting her lean into conservatism.

Just now, I read this lovely Rilke quote:  "Everything Matters: The tasks entrusted to us are often difficult. Almost everything that matters is difficult, and everything matters." - Rilke

Her name is Margaret. She used to hate it when I or one of our four brothers called her Marge. I always think of her as Marge but no longer 'call' her anything. She apparently thinks one thing matters:  shunning her only sister.

my humor saved me

My first marriage, to a law school classmate, was disastrous. Our PhD marriage counselor testified in deposition that my ex was the cruelest person he had made in 20+ years of marriage counseling. The doc said 'most people have a certain threshold of decency beneath which they will not sink and as far as I can tell, this man has no such threshold. I have been steadily shocked by how he has treated her. But I have also had to consider if she can recover from such abuse and go on to parent well, for a child's wellbeing is at stake. And I have decided her sense of humor saved her. Time after time, she'd recount an incident of abuse and I would be fighting back tears only to hear her laugh because she had seen some absurdity in the situation as she re-envisioned it. She'd see the look on his face, or remember something she had felt, and she would laugh. Her sense of humor has saved her, I believe."

I remember how I would review a scene in which I had been abused to tell my therapist, for he became my individual therapist when we gave up on the marriage, and just as I got to the lowest point in the story, it seemed to me, I would find humor in it, see some absurdity. Often what made me laugh was to see the petty tyrant futilely bullying me. He used to force me not to do things in front of him and sometimes forced me to do things I did not want to do (he liked to dictate what I wore and even tried to tell me how to blink). If I thought he was going to hurt me, yeah, sure, I capitulated to his petty demands but then when I recounted the scene for my therapist, I would see how absurd the petty bully was and I would know he had not broken me as he very much seemed to wish to do.

Only one thing in this life has felled me, broken me and that is being shunned by my only child.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

dogs sniffing each other's butts

There is a new yoga business on the ground floor of my building, Hella Yoga.  For those not in the 'know' here in the East Bay, hella is a word most Bereleyans and Oaklanders think of as their own. It is a way to emphasize something. "That's hella good pasta."  "He's a hella jerk."  When I first moved here, just about ten years ago this week (!), the word 'hella' sounded odd. Now I use it, being, as my sister once pointed out she and I both are, linguistically impressionable.


Today on BART over to the city (and here, 'the city' is only SF, of course), I chatted up a bunch of Midwesterners. After a few moments, one of them asked me if I am from Chicago, which, of course, I am. Then another one said "But you also sound like you could be from Wisconsin or Minnesota" to which I said "College in WI, law school in MN, rasied my kids in MN and I am always finishing sentences with the tiny question, "eh?", as folks do up in North Country and, also, Canada. WI and MN are hella close to Canada, doncha know?

So. Hella Yoga. I like the play on words. They seem to have chosen to name their business 'Hella Yoga' to, very effectively, in my opinion, that they have hot yoga. And, hey, they also have hella hot pilates classes!

However they have chosen a red devil with a pitchfork as their logo. This red devil is slashed all its windows.  I am not a religious person. I'm one of those New Agey types who says "I am spiritual, not religious" because I am spiritual but not religious. And I don't see that red devil with yellow horns jutting out of his head and his pitchfork outlined near his face as a sign of evil.

What I see is a very ugly logo that represents lots opportunity.

I know what I am about to write is sexist but I am betting a dollar that the logo designer is a young male moron who is sleeping with the founder of Hella Yoga and the founder is a she and, giggle, cutesey, she let her graphics artist boyfriend -- although, hey, it could be a girlfriend or a transitioning male or female, I live in Berkeley, so I am hella openminded.

I am not openminded about ugly and that devil logo is ugly.

I've been walking past it every day, at least once, usually more than once a day. It is right here, where I live. But when they put up a large picture of two dogs circling one another and sniffing each other's butts, the mother in me felt a maternal rush of concern for the idiots running this new yoga school.

Hey, there is a lot of competition for yoga business within two blocks of here. There are several other yoga pads very nearby and none of them have offensive logos. I bet idiot boyfriend or transgender whatever friend came up with the whole idea of using hella and a devil to promote their hot yoga.  I think I get that moment of inspiration. Someone was likely high, drugs or dope. But in the light of days, come on, most folks into yoga strike me as humans with basic good taste.

The sniffing dogs were unbelievable.

Just now, walking home from BART on my way home from my outing in 'the city'*, I noted that the two dogs sniffing one another's butts has been changed. Seriously what serious business person ever agreed to put up a picture of two dogs sniffing each other's butts on the window of their struggling yoga shop?

The devil imagery utterly fails to capture the essence of the East Bay 'hella'. East Bay 'hella' is light, cool, a signal that one is in the know.

Let me wrap this up by sharing a dopey choke a guy told me while I was over in the city.

Why do hippsters like ice?  Because it was matter before it was cool.  He said he found that joke on the internet. I wish I had asked him what his search terms were to get that dumb joke. I'd like to read more such dumb jokes. Plus I could share them with the idiot who created the graphic of two dogs sniffing one another's butts. I am sure the same graphic dope came up with the ugly devil.

I bet they feel they are committed to the devil. No no, young entrepreneurs. It is not too late. Keep the name hella yoga. Find a good logo and dump the moron logo maker.  Unless he's hot in the sack and you love him. Or her. Or 'them'.

Note: I think the two dogs shown sniffing one another's butts were supposed to be admiring one another's newly fit rear ends, the result of yoga. they also have a sign up, with the dogs gone, that shows a guy in what looks like swim trunks (or boxer shorts) and it says "look good while naked).

I have never been into yoga but I thought it was more about mental fitness and physical wellbeing.  I've never seen it advertised as a way to make a person 'look good while naked'. Some of my closest friends have done yoga for decades and its mind-body for them, not 'look good while naked'.

I don't think Hella Yoga is going after quite the demographic I thought yoga places cultivated.

And I kinda like it that I never noticed that the dogs were supposed to be admiring one another's butts, not sniffing them. What a vacuous approach to yoga.

Friday, October 21, 2016

medicine for melancholy

Medicine for Melancholy is the name of the first picture directed by Barry Jenkins, director of a new, very interesting-sounding movie, Moonlight. Jenkins is a black man and he tells stories of blacks. Medicine for Melancholy is on Netflix streaming, set in SF. I recommend it.

Moonlight is based on a play called something like "Black Boys Look Blue in the Moonlight". It got a majorly enthusiastic review in the NYTimes. I can't wait until it opens in Berkeley, which it surely will soon.

In the NYTimes, the director talks about his frustration that it took eight years to put out a second film.  I guess his genius needed some incubation.

His first film, Melancholy, was interesting, especially since it is set in SF eight years ago, when the rising housing crisis had already purged so many blacks out of SF and the male character in the movie really cares about this purging. The female is a harder read. For me.

I don't see the medicine in Mr. Jenkins first picture but I am eager, eager eager to see Moonlight, said to be poetic, lyrical, visceral and tough. Like life?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

H.H. Dalai Lama on transcendance

The purpose of life is not to transcend the body, but to embody the transcendent.  ~ H.H. Dalai Lama

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

my man bun verdict

As the Beatles swooshed to super stardom, one of the things adults in my childhood world remarkred on was their 'long hair'. The Beatles, in the beginning, did not have nineteen fifties crew cuts and other super short male haircuts. Their hair, my goodness, went past their ears, and a little bit, in the beginning, below their hairline.

My brothers, of course, begged to be allowed to emulate the Beatles long hair (long by the standards of 1964) but our Catholic parish, where we all went to school and Sunday mass every Sunday (it is a sin for Catholics to skip any Sunday, they know how to try to hook their faithful, eh?!) railed from the pulpit about rock and roll and long hair on males. No boy at our school, not while I was still in grade school, was allowed in school with the Beatles nineteen sixties version of long hair. I started high school in 1967, at a girls school, but the guys I dated all maintained very short hair. My longest boyfriend wore a crew cut as he headed off the college. He was, of course, a dick.  I have an unerring knack of being only attracted to unkind males.  That dick hit me in the eye when I initially resisted giving him a blow job and then he shoved my face onto his penis and ordered me to suck or he'd hit me again. Thanks Donald; you are allowing many dormant memories to be revived.

By the time I got to college in 1971, plenty of guys wore long hair, but long hair for 1971, not 2016. Now I know men with hair down to their waists, always in a pony tail and men with hair of all kinds of lengths.

Which brings me to the man bun.

I support gender identities of any kind. Men can wear skirts, women can wear pants (not always true, of course), men can wear flowers in their hair, puffy shirts and mince like my best brother, my gay baby brother. And men can, of course, wear hair buns.

And I hate man buns.  I might like them if I ever saw a man bun that looked like the man sporting it knew howw to make a bun.

I know how to do a bun. I have worn my hair very long, in adolescence and college.  I've done all the things one can do with long hair, including various kinds of hair buns. But I know what I am doing.

As best I can tell, males sporting man buns reject bobbie pins. They just use a rubberband, it looks like, pull up a hunk of hair into the rubberband and, voila, the man bun.

Once at a book store reading, I asked a young guy sporting a man bun why he chose to wear a bun and how was his experience.  I tried to cadge my language so I didn't come across as challenging. I began by telling him, and this is true, that my Chinese American eye doctor wears a man bun and that doctor has very long hair and he definitely doesn't know how to make a bun. Or else that doctor really enjoys very messy hair. Last time I saw him, which is every April, I was itching to offer to show him, just once, how to do a bun. That would be rude, right?

So I asked this stranger at a book reading, prefacing my question by saying something like "I know man buns are in style, it's a new look to me but you look good. Can you tell me why you went with a man bun?"

What's a well raised young adult male going to say to a woman old enough to be his mother, or older than that? He said, with his good manners, as he shrugged sheepishly, "I don't know, I just like it."

I did note his awkwardness so I stopped but, gosh, once again I wanted to offer to show him how to do it.

Maybe these males are doing the man bun right. Maybe the man bun is supposed to be messy and appear poorly groomed. Maybe that is the style.

The man bun. I don't get it. I prefer my friend Ken's pony tail. And I love it when, once in a very great while, I catch Ken with no pony tail and I see his very long, now mostly white (mostly gray when I first knew him) falling around his face. Now he's got so much hair he could do a great bun, but a Tree bun, not a man bun.  I have not made such an offer to the guy. It would seem rude, even to me. I can think rude but not speak rude, eh?

to be or not to be

In August, I was actively suicidal. I live with chronic, major depression and I ride very rough times, sometimes, when I am suicidal, as in having a plan. My general way of handling such very painful feelings is to isolate. I have been in therapist, with decent relationships with good therapists, and the therapist had no idea I was suicidal unti I was found and rushed to an ER. Once in treatment, my therapist at the time asked me to enter into a suicide contract. I had made such agreements with therapists before but when I am actively suicidal, I hide it. So this last time, which was ten years ago because although I really need mental health care right now, I can't get any. This last bout, I was wicked sick and scared so I did something unheard of for me: I told my doctor and begged her to help me find help. She called the police, who can't connect me with what I need, which is actual therapy. And I saw her again yesterday. I am more or less stable now, no longer suicidal (but still in a lot of emotional pain) and my doctor yelled at me for upsetting her. So there you have it: health care professionals say they want me to let them know when I need help but when I do, if I act like I am in the deep emotional pain that I have to be in to be actively suicidal, they yell at me. I also talked to a social worker in my recent suicidal crisis and she said "Oh, don't talk like that, it is too hard for me to hear it". So I told my doctor the same thing I told that social worker: "What kind of health care provider are you if you don't understand that when someone is actively suicidal, they are sick. I am sick when my behavior that reveals my pain to you and I am too sick to care what you think. If I wasn't so sick, I would not have told you about how sick I was."

Every morning, every single morning, I am sorry to have awakened and that's standard even when I am not actively suicidal, even on what amount to my good days. It's a good day when I am not going over

I got a list of therapists that will take my very low compensation insurance and called everyone on the list and no one returned my call.

It was actually a signal that I trust my primary care doc that I told her how sick I was and begged for help. It was actually another signal of trust that I told my social worker and she yelled at me for upsetting her. WTF?

At least let people in emotional pain voice their pain. The absolutely lastl responsibility someone in the kind of pain I slide in and out of should have to worry about is taking care of the people who are supposed to be helping me.

I am intelligent and overeducated. I know, far too well, that my openness about my emotional pain and illness is courageous. I know that just as sunshine is the best disinfectant in government, sunshine is the only way to help people suffering in personal darkness. Maybe people blessed with families who love them unconditionally, something I do not have, or even close friends who love them unconditionally (I have a few such friends but they live thousands of miles away but at least they listen to me and don't yell at me when my pain spills out -- they know their listening helps me break free of my pain).

Nearly every therapist I have seen, which has been 4 or 5 over 40 years (none for ten, none since I moved to CA who won't pay for the care I need) has asked me to enter into therapist-invented 'suicide contracts'. These contracts are an agreement that I will tell them if I am ever suicidal. But you know what? The last time a doctor asked me to enter into such an agreement, I said "No, if I am suicidal, you will never know. I won't tell you so you won't stop me." She said "That's the point." And I doggedly insisted that I would not lie to her. For some reason, when I started that treatment, which was, by far, the best I ever had and is probably why, ten years later, I remain alive, I resolved before during the screening (it was treatment within a research study and still the best care I have ever had) that I would be rigorously honest. So if I knew I would never tell that therapist when I was suicidal, I also knew I would not lie to her about it. She accepted me. And she was blessed, too, because part of the treatment research involved a weekly support group for therapists dealing with people with my disorder.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Might I but moor

Wild nights - Wild nights!
Were I with three
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile - the winds -
To a Heart in port
Done with the Compass
Done with the Chart
Rowing in Eden

Ah-the Sea!
Might I but moor - tonight -
In thee!

~ Emily Dickinson, "Wild nights - Wild nights"

I lived in Amherst, MA for two years. I visited ED's home several times so I could go into her room, see some of her small handmade books of poems she bound together with ribbon, imagine her gazing out the windows in her bedroom, imagine her sitting at the top of the stairs when her family had company. She seldom  joined the company but would listen to all the conversation just behind the door at the top of the stairs.

What I wondered about the most, and there is no answer for this, is whether or not she ever had sex.  She did have at least a couple friendships with males for which she felt passion but it would have been so far out of her cultural values to have been anyone's lover. And there are no letters to indicate she had lovers. Then again, she asked her sister, Lavinia, to burn all the correspondence she had received over her lifetime when she died. And Lavinia did. Were there declarations of love in some of those burnt letters? or indications of more details of the very few males she, at least, had crushes on.

She loved some men.  Did she make love to them physically?

I decided, standing in her bedroom one time, that she never did have sex but being the finely wired being that she was, she understood passion, sex, love and joy.

No one knows.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

you get to be you

take all the time you need

I so often get snagged on made-up cultural expectations, then I berate myself for not meeting such expectations, even though there is no rule book for life.  Some people think there are rules. Kindness might seem like a universal and good rule and it seems so to me but we're all works in progress. Humans can fail to be kind without even being conscious of their failure. So complex.

I have lost two pieces of my heart. I am not recovering from these losses.

I can take all the time I need. Well meaning friends tell me I have to let go. I would if I could.  I accept, with love, a lot of choices my friends make that I would never make.  I wish I had friends who accept me even when I bring my longtime grief with me.