Thursday, December 25, 2008
A scene from this morning:
"Merry Christmas! I'm ready to get up now."
"Let's sleep in!"
"I'm like a little kid on Christmas morning!"
"But there's nothing out there!"
That's right... nothing. Justin and I decided not to buy Christmas presents this year. My family is getting art related stuff (TBA, in case they read this early) and we're getting nuttin' for Christmas.
'Tis the Christmas of paupers.
Actually, later we are going to go shopping during the sales for some necessities. I need pj's and socks and maybe some shirts. He needs T-shirts and maybe some jeans. We're going to buy a toaster oven, but suddenly that does not count among our presents. We just need a replacement because ours only toasts one side of the bread now. The top.
While Justin and I thought this was a brilliant plan during all that time we were not shopping, we now think it sucks. We both love giving presents and are sad not to get to see each other excited over our finds. So next year there will be Some Thing. And next year there will be more money, what with me having a regular job now and all.
Last week at the restaurant one of the girls told me she was crying because she had no money to buy her daughter a present. And her daughter wanted a bicycle. Two of the regulars gathered up enough money for her to buy one. I think she probably could have bought one and paid rent if she just didn't spend the money on alcohol and other vices, but who am I to know?
This Christmas of paupers isn't that bad. It is nice to feel like we didn't participate in the commercialization of Christmas. Plus we went to church last night and had Eucharist and sang carols, so I feel like we realized the true reason for Christmas, you know, Christ's birth and all that. Even if he was probably born in the spring.
Merry Christmas, everyone! May you live in the blessed light of the birth, life and death of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Ho, ho, ho...
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Meanwhile, on Monday I will start working. Boundaries! Boundaries! Boundaries! I am determined to set healthy boundaries. This goal means that I will do only what is asked of me. I will not try to transform anyone or anything; I will just go to work every day and do my best job on what is asked of me. I know it seems limiting to set these boundaries "what is asked of me," but I have a history of going above and beyond the call of duty in a way that gets me into trouble. I become too emotionally invested in a project and then become too emotional when it doesn't go my way. I am determined not to allow that to happen this time.
This time, I will approach my work with a healthy attitude. I will not try to become the best friend of anyone that I work with. I will not be jealous of the relationships that others have with each other--by virtue of time they will be close to each other, by virtue of my own boundaries, my own healthy boundaries, I will be just another co-worker.
I know there are going to be very boring tasks--counting papers (literally), filling out forms by hand (literally--handwriting), calling people repetitively to share the same information--but I am going to approach them as new to each person that sees the form, that joins the organization, that hears the information. I do not think that means I will do everything with Pollyanna joy, just that I will do them knowing that they are my tasks, that the situation is what I make of it, that all of it is day to day and not permanent. By that I mean that whether I stay with the organization for years or leave after a shorter term, I will not always be an administrative assistant. For whatever the title is worth (not much, in such a small company), I will not always have it. I am trying to be careful not to call myself an administrative assistant or a secretary because I get stymied in the title. With a team of five, we all do some of the mundane tasks, and as the first line on phone calls I am more of a public relations assistant than a receptionist. I will be trained to talk to the callers, not to transfer the call to someone else. No matter what my title, and without my trying to get beyond the job as it is defined, I am part of the team.
That said, boundaries! Boundaries! Boundaries!
I will enjoy my drive each morning and evening. I will exercise before or after work. I will work with a good attitude. I will get to know my co-workers during our joint lunches, and I will be friendly but not overwhelming or overwhelmed.
Everything is going to be fine. It's just a new chapter in the life of ours; another mark to be noticed and surpassed.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
It means I'll be giving up napping all day, working late at night, getting errands like laundry and store runs done during the day, not knowing how much I'll make each shift...
Like everything, the change brings blessings and some worries.
I am so used to napping when I get tired! I can't imagine going through a whole eight hour day in an office. Fortunately, the office is in a home and houses three dogs and a cat, so it's not an extraordinary move to a drab cubicle.
On the other hand, it is rather small and run out of the living room--so the five of us are a little bit on top of each other.
Still, it is a situation I am determined to make the best of, working for the first time in three years in a corporate professional atmosphere.
I am so nervous about the lifestyle change, and whether we'll all get along--getting along is very important in a five person office--and how it's going to be.
I have a commute! It's at least 30-45 minutes to get there, but that would be true of anything outside Redondo Beach; we are not conveniently located. Not near anything but ourselves.
I'm a working girl again, in a different way than I have been as a waitress. In a way it is similar to when I was the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine--though it lasted only a month--because of the small office environment. I hope this boss is more stable than that one.
There's so much to think about, so much to get ready for, so much to rearrange in my once boring life.
Yet, it is a smooth transition into a working life--a small job in a small office, just a step bigger from my small life.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
More after the decision is made. One is to be the co-director of a literacy program, the other is to be the administrative assistant of a performing arts after school program. Both are perfect.
Off I go into the world of advanced employment...
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
I still have teaching materials in my home, still think of lesson plans when I come across something that would be interesting for children to learn, still maintain contact with some of my students.
Three years ago I almost lost my life, I did lose the life I knew. Now, three years later I am rebuilding a life that is yet unknown.
There are so many times that I want to push fast forward and see what will be, but there is no button, so I wait to see what is to come.
Three years ago I learned we are not really in control of our destiny, we only move through our lives carefully and watch the colors of the picture brighten or dim.
It is time now, time to live well and be good, do good. And so I move and wait and move and wait, knowing that something will happen. Knowing that I create my own happiness, but not my entire circumstance.
If I were in charge of my circumstances, I would have a two year old child running around this apartment today. No, I am just the lead role in my life, I do not write the script.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Friday, December 05, 2008
So next time those doctors dis my shows, I'm telling them: I like them because I want to be with you and know what you are doing. As much as I can.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
So, I keep my job and stop complaining.
It's not actually that bad, if I frame it in the light of Gospel (freely given love) and being kind to strangers. If I consider waitressing an opportunity to bring joy to people who come in looking for shelter and food, I can't hate it. I have to do it with love and therefore a certain sense of joy.
A bit, but I have to do something to make carrying other people's dirty dishes and sometimes not being treated very kindly, or even as though I am visible, I have to do something to make that acceptable to me. I have to make my life OK.
I was looking for a job that is more cerebral. Something to keep my brain from rotting.
Waitressing does require that I keep things in my mind. It also gives me the opportunity to spend my days as I like--which could include my own challenges to read books, learn something.
The problem I have been having is that I am alone all the time. I used to like to run because it was an escape and a chance to be alone. Now I do not need to be more lonely than I already am. There is no refuge in silence--no refuge from silence in silence. I used to like to read because it was an escape into another world. Now I do not need to leave this world behind. There is nothing save silence from which to seek refuge.
I do not need revenge, I do not need to vent, I do not need to hide.
It is hard to get motivated to do things alone without anything to make me want to be alone.
I am alone.
Almost all the time.
The only person I frequently interact with is my husband. The servers and the customers at work. Yesterday, I asked Justin to please talk with me about politics. It was so refreshing--what do I think about Hillary Clinton as the Secretary of State and so on and so forth.
I know that substitute teaching would not be an intellectual breakthrough--I know that as a teacher I also yearned for the contact of adult conversation. However, substitute teaching would be certain hours, certain pay, certainty. But does certainty offer me anything I really want? At least now I know I could go to the gym if I just got out there, I could go to the library if I just got out there, I could...
The grass is greener on the other side, but it is plenty green right here under my feet. I think I'll stay.
Monday, December 01, 2008
This year we are not giving anyone anything we do not already own. Fortunately, I make art, photographs and baked goods.
Justin and I are trying really hard to live within a budget. We are so in debt from me not working that if he weren't going to be a paid doctor in three years we could be on a TV news show about how people use credit badly.
Nevertheless, we are going to have a wine and cheese birthday party for me--no gifts, just wine or cheese if someone wants to bring something.
In other news, I am fat. The worst (or best) part about it is that I am basically OK with it. One day my metabolism slowed down, my interest in food increased, and my waistline grew out. The other day my stomach was the subject of conversation at work again. We have to wear these tight shirts, and somehow despite my being one of the skinniest girls there my stomach is the one that gets admired by my boss. It's the belly "that's going to be a momma" some day. The problem is, it is so big and I like food so much that I might as well be pregnant now. But I am not.
Yesterday I got to go to the Lakers game. It was a very spur of the moment treat from our friends who had an extra ticket. :) Yay! Fun!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Now it's one where I woke up feeling like depression might be around the corner (I'm tired, sluggish, feeling-fat, unexercised, bored and frustrated with my job) and fought it by contacting a friend who is hosting a party tonight, deciding to go to the commissary and shop for Thanksgiving and then baking for tonight's party.
I could feel bad about having such... different standards of living, but perhaps these standards of living are better.
The first option was stress-laden and career-oriented.
The current option is luxurious and housewife-oriented.
Which is fine.
The other perspective I have to rethink is the way I have been feeling about my job as a waitress. I hate cleaning up after people and being treated badly or tipped poorly by strangers. But, if I think about each customer as an opportunity to make someone happy--something I live for--then I can't possibly be so miserable.
So, today I had a good day.
Monday, November 10, 2008
I am so excited about this chance for change that I cannot figure out what to do to be a part of the change.
For now, I think a new haircut will be my starting point. Or maybe a manicure. I got suckered into buying one of those packages from a place that was advertising--for $58 I got a manicure, pedicure, haircut, gym membership and some hair color treatments. I don't know what I was thinking--I don't ever plan on getting my hair colored.
Meanwhile, my restlessness is not allayed.
I really want to do something. When I was on my anxiety medication I was so tired it seemed perfectly necessary to sleep for much of the day. Now, however, I do not want to sleep but I cannot find anything else to do. I suppose there is always the house to clean, but I need fulfillment. I do not feel gung-ho about anything. I wish there were more obvious answers. Wishing does not make it so--I need a mandate. Obama has a mandate; I wonder how he knows where to start working.
I could participate in the No on 8 rallies, but I am not sure that I believe in their power. I realize the bizarre sound of that--I am all about the freedom of speech. But I want to participate in producing change. Will disrupting traffic and rightfully accusing the fundamentalist church of stealing their rights give gays the right to marry? It's a question. I am not sure. On the other hand, I am not sure that people thought the civil rights marches of the 1960s would be effective. Perhaps I should simply give civil disobedience the benefit of the doubt.
Meanwhile, what shall I do with these days that stretch before me?
Boredom is not my strong suit. Perhaps I should try to get work through a temp agency. Until then, I need to hold onto the idea of experimenting my way through life--that each day is an experiment and that I should just try out doing a little of this or that and not expect so much of myself.
Thursday, November 06, 2008
But I can't.
Instead, I watched images flicker by on the TV while I served drinks and listened to people cheer. People protesting Proposition 8 were being beaten by the police. I don't know why, I don't know who started it, I do not know if there was fault. But violence. Violence.
I need a break to be able to speak with my emotions tempered. I am Christian. I do not believe that being gay is a sin. Don't anyone dare tell me that "when I become Christian" I will think differently. I am Christian. So are some of my gay friends. All are welcome at the table of the Lord.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Olaina Anderson is tumultuous: Yay Change with Obama! But chickens can spread their wings and gays can't marry? Come on, CA. Jesus said, "Love One Another." No exceptions.
3 hours ago
- 4 Comments
Dan at 1:03pm November 5
Danielle at 2:14pm November 5
Yes, we should "love our neighbor as yourself", which is the the second greatest commandment, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." is the greatest (Matt. 22:37-39, Deut. 6:5, Deut. 11:1). Galatians 6:1 says, "...if someone who is caught in a sin...you who are spiritual should restore him ... Read Moregently." Galatians 5:19 says, "the acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality..." (also Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1). Matt. 7:1 and James 4:11 say we are not to judge. Not to judge, but yes to love! How could we be loving them if we open the door saying it's okay to sin?
Kerri at 3:02pm November 5
Olaina Anderson at 3:45pm November 5
Galatians does not say that homosexuality is a sin. Leviticus is from the Old Testament, which comes before the grace-full freely given love of Christ and the Christian New Testament, and also lays out many other "sins" regarding the place of women in society that we do not uphold today. Homosexuality is not a sin. It is not a choice. People do not... Read More choose to be gay--no one chooses to be persecuted. Man is created in God's image. Jesus said, "Love One Another."
Write a comment...
Change Comes So Slowly
After months of unbelievable hard work, determination, courage and generosity, we have crossed the finish line of one hard-fought 2008 election.
Tonight, we are a country changed with the election our nation's first African-American president, President-elect Barack Obama.
But today we are trailing in the California fight against discrimination.
The current vote count has us behind with an incredibly steep hill to climb. But there are somewhere between 2.5 - 4 million votes that have not yet been counted (provisional ballots and absentees) and the information about where they are from is not yet available. The No on Prop 8 campaign has indicated that, given the incredible gravity of the situation, they will not issue the ultimate call on this election until they have that information (24-48 hours).
Never before in California's history has a group who currently enjoys a basic right, been singled out, and then had those rights ripped from them by a vote of their fellow citizens. This decision is so radical and so egregious, that every voice must first be heard, no matter how unlikely a changed outcome might be.
We are all diminished whenever discrimination is sanctioned and fundamental rights are stripped away from any of our citizens. We are all diminished when some families in California are denied access to the security and protections they deserve.
In this fight for fairness and justice, tens of thousands of Californians built a campaign that far surpassed any previous civil rights effort on any ballot measure, not only in California, but anywhere in our entire country. They poured their talents, their time, their resources and their hearts into this struggle for freedom and this fight to have their relationships treated equally. Thank you for each and every sacrifice.
In 2000 2.9 million Californians voted with us against discrimination; today, at least 5 million Californians voted with us to reject discrimination and we thank them for their support for equality.
Together, we put together the largest volunteer and grassroots network of any campaign other than a presidential campaign. Together, we spoke to our families, our friends, our neighbors and co-workers. Together, we reached outside of our community to build coalitions that will strengthen us all. Together, we raised more money for this fight, in a shorter time, than anyone believed possible.
And the struggle for equality is not over.
Activist and writer Anne Lamott writes, "Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up"”
Because of the struggle fought here in California and fought so incredibly well by the people in this state that love freedom and justice -- our fight for full civil rights will continue.
As we have stood side-by-side and worked together over these past several months, we must take a moment to come together again now. Please join The Center Advocacy Project, EQCA and HRC on Wed., Nov. 5 at 6:30 pm at The Center, 3909 Centre St., to be in the company of friends and all of those who love justice. For more information about our community gathering, please contact Jeff Wergeles at email@example.com.
Each of you has my very deepest gratitude and my immeasurable respect.
And while we cannot say victory is ours this day, we know that, because of the work done here, freedom, fairness and equality will be ours... our dawn will come.
Together with you always in this struggle,
Dr. Delores A. Jacobs
The San Diego LGBT Community Center
3909 Centre Street
San Diego, CA 92103
The crowd started chanting, "Yes we can!" even before they knew it was an integral part of his acceptance speech.
When Obama gave his speech last night Justin lifted his foot--half foot--in salute when the President-elect acknowledged the disabled of America.
Michele Obama is the next First Lady of the United States of America. A black woman. Black children will live in the White House (with a new puppy!). This world has changed changed changed. Praise Jesus.
I love the story that Obama told of the 106-year-old woman who voted yesterday in a world so different than the one she was born into--"a generation past slavery". She lives now in a world in which women can vote, blacks can vote; she touched a screen to vote.
Yes we can!
I am grateful to my parents for moving to this country, for their decision to let us come to our own decisions to become citizens here, for our opportunity to vote in these elections.
Yes we can!
But then I remember Proposition 8, and the theft of the right to marry that California inflicted on gay men and women who love each other. I do not understand how a proposition to amend the state constitution to "eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry" can pass in a world that can also feel so progressive. It is a tragic humbling outcome.
Now that in my small way with words and a little money and a little time I have contributed to the election of Hope, I wonder what next steps I can take to help make this world a better place. How can I help Barack Obama get his good work done? How can I help gays be treated as equal human beings? How can I contribute to the change we elected to have the chance to enact?
I consider my still looming student loan debt and my current work as a waitress and an art model and I wonder how I can better use my education (What's an English major to do?) to serve this country. I consider my recently-well-managed mood disorder and I wonder what I can manage to do and still be healthy. I consider my free time and pray for healthy outcomes and blessings on my work, whatever that work may be.
Barack Obama is the next President of the United States, and for the first time in years I harbor h a feeling of hope for the world, hope that is not against all odds, hope that is real and strong and steeped in the courage of so many people who believe that this world really can be a better place.
If yesterday I felt like it was audition day and I was waiting to hear whether I got a part, today I feel like the part turned out to be for a Broadway show instead of a school play. I might have a bit part, but I do not know when the show will close and I know the lead needs us all to do our best to support his role.
Yes. We can.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Yes we can!
I spent the day pacing, voting, pacing, turning on the TV, turning off the TV, pacing...
I can hardly breathe.
Yes we can!
Monday, November 03, 2008
If I had grandparents, I would do it.
The Great Schlep from The Great Schlep on Vimeo.
It's like Christmas, or the day before an audition--I don't know if I'll even be able to sleep tonight, for being excited to vote tomorrow. I have to work at 6 p.m. tomorrow and I know there won't be results by then. God knows if I'll have any tables at all. Hopefully I'll get off early so I can sit at home and watch TV all night long.
My God, tomorrow the world can change.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
I spent my life being told I was twiggy. That I needed some fat on my bones. That I should eat more.
Then suddenly this stomach came to live with me. It lies next to me when I am sleeping and doesn't seem to have any intention of leaving.
Yesterday this stomach was even the topic of conversation at work:
General manager: Olaina, you have such a cute little belly.
Me: It's gigantic.
Manager: It is not.
Me: It's like a little kid's belly. Or a slightly pregnant woman.
GM: No, it's cute. It's there, but it's so little.
Manager: It's a compliment.
GM: Yeah. It's hard to say without sounding funny.
Me: OK. I'll take it as a compliment.
It used to be a compliment that I was too skinny. I had a flat stomach that looked OK when I wore fitted shirts. Now I have a conversation-worthy stomach. The bizarre part, to me, is that just one year ago I still had that waifish look. Of course, I was never hungry then and I was doing yoga at least twice a week, sometimes twice a day. Then I started taking a medicine that made me fantasize about grilled cheese sandwiches when I was lying in bed, trying to sleep.
Maybe that's why this neighborhood is going to pot.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
This, despite the woes of my friends who all tell me they haven't read anything for pleasure in as long as their first child has been alive and who now even go to the restroom with a baby as their witness.
I believe that if I have a kid I will read during nap time, or nap during nap time.
Naivete such as mine must be what keeps this world populated with human beings.
That and the fact that we supposedly forget the pain of childbirth within a while of the event--that and good drugs.
Anne Lamott writes in Grace (Eventually) that she "trusted that other parents would help [her] every step of the way, and that if [she] did not keep secrets when motherhood was going particularly badly, there would be healing and enough understanding and stamina to get by."
I guess that's why I have chosen to be so open about trying to have kids. I know that if I get pregnant and then have another miscarriage I am going to need a tribe to carry my body away from the cliffs.
I also know I won't have a clue what to do if we do have a baby, so it seems like a good idea to warn everybody so that they get ready to help in their own way. I'm counting on the ways including some cooked food and maybe some babysitting or company for me.
Anne Lamott says, "I believed that being a parent would be a more glorious circuit than it's turned out to be--that the transmission would be more reliable. Now I think I imagined it would be more like being a grandparent."
I believe someone will help me when I'm so tired I want to hide the baby in a drawer until I feel like playing with it again.
He said he had taken a walk.
Later he told me he had been on the look out for my car the whole way because he was afraid we'd pass each other in the street and he was coming to surprise me.
It's amazing to me that after more than six years of marriage I still get puppy-dog-happy when he walks into the room.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Ironically, being better and supposedly having come out of a long depressive episode has left me discouraged. My discouragement in large part comes out of my desire to be, rather do, more than I am doing.
What I mean is, now that I am not symptomatic (I have energy, I feel I can do more than just lie down, I want to do something enjoyable; whereas before I lay around and I didn't care because I couldn't muster the strength to move) I believe I should be getting a bunch of stuff done. However, I don't actually have much to do.
I have not been a teacher since January 2006.
I am used to making lots of money, having so much to do that I don't have a spare minute in the day, neglecting household chores because I am too overwhelmed with employment tasks.
Now I have the kind of time I only dreamed of having back then, and I am not enjoying it.
So that's what we talked about--finding a way not to feel so bored, not to be so judgmental, to be in the moment instead of being dissatisfied with the moment.
The psychiatrist came up with this: I can't do much yet. It's like I was a runner and I had a stroke. I wouldn't be able to just jump back into running, I would have to relearn how to walk and then slowly jog--and that's only if I were lucky enough to be able to rehabilitate at that level.
The therapist and I decided I needed something to say to myself to replace my typical, "I should..." since should-ing myself wasn't getting me to go to the gym or look for a real job or do much of anything. We came up with the idea that I needed to approach my days as an experiment. That I need to try things out and see how they feel and whether I want to go on with them or not.
It's like watching a baby learn to stand up and then walk. There are a lot of times that they push off, but then they squat right back down--maybe because they get scared, maybe because their legs are not quite strong enough yet. They try over and over again and their success is in the act of attempting.
People don't yell at a baby for trying to stand; people watch joyfully, "You can do it! Good job! Come on! Keep trying!"
Today I experimented with taking a nap. I had a terrible headache--like my brain was getting squished by my skull, which is almost true because my braces got tightened yesterday. I took some ibuprofen and I let myself go back to bed. I had to experiment with whether it made me feel better to close my eyes. It worked. Now I can go to work and feel like maybe I won't die from it.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
As they left he said, "We made a mess. That's the legacy of a two-year-old. It's like having six drunk people over."
I was left to pick up chips and french fries from the sidewalk, wipe honey mustard off the table, and clean the dad's mess of salsa and chips from his section of the table.
All the while, I was wondering, "Do I want to invite six drunk people over to live with me for at least eighteen years? Would I love them always?"
Yes, on both counts. A scary yes, but yes nonetheless.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Justin and I both had last night--a Friday night!--off. He came and picked me up from work (where we shared some nachos and had a beer) and when we got home we marveled.
"It's a Friday night and we both have it off!"
"It feels so normal. What do normal people do on a Friday night?"
We went to a party that one of the other residents was having. We have another party to attend tonight, but for this one I will get there first and Justin will join us after his shift in the Pediatrics ER.
In the meantime, I am going to play housewife and get this place cleaned up. With both of us working it's kind of gone to ruins.... there are papers cluttering the coffee table from interrupted mail reading and new healthcare form filling, the fires left an extra layer of dust on everything, the dishes and laundry need to be done. When we both work our odd hours and odd sleep things fall apart.
Today will be like the 50s--with the man off at work and the wife at home cleaning, except I won't be waiting at the door with a drink for him when he gets home. In this generation of resident-wifehood, I and a few other men and women will be at a party without our partners if they happen to be at work. I'll have a drink waiting for him when he gets to the party.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
I'm still seriously considering substitute teaching--it's also a level of hell, but at least unless a kid spits on me or pukes I don't have to get dirty.
Unfortunately, with my life being the mental health balancing act that it is, I have to wait before I can start looking for a substitute teaching job. Actually, I could probably start applying now--the process takes some time. I would not have to start working right away.
The thing is, I am stopping my anxiety medication--the one that made me so calm I slept a lot--and so I'm supposed to observe myself to see if I get more anxious or agitated.
Substitute teaching induces a certain amount of anxiety and agitation in the average human being. For me, it should wait until I see that I am sailing smoothly without the med.
Right now, I am down to 1/4 of the pill I used to take. If I went off it cold turkey I would have terrible withdrawal headaches--I did it once before without the doctor's guidance, I just ran out and didn't refill the prescription until I had to drive to the pharmacy with my eyes squinting shut against the bright rays of daylight. In a week I should be done with this round.
Financially the prospect of waiting to substitute teach is about as anxiety laden as diving right in, though. The restaurant has cut our shifts to three per week, so my $11 to $100 per night (more typically in the $20-30 range) is titrated. It's too scary to live like this--wondering if I'll make enough money. Justin constantly assures me that we're doing OK, but I know I'm not pulling my weight as much as I could.
I also know I'm not in a position to sell my art the way I used to. For one thing, it costs money to get into shows, for another thing the economy isn't exactly encouraging people to buy photographs or even greeting cards. So, I wait. Wait for life to reveal itself. The art market in San Diego was far more substantial than it is here--at least for local artists I haven't found the art walk venues that San Diego offered.
For a girl who is so bored much of the time, there is a lot to work on, isn't there?
Monday, October 13, 2008
For a while I couldn't do much that required concentration. My mind wouldn't focus so I was constantly distracted from even the smallest task.
But now that I have been better for a while I am so bored.
I can think again, and I find myself with not much to think about.
I am considering substitute teaching. We could really use the money and it would be a commitment to something that requires thoughtful juggling. Granted, teachers tend to leave simple plans for subs, but it would be more than my current considerations--sorting the laundry, unpacking boxes, dusting the furniture. I just need to figure out the districts that the schools around here are in so that I can apply.
In the meantime, maybe I'll try to find a crossword puzzle to do.
Just kidding. I want to do something productive. Productive. Not repetitive. Productive.
I planned to start my running regimen today. Might need to rethink that with the Santa Ana winds blowing.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
I liked that there were quotations about baptism "for your consideration," including Martin Luther from the Large Catechism, "Baptism is valid, even though faith be wanting. For my faith does not make baptism, but receives it."
We both liked the attitude toward the congregants--the almost 2-year-old who was being baptized kept wandering up to the altar and the Pastor said he was welcome. The passing of the peace was recess, with the Pastor one of the last to finish greeting everyone in the congregation with a handshake or hug.
The sermon was about The Gospel reading, Matthew 22:1-14, where the king invites a bunch of people to a wedding banquet but they don't come, and then he invites everyone and someone doesn't don a wedding robe and he is kicked out because he isn't dressed well. The pastor said that the guy who gets kicked out is the guy who is most like the kingdom of heaven--you know, everyone welcome, no matter what you're wearing. He even put it in the context of more text, which I find comforting because it shows the Pastor is considering the full text, not just the reading of the day as excerpted in the book.
Afterward, Justin filled out the informational sheet and turned it in, saying we would return. We even went to the patio to have coffee and meet people. That's where one person said she had been going to this church for two years and liked it because it was really down to Earth and after a while when you got to know people it was like a family, not like a big church where sometimes you get lost. Another man from a young couple said he liked the inclusiveness.
Justin and I walked home along the beach saying we'd had a nice morning. We held hands.
"Gotta wear good luck clothes?"
"Yeah," he said with resignation.
"I know. I just e-mailed Pastor Brian and told him to pray for good things."
"If they start raving about Palin I'm out of there."
"I know. I can just see the yes on Proposition 8 propaganda."
"There better not be. I might even ask."
I consider this idea and am wary of it, but also know it would cut right to the heart of the matter. Justin and I cannot, under any terms, attend a church of hate or division. So, if a church did not love gay people as God and their neighbor and themselves, we'd be out of there.
So here we go. Pray for Grace and the True message of the Gospel: Love one another.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Just like that.
Tank top and capris switched to long sleeves and jeans.
I still expect warm days--the San Diego Fires both happened in late October--but right now it is blustery windy outside.
If I had papers to grade fall would be more believable, but as a season it does not seem right with really nothing to do in my free time. Justin and I just took an afternoon nap between college football games and when I woke up I felt the familiar guilt of laziness. But I do not have papers to grade. I am free to nap without ruining a paper-grading plan. Yesterday I saw someone with a box full of papers to grade and I felt a pang of nostalgia. I need papers to grade for fall to be complete.
Instead, I have to get ready to go to the restaurant and serve food. Hopefully people will come--bad weather tends to hurt business.
Monday, October 06, 2008
Friends having babies, getting divorced, buying houses, getting married, experience turbulence in their marriages... there's so much going on at 33.
It's really a fascinating time.
Of course, I'm somewhat stunned. Justin and I are just bubbling along, happily married, hoping for kids, working and waiting on everything as his residency moves through the first of three years.
Meanwhile, I follow the facebook updates of Those With Kids. One expects their first. One expects their third. One goes to Disneyland with a four-year-old for the first time.
In the midst of the Economic Crisis two couples look at purchasing property, moving through Escrow while the burst of the housing bubble moves into banks that can't lend money to people. How they're doing it, I don't know. Justin and I continue to rent our apartment with no expectation that we'll own property anytime soon. Meanwhile, I can't imagine bringing children into such an unstable world (this morning waking up and realizing that the Terrorists did win when they hit the World Trade Center, it just took a few years for the hit to develop its true catastrophic result). I actually told myself, "people had kids in the Depression, I can do it now."
In a display of true hope in times of despair, marriages continue to occur. My brother is engaged, and I get to be one of the beautiful bride's bridesmaids. Their wedding is bringing my family a sense of excitement and something to talk about other than politics. Though, as required in the unwritten rules, we are all well equipped for political discussions at our family gatherings.
And then there are the relationships that test Forever After. Divorced. Moving. Arguing. It's so hard to see this happening, as we hold our breathes through separate conversations. The tension pitches Justin and I toward each other, rapt in our own love, wrapped in the comfort of our relationship. Justin remembers when we had strife, though neither of us remembers what it was about, that he used to be annoyed by every little thing I did. It is those very little things though, that were always there and that he used to love about me; that he loves about me now. He says he just had to realize that and tell himself not to be annoyed. As though annoyance were a choice he made. Is that how it works? Just tell myself not to be annoyed? I think of work and realize that maybe in some ways it is that easy--I practice telling myself that those little things that annoy me about waitressing are fun, endearing, important, something I can turn around, and I feel better about the job than when I tell myself how ridiculous and worthless it is.
I wonder about these relationships that seem to be on shaky ground. Maybe the air will clear naturally.
Here I am at 33. Watching life's milestones happen all around me. Maybe one day we'll have a milestone again. A little one. Not a sad one. Please and thank you, God.
Sunday, October 05, 2008
I know I am getting spoiled.
I made breakfast for him, we watched college football and got housework done. We played a game of Scrabble. Today we'll visit our families and tonight we'll go to sleep at the same time for the third night in a row.
Today I feel like a visitor is leaving tomorrow from a vacation spent with me.
But, oh, how I cherish these hours! In manner of mindfulness, instead of being blue about tomorrow I am enjoying the Chargers game right now with him next to me, shouting at the TV.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Mostly I've been sleeping a lot.
Partly I sleep because our apartment is dark, partly I sleep because I work late, partly I sleep because once I wake up late I can't figure out what else to do but go back to sleep because I feel like I've missed out on most of the day already.
Today I defy this logic.
Today I wake up and live.
I decided that because of my erratic work schedule (I don't go in until 9:30 p.m. today) that setting a life schedule by exact hours is self-defeating. Every time I missed a scheduled event--like a pilates class--I felt defeated and then allowed the rest of the schedule to go in the dumps because I was in the dumps.
Now, I have a schedule by amount of time spent on a task. Therefore, I can sleep for 8 hours no matter what (I need the sleep to stay on track) and when I am finished with that I start with the other tasks, like getting ready, eating, cleaning, writing, etc. Each task is assigned one or two hours and so hopefully I won't fall off the wagon so easily.
So far so good. Even though I didn't sleep well last night, I spent 8 hours trying, so I'm up now. I'm already ready and writing. Yay!
One of the things that is important for someone with a mood disorder to do is have a regimen for the day. It's easier to stay stable if I know what I'm doing with my time. There's less room for thinking about my feelings because I am busy doing and being alive.
I figure if we're thinking about having kids I'd be best off getting regulated soon.
Oh. By the way. The retreat with the doctors was inspiring. Not only was I functional and capable of socializing (a difficult experience for a depressed person), I was happy to attempt it and also cognizant of my approach to people. That sounds weird, but sometimes I can be a little overwhelming. I tried to keep that at bay.
It was also inspiring to see all the women and men who married into the program like I did who are raising families while their spouse works at being a doctor. It made me feel like there might be a support system there for me if I tried to have a family--like at least there would be someone to talk to about it.
So, yes, other people's success inspired Justin and I to take the leap and try to get pregnant. It's definitely not something we're doing because "everybody's doing it," but it is something we feel more capable of because we see that it is possible and because we know our own skills and feelings.
We're scared, but we're also excited and hopeful and mellow about it at once.
That sounds pretty normal, to me.
Wednesday, October 01, 2008
It's all good though. I've been happy; the sleep part was probably just a little bit catching up and a little bit giving up caffeine and not giving up meds that have sleepiness as a side-effect.
My therapist thinks I need to have six months of stability under my belt before we try to have kids, but the very idea of watching every emotion to see if it's a depressive episode and watching the days click by is so counter to everything I have been working on as far as mindfulness goes that I cannot subscribe to her philosophy.
Meanwhile, my psychiatrist says she'll support me whatever we decide to do.
Our pastor is worried about the hormonal changes that pregnancy triggers in women, and how I'll handle the mood changes. He also worries about the financial aspects of it all.
A couple of friends say we'd make great parents.
We say why not and what are we waiting for?
And now, you, my eighth reader, are sitting there with your jaw on the floor.
Yes, after Disneyland, and explaining to two friends for the last time that we decided not to have children because we didn't want to have to take care of anyone, having already raised so many people and been caregivers even in our professions, that we wanted to have time just to care for each other and that we felt like we had the right to be selfish.
But I have never given that explanation without feeling a sense of defensiveness and resignation and intellectual conclusion.
When we think of having children we feel excited. Inexplicably excited and hopeful.
If it seems like this is a rash decision, it's rash as our engagement and our marriage.
Six months after meeting.
One year and four days after meeting.
When we made the decision to spend our lives together, we knew what we were looking for, we knew we were moving quickly, but we knew what felt right. Sure, we were a little scared and also excited, but we also just knew what we were doing was right.
And so it is.
As I have said before, I have spent my whole life wanting children. After the miscarriage and ensuing depression, I managed to talk myself out of it. I told myself it wasn't fair to a child to have to have a depressive mother, but I feel so good now, I feel like I can manage my depression, and because I am so responsible about taking the very meds that make my impending pregnancy risky, I feel like I can be a good parent.
As good a parent as so many people I see who are less purposeful about becoming parents.
I would be lying if I said I wasn't scared of: getting depressed again, having a miscarriage, not being able to get pregnant, being a parent...
I am scared.
But I also know I can manage depression, probably will have another miscarriage, might not be able to get pregnant, might be a parent.
All of those possibilities leave me feeling hopeful and strong.
Justin and I haven't gone into anything with naive expectations or romanticized visions of constant joy. We've faced very difficult situations together and thrived. Having children, or at least trying to, is one of those situations for us.
This time is going to be different. I am not going to hope too much. I am not going to pay too much attention. I am not going to let this experience rule my life. As with so many other things these days, rather than approaching a major project, I will spend my days working on having a good day.
Since January 2006, when I had to stop teaching and my whole life spun around, I have been a captive student of life. I know for sure I am not finished learning, but I know that what I have learned will help me be a good human being.
And I have learned that I am a human being, not a human doing.
If one day I have the privilege of becoming a parent, I can only imagine that the focus on being will help us all.
Off we are on another adventure! Don't anyone hold their breath...
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
So, I'm sitting here blogging anyway.
facebook is a marvelous invention. I have reconnected with friends from high school and college. High school friends.... these are people some of whom I have not seen since 1991 or 92--a number of years I do not care to calculate just now.
Especially with Justin on call it makes me feel like I didn't come home to an empty house. I mean, I know I am alone, but I feel like I have some contact with the world. Like someone knows I am in it and functioning. Justin called and left a message--he says it's a hectic night in the ICU. He's what they call a black cloud--whenever he's on call something happens, in manner of patient-care-needs-increasing. To be opaque about it, you know, due to HIPA and all.
I miss Justin. But I think Q4 is better than when he has four days in a row of 4 p.m. to midnight shifts, or midnight to 8 a.m. shifts. This way at least I get to see him the day before he's on call and the day after he returns from call... it's funny math. But I didn't do well this last time when he was sleeping all day and I was sleeping at night and then during the day too. The house was too dark all week. It aided and abetted my depression, and that monster certainly doesn't need any help.
Coming home to facebook is not really like coming home to a husband or a roommate. Not even a little bit. But it is better than coming home to an answering machine, like in the 1990s. Remember that? When you'd hope for a blinking light and push play and hope for a friendly voice rather than a telemarketer? Now at least there is potential for immediate interaction (ie. the facebook chat I am carrying on with an old friend as I type this blog entry), or at least immediate response on my part (ie. the gmail I was able to send in the middle of the night), instead of having to wait until the next day and a decent hour to return a phone call. It's the implication of human contact that feeds me.
Is that too lonely of a thought?
I always said people need to learn to be alone without being lonely. I think I can do that. But I think given the quantity of time I spend alone, I am bound to be lonely sometimes.
I wonder if it would be different if we had kids. I mean, HOW it would be different if we had kids. I wonder what it will be like when I do not have to work as a waitress anymore. I'll have to do something. The idea that it could be something of my own invention startles me. What if my goal were not a dollar amount to help pay the bills, but instead were a feeling of fulfillment or purpose?
What would the world look like and feel like if we did have kids?
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
But now that I have pulled out of the spiral and face quiet days and working nights, I have to find a way to keep myself feeling good... or at least stable.
It seems for me the key is to stay busy. But I need to find the drive to be busy without having obligations to other people. God knows there is enough for me to do around the apartment, I could go for a bike ride along the beach or a walk, but self-motivation is elusive.
I am going to try to make a schedule for myself now. Something that involves 8 hours of sleep after I get home from the late night shift at the restaurant, and then exercise and productivity for the day.
I have to be my own boss.
Managing health is quiet a job.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
I gave him the line about freelance photography but felt like I was lying the whole time. So when the next one asked, I tried a joke. Or the truth.
The woman who's been a doctor for four months laughed a little breath. "Housewife?"
"No," I said. Though I resented the implication that being a housewife would be nothing--I just did the laundry and have things to clean up and should make a dinner. I sleep the doctor's schedule--and then some but that's because I'm in the midst of a probable depressive episode.
That's what I wanted to say. 'I'm a manic-depressive. I'm sleeping a lot these days. I'm lucky I dragged my ass out of the house to go bowling with you people. I don't even know you; do you have any idea how much work this is?'
But I just laughed her laugh and said, "I'm a freelance photographer, and I work in a restaurant. Nothing much..." I didn't feel like telling her I'd been an honors English teacher and a journalism adviser. I didn't feel like justifying my life with the awards and titles of years ago.
I didn't feel like being a nothing in the midst of doctors either.
When I'm a girl who works in a restaurant and I'm married to a doctor, a resident, do I become a trophy wife who isn't even that pretty?
I told Justin I felt embarrassed and inadequate, but he assured me he was not embarrassed by me, that he's proud of me, that he doesn't care what I say I do.
I thought of how I love my work as an art model the most, and how I'm actually good at it, and considered using that as an answer.
"You could say you're an artist. That would cover the range," he said.
The problem, I know, is that I should not care what they think of me. I know that I am not the sum of my income, the title of my job, the level of my education. I am not a doctor.
Bowling with doctors, looking at the bench, I imagined the probability that I was bowling with all the nerdy-kids from high school. And now they were all doctors. I, a nerd among them, became nothing. Just a waitress.
I love what my friend says about us being human beings, not human doings, but it is what we do that makes a conversation topic.
I am a human being who bowls with doctors that want to know what I do.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
It will get better one day. It always does.
Friday, September 12, 2008
When I am well, I hate hate hate those commercials. They are so depressing.
When I am already sitting in my pajamas in the dark watching TV feeling too heavy to do anything even while knowing getting some exercise or answering the phone might help me pull out of the grip of depression, I don't even have to watch those commercials, they just play through my head and I know I am not alone.
As though I have a navigator for my brain, I called my psychiatrist when I noticed the symptoms coming up, and she has suggested a small change in the dose of one of my pills. This, I know, will require a trip to the drugstore, which will require clothes and conversation, which I know could be helpful. Maybe I'll even force myself to stay out there and go somewhere else too.
The fog may be rolling in, but I am not going to let it envelope me. I will find a clearing in this madness; I will make a light.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
I was a teacher.
I was driving to work at 5:46 a.m., getting on the freeway, starting a day in the second week of school.
I told Justin, my mother, my brother to turn on the news.
I listened to NPR.
I saw a building fall while I stood in my co-worker's classroom quickly revising our lesson plan because we just couldn't give a writing test when the nation had just been attacked. When buildings had fallen. When children's parents were in New York and we were in San Diego and no one knew why or what was happening. We gave them the homework assignment, color a map of Greece to prepare for our Oedipus the King reading. Watch TV if you want to, go back to the other room and do not look.
I still remember that one boy and his question. "Miss Gupta, why did they do it?"
I still remember having no answer. Being offended and bewildered at the very idea that I might know. Why? Because I am Gupta because I am a teacher because I am the only adult in a room full of 15-year-old sophomores.
Just before 6 a.m. I heard the news on a music radio station and did not believe it.
Now, seven years later, those kids were just fifth graders when it happened. What was the impact on their lives? They don't know much about living before 9/11; what does a kid know of politics before they've even stopped playing after school.
Seven years later 9/11 is just one of the reasons I can't teach anymore. One of the reasons that teaching is too much. One of the reasons I serve food instead of knowledge and literature and do not have homework--because I just couldn't stand needing to have so many answers any more. Those kids are in college now. I wonder what they remember, what they think.
It will be a quiet night at the restaurant tonight.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
makes me believe
for a little while
that the world will be fine
no matter who
is elected to be President
makes me feel safe
for a little while
that my life will continue
no matter what
is wrong with my health
live music is a cocoon
I must wrap myself in
as often as possible
so that my brain
for the wrath of days
makes it safe
to be alive
Monday, September 08, 2008
I remember that I am not
a should've-would've-could've girl
But I should myself to death
Then I remember there is a pill for this
not to change my shoulding so much,
but to slow down my head
one should at a time
I repent for the mislabeling of people
I repent for the customer mistake
I repent for the mistakes of language and labor
The pill makes me sleepy
I slow down
I slog through the necessary
I do the laundry
I go to work
I grocery shop
I slog slog slog
And soon here I am
Whether anyone likes me or not
Saturday, September 06, 2008
An Alaskan's Opinion
Claim: Letter written by a resident of Wasilla, Alaska, offers viewpoint of Alaska governor Sarah Palin.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, August 2008]
Which is to say I slept until noon.
Then I woke up and ate and blogged and slept until 5 p.m.
Repeat--add an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent.
Then I slept for the night--just a little intermittently.
The only sign that this sleeping is not depression is that I eat. Unless, my new MO is eating instead of starving through sadness.
Or I'm fine and I just needed the sleep. Because I had a headache. But no one needs, like, 48 hours of sleep in a row with breaks.
I am supposed to write a super long e-mail about my last therapy session. I think I'll go back to bed.
Friday, September 05, 2008
Of course once again, a New York Times article says it all for me. So here it is:
The Resentment Strategy, by By PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: September 4, 2008
Can the super-rich former governor of Massachusetts — the son of a Fortune 500 C.E.O. who made a vast fortune in the leveraged-buyout business — really keep a straight face while denouncing “Eastern elites”?
Can the former mayor of New York City, a man who, as USA Today put it, “marched in gay pride parades, dressed up in drag and lived temporarily with a gay couple and their Shih Tzu” — that was between his second and third marriages — really get away with saying that Barack Obama doesn’t think small towns are sufficiently “cosmopolitan”?
Can the vice-presidential candidate of a party that has controlled the White House, Congress or both for 26 of the past 28 years, a party that, Borg-like, assimilated much of the D.C. lobbying industry into itself — until Congress changed hands, high-paying lobbying jobs were reserved for loyal Republicans — really portray herself as running against the “Washington elite”?
Yes, they can.
On Tuesday, He Who Must Not Be Named — Mitt Romney mentioned him just once, Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin not at all — gave a video address to the Republican National Convention. John McCain, promised President Bush, would stand up to the “angry left.” That’s no doubt true. But don’t be fooled either by Mr. McCain’s long-ago reputation as a maverick or by Ms. Palin’s appealing persona: the Republican Party, now more than ever, is firmly in the hands of the angry right, which has always been much bigger, much more influential and much angrier than its counterpart on the other side.
What’s the source of all that anger?
Some of it, of course, is driven by cultural and religious conflict: fundamentalist Christians are sincerely dismayed by Roe v. Wade and evolution in the curriculum. What struck me as I watched the convention speeches, however, is how much of the anger on the right is based not on the claim that Democrats have done bad things, but on the perception — generally based on no evidence whatsoever — that Democrats look down their noses at regular people.
Thus Mr. Giuliani asserted that Wasilla, Alaska, isn’t “flashy enough” for Mr. Obama, who never said any such thing. And Ms. Palin asserted that Democrats “look down” on small-town mayors — again, without any evidence.
What the G.O.P. is selling, in other words, is the pure politics of resentment; you’re supposed to vote Republican to stick it to an elite that thinks it’s better than you. Or to put it another way, the G.O.P. is still the party of Nixon.
One of the key insights in “Nixonland,” the new book by the historian Rick Perlstein, is that Nixon’s political strategy throughout his career was inspired by his college experience, in which he got himself elected student body president by exploiting his classmates’ resentment against the Franklins, the school’s elite social club. There’s a direct line from that student election to Spiro Agnew’s attacks on the “nattering nabobs of negativism” as “an effete corps of impudent snobs,” and from there to the peculiar cult of personality that not long ago surrounded George W. Bush — a cult that celebrated his anti-intellectualism and made much of the supposed fact that the “misunderestimated” C-average student had proved himself smarter than all the fancy-pants experts.
And when Mr. Bush turned out not to be that smart after all, and his presidency crashed and burned, the angry right — the raging rajas of resentment? — became, if anything, even angrier. Humiliation will do that.
Can Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin really ride Nixonian resentment into an upset election victory in what should be an overwhelmingly Democratic year? The answer is a definite maybe.
By selecting Barack Obama as their nominee, the Democrats may have given Republicans an opening: the very qualities that inspire many fervent Obama supporters — the candidate’s high-flown eloquence, his coolness factor — have also laid him open to a Nixonian backlash. Unlike many observers, I wasn’t surprised at the effectiveness of the McCain “celebrity” ad. It didn’t make much sense intellectually, but it skillfully exploited the resentment some voters feel toward Mr. Obama’s star quality.
That said, the experience of the years since 2000 — the memory of what happened to working Americans when faux-populist Republicans controlled the government — is still fairly fresh in voters’ minds. Furthermore, while Democrats’ supposed contempt for ordinary people is mainly a figment of Republican imagination, the G.O.P. really is the Gramm Old Party — it really does believe that the economy is just fine, and the fact that most Americans disagree just shows that we’re a nation of whiners.
But the Democrats can’t afford to be complacent. Resentment, no matter how contrived, is a powerful force, and it’s one that Republicans are very, very good at exploiting.
I will not vote for a President because he is Black.
I will not vote for a President because he was a POW.
I will not vote for a Vice President because he has experience.
I will not vote for a Vice President because she is female.
September 4, 2008, 8:41 pm
The Mirrored Ceiling by Judith Warner, New York Times
It turns out there was something more nauseating than the nomination of Sarah Palin as John McCain’s running mate this past week. It was the tone of the acclaim that followed her acceptance speech.
“Drill, baby, drill,” clapped John Dickerson, marveling at Palin’s ability to speak and smile at the same time as an indication of her unexpected depths and unsuspected strengths. “It was clear Palin was having fun, and it’s hard to have fun if you’re scared or a lightweight,” he wrote in Slate.
The Politico praised her charm and polish as antidotes to her lack of foreign policy experience: “Palin’s poised and flawless performance evoked roars of applause from delegates who earlier this week might have worried that the surprise pick and newcomer to the national stage may not be up to the job.”
“She had a great night. I thought she had a very skillfully written, and very skillfully delivered speech,” Joe Biden said, shades of “articulate and bright and clean” threatening a reappearance. (For a full roundup of these comments go here.)
Thus began the official public launch of our country’s now most-prominent female politician. The condescension – damning with faint praise – was reminiscent of the more overt misogyny of Samuel Johnson.
“A woman’s preaching is like a dog’s walking on his hinder legs,” the wit once observed. “It is not done well; but you are surprized to find it done at all.”
Palin sounded, at times, like she was speaking a foreign language as she gave voice to the beautifully crafted words that had been prepared for her on Wednesday night.
But that wasn’t held against her. Thanks to the level of general esteem that greeted her ascent to the podium, it seems we’ve all got to celebrate the fact that America’s Hottest Governor (Princess of the Fur Rendezvous 1983, Miss Wasilla 1984) could speak at all.
Could there be a more thoroughgoing humiliation for America’s women?
You are not, I think, supposed now to say this. Just as, I am sure, you are certainly not supposed to feel that having Sarah Palin put forth as the Republicans’ first female vice presidential candidate is just about as respectful a gesture toward women as was John McCain’s suggestion, last month, that his wife participate in a topless beauty contest.
Such thoughts, we are told, are sexist. And elitist. After all, via Palin, we now hear without cease, the People are speaking. The “real” “authentic,” small-town “Everyday People,” of Hockey Moms and Blue Collar Dads whom even Rudolph Giuliani now invokes as an antidote to the cosmopolite Obamas and their backers in the liberal media. (Remind me please, once again, what was the name of the small town where Rudy grew up?)
Why does this woman – who to some of us seems as fake as they can come, with her delicate infant son hauled out night after night under the klieg lights and her pregnant teenage daughter shamelessly instrumentalized for political purposes — deserve, to a unique extent among political women, to rank as so “real”?
Because the Republicans, very clearly, believe that real people are idiots. This disdain for their smarts shows up in the whole way they’ve cast this race now, turning a contest over economic and foreign policy into a culture war of the Real vs. the Elites. It’s a smoke and mirrors game aimed at diverting attention from the fact that the party’s tax policies have helped create an elite that’s more distant from “the people” than ever before. And from the fact that the party’s dogged allegiance to up-by-your-bootstraps individualism — an individualism exemplified by Palin, the frontierswoman who somehow has managed to “balance” five children and her political career with no need for support — is leading to a culture-wide crack-up.
Real people, the kind of people who will like and identify with Palin, they clearly believe, are smart, but not too smart, and don’t talk too well, dropping their “g”s, for example, and putting tough concepts like “vice president” in quotation marks.
“As for that ‘V.P.’ talk all the time … I tell ya, I still can’t answer that question until somebody answers for me, What is it exactly that the ‘VP’ does every day?” Palin asked host Lawrence Kudlow on CNBC sometime before her nomination. “I’m used to bein’ very productive and workin’ real hard in an administration and we want to make sure that that ‘V.P.’ slot would be a fruitful type of position.”
And, I think, they find her acceptably “real,” because Palin’s not intimidating, and makes it clear that she’s subordinate to a great man.
That’s the worst thing a woman can be in this world, isn’t it? Intimidating, which appears to be synonymous with competent. It’s the kiss of death, personally and politically.
But shouldn’t a woman who is prepared to be commander in chief be intimidating? Because of the intelligence, experience, talent and drive that got her there? If she isn’t, at least on some level, off-putting, if her presence inspires national commentary on breast-pumping and babysitting rather than health care reform and social security, then something is seriously wrong. If she doesn’t elicit at least some degree of awe, then something is missing.
One of the worst poisons of the American political climate right now, the thing that time and again in recent years has led us to disaster, is the need people feel for leaders they can “relate” to. This need isn’t limited to women; it brought us after all, two terms of George W. Bush. And it isn’t new; Americans have always needed to feel that their leaders were, on some level, people like them.
But in the past, it was possible to fill that need through empathetic connection. Few Depression-era voters could “relate” to Franklin Roosevelt’s patrician background, notes historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. “It was his ability to connect to them that made them feel they could connect to him,” she told me in a phone interview.
The age of television, Goodwin believes, has made the demand for connection more immediate and intense. But never before George W. Bush did it quite reach the beer-drinking level of familiarity. “Now it’s all about being able to see your life story in the candidate, rather than the candidate, with empathy, being able to relate to you.”
There’s a fine line between likability and demagoguery. Both thrive upon manipulation and least-common-denominator politics. These days, I fear, this need for direct mirroring — and thus this susceptibility to all sorts of low-level tripe — is particularly acute among women, who are perhaps reaching historic lows in their comfort levels with themselves and their choices.
Just look at how quickly the reaction to Palin devolved into what The Times this week called the “Mommy Wars: Special Campaign Edition.” Much of the talk about Palin (like the emoting about Hillary Clinton before her) ultimately came down to this: is she like me or not like me? If she’s not like me, can I like her? And what kind of child care does she have?
“This election is not about issues,” Rick Davis, John McCain’s campaign manager said this week. “This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates.” That’s a scary thought. For the takeaway is so often base, a reflection more of people’s fears and insecurities than of our hopes and dreams.
We’re not likely to get a worthy female president anytime soon.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
"From the inside no family ever seems typical," said Sarah Palin in her Republican Convention speech. It was a line, according to one commentator on PBS, about the political news of the week--of a conservative "family values" vice-presidential female candidate with a daughter who is pregnant out of wedlock.
As David Brooks noted, there "is still no policy" in the Republican language--at least not from Palin, who spoke about Obama and McCain in almost equal parts, though not equal tones--especially not if we are to elect someone because he was a brave POW decades ago.
I have no doubt that McCain's experience as a POW was treacherous and that his manner of surviving it and the honor of extending it is more than significant. But am I supposed to choose a President because he was an extraordinary POW?
I put that aside. In fact, I put aside everything but today's experience of being alive--this past 24 hours only--as a human being.
Fact is, when you look at the two candidates you see McCain, a 72-year-old White man, and Barack Obama, a 47-year-old mixed-race man.
Mostly, people will say a White man is running against a Black man.
Yes, it is a historic presidential race, but I venture to say that the day-to-day experience of life is different for these men and that a large part of that difference is based on their race.
I cannot even write about the Presidency without talking about race. And in talking about race these days, I freeze up a bit.
Anyone should be glad of that. Any discussion of race should be carefully considered and words should be carefully chosen; here I just attempt to gather my thoughts--my blog the sifter.
Here are a few of my thoughts on race, as a non-white, sometimes white-looking woman (pass-er) who has been told she would not be welcomed by white people if they were racist, who has been teased as a child because of her race, who doesn't fit any particular category, but who has quietly observed several categories--if people could be categorized, which they cannot. What is the right word? My thoughts:
Racism. Racists. Words that strike a chord and are not labels that most people want associated with themselves.
But what is racism? It's not just the beliefs of people that are so strong they attack people who are of different lines than their own. It's not just swastika wearing extremists or terrorists who belong to gangs and attack based solely on labels of opposites. It's also that subtle institutionalized racism--the racism that causes groups to live in separate neighborhoods or hold different levels of jobs; institutionalized racism is that which has carried on through the generations and will take years and major revolution to change.
And then there is the quiet racism of words. When I heard students tell jokes based on the race of anyone, even their own, I would stop the class and talk about why the power of those words were beyond offensive and even dangerous. I'd talk about how making fun of your own race was sometimes a method of self-protection; participating in self-effacing jokes just to be a part of high school tom-foolery. I'd talk about how making jokes about others could hurt anyone in the room--you never know who is mixed (look at me), you never know who has a best friend that is the butt of the jokes, you never know who is just wise enough to be hurt by those words and know that she wants to make changes, you never know who is pained enough by those words that she wants to disappear.
Racism is as subtle as a cell phone joke, a descriptive word that jumps into 2008 from 1950. That kind of racism is stealthy and sometimes the people participating do not even recognize it as such. But would those jokes be told if a Black person, an African-American, were in the room? If the answer is no, maybe the words should be reconsidered.
These words have power. But if the label racist is also offensive, if one is offended by the implication of possibly being considered racist, then one is either offended or actually thinking about the possibility of change. If one thinks nothing of it, what does one think?
Back to our presidential candidates:
I have actually heard someone say about Barack Obama, "I'm not one for conspiracy theories, but what if he is a terrorist and they're trying to get him elected to the White House?"
I have to wonder if anyone has ever asked that question about a White candidate. I have to wonder if that question would be asked if Obama's middle name were not Hussein. Is it just because he's Black? (It was, I should say, a White woman who posed the question.)
Monday, September 01, 2008
Then I started remembering my classroom and the inspirational posters I plastered around, figuring if the kids weren't listening maybe they were still learning just by reading the walls. I am reading the walls. I learn from them.
Eleanor Roosevelt: No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history's shame
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
The cause of my hiding is immaterial to readers at this point, but as to my rising... it is a mistake I know I made, it is feelings I know I hurt, it is a situation I know became ...what it is and I am not going to rehash it for the four people who read this blog. Every apology just digs my hole deeper, and it's pretty important that I don't fall into any holes because I have a hard time getting out of them.
But what is important to this blog that has become a memoir of a clinically depressed, rapidly cycling girl trying to still the waters of my life is that I rise.
You see, I nearly drowned in this mistake. Those old feelings of wanting to disappear reappeared. But through cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness I have learned to observe those thoughts and let them go by instead of feeling compelled to believe them or act on them. "People would be better off without me," "there goes a thought."
So I remember that no one can make me feel inferior without my consent. I contemplate the double entendre of that statement in this situation and I focus on my side. I do not consent. I am good enough at making myself feel inferior. I have had 33 years of practice. I cannot let e-mail attacks based in anger grown from hurt drown me; especially not when I live so close to the beach.
Last night I renamed this blog and I almost went into hiding.
This morning I am back.
I am back for the four people who want to know that I am alive.
I am back for the one friend who wrote, "I got worried about you when you were not blogging for a few weeks, but was glad that you had a great time with family in Virginia." I am thrilled that the outside reader got it--that I was so happy there and felt so much a part of an extended family yet also observed cultural differences between cosmopolitan Los Angeles and rural Virginia that I did not understand (but that one cousin did explain to me in her graceful response, for which I am grateful).
I am back because not writing is a death for me, and I cannot afford to die.
I rise from my mistake.
I rise from the duck and cover I assumed to try to protect myself from the fallout.
I rise, I rise, I rise.
My sister-in-law who also happens to be from the South is visiting. She sheds further light on the differences as she observes the cultural phenomena of Los Angeles. I am grateful for her perspective.
I rise, I rise, I rise.
I am thankful to be back.