Posts Tagged ‘soul-crushing’

Avoid Media on 9/11

Posted: 8 September 2011 in observations
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Americans have a “where were you” moment.  Oh, your sister says, I was folding laundry in front of the TV.  Your neighbor was trying to get through traffic to work (and then home again – no easy feat).  Buying flowers.  In a meeting.  On an airplane.  That doesn’t begin to cover the other half (and you know who I mean).  I can’t speak for them.  I wouldn’t.  I’m not eloquent enough.

I speak for myself.  If you want to listen, I can tell you where I was (at my desk in a warehouse in Africa) and how I found out (the phone rang; the Embassy called an emergency meeting) and what I did then.
Lost my temper.
Slammed my hand down on my desk.
Cursed.
Looked out the window at the crisp blue sky.
Cried.  So angry.

And then I just stopped remembering.

Missing: the reaction of my coworkers, the meeting at the Embassy, the drive home, sharing the news with my partner.  I assume the guards at my house had words of sympathy.  I gather I got more information as the evening wore on.  Probably I didn’t eat dinner, or sleep well.  And here’s something I wish was missing: watching my friends drink bottled and bottles of wine and the same one minute clip of a plane flying and then crashing over and over on the only three news stations we got – one in French, two in Arabic.

I think I had it easy.  I know I did.

As hard as it was to cope with the shock in a small community far from the States, doing it in the context of a small community far from the States might have been a blessing.  We grieved together and leaned heavily toward one another both then and in the anthrax scare following (and the death of two of our friends, two marines, after that).  We had the same limited collection of images and the same French and Arabic news.  The internet in Africa in 2001 was not the internet of today.  My wife, in Virginia that day, tells a very different story.  Videos, pictures, audio, personal interviews, different angles, repetition, misinformation, chaos.

I will tune out on Sunday (probably Monday, too).  I won’t look at the internet or watch the news.  It isn’t the memorial and the recognition of the victims, it’s the replaying of the day.  It’s the news station that will – you know one of them will – rebroadcast events in real time.  The newspapers that will publish images I haven’t seen.  It’s the graphic blitzkrieg that I was protected from that day (and the days that followed).

Today over lunch, I saw a picture of people running down a street covered in dust and I thought, “why are those evacuees from flooded areas so dusty?”  It wasn’t current flood footage, obviously, but I haven’t ever seen pictures like that from that day.  I don’t want to.  My heart hurts enough without it.

Flush

Posted: 2 August 2011 in other folks
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I work in one of those sorts of places where the toilets are automated.  I walk in, take a seat and, when I stand again, voila!  Magic happens.  That toilet flushes like that’s it’s job.

Wait a minute!  You mean you’re supposed to flush after use?  Why yes, gentlemen using this building, you ARE!

We are not of the if it’s yellow let it mellow crowd.  And in the unisex, you may find that you don’t trigger the auto-flush doing whatever it is you’re doing.  But why, WHY, don’t you go ahead and hit that spiffy black button that makes it go manually?  Let me tell you, I don’t need to see your business first hand.  And, while I appreciate your effort to save water, you’re failing since no person in their right mind would want to sit down there and risk encountering your splash back.

Really.  Just hit the button.

I’ve taken to saying holy cow! when what I really want to say is Fuck.

What I want to say is that I’ve been hurtling through this year, but that doesn’t quite fit.  I feel like I’m moving slowly, taking measured steps forward while huge barrels of icy water crash down around me.  What I want to say is that this has been an outstanding year.  But it isn’t really true either.  I’d count my blessings for you but you’d be bored – the list is so long.

On the other hand, since my daughter was born in June, I have watched my mother change from a person I recognized (no matter how I felt about that) to a woman who is a rather unpleasant stranger.  I’ve attributed this to the death of my maternal grandmother in November but really it could be something entirely mental health related.  My grandmother lived with my parents and the fall that precipitated her death was dramatic.  In the end, it wrung my mother dry.  We flew cross-country with our 6 month old in the winter for the memorial and that was the last time I saw any familiar part of my mother.  In April, my paternal grandmother died.  My parents handled this as they characteristically do; in an effort not to upset my sisters and I in any way, they downplayed her imminent death and eventual funeral.  Within 24 hours of hearing she had just days, I was on the opposite coast with my hand on her shoulder as she passed away.  I think there’s a lot I want to say about that.  I know that if I had told my parents I was going prior to rather than after my arrival, they would have discouraged me and been disappointed that I’d gone.  As it was, I felt disobedient for skulking around.  It was important.  That’s what I want to say.  Last week, I learned that the menacing looking black patch on my arm was melanoma and I’ll be heading in for a biopsy of my lymph nodes.  While I keep saying it’s nothing, the odds are unlikely, we caught it early enough, what I want to say is this sort of thing wouldn’t happen to me.  Cancer is just not what I see happening.  I’m pretty sure though, that saying that is a good way to get kicked in the teeth.

It’s a lot for one year.  Even if it’s a health scare and not a health crisis, it’s still two grandmothers (three if you throw in D’s Annabelle in early fall) and one mother short than when I started.  I catch myself trying not to hold still, moving forward steadily, hoping not to get drenched again.

My parents have just been visiting for three weeks.  I had a fortunate childhood and I like them well enough, but my mother (previously known here as the VVM) has a complex set of mental illness and emotional damage that makes her less like a mother and more like a particularly sensitive time bomb.

It has taken years of visits to recognize that two or three days before she leaves for home she stops speaking to me, has no opinion about anything, trails behind on any outing – and by behind I mean a block or so, not just a bit – and waits for the opportunity to take something I’ve said and twist it into a personal attack.  You can imagine where that goes.  No place good.

In the end, I spend hours wondering what I could have done differently, and I can usually find something.  I said or did something that she could take wrong.  This time I carefully watched every word I said and until the very end of her last day.  I’d be proud to announce that I’d averted crisis except that it’s impossible.  She dissolved anyway.  She attacked other people, less so than she usually goes after me, but I stayed out of the line of fire until all the signs came anyway.  Even though I didn’t say anything, it happened anyway.

She lives on the other side of the country and our visits are annual at best.  It doesn’t matter that she has contentious relationships with other family members.  It doesn’t matter that I love her very much.  It doesn’t matter that she treats me differently than my sisters.  What matters is that I don’t know how avoid another visit.  I can’t stand the idea of doing this again now that I am completely sure it isn’t my fault.

Sure, it could be so much worse.  But it sure as hell could be so much better.

 

The news is fun lately, isn’t it?  I mean, not that it was ever fun like woooo! but it’s definitely more fun like take shelter! and honestly, that’s not my favorite sort of fun.  Rather than continue on lamenting the lack of wooo! news, I’d just like to put in a plea for disclaimers.  Most people are pretty good at hollering SPOILER ALERT so that they , hopefully, don’t reveal the ending of a given book, situation, movie, plot for those that are planning to engage but haven’t yet.  I deeply appreciate this since I hardly ever get around to seeing or reading things as soon as they happen and I don’t like to have endings just tossed about.  But I need spoiler alerts on more things.

In particular, I need to be spoiled on graphic violence, cruelty to animals and people, heartbreaking, irreparable situations and so forth.  Just today, I read part of a terrible article about a terrible thing that happened to something helpless in a country where folks felt like they had no choice but to do that terrible thing.  It showed up in my feed, so I didn’t even get the chance of a headline (not that it would have helped) as a hint to rush past and I would not have read that article had I known I was going to get graphic detail about what happened.  Also, that video you posted about the loyal dog refusing to leave someone’s side after a tragic situation?  Please, take down the picture associated.  Last night I was reading a book whose jacket stated that it was a mystery tangentially related to a flood happening 60 years previous.  So when I encountered the detailed description of how a person drowns and what it looks like I was paralyzed.  I couldn’t unread it.  The author couldn’t know how I would feel about that, but I sure could have used some warning, rather than just words flung down on the page in the middle of what was a previously gentle paragraph.  SPOILER ALERT: I’m fragile.  No, seriously.

So it’s my own fault.  I don’t NEED to click on the article with a clear headline about abuse or disaster.  In fact, there is no way that’s going to enrich my life.  Unfortunately, in the very same places I get the news I want to see, I also find headlines that all but explain other tragic and terrible stories.  You certainly are thinking this is an ostrich in the sand sort of moment and you probably are also thinking that folks like me are the reason we can’t solve epidemics of abuse or haul nations back onto their feet.  I’m okay with that because I don’t function well when I’m mentally bruised.  I can’t make a difference in anyone’s life if I’m overwhelmed by terrible thoughts and memories.  I’d rather be a happy, productive, whole person than read about or see images of horror. Unless I’m prepared.  So please, CNN, spoiler alerts.

I find I’m pretty much constantly outraged these days.  Let me clarify, I’m pretty much outraged at the state of Virginia there days.

It’s not good here in the Commonwealth.  It hasn’t ever been good, that’s true, but it’s certainly getting worse than it has been.  I don’t usually get all twisted up in the machinations of politicians.  They do good and bad but they also come and go.  Whether or not that’s the right perspective, it’s the perspective I find most allows me to recognize that it isn’t the person making these godforsaken decisions, it’s the politics.  The “not the person” part is important to me, but it’s getting more challenging by the day.

The Governor of Virginia removed the protections for gays put into place by the previous governor.  I consoled myself with the idea that the Virginia Senate passed an anti-discrimination discrimination bill.  A bill that reportedly will not pass the House.  But let’s not be negative.  At least, not until we hear from Virginia Representative Bob Marshall (and I might as well just quote here) who said, “I think there first should be some finding that homosexuals, as a class, are being discriminated against.  In all of my experience and reading, gay individuals seem to have more income, to attend more cultural events, to take more vacations than the rest of us. Show me where this discrimination is going on.’’  You can see that here, at the end of the article.

I’ll let you take a moment to consider that.  While I take a vacation and go to a cultural event.  Not to be outdone, Ken Cuchinelli, the State’s Attorney General opted to chime with an outrageously unreasonable roar that condones discrimination against gays. You can read the letter he sent to state schools here (it’s a PDF – so if you don’t want to open it, take my word that he’s an asshole).

Understandably, there was an outcry (this particular outcry comes from individuals at the university where I work).  And honestly, I can’t believe we got to this point so quickly.  I sat at my desk yesterday thinking about the chilling effect such changes have.   I am already facing a delicate balance with my pregnant wife and soon-to-be-no-legal-relationship-to-me child.  I had a moment where I wondered if it would be better to be closeted.  And then another when I realized how many people would stay closeted because of this.  If nothing else, It’s been a pretty bad March.

There was a moment of hope late this afternoon as the Governor appeared to distance himself from the AG.  The local paper is running a ticker saying that he has reversed his original executive order.  But really, I can’t believe I live somewhere that allows these shenanigans to go on.  Yes, I could move, but I shouldn’t have to.  It’s hard to blame the politics when the people do things like this.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus but he’s got nothing but coal for your sorry ass.

I was feeling particularly outraged last week.  It didn’t take much to send me off ranting and raving, what with the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell shenanigans kicking off the week.  A plan?  Really?  We’re only just now going to start devising a plan to fire fewer people for being gay?  I’m glad we’re going to need a study on how to do that.  In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy being oppressed.

But this has nothing to do with that (except for the outrage, that’s there, sure).  This has everything to do with an interview Michelle Obama gave at the White House on the Today show.  I couldn’t even hear what she was saying because I was distracted by her arms.  Her BARE arms.  In the background, I could see piles of snow outside her window.  But there she was, chatting with the interviewer (wearing dark colors and a heavy looking suit) in her BARE ARMS.  It was the sort of thing she’s known for wearing now, but I’m not particularly concerned about her personal style.  Because next to her and the snow and the BARE ARMS all I could see was my soon overdue gas bill.  The astronomically expensive gas bill generated by heating our house to just above shivering for a month.  I have kept the thermostat in the upper 50s in the house of a pregnant woman in order to keep our bank account from zeroing out.

It isn’t about energy-saving or insulation.  I’m taking steps to see what can be done to improve the situation.  In a record-breaking icy winter, it’s not surprising everyone is…well, surprised by their astronomically expensive gas bills.  My outrage is about her BARE ARMS and the luxury of being able to have BARE ARMS in her home.  It’s winter.  People cannot afford to heat their homes.  Even people have not lost jobs, lost wages, slipped away form cost of living increases.  But at the White House, it’s apparently so warm that Michelle Obama is uncomfortable with sleeves.

Humor the masses.  Put on a cardigan.

I was surprised at my reaction to her arms.   Whether it’s something she threw on or something carefully selected by a stylist, it was the wrong decision.   It read as a unnecessary display of wealth in an economy that can’t recover.  Thanks Michelle Obama and the White House staff for making me feel like the poverty line has become unreachable.