Or, How I Became Your Sarcastic But Friendly Local Storyteller
I never wanted to be anything approaching a journalist. I have always been a rebel at heart, who found her soul in poetry and fiction prose: a punkrocker at the core. Growing up an only child, the loner mentality was not something I so much willingly embraced as had foisted on me, so the collective outcast mentality of punk was so me. The angst-ridden track “I Don’t Need Society” by Dirty Rotten Imbeciles became my instant anthem when I first heard it. It was a bootleg copy, a really bad one, that I had to listen to on my really awful headphones secretly in a corner because if sperm donor heard punk refrains in his house he would have behaved exactly like Sid Vicious on a terrible heroin binge and broken everything in sight, including me. Kind of like Sid wailing on Nancy. I didn’t know much about Sid and Nancy when I first learned about punk but I did understand instantly that punk embodied everything I needed to say because it felt exactly the way I felt. And I wanted to write that way, but prettier. When I was in high school, I spent a semester in the yearbook class, and felt woefully out of place: I took the class because I was so far ahead of my peers that I had to pad my regular classes with huge quantities of electives because I had a student counselor that was garbage. When I transferred from a Christian school to a public school and took my placement tests, to the consternation of the Pasadena Public School District I placed about midway into a sophomore year when I was just a few weeks into my freshman year. My counselor had to do a ton of juggling of my schedule to fit me into appropriate classes, many of which were honours and AP level classes of sophomore level. But the school still had to give me more than the average number of electives, because I was already a year ahead of my classmates. This man, whose name I can’t even remember, took it upon himself to not listen to anything I said about my goals in life regarding career or aspirations and simply looked at the ridiculous multiple choice test everyone took that was supposed to magically tell you and everyone else what career box you fit into so you could be set along that path. These days those stupendously stupid multiple choice tests are not used for anything more than a vague suggestion by most folks as a sort of meme-style quiz that gives certain people a glimpse into the test taker’s personality type (that’s how my daughter’s government class used it: as a hypothetical example of what the student would potentially do in a government job should they seek that path); it is simply one of a multiple set of tools used to gather data on a person’s overall persona when it comes to finding out what direction they should be steered in when it comes to directing them down their eventual path. It is NOT the be-all-end-all for constructing one’s character sheet. Having a kid take this test *before* they know what the Dickens they want out of life is like having them take a quiz on their D&D character before their character has any experience points. My test told me I should be a forest ranger or cartographer. Both things I am and have always been very interested in, but as far as careers go…not terribly passionate about. The ranger one sure, I could spend my life being Ranger Rick or Smokey the Bear, but I just knew there were other things I wanted to do more. A LOT MORE. After all, when I took that test, I was wrestling with the desire to be an archaeologist (goal since age 7) or a marine biologist, and being a Poe-esque fiction writer on the side.
This counselor of mine ended up being the most wretched, frustrating, sexist, abominable cretin I have ever had the displeasure of being subjected to in the public school system aside from the eventual principal of that high school, Dr. Judy Codding, because he never once permitted my input on my chosen careers or colleges. In fact, he actively discouraged my input and often said he didn’t think my goals were “realistic”. It is interesting that Dr. Codding’s glowing resume at that link does not include her tenure at Pasadena High School; I don’t know how long she was there, but she was directly responsible for me not receiving my diploma there because she pointedly directed the psychologist she demanded I see to “invite” me not to continue my “career” in high school because I was one of the troublesome students there that did not fit her concept of what a high school she wanted to create looked like. Pasadena High School was an is an affluent high school in an area with many technological families; my father was an electrical engineer for JPL/NASA, so we should have been among the set she was trying to cultivate, but our home troubles and his obvious disdain for women and liberal agendas more than likely made her hostile to both of us. It wasn’t the first time I was ostracised because of the persona of sperm donor, nor the last. She was responsible for several teachers at that school losing their jobs, such as Mr. Fong my physiology teacher; he did not have tenure at the time she took over so he was forced to leave and find work elsewhere even though he was an excellent teacher; he was partly responsible at least once for saving the life of a student who was stabbed outside his classroom during an eruption of gang violence (despite being a very affluent school, there was a large population from the low-income neighborhoods, too). Dr. Codding was borderline obsessed with coming into PHS from Massachusetts, where she had been recruited from after an active nationwide search, and revamping our school’s entire infrastructure to “cure” our problems. Which she did, the year after she took over…revamped the infrastructure, that is…curing the problems, no. The problems were the same as always and everywhere, and a scheduling and basic infrastructure change can’t change basic social disorder. I still talk to one of the teachers from that school, remember, who retired not long ago, and she still talks to tons of teachers from that school and district, because she taught there until she retired. I got a message from her while I was in Facebook Jail, fretting about me because she hasn’t heard from me in a while. I was in Facebook Jail, you see, because I regularly use the term “white trash”, and someone in my locality really dislikes that. I get messages all the time when I am put in the Facebook slammer, from my friends and family, clients and people wanting to talk to me (like university students wanting to interview me or ask if they can use my words for their papers), but I can’t answer them because of the Facebook Rules. My teacher friend, my Other Mom, worried about me a thousand miles away, and oops because some person in my area who doesn’t like the way I write keeps us from communicating. Sometimes the phones don’t work so well. She helps me find out a lot of stuff, too. I am trying really hard to find all the teachers who helped me and tried so very hard to work with me and teach me well through such a terrible and tumultuous time in my life. Because without them, I would not have lived. Most of them have passed on, and each time I find out about that I light a candle on my altar and say a prayer of thanks and blessing. It’s a general sort of prayer, since I don’t know which Deity if any they served, so I just trust my blessings get to where they need to go. Teachers are our saviours; without the amazing work they do, our society would crumble to dust immediately. They make sure we have a literate culture. They give our nation and world the essential tools we need to maintain our very sentience. And they just do not get the credit they deserve. It pains me so very greatly to see the vast jeweled treasure of our teachers, these great unsung sages of our times, dusted and trampled daily. Mostly people don’t even realise how thoroughly they trash our teachers. I don’t think some teachers realise how counterintuitive they behave sometimes. Well, heck, even I behave counterintuitively sometimes, so I can’t be too shrewish. I am only human. The reward of patience is patience. So I tell myself when I run out of patience with myself.
That yearbook class I took was taught by Ms. Ann Drury, who passed away several years ago from breast cancer. Ms. Drury was All California. She was tall, lanky, and 100% surfer chick. She had blonde hair cropped short but kept a tail in the back, which in the mid to late 80s was ultra hip. She stood with a cocked-hip stance that only the truly beatnik babes could pull off with any real finesse and not look like an idiotic poseur. She always wore clothes that made her look like she just walked off the beach, and she might have, because she actually did surf and wasn’t just someone who looked like they might. She was wrinkly and droopy for it, too, with the leathery skin of someone who was a California native that had been baking in the sun their whole life, and she didn’t care. Sunscreen was just hitting the shelves and SPF 10 was about as high as you could go without a prescription. Only paranoid people and redheads bought it, because this was CALIFORNIA, BABY!!! GRAB YOUR SUN-IN AND YOUR HAWAIIAN TROPIC OIL!!! Native Americans, Hispanics, and other toasty brown people get wrinkled in one certain way after baking in the Western sun. African descendant and Middle Eastern brown people don’t ever seem to get wrinkly: their melanin-rich skin just seems to get this sort of super translucence and smoothness that makes them glow from underneath with too much UV exposure, and the fine lines that develop aren’t super noticeable. European skin, however…ugh. We turn into hugely wrinkled potatoes. Saggy potatoes. Evolutionarily speaking, all that cloud cover in the cold just did not do us any favours in the UV-protection department. Some of us manage to escape the saggy part a bit more, and I think that has to do with some African, Native American, Middle Eastern, or Hispanic genes. What geneticists call Negroid or Mongoloid (I just love the word Mongoloid, because it makes me think of traditional Mongolians riding their ponies happily across the Mongolian steppes, and setting up their gorgeous yurts…read On The Trail Of Genghis Khan by Tim Cope to really get what I mean, and explore everything he has on tap at that link for Full Immersion into Mongolia today for as much as you dare; it’s tremendous!)…the field is ever-expanding as we learn more and more, though. I have a teeny tiny amount of African genes. I am not sagging so much, although the wrinkles are coming in. I am turning into a potato. Losing the large amount of weight I have from my latest Gut Episode has made me a rather scrawny, slightly saggy potato with encroaching wrinkles. Sometimes I make turkey sounds at myself in the mirror to amuse myself, because if one cannot amuse oneself with one’s reflection, that means bitterness and resentment have crept in and Something Must Be Done.
Ms. Drury was the saggy potato variety because she had been gleefully playing in the California surf since the 60s. She had no regrets, and regularly told us all so. She often said she would be out there with her sex wax and long board until she broke so many bones trying to shoot the curls she had to be chained to her bed by her board cord. I bet her family and friends chained her to her hospital bed with the damn thing. I bet she grumbled incessantly about putting on sunscreen when she was forced to by mounting scientific evidence about the necessity of sunscreen. She was deliciously crotchety, but she had an enormous heart. I could be extremely wrong, though. Because she was a teacher, and she always insisted we learn and keep open minds. She quoted Alan Ginsberg at us. So it’s equally possible she listened to the doctors and scientists and started sunscreening herself, and she just had the law of averages against her. Before the EPA regulations took effect in the 80s, the LA Basin was a carcinogen smog swamp. It’s pretty horrifying how people forget that. Every single person living there smoked two to three packs of cigarettes a day, whether they were a nonsmoker or not. The number of packs depended on the smog levels. If you happened to be a smoker (and I started smoking at 13), you added your number of packs on TOP of that. So whenever a baby was born in the LA basin, they were an instant 2-3 pack a day smoker. How bout them apples? Don’t take my word for it; it’s in about a billion articles, journals, scientific papers, etc of the day. All of us LA people of the day carry a legacy of Smog Smoker.
Ms. Drury was also the faculty member in charge of the Creative Writing Club, and when I had to go to the mental hospital for trying to jump off the building, she allowed my dear friends and compatriots in the club to dedicate that year’s publication to me and insert a center spread with a beautiful art and poetry collage done by the fellow members of the club for me. It was the most moving and profound thing anyone had ever done for me in my life. I kept that book for the longest time, until sperm donor found it and destroyed it in front of me. I wish I still had a copy, because I treasured it so. And the love and generosity and empathy of Ms. Ann Drury made it possible for me to remember it long after it was gone, and hold on to the memory of it and the meaning behind it through some very dark times. Teachers like that are precious commodities and priceless gifts and our students need them. Our parents need them. Our society needs them. All too often we take them for granted, and we abuse them. They burn out, because we do not express our love and gratitude, and we don’t pay them enough and we expect them to go to work in war zones and do the impossible and whine when they do not, and eliminate benefit after benefit for them. We set them to work under autocratic administrators and send them ridiculous curriculum or do not train them well enough when new things are adopted and wonder why our students are not learning anything. We object to them teaching scientifically sound curriculum and demand they teach revisionist history. We have become so confused about what a teacher’s actual job IS, we no longer allow them to use real-life resources (that they pay for) to teach critical thinking, thereby defeating what critical thinking is. Or textbooks for curriculum at one school are based obviously on a fundamentalist religious sect while at another school in another state the same subject has no such bias. We expect them to teach our kids morals and standards we are not teaching them at home and wonder why our children are baseless idiots with no people skills. We expect public schools to teach morals INSTEAD OF ethics, when separation of church and state is one of our very founding principles…and outright complain when schools dare teach ethics. Ms. Drury ran that yearbook class like the Daily Planet. I walked in to that class thinking I could wander around the school with my George and take snaps of everyone like the nervous, bullied, shy freak I was and that would be all. Oh gods, she taught me how wrong I was. Yearbook was the Daily Planet and she was Perry White. And I was no Jimmy Olsen. She was not teaching her yearbook students just how to assemble a yearbook; she was teaching them how to be journalists. And to my great surprise, a lot of the kids in that class were kids in Speech and Debate. They invited me to join. At first I was absolutely aghast at the invitation, because me do PUBLIC SPEAKING? No. Hell no. But I did eventually get there; that’s something else for another time. I got there because I was encouraged by Ms. Drury’s passion, even though it scared me a little. I eventually discontinued yearbook at the end of the semester because it was just too intimidating for me. Too journalistic. I really, really did not want to be a journalist. Photographer, yes. Journalist, no. All the kids in that class wanted to be journalists. One friend of mine in that class was a super fundamentalist Christian who was so bent on getting me into church that I finally pretended to be into Jesus for her sake and to keep sperm donor from spying on me incessantly (he still spied and snooped and everything else, but not nearly as bad as long as I pretended to Come To Jesus, and this girl as my Jesus Handmaiden helped with my cover immensely). She was such a rabid journalist, I could not stand having a class with her. Literally every second with her was “how can we use our fabulous journalism skillz FOR JESUS!?!?!” Dear Jesus, do you see what you have done to this poor girl, get me out of here. Not every photo needs to be sweet chummy cheerleaders with straws in their mouths hugging each other. We actually DO need some of the gangbangers in the back forty smoking and throwing signs at each other. Really. Whether Dr. Judy bloody Codding wants them in her pricey yearbook or not. How about one of that girl Dr. Fong saved from the stabbing outside his classroom right before you fired him? Amen. The kids in Yearbook were so passionate in their takes on things, it was pretty unnerving to me, and many of them were extremely political; political people made me twitchy. The 80s was a very volatile time politically, and the nightly indoctrination sessions from sperm donor were very conservative and racist and misogynistic: scary and very counter to everything the public world talked passionately about. I was caught between serious forces, and the passionate kids around me were just Too Perfect. I didn’t like yearbook class so much, but I absolutely loved Creative Writing Club; Ms. Drury encouraged me to write whatever I felt like, and I showed her a silly little poem I wrote that made her so ecstatic she demanded I publish it. She showed it to all the other English teachers and I felt embarrassed, but also elated, and I knew I had the moxie to be a writer because of her.
To the teenage me, all journalists were touched with a rabid agenda. I came from a family that was fairly obsessed with The News, like most Red-Blooded Americans. But my mother never explained anything, and she was violently afraid of most of it, so she had little dramatic anxiety attacks through most of the nightly news (which was most of the evening most nights before the divorce, and when I was a teenager it was all night, every night, broken intermittently with some sort of entertainment until sperm donor passed out around midnight, after a News Recap). Each nightly news session was also accompanied by sperm donor ranting at the television, so I was sure to know The Truth Of The Matter. No questions were allowed, or someone was going to get hit or worse, because he was always started angry and proceeded to drink, and he needed to drink more during these news times to cool down. When I entered high school, I started learning things counter to what he always spouted off. This made him very upset. That’s a euphemism. It actually made him bat-shit crazy, but that just made me more inquisitive, trying to balance what I felt was right and all the stuff he had dumped into me; in my research nowadays I realise what I was watching was the classic breakdown of a sociopath/psychopath being pushed to his breaking point because he was being challenged. His authority was being challenged. My therapist has been begging me to write my story for so many years because she is probably so blown away by the fact that I survived for so many years; it’s not everyone who has escaped death the way my mother and I have and actually gets to live to write it all down. But again, I digress. We were a newshouse, and every day I got an injection of rabid agendas, but I was just too overwhelmed with my own fears and insecurities to sort out which rabid agenda was ok, and which one was not. When it was ok and safe to be rabid, and when it was not. The kids in that class who had their priorities sorted out and came from families where they were encouraged to follow their dreams and passions and who were safe all the time: they were completely unknown quantities to me. That was an alien world. I had my friend Mary and her family to go to when I needed to escape my own terrorist world, the world where everything was ruled by sperm donor’s anger and paranoia and bitterness and violence. The people of our nation and society are bombarded constantly with stories of people in other nations and countries being subjected to truly heinous crimes and acts: War Crimes. Crimes Against Humanity. Whatever you call it, the things our news sources and humanitarian agencies spread across our various bandwidths come into our homes and minds and souls with varying degrees of visceral nastiness, and using our free will we censor them according to our own personal filters. Because we live in America, we have one of the greatest freedoms and rights ever, that of free speech and free press guaranteed to us under the First Amendment of our Constitution. But we have those very same terrible, viscerally awful crimes occurring right here in this very proud nation every day, and we deny that reality or the fact that we can do something about it constantly.
When our Founding Fathers wrote our Constitution, the times were very fraught. Take yourself back in time for a few moments to that very era. It was extremely tense and anxious, and the men who wrote our Constitution did it under a very strict time frame deadline they put on themselves. The men who wrote that document were some really hip guys. SERIOUSLY HIP GUYS. They were, in the very essence of the word, revolutionary. Stark, raving, punk-ass revolutionary. The kind of men the staunch conservatives of today find repulsive and antithetical to the comfortable Establishment and Must Be Dealt With. The “you people” all the conservatives rant against in internet commentary today. Très Ironic. Yet they were intense philosophers. Extremely intelligent, well-rounded men who took a lot of time to think things through very rationally, with serious reasoning. They would never be hasty about making legislative decisions that would impact the people they were crafting national documents for the way most politicians today do, unless it was the quick smoothness of dovetailed legislation based on well-thought-out disciplines. They were thinkers; they were seriously empathetic people who cared deeply about the things they were doing and had an extremely long view, and a very well-rounded, scientific view (contrary to popular belief, most of the Founding Fathers were not Christians, but Deists, who believe in a Higher Power, but one who has benevolently left their creation to it’s own devices). They believed themselves a Congress of Ideas while they were the Constitutional Congress; they felt the deep burden of the responsibility they bore not only to themselves and their peers but to posterity. They did not believe in political parties per se. When they thought about political parties, they believed there should be lots of them, and they should mingle and evolve and create a very lively group of thought project round-table ideologies whose sole purpose was to create a working government that would force growth among the people. That is why they created a democratic republic. Their entire constitutional congress was very feisty because they recognised that in order to escape the imperialistic tyranny of the Old World, the New World would have to be incredibly dynamic. We were just too LARGE, geographically, with too much space for too many people, with way too many resources available for exploitation, for anything else (and this was before the Louisiana Purchase, which complicated matters enormously). And so the men who spent so much time in that congress crafting our constitution deliberately put a firm timeframe on creating that document so they would not get bogged down in too many details. Because they knew that was inevitable if they did not start a stopwatch. And they pulled in a whole lot of other wisdom from other founding fathers before they even started, so they had a huge wealth of grounded wisdom to start with. A lot of people who profess to be be Constitutional Scholars take a lofty stance when discussing the Constitutional Congress by saying Jefferson wasn’t even there, so why even bring him up as a contributor to the Constitution. Well, because the writers of the Constitution wrote scads of letters to him while they were writing the damn thing, and beforehand, that’s why. Franklin was in France part of the time, but they wrote to him too, and he to them, and boy were those some interesting letters. The Constitutional Congress did not operate in a bubble. Just because that took place before the internet does not mean those people did not speak to people outside the building. I don’t call myself a constitutional scholar, just a scholar. To paraphrase Einstein, the more I learn the more I realise the less I know.
It was seriously hard work writing that document, but it was not perfect at all, so along came the Bill of Rights, which is a list of the first ten amendments. The first being the right to free speech and free press. James Madison wrote the Bill of Rights. It is a very important document. It gives us a lot more than some amendments; it details due process of law and specifies three very important things: the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. (It’s not life, liberty, and property, as some goon on Twitter was going on about; seriously, it’s RIGHT THERE, and although they both start with the letter “p”, “property” is very different than “pursuit of happiness”, and if you have them mixed up in your head, that is quite a problem). Go James Madison. He ended up being President, in case you forgot. I consider him pretty much the father of law in America. The first real lawyer of our very own, officially. It took me a really long time to sort all of this out, because I was constantly being bombarded by that gaslighting monster whenever I was at home or around him. What I was being taught in school was downright evil, a godless satanic liberal hippie feminist agenda designed to corrupt me with evil, and more often than not when he read my homework or textbooks or even just looked at me and saw me content or happy, I was brutalised and tortured in unspeakable ways. If I told the school about this, I was given sympathetic looks and asked to produce a physical mark. If I did produce a physical mark I was told I did it to myself. If I did not produce a physical mark I was told I was lying. It did not help when they sometimes found my own self-harm marks. (Which I was later punished for, as Works Of The Devil). This happened my entire life. It is important to remember the time context on this; in the 80s there was no mandatory reporting. It was a suggestion. A preference. Railroading on abuse cases was common and victims fell through the cracks constantly. Today we fight for marginalised people, but in the 70s and 80s it was nightmarish. The infamous Willowbrook School on Staten Island was exposed in 1972 but not actually shut down until 1987; my graduating year was 1989. On a couple occasions my parents were called in to explain my accusations, and every single time they gaslit the “mandatory reporter” by saying I was a melodramatic child who constantly made up lies because I was an only child who desperately wanted attention: I was lonely, I was unhappy in a “kind of” tense home life, and I had a “vendetta” against both parents because I wanted to spend all my time with my nose in a book instead of buckling down to DISCIPLINE. On two occasions as a child I was either asked or told to be taken to therapists. One I don’t remember at all. The second was when the molestation was discovered and sperm donor lost his visitation privileges for a year through family courts: no criminal proceedings were ever instituted. My experiences, I believe, have led to harsher reporting procedures and laws, but sperm donor is still a free man, with never any impact on his job or criminal record. There has never been any cross-referencing done on him to see if he may have committed any other crimes. In all the recent research I have done for my book, I have realised that he has the typical pattern of behaviour for every single dangerous predator ever arrested for pathological violence (serial rape, abuse, and even murder), and that is both terribly alarming and mortifying. Because as we advance in science and sociology and criminology and adapt our legislative actions to stop people like him, we realise how much violent acts and addictions and a lack of education and so many other factors overlap…as well as how isolating separate cases and jurisdictions and biases have held us back for so long. And here is this one man, sitting free in one of the most populated and troubled states in our union, right now. One of his victims is trying desperately to educate people so we can help. One of his victims is shutting herself down completely and refusing to do anything at all, she is so traumatised and tired. And that is a perfect metaphor for how our nation is broken. Trauma fractures: it fractures us into those who heal, and those who die. All we can do is catch the perpetrators and try to rehabilitate them so they will never traumatise another human again. If they cannot be rehabilitated, at least we tried, and learned from them in the process. I learned all that being a silent observer and vitriol absorber in my newshouse growing up, because I had teachers who cared and somehow a natural ability to balance out what was being force-fed to me with an instinctual knowledge of right and wrong strong enough to hold out against the mental conditioning otherwise.
During the writing of the Constitution, our founding fathers had to abide by that self-imposed timeframe because of war: the Revolutionary War. The Constitution was ratified on September 17, 1787. The Revolutionary War ended in 1789, and our founding fathers were desperate to end it; they felt having a formal structured government with founding documents to legitimise it would help that, and they were right. If they had not worked so hard to frame our constitution and stand by it, the war would have lasted a lot longer, and we might not have won. Probably would not have won. George Washington was a brilliant general, and he wanted ONLY to lead our armies. He had to be forced into the position of our first President, practically. And it was he who insisted so fervently that any person who took that position from then on NEVER be forced into the job ever again. It almost killed him. If it wasn’t for him leading our armies we certainly would have lost the war. It is my opinion that Franklin should have been our first President running the office while Washington ran the troops, but he was so vitally essential to the efforts in France, we will never know what would have happened if my opinions had ever become historical fact. It is so easy to play the chess game of “what if” from our distant historical perspective. Regardless, so many of Franklin’s later infrastructure ideas and the early seeds of them have borne so many wonderful fruits, like the public school system. Where I learned how to be a journalist, sort of. I never wanted to write stuff like this. I wanted to spin my words out into gothic faery tales of existential horror.
Little did I know we would all end up living in a daily grind of dystopic, surrealist existential horror every day, and I would end up writing crazy blog posts of the sort I don’t know how to label as expose pieces in rambling essay form in between pounding away on an autobiographical book for a distraction and an outlet as a fun sort of journalist/local activist telling people to just “Get Up, Stand Up” and be mindful as a counter to that existential horror, because even though I never realised it, I have been doing it every single day of my life. And even though I failed sometimes and ended up in mental hospitals and jails and beaten to a pulp just for smiling through it and encouraging others to smile through it, I keep doing it. I keep learning, and telling the truth, and treating others the way I would like to be treated. I keep admiring people like Bantu Steven Biko, who really taught me what it is like to be strong. We can’t actually cry freedom unless we cry it like that man did. I felt a wee bit sad watching Braveheart, but only because of dramatic license. Somebody please talk to Mel Gibson. I am a raving Celt and love to paint my skin, but somebody please talk to him. I went through an entire pack of tissues watching the film Cry Freedom the first time, and I will not share my experiences of the book. People who make arguments about our constitution today without critical thinking and empathy conjoined behind them should probably read that book. And that’s all I’ve got to say about that. Instead, let the rich irony of mindfulness’s dichotomies and dialectics wash over you when you contemplate how the sorrows and sufferings of people like Biko can inspire others to endure and keep going with a smile even when other dissatisfied people tell them they should smile more.
When I was being wheeled into the procedure room at hospital last month, I wasn’t as anxious as I was when I had walked into the hospital doors a few hours previously. The staff at the hospital was just superb. Part of my fear had been unconsciously coming out of anesthesia and actually punching the fuck out of someone. Fuck the system, can’t take me, I don’t need society. It’s my go-to place when I feel extremely overwhelmed, terrified beyond belief, under supreme duress and basically in fear for my life. Since that was my default setting for the first half of my life, until I gained enough agency to escape and gain enough control to truly be in charge of myself wholly for the first time ever at age 24, I needed to find something outside myself to stir up enough power to feel something besides absolute existential despair all the time. When you are a girl who has attempted suicide so many times you have lost count, and been stopped in the act so many times you have lost count, and been told doing that is just another way you are trying to get attention, the gaslighting gets so thick and heavy and layered, one emotion tends to take precedence over all others in the mind’s attempt to stay sane. In my case that emotion was bitterness. In many people it is anger. I almost went that way, but because the person who was hurting me most was ruled by anger, I chose to not be angry because I associated it with such brutal violence. During my stay in the Boulder Community Health mental hospital in 2014, I punched a nurse. I was experiencing a textbook mental break, and the staff was in the process of restraining me since I was in the process of hurting myself. I don’t remember much of the experience; I do know that security was involved, and one of those security guards was memorable to me because during my entire stay there he was extremely kind to me. Every shift he worked he asked after me, and we shared several small conversations. Never anything very deep, because he had to maintain his professional distance and alertness. But he shared a few details about his life, such as where he was from and small things that would help ease the patients. When the patients on the ward that were allowed the privilege took their daily walk outside around the building, he was usually the guard that walked with us, and he and I usually brought up the rear; we would chat amiably about this and that (by that time I was near the end of my stay, and would use mindfulness techniques to look at flowers and trees and the Flatirons, without realising I was using mindfulness)…he always helped me with this, because he knew through his exposure to the ward that this was how to help the patients. I didn’t realise until we had had a few chats that he had been the main guard in the room when I had punched the nurse and had in fact helped strap me down until he mentioned it, kindly, and I thanked him for his help. I was embarrassed, you see, and ashamed of my behaviour, even though I was completely out of my mind with despair and self-hatred. He went completely above and beyond his duty to tell me that in his work he saw that all the time, and realised that the people who came to that place just needed help and healing, and it was his honour and privilege to help them get it even when they could not help themselves. He was a veteran too. I will never forget him, even though I have forgotten his name. He was a huge Hawaiian man. There were several people on that ward with enormous hearts, working with broken people from all over: some of us patients were street people who had no money and had been collected from missions and churches and homeless shelters and by the good grace of charities and neighbors and welfare programs or were in treatment; a lot of them only got therapy and medication irregularly and through the frantic good works of the people who worked there and the constant tireless efforts of social workers and church workers and neighborhood people who went out to the vagrant camps and alleys and found them when they hadn’t seen them in a few days or a week…or even went to jails to get them out of cells they shouldn’t be in because someone called the cops on them for maybe pissing where they shouldn’t because they had been off their meds. A massive amount of our population thinks the homeless WANT to be there, without realising most of them are mentally ill and undiagnosed and untreated, and there is an invisible army of people working tirelessly and unbelievable hours to get them that help. I have lived on the streets of this nation, and there may be homeless that TELL YOU they want to live there, but it’s because they are afraid, and sick, and they need help. My first encounter with the mentally ill homeless was when I was 16, and my heart and soul have never been the same. The swarming number of homeless on our streets are the people of our nation that have been stomped on and swallowed and shattered by the Ayn Rand principle of “Just Do It Or Else, and Screw The Other Guy Because They Aren’t Strong Enough”. And Ayn Rand herself was just another gaslit victim of the Old White Man patriarchal philosophy of the same. She was just a perfect pretty female figurehead for them because she drank from their Fountainhead and spouted it back to the Civil Rights/Feminist movement under her own aegis. And so many bright shiny copper pennies of American Youth ate it up in delight thinking it was a revolutionary progressive philosophy, not realising it was just another way of saying “screw you, you damn hippies”. Especially the tired, satisfied hippies of the 70s who decided being yuppies in the 80s was so preferable to continuing the hard thankless work of frugal social and economic activism. They ended up creating whole generations of people so damaged they punch kindly nurses just trying to help them.
I went to court after I got out of hospital for punching that nurse. I was very surprised I had to go to court, but it turns out the hospital had to take me to court; it was a matter of legality. The hospital was obligated, legally, to file a police report on behalf of their employee because of her employment contract. Regardless of where she worked in their hospital system, if a patient, any patient, physically assaulted her while she was working for them, the hospital will sue for legal action and damages on their employee’s behalf. When I heard that, I was HAPPY FOR MY NURSE, even though I had no idea who she was. It could have been the nurse who gave me that razor to shave my legs (finally!), and checked on me so kindly. It could have been the one who checked on me so often to make sure I was getting enough to eat. I could go on: all of the nurses during my stay there were so kind and empathetic and just awesome. I will tell you something else: I met a gloriously regal woman in my outpatient therapy classes after my hospital stay, that I am still friends with, and she went on to finish her nursing degree and go to work on that ward. Through her own struggles with mental illness, she decided to work in the mental health field and she says her time working at Three North has been one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences of her life. I am filled with so much joy and love and warmth with her story. She recently became a mother for the first time. I know she is going to be one of the best mothers in the universe, because of her experiences and growth, and because she has seen how to heal. When I went into hospital for my procedure last month, I knew from my own experiences that it was possible my trauma could cause me to lash out at my medical support team should I come out of the anesthesia; because my GI doctor knew of my medical history, he had discussed everything with his team ahead of time, and we had a very specific plan for my procedure. The drugs used were specific for addiction medicine, and since I had never used them before, the anesthesiologist and I had a thorough conversation ahead of time. It was during this conversation that I learned a very science-y and fascinating thing called “emergence delirium”. A lot of my anxiety going into the procedure was a fear that I would come out of my sedation and start swinging, which I profusely did not want to do: I am not a violent person, because violence without a vital reason offends me (it’s that Bushido thing). And because of personal metabolism/chemistry combined with addiction, sedation reacts weird with me. Anesthesiologists are very knowledgeable about these things, so everyone told me during my check-in that he would be able to answer all my questions and help me with my anxiety. Boy did he. He heard my concerns and said oh-so-casually, “Oh yeah, that’s called ’emergence delirium, and it’s really common, and if you start to show signs of it, I will take care of you right away.” My jaw fell open. That has been happening a lot lately, and I honestly love it. It means new knowledge is coming into my mind, fascinating new knowledge that fills my soul with joy, and that is a wonderfully good thing. Learning that there is a term for something that scares me means science understands it, and if science understands it, there is a way to either fix it or adapt to it. I am so game for all of that. Let’s go, science. Let’s stop being afraid I will randomly punch people when I am not legitimately in control of myself. Emergence delirium is terribly common in children. When he explained this to me, I had one of those “I could have had a V8!” moments, because DUH! Kids get night terrors, have ridiculously vivid dreams on a regular basis that require mummy and daddy running to their rooms in the middle of the night to spray for monsters in all the nooks and crannies and often invest in kitsch night lights, are prone to sleepwalking (my son had such bad night terrors and somnambulism that if I had not known what was scientifically going on with him I probably would have called either Ghost Hunters or Tangina from Poltergeist). It is not a stretch to understand that their brains would emerge from anesthesia in a state of delirious panic. Since the child brain is so emotive, and so close to the unprogrammed state of the pure basic instincts of food, shelter, and continuance, the fight or flight response is finely tuned and alert. And that fight or flight response in children is wired to find a parent when under duress (often the mother but the father is also the protector figure; usually when a child is protected and taught equally by both parents or a group, the child seeks comfort and protection from whichever is closest). In the traumatised patient, we just come out looking for the threat and wanting to demolish it. Get it away. Keep it from doing the scary/threatening behaviour, even though we have no clue what that actually is. When a person has PTSD the fight or flight response is ALWAYS ON, and anything and everything will send it into overdrive. Could be someone sneezing unexpectedly. Could be a moth brushing the back of your arm. Could be a car backfiring on the next street over. Could be waking up from a nap and forgetting you fell asleep on your couch. Oh my gods, why did I punch my dog for licking my face?!?!?! It is a very, very wonderful and blessèd and beautiful thing that we have the unconditional pure love of dogs. They accept us and allow us to punch them on accident and then cry all over them indiscriminately. They would like some bacon, though. Emergence Delirium in vets with PTSD is also very well-known, but not nearly as well-known as the syndrome in children. The phenomenon needs a lot more study. A LOT MORE STUDY. My anesthesiologist was well-versed in the subject among PTSD patients, and I am very lucky. I take my time choosing physicians, and when my doctor refers me to another physician, I make sure that the physician she refers me to is one that has the same diagnostic and treatment philosophies she does. Most physicians practicing in our nation use anecdotal-based medicine because they were trained to not rely on the collected evidentiary base of scientific knowledge and refer back to it constantly, but instead to rely on anecdotal evidence passed on from person to person through the ages supplemented with the knowledge they learned in university. And to only refer to knowledge gained since they left university willy-nilly as they wish; to not collaborate with colleagues unless it applies specifically to cases they WISH to collaborate on or that their patients ASK them to. It wasn’t until the 1980s that medicine began to be taught on an evidence-based model, where students in medical school were taught that the old family doctor model was archaic and damaging to science as a whole and to patients in particular, because it had created a bunch of doctors who were more or less referring to Cluny and a bunch of old wive’s tales and folk cures instead of modern medicine. The old way of teaching medicine was basically like the old medical schools of the 1860s where blustery old men stood around stamping their feet saying ether was stupid because they needed their patients conscious and in pain in order to operate on them, otherwise how on earth were they to tell they were actually doing anything. Or that it was disgraceful to teach women because women were utterly incapable of actually learning medicine. Evidence-based medicine has created doctors that will pleasantly and automatically collaborate with not only their patients, but with other physicians. It has created doctors that demand their patients accept personal responsibility for their own health, and not sue tobacco companies because they got cancer after ignoring their doctors’ orders to quit for twenty years. It creates doctors that will automatically access sites like PubMed to research facets of medicine they are not intimately familiar with so they can support the treatment of their patients and refer them to proper specialists if needed instead of dismissing their pain or symptoms as “feminine hysteria” or “probably nothing to worry about, let’s wait and see”, and then end up getting sued for malpractice because they missed a crucial differential diagnosis. It creates doctors that are activists against the monstrous private healthcare corporations that dare to dictate to THEM how to treat patients and bribe our nation’s politicians and legislatures into making laws that protect corporations but not citizens while manufacturing massive amounts of externalities that entrap every single citizen (and doctors are citizens too) in chains of slavery and bondage called financial autocracy. It creates a new scientific ideological mentality that has no agenda other than to make people healthy and happy even when they don’t want to be.
Learning about emergence delirium made me feel as if perhaps Ludo came along out of the Labyrinth and sang ten thousand rocks off of my soul.
The anesthesiologist who told me about emergence delirium was a really cool guy. He was so laid-back and relaxed about my procedure that his manner really helped me chill. He answered all my questions (and I always have a ton of questions, because I am insatiably curious, and sometimes that curiosity comes across as morbidly weird because I want to know precisely what is going to happen at all times with myself and my body; it helps me maintain control over what is essentially something I have no control over), and gave me a lot of information. My husband thought he seemed pretty distant and brusque until I explained that hospital structure and how different doctors work with each other made his seeming distance just an aspect of his job, and wasn’t a reflection of him as a doctor, necessarily. My husband is slowly coming to realise that being raised by two people who were raised in the post-World War II continental Europe mentality of medical mistrust and “just do everything yourself and if you don’t it’s weakness” has tainted his thought processes much deeper than he realised. And that growing up in the south (Georgia, Virginia, and South Carolina), where critical thinking and science-based learning has always taken a back seat to religious ideologies and nationalistic principles (and wow, those nationalistic principles are SOUTHERN ones above and beyond AMERICAN ones), he has been further handicapped.
That is an extremely important point. My family and I have had an awful lot of discussions in our little cottage the past year. The past several months have seen those discussions veer more away from the “who do you like for leadership in X capacity and why” type to the “let’s explore all these out-of-control externalities pressuring all our various age groups and demographics to see how we as individuals can effect positive change WITHOUT GOING INSANE.” Because let’s face it: everyone in the world is having discussions like the former. But discussions like the latter have always been our familial conversational bread-and-butter. When we chose to homeschool our children, we knew that teaching critical thinking was the hardest skill to teach to humans, because as we all know toddlers and young children are savages. Human young are wild, brutal, dirty fighters that will resist anything and everything you attempt to teach them…of course the stickiest, most mud-covered three-year-old is always wiser than any cranky old parent, don’tcha know. It is the prime responsibility of every parent to take that heathen and turn them into a rational, mostly balanced and functioning adult. No license or testing is required to prove any male or female of reproduction age is capable of actually being RESPONSIBLE enough or INTELLIGENT enough or possessing a loving and nurturing support system to ensure the little heathens can reach the end goal without degenerating into BIG heathens reminiscent of unevolved tribal barbarians from back in the dark days of human sociological development. Personally, I think it’s a bit extreme to demand some sort of test to prove you are capable of being a parent. People everywhere do stupid things, and the act of conception has proven time and time again to call many a human being to their senses. Slapping regulation on biological reproduction is what we are facing right now with all these horrific anti-Roe v. Wade legislative efforts. Of course, they are all legislating female reproductive agency and bodies and not male agency or bodies, but that’s another can of worms. When you remove the agency from anyone to control their own personal responsibility without giving them the chance to prove they NEED that regulation, it’s pretty gross. We can regulate and control things and corporations and intangibles like environmental pollutants, but not the bodies of people unless what they do or do not do to those bodies is a public health hazard. Babies are not a public health hazard, yet. Hazards to lots of things, like tidiness, but not public health. According to Utah Senator Mike Lee, American babies are actually the solution to the world’s problems (climate change specifically). Specifically, wealthy and healthy and educated American babies. I wonder if Senator Lee is a Mormon…
So I never wanted to be a journalist. But suddenly I find myself in the extremely unenviable position as a small-town grass-roots journalist, of sorts. How on earth did that happen? I don’t know what I’m doing. I write fiction, I discover myself screaming at myself inside my head. I only decided to write the book of my horrible, ugly life before the fiction stories because it is sitting there inside my core like some ugly mangy animal that really needs to get out and have a nice bath and warm meal and comfy blankie; it needs a good lie-down. And it can’t have any of that unless it gets out of that cramped and dark quadrant of my being where it has been crouched all hunched-over and hurting all these years. I decided the only way I could sit down and not be so distracted that my fiction turned out crap would be to get that ugly, nasty story out of me first. The blog was just supposed to be me rambling on about the process of that: how writing that story helped me continue the healing of my mental illness and keep on the road to recovery in sobriety. The best laid plans and all that. The more research I did on my own past, trying to understand why my parents became the people they are today, and what actually happened over the course of time to bring about this perfect storm of violence, torture, sexual abuse, pedophilia, attempted murder, psychological manipulation, and Stockholm Syndrome in my family…the more I realised that my little family begun in the late 60s and officially terminated in the early 80s was not an anomaly. I have been censored on one platform for speaking the truth of my origins already, but not after I found dozens of groups dedicated to the survivors of these very experiences, and heard hundreds upon hundreds of their stories. Not many of them are as bad as mine; some of them are worse. Some of those people are dead now, friends I have made over the years, lost to suicide or domestic violence or substance abuse, and I mourn their passing deeply. But on other platforms, there are people talking about the same horrible things…without shame at last. Because there are too many of us who have sat scared in the darkness with our own pain and shame screaming the truth, and people have heard us. The change from pockets of voices demanding they are valid and their stories true towards this generation of damaged warriors shouting as a crowd has been long and awkward.
I grew up thinking my upbringing was normal. And then I realised it was most certainly NOT NORMAL at all, but whenever I tried to use the safety nets put in place to help me…safety nets that were brand-new and desperate to be used by the children and disabled and elderly (and all the other marginalised victims), I was further victimised by being told I WAS LYING. One time when I was in perhaps fifth grade (I did that grade twice, because the first time was the Really Bad Year, and the second time was the Aftermath; my teacher the second time around was Mrs. Gibson, the only black lady I remember in our town besides my friend Harriet’s family, and I absolutely loved her…I think if she hadn’t been my teacher, I might have suicided that year, or come extremely close to it), there was a man in our town who was driving around my elementary school scanning the kids and asking them if they needed rides. I was messing around in my front yard one day after school, by myself as usual because I was a latchkey kid. A guy in a big old gold land yacht cruised slowly down my dirt road (we didn’t get paved until I was in junior high), slowed down at my house, and peered down the driveway at me. My house growing up was surrounded by enormous cypress trees; I loved those trees. So Gothic and looming out of the desert plains like nothing else around, so old it seemed, perfect to hide in and smelling of exotic places (I sometimes pretended they were the Cypresses of Lebanon). The driveway was also pretty long, since the house was set fairly far back from the road. I was about halfway down the driveway playing hopscotch with myself when he cruised by, and I started walking towards him because I thought he was this guy Steve my mom had been dating a while. I liked Steve, sort of. It would be more accurate to say that I liked Steve’s house, a lonely place perched on the hills above Apple and Lucerne Valleys. His house was dim and labyrinthine and just FULL OF STUFF. His yard sloped down toward the valley and he had an amazing garden; I had no idea how he got his garden to grow like that, and I always wanted to talk to him about it, but all he wanted to do was boink my mother. I was this weird secondary creature (which I was always affronted by, because she met him through the single parents group Parents Without Partners, to hook up single divorceés in the 80s with others, all of whom had kids so the kids were not left out; most of their activities were kid-friendly group stuff, but they did have adult-only mixers). Steve also had this truly enormous mountain of junk in his backyard, and to this day it disturbs me in a visceral way, that pile. It was women’s clothing, women’s purses, women’s shoes…wigs even. Some few men’s items, but overwhelmingly it was women’s items. Suitcases. A mountain of personal items almost as high as the roof of his house. No identification items such as driver’s licenses or checkbooks or anything like that. But makeup, toiletries, clothing, hygiene items, etc. It was as if an airline’s lost luggage office had come along and dumped their entire storage into his yard and someone had come along and pawed through it, like the Junk Lady in Labyrinth. I think the reason that lady scared me so much when I first saw that movie was because it made me think so much of Steve’s yard. I still don’t know if that creepy guy I saw was him or not; I told the police and social services people I thought it was him, but I didn’t understand why he was there since my mom had broken up with him. But it made me nervous, and I knew I was supposed to call the police if some strange man in a car took undue interest in me. And I was a latchkey kid, who walked home from my school every day since my school was basically about a block (a long desert block, but still a block) away. I had been rejected by my babysitter because of my uncontrollable attitude due to the Very Bad Year, and this was not a therapy-friendly household. The police and social services took my report, and then my mother alternated between yelling at me for anything and everything she could think of for the rest of the day and night. I was grounded from playing outside for a while. I don’t remember how long; my mother never set reasonable time limits on those things. It was always “until I say so/because I say so/because that’s the way it is”. On some level I knew it was because she was frightened and did not know what to do at all, but mostly I was a scared little girl who was terribly confused confronted with a group of adults who had taken my report (which all responsible adults had told me I MUST DO), and then dismissed it as “probably someone who was lost” or “probably your mom’s ex boyfriend mooning around”. My mother was mostly angry that I would dare implicate one of her chosen male companions in that way. She always had this feeling, and she never hid it from me at all (often going so far as to scream it at me while she was beating on me), that she just knew I was jealous of her male companions and wanted her to stop dating and I always went out of my way to sabotage her relationships. It was during one of these episodes that she told me her pregnancy with me had been unplanned, that it had been a mistake, and that she had never wanted either me or a baby at all. Later she tried to backtrack on this, but a child does not ever forget that, especially when it is said by a woman screaming at said child while beating her relentlessly with a yardstick and then a flyswatter (both broke, and then she used her hands, until I was prone on the floor and started fighting back).
This is the core of my journalism quest: to fight back against the ones who don’t listen, or coerce others into dire straights, or pound on the clueless and helpless while telling them the beatings are all their fault. A lot of people tell me I am pulling the old Don Quixote and tilting at windmills. Well, I think those people have never actually read Cervantes. When I read Don Quixote the first time I hated it. I thought he was a stupid old man who didn’t know jack shit and who was this guy Sancho anyway? Stupid Sancho. Stupid old men and their ridiculous obsession with some woman who probably didn’t even exist anyway. I was maybe fourteen. Gods, who gives Cervantes to fourteen-year-olds? Without any context? Well, I did pick up my copy from the library and I did read it just to be an insufferable snob, so I can only blame myself. I never even bothered to ask any of the people around me who could explain it to me. What a stupid punk-ass teenager. I never claimed to be perfect, or even all that nice sometimes. Punk-ass teens raised in a bubble of ignorance, even ones determined to self-educate, make mistakes. In the scientific method, when one makes a mistake, it can be very costly…but also very rewarding. That is the beauty of the scientific method. It forces us to document every step we have taken when pursuing a question or action (itself in pursuit of a larger goal), and so when a mistake occours, or we don’t get the results we want or expect, we can go back over our documentation of the process and find out WHY. Don Quixote wasn’t tilting at windmills. He was tilting at the shame and degradation of his society. Don Quixote is a powerful metaphor for today, considering the United States has played fast, loose, and oh so dirty with the political machinations of power and money over the past seventy years, and it’s the downtrodden who are actually bringing it to fruition. Cervantes would be proud, I think. I am inspired by Don Quixote and Cervantes and many others in my writing; so when my muse tells me to write social commentary using my own life experiences, that’s what I do. I guess I’m my own Sancho. He was a very important character, after all. The windmill field is rather rich these days.
Like these nationalistic white supremacists cut from the same cloth as my sperm donor, boy what towering windmills they are. There is a significant portion of the citizenry in America eagerly swallowing the bitter pill of white nationalism. People like my representative, Vicki Marble. I have tried to get her attention regarding many things, most recently during her explanation for why she voted “no” for equal pay, which received international backlash. She never responds; just like Cory Gardner, the most out-of-touch legislator in America, she will not engage with her constituents unless they slavishly follow her ideology. It’s important to note that of the three representatives in the Colorado legislature who voted against this (on Equal Pay Day, no less), John Cooke of Weld County is the former Weld County sheriff. The man who ran the jail and all county law enforcement out here before Steve Reams. Reams is the man who is making national headlines saying he will go to jail rather than uphold our brand-new Extreme Risk Protection Order law, otherwise known as the red-flag law, as well as lobbying against a federal ERPO law. I don’t know which “Swamp” the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners are talking about in this tweet, but just so you know they are the group behind Representative Tom Sullivan’s recall. Tom Sullivan is the father of one of the Aurora Theatre Shooting victims, and decided to enter politics to make a difference.
Personally, I would like to know how he can afford all of this, plus his regular campaigning, yet continue to bemoan that it is lack of storage lockers in our county that prohibits him from enforcing the law; it sounds like a potential candidate for a dark money investigation to me, which is the kind of thing my state is extremely interested in looking for. In fact, our governor just signed a couple of laws into place regarding clean campaign finance. I think Mr. Reams might have to clean up his pocketbook for the next campaign. Colorado is the fifteenth state, plus the District of Colombia (that’s Washington DC, our nation’s capital, which is an entity unto itself kind of like the Vatican, but American-style), that has now passed red-flag laws. Colorado’s law goes into effect January of 2020. Fifteen out of Fifty. That is a remarkable sign of social and cultural evolution; nine of those states have enacted those laws since the Parkland shooting. I follow David Hogg on Twitter, and although he is very passionate and sassy, he is extremely intelligent. Very sharp, and he has great facts. That guy has panache and presence. People like that have what the Celts call “fire in the liver”. The Celts say that about someone when they believe in a cause so furiously they will be ready to smear themselves with woad, thereby getting supremely high on hallucinogens, take off all their clothes, and go screaming into battle to the sound of huge lambeg drums so they can inspire all the other scared but willing Celts behind them. Usually the cause is against thieving English aristocrats. Maybe a neighbor who took a cow. Who knows, the point is fire in the liver is a good thing, unless the fire is from mead, in which case your friendly Celt buddy is likely to punch you in the face so you are unconscious until you sober up so you don’t do anything stupid. Like go steal a neighbor’s cow for a lark. America is stuck in the “stealing the neighbor’s cow for a lark” stage, and unlike the happy and simple tribal Celts, we have no less-drunk-than-we pals to punch us in the nose and tell us we are being stupid, go wash off the woad. People like Vicki Marble, who admit they don’t even know why they are angry or who they are mad at, see no recourse other than to sit in the corner and pout because instead of trying to figure out the WHY, they just want more mead and more woad, and a good fight to top it off. It feels GOOD to be drunk, stoned, and mad, after all. When you’re drunk, stoned, and mad…you don’t have to think. You can just be numb. Except for the mad. Mad always leaks through.
Recently, many excellent media outlets have released articles about plans this administration has to monitor social media accounts of disabled persons receiving government benefits. When I read these accounts, the Uhura Facepalm happened.
It might not seem like much, monitoring disabled people’s social media accounts if they are receiving government benefits, just to make sure they are actually as sick as they made claims to be. After all, keeping honest people honest has been an axiom of government for a very long time. The problem is, it is an axiom beloved of people like Hoover and McCarthy, who were extreme paranoiacs. And a lot of the people whose accounts are topics of monitoring are people who are getting benefits from the VA for disabilities like Traumatic Brain Injuries, PTSD, or other very personal injuries they probably don’t want to discuss on their social media accounts. If you lost half your guts in an IED attack and had to wear a colostomy bag that needed changing X amount a day, and it made you depressed as fuck sometimes, you probably don’t want to talk publicly about that a lot. And Uncle Sam is not going to have the right to judge you for disability based on the fact that you don’t talk about it online in your Instagram shots or Facebook account. Or if you have Rheumatoid Arthritis and have to go get treatments every week, it should not be your responsibility to document how nasty or glorious you feel afterwards on your Twitter feed for your personal social media monitor lest your benefits be adjusted according to some ephemeral sliding scale of worthiness.
I have spent the past month and a half, almost two months trying to figure out how to explain in less than twenty thousand words just how I went from a teeth-gnashing fiction writer to a jaw-set nonfiction one; I thought a forced convalescence would make it easy because I would have plenty of time to write. That turned out to be another one of life’s gags, because instead of being able to set aside a few of my duties for a while, a ton of things happened all at once and I ended up with even more work to do while I tried to recover from my procedure and take the diagnostic news to heart. I write these articles to show regular people that what they do matters, and that even though real life is a terrible struggle against terrible odds, we can all make it no matter what They throw at us. The ubiquitous Them is always a force to be reckoned with, whether it’s the mortgage company, the cell phone bill, the various medical bills, or any number of pressing tedious details on the never-ending and always-consuming list of Responsibilities any adult has to tend to incessantly for as long as they live, usually for at least one other person as well (a spouse, child, sibling, dependent adult, etc.). And all of us have things in addition to our Responsibilities we must tend to as well: ethical or moral obligations such as church duties, political/social activism, and hobbies. Each of us is sliced up into tiny increments we have to dole out to different things, including care of ourselves in different ways. None of us is ever absolutely alike in how we balance all of that within ourselves. We can come close, because we marry and form friendships and communities. But none of us are exactly alike, thank goodness. If there was another person out there exactly like me I would probably be driven crazy by them; often what annoys us most in others is what they mirror about ourselves. I seem to be running into a common theme lately among people making snap commentary about everything under the sun on the great world wide web: why isn’t everyone else just like them? why isn’t everyone else SEEING IT? why isn’t everyone else just doing what they do, experiencing what they experience, and just handling it the way they do? and GOLLY, everything would be so much better if EVERYONE ELSE just DID. My rebuttal to that is to say over and over, in a hundred different ways, to step outside of themselves and into another person’s perspective for a while…because life and the world would be awfully boring if we were all carbon copies of each other, mimeographs of the same old experiences and feelings and thoughts and beliefs and perceptions without any alteration ever. Remember mimeographs? The only good thing about mimeographs was how they smelled, and the colour. That particular violet shade was unlike anything, and I used to covet a soft, drapey bliaut that colour. That colour is the shade of daydreams. Every grade school kid ever born of a particular generation stuck every mimeographed sheet in their face to sniff that scent, too, and if they didn’t they were weird. Or maybe sick. Everything else about mimeographs was terrible, because they always smeared and half the time came out illegible so you had to squint at the pages and be careful with your erasing lest you erase the wrong thing. (I had the duty more than once of operating the mimeograph machine to make copies, and those beasts were assembled using a step that required the summoning of a minor demon of chaos, otherwise how do you explain how persnickety they were, or the scary noises they made, or how they seemed to bleed mimeograph fluid in a dark violet ooze?)
I write what I want, when I want, because I dearly love to tell stories. Right now those stories happen to be journalistic stories. It pleases me that others enjoy them, and because they have asked me to put them down and share them, I am. I don’t know where my road is going, but like Robert Frost says, the road less traveled is more interesting. I will keep walking this one as long as it stays interesting, and provides me with what I need to continue. J.R.R. Tolkien also wrote an interesting bit of verse about roads when he wrote about Bilbo’s very long and interesting journey, and I have always loved that tantalizing poem about how all roads are interconnected. It has always given me peace, knowing that if I need to step onto another path if the one I am on doesn’t serve me anymore, that’s ok. Because it’s still my road, and whoever is currently walking it with me is there for a reason; it’s just up to me to make the most of it at the time.
I still feel overwhelmed by society and it’s trials more often than not, and that I don’t need or want most of what it has to offer me: it’s the anti-Establishment punkrocker in me feeling the pull of that old DRI anthem. But the girl who has always known it isn’t just or proper or right for her father to abuse her or her mother the way he did and then speechify about honouring thy father, because it’s God’s law and God is love…well, she wins out over the person who just wants to bring that Establishment down, because she knows you can’t bring something destructive down without having something constructive in it’s place. It’s the great Circle of Life. Each one of us is a duality, a constant battle between Persona and Shadow. Jung teaches us that unless we allow ourselves to balance our inner selves and our outer ones, we can’t approach the world very well at all. I am pretty balanced, so while I might feel I don’t need society very much, I sure do feel like society needs me. It takes a lot of work to do all this balancing: hours and hours every day banging away at a keyboard typing letters, hours making phone calls, hours and hours doing research on laws and searching for appropriate contacts…and for each eight hours I might actually accomplish one productive thing. But then I get to do something like go to my godson’s wedding, and it’s worth it. Dressing up to the nines, having the opportunity to see people I haven’t seen in way too long, hugging them, crying as vows are exchanged (I am so chagrined; I didn’t get any worthy pictures, I was leaking so badly), feeling blissfully happy for an entire day for once…priceless. Plus my godson’s best friend got permission from the bride to wear a Mr. Meseeks onesie, so they had one person in a fabulous hat and one person in a onesie at their wedding. And this weekend I am going to Denver Pop Culture Con to meet some of my favourite authors, take a ton of pictures of people in cosplay (one of my favourite pastimes, and I have an unbelievable number of photos of people in cosplay or fun dress collected over the years that I look through sometimes Just Because), stroll around LoDo a bit, and otherwise just have a Grand Lark. Little treats like these are what I live for; this is the life of a regular woman who has made it through literal Hell on Earth and wants nothing more than to tell stories to inspire others to keep going, because it does get better. Even through all the miasma of despair and terrible mistakes, it gets better.
Society needs you.
Jerran and Sarah, 4-27-2019