Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Write on!

Despite yesterday's post being a good length, and having required a whole separate post the day before to keep it on track, and having been reliant on a post from the previous week, it was not the whole story.

There were two other elements that were important, and that I want to get to now. 

Man-I-don't-know writes dismissive thing and it leads to amazing insight about myself did happen, and that there was a foundation it was built on was made pretty clear, but also, there was a process there that involved two key things.

I saw his response and I had feelings about that. (That will be more tomorrow's post.)

Then I wrote about it three times. It wasn't until the third time that I realized I am no longer afraid of being annoying, but I had been approaching it the whole time.

(That is not counting my response to him, which may have been part of the process but also could have just been fun.)

I wrote in my journal first. That was the shortest one. I wrote a brief description of what happened and then this:

How male. Wrong, thinks he's smart, and sees no need to listen or learn.

It ties together, because the people who don't have much other than their patriarchal rank over you sure don't want you to like yourself, or be happy as you are, or know that you are enough.

That did not feel like enough. I thought it was that I needed to share it. That led to both Twitter and Facebook.

The interesting thing is that I was initially reluctant to post on Facebook. The first poster (whose friend made the dismissive remark) and I have mutual friends (though that guy isn't one of them). I didn't want it to become a whole thing.

It is possible that considering not doing something in deference to men who do not show any similar consideration was related to the breakthrough.

It is definite that as we go over and interpret and try to explain something, it gives us a chance to realize more.

The funny thing is that the next day I was talking to a friend (about learning, appropriately) and as he was explaining something to me he said "Though I hadn't realized that I thought of it that way until now..."

Yes, of course. That is how it works.

It was easier for me to have a breakthrough on my fear of being annoying because I had been engaging with it actively. Then, getting to annoy someone showed me that it wasn't that bad.

There can be things that we feel, and almost know, but that require articulation before we get there. In fact, they may require articulation in a specific way that we grope toward over multiple interactions. Perhaps that is why expressive writing is generally done as a series of three sessions.

There is one more thing about that.

In February I wrote about three early experiences that worked together to convince me that no one wanted to hear about my problems. 

It seems logical that some of my motivation for writing comes from there; so much to say, but who wants to hear it?

As nice as it would be to explore having someone who listens (and I admit I would be a lot), I do like having the blog. I like putting it out there as a record that I have thought this and learned that, and that if the timing is not right for you now, the post will still be there later.

The thing with the guy happened Thursday. Saturday someone tweeted a veiled reference to dissociative identity disorder. It wasn't exactly an ask, but this was a mutual, so I could send a private message and say -- stressing that I don't know if this is needed -- this is here and if you want to talk we can. "This" being a link to my post on dissociation, which is a relatively soothing one, so not a bad starting point.

I could receive a message of gratitude then, because it had been on their mind.

I was attuned to that (and I had something to offer) because I had written about it.

That's what writing can do.


Related posts:

https://sporkful.blogspot.com/2021/01/expressive-writing.html

https://sporkful.blogspot.com/2021/02/failure-to-communicate.html

https://sporkful.blogspot.com/2021/03/lets-hear-it-for-dissociation.html

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Unafraid

Just as I get over my fear that I might not be a good mother, I also lose my fear of being annoying!

This is how it happened.

I have been trying to write posts at least the night before. Proofreading tends to be more effective with a rest period in between, and it gives me more time to refine the thoughts. Therefore, the post on tonglen went up Thursday, but I had written it Wednesday night. Regardless of the details, I believe that it was helpful that my mind had been focusing on my sudden epiphany about being enough.

Someone I know posted about the 2nd Amendment. 

I don't really love conflict, but I will fight to the death for what I think is right. In the past that has meant that while I posted frequently and would argue someone disagreeing with my posts into the ground, I rarely took issue with what people posted on their own pages. 

Ignorance has been running amuck so badly, and violence has been increasing, so it is more frequent for me to feel that I have to say something. In this case, I just pointed out that overthrowing a tyrannical government was not the purpose of the 2nd Amendment, and we had a not horrible exchange about that.

But he has other friends.

One of them replied with a poorly thought out string of sentences. It was full of non sequitur and (false) conservative talking points, but sadly lacking in coherence and originality. It was also pretty spotty on punctuation and grammar. This is your person who has been formed by Fox News for years but switched to OAN because Fox was too liberal, though maybe he still checks in with Tucker Carlson.

It wouldn't even have made an impression except for the last sentence.

"Please dont respond because it will just be bullshit." 

How male.

Seriously? I reference articles of the Constitution and historical occurrences and you vomit up a mix of conspiracy theory and sentence fragments that you couldn't tie together if you tried, and you tell me not to respond?

I did write back congratulating him for being an ass. (I used more words, but that was the gist.)

What was important was that he joined a long line of men being irritated when I disagree with them, or say something that threatens their view of things. I get that it's patriarchy, but perhaps it was also more obvious in that moment that they have not earned their position. At all.

If the conclusion to Thursday's post was that I am enough, the other thing that had been coming up a lot in the preceding posts is this fear that I have carried with me that I would annoy someone or take up too much space or be a problem.

In this moment, I knew I was annoying this man, but it was not a problem with me. Not only was I not mortified, annoying him was deliciously pleasing.

There's not this unknown wrongness lurking in me anymore; I know that was one of the steps on the path. Also, I understand a lot more about how societal conditioning and patriarchy works. None of this happened in a vacuum.

But I am not afraid of annoying people anymore. I will not go out of my way to annoy anyone (with the possible exception of puns), but the fear is gone.

Amazing.

Monday, April 12, 2021

A brief diversion into gun control

When I posted about tonglen on Thursday, I wrote (and believed) that the next logical topic would be my 2008 job loss and the emotional turmoil that followed that. 

Shortly after I posted, I had an interaction that led to some interesting realization and contacts. That was followed by a few days of very interesting thoughts coming via social media interactions. It has been a wonderful few days, and I intend to write about them.

As it is, that first interaction was about gun control. If I don't write about it now, I will keep wanting to elaborate on things with the telling of the story, which will really detract from the story.

Therefore, today we talk about guns so I can get it out of my system.

President Biden announced some new efforts toward gun control. The White House fact sheet is dated April 7th, but all of the conversation was on April 8th. Well, there may still be conversation going on.

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/04/07/fact-sheet-biden-harris-administration-announces-initial-actions-to-address-the-gun-violence-public-health-epidemic/

In a nutshell, these particular issues focus on things that make guns deadlier or harder to trace, allowing family members and law enforcement to flag individuals in crisis, and doing more to collect data, which has previously had a lot in place preventing it. There is also some funding for intervention, and the announcement of a new ATF director.

I did not see anything in there about seizing already purchased guns, or even banning assault weapons themselves, but in general with the most devoted fans of guns, anything will be viewed as a slippery slope to leaving them disarmed and vulnerable to being herded into government camps.

They don't always go straight to the camps in the arguments; usually there is something about how none of these will work. Chicago is frequently cited as a place of strict gun laws and frequent gun violence, but when your area of strict gun laws is surrounded by many areas of lax gun laws, and free travel is allowed, maybe what that means is a need for stricter laws all around. Perhaps stronger federal laws are the answer.

Another common refrain is that gun violence is a mental health issue. That is more complicated, in that being antisocial and violent would probably fall more into sociology, or at least more into personality disorders than what we normally think of as mental illness. For example, if a kid shows up to school with a gun after his girlfriend breaks up with him, because his ego demands that he does not let a woman humiliate him, maybe a psychiatrist could help with that, but the cultural aspects of masculinity are a bigger problem.

Also, if an argument breaks out at a family gathering where people are drinking, and someone gets shot because the guns were as readily available as the liquor, again, maybe family counseling could have helped them resolve the reasons they keep fighting, but it isn't that anyone is mentally ill. Maybe they are kind of jerks, and have emotional damage, but it's not a mental health issue in the typical sense.

To be fair, I have not noticed that the people who claim that the gun problem is a mental health problem have shown a strong interest in funding mental health care, so there's that.

And none of that was even how the issue came about, because the other big argument is that you can't ban anything because the 2nd amendment was put in place so that we could rise up against a tyrannical government if we needed to.

This is false. 

Let's check with the Constitution.

First, the 2nd Amendment says...

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

That does seem to tie it in pretty strongly with the militia, at least based on the order in which it is phrased. What else do we know about the militia?

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 15, under things that the Congress shall have the power to do:

"To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;"

The militia is under the control of Congress, not for overthrowing them.

The Constitutional Convention did not include a standing army, though the Continental Army did exist. 

Washington himself was pretty keen on having a regular army. With his military experience, that made sense. He pushed Congress for that, and the United States military was created officially via bill on September 29th, 1789, over a year after the Constitution was ratified. Washington still called on militia for help during the Whiskey Rebellion (1791 - 1794). Technically with the National Guard we still have military forces under state governors whom we keep well-organized and bearing arms.

The occasional quote from Thomas Jefferson (who was often a hypocrite) aside, the founding fathers did not picture themselves becoming the tyrants they had deposed. If they had, while it might have seemed possible then, with current technology no amount of Bushmasters is going to successfully take over the government unless they have the help of the military, making it a coup, and not a reliable path to a better democracy.

That doesn't even mean that there is no room for semi-automatic weapons under private ownership, but just saying "2nd Amendment!" is not an effective legal argument. It is also not effective as a moral argument. 

"Possession is 9/10ths of the law" might be a better argument, because there are certainly a lot of guns out there, but I would appreciate some deeper thought, with less parroting.

I would love to see some consensus that there is too much violence, and some acknowledgment of how it supports existing power structures, where a woman is much more likely to be killed by a man, and people of color are much more likely to be killed by cops (even when the people of color are unarmed and the white people are armed). I would appreciate some acknowledgment that the lack of willingness to address those disparities may indicate that you are okay with the imbalance if it is in your favor, which is evil.

It should now be easier for me to avoid tangents in the next post. 

Should.

I mean, I was also tempted to go into something on the intentions of the founding fathers that was going to reference two books, but that was more on general intentions than on guns specifically, and then I didn't. I think I am okay for now.

However, I think if there is another point to be made, it is that I do not say things lightly. I really try and research and think a lot, and that doesn't mean anyone else has to agree, but there is a respect and commitment included with my preparedness that I would like to see respected.

Which is precisely how we get to tomorrow's post.

Friday, April 09, 2021

Review retrospective: Native American Heritage Music

Twitter and the people on it were teaching me a lot about the importance of representation, where people of different races, genders, orientations and abilities are seen and heard. 

That became an influence on the music I listened to fairly early, though with varying results.

Not all of them will make it obviously into this retrospective. There were the posts on women rocking and Black women rocking, and there will be another post on Stevie Wonder (one man, but a man with an enormous catalog). 

There will not be specific posts on my attempts to listen to artists of Asian and Latinx descent (both terribly inefficient terms), but they will show some presence in the section on bands 401 - 500 and the segment on punk. (I have pretty much worked out which topics will be covered now, even though I am still going over old reviews.) My attempts there have not been coherent enough to create separate topics from them, and the same is true as I start to seek out more disabled artists and queer artists.

A lot of what I have found is good, but after a while of searching, there often comes a point where they start finding you. You know enough people making recommendations, or you are reading enough material, or listening to enough similar artists, that the connections start being made more easily.

I am much further ahead with Black and Native American musicians. That makes sense, I started sooner with regular reading, even before I was on Twitter. I started observing both history months in 2010.

At the time I was focusing on reading history, but then you find that there are still people here (should be obvious, sometimes isn't), and they are writing books about now, and they are making music now.

If I go back and forth between Indian, Indigenous, First Nations, and Native American, don't mind me. Different people prefer different words, and that is even more so because I have a lot of Canadians on the list.

My first review of a Native American artist was Bunky Echo-Hawk, who is also a visual artist. In fact I can't find any of his music links anymore, because he is focusing more on the canvas art. However, that I knew of him at all happened because my sisters and I saw an exhibit of his work at the Field Museum in Chicago.

I reviewed him in April 2014, but then I started making a point of finding more Indigenous artists to review in November. I found artists I liked a lot, and artists whose work was personally meaningful, and artists who made me think, often all in the same person.

If Bunky Echo-Hawk's art was not limited to music, he was not unique there. I have read books and poetry by some of the musicians, and others have done beading and carving.

As I started having more reviews under my belt, it occurred to me that I could have a November where not only all of the reviews but also all of the daily songs were by Native American artists. I started looking to see if anyone previously reviewed had new music out, and found almost everyone was at Standing Rock. I had cared before, but then it felt that much more personal.

This year, I am going to do the full month in November. I will also make a playlist bringing in may songs and artists. It is about the only way that I can handle limiting it to seven songs now.

I know there is more to come, and I am excited for that.

Songs for the week:

“You've Got To Run (Spirit Of The Wind) by Buffy Sainte-Marie and Tanya Tagaq -- A big reason to choose this one was that with so many choices and only seven songs, I have to appreciate the two-fer. But also, it's Buffy! Some of my earliest memories are of her on Sesame Street, and her mouthbow.

“Clash Of The Clans” by Snotty Nose Rez Kids -- I like Snotty Nose Rez Kids for their humor and theatricality. It feels more like early rap to me, before it got all gangster (maybe with some overlap), including skits on the albums.

“Mehcinut” by Jeremy Dutcher -- He has a lot of beautiful music, imbued with a spirit of holiness. This one, though, captivates me so much, that I probably do not take in his other music enough. Some songs do that.

"Walk Alone" by LightningCloud -- RedCloud was one of my favorite reviews, but by the time I did it, he and his girlfriend, Crystle Lightning, and he had teamed up to form LightningCloud. I love all their iterations, but chose this one because the pandemic has made poverty and homelessness worse, and we need to work on that.

“Anti-Social” by Frank Waln -- Waln was one of my earlier reviews, but this video is brand new, uploaded on March 11th. I think it fits with the times.

“Lonely With You” by Tracy Bone -- There is so little country that I like, that I am impressed with Bone that she makes me like her so much. This is probably my favorite of her songs.

“Don't Forget About Me” by Michael Bucher -- Just a reminder that we can and need to do a lot better.

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Tonglen

Tonglen is a form of meditation that was mentioned in Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression by James S Gordon. I thought his other book, The Transformation, was better over all, but it didn't mention tonglen and it was a good experience for me.

Here is a general article on the topic:

https://www.lionsroar.com/how-to-practice-tonglen/

This is from January. I finished reading the book early in October, and two months later (in early December), I tried it. The article came out a month after that, so it was not a part of my experience. However, it is good to have another explanation of it, from someone more experienced, because once again I am pretty sure I did it wrong.

This is how I understood it: you focus on someone in pain, and you try and do a trade, taking their pain away, and sending good feeling. Gordon recounted spending time with an ill friend, but noted that you did not have to be physically present. Its purpose is to cultivate unselfishness, but also seemed like it could relate to connection, with the individual and with the greater world. 

There was another meditation I had tried earlier, going back and forth focusing on people who have harmed you and people you have harmed, focusing on forgiveness. I'd had a good experience with that, which I am sure I will write about eventually. Tonglen felt like a similar activity but with a different focus. It felt important to do.

I was also scared to do it. Ready for another mission story?

I don't think this is common knowledge, but my family and I are furnaces. We run hot, which can include functioning well as a source of heat for others. This is why we prefer cooler weather.

Fresno does have hot summers, but there are still seasons. Also this might have happened in Modesto, which would often get a damp fog in winter. I just remember that Sister S was cold. 

I was not. We were sitting next to each other anyway, so I put my arm next to hers so she would feel that heat. That was just arms, though, and I kind of mentally pictured this transfer of heat to her. 

It worked! She felt better, but then I was feeling cold and a little queasy, which was weird. I guess I overdid it, but I hadn't really thought I was doing anything.

Certainly, it is possible to give too much, though it normally wouldn't happen that way. Maybe the issue was not that I gave her my warmth but that I took her coldness, which I had not visualized or intended. Maybe I didn't have enough warmth for both of us.

It was an experience that stuck with me, without me ever having derived a full meaning from it. It worried me in the context of trying this. I was not ruling out a mystical connection where his pain would be lessened and transferred to me, but I was not really expecting it either. However, sometimes you can fall into things. A memory can pull up deep sadness, or anger, or fear, and I was a little worried about that, but it still felt important to do.

I did not feel a mystical connection. I did feel light. 

As my breath went in and out and I tried to visualize, what I felt was tremendous peace. The source of that peace was the assurance that I was enough. I could absorb his pain, or help him with it... whatever it was right to do, I could do. 

The path from undefined knowledge that I was disappointing and lacking to clarity that I was not had a lot of stops along the way, so there had been groundwork laid for it. Even so, this was a profound shift.

I am enough. How was it possible? Yet clearly it was.

And amazingly, I was enough while still unemployed, and broke, and fat, and single, and everything else that had ever seemed like proof that clearly there was something wrong with me.

Still enough.

Which must mean that next week we will get into the unemployment crisis that started in 2008.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

A fear allayed

No, not the fear of never finding love; that one is still a work in progress.

However, that other family fear -- that maybe I couldn't be a good mother -- has been put to rest.

There was a general fear that with my family experience and as messed up as I have been, that I would mess up my kids too. When I have worried about that, never having kids seems better. 

More specific fears have included a concern that in my effort to compensate for never feeling understood, I would end up being really annoying in my efforts to understand them. Given that my fear of marriage was that my inability to accept love and feel secure in it would be annoying for my husband, let us just note that the general fear of being a nuisance is strong with me.

There was also a fear that I would not know what to do with rebellious kids. Yes, developing my own personality and sense of sovereignty did annoy my father, but overall I was a pretty good kid. I have no idea what you do with a destructive child. I hoped that if it came up I would figure something out, but I wasn't sure.

I have also had two people suggest that I was too selfish with my own time and would hate motherhood, but I am pretty sure that was projection. I have handled having my time taken over and over again.

That's the thing: I have had experiences where it is possible to believe that I could have done okay.

It started in late 2012, when I inadvertently adopted a bunch of depressed teenagers on Twitter. 

That was the one that made me feel like a hypocrite when I couldn't conceive of deserving happiness for myself. 

It was also the one that really brought home the significance of Adverse Childhood Experiences, and rape culture, and a lot of other problems with the world. 

It was often stressful and scary. There was deep depression, mental illness, eating disorders, and suicidal ideation. There was talking someone through hallucinations, for which I was surely not qualified but suddenly I was in the middle of it, and fleeing didn't feel right.

Of course, that was the genesis of the Long Reading list, but then, that is my answer for issues where I don't feel like I know enough: research and pray, and love a lot. 

That is probably what I would have done with a rebellious child. 

Later with tutoring and teaching youth Sunday school, I got to see other, perhaps easier aspects of adolescence. Before that I got to teach nursery, and explore the world of toddlers. 

That was mostly joy. I get that having my time with them being limited helped, and I am not saying there were no issues. There was a runner once who got farther than was comfortable, and one pair of broken glasses... yeah, things happened. Still, they were cute and fun, and then their parents picked them up. If some were harder to work with than others, I just rolled with it. 

Observing them also really helped me understand my kitten.

If any mothers wish to be offended by the comparison, you may do so. I know there are differences. 

I also saw with the toddlers how a sense of safety allowed greater freedom and calm, and I saw that with Lilly. 

For the kitten we got so young, and for whom I was the main early source of food and affection, she sees me as her mother. We have three other cats and a dog now, and have had many other pets over the course of many years. As much as I have loved them, and they have loved me back, this relationship is different. 

It has also been a source of great joy, even if this source of joy regularly chews up my hands. Oxytocin is real, and is not limited to humans.

The last thing has been the most painful, but it has also been the one that has most shown my mettle. Caring for my mother has tested me more than anything else, but I have passed that test.

There were ways in which she became more childlike. That could be endearing as she slipped her hand into mine, and when simple pleasures worked.

Even more, there were many ways in which she required more patience. There were many times when she was upset or scared, and when I needed to understand her perspective, even if it did not reflect reality. 

There were many times where I had to get up earlier, or stay with her until she fell asleep. 

Keeping her bathed and dressed and feed and stimulated... I did all of that.

Maybe in some ways it was like having that argumentative, angry child. She said some horrible things, and they weren't right, but she believed that she meant them.

Through all of that, I did pretty well.

I wasn't as good as I wanted to be. I had these ideas of what a more energetic person might come up with, but there are whole books about the "good enough" mother. If it were something that applied at the time, I would have read them all.

I did read a lot about dementia, and senior health, and whatever else seemed relevant.

Of course, those were all things that were happening when I was older. Under my original life plan when I was going to get married at 20 and then have a child every two years, until I was 40, I might not have done so well. That plan had lots of problems.

There is a limit to how much you can ever know about what would have happened, but once again it seems possible that I was never as hopeless as I feared. That has been encouraging overall. 

It also means that it is time to talk about tonglen.

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

That time I lied to my therapist

No, I have never regularly attended therapy, but I did do two sessions a few months apart with the friend of a friend when she visited from out of town.

She was a member of my church, so we shared a belief system. I was very interested in the methods. She used muscle testing to focus on key ages as a way of guiding the issues. If you think that sounds hokey, I get it, but I had seen some things done with muscle testing for physical health that had impressed me, and I was at least open to it.

In fact, when I talk about things that happened when I was 6 and 14 and 17, it was those sessions with Lisa where it started to make sense to me why some memories were so sharp for me, and the significance they'd had. 

That was over two sessions. One of the most important ages was 31, and Reed, because in fact I had turned 32 by the time the session happened. I still don't think it lasted for more than a year, but the time passed was significant.

As we got to the heart of my problem -- not merely feeling unloved but that love wasn't possible -- she took me through some things and asked me if I could know that I could be loved.

I could not, but I was also sure that if I said that she would want to talk about it more. I did not want to talk about it more. I believed she would try and convince me and I was not ready to be convinced.

So I told her "yes", but I did not mean it.

There are a few different issues here, so it does get messy, but I want to try and touch on them.

First of all, unwillingness to heal is a problem. With patients suffering from combat-related PTSD, there is often a sense that healing would betray the unit members that they lost. Survivor's guilt can be an issue. 

It might be worth thinking about how an overemphasis on the value of the purity of a woman and analogies about chewed up gum might be damaging for people whose trauma stems from rape. That's not my issue, but it seems worth thinking about.

For me, I was used to knowing that something was wrong with me, and that was not tied to any specific event, but predated memory. Furthermore, it had been made quite clear through advertising and entertainment and other sources that beauty was a debt that women owe to men, and that beauty is incompatible with fat. 

It was a lot of conditioning to get over in two sessions.

I think it was reasonable that I did not get past it then, but it does bother me that I lied. Honesty is important to me, and it is certainly important to healing.

There is another thing here, though, in that most of the times that I have lied, it has been because someone asked me something that they didn't have a right to know. There are certainly cases where refusing to answer is a very clear answer, but there is a lot to be said for being able to say, "That is none of your business. I do not owe you that information."

Though it is probably not the most productive way of answering your therapist.

It was my assumption that she would not let me stop there, not ready to move on, but I don't really know that. Not pushing people past where they are able to go is actually a thing that comes up a lot in therapy, and there is probably training about that. I probably could have been honest in that respect, though maybe admitting it would have its own pain.

I believe it can also be good to keep in mind that not being ready for something at one time does not rules out future readiness. Of course, that might have felt like hope, and hope was what got me into that mess in the first place.

At the root there was an unwillingness to be loved as I was; I wanted to get better and earn love instead. 

Getting past that was going to require discovering my anger, and understanding my body better, and even before that finding many people who did not think they were worthy of love either. I knew they were wrong, but knowing it gave me this vague sense of being a hypocrite.

It has been a long path.