Friday, April 16, 2021

Review Retrospective: Bands 301 - 400, 2016

I reviewed some music I really liked in 2016. I also reviewed music I hated.

What I realize now -- though I did not then -- is that a lot of the hated music came from rich kids goofing off because they could. ("Kids" may be used kind of loosely.)

There were two things that helped me realize it. One was reading about Mumford & Sons, including discussions on their shockingly wealthy backgrounds, and how it allowed them to persevere until people started listening to them.

The other factor relates strongly to doing this retrospective, in that I have been going through and checking links for old bands.

I can't say quite when the change occurred, but there was a time when it was pretty common to buy a web domain just for your band, if you could. Not only does that require someone with some basic skills designing it, but there is expense in hosting the page as well.

A lot of those old band sites don't exist anymore. Sometimes the bands don't either, but sometimes they do. Instead of the old site, they are using a Facebook page (less commonly Instagram or Twitter) as the main point of information. There are often other sites for obtaining the music, like Soundcloud, Bandcamp, or Youtube, but some social media site will have taken the place of the original site.

Some of the bigger bands -- that came out at times before free streaming and did well -- still do maintain the personal sites. I don't deny there are a lot of factors.

However, when you released an EP five years ago, and you haven't done anything since then, but you still pay for a home page? (Which often promises new music coming soon, or has new cute photos.) That indicates money to burn.

Then you see that they say Beverly Hills instead of Los Angeles, or notice other subtle indicators that this is not someone desperate for success. 

I recognize the signs better now. I also think it makes sense. 

I didn't know back in the day when I reviewed them and hated their music. I always tried to point out good things when I could, or advise who might like it, but they tended to be negative reviews.

It is probably not a coincidence, but this was the first section where in checking links I found someone who blocked me.

That was a sad case, actually. She came across as so tortured in the time where I was just following her, before I got to the review, and then there was no emotional depth. You're not tortured; you're self-pitying and bored. This might mean that when you were looking into trying an activity that appropriates the Sun Dance ceremony of the Plains Indians, that you are really just sensation seeking.

(I am sorry your father was a jerk, but understand that a lot of other people have that same problem.)

I also recently realized that with someone from the first 100 -- who is a great musician but that I just can't like -- it's because he is not really a kind person. He has suffered and I feel compassion for that, and he has depth, but he is also kind of a jerk.

This is not saying that jerks can't make good music; lots of examples disprove that. 

I am also not saying that rich people can't make good music, though fewer examples come to mind.

I do feel comfortable saying that coming from wealth makes it much easier to be shallow and superficial. It makes it much easier to be satisfied with middling efforts instead of really digging deep. That would be an obstacle to making great music.

That makes it more chilling how hard it is getting for anyone who is not already wealthy to pursue the arts. 

I should probably go back and re-read Scott Timberg's Culture Crash: The Killing of the Creative Class, but I did just read this essay in Sarah Kendzior's Flyover Country that you can read here:

https://www.aljazeera.com/opinions/2013/12/17/expensive-cities-are-killing-creativity

It relates.

For now, let me once again plug universal health care and basic income, for so many reasons.

But the songs for the week don't include anyone I hated. That was the most obvious theme for the blog, but it wasn't the whole story of the year, for which I am grateful

Daily songs:

“Salvation” by Blinking Underdogs -- For a week in which I was writing about Star Wars stuff, I reviewed Oscar Isaac's old ska band, which takes some digging. Because some of the files are hard to get at, I almost didn't include them, but someone posted a performance clip, therefore I had to. It appears he was in yet another band as well. I suspect I will check that out.

“Shotgun” by Heroes Like Villains -- I am anticipating this being a beautiful Saturday, and that goes with this sweet video from a pretty sweet band.

“Relatively” by Faded Paper Figures -- Also a good video for a sunny day, this had a sweet sound and is the song I remembered most from this band, though they have a lot to check out.

“Breathe Me In” by Consider Me Dead -- This one got stuck in my head back in the day. I think it holds up.

“Don't Drown” by Sighs -- Usually I pick songs that I still remembered years later. I had kind of forgotten this one, and it was a pleasant surprise. That is why mentioning specific songs in the reviews is helpful.

“Flightless Bird” by Scott Barkan -- Scott Barkan comes off as such a curmudgeon, and I am fond of him for that. My favorite song of his is "Crank Radio", but this is a pretty close second.

“Local Roses” by Dear Boy -- This one had to be last because I associate it more with a group of songs in 401 - 500. It was a song that I loved instantly, and still do.


Related posts:

https://sporkful.blogspot.com/2021/03/deconstructing-music-writing-mumford.html

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Saintly Anger

What I am going to write about today extends beyond my capacity. I want to mention it anyway, because I know there is more there.

It has been a week now since the exchange where the uninformed incoherent guy told me not to bother answering. It made me mad, and at the end of that I had overcome my fear of being annoying.

A little over two years ago, getting angry freed me from my belief that there was perpetually something fundamentally wrong with me. 

Those both go so far back; even when we take into consideration other experiences had and lessons learned along that way, it is miraculous that a brief flash of anger can be so illuminating, burning up an old poison.

That makes it sadder that anger is so frequently seen as something to push away and deny and choke down.

I understand the reasons. People can do great harm while angry. It doesn't necessarily facilitate logical thinking. 

It can also be tempting to use anger as a mask for grief or fear, but if avoiding those feelings is harmful, then surely avoiding anger can be harmful too. 

We need to listen to what our emotions are telling us. 

Anger is the voice that tells me "This is wrong." 

When I believe something false, seeped into me from before I can remember, anger shouting that this is wrong is liberating. 

If anger tells me something is wrong, but once facing that I see that it is not that important and I can let it go, that is also liberating.

Anger can also be a call to the work of liberation, something harder but necessary.

This is where I get beyond my scope.

I had been thinking about anger anyway. In December I read I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown. I highly recommend it anyway, for multiple reasons, but what she wrote about anger struck me. She wrote about fighting it at first, for reasons I relate to, but then realizing that it could be creative. 

We often conflate creativity with innovation, but building something is also creative, even if it follows a pattern, or has happened before.

Brown did not expound on that a lot, but she did mention learning from Audre Lorde's Sister Outsider, which I just finished on March 28th.  I knew at the time I that I was not done with it, so I have held on to the copy, re-reading passages. 

Lorde's specific essays on anger deal with racism, in different facets. 

I also just finished the September Vanity Fair with Breonna Taylor on the cover, and her inside, but much about George Floyd as well. 

Through sheer procrastination and too much to do, I read it at the time of the trial of his killer, and the death of Daunte Wright, and news about the police harassment of Caron Nazario (support our troops!), and all of this at a time when the police are under increased scrutiny, but still not even trying.

I think of the James Baldwin quote "To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time."

Then I think of that thing that I periodically read, where people react badly to unfairness, but if they feel like they can't change it they will react badly to their impotence, so try and justify the unfairness (e.g. they need to quit resisting arrest).

Let me go back a bit. An ignorant white man telling a woman that her disagreeing answer was not welcome is small, but it is a part of that same patriarchy that enfolds racism and misogyny and all other bigotries.

My raised poor but smart father, with some good intentions but a lot of selfishness and an unwillingness to ever take the blame -- from whom my insecurities sprung -- folds into patriarchy as well.

Resolving the inner vulnerabilities of one pretty self-aware (and awesome) woman is relatively easy, especially compared to solving systemic, structural racism. It will take a lot of anger. 

It will take feeling that anger, and not being consumed by it, and not given into despair followed by acceptance instead.

It has to be possible, and there is liberation on the other side, and it is euphoric.

Even for the white guys who fight it hardest, equality will be better. Inclusion, freedom, integration, acceptance, expansion... it will be better for everyone.

Individual healing will be happening all along the way.

Let's get moving.

Related posts:

https://sporkful.blogspot.com/2018/01/the-power-of-hate.html

https://sporkful.blogspot.com/2021/02/if-youre-angry-and-you-know-it.html

 

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.

Monday, April 05, 2021

31 and depressed again

My second depressive episode came about nine years after the first one. If I had to guess, I would also say it lasted about nine times longer. I did not do a good job of tracking the time periods for either of them; I was too busy wishing them gone.

The trigger was pretty clear, and embarrassing: a boy didn't like me. 

Of course it was more complicated than that.

Really, I was not that into Reed. I talked to him once because I ended up in a situation where I was worried about being rude if I did not make some conversation with him, but he was nice, and that was good to know. I still made a point of periodically going on dates with guys from church back then. 

(Specifying "guys from church" is important, but we are not getting into that today.)

The date went well, and then after the date went well, and I suddenly started to have hope that this could be the one. Usually the dates weren't that fun, or things were weird after, or we talked about his feelings for someone else and then he married her. I was always fine with midwifing that along, because I wasn't that invested in anyone; it's just what you were supposed to do. Honestly, even in my early 30s I was not feeling concerns about being an old maid or my biological clock. Maybe there was a part of me that knew.

Hope, though, positive feedback, was so rare, that it made everything different. That lesson learned at 14 -- that if a boy acts like he likes you, it's a joke -- maybe that wasn't true. 

Except he did not like me. It had been true. No one could love me.

Pandora's box was known for holding all of the world's troubles and evils, but it held hope too, and once they were let out, there was also the hope for overcoming them.

I had survived by shoving all of my pain and fear into a box. I was skilled at compartmentalization, and that is how I survived. I don't even know that I had stored my hope near my pain, but hope being dashed ripped the container apart, and I was never going to be able to put the lid back on the box.

Which, technically was not the best way to be. This was ultimately part of healing, but the path was at least eight months of crying. 

I was still remarkably functional. You can always blame red eyes on allergies. I am not positive whether anyone believed that excuse, but again, if you are getting your work done and paying bills, that takes a lot of pressure off. I was functional enough for that.

I was also miserable, and I did not want to live. I was not suicidal, but if something could have killed me... but first if I could have gotten some many saved up and be debt-free so everyone else would be okay... Depression did not kill my overinflated sense of responsibility, but it did use it as fuel.

One day I was walking to catch the bus. I had worked, then hopped a bus to the gym and worked out, and I was heading home. I was still so responsible and trying so hard, and still completely despondent.

I realized that if I had not gotten over it yet, I was not going to get over it on my own. That night I poured everything out in prayer. I did not feel anything then, but the next morning I realized that the pain was gone.

Back to that persistent question of whether I could have healed sooner; could I have prayed sooner?

Maybe some, but in retrospect, I had stored up years' worth (17, I assume) of procrastinated pain. I think I did need to go through a lot of tears before I was ready to even have the thought. 

If I needed to have that time of crying, did the prayer matter? I believe it did. I know how I felt, and that mattered.

Should I have started medication instead, earlier on? That is a trickier question, and I will probably spend more time on that with the third depressive spell. 

I had gotten some grief out. It possibly could have been more productive, maybe if I had been guiding it out instead of it flooding out on its own. It was not a perfect process.

There was one other important result: there was a part of me that now understood that my being unlovable was a lie.  Even though Jason, Matt, and Steve treated me like a joke, and garbage, and even though Reed had not loved me, somehow those things had nothing to do with my value or what I deserved or what was possible.

I say a part of me, because I still didn't understand how it worked. Clearly, no one had loved me, and I had lived long enough that someone should have by then, right? 

Knowing something intellectually is not the same as feeling it, or having habits that demonstrate it. Still, somehow, I now knew it was a lie, and I had not before.

And it is possible that a lie that I myself told had been an obstacle to healing.

Friday, April 02, 2021

Review Retrospective: Bands 201 - 300, 2015

One thing I noticed this time is that I had a lot more songs to listen to.

It is not necessarily that the bands got better -- though there were some pretty good ones -- but I had started making more of a point of naming specific songs in the reviews. If one song was more typical of the sound, or signified a switch, or had an unusually good intro... I mentioned that.

I think that is a reasonable thing to do for a review anyway, but I think part of what led me to do that was that when I was getting to each band's song of the day, it helped focus my picks. Now, returning to the review six years later, it still helps focus.

The really interesting thing with that, though, is that for most of the songs that I am using for this week, those tunes and lyrics have stayed in my brain anyway. Oddly, one of the songs would play in my mind periodically, and I would remember scenes from the video, but I couldn't remember the band name or the song name. Then, as I read the review, I knew when I saw it.

(You could argue that they didn't title well, but there are different philosophies about that.)

Last week's post mentioned a focus on Black musicians, primarily women but not exclusively. 

This was also a year when I leveled up on my reviews of Native American artists, which I am going to spend a little more time on next week. That was largely a matter of taking a reading month that I was already celebrating, and then finding musicians as well. If knowing about the history of different groups is important, it is also important to know where they are now. Representation matters.

It would be very easy to only review white men. Reviewing musicians who follow me on Twitter, that is mostly what I get. I love them, but I also know there is more to the world. Once you start looking, that becomes very clear, and that is a thing I feel good about.

I was writing about race a lot, but I also had Drum Week, and I started writing these lists of problems and things I needed to work on. Mom was getting worse, and I worried about money, but that was all going to get much worse in the next year. 

I only went to three concerts, including one I needed to leave early, but they were some pretty good shows.

Two other things stand out about the third hundred band reviews.

My standard practice was to tweet my reviews to the artists so they would know, but I had written one that I felt was negative. I found the music disappointing because it felt weakened by overproduction. That's not even a slam so much as a matter of taste, but I decided not to tweet the review at him. 

I never thought about how someone who follows me (which is why I did the review in the first place) might still see it, and also that some people search their names.

Anyway, he saw it, and then he thanked me for listening and writing about it. We engaged, and it ended up being a really good experience. It didn't have to be, but I appreciate that it was and I still have great affection for him.

The other thing that was really cool is that I realized I had gotten better at being able to recommend music. I had listened to enough different bands, noticing differences and similarities, that I could extrapolate more and be more helpful.

That I realized that because I was followed by someone I had heard of was just icing on the cake:

http://sporkful.blogspot.com/2015/12/three-hundred.html 

Songs for this week:

“Forget Me Not” by Words & Noises -- This is the one I couldn't place. Sometimes I am not even sure that the song is that good, but it sticks with me.

"Feel The Beat" by Third Place -- I have avoided this song because of the gratuitous profanity in the intro, but I do like the band, even though they were one of those bands of young men where it's like, just get over your dicks; we know you have them. They might have grown out of it by now.

“Glory” by John Legend, from Selma -- Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe Winner, and it deserved it.

“Ghost Town” by The Millenium -- I get mad at this video for making me so sad, but it works for the mood of the song.

“Springtime Out The Van Window” by Anthony Green -- This is really beautiful. I am in general more fond of Anthony Green than his music (a thing that happens), so I am glad he has this one that I can unreservedly love.

“For My Own” by New London Fire -- There will be at least three New London Fire songs used by the end of this retrospective, and I am fine with that.

“Baggage” by Derek Bishop -- Derek is the one who did not take offense to my saying his music was overproduced, and I will always respect him for that. This was my favorite of his songs before the interaction, and has stayed with me, but means more to me because of the interaction.

 

Thursday, April 01, 2021

A structure of healing

For all of the sadness that is coming up in future posts, it is going to be on the path of healing.

I want to pull one more thing each out of Chu and Herman.

Rebuilding Shattered Lives: The Responsible Treatment of Complex Post-traumautic Stress Disorders by James A. Chu, 1998.

Mind you, since this 23 years later, there could easily be better models, but Dr. Chu did put forth what he called the SAFER model in the book, elements that were helpful for progress.

  • development of Skills for Self-care and Symptom control
  • Acknowledgement (but not extensive exploration) of traumatic antecedents
  • Functioning
  • appropriate Expressions of affect
  • maintaining collaborative and supportive Relationships

Clearly it is a retronym, trying to force a word that makes sense, and not particularly memorably. It still contains helpful information. 

For many of the patients suffering from PTSD, they felt like they had no control. Finding ways that they could detect and mitigate symptoms would be a victory. Being able to know that their trauma was valid (and there) was necessary to sit with before diving into it. Knowing that pain and making it through routines anyway, being able to express feelings without losing control, building relationships that offered support -- especially in contrast to previous damaging relationships -- these were steps that could be managed. 

They prepared the ground for deeper work, and if they were not in place they were an indicator that bringing out more details (that extensive exploration) of the trauma was probably not a good idea.

This is the earliest use I have seen of "self-care" (without having researched). You may notice that in many ways these work as ways of the patients being kinder to themselves, which is often not the first instinct of someone with Complex PTSD.

Trauma and Recovery: The aftermath of violence – from domestic abuse to political terror, Judith Herman, 1992.

This quote from the beginning of Chapter 8 struck me:

“Recovery unfolds in three stages. The central task of the first stage is the establishment of safety. The central task of the second stage is remembrance and mourning. The central task of the third stage is reconnection with ordinary life.”

For the record, Dr. Chu referenced Dr. Herman frequently; it is not impossible that SAFER was a way of getting through that first stage.

It may seem like cruelty, but it is completely logical that you don't heal from a situation while you are still in it. There may be insights and tools acquired that will be helpful, but overall healing is impaired while the injuries are still being inflicted.

We may be more resistant to the logic of needing time to mourn. We have moved past the bad times, so it is only fair that now is the time to be happy. 

No matter how sad you might have felt during the trauma, it is unlikely that you were able to adequately grieve it, and that grieving is necessary. 

I do think part of that remembrance is also about gaining perspective. Denial can still be remarkably powerful, but once we are safe, denial should be one of the things that it is safe to let go of.

Obviously, there is some simplification there. 

I remember getting irritated as a youth when people would say that you can't love others until you love yourself. I was quite sure that I loved others; it was less certain that I loved myself. (And it kind of sounded like if I had a hard time loving myself it was one more thing to feel guilty about.)

In retrospect, I did have some love for myself, but when that increased I was able to love others better. 

Humans are better understood along spectra than binaries, it appears.

Maybe you are partially safe, but there is a danger you still tolerate, and maybe for very good reasons. Our lives are rarely that simple.

For me, I suspect that I have not mourned adequately. There have been hints all along, but lately there are frequent moments when there are tears just at the border, but they don't quite let loose.

There are tips on the internet for ways to lean into the crying, but that doesn't seem like the right answer at this time  They will come when the time is right. 

If I am lucky, the time might even be convenient, but I'm not counting on that one.