Monday, July 25, 2016

The consent conversation

When I was a student in prep school I was was a train wreck. Predictive text wants me to say that I was a train station, so yeah, maybe I was a train station with a bunch of wrecks in progress and more inevitable wrecks to come. I was too ignorant, too angry and in too much pain to let anyone help me. I had no coping skills. I had no confidantes. I had so much untreated trauma roiling inside my heart and brain that most people just wrote me off as a lost cause. The walls I erected around myself were impenetrable. I downed my sorrows in booze and sex most of the time, but on occasion I'd channel all that emotion into a school project or assignment. Then I would be unable to discuss my work or receive feedback without either getting defensive or shutting down. 

My female English instructors found me particularly frustrating. I had a goldmine of unresolved women's rights issues to pull from, but I couldn't stand in my own truth. I couldn't see myself as a person who deserved a voice. I didn't understand that, from a feminist perspective, I was the embodiment of what was wrong with society. I was a scared and helpless little girl in a woman's body, easily accessible and disposable. I didn't realize that I was a victim, STILL a victim. I was victimized at a very young age, and I was unable to mentally mature past that age. I was stuck. I believed everything that happened to me was either due to my poor judgement or because I wasn't good enough. Now that I am a mature woman, aware of my rights, honest with myself and receptive to love, I see it. I see why I made them so angry when I shrugged off their questions and refused to tap further into my feelings. It took forty years, but dammit I get it now.

I don't know what to do next. There's a lot of crying. Yeah, more crying. Great. It feels like somebody I love died.

There's a firestorm of sexual assault scandals brewing around my old school. They're gonna get crucified. And you know what? Fuck 'em. We all have to deal with the ugly consequences of questionable decisions we make. The school decided to protect students who victimized classmates. Now it can find out the cost of that decision. One of the minority faculty members is being unfairly ostracized for his involvement in one of the scandals because he was unable to provide effective counseling in a situation where the offense was in the process of being swept under the rug by the institution's leadership. Yes, that is the school's response to the scandal - fire the guy who was just trying to help the kids.

In this world a girl has to stand up for herself because the adults around her are too chicken shit to protect her. If that girl is like me, she'd rather just disappear. When you start fighting, you never stop until you're dead. I don't wanna spend the rest of my life fighting. Ugh. Maybe I'm deluding myself by thinking that I have a choice. Maybe that's what all this 
mother-loving crying is about.

Ugh. This shit again.

I saw a comment while scrolling the fb timeline that concerned me. It went something like, "Black people can say 'all lives matter'". The commenter isn't black. My gut reaction was, 'I love her. She totally gets it.' Then I was overcome with a very unpleasant feeling. We just created a new "nigga". Black people can say it, but white people can't unless they want to be considered racist. Damn. Another division. That is the opposite of what we're trying to do here, right? Or is it? What are WE trying to do? Who is "we"? I am trying to keep the family together. It pains me to see people so divided, especially when I so strongly believe that the only answer is unity.

I've said this a few times to people individually, but I haven't posted it because I don't want to make my page an open forum for this conversation yet. I have enough to worry about without adding this. I am barely managing what's already on my plate. Anyway, here it is. I did not take the Black Lives Matter pledge. 

Although I agree with the core values of the movement, I support many who are actively representing it and I even defend it when I see it being misrepresented, I will not join. Why not? Because there is too much fury in and around it for me. Extremists have practically assassinated its reputation, and it may never recover enough to be considered inclusive or nonviolent. I am not capable of processing that level of emotion without doing something really desperate and really really stupid. I am angry/upset/distressed/fed up. I understand the people out there setting shit on fire. I would probably be high for days on endorphins if I allowed myself to hit the street in a whirlwind of rioting rage, flames, breaking glass and primal screams. It would feel AWESOMMME and so satisfying in the moment. It would solve absolutely nothing. It would serve no one. It would make me "another one", another nameless, faceless, violent, angry black person. It would divide us further.

I don't need to constantly be reminded that we come in different colors. I don't need to be reminded that some people think they are better than me because they are not the same color as I am. I know that my ancestors were bought and sold as property. I don't need to be reminded of that either. The ones that need reminding are actually not affected the way one would hope - they're proud to be descendants of slave owners. They would like to return to those good ole days. None of this is new. None of these tactics are new. You wanna know how to change people's prejudices? Live. Be unapologetically yourself. Pursue your joy. Love yourself. Love them. Let them see your happiness. Let them share it. Let them love you. Work together. Play together. Build shit together. That is the only way.

I have shit to do. I can't risk getting arrested. I have this crochety old lady depending on me every day to keep her alive, and that is more urgent than Civil War Episode 53. I can jump back in for episode 55. It doesn't matter if I miss a few because every episode is the goddamn same. All these years have passed, and this ignorant racist shit is still an issue. Hold on, lemme check... Yup, still there!  Are you fucking serious? Go away. Get off my mom's lawn. And while you're at it, shut up. Shut up and go sit in the corner until you can act like you have some sense.

The world we live in today breeds extremism. The constant barrage of hate is too much. We fucked up. Full stop.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Still moonwalking

I'm back to baseball caps and sweats. I went to war with my emotions, and I used the chocolate chip cookie mug recipe I found on Pinterest as a weapon in several epic battles. My face suffered the most casualties. I decided to begin a sugar detox after developing a particularly menacing cystic pimple on my cheek. I tried to prick it with a hot needle today, and it turned out really ugly. I acted prematurely because the pain was nagging me, but I should've given it another day. The inflammation spread quickly, and I attempted to calm it with an aloe and lavender salve, but the damage was done. I had to pick up mom from dialysis, so I tried to reduce the swelling by applying an ice pack, but it had the opposite effect! It became sentient. So anyway, I have a conjoined twin on my face now. I'm calling her Frida.

My shoulder is worse now than when I originally injured it. I can't even let my arm hang at my side without pain, and I keep aggravating it every night since that is my preferred sleeping side. This morning I woke up with a headache from clenching my teeth every time I tried to roll over in my sleep. I usually fall asleep on my stomach, but that is also a painful position for the bum shoulder. I now have to sleep on my back. I hate it. I'm up late pretty much every night watching TV. I attempted to strap an ice pack to myself several times today, and I simply cannot secure the Ace bandage without painfully twisting the shoulder. It's frustrating.

Mom's having a hard week too. Her mood swings have been intense and unpredictable. I had to put her out of my bedroom a few days ago - after telling her that I am no longer participating in her manipulative conversation tactics. She looked offended, but I think she was mostly surprised. I've been calling her on her shit with the exactness of a scalpel lately. I'm not doing it to hurt her so much as I am protecting myself. I'm sick of always being the one to take the abuse, internalize the pain and cry it out. I think 42 years is more than enough of that. She still tries to ambush me with the blame assignment in the middle of a self-pity party, but I am getting good at shutting that shit down to silence. Today I put the Benadryl on top of the fridge after she asked me how many pills were in the bottle. I know that her suicide talk is another manipulation (because I have offered her the gun too many times to count and she won't take it because Catholicism), but I figured I should still be cautious just in case. I'm taking her in to see a doctor tomorrow. I think the inconsistency in her blood sugar levels and moods over the past few days are related. I think it's a UTI. Dialysis patients have a strict limit on how much liquid they can consume, and she hates drinking water. Hates it. She won't admit it, but I have been arguing with her about drinking more water for at least ten years. I wish she would've listened to me before her kidneys failed, back when she could've saved herself from all this misery. She used to complain so much about arthritis (refusing to drink water because she didn't want to walk to the bathroom so frequently), but I bet she'd give her right hand to go back to having only arthritis pain. Her health is so delicate now. I feel bad for her. Yes, I do feel bad for her, but she's still an emotional tyrant. I am developing the ability to see her as both fragile and cruel. I don't like that at all, but I'm certain it is helping me to overcome a bunch of my limiting beliefs around love and pain.

Last, but not least, the poverty sucks balls. I still don't have the money together to register my car. Several somethings will have to go unpaid (joining an already significant stack of unpaid bills) so I can legally stay on the road. Mom is still unable to demonstrate that she is capable of taking care of herself for more than a couple of hours. She cannot get a meal together, even when the food is already prepared and placed in easily-recognized containers. She acts like she doesn't want to eat when she's hungry - she just wants to whine about it until she is too sick or weak to do anything for herself. I'm not sure how I can go out and make money if I need to be here for every dang meal. Considering the gas mileage and maintenance costs for my vehicle, SF is the only place where I can drive Uber and potentially do better than just breaking even. Being poor is not cute. Having accounts in collections is not cute. They don't even bother calling me anymore. They can't threaten me with anything, not that they've actually tried - most of the creditors' reps are very empathetic about my family situation. My credit is already shot, and I can't work so there's no income for them to garnish. It's the American dream.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Open your eyes!

When I was 26 I made friends with some retired cops who worked security for the Sorenstein-Hayes theaters in SF. We'd joke around before my ushering shifts, and they bore witness to the greatest heartbreak of my life. Karl was my favorite. He had rosy cheeks, white hair and a white moustache. He gave me great advice. He taught me how to parallel park. One day, just before the end of the ten year run of Phantom of the Opera at the Curran, he gave me his business card. He was working in the DA's office in Oakland. He told me to be careful out here and call him if I ever found myself in any trouble. He said that I was a good kid, and he hoped that I'd one day go on to be successful at whatever I chose to pursue. I visited the theaters several times after securing gainful employment, but I never saw Karl again. I found his card in my files a few years ago. I knew that he couldn't possibly still be there because he was already an old man when I knew him. I wonder if he's still alive. I wish I had kept the card so I could look him up.

I know that there are more cops out there like Karl than there are bad ones. I wish they weren't all grouped together and demonized as monsters simply because of the career path they've chosen. I don't think that anyone becomes a police officer with the intention of abusing their authority. People are just unpredictable. Some of us end up being evil. If there wasn't such a terrible punishment for whistle-blowing within law enforcement agencies, the bad ones could be easily weeded out. People are not the enemy. Policy is.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Phew

I don't know what to do with myself. I think about the gambling and the designer party drug scene and all the money I spent. I mostly remember the dancing. It was always about the dancing. I didn't need drugs to dance if the music was good, but it was most often just tolerable and I needed to dance out all my frustrations. Hours would fly by and everything that worried me would evaporate away with my sweat. Over the years I watched some of my closest friends get lost in the drugs, but I mostly kept to the dancing. It's funny how I can take a break from something that seems impossible to resist. I've always wondered how I managed it. I even surprised myself when cocaine made a glamorous comeback. It's not that I didn't like it. I just had this terrible feeling that it was more than I could handle. I spent my entire life avoiding the law as much as possible, and cocaine, mushrooms, crystal meth, special k and a slew of others that I never had the courage to try all seemed like they were going to get me in serious trouble. I just wanted to have fun. In general, none of that shit is fun. It's just like alcohol - you can have a great time when you're tipsy and your inhibitions are lowered enough to silence self-conscious thoughts, but once you're drunk it all turns ugly. It's another delicate balance. I think that's also why I stopped smoking weed. I enjoy feeling relaxed and tipsy, but I hate being so intoxicated that I can't trust my own judgement or worse, that I am completely out of control. I hate waking up the next day regretting things I've said or done. I got enough of that when I was discovering the effects of alcohol in high school. Once you turn 18, consequences get all too real.

I wonder how I'm gonna find a good physical outlet without the money for parking, gas and club cover charges. Even if I could miraculously come up with all that, mediocre music would only frustrate me. In Phoenix I looked for studios where recreational dancers could go and get a good sweat, but I spent so many of my waking hours chasing money that there was nothing left for dancing. 

I have almost three hours of free time on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings that I use for errands. I contemplated going to the gym instead, but I haven't made it there yet. I'm not sure what I'll do there on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but Saturday mornings have a few promising class options. I just need a little bit of gas money, which shouldn't be difficult to squirrel away once I've taken care of my already overdue car registration. Yes, the gym will probably be my saving grace. Not only does it give me an important physical outlet, but it's also a potential hub for socializing. I need some of that back in my life too. I am so glad that I kept my yearly membership dues paid.

During the past week I managed to make myself presentable, no longer leaving the house in sweats and a baseball cap. I don't have anywhere to go, but I think it's helping all the same. I still have that little nagging feeling of wanting to start a fire (figuratively) or wander into a dark and seedy, back alley bar and get drunk with a stranger. That's probably what motivated me to cut my hair, shave and exfoliate. But I've somehow managed not to do anything stupid. I'm gonna call that a win.

Friday, July 15, 2016

A balancing act

I'm angry again. The numbness has worn off. I miss it. It's no wonder that I was such a stellar citizen when I had a drug habit. I needed that shady underbelly as an outlet.

I now understand why I'm so angry. It's empathy that pisses me off. I have ruined every aspect of my life in favor of trying to keep this family together because I love these fucked up dysfunctional people. I feel their pain. I give up everything to try and help them. I'm angry because they don't deserve any of it. They don't deserve my love or empathy or help. They blame me for things that were beyond my control. They blame each other. They are trapped in a cyclical abusive dance, and they push me to dance with them every day. I'm angry with them for not making an effort to change. I'm angry at the system that causes so many like us to repeat the same process. But mostly I'm angry at myself for sacrificing every opportunity I've had to break away from this family. I'm angry at my friends for telling me not to return here, even though they were right. 

I think a lot about the things that are missing from my life, basically everything. I've kept my nose so clean that I have no outlet for these emotions. Albeit delicate, I managed to strike a balance when my former employer rescued me from obscurity and gave me a purpose. It wasn't perfect, and I still had a hole to fill, but it was direction and focus and it kept me busy. There was a way to channel some of this energy into something productive instead of allowing it to fester in my brain the way it is now. Every day is the same exact battle, and I am so tired of fighting it, but I didn't leave myself an out. I burned every bridge to another option. If I can't save it, 'm going down with this ship.

So, I am angry. I am so angry that I could explode. I'm afraid to work on the book. Remembering the past just makes it worse. It makes me hate them. I know that hate is never the answer to anything, but I need to finish the book. I don't know if it will solve any of these problems, but maybe it will free me from this overwhelming guilt and obligation I feel towards these people. I am afraid to feel more anger. I don't know if I can be strong enough to keep myself from being overcome by hatred. It's not the book that scares me; It's me.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Comfort in dark places

I wrote about my first childhood memory. It's the first complete chapter I've ever written, the first time I felt like I didn't need to keep something open for editing. That was three weeks ago. I haven't been able to touch the computer since then. 

I thought I would be weepy, but the more I remembered the less I felt like crying. I just felt numb. I feel numb. Well, sort of. I mostly feel numb. The rest of the time I feel either anger or hopelessness. I fantasize about sitting in front of my family, pulling out my loaded gun (which is funny since I have never actually loaded it) and shooting myself in the face while they watch. That doesn't make me cry either. In fact, it fills me with a satisfaction that feels selfish and naughty like setting something on fire.