Category Archives: personal

In Memoriam…

Fifteen years ago… has it really been 15? The world lost a bright spirit, but I suspect he might linger and visit…

Danny Potter was a monumental person. I do not say that metaphorically. I mean it. He was, in his health, 6’4″ and weighed quite a few hundred pounds. The double-headed dragon torque that he always wore around his wrist was loose on my bicep, and I speculate I could have worn it as a collar torque. But the biggest part of Danny was the heart.

Danny never met a stranger. He was a beloved brother, uncle, son, and friend. He had an unmeasurable intellect that he fed on a constant diet of literature and history. However, he devoted his time and his care to work with those at the very opposite end of that spectrum at the Green Valley institute for intellectually disabled. And they loved him (and he them) as much as we all did.

Danny was a poet and a druidic scholar in the true sense of the word. He was the teller of stories and a great listener who absorbed information like a sponge. He remained always curious. He was a great lover of history, especially of the Appalachian and Northeast Tennessee area where he lived and grew. He was a proud member of Clan Colquhoun (no, it’s not pronounced precisely as it looks… it’s Cul-hoon). He celebrated his Scottish heritage and founded a Celtic Festival that ran for many years with displays, music, and historical reenactment. Danny did much (if not all) of the work himself, signing on vendors, displays, and musical acts. (After his passing, it took a committee to do what he did single-handedly for so long).

Danny’s house was quite literally filled with books. They filled the den from floor to ceiling all around the room. Many evenings, I sat on couch or floor (depending on the number of us visiting) talking about topics that could range from archeology to zoology and all points in between, but mostly… tales of the mystical and fantastic and stories of the hills. Danny loved this season. He saw Samhain in the old Celtic sense of a new year and a thin veil and a time of marvelous opportunity.

Danny had a way of pulling people together. He could find something beautiful or valuable in every soul he touched. Recently his nephew and I were talking about how Danny’s web continues, even 15 years later, to draw us together and remind us of the connections we share. It seems that he will always been nudging me in the shoulder to keep that web spinning and shining.

He was gone too soon. At only 50 years, the world lost his physical presence. However, Danny never expected us to grieve him. He expected us to celebrate. In 2003, Danny left this plane, the time as close to midnight October 31-November 1 as could be determined. At his memorial service, his wishes were read.  He told all of us not to grieve the body that he was ready to leave and had served it’s purpose. He reminded us that he might visit from time to time, and he asked that at this time of year, we  put out two fingers of Scotch as a rememberance…. “Remember, I have very large fingers.”

And thus, my post, these 15 years later… Every year, my husband and I place two fingers of Scotch out on the back porch before midnight on Halloween… for Danny… It is always gone in the morning.

I will always miss my friend, but I like to think that I do my best to live as he would have wanted me to do, making connections, seeing beauty in each day and each soul that enters that web that Danny continues to spin for me. I see him in the people who loved and continue to love him. I hear him remind me to look around me for that which is good and true, and to always stay curious…

In memory of Danny Potter, 1953-2003.

Fearful…

a beautiful vintage mirror in a dark room

A shadowy glimpse from the corner of my eye

In every reflection I pass by

I feel you lurking, following me

But there is nothing when I turn to see

Present in the dark of night

You disappear with any light

I know that you are always there

That shadowed visage, I feel your stare

I spied you just at my shoulder…

I fear you growing bolder

Behind me I beg you to stay

What are you doing when I look away?

I fear one day you’ll break free

Ignoring any sensible plea

Embracing malice with unholy glee

The monster just there, inside of me…

Raindrops on cos-props, and whiskers on furries…

In the expected post-DragonCon doldrums, I am experiencing all the usual bouts of irritability, sadness, disappointment, and sticker-shock. It’s pretty much the same thing every year. I get back to the reality of people being annoyed at their jobs, annoyed with traffic, beaten-down by adulting… what? adulting is hard people!

So, paying bills post-Con is always a sobering activity (and after Con, most people need sobering). Sitting down with a budget and realizing that you may be eating a lot of beans and rice through the end of the year… Wondering if a third job might be in order… Noticing that you might have forgotten to actually mail the RSVP for niece’s wedding that was due to be mailed four days ago… what else have I forgotten in the lost space and time of DragonCon?!?

As you might imagine, it’s a tad depressing. On top of which is the overbranching theme of “You have gotten a bit old for all of this…” And that, my friends, may be the saddest and most depressing part of the post-Con funk (as opposed to  active-Con-Funk which is actually a scent that is indescribable and very recognizable… and traumatizing). It is the idea that time has passed and fandoms have changed. I saw fewer and fewer of the costumes that spoke to my heart of my favorite shows remembered. Star Wars has regained some prominence with the new movies (of which I have seen a sum total of one, and that may be all I have stomach for at this point). Star Trek has new shows which CBS is hoarding with their paid streaming contracts that prevent the viewership at large from watching en masse. Trekkies tend to be a constant population and die hard, so at least they are still representing even in this modern day.

The truth is that I felt a bit out of my element this year, like maybe these weren’t “my people” anymore. I wasn’t recognizing some of the cosplay (though still fully appreciating the beauty, creativity, and effort by so many that I saw). There were fun times, don’t get me wrong, but it just felt different than it had in years past. I still love the amazing energy that is the experience of DragonCon, but I’m starting to wonder if I’ve become more of an outsider and observer than a member of the tribe. It’s ok, I think. I’ve changed, and so has Con. And that is probably as it should be. However, I’m left, as so many are post-Con with that feeling of being bereft after so much excitement and milling throngs of people. The sights and the sounds that are part of the convention are replaced with conference calls and reports.

So, before I just completely let myself wallow in misery, I happened to catch an article on Greatist.com about how to get out of a funk. I figured, what the heck? It can’t hurt…

Turns out, it actually is a pretty good little exercise. Some may find it cheesy, but if you actually use it and approach with sincerity, it seems to work. It is a series of 5 questions and 5 “finish this sentence” that involves actually looking for positives in your life. Even in the worst circumstances, we can all find at least one thing that doesn’t completely suck. I do this with patients who struggle with depression and anxiety as well. It can be difficult to find the light when it is overshadowed with bad experiences, disappointments, or clinical depression, but for your average everyday funk mood, it can raise that bar just enough to pull you out of a complete tailspin.

Ask yourself these questions:
1. What’s the best thing that’s happened to me so far today, and what did I most appreciate about it?
2. Which household items do I most appreciate and why?
3. What do I most appreciate about my body and why?
4. What are some things that recently went right or better than expected?

Finish these sentences:
5. I’m grateful that I’m healthy enough to…
6. Though I may not be rich, I’m thankful I have enough money to…
7. I appreciate that every day I get to…
8. The best things in life are free, including…
9. I appreciate that tomorrow I’ll get to…
10. I appreciate that I had the courage to…

So… give it a try. Be honest. A lot of people might immediately go into a negative headspace and answer the questions with the idea that there is nothing good in their life. I challenge you to find even the smallest thing as a potential positive. It might get easier as you move through the list. It might even help you see other positives that you hadn’t seen previously. Hang in there folks.

With gratitude to Susie Moore (life coach for Greatest.com) and Lori Deschene author of Tiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal: Questions, Prompts, and Coloring Pages for a Brighter, Happier Life

 

Her name is Esmerelda…

She sits rather alone and neglected in the corner of the room. It is a place of honor, but the look of her sitting there sedately gives me a pang of guilt. There she is, untouched and lonely… patiently waiting. She has a warmth in her appearance. Golden, like aged honey. Her curves are broad and rounded. Her neck stretches from her body, wider than most. Her voice has gone silent, but when she sang, her tone was soft and mellow, matching her appearance…

Esmerelda is a guitar. She’s a very special guitar. She belonged to my father, a Christmas present almost 50 years ago. At the time she was purchased at the post exchange, she might have cost $15, but even that required my mother to save for months out of household expenses to obtain her. At that time, she was nameless. Her body and strings were new, her personality was yet to be formed, and her name was awaiting a girl to hear it and know it was meant for her…

Over the years, Esmerelda was forgotten in a storage closet as work and family presented demands on time that never allowed my dad to really give attention to her. The Spanish classical, dreadnought body was too large for my small stature back then (I could barely hold her and reach the strings properly), but I always tried and begged to hold her. Once we moved overseas, she was put into long term storage where she remained until my parents retired back to the United States. The intervening years and situations faded her memory, and she was gone. When storage containers were opened, Esmerelda was but one of the myriad of items and memories that emerged. She had suffered from the long years of neglect. Her bridge had disconnected. Strings were hanging loose. The veneer of her fret board appeared loose in places, and the statement was made, “It probably isn’t worth putting in the money to repair it…” but the sight of her had reminded me, and I persisted. I took her gently and begged to be able to nurse her back to health. Perhaps it was then that she whispered to me her name.

One of the local music shops surprised me by being delighted to work with her and get her back in shape. (Turns out it was a good deal less to repair than to try to replace her with a comparable contemporary model, “They do not make them like this anymore…”). Returned to me with new bridge and strings, I set myself the task of trying to recall fingering and strumming and learning to make her sing again… Her voice sounded smoothly through the house, balm to emotions, though fingers were blistered and peeling, not used to the abuse.

Regularly, we would give her opportunity to shine alone or with mandolin and banjo. My father would sit and listen, eyes closed and foot tapping to Salty Dog or Black Velvet Band…

Many hands have held Esmerelda, but since the death of my father, I’ve found it difficult to apply my hands to the strings. I miss her voice… as I miss my dad’s. Much as my father before, I find myself struggling as work and time have been useful excuses to avoid facing Esmerelda’s recrimination for leaving her alone… even in her place of honor. Perhaps… it is her voice whispering to me… “Please come to me. Let me sing again…” Or perhaps it is my dad reminding me today not to miss opportunities merely due to convenient excuses…

May the 4th be with you… Happy Birthday Dad. I miss you.

Time – an ever changing… constant?

With the notable exception of theoretical physics experts and those who have been experimenting with quantum entanglements and the study of anomalous events in the universe, such as black holes, most people believe that time is a constant. It is a fixed measurement that progresses as predictable rate and to which we must all heed and adhere.

The perception of time is a completely different matter. Despite the very impersonal sense of time as a variable, we think of it differently than perhaps mass or volume. We talk about time like a living, breathing thing that can ravage or crawl. It can change course and speed. Perhaps it is due to this almost sentient and entity-like aspect, time becomes more malleable and something of science fiction. Because with human perception you add the of the human experience with hopes, expectations, and apprehensions, time can speed or slow sometimes even within the span of one day. Most of us can remember adults and elders in our youth talking about how time seems to fly by while we weary travelers as children had to clock the seconds and hours slowly awaiting holiday, recess, or any other anxiously awaited event. It is that variability and fluidity that might even lead one to suspect that time might be manipulated.

Even as adults, most of us still experience that lack of consistency when the clock seems to race out of control when a project deadline approaches or might slow to a crawl when we’re stuck in a meeting. For each of us who have scheduled time off or vacation, we’ve felt how the hours might drag until that 5 o’clock whistle after a very long and exhausting week, but the hours of the weekend or planned time away race by, and we find ourselves all too quickly back at the beginning of that first day of the work week with a long stretch of days and hours before us. For parents, you have probably experienced both the over zealous passage of time when you blink and the children you love appear before you as adults, but perhaps you also remember when you wondered if the time would ever come that you weren’t cleaning up apocalyptic messes and strange scientific experiments found under beds or were able to downsize to a shoulder bag that wasn’t roughly the equivalent of a suitcase because it was impossible to go out unprepared for every eventuality of parenting woe.

One of the most difficult time anomalies is grief. For those who have suffered loss, the time seems to stand still. It can feel as if the world stopped turning just for you and will never regain a normal rate, but the passage of time for everyone else continued a pace without notice. However, you find eventually that years have passed. You wonder how you missed the time going by and moving forward. You ask, how did that happen? Or can it really have been a decade? And, yet, sometimes the grief stabs with surprising intensity at unexpected moments, still fresh and clear and painful, almost as if no time has passed at all. While time does pass, and the pain eventually dulls, it can sometimes bridge the gaps to present images and emotions as clear as the day they originally formed with no fading. That is, again, the difference between the constant and the human perception. We call it memory, and even when painful, it can often be precious.

One of my favorite depictions of that strange difference between the constant of time and the human perception was penned by Shakespeare. And so… I will let the Bard take the stage to describe:

ROSALIND:  By no means, sir. Time travels in diverse paces with diverse persons. I’ll tell you who time ambles withal, who time trots withal, who time gallops withal, and who he stands still withal.

ORLANDO:  I prithee, who doth he trot withal?

ROSALIND:  Marry, he trots hard with a young maid between the contract of her marriage and the day it is solemnized. If the interim be but a se’nnight, time’s pace is so hard that it seems the length of seven year.

ORLANDO:  Who ambles time withal?

ROSALIND:  With a priest that lacks Latin and a rich man that hath not the gout, for the one sleeps easily because he cannot study and the other lives merrily because he feels no pain—the one lacking the burden of lean and wasteful learning, the other knowing no burden of heavy tedious penury. These time ambles withal.

ORLANDO:  Who doth he gallop withal?

ROSALIND:  With a thief to the gallows, for though he go as softly as foot can fall, he thinks himself too soon there.

ORLANDO:  Who stays it still withal?

ROSALIND:  For lawyers on vacation, because they sleep their holidays away, with no sense of how time moves.

Thus, until the next… may time treat you well.

Boundaries… I haz them

…as should we all. Boundaries are healthy. Boundaries keep us balanced. Boundaries let us be individuals. I’m not sure when it actually happened. It seems that little by little as time has passed, people have given up their privacy in the name of freedom… and waltzed way past boundaries in the name of false entitlement… ok, maybe a little license there, but this is a bit of a rant.

I’m not knocking freedom or liberation. I firmly believe in the right of free speech and thought. However, privacy and boundaries are something that has become more and more fluid with the popularity of social media and the revelations about technology and the ability of agencies and individuals to not only observe the intimate details of life but possibly even steal a few of them. Even in the midst of outcries for breaches of privacy and accusations of even the government overstepping some boundaries of what they should and should not have access to for private citizens, people still willingly share private information via social media with friends, acquaintances, colleagues, followers… the world (for those who like to go public on their profiles). Boundaries between what is personal or private versus what is suitable for others to know and consume have blurred to the point of near invisibility for some. I do not necessarily say it is a bad thing to be open and trusting, but I personally have reservations with airing all the aspects of ones life with the public at large. I also believe that while you are free to express yourself, you are also free to experience consequences that accompany that expression, positive or negative. Just keep that bit in mind.

In truth, people do not need (and should not have) access to your intimate life constantly. Everyone should have some sort of sanctum sanctorum, fortress of solitude… batcave? Ok, so overly dramatic, but still there should be some place, even non-physical to which an individual can retreat and be private. Even family and partners need some way to have their own space, sometimes if it is merely in the privacy of their own thoughts. It is exhausting and can be somewhat unhealthy to be constantly exposed, even if to a limited audience. What has become disturbing about the open-book philosophy and current trends of oversharing is that certain entities gain a false sense of entitlement to lives that are not their own. What do I mean by that? Well, it has become almost common place for friends, family, employers, coworkers, and employees to feel they are entitled to know the details of the lives of anyone and everyone no matter their relationship to the individual in question. They want to know about your interests, your family, your stresses, your struggles, and of course your failures. They want all the minute, intimate details, and those who choose not to display personal items or pictures of loved ones or don’t feel as free sharing private scenarios or feelings are sometimes perceived and labeled as negative, stand-offish, cold, angry, or not participating in the culture of the group. In the workplace, individuals who keep to themselves and choose not to share details of their time away from the office or office hours engender suspicion and occasionally criticism.

In the non-work relationships, the phenomenon can be observed in slightly different ways. Terms like “vague-booking” have arisen to describe social media posts that are cryptic, dramatic, and lack the excessive detail to explain the personal matters that have become expected. Friends and family sometimes become offended or feel injured if they find that events have transpired without their knowledge. Nothing, it seems, is sacred.

But some things should be. Boundaries are good. They need not be seen as divisive, because separations of individuality can be a remarkably positive thing. It prevents emmeshment. Division does not have to mean antagonism. Difference doesn’t necessarily presuppose disagreement. I read recently that empathic people (no, I do not mean Counselor Troy from STNG) have a difficult time with boundaries. They feel what other people feel, and they have an uncanny ability to draw complete strangers into telling their life stories. It is a gift, but it can also be amazingly taxing emotionally and psychologically. It can also be invasive, intrusive, and unpleasant for others who may not feel comfortable with that level of interaction. Yet another reason boundaries can be a very good thing. Just because you can pick up on the emotional tenor of others doesn’t mean they want you to share it or even ask them about it.

So, sometimes the message to the world at large needs to be, “No, you do not get to rent space in my head.” The space and time of my life to which you have access is of my choosing. None of us need permission to step away and recover. We have a right to be able to do just that. Additionally, the details of your private life and mine (and they harm none) are the property of no one else.

I can set my boundaries. It may have taken me an undisclosed number of years to learn the trick of it, and I’m still working on my skills in this area. We all need to realize that we don’t have to give anyone or everyone access to our inner most thoughts and feelings, and it should always be our choice. Choose your boundaries and set them knowingly, recognize those of others, and perhaps we can all be a bit healthier in our interpersonal interactions.

Physical Fit: Of inertia, momentum, set backs, and comebacks?

Break it down for me…

Warning: This post gets serious. Just letting you know. It isn’t my usual level of humor or even snark. I am letting you know up front, but I’m keeping it real with you all and hopefully it will help someone.

I file this post under the physical fit I pitched a while back, but to be completely honest, it actually applies to everything I do. I have described myself on occasion as the all-time-champion-queen-of-the-list-makers. This pertains primarily to my habit of breaking down my days, weeks, tasks, and projects into lists of smaller pieces that I quite literally cross out or check off as I go. Why? Well, for one, my memory isn’t quite what it used to be (it happens to most of us eventually). While I can remember in the most minute detail conversations and embarrassments and general unpleasant occurrences from days gone by, if I don’t write it down, I will sometimes forgets pants… ok, slight exaggeration, but I do find that writing things down keeps me from forgetting various important tasks that I need to get done. Secondly, sometimes the impact of the things we face each day can be so overwhelming, it just seems easier to turn away and give up. If that overwhelming mountain is broken up into steps… well, more on that later.

So, why under physical fit again? Well, because a very recent conversation with a person very dear to me made me remember that we all need to feel a sense of accomplishment, and sometimes those accomplishments can be relatively modest. Additionally, we all need support, and it helps to know we aren’t alone.

Last month I hit a wall. It was a big one. Construction on said wall started early in 2017 and continued throughout the year in fits and starts. A series of unfortunate events comprised of personal injuries, financial traumas, betrayals by family and friends, injustices, general cruelty and meanness by various in society, and grief seemed to participate in a competition for what could leave the biggest dent. Mostly we just keep rolling with punches and remember that there are so many people in the world fighting bigger battles and facing worse hardships. But starting in about August the construction plan on that wall of mine must have gone into overdrive. In a horrific cascade, I found myself facing the loss of seven close friends or relatives from August through the end of the year. Some were after long struggles with illness, but others were completely unexpected and devastating in their impact.

Around about mid-December, I gave up. Seriously, that is about the only way I can describe it. I woke up and just didn’t have it in me to try any more. I picked up the bloody white towel (totally metaphorical) and hurled it into the center of the ring. I was done. I didn’t care about progress or gains or losses or getting better or worse or living or dying anymore. I quit working out. I quit minding my diet (not just the caloric intake but actual allergens… more on that later). I just couldn’t see the point.

Just to be clear, if I had not had patients, clients, etc. to see, I would not have left my house and probably would not have bathed or changed clothing… Sound familiar? If you or anyone you know has depression, it should. In speaking with the person I mentioned earlier in this post (and I hope he’s ok with me sharing even if I don’t include his name), I found just as I had heard from patients and colleagues and other friends around that same time that so many of us were hit particularly hard in 2017 and particularly in the latter half of the of the year (and continued during the first of 2018). He mentioned suicidal thoughts at certain points and feeling so low that death seemed a better option. Several other people have shared the same… including me. What we were all experiencing was pain, individualized and excruciating. Depression can be debilitating, and it can be worsened by seasonal impact of light (or lack thereof). The stigma attached often prevents those suffering from trying to get help or even support.

For the most part, all of those who shared with me their dark times and dark thoughts have made it through to this point. While not all are out of the woods, they are still fighting back, and now knowing they aren’t necessarily alone.

I still didn’t get to that physical fit part, did I? So, one of the things that exacerbated my own plummet into the pit was that I gave up one of the things that actually helped… my workouts and exercise in general. Not to mention, those allergens… told you I would come back to it. In that headlong rush into self-destruction I ate all the things. Mostly all the things that my body has already indicated it doesn’t really get along with so much. I ended up with a mouth full of sores and blisters and… you all don’t want to know the rest. So, on top of the existential pain, I had the rather debilitating physical pain that at one point did not allow me to consume much more than water. Some choices carry their own punishments, and my body decidedly wanted me to remember why I don’t eat all the things.

After a month away, I dragged myself back to the gym. It wasn’t easy. It certainly wasn’t pleasant, and I definitely had to make myself step through the door. It was almost like starting over that very first day I had the fit. It felt as if I had lost every inch of ground I had covered in that time. I felt like a failure… and I nearly ran back to my car and retreated back to my dark pit.

But I didn’t. It was embarrassing to have to start over, but I recognized that I probably needed to take it slow. So, I did. I broke it into pieces. It wasn’t about an hour or even 40 minutes. I broke it down to quite literally 5 minute increments. I can put up with anything for 5 minutes, right? And that is how I got through it. That is how I got through that first day back at the gym, and the second. We can all face the difficult for 5 minutes, can’t we? For any insurmountable, horrible obstacle that life throws… break it down. And talk to someone. Reach out to the people around you. They may be struggling, too. We can get through this, even if it is a piece at a time.

The time change brought all the boys to my yard…

And the girls… and maybe not so much my yard. Rather more like MY GYM. A week or two ago, I walked into my local repository of all things fitness, and I honestly thought I had hit a strange time vortex that transported me straight into gym-tending season. Arriving at my usual uncaffeinated and pre-dawn hour, I saw… people. Lots of them. Normally, I go to the gym at this particularly uncivil time of day not only to just have a chance of shoehorning a workout into my schedule, but also because it is the least populated time for the gym… or possibly the least populated hour during which I am vaguely conscious.

But yes… all the people were there. Not only were they there, they were milling about and generally congregating in ways that made me quite uncomfortable. Normally in the wee hours of a weekday, I’ve got the place practically to myself with perhaps one or two other regulars. We all go about our programmed routines studiously avoiding eye contact and personal interaction. On the rare occasions that we accidently make eye contact or reach for the same dumb bell, there is a curt bro-nod and polite shift while we accommodate the other and move on. Instead of my usual tribe, I beheld a gaggle of strangers. They were impeding routes and interrupting sets and sitting on the benches… Yes, sitting.

Every Smith machine and bench press was occupied by tank top clad, confused-looking individuals who were… not actually moving barbell or dumb bell… no. They were staring at their phones. The four or possibly five of us that normally wander freely among the free weights stood in paralyzed perplexity as we tried to squeeze our way into at least completing our training without unintentionally touching the crowding masses around us.

Had I gotten lost? Had I lost time… like months of it? What happened to my normally zen-like peaceful place of fitness?

Oh wait… then it dawned on me. The anachronistic practice of altering time-keeping pieces to somehow fool people into thinking that the days aren’t getting shorter had occurred. Yes, my friends, Daylight Savings, or rather the return to Standard Time, had struck again.

The practice of this clockwork tango was originally proposed back in the late 1800’s and first implemented (believe it or not) in the German Empire and Austria-Hungary back around the first World War. The United States followed along not long after, and the whole time marching on… and back… and on again has been confusing us ever since. Some countries don’t even do the whole springing forward and falling back routine anymore. Thank goodness for that little mnemonic, am I right?

Anyhow, aside from totally messing with the circadian rhythm of the demonic feline who lives with me, the putting forward or back of the clock numbers doesn’t really impact my life all that much (unless I forget to do it). However, this year it did have the added “entertainment” value of increased population at the gym that I finally realized was very likely due to a few people perhaps forgetting to set their clocks back. Well… good for them. I hope they enjoyed their day of being ahead of the game at least for that one time. Now that we’ve eased back into that Standard time… I have my bench press to myself again. Thank goodness!

And now You’re back…

Well… I’m back. Not so much from outer space, but more like from a chasm of complete disarray that has held me prisoner for most of this year. While I think a good many of us started out 2017 with some trepidation, I actually felt on pretty good footing in a personal sense. I saw some light in the financial tunnel that did not appear to be an oncoming train for once. My professional life was doing not badly. I had physical fitness and health well in hand… and… I should have known better.

Along about mid-year, the universe decided to test the aggregate limits of my mental fortitude by throwing every aspect of my life into a wood chipper. I can’t decide if it was strength test or more of an agility thing as I kept bobbing and weaving to dodge those “slings and arrows” that I’ve talked about before (my apologies to the Bard).

Every time I thought that I could quit paddling so hard and relax for a minute, something else would hit and off we’d go spinning towards the rocks. Grief is a helluva thing, y’all. So, I paddled faster and harder just to keep myself and those I love above water as best I could.

The upshot? Well, every time I thought I was inspired to come back to my faithful and loyal audience, all I could think is “What a load of depressing crap this is…?” and I didn’t feel like putting that off on any of you. But now that the year is starting to spin down, I’ve seen several of my friends and colleagues participating in NaNoWriMo. No, I’m not going to be enthralling any of you with fictional prose, because the truth is that I have no gift for that. There are way too many others of my acquaintance who are better suited. So, I will let them entertain all of us with their offerings… they are quite good, I’m telling you.

I will celebrate the month by trying to open up a bit more to you, my few readers. See if I can dust the rust off and come up with something that doesn’t read like a typed version of Droopy Dog or Eeyore on a Quaalude. Who knows? This might be just the treatment the doctor (and by doctor, I do mean me. Ha!) ordered. I didn’t lay down and die (no matter how much I might have felt like it at times). So… for now, I will survive.

 

Rant: “Don’t tell me I’m pretty…” Huh?!?

And just like that, a multitude of responses just popped into the mind of anyone reading that simple statement.

She’s fishing for compliments.

That’s some really low self-esteem.

You are beautiful. Everyone has beauty inside them.

Why should you wish to conform to the unrealistic expectations of society…?

Why not smart or strong…?

I’m probably going to get my feminist card revoked and someone will kick me out of the club, but I have a serious beef with some of the prevailing attitudes of media, bloggers, and spewers of what I might call the social-justice-warrior-theme.

Recently, I read an article that said (and I paraphrase) even the positive messages given to women are actually negative. This incredibly oxymoronic (with emphasis on the moron) and confusing diatribe proclaimed that our new body positive mantras proclaimed far and wide were detrimental to women because while appearing to be empowering statements are undermined by subtle phrasing that “privileges male pleasure above all else.” What?!? So… no matter what you say to compliment, empower, or just give someone a compliment (well, a female someone, that is) is merely supporting the patriarchal overlords and stamping upon the spirits of the sisters… oh, my stars, really?!? While I’m thinking about it, just because you want to be perceived as attractive, why assume that it is the opposite gender that someone is trying to impress. Does a preference for same gender somehow make one immune to the desire to be attractive to them? I don’t think so. But I digress. Most of us enjoy hearing “You look awesome” or “That is especially ravishing” or even “Dang, you look hot!” We like it. We get a little zing in our swing. And apparently… that’s not ok?

From this particular perspective comes the inability to appreciate appreciation… Yes, I said that. I’ve never quite understood why some people bristle when given compliments (or having doors held or chairs for that matter). I mean, I completely understand how it might get a little tiring and frustrating to never be appreciated for your intellect or talent as a female (which begs the question, do men get tired of being praised for the masculine non-physical traits instead of physical attributes?). However, just because someone tells you that you look amazing in your outfit doesn’t mean they think your appearance is all you have to offer. Well… I mean, some people are just objectifying jerks, but they are likely to treat everyone that way. They very likely see everyone on the planet as objects with which they interact. It’s called narcissism. That doesn’t mean that all compliments from all people are bad, demeaning, or undermining the empowerment of your individuality and self-confidence.

And what, pray tell, is so wrong with wanting to be found attractive?!? The overall tone of the piece I read (mentioned above) was that somehow, in some way, I was flawed for wanting to be perceived as attractive or sexy. Um… hate to tell the author, but this is one of those evolutionary drives that is programmed into our DNA. Being desirable from the perspective of Og and Uma (those two get a ton of mileage in my blogs these days) meant that they had resources… they possibly got to replicate their genetics via procreation. Og didn’t get bent and say to Uma “but you don’t appreciate the way I knap the flint…” and Uma didn’t get upset because Og wasn’t appreciative of her ability to count the days in a moon cycle. So, we evolved to get the warm fuzzies and tinglies when someone thinks we are pretty or sexy. That is part of our genetic make up. It’s ok, really it is. It is nice to be told that someone finds us attractive. Or at least I thought it was until the media and various opinionated social bloggers and whoever else told me that it wasn’t ok for me to like that.

I think I get where they are coming from, and I believe it has good intentions. The desire to feel attractive is very different from the overwhelming pressure to adhere to a particular image. Being objectified by appearance rather than appreciated as an individual; that, my friends can get super unhealthy… But boy howdy does the message miss the mark somewhere. Where did it go so very wrong? I dislike these hopped up pseudo-psychologists who think it is somehow very wrong to like being perceived as pretty, sexy, or attractive.

So, where was it supposed to go? I’m just guessing, but I believe that the idea is that we can be self-empowering and feel good without any external judgment. That’s pretty awesome. What isn’t so awesome is that people got the idea that in order to have this internal sense of positive well-being we can’t appreciate the appreciation of others. And that just sucks and is a horrible way to live in a social interactive environment. If you are trapped in isolation having no other humans with which to interact, groovy. Telling yourself that you are good enough and smart enough is what you need, but there is still the “gosh darn it people like me” part that speaks to a social component. As humans we are programmed to get good vibes from being liked and appreciated by others.

Now, the pervading and sometimes overwhelming sense that I get from media and various and very vocal groups is that women are more susceptible than men to this whole objectification and self-image issues. That… is a crock. I have many male friends who are as much or much more body conscious than I am. The idea that societal expectations of physical beauty are only a detriment to those of us with lady parts is a fallacy.

My friend to whom I vented a large blast of frustration and ire on this topic this morning took it to an equality place. He remarked that many of the “third wave” feminists label compliments as objectifying in attempt achieving equality by oppressing the oppressors… or something along those lines. In other words, at some point, being equal was not so much about actual equality but in being superior. And that brings up another problem I have. I am not equal. Chances are, I never will be equal… to anyone. I am unique. I do not have the same talents or abilities of my friends. I lack the knowledge and experience of my elders. It has nothing to do with my gender but my self. I am different but no less valuable, and that is awesome. I am neither superior or inferior due to my genetics and biology. I strive every day to be the best I can for myself and for those I love.

So, does that mean that I’m undermining myself because part of my desire to accomplish is for others? If I buy into the claptrap of the article that set me off on this rant, the answer would be “yes.” By their standard, I should only work towards betterment for myself and my own satisfaction. Maybe that is true, but in doing for those I love, I am also serving myself. So, because I feel good about making people I care about feel good, does that make it bad? Ok… off on the spiral I go, bringing up the concept of altruism and the selfish gene theory and all that jazz. Trust me, we don’t have time for that here.

Back to the original issue. I’m tired of people telling me and everyone else that wanting to feel attractive or working towards a goal to please someone else is wrong and unhealthy. It’s not. It’s natural. Being owned or dominated by the perception of others is a different matter. We should all be free to be who we are and feel good about those things that make us feel confident, healthy… and yes, sexy. So, if someone tells you that you look good… it’s actually pretty awesome to say “Thanks” and believe it.