Motorcycles, Politics, Camping, Sex, Compassion, and Bees

Part One: Bees

Some days we never want to end, others cannot expire soon enough. This past weekend held a little of both, though the good certainly outweighed the bad and the ugly.

As one might surmise from the title, this is going to be a long one, folks, and we’re going to cover a lot of ground (badly, and without much in the way of Organization, might I add.)

Let’s start with the bees, because they’re important, they’re dying all around us, and three of them had important cameos this week. Wait, lies – Let’s start with this weekend’s plans, because they factor into everything.

On Tuesday, I decided to tag along on a group motorcycle camping trip to the Salton Sea from Friday through Sunday. I’d not done motorcycle camping since 1996, and what better way to get back into the swing of things than with a gaggle of other like-minded folks?

Ok, now the bees.

That morning, I had found a very sickly looking bee on my patio furniture. I see dozens of dead bees around my apartment complex, which is always a sad thing. I have to assume there is some kind of pesticide they’re using which is killing them off in tragic droves, one by one, dozen by dozen.  I find them lying on the sidewalk every day. I don’t know what sort of bees they are, or whether they are solitary, but I do know we need every last one of them that’s left on this Earth.

“To understand many things you must reach out of your own condition.”
~Mary Oliver

Thus, when I saw the wee girl on my chaise lounge, I didn’t have much hope of her being alive. I gently blew across her wings, and she reared up into a groggy but distinctly defensive position: Middle legs and stinger raised, wings outstretched, facing this new unknown threat. Immediately after assuming this posture, she lost balance and tumbled onto her side. Oh, dear. Poison? Cold? I have no idea how to distinguish a poisoned bee from one that is simply too cold. I watched her for a few seconds as her legs clumsily churned in slow motion, trying to get her upright.

I can’t stand to see animals suffer; it causes me anguish in a deep, sensitive, delicate area. My first instinct was that she was dying, and that I should end her suffering. That’s such a final solution, though – I wanted to give her the chance to survive. Hoping she was cold and that I could warm her up, I placed my index finger alongside her body so the heat would radiate out to her. She immediately perked up and began scrabbling toward me – not in an aggressive manner, but in a keenly interested one: Her antennae and front legs reached forward ambitiously, her abdomen and stinger remained relaxed.

As quickly as she could, she climbed up onto my finger, legs frequently missing their steps and wobbling with every one, but she got there and then she sat quite still – only her antennae moved, daintily touching my skin, perhaps trying to figure out what I was, whether I was food, or just a heat source.

“This is quite an exercise in trust for us both, isn’t it?” I murmured.

I waited. After perhaps two minutes, her movements became more regular and coordinated, and after a minute more, she adroitly took to the sky where I hope she will live out a normal, healthy bee life. Thursday, the spectacle repeated itself as I found a similarly beleagured bee clinging to the wall near my elevator. She took much longer to come around, but eventually she, too, flew off into the sun. I videod that one, which is probably only of interest to me (and maybe Steven and Leslie:)

I hope this is amongst the right things to do, and isn’t causing them harm or more stress that will lead to terrible things. Thinking back to both of these times makes me feel happy: Altruism serves the self, too.

Flash-forward to Saturday night around a campfire burning in a large metal pit. A pale, half-inch-long spider ran in circles for over an hour along the rim of the pit, sometimes stopping to inquisitively check out its surroundings, but mostly just running around the rim fairly quickly. For awhile, no one else seemed to notice it, then Chuck pointed it out. We wondered why the circles – if it was too hot, why didn’t it simply hop off the edge into the cool darkness? Around and around and around, sometimes at what seemed like its top speed. Others began to notice it and watched.

I was worried someone was going to knock it into the flames – people are so often mindlessly cruel to tiny beings, particularly when we find them distasteful – but as far as I know, nobody did. I watched them watching it, trying to figure out what everyone, arachnid and human, was thinking. Naturally, I’ll never know. At some point, I looked for it, and it was gone – I hope off into the night to hunt some bugs, and not into the flames to briefly wither and then die. I was heartened, though, that at least for a half hour or 45 minutes, the humans elected to let it live. This brings us to:

Part Two: Compassion

We are strong when we show the smallest of beings compassion. Humans, lacking any real predators (though I do hold out hope for the bacteria and viruses to rein us in, perhaps soon,) might think we have little to lose or to gain by stepping on a spider or by putting it outside, unharmed. I posit we have everything to gain through compassion. The simple act of choosing kindness over cruelty or even over neglect actually changes our brain chemistry and our bodies. For the better. You can read a summary of one such study right here: Compassion Meditation. Scientific article here: Compassion Training Alters Altruism and Neural Responses to Suffering

Beyond quantifiable results, though, lie the more immediate, personal, less tangible ones: We feel good when we do good.  Some might feel a sort of smug satisfaction when squishing an insect, but is it really a good feeling? Perhaps for some. If you’re someone who likes the idea of Power and Control, what greater satisfaction is there than to have the ability to decide whether something lives or dies? In the grand scheme of things, one spider, one bee, is meaningless to most of us – but it’s pretty fucking important to the spider and to the bee.

Let’s flip this around for those amongst us who aren’t of a mindset to live and let live. Let’s think for a moment about wild dolphins – these are powerful, intelligent animals, capable of quickly, easily, and efficiently killing humans in the water. Seldom does anything ever go wrong when people dive with them, though. Sure, there is the odd, misguided attempt at coupling, or a “rogue” habituated dolphin getting cranky, but most dolphin “attacks” get no worse than this – spoilers, no actual attack occurs, just enjoy:

They could kill us, but they choose not to. There’s a lot of power in that. Wild-animal-related human fatalities typically happen under circumstances that are usually the fault of either that particular person (getting selfies with wildlife, trying to pet or feed wildlife, provoking wildlife, et cetera,) or of People in General (areas where wildlife is often fed, encroaching onto territories, et cetera.)

Predators other than humans don’t tend to attack without cause – the stakes are too high, even for the apex predators (wolves, sharks, bears, et al.) They forever live in a PVP, very permadeath world (non-gamers, click the links to learn the lingo.)

All of us have the physical ability to intentionally harm or kill lesser beings should we so choose. There have been (thankfully rare) times in my past when I was needlessly cruel that to this day cause me the greatest shame I have ever felt. I don’t know why I did the things I did, and I wish more than anything I could go back and not do them. Instead, I have to live with those memories as a reminder of what I was capable of when my worst self took over and beg the forgiveness of a vast universe.

That Ian Malcolm quote, though: “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”  We all know how that ended up, don’t we: Velociraptors. Right? Right. The next time you see a spider or an ant that is not especially in your way, choose to let it live and see how that sits with you. I hope it takes, not only to benefit those critters who might otherwise be harmed, but also to benefit you, yourself – walk into the warm light, man; it’s really nice here. For all of us. I promise you won’t be any less of a badass by being kind – in fact, your level of badassitude will increase immensely because you could choose pain or death, and you instead chose kindness and life. That? That is the ultimate in strength.

I have digressed, per usual. My point: Be compassionate, because you can afford to be. It costs nothing to extend kindness, and I suspect that even the most calloused, blackened heart can be warmed through its practice.

Let’s get off this particular soapbox and move on: Part Three: Motorcycles (coming soon…) 

Settling In

[I started writing this post quite some time ago and never finished.]

It has been one week and three days since I first arrived in San Diego.

Those of you following along on Facebook know the journey has not been without its trials, but on the whole… I am so happy.

To catch the non-FB’ers up:

I had a very nice going-away party the Saturday prior to departure, and greatly enjoyed the company of my friends who were able to come. I was especially touched by people I hadn’t seen in some time who went out of their way. There was a lot of booze:

What people didn’t drink was given away. I took only one photo, and wish I’d taken more, but enjoying the moment was more important:

The movers arrived three days early, with three days’ advance notice of that fact. I figured what the heck – the earlier they picked up my stuff, the better the chances they’d get there sooner rather than later. Right? Ha. Read on.

Within ten minutes of their arrival the guy in charge of loading the truck hit me up for some weed. That raised an eyebrow, but ok. I had contracted through Colonial Van Lines, but they sub-contracted me out to Allied. Ok, fine. They loaded me up, and gave me a revised estimate of twice the weight I’d thought. I was unconvinced – yes, there were things I hadn’t weighed, but twice the amount? Seems unlikely.

They had taken the weight right before the pickup, and were supposed to drive immediately to the nearest scale to get a fresh weight, thereby giving the total weight of my belongings. This did not happen. More on that later.

I left my tiny house empty:

The day before I left, I got in touch with the still-absent motorcycle hauler to see why he hadn’t picked up the bike yet. He was going to be delayed, and hadn’t thought to let me know. I let him know I was unhappy in fairly diplomatic terms, and he outright canceled on me. FUCK. I found another hauler that night, but now my step-mom has to deal with them when they arrive for the loading up.

The drive out was quite lovely. It was great to spend time with my dad – I hadn’t spent that many hours with him since I left for college in 1988. He is truly a warm, wonderful, outgoing, and loving person, and I’m proud he’s my dad.

Whether it was leaving the oppression of Michigan, the weariness from the road, or some other factor, I started falling asleep early and waking up with the sun. At first, it was 530am, now it’s between 6 – 7am — without an alarm. You guys – that’s not me. I don’t simply “wake up in the morning” like a normal person. Only once have I slept until the alarm went off at 7, and holy wow did I feel like I’d wasted the day. If I’m not in bed by 11pm, oh shit – I’m up past my bedtime.

We drove about 700 miles per day, a very comfortable pace, and had some unexpectedly wonderful encounters along the way, including a period-correct, stupendously wonderful hotel on Route 66, complete with vintage magazines, and (fresh) Moon Pies in the rooms:

The astonishingly good-looking, and astonishingly kind young man at the front desk recommended a restaurant just a few blocks down for dinner. It, too, was remarkable. Just the right amount of kitsch, amazingly food, huge drinks, good prices, even better service. The waiter earned a 50% tip.

Breakfast across the street matched the impressiveness of the night before on all levels – kitsch, service, food, prices.

Should I ever pass through Tucumcari, New Mexico again, I will revisit each of these places.

We saw beautiful clouds and scenery once West of the Mississippi, some of which I tried to catch at 75 mph when I wasn’t driving:

We passed through a perfect parting between rain storms:

We spent a lot of time like this in various construction zones near cities – Tulsa, in this case:

The Mighty Maxima had nary a free inch of room inside the cabin or in the trunk. We squeezed water bottles into every available nook and cranny, leaving only room to see out the rear-view mirror:

As we neared what was to become home, the scenery became more dramatic:

Yuma was literally on fire as we passed through, but no photos of that.

We passed through a section of the country I can only describe as “god’s cat’s litterbox:” Giant mounds of huge rocks and gravel:

And then, suddenly… we were here. Nancy, the wonderful leasing agent, was on vacation, so Dan the Imposter showed me around my new home. The view is better than I could have hoped:

Even the walk from the elevator to my door is lovely:

The courtyard is very pretty, and its centerpiece, an enormous fountain, is relaxing and beautiful:

There is, however, a train stop literally right outside my bedroom window:

While this makes accessing the public transit system incredibly convenient, there is a near-constant stream of electric trolleys going by 24 hours a day. Before departing the station, the driver must signal his or her intentions by beeping an electronic horn. Some of them are quite polite and brief; others, however, must be having bad days, because they can lay on the horn for several seconds.

For the most part, this is just another aspect of the experience of living here, much like being in an apartment rather than a house. There are people everywhere all the time, but mostly I don’t hear them. The walls and floors are quite solid, and only very infrequently do I hear a neighbor, and then only briefly.

There is very little I cannot find within a mile of my apartment. There’s a Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt 3 minutes away – my green hair makes me stand out a bit, and they already recognize me. Uh-oh. YES, IT IS THE GREEN HAIR AND NOT THE FACT THAT I HAVE BEEN THERE ABOUT 5 TIMES SINCE MOVING IN, SHUT UP.

One of the first things Dad and I did was to run across the street to a furniture store to gather up a chair for him to sit in, a desk so I could work, and a nightstand to store stuff in. I had not realized the extent to which Mid-Century Modern had come back into vogue – it was either that, or 1970’s Country. I opted for the MCM look, as I don’t have any particularly strong feelings about it either way, and it might be fun in the long run.

The Flexsteel recliner is super comfortable. Turns out, the color of the chair quite nicely matches a quilt top I made years ago, and recently had finished. Dad broke it in with a nice nap:

The nightstand I bought was on clearance and, as such, could not be delivered – despite the fact they were delivering the other stuff. It would not fit in my car. Thus, I borrowed a dolly and walked it home – fortunately, it was only about a quarter of a mile.

It was on the way back home when things began to go awry with The Movers. My account manager, Alecia, called to say that, despite picking my stuff up several days early, they were going to be late. She also did not have a final weight for me, but promised a.) to have the weight by the end of the day (false) and b.) to have a final arrival date by Friday (also false.) Fine, fine – I have the essentials. I can make it work. I bought a coffee maker, though, because fuck no coffee for a week.

Thursday night, I got to introduce Dad to some of my favorite people: George, Sam, Kevin, Chuck, and Lorraine:

The new motorcycle hauler had given me a window of “before 8/14” to pick up the bike. On the 12th, I called to see how that was going to work out. It wasn’t. Delayed by a week. Great! New arrival window is “sometime before 9/10.” I’m totally not itching for my motorcycle at all, nope. Not with this perfect weather and gorgeous, perfect roads. This is fine. (fuck)

Rolling with the MCM theme, I bought some additional seating: Two counter stools, and one regular one:

I have a roommate. She is approximately the size of a Volkswagon:

So far, she stays in her corner, and I stay in mine, and it’s working out alright.

Every night, about a million crows pass overhead on their way to wherever they roost at night, which is really cool to watch. Dad stayed until Saturday morning, when I saw him off at the Surfliner train. He went up to Fullerton to visit one of my step-sisters and her kidlet, and then went on to Sacramento to visit the other.

Most mornings, it’s slightly to moderately overcast when I wake up, but it burns off by ten or eleven. Then, one day, the craziest thing happened:

Rumor has it, it has happened before. It is likely to happen again.  God help us all.

—–

And then Charlottesville happened, and everything darkened. Holy shit, how is this our world, our country, right now?

Yesterday, I spent a few hours at La Jolla Cove, which reminded me on a very primal, profound level how much I love the Pacific coast. This is where I belong – everything in me knows it, feels it. I posted this:

I had an appointment at 5pm out near La Jolla, and to hide from the rush-hour traffic on the return home, I, along with everyone else in the state of California, decided to hit to the beach. 

There is no better drug, no better cure for depression or anxiety, no deeper, more peaceful feeling for me than when I am near the pounding surf of the Pacific. My soul calmed, my mind quieted, and my body relaxed. I melted.
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It did’t matter there were a hundred other people around – everyone was happy, and playing in the spray, taking photos, and enjoying the overwhelming beauty. I could have fallen asleep on the sun-baked sandstone, listening to the surf, for the rest of my life.

While I’m really impressed with the camera phone on the Pixel XL, I can’t wait until my actual camera arrives. These would be well-served by running them through a quick post-processing, but it’s getting late, and my brain doesn’t want to computer anymore.

One of the things I love about life in the West is there is precious little in the way of protections against killing yourself doing something stupid, either knowingly or unknowingly. This ocean and many things in it will kill you. The rails to the edge are easily climbed over or under, though, and most people do. One slip, and into the churning waves you go, likely getting knocked unconscious by the rocks and quickly drowning. I love it. One day, that may kill me, too.

How many pictures of waves and people and sea lions can you stand? Enjoy a little bit of paradise with me.

I took over 500 photos – rest easy, I’ll just link to the album:

A few hours of bliss. Photos straight from the Pixel XL for FB, post-proc on some for Flickr later..Videos in the next album; these are just stills.

Posted by Erin Darling on Thursday, August 17, 2017

I’m not sure what language that is there at the bottom, but it’s pretty.

Those hours reaffirmed everything about this move.  I plan to spend many more there.

Now that I’ve been here a week, it should feel more real. Still, when a beautiful, friendly barista over on Mission Beach asked if I was on vacation, I still reflexively said, “yes,” followed by, “wait, no – I just moved here, it just doesn’t feel real yet.”

I feel like it all could be taken away at any second for any reason. It’s a little terrifying, but I know whatever is going to happen is going to happen, and I’ll be ok regardless.

I thrive on change – almost immediately upon arrival, my creative urges came stampeding back: I want to paint, I want to quilt, I want to write. I started reading a book for the first time in about three years (no, I’m not kidding; I wish I were.)  I’m learning Spanish. I’m dying to get a new camera to spend hours shooting, but that will have to wait until my finances recover, because… oh yes, we haven’t gotten back to The Movers, have we. Yes, yes.

You see, I have been jerked back and forth by these asshats for over a week now. We’ll be late. We won’t be late. Your final weight wasn’t taken until 21 hours later. Can I see the fuel receipts to make sure some of that unexpected weight isn’t diesel? No. Also, we’re going to be late again.

Long story short, I’m probably going to owe about $2,000 more than expected. So much for almost having paid off my credit cards! I will be SUPER fucked financially for awhile here. I had over $10,000 in the bank when I left Michigan. After the travel expenses, move-in check to the apartments, groceries, and basic furniture essentials, I now have $2,500, plus almost $2,500 more in credit card charges.

Movers finally called with my final weight, which is more than twice the estimate. I asked when the truck was weighed after they loaded me – 21 hours later. They were supposed to go to the nearest certified scale, and I have a difficult time believing there wasn’t one closer, because they weighed the truck shortly before it arrived at my house.
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“What assurances do I have nothing else was loaded in that time?”
“Well, that would be illegal.”
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I did not mention the guy who loaded me asked me if I could hook him up with some pot 10 minutes after arriving.
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“I was told they would weigh the truck at the closest scale. In fact, you just told me that less than 5 minutes ago – the closest scale.”
“Technically, they have up to 24 hours to get that final weigh-in.”
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Remaining balance: $3600.
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I am One Unhappy eDar right now, very thoroughly researching my options.

That really is the only stress factor right now – money. There are other niggling things – I’m still sleeping on an air mattress and wake up sore every morning, and I’m working at my desk from a camp chair, so my back is just miserable all the time. I can’t vacuum. My internet is only 120Mbps at its best. On several nights, there have been some loud people near or at the trolley stop when I’m trying to go to sleep. It gets dark at 8pm. All of that is laughably minor compared to the overall exuberance – I’ll pay this tax.

Flashback to Day One in California:
We went shopping at Ralph’s, the Kroger of California. Gathered up a full cart of STUFF, proceeded to self-checkout…

Me: “Oh shit, where are the bags?”
Dad: “There are no bags.”
Me: “…what?”
Dad: “They’re illegal here.”
Me: “*BAGS* are illegal?!”
Dad: “Plastic bags are, yeah.”
Me: “Oh – that’s actually kind of cool, but… I sort of need them.”
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I ended up buying 6 or 8 very nice reusable ones, but My Face When. 
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Good on ya, CA – nicely done.

 

Welp. I just walked face-first through my patio screen door. A not-insignificant amount of skin scraped off the tip of my nose, and an even larger bruise to my ego, as the door is probably toast and I’ll have to get a replacement. Derp.

Met with my first truly unhinged trolley rider just now. He got on, ranting and raving about self-defense, trying to teach “the class” a thing or two about defense. Naturally, nobody was interested. I stopped reading and started paying attention to where this was going. He didn’t initially single anyone out, and no one seemed particularly upset, but the driver opened his cab door, asked him to calm down or depart.

The guy, of course, did neither, and the trolley continued on. There were some timid tourists who looked uncomfortable, but he left them mostly alone.

He moved right next to a young jock, who took umbrage at the yelling guy’s proximity, and then escalated things quite a bit. He yelled back, swore at the guy, threatened him, and finally began to shove him. The driver hollered that security was on their way at the next stop. One of the shoves just about landed the homeless guy in my lap. I sighed, and readjusted to free up my hands.

I caught the jock’s eye and said, “it’s not worth it, man. Just take a step back and breathe.” He ranted about how personal space, being tired of losers, and kept at it. “Dude, this isn’t helping, just chill. It’s not worth getting arrested over.” The three of us went back and forth a bit, then he puffed up his chest, but moved away, and got off at our next stop. The homeless guy went back to bothering the car at large. Yay, small victories.

However, he next fixated on a younger guy who pretty clearly had some developmental issues. He towered over the kid, tapping his hand over his head, asking him intrusive questions, and making the kid uncomfortable. The kid didn’t want to make eye contact with anyone and tried really hard to ignore the guy, who just redoubled his efforts.

Enough. I asked the ranting guy to come talk to me. He didn’t initially want to, he was more interested in harassing the kid, and pretty much told me as much flat-out. I kept at it – not with much skill, mind you, but I was determined.

“He doesn’t want to talk to you, but I do. I’ll listen.” I motioned him toward me.

“Nah, fuck that, I don’t want to talk to you, I want to know what’s going on with him.”

“Come over here and teach me about self-defense.” That got him. He switched from towering over the kid to towering over me. Hanging from the overhead railing with both hands. Those armpits, though.

“Well the first thing about self-defense is not talking to people you don’t know.” He put his face fairly close to mine, but I didn’t change my relaxed posture or expression. I was, however, glad to be wearing dark sunglasses, lest my eyes give away my unease. I nodded – “good idea.”

“NEVER FUCKING TALK TO PEOPLE YOU DON’T KNOW!!”

“I see, ok. So I’m curious what you were doing when you got on the train and started talking to everyone you didn’t know?”

<pause> “PRACTICING. But now you all know me, right? So it’s fine.”

“Ok, right on. Tell me how to…”

“You’re just a woman, you’re just a woman who don’t know nothing about shit, your whole job is just to be a woman and annoy the shit out of everyone you meet. What do you think about that?”

“I think I know a lot of people who would probably agree with you.” The guy in the next row tried and failed to hide a smile.

He carried on about the same topic, and I nodded, said “sure,” and kept asking him questions while the kid he’d been harassing moved to the other end of the car.

“You women just want to tell people how to live their lives and give your opinions and make everyone around you miserable. What do you think about *that*?!”

“I think you’ve had some bad experiences with women.”

By that point, we’d reached the next stop, and security got on the train. The security guard watched us for a moment, and then escorted the dude off the train. He had to get one parting shot in, though, so he stuck his head back through the doors, and shouted, “JUST A WOMAN!!” before vanishing.

An older gentleman seated across from the kid who’d been the target gave me a quick thanks, and that was the end of it. I have a feeling that won’t be the last time, though. Safety pin: Gotta be one. That’s a promise.

It’s been over two months since I wrote the above, and a great deal has happened since that time. The movers arrived with “most” of my stuff, but a lot was missing and even more destroyed. Still trying to get that sorted out.

Plenty of other things to talk about, too, but I’ll save that for another time.

A Sad Realization

I am very sad to discover I have a new automatic thought process.

Until fairly recently, reports that a Black person had been shot were often related to gang or domestic violence. Of course not always, but often – That’s what made the white-dominated news the most, which is a huge, obvious problem unto itself.

I realized yesterday that my first, instant thought now when I hear about a Black person being shot is, “what did a cop do now?”

Non-police shooters do not even enter my mind as a first likely cause anymore. It is an actual surprise if a cop is not involved. When I read a report yesterday, I literally said a surprised, “Huh!” out loud when I saw the shooting was related to a non-police shooter.

That. Is. Terrifying. And sad. And awful on so very many levels.

My naive, “why isn’t life more fair” self wonders how we are even in this place as a civilization. My pragmatic self knows the sad, tragic answer.

I am not someone who has a generalized hatred or wariness of the police (I am afforded some of that by being white and female, I realize,) and I fully recognize there are wonderful cops out there – I know a good number of them personally.

Wanting to stand up for the good cops who get lumped into the shitty stereotype too long overshadowed my willingness to call out “the police in general” on their behavior. I still understand they have a rough, dangerous job in many areas. I still understand many do want to protect and serve.

However. Those good cops have to get more active, more vocal, and demand accountability from their peers and from their departments. That is seldom a safe thing to do in terms of one’s career, but doing otherwise is no longer conscionable for any officer whose heart and ethics are in the right place.

Joan Allen had one of the most memorable quotes around the year 2000 in the movie, The Contender: “Principles only mean something when you stick to them when it’s inconvenient.”

That is difficult for some people to hear, and even more difficult to live. “But I have these wonderful beliefs! I’m a good person!” Do you stick to those beliefs when it’s inconvenient? For example: Queer allies – do you eat at Chik-Fil-A because that food tastes so delicious it’s worth supporting abject hate, even though you would never personally oppress anyone? Is that chicken tasty enough to deny me and every other queer-identifying person our civil and legal rights?

You good cops out there – stand the frick UP and stop tolerating the insane violence your colleagues mete out.

Every. Day.
Every. Day.
Every. Day.

Every DAY, our Black friends, family, and neighbors are being gunned down, and our judicial system doesn’t give a shit. Because the American public is part of that system via juries and elections, our entire COUNTRY doesn’t seem to give a shit. Most have been fed lies or misleading “facts” about the Black community and have swallowed them whole, never questioning why only certain stories make the news, why the Black population in our prisons is disproportionately high. I am so ashamed of the things I hear white people say, even today, but that’s not important when acting for change. My hurt feelings as a white person don’t come into play. White people – despite millennia of people in charge saying so, we’re not the center of the universe.

We as individuals have to be the ones to make change happen and to hold our entire justice system accountable. We individuals have to find each other and band together to enact even greater change.

You know those local elections? Sometimes, those elections have judges on the ballot. Those are important votes – PAY ATTENTION. Engage. Research. Then VOTE for someone whose values are closest to yours.

Local elections matter – they impact our daily lives immensely.

To my fellow white people: Stand up, speak out, VOTE, be the safety pin. SPEAK to other white people and to our officials. LISTEN when Black people are speaking about these issues. Be selfless, be strong, be courageous. Most of us white people, especially those who are straight and/or cis, have very little idea what it’s actually like to live in fear for our lives in America, which can make it harder to get motivated. Read the reports, pay attention – standing idling by at this point is tacitly endorsing the violence in our society.

Every day, we’re losing Black (and trans, queer, and other non-white/straight/cis) friends under circumstances that are jaw-droppingly horrifying: HELP THEM. Put yourself in their shoes, and imagine what it’s like to be hated simply because of how you look, who you love.

This man below shot a young, unarmed, Black man because he was dating his daughter. Now you fathers of daughters out there might have had similar thoughts about any young man who dates your little girls, but would this asshole have shot a white boy? Probably not, because there would be Consequences for shooting a white person. We cannot say the same for shooting a Black person.

We have to find ways to help.

White Cop Shoots and Kills Daughter’s Unarmed Black Boyfriend

The snowflake status I posted on Facebook yesterday rings louder and louder in my mind as the hours pass:

So this gets picked up by the Googles, I’ll also type it out:

“A sweet friend of mine just posted this, and I love it desperately. #TeamSnowflake

snowflakes?
why yes, dainty, and unique alone……
but together……
you bitches ready to be shut down by a blizzard????”

He went on, after reading a draft of this article, to say:

we will have that blizzard I spoke of, you start very nice…..

drifting in……

asking, for accountability…….

they brush you off, no concern, you have already melted……..

two snowflakes come drifting in, also easy to brush off……they melt (after the purpose is done)……..

they ignore…….

we drift in……..

now they need a shovel……..

now they need to call an emergency, they are shut down, they can not move……frozen in place dare I say…….

frozen……

immobilized……

forced to deal with the snow on its own terms now…….

they no longer melt, they find strength by staying together……..

“Winter is coming” is a well-known phrase these days, and carries with it a stern warning. It is a phrase of which the wise take heed in the stories.

We special, precious, soft little snowflakes who want everyone to be treated with equality and respect are often mild-mannered, some of us even meek, and we are ready to understand both sides of an argument, and to see each point of view as inherently valid – even if we disagree.

More and more, our sensibilities are so fucking offended that we are beyond angry. We are beyond approaching some of these situations with “mutual respect” and diplomacy.

We are verging into rage as we see our brothers and sisters of color, of non-binary gender, of other minority status, shot, beaten, shunned, objectified, murdered, tortured, shamed, neglected, legislated against.

More and more of us are no longer sitting politely by, trying to rationally engage with our counterparts. I still feel that is important, but it’s not getting the fucking job done.

What happens when you piss off #TeamSnowflake? I’ll tell you, focusing on American history:

  • The American Revolutionary War
  • Women’s right to vote
  • The New Deal
  • The Civil Rights Movement
  • Labor Rights – Weekends, overtime, unions
  • The ACLU and the NAACP
  • The FDA and safe food
  • Planned Parenthood
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the United Nations

There is no need to agree with these outcomes to recognize the relentless perseverance behind them. If we are pushed enough, we will turn. We will somehow get our chaotic thoughts and lives together, and we will Get Shit Done.

Winter is fucking coming.

 

Trans Day of Visibility

March 31st is Transgender Day of Visibility.

Each March 31st, we celebrate and support our transgender brothers and sisters, those who are in the closet and out, those who have transitioned and those who have not. We remember and hold in our hearts those who have been beaten and murdered and humiliated. We embrace everyone on the gender spectrum.

I have written and deleted giant swaths of text several times tonight because I just can’t find the right words to put down. A lot of it was rambling, a lot of it was self-serving in one way or another, much was too whingy or preachy. I tried to make terrible analogies to help cis people understand what it might be like to be at risk for simply being who they are: “Imagine your height is a crime,” “imagine the color of your eyes could get you killed.”

None of it was worth a damn (I’m far from a perfect ally.)

Let me start again by saying this: Had I known transgender was a thing when I was much, much younger, I might have chosen that path myself. I have often identified as more male than female, though to varying degrees. Could I commit to transitioning? I don’t know. Honestly, I would probably be too afraid.

Talking with a trans friend about this piece tonight, she said, “It’s really not that hard. You talk to a therapist, and a medical professional, and swallow pills on a daily basis” and, because she’s got an amazing sense of humor, “and stand on the toilet and creep at cisgender people in the bathroom.”

I initially felt like this discounts the struggle it must be… but she’s trans, and I’m not, so I believe her.

Still, I don’t know that I would have had the courage to take that path – it would have been in the 90’s, probably, and I wasn’t even a fully-formed person yet, let alone someone with enough strength and character to make such a tremendous change in my life. The only Big Decisions I was remotely equipped to make back then were, “do I stay up and play Euchre all night, or do I go to class in the morning?” (I seldom made the responsible choice.)

Now, in my forties, I see people my age transitioning, and I am so happy for them, so humbled by their courage. I am just not that strong a person, nor am I fully convinced I would want to live as a man – but it is something I feel wistful for more at times. Thus, I settled into my life as a bisexual cis woman who would perhaps feel at home with a penis. I’m ok with it.

I suppose if I were truly trans, the need to be in a body that matched my mind would be powerful enough to push  me through nearly anything. I can’t know – I just try to understand as best I can.

And I stand up for our trans friends. Do that. Be a good person.

I have witnessed people saying cruel things about trans people behind their backs – either out of anger because of a disagreement, or out of general intolerance.

I do not. Tolerate it.

Neither should you. If you see or hear someone harassing a transgender person – hell, ANY person – do the right thing, and speak the hell up. Be the good guy – be the role model. Be the person you would want on your side were you in that person’s shoes.

We all have to fight intolerance together, and some of the battles are just… asinine. Oh, you have to remember not to use their deadname. Whew. Pace yourself, buddy, because that is superhard, right? Oh gosh, you need to remember to use the correct pronoun. Is that really something to get upset about?

Yes – we need to change our mindsets a little bit, we have to rewire names and pronouns, we have a new vocabulary to learn – Big. Fucking. Deal. If you consider that to be inconvenient, imagine having a penis around all the time when you don’t feel like it belongs on your body.

I set out to write about what my trans friends mean to me – and I’m having a hard time with it. My trans friends are … my friends. They enrich my life because of who they are. I am grateful to them for expanding my awareness, for sharing their stories with me, for being amazing and wonderful people – not because they are trans. Their stories are different from many others’, but so are my physically disabled friends’ stories, so are my straight friends’ stories, my female friends’, my male friends’, my asexual friends’, my pansexual friends’ – all of their stories are important to me.

Each person is precious to me, an irreplaceable gem in my heart.

As I’ve struggled through this piece, the main point I want to bring home is that we need to be decent human beings to each other – to everyone, irrespective of gender.

But my trans friends need special attention right now, we need to bring the world to a place of compassion and understanding. For many, this is new and scary – anything dealing with our bodies or, god forbid, sexuality, is automatically terrifying and enraging. We have to help them understand as best we can.

Thus, March 31st. Every year.

Today is Transgender Day of Visibility – we need to have it, we must have it, and it makes me very sad that we are still in a place where we can’t just not be assholes because someone is different.

Be kind to each other – man, woman, or somewhere in between. Listen, pay attention, support each other – because we all need love and support, even when we might not want to admit it, especially to ourselves.

Everyone we meet is fighting a battle of one sort or another – be kind.

Sand

What an odd expression, “a line in the sand.”

It has unclear origins, historically, and may be based entirely upon a misunderstanding of words Jesus is said to have spoken.

The thing about sands is they shift. They move with the slightest breeze. 

A line in the sand is quickly blurred, and soon eradicated altogether. A gust of wind, a small wave, a footstep – gone.

Ironically, I have found my line in the sand; I know what it is – at least for the moment, I do. As I have learned over the last three days, “having made up my mind” is suddenly a fluid state of being. I am certain one moment, uncertain the next, and certain of another thing four moments hence.

The gods are having a field day with my life right now, laughing uproariously as I struggle to get a handle on this rapidly-changing, constantly unfolding trainwreck. “Look,” they cackle; “she thinks she’s got it now! Wait, wait – hold my beer,” and they throw something absolutely ludicrous into the mix.

I take the blow, smash face-first into the floor, blink in abject confusion, and then stand back up again, reassessing, beginning the whole process anew, but with different rules, different information, and a deck stacked against me – the deck I myself shuffled, and either subconsciously stacked badly, or just had my usual horrifically bad luck with random number games.

This is all my own doing. I knew going in that it was a bad idea – but I didn’t realize I was going to be the one to suddenly have the shoe on the other foot. My mood this very second is nothing short of absurd – I have tripped an emotional circuit breaker of one sort or another, unplugged my ego, and am being controlled by whatever inmates run rampant in my head when I’m not at the wheel.

I keep hearing this quote from WKRP in Cincinnati back in 1979 running through my head – Johnny Fever is … doing something dumb, I assume. Someone says, “let the chips fall where they may!” to which Johnny replies, “wait… I’m the chips!”  Later, as the story unfolds, things get tense, and he murmurs in a very scared voice, “chips are falling!”

Welp – I’m both the chips and the thing making them fall here.

All of this is maddeningly vague, I’m sorry. I can’t go into details for more reasons than you can imagine, but these last three days have been a rollercoaster from the depths of hell. A ride of Shakespearean proportion. I half envision a Greek chorus following me around, providing foreshadowing to the audience – none of which I can hear, of course, because the actors don’t know about the chorus.

The irony won’t stop – it steps up its game every time I think things cannot get any more unreal.

I’ve said this many time before, and I’ll say it again – life is not for cowards. My heart-like place is just chaos – it doesn’t know what it is, what it’s for, where it’s going, why it’s here, or whether it’s even a real thing. It is simultaneously dust, and glass, and stone, and tender flesh. This is my life right now.

Unsurprisingly, from the time I began this post until now, the sands have shifted and my line is … if not gone entirely, then certainly blurred all to hell and gone. FOR THE CRAZIEST FUCKING REASON: The least likely person on the planet, almost totally literally, has put my mind at more ease than anyone else has been able to do thus far. We were having two entirely different conversations, depending upon which perspective one took, and it all worked out beautifully for both of us. And I’m at peace. For the moment, of course.

It could be matter of days, hours, or nanoseconds before I am ripped out of this “everything is hilarious/fine” mode – I’m guessing a matter of less than an hour, given the material at hand (buckle up, babycakes!!) – and then who knows what’s next. And then after that. And after that. How long can I keep this up?

Answer: Until I either don’t have to, or until I can’t.

Fuck, I wish I could go into more detail, and maybe someday, I can. But for now – just laugh with me, friends, and wish peace upon my soul. I need both.

Loyalty

loyalty

This is a difficult post to write, because I am going to reveal one of the biggest character flaws I have carried with me throughout my entire life. I’m working on overcoming it, but haven’t won yet. For most of my life… I never understood true Loyalty as anything other than an abstract concept.

This explains a lot, doesn’t it? I’m sorry. Truly.

Growing up, I didn’t learn a lot of the lessons, behaviors, and mindsets most people take for granted. As an only child, I naturally missed out on what it feels like to have a sibling; in our household, though, that was further compounded by a lot of unhealthy family dynamics. Not only didn’t I have a sibling to talk to, but my family just… didn’t talk. I remember having my first high school boyfriend over for dinner, and how shocked he was we just sat and ate and didn’t really say anything. Granted, he was coming from a family of 10, so dinners were largely chaos, but when he said that, it was the first inkling I had that something was odd in my family. I was fourteen at the time. Little did I know how many other things I took as natural and normal would be revealed over the years to be completely insane at worst, really dysfunctional at best.

The issue I’ve been focusing on immensely of late is Loyalty: I didn’t grow up with anyone who always, always had my back – including my parents. My mother would turn on me like a snake when I made a mistake, or when someone perceived me as having done or said something wrong. She believed anyone else over me (which then led to years of me lying about just about any mistake I made in an attempt to seem like a good child, even when it could be easily proven I had lied.)

I’m sure she took my side once in awhile, but I cannot think of a single instance when she actually did – I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt here by assuming she did sometimes.

Where some parents turn into mother bears when their children are attacked or criticized, my mother joined in. Not only did she judge me, demoralize me, and berate me, but she would call my grandparents (and even some of her own friends, or the parents of my friends) to shame me by regaling them with the tales of my escapades – they were always “escapades” – with more than a trace of vicious glee in her voice. She would backbite my father and me at what I perceived to be every possible opportunity.

She would say nice things about me to others when it made her look good. When she focused on my faults, she played herself as the victim of a horrid child (incidentally, she had absolutely no idea how good I was, compared to how bad I could have been: I was a damned good kid.)

She was inconsistent in every way. Everything was conditional. My relationship with her was always on this crazy knife’s edge – there were a number of times when she “disowned me” during or after an argument or incident. In 2007, I temporarily moved into her house while I was trying to get myself established after coming home from Washington state. It was a fiasco, a nightmare for both of us, and I admit I was not easy to live with due to how miserable I was there. In her classic dramatic fashion, though, she waited until Thanksgiving Day to throw me out, and I was required to be out that night.

Some of this is not her fault. She is histrionic, she has Borderline Personality Disorder, and she is a very intelligent woman – she obtained her PhD in psychology and developed a successful practice. I suppose I can’t say she’s intelligent anymore after her brain injury… but that’s another thing entirely. She has … a complex mental situation going on, most of which has been there since before her accident.

I know she is the product of her own upbringing, her own dysfunctional environment, and I try to be as mindful of that as possible. It’s difficult, though, trying to extend grace to a woman who has destroyed me as a person in so many ways from the moment I was born until I broke off all contact with her a couple of years ago.

As the oldest child of an alcoholic father and codependent mother, and as a sexual abuse survivor, she curried favor wherever and however she could: It was a survival mechanism. As much as I can understand that intellectually, I still cannot truly come to terms with forgiving her for continuing those behaviors as an adult, and for teaching me to live as she did. Indeed, I cannot forgive myself for following her example for decades, because I literally didn’t know any better. I was oblivious.

I feel as if my dad had some loyalty, but he was neck-deep in his own trials with my mother, and I suspect that sucked most of the life and energy out of him. Today, I know (intellectually) he will defend me; but emotionally, it hasn’t quite sunk in yet.

Thus, my primary role model for such things, my mother, was terrible. I never learned that family irrefutably, unquestionably, has my back. I didn’t even realize that was a thing until I started seeing it amongst other families – in college – and it didn’t even sink in then as a behavior in which I myself could engage. I saw parents, siblings, spouses, and friends standing up for their loved ones – even when their loved ones were wrong. They stood by and defended, rather than pile on and henpeck. They surrounded that person emotionally, helped him or her to feel better, despite whatever was going on. How does that even work?

What a feeling that must be, knowing with complete faith and confidence that someone is going to be on your side. I’m pretty sure I had that with Mike, but not knowing to look for it, I never saw or understood it. Unconditional love – what a concept.

Sadly, I learned my mother’s way of doing things. It takes a lot of work to overcome that, even to this day. I’m still unlearning the old, learning the new. That is really embarrassing to admit: At my age, I don’t know how to person!

Don’t get me wrong – I love and have loved people deeply. I was just missing a key component of what that love should include, and how to receive that aspect of it.

The people I have in my life right now are wonderful examples to learn from, though. Seeing best friends steadfastly supporting each other, witnessing spouses finding strength together, hearing my own friends saying kind things about me when they don’t know it will come back to me… these blow my mind. It is an amazing thing I thought only existed on television.

The end result is this: I am a social and relationship moron.

I have spent my entirely life feeling almost entirely alone in my thoughts, feelings, and experiences, when in truth, the only thing I’ve been alone in is my mind. People have reached out to me – I just didn’t know the extent of what they were offering, because I didn’t speak the language.

I’m getting a small grasp on it now, day by day, lesson by lesson. Becoming a supervisor a few years ago helped immensely – I knew it was my job to support, protect, and defend my team more than any other function I might have. Because it was in a professional (and not personal) context, it was somehow easier to develop the skills from scratch. Thankfully, this helped me to become a more loyal person on the whole – not just at work. It helped me to develop new neural pathways which led away from the bitter emptiness of speaking more ill than good.

To everyone I have ever known – I apologize humbly and sincerely for my shortcomings, in this area and in every other. I hope I am worthy of forgiveness.

Thank you to those of you who have tried, and who continue to try, to turn me into A Real Human. There may be hope for me yet. <3

 

Dear Daywalkers

Dear Daywalkers,

I apologize.
I apologize for my entire species of second- and third-shift workers. I know it must be irritating to hear the scrape of my snow shovel going across the sidewalks at 2am in the morning, when you are long abed, snuggled under your covers and sound asleep.
Always mindful of your slumber, I try to be as silent as possible while removing the foot and a half of snow from the sidewalks and driveway. I am not always successful, however, and a needle of guilt slinks into my heart. “Shit; I’m going to wake someone up.”
Then it occurs to me – my schedule, while less populated, is no less valid than yours.
Do you enjoy having 24-hour tech support? Doctors and nurses in the hospitals in the middle of the night? Grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants open whenever you need them?
Then thank us, the off-schedule night creepers. We’re here for you.
We are what makes those things possible.
So as I labor in the dark, snow and wind blowing into my eyes, try not to be angry with me. Perhaps notice I also shoveled your walk as best and as quietly as I could. When you awaken and leave for work, perhaps don’t slam the car door quite so loudly, or yell to someone still in the house, for those are my hours of rest.
I don’t expect you to think of this, for why would you; I am just the weirdo neighbor girl who comes and goes at odd hours, and has friends over until nearly dawn. Surely, this must be of my own doing.
Some of us work these shifts by choice; others are relegated here because they have no say.
But we make the night world run. Your infrastructure is cared for night and day because of people like me and my friends. Your roads are plowed, your city streets patrolled, your packages transported. You rely upon us, even though you may not know it.
We forgive you your impatience with us, if it exists; we do.  We understand. Even though your world forgets us – banks, educational institutions, business offices – we’ll be here.