Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Good-bye, 2008!

Dear 2008,

Thanks for a great year! This year I have:

- learned to like olives
- cooked my first artichoke and my first celery root
- learned to poach an egg
- let go of a stressful relationship
- been there for a friend
- done my first mail merge
- finished coursework for my ph.d
- met someone who is beautiful, generous and kind
- been completely broke
- returned to my natural hair color
- begun this blog
- introspected

Many thanks and much love to everyone who contributed to the memories above listed! And thanks and warm love to everyone who contributed to memories I have forgotten or left out. Thanks and love all around!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

thoughts for sharing

Staying soft.

Stay soft Sarah G.” was the implied refrain in Sarah's mind earlier this fall, and I've been reminding myself of it regularly, applying it to myself. Stay soft, kristy. Don't let yourself grow defensive. Don't let yourself give up, don't let yourself harshly judge. Stay soft. Stay open. Stay calm and stay loving. Though I still think that Mrs. Drummer's concern for me and my prickles could have been left unsaid or differently said, I wonder, now, whether there may have been something to that. Possibly not at that time – I think I needed confidence at that time – but these past years.


Is exhausting. Trying to remain patient and soft and generous is hard work. Good work but hard. Hard because it is moral in the way Bauman discusses – there is no measure against which I might measure myself. There is no end to patience, there is no goal. There is no minimum level above which my obligation eases. No. At every moment I am responsible for my actions and for my responses, and at every moment I must love better than I know how.

Being soft.

I have been so emotional lately. Weird. Cried over my Glamour magazine (the 31 days of giving, and the woman of the year awards.). Cried over the Christmas cd Hugh Miller made for me a few years back (the poor cat! and the poor mouse – the poor lucky mouse. and the generosity and futility of the cat's gift - why this mouse? it will die like everything else and probably sooner rather than later. but the cat chose to be responsible. and that precisely is moral.) In particular, generosity moves me more deeply than I remember it having done.


I've been having the hardest time getting out of bed lately. I am quite sure that it has to do with the enormity of the dissertation I am trying to prepare to write. If I had a plan ... If I had a comfortable chair ... If I had a hot breakfast waiting for me ... If I had laundry money ... If I knew what I would write ... If it weren't so cold ... If I didn't have to shower ... If there was coffee hot and waiting ... If ... If ... If ...

It seems as though I must be 'all set' before I could possibly begin. If I write half of my dissertation before I get a comfortable chair, it seems I must start over – how much better would my first half have been/could become if only it were written in the comfortable chair! And since I cannot begin (because I am not 'all set'), I may as well stay in bed where it is warm, where I can daydream, where cat is curled up, where it is soft, where it is dark, where nothing is expected.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dear Chicago,

Dear Owners of Property,

Please salt your sidewalks *promptly* after snow/sleet/freezing rain. Some of us use the sidewalks for our primary mode of transportation and trying to walk on ice is sufficient to ruin our days. Think of us.

Dear Drivers of Cars and Other Motor Vehicles,

Please look both ways before turning or before proceeding after a stop sign. There are pedestrians on your right you simply did not see because you were so busy making sure there were no cars coming from your left. I have a bright red jacket and a bright orange one. This is on purpose. But still, you don't see me. Please look! Otherwise you will be repaying my student loans.



Saturday, November 29, 2008

belated response

Dear _

You asked me some months ago "How can I love you better, friend?"

I still haven't responded.

This is not for lack of desire to respond; I keep returning the question and finding that I don't know what to say. And it occurred to me the other day that, if you must ask and if I cannot respond, then perhaps I have not made myself sufficiently open and available to you, as a friend.

So here is my response: I am sorry. I am sorry for not having taken more time, over all of these years, to be open and available to and communicative with you. I am sorry for not sharing myself with you so that you could see this person I am and this person I am becoming. I am sorry for having assumed that the differences and the distances between us made communication too difficult. I am sorry for not being brave enough and determined enough to be loving and open and flexible and patient.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

being patient. and patient. and more patience

I think if I ever have children, I will name them Patience and Prudence. Then, whenever I have to interact with them (which would probably be often), I would be (gently) reminded to be patient. and prudent.

I suppose that would work just as well with dogs and cats, too.

Things I have not done:

-Finished (began?) my dissertation proposal
-Put away my laundry
-Lowered the storm windows
-Written abstracts for the chapters of DTM's book
-Made soup
-Gone grocery shopping

Things I have done:

-Sent lists to HM
-sent a petulant text message
-made hot chocolate
-asked for - and received - advice
-talked to my mother
-gotten drunk
-regretted drunkenness

Things I will do:

-look at calls for papers
-save M's dissertation bibliography
-make tea
-write all kinds of abstracts

I can feel myself on the verge of having something to actually write. It is making me both cranky and excited. I am snappish and distracted. I want company but am finding it difficult to be nice. Sigh. I am procrastinating because I am intimidated by this whole thing. How was Alice so brave with her mirror?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

how was this not completely obvious?

readers have noted that the women in "The Woman Destroyed" are 'inauthentic' and 'suffer from bad faith.'

Ok, so they've gotten the whole Sartrean thing down.

But despair, people! It's about despair!

This is Kierkegaard with a capital what-the-f***!

There can be no loving relationship without a self. No love that doesn't go through a third.

that's it, class. go home, reread it all and come back prepared to participate in class discussion.

Friday, October 17, 2008

arriving again where i started

Oh beautiful, beautiful, beautiful world!

So much work! So much to do!

[and none of it relevant (relevant? to what?)]

what i thought i loved is not what i thought it was at all. and it is now far, far more wonderful. and difficult!

i love winterson's writing for itself. but now i am very aware of the superficiality of my reading. to really understand, to really scrape the tenderest meanings from each leaf, to really explore the stacked and stacked - solid and teetering - layers of meaning, i must now read Woolf, Eliot, Joyce, Stein. And some others. Where is the time?!

Sexing the Cherry is a reading of "Four Quartets"? Lighthousekeeping requires Woolf?

It's like my whole world just fell apart - but kaleidoscoped - and the broken beauty is more beautiful than the thin wholes I thought I had.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

career day

increasingly i wonder whether i want to remake the world. of course, then i wonder if i am simply afraid/intimidated/self-defeating.
looking at names, at academic heroes, i wonder - do i want that? is it important to have a c.v. as tall as i am?
this is very quick - i must leave in about 7 minutes for my volunteering position.

but it may be that i want a 'smaller' life.
one in which i might garden and make soap and work in a well-woman's clinic and volunteer and be a part of intimate, connected community.

this is not to say that academia and community cannot be combined. but i don't want to be so married to productivity that i forget to love well. or worse, that i never learn.

back to my first statement. i know that i cannot remake the world. but i can love a handful of people (or learn to. learn to). and that seems like it might even be the more challenging project - to forge community. (not in a retreating way, hiding from the world. that would be safe and easy and would result in death. but in an open, free, growing, move-ing way. i am not making sense)

ok. that's all. oh and no worries that i'm not going to finish this degree. this is simply another musing on how i can use it when i'm done; on what kind of person i want to be when i grow up; on how to best combine philosophy with love.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

things i have not done

- finished the brennan proposal
- finished The Idiot
- begun work on the chapter taken from Diana's book
- dishes
- found a good brown cardigan that can be dressed up or down according to occasion
- chosen a dissertation topic
- gone to the gym today
- cleaned the litter box

things i have done:
- made soup
- laundry
- grocery shopping
- taken my vitamins
- ordered an IUD
- cut my hair
- started The Idiot
- started the Tractatus
- ordered Candide
- called my mother
- printed a whole lot of articles
- sent in some freewriting.

on balance, it could be worse

Sunday, October 5, 2008

tasting notes

first - many thanks to everyone who contributed to my wonderful birthday, whether consciously or not!
- i have a week 'off' from many of my assistantship duties
- i got free dessert *twice* in one day
- a wonderful group of generous friends gathered to celebrate me
- i had the privilege and pleasure of waking up to the nicest birthday greeting
- i was remembered and acknowledged by such a number of people ...

i am quite fortunate and feel very loved. so thank you.

but how do i love all of you in return? of course, one of the things we do to those with whom we are intimate is we disappoint them. the better we know someone, the better we esteem them, the more they can disappoint us (and we them). sometimes that disappointment can feel very much like a loss of intimacy - 'Not know me yet?' and it seems that we must have been completely mistaken.
and so it may be that handling disappointment might be my new olives - learning to endure, and then enjoy, the flavor, tasting disappointment on my tongue and knowing it to be a pungent part of closeness

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

so i am not reading philosophy right now. i can't quite bring myself to do so. the question that keeps circling around my head - "to what end?" - is too buzzing and insistent to let me read productively and in peace.

my plan:

- begin again with Beauvoir. Her fiction, her non-fiction (shh. don't remind me it's philosophy...). everything
- some Kierkegaard. (again, shhhhh). Not that philosophy should be a self-help enterprise, but i am most certainly a better person for Kierkegaard. Philosophy should help us to answer the question "But how should I live?"
- fiction.
- i am going to catch up on books i have wanted to read, or suspected might be important, or seem to utilize interesting methods to explore ideas i find interesting.

i'll get back to philosophy. but i am feeling a bit disenchanted right now. i think i just need to start ticking things off of lists, and i think i need a do-able list.

for now, i'm going to forgo my assistantship duties and do dishes. that will feel better too...

Monday, September 29, 2008

how do i love this? no seriously. someone tell me.

it makes me angrier than i can express when otherwise brilliant people name an anti-anti-abortion position "pro-abortion".

NO ONE IS PRO-ABORTION, PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

that is sick. and really offensive when people suggest it. like we're picketing maternity wards and trying to convince people to have abortions.

no. we want abortion to remain legal (better, to have it decriminalized) to PROTECT WOMEN'S HEALTH. because that's a good thing.

and when you call it "pro-abortion" and talk about its immorality, don't then say to me, "Oh! but I don't mean you. I don't mean to judge you for having had one."

fuck you. you just did.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

working on the proposal

I know I have told this story before. It is one of my favorites.

Why did you choose to study philosophy?” someone will ask.

Ah!” I will chuckle, “I was an English major for an hour.”

Only an hour?”

I was the first one in the classroom. A seminar room with the tables arranged into a circle. I sat with my back to the windows so I would be sure to pay attention. A literature class. I was so excited. I love literature. Another girl came in and sat across the room from me. Then a friend of hers came in -

Ohmygod! Like, how are you?? Like, I haven't seen you since, like, um, summer started? You look, like, soooooooo good! Like, what did you do?”

Ohmygod!!! Hi!!! Like, I'm, like, good! My summer was, like, super fun! Oh, and my hair? I braided it!! See? It's like, braided!”

Ohmygod!!!!! You like, totally braided your hair! That's, like, soooo cool! You look like, really good, we should, um, like, good shopping or something? That'd be super-neat!”

Then their friends came into the room ...

The professor, when he arrived and began the class, informed us that, as we read the literature he would
assign, we would learn a bit about the philosophical ideas and movements that influenced and informed the novels. That decided it. I didn't need to listen to these girls yammer on. I could study philosophy and read the novels on my own. I already knew I could do that. Yes.

I didn't do that. I ran out of time. I was busy. I didn't pay enough attention. I forgot to connect the two. Now, it is 8 years later and I have not deeply connected philosophy and literature in the ways I intended. My reason (justification?) for studying philosophy in the first place.

How to make up for lost time? Where to begin? A period of time? Which timeline should I use – philosophy or literature? A series of authors? Which – fiction or philosophers? Is it a bit late to want to go back now? Is this just dissertation procrastination? Or might it be important?

Like, it would be, like, soooo super cool if, like, I could totally figure out a, um, dissertation? by reading more fiction? like, even maybe cooler than my new purse and hat? awesome!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

practicing love

am recently confronted by a comment, an idea, a caution which feels very much like an unnecessary - even an unkind - judgment.

what i want to do, what i am trying to do is to remember, to believe that this comment comes from no other place than one of love, is motivated by love.

it doesn't feel like love.

but if i'm going to avoid solipsism, then i need to believe it. 'love believes all things and yet is never deceived'. ok.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

is it so wrong to not want to lots of babies while i'm doing my doctoral work???

contraception is ridiculously stressful.

[and for everyone who wants to tell me to just 'get over it' and 'stop bitching' and 'complaining is stupid' and 'just accept the compromise already', please don't. i get it. it's just still frustrating]

so the combination pill is out:
- associated with cervical dysplasia, which is a condition of which I am trying to be rid
- personally associated with feeling crazy, a feeling i would like to avoid

the mini-pill (progesterone only) is out:
- associated with increased depression. this seems like something to avoid while i write my dissertation
- associated with increased frequency of developing ovarian cysts, a condition to which i am already prone

the iud seems unreasonable:
- mirena = progesterone. see mini-pill
- copper - heavier bleeding, heavier cramps
- both - possibility for puncturing my uterus. ouch.

the male condom:
- possible. not fun. i don't like how they feel
- increased yeast infections on my end (though this is workable)

the diaphragm:
- possible. need to be refit. mine may be too big. uncomfortable to keep in for 6 hours
- less effective than hormonal contraceptives

not under consideration:
- cervical cap, female condom, sponge. no.

so it seems that no matter what i do, i have to be ok with a higher failure rate, with making contraception part of 'sex', with accepting a certain level of stress every month hoping to get my lady time.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

expanded version of previous post

SWIP conference this past weekend. Good. Interesting. What/who do I want to be? There were women there – who do good work, I have little doubt of that – whom I do not want to become (laying aside all caveats about how I will only ever be me etc.). A woman was talking to/advising one of the younger women there (younger than she, older than me), telling her to stop writing to/for her critics (where the critics are men and/or heteronormative, and/or patriarchal, and/or confused about the idea), to (it seemed) write instead only to other feminists and/or people who already understand her, and/or people who already (at least fundamentally) agree with her. Screw those other ones.


  • I have deep reservations about the possibility for or the ethics of conversion

  • What is terribly interesting about only talking to people who already agree with you?

  • Where does love come in?

  • Where should judgment end?

On the one hand, it may be that we can only convince people of different opinions/views whose fundamental, deep assumptions are significantly aligned with ours: so perhaps I can convince you, a devoted strawberrry ice cream lover to try, and to learn to like, mint chocolate chip; but if you don't even like ice cream at all – if you actually hate it – then I may never be able to so convince you.

  • Difference between conversation and conversion?

  • Continuum/scale: conversion ----- conversation ----- silence ?

An orientation toward the world:

  • fuck everyone who doesn't already love/respect/adore/admire/agree with you?

  • love everyone you see better than you think you are able?

What makes someone a doormat?

  • loving people who hate you?

  • acknowledging that you may be wrong?

  • believing that even 'oppressors' can make good points?

  • looking inward to find harmful attitudes before locating them externally?

  • insisting upon transforming anger into action and then into love?

I don't want to be angry. I don't want to be crusty and crotchety and surly and defensive and terribly intimidating. Does this make me a 'stereotypical woman'? Does this belie my 'feminine orientation'? Have I been too well socialized by the 'system', the 'patriarchy', the 'man'?

I am happy. I feel so healthy and so happy being happy. Does this mean I am coopted? Does this mean I have so internalized my oppression that I am now doing the work of the patriarchy myself?

I have no doubt that the world is not well. I don't consider myself completely blind to the deep wrongs that continually occur all over this globe. Pain and suffering and evil and wickedness and injustice are everywhere. I agree. Is it a condition of being part of movements to change or heal that pain that one must see nothing else? Am I selfish to see beauty and love and generosity and kindness and growth and change as well? Should I refuse to see love 'until the patriarchy is over'? Is that reasonable? Does that work?

Who makes the more 'feminine' sacrifice – the one who loves or the the one who refuses love unless it can be 'perfect'?

Is the desire for and the pleasure in feeling healthy a privilege I have not earned and so do not have the right to enjoy? Ought I to shelve my pleasure until everyone else may also desire health and take pleasure in health? Am I taking an 'every woman for herself' attitude when I laugh while my 'sisters' weep? Must I always weep until weeping ceases?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Presenting at the SWIP conference

does it make me
- bad
- a bad feminist
- non-radical
- anti-revolutionary
- unethical
- selfish
- over-privileged
if I want to
- be happy
- revel in this happiness
- anticipate the possibilities for future happinesses
or if I want to
- focus more on forgetting hurt than remembering it
- see more beauty than ugliness
- be more easily delighted than offended
- spend more time learning to love than in justifying anger


what kind of philosopho-lady will I/can I/ought I be?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

so hungry

but i can't seem to eat anything. all food is unappetizing. very frustrating.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Aschenputtel Revisited. Draft 1

Having finished separating the peas and the lentils from the tray of ashes, she wiped her soot-covered hands across her tear-streaked face, smoothed her apron and, two tins in hand, rose to meet the stepmother. Hearing the clunk-clunk of tiny wooden shoes on the polished floor, the stepmother looked up from her tapestry and took in the scene from the doorway: a filthy, soot-covered girl dressed in smoke- and work-scented rags; heavy shoes on her small feet; bare leg showing through the tattered, nearly transparent scraps of long-ago cast-off clothing. Sooty fingerprints streaked her gray apron and where tears had washed the ash from her face, her fingers had replaced it so that the effect was of black-and-white carnival paint. This creature held in her hands two grimy tins, one of peas the other of lentils.
The stepmother removed her eyeglasses, rose gracefully from her chair, thought of her two daughters still preparing for the evening's festivities.
"What? Finished so soon? You must have taken fresh beans from the pantry!"
Briskly, she took the grimy tins from the bewildered girl's hands and shook the lentils and the peas together again and tossed them back into the hearth where they sank into the thick ashes.
"Now. Separate and clean them and do not mock me."

Sinking back into the ashes, she began again the task she had once completed. Her mind empty of all thought save 'lentil' or 'pea,' still somewhere at the bottom of her being - perhaps as low as her feet - was the promise of the Prince and the sure conviction of certain, soon and complete change.
With numb fingers and trembling hands, she once again approached the smooth, cool stepmother who, by this time, was flanked by her chic (but not pretty) daughters. The rage and hatred rose immediately in the stepmother and as she looked at the girl's reddened gray eyes, she felt her hand fly up to strike her temple. Imagine her surprise when she felt the powdery texture of the girl's hot cheek beneath her clean, long fingers. The girl's response added to the strangeness: she never flinched - not for the blow that was to come, nor for the caress she never expected. All that she could read in those younger gray eyes was resignation, acceptance and hope.
The anger rose again but this time the stepmother had difficulty locating its object. Not this utterly pitiable weak thing in front of her. Not the stupid peas and lentils. A new sensation - shame - flamed her cheeks as she recognized herself as the object of her anger. Forgetting the girl a moment, she took the tins from her cramped fingers and gently set them on the floor. Her daughters, confused and uncomfortable, flanked their mother, eager for the strings of witty abuse with which their mother was sure to soon festoon the girl. With an impatient, angry, terrible look, she dismissed her daughters without even seeing them.

With a brittle iciness, she took the girl's hand and led her to her own dressing room. While her servants drew a fresh, hot bath, the stepmother sat the amazed girl onto a stool of plush silk velvet and began to wipe the tears and the soot from her face with blossom-scented water. Ordering the girl's rags burnt, she eased her into the hot bath and, with gentle hands, cleaned her body with fine soaps and soft clothes. She washed the girl's long and matted hair, untangling every not as she massaged oil into her scalp. When at last the girl was clean, the stepmother dressed her in her very own wedding gown - her first one from her marriage to the father of her girls when she was but a girl herself. From a high shelf she brought down a gilded box never seen by any in the household. The girl's eyes grew wide as the stepmother revealed a pair of shoes made of pure crystal, clear as glass. The stepmother gently eased the girl's feet into the precious shoes and was delighted when they fit her foot perfectly.
In a quiet, halting but gentle voice, she spoke to the girl,
"Go. Fly. A wagon waits in the hall. It is crude - it carries our gourds to the market, but it will take you unseen tot he palace. Dance with the prince. Have this night. The wagon will return at midnight. Do not be late. I cannot answer for you if you are."
Wordlessly, the girl flew down the stairs and into the wagon and to the ball.
The stepmother, finding her daughters already gone without her, took herself to the hazel tree and wept while a pair of turtledoves looked on. Returning home, she struggled to do the girl's usual chores before dragging herself exhausted to bed.

The girl returned home breathless and exhilarated and terrified. Could the Prince love her? Was that she with whom he danced all night? And did she really lose the stepmother's priceless shoe? She carefully removed the rich garments and found waiting for her in a chamber in which the stepmother had indicated earlier a simple but clean, whole and new dress, a sparkling new apron and soft skin slippers. Her heart both full and heavy, she slept dreamlessly and, when she woke, she slowly descended the stairs, dreading the moment the stepmother would learn the slipper was missing.
To her great surprise, the fire was started and breakfast on the table when she arrived downstairs. Two new serving girls attended the family and there was an extra place set.
"Daughter, come take your place!" Her father's voice boomed, casual but with a cautious undertone of joy. The stepsisters traded worried, disgusted glances but said nothing. The girl silently slipped into her seat and allowed herself to be served, remembering, faintly, when this had been the norm.
"Well, sister, surely you know the latest? The Prince danced all night with an unknown princess. It is said he will marry her hte instant he finds her again, though she is fled. All that is left of her is a crystal slipper and he goes house to house to find her mate."
At this, the girl glanced cautiously at the stepmother in whose eyes she read an enigmatic look of wonder and - is it? - pleasure.

A flourish of trumpets and the Prince is in the great room. The stepsisters clamor to try on the shoe, each hoping the be the first. The stepmother slips out of the room for a moment and no one notices. When the first stepsister tries the show, her mother follows her to give her counsel. The shoe fits, though it is just a bit snug. No one would ever see. The stepmother tells her daughter,
"Your toe is cramped. Cut it off. You will not need it when you are queen."
And so by the blood in the shoe does the Prince know she is not his bride.
The second sister tries the shoe. It fit, but it is just a tad snug. No one would ever see. The stepmother tells her daughter,
"Your heel is so wide it will shatter the crystal. Slice it down. You will not need it when you are queen."
And so by the blood in the shoe does the Prince know she is not his bride.
The stepmother returns to the room and, casually, as though she'd rather not say so, reminds the Prince that there is one more daughter and she may as well try the shoe. As the girls steps forward, the stepmother slips the other shoe into her pocket. When she tries on the proffered shoe, she also wears its mate.

Friday, September 12, 2008

and oh. yes. and yes.

and sometimes everything in the universe clicks into place and it is wonderful and you haven't got any words to express just how beautiful it is.

so you go to look at art and then to a festival and then to a craft fair so you can distract yourself from the immense and perfect beauty in the world.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


Reparations can never be made. For those of us agitating for reductions, eliminations in oppressions, injustices it absolutely will not do do hold onto our fear, our outrage, our frustration until after the injustice has ceased. We cannot remain angry until, for example, the patriarchy is over. Having expressed our critique, our pain (to the best of our abilities), it will not do to repeat the litany of complaints like a meditation in reverse, like a prayer of pain and hatred, like a talisman to keep the world at bay. No. Having addressed the world, all that there is left to do is to recognize it, release one's anger and begin the work of loving it.

For me, that can be difficult. Foolish and immature though it is, I (too) often feel that if I do not punish those who hurt me, then they will have 'gotten away with it', that my forgiveness and love will then condone their selfishness or meanness. I know that this is not true but it is difficult to feel that as well.

What does something like feminism look like without anger? What can be the impetus for change? Can love work better than sustained outrage?

This is related to being able to hold simultaneously multiple, not fully compatible kinds of knowledge - acknowledging, for example that, yes, 1 in 4 women will be sexually assaulted while also refusing to see every man as a potential assaulter. Or, acknowledging that there are real, deep and pervasive racisms that can be found everywhere while also intentionally relating to everyone as though they were anti-racism.

Feminism (as have many of the other progressive '-isms') has done an apt job of pointing out grievous wrongs and wounds in our world. We've discussed the difficulty of 'dismantling the master's house' but where have we developed sustained thinking and acting to creating a really new one? To paraphrase Igor Stravinsky (with echoes of Shakespeare), what would be more powerful than love in creating our brave new world, peopled by such people as we would like to become, as we could possibly love?

If we continue to focus on hurt, doesn't that hurt then become our world? This does not mean we can make ourselves blind and therefore not act. Or, we must not then become morally blind and hardened to suffering. But couldn't there be an ethical blindness, one that can (somehow, I certainly don't know how) critically and lovingly recognize wrongs, work to end them without becoming an instrument of them, without becoming an extension - even a critical one - of that pain?

I realize this all doesn't make a lot of sense. I'm okay with that. This is a kind of questioning to which I will be returning, so perhaps in time I can clarify myself. For me, however, it may be that where I am most hurt, I will become most silent.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

First of all -

people are assholes.

correct me if i am wrong, but i have found nothing disrespectful or impolite about gently removing dry clothes from a dryer when you need to use it. you take the dry clothes out of the dryer, place them on top of the dryer and then you use the dryer for your own wet, freshly laundered clothes. yes?

i just went down to check my laundry after having done just this and found the dryer turned *off* and a typed sign on the dryer saying "quit taking other people's clothes out of the dryer". my clothes were still wet because the asshole stopped my drying cycle. i should not be as angry as i am but i am sort of furious.

so i left a note back. i'm sure it will do nothing. i won't be surprised if the dryer is turned off again if they see the note soon. all i said was that i had done nothing disrespectful and that if the note-writer had a problem with people touching things in public space then they should remove their clothing promptly. and to quit cheating folks out of their laundry money (i.e., the $1 that i lost because i had to restart the drying cycle).

now i will have to calm down and refocus before i write the post i planned to write today, the one about how much love there is in the world and how grateful i am for it and how much i want to emulate my loving, amazing friends

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

good talking to you again, brandon

When I recall my early charismatic, Pentecostal zeal, I nearly always find myself thinking of my junior high school's cafeteria. I can remember the tables that lined each side; I can see the quadrant in which I sat. I believe I think of that cafeteria in part because it may have been the location for my most fervent, most studied evangelism even though I was to become more theologically and evangelically sophisticated, grounded a bit later on. In that cafeteria I remember telling friends that I certainly would not die - the Rapture of the faithful would happen in my time. I remember my ongoing debate about the demonic and pagan (I had not yet learned to distinguish between them) origins of Halloween. I remember a debate about full-believer's baptism, the notes from which I may still have, nearly 15 years later. Indeed, I remember writing a paper which argued that it may be the case that demon possession is lately misdiagnosed as personality and mental disorder.

As a result of a message exchange with an old, also ex-evangelical, friend, I have just spent the past few hours reading articles and essays from Christianity Today. This is not how I intended to spend my evening... What I find even more interesting is how illicit it feels. As though I were reading someone's diary or spying on a family together or 'slumming' or, maybe, seeing myself in a carnival mirror.

Is, my friend asked me, what drew us into evangelical faith and practice, that which drove us from it? And so my mind has been turning all day. Why and how did I leave the fold? And why has my leaving not stopped at having left - why do I seem to have to keep leaving? Why is it that, having left the church, my mind is still drawn to the quest for god, for absolute and certain ethical living, for rest? Why is it that when I'm feeling emotionally and mentally 'full-up' I don't even realize until after I begin to hear my own voice singing that I am, again, creating a worship service for a god I cannot recognize.

Where are the churches for the unbelievers? For those of us who do not so much long to believe, as for those of us who cannot seem to forget - or seem to want to forget - the habit of worship? Where are our congregations? Where can I meet my church, where brother Ben and sister Becca will join hands with me and we will all pray to no god and worship no god - but pray and worship nonetheless? Where may I preach or be preached to? Who will write a sermon for me and my church? For those of us who cannot or will not or must not believe, but who are still powerfully affected by the ways in which worship and the divine and better-than-human ethics radically shift the ways in which we exist our worlds - where may we meet and commune and offer thanks, gratitude, recognition, affirmation, submission, zeal, power, bravery; where may we join hands and, connecting our bodies, souls, hearts and minds, bridging our desire and our unbelief, -- where may we meet and praise ...
praise ...
where may we offer praise to ears of our own making for a universe given us and remade by us;
where may we offer gratitude for such heretical, devoted, like-minded love?
where may we practice a loving, faithful non-faith?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

"Wall-E" for real this time

Although I understand many of the critiques of "Wall-E" for the way it seems to conflate obesity with laziness, with moral inferiority, with social solipsism, what struck me was, ok, get ready for it folks, I'm really going to change it up on you - the ways in which it recalled to me Jeanette Winterson's newest book, The Stone Gods.
I am not typically a reader of science fiction. Or a viewer for that matter. Perhaps I am a bit simple or a bit old-fashioned or not even a very good feminist, for that matter, but futuristic fantasies usually leave me a bit cold and unsettled and with my brow unattractively furrowed days later ... I couldn't even get through Margaret Atwood's Oryx and Crake.

"Love, all alike no season knowes, nor clyme"
The Stone Gods takes place deep into our future and even deeper into our past. The story takes place centuries (or so) from now, nearly 300 years ago, and also, somewhere in the neighborhood of a billion years ago. It moves about a bit. It is as much a love story as it is a social commentary, as it is a dystopic fantasy. Billie, the main character, falls in love with a cyborg, Spike. Billy falls in love with an explorer/seaman Spikkers. Billie and Spike journey through space, traverse worlds, colonize a planet, die, live, find themselves abjected from the brave new world and find themselves the subject of the very same.

"Thy beames, so reverend and strong Why shouldst thou thinke?"
Perhaps Winterson can achieve her critique of human activity in her dystopia because it is not visually depicted. If we were to see Captain Handsome or Pink McMurphy or Manfred, we might experience a disgust and a dissociation parallel to that which many felt in seeing the infantile, round humans in "Wall-E". Pink has been "fixed" so that she will never look older than 24 (she's 58). She wants to be refixed to age 12 to regain the attraction of her husband. Manfred is cold and nearly robotic. And, well, I like Handsome, so that's not so bad. He loves poetry. But the scene in the Peccadillo, were it to be visually depicted could potentially have activists of all stripes angrily blogging and reviewing: children, 'ugly' persons, those who not so long ago might have had lucrative careers in the circus industry - depictions of these bodies might very well anger the anti-perfection activists.

In "Wall-E" this is the case, the depiction of a human body mistreated through near-complete inactivity has angered many whose bodies are larger than Vogue norms as well as fat-positive activists. But the etiology is misunderstood. "Wall-E" is not saying 'fat people make the world bad' or that 'fat people are the source of degeneration'. Rather, it seems that, given a situation in which, rather than change our world, we leave it to wait for a miracle, a savior; given a situation in which humans take on no projects, have nothing to do, simply spend time in consumptive pastimes waiting, waiting, waiting - it seems reasonable to expect the body to be marked by the mental and social inactivity which precedes and enables the physical inactivity as well.
I am aware that I am writing on a razor's edge, but I hope I am making some sort of distinction which may be interesting, may trouble these critiques at least in some sense.
It is not the case that current cases of obesity are caused by mental and social inactivity. What is required in a film is a visual depiction of psychic and physical phenomenon. Certainly if I did nothing but sit for 24 hours a day drinking cupcakes in a cup, I would lose muscle tone, muscle mass, gain weight, etc. But what is interesting and difficult in movies is the strength of the link between mental, social and moral reality and physical embodiment. In a book these things can be alluded to, glossed over, done subtly. They cannot be so subtle in a movie.

"She is all States, all Princes, I, Nothing else is"
And yet, in both The Stone Gods and in "Wall-E" we have improbable love stories which are believable and beautiful and characterized by enormous hope. Interestingly as well, the lovers in both stories are vilified and become subversive, as though we are to be led to believe that love is increasingly subversive. John Donne's poetry takes on even deeper metaphysical meaning in The Stone Gods and poetry itself becomes somehow dirtier than a sex club. Love is all but meaningless except between a human who would not have herself genetically fixed and a cyborg. Or, in the film, human physical contact is all but eliminated (and then touchingly, hopefully reintroduced) and the most beautiful expression and experience of love (one of which both Beauvoir and Kierkegaard could, in some ways, be proud) occurs between two robots, neither of which are expected to feel at all.

"Thine age askes ease, and since thy duties bee
To warm the world, that's done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy center is, these walls, thy spheare."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

well that was a bad day....

rather than writing a proposal for conference-planning, i have so far spent my morning deleting old emails. i found this:

"i'm in a foul mood and am in great danger of lashing out to everyone i love best, telling them to forget me, forever, since i am so unworthy of their friendship as to be undeserving of even a last conversation. i am wallowing in self-pity, gorging on self-loathing and perfuming myself in bitterness. currently there is nothing admirable, lovable, respectable, good, or in any way worthy in my person. my character is of such hideousness, if it were not mediated by the opacity of embodiment, i should be a very Gorgon, Medusa herself, turning all who look on me into horrified, disgusted stone.
i alone of all persons cannot seem to become a healthy, happy, well-adjusted, moderate grown-up. i alone of all persons am unique in my excessive childishness, my selfishness, my self-centered-ness, my inability to receive or give love from/to anyone. i am an undisciplined mass of inarticulable desires. i am haughty and narrow and stingy and rigid. i act as though i deserve the world but do not even work to deserve the kindness of my friends. i demand love but do not even begin to *be* loving-ly. i am foul, wretched, inhumane, a monster.
i style myself wise but don't live according to wisdom. indeed, i hardly live according to any of the principles i most highly value: bravery, courage, steadfastness, love, thriftiness, generosity, simplicity. i kaleidoscope myself where i ought to focus. i fling myself beyond myself rather than concentrating myself where i am. i dream of a future but idle in my present. i contradict my contradictions and make paradoxes of my paradoxes. is there any wonder i am unlovable? there has been no self for me - or anyone else - to love." march 1, 2008

as it was in my university account, i was in great danger of losing this written moment to the time-gods who preside over the existence of messages. this one deserves a longer life

interestingly, months later and in a rather happy frame of mind, i still identify very much with those angry and tender expressions above. ok, so maybe not a Gorgon, but still. yes, i am or may be all of those things. but there is a world to love and i am in that world.

Friday, July 25, 2008

it couldn't have been the cheese...

I had my first 'teeth' dream. It was kind of horrible! I was somewhere in public. It seemed a bit like a food court/mall, but a bit more posh. First two of my bottom left side molars fell out. That was a bit unsettling and unexpected, but I thought I could manage it. No one would notice as the gap was relatively far back. Hmm. at this point, the mall looked a bit like a bazaar. Interesting. But then teeth around the hole started falling out as well. Into my hand, and, as I was suddenly in a women's bathroom (which looked rather like the bathroom at Pops for Champagne), into the sink. I wiggled my front top incisors and, finding them very loose, simply pulled them out of my mouth. I had a handful of teeth and no idea as to what to do with them. First I thought I ought to call the dentist. Then I thought I ought to call 9-1-1. Before I could do either, a group of my girlfriends came in to confront me. What did I expect, being a drug addict and all? I could not convince them that I had done no drugs. They were dismissive and accusatory while I stood aghast with a handful of teeth.

Later, in my apartment, I saw a bee. Cat started jumping around and following it, trying to catch it. I encouraged him: "Get it kitty! You can do it!" Then there was another bee. And another. And still more. I was stung on the front of my hand, in my palm, on my arm (all on my right hand/arm). The sites of the stings swelled and turned purple and then calmed down about an hour later. Then, and this was horrible, a bee got stuck in my ear. I could not get the bee out nor think of a way to do so. It stung me inside my ear and then was gone. My apartment filled with bees (leaving me now feeling like Pharaoh) and I worried about poor cat - there was no way to protect him and he would be covered in horrible bee stings.

I had no cheese last night. Indeed, I had no dinner, just a lovely glass of wine. But such dreams!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

sometimes the world is good to you

and i did it. had the biopsy. the valium helped immensely. as did the alcohol afterward. i didn't even cry. it was uncomfortable. and it did indeed feel rather like a menstrual cramp afterward. could i do it again? only with a friend and only with drugs. but i think i could do it. oh, and that stress ball was helpful too.

it was encouraging to meet a friend for an early breakfast before hand. to eat a swedish pancake. to have chance encounters with two friends on my way to breakfast and to feel even more a part of a community. it was soothing to enjoy such pleasant weather today. to walk around in sunshine and cool breezes while the morning is not yet old. it was bittersweetly comforting to lose control of my body in order to gain control of it - by taking a sedative drug, i was able to relax just enough to make my body endure the (short) procedure. and it was perfect to have a hug.

feeling a bit exhausted. will read and go to bed early. will hopefully wake up early and begin being productive again tomorrow.

Friday, July 18, 2008

of museums and cervical biopsies

so i went in for a colposcopy today. i'd never had one. i'd never even heard of the procedure before. it is not the case that all colposcopies culminate in biopsies, but mine was to have. apparently it is nearly certain that i have a type 2 dysplasia and so ought to have a biopsy to determine what sort of treatment is warranted.

a smart woman would have had the biopsy performed immediately, while the doctor was there, all up in her business, with the tools prepared and just gotten it over with. and then she would have gotten drunk immediately following.

i am not a smart woman.

instead, as soon as i saw the biopsy instrument, i began to cry and couldn't stop. i felt like such an idiot. the test has to be rescheduled. i have a prescription for valium which i can take before my next appointment. the doctor tried to explain that this is really a necessary procedure. i tried to explain that i understood its necessity but was afraid i might kick her head if she actually put that thing inside me. that there was no way i could see myself enduring the procedure, as fast as it might be.

so now i will be paying for two exams. will have days (months?) to anticipate the small bit of physical pain it will cause; days (months?) to reflect on what a baby i was.

so a friend and i went to the museum. we had a cocktail, calmed me down, went to the Field Museum and then had a half bottle of wine. it was lovely. calming. a pretty day stolen from summer and we explored the ancient Egypt and Americas. and i tried not to think less of myself

Saturday, July 12, 2008

stilton is for dreaming

apparently many folks report vivid and bizarre dreams after eating stilton (a fun fact which i did not know). i treated myself to a bit of cheese today while at Trader Joe's, after having thoroughly enjoyed a champagne tasting at Pops for Champagne.
i enjoy strange and often vivid dreams as it is; i am curious to see how my dreams change - if at all - with the cheese: will my dreams be even more memorable? will they grow still stranger? will they simply be 'brighter'? i will report back if anything fun occurs. for now, the cheese is lovely with tea and a cracker.

i've been otherwise dreaming however. there is the chance that i might not move at the end of the month after all. i find i am coming quite close to hoping that i will be able to remain where i am. if i do, then i will make of this place a homier home:
- i will finally put curtains up in the living room
- i will paint my bookshelves
- i will get a comfortable desk chair
- i will find a better way to organize my closets
- i will finally make a cushion for the toychest
- i will finally get a coffee table
etc etc.
i like this space a lot. but it could be made more efficient and more beautiful. i will finally coordinate my colors and maximize utility. but i am trying not to think very much about this possibility - it is still just as likely that i will move and then this dreaming will have been misdirected...there are still all those French verbs to conjugate and memorize.

and i have been otherwise dreaming. dreaming of learning to sew. of learning to cook well and often. of learning to be terribly efficient. of learning to preserve and can. of learning to love well. of learning to forget. of learning to allow myself to be hurt. of trusting others even without reason. of being brave, marvelously brave. of taking risks and courting danger. of having adventures. of allowing myself to be wrong.
i have been dreaming so much i've hardly had time for sleeping and have been rising early and staying up late. i've been drinking less coffee but feel a deep delicious energy just beneath my surface. i feel a sort of effervescent bubbling over of possibility for growth and change just now and i am terribly excited to see what i make of it.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

herbal teas; paint chips

I have been in a bit of a funk these past few weeks.

For example, I have not been drinking nearly enough water. For a while I was doing really well with my water intake. Lately, I've been lucky to get two cups of coffee in a whole day. A really good day included a couple three-four beverages of the alcoholic variety.

In preparation for my ladytime, I made a big pitcher of red raspberry leaf tea and drank it all. Now I am sipping another pitcher of cocoa spice tea in preparation for bedtime. Two pitchers of tea today! Hooray!

But will I transform this one shining, exemplary day into a habit? They say it takes 21 days to make a habit (give or take). I'll try one whole moon cycle (plus these few days before) and see if I can ingrain my fluid-drinking habit. I'll give myself 5 off-days - mostly because I am moving at the end of the month and so will eventually have to pack my tea.

I am beset by the urge to paint my bookshelves. I have two unpainted wooden shelves I am currently itching to paint. I think I want a sort of grayish/greenish/slate-ish blue, but I don't want the effect to be too "country". Neither do I want it to be too "primary-school". But I want color and harmony and coordination.

So: For this cycle, I will commit to 2 cups red raspberry leaf tea and at least 2 tall glasses of water daily.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

have i mentioned how much i love jeanette winterson?

With each reading of Written on the Body, I grow angrier and angrier with the narrator. This adds to my anger/frustration - Winterson has deprived me of pronouns with which to easily name my heartbreak.
The narrator of the book, a nameless, ambiguously gendered someone, leaves her/his beloved, Louise, in a misguided attempt to save her life. Why did s/he not trust Louise? This is what codes the narrator as masculine (though not necessarily male) to me: it seems, to me, that the feminine response would be to absorb Louise's suffering, to refuse the 'heroic' act and do the work of brow-mopping and hair-and-hand-holding. It seems so very masculine to believe that withholding love is an expression of it.
It is this same act that codes the narrator as feminine (though not necessarily female): like the mothers before Solomon, the narrator would give up her precious beloved to someone else's care, someone inferior, someone whose 'love' is oriented away from love, if only that means the beloved might live. The narrator adopts a maternal stance in his/her misreading of the situation (it is *not* guaranteed that Elgin can actually save Louise; this is where the narrator is heartbreakingly myopic).
Of course, there is no King Solomon in this novel and Louise is no infant, the narrator no mother and Elgin - we never learn whether Elgin was telling the truth.

And so here is the humbling bit - for the narrator and for every reader who identifies with the narrator - that for Louise (and any and all of our beloveds), it might not be worth it to be saved if the salvation does not include the beloved. Can we ever believe that we might be valued so highly by the one we love? Is it selfish when we want to so believe, to be so loved?
We are not to love the beloved more than god - that is blasphemy. We are not to love the beloved more than ourselves - that is antiquated and un-feminist. We are not to love the beloved more than our career, our children, our friends, our lives. What, then, is so beloved about the beloved?
We are supposed to love properly, efficiently, moderately - no blistering-hot, full-to-the-neck baths for us, but tepid 7-minute, water-saver showers. Turn off the water when you soap and when you shave.
No bucolic bliss any longer: it is wartime and to ration our passion is a virtue. we must be economical. The heart is too precious for everyday consumption, we must enjoy our diet of corn flakes, graham flour and winter savory.
No blistering inferno, gone the dazzling sun, we've left the chemist's lab; we dare not even glance at the crucible wherein our hearts could fuse (and alchemy is so out of style) sunglasses are our most popular accessory - can I get spf3000 for my heart?

this was supposed to have been a musing about similarities between The Stone Gods and Wall-E, the new Pixar film....

Monday, June 30, 2008

bedrooms and other places

I am already homesick for this apartment I have not yet left. I loved this space when I first found it and I love it still - the exposed brick, the smooth, hardwood floors, the bright, palest-butter-colored walls, the bang for my buck. From my windows I can look out onto the el platform; the whoosh of the train an improbable lullaby. My space is large enough to feel spacious, even in the absence of a bedroom, a hallway.

My trifle dish is full of fruit and I keep my sugar in an old ball jar. Old custard dishes with flowery edges serve as cat food and water dishes. My fruit bowl holds rice and lentils.

Teaspoons and tablespoons have their separate homes as do salad and dinner forks. The teaspoons I inherited from my great-grandmother are kept separate from the (nicer; matching) set I use daily.

I have quality cutlery and expensive knives. I have a dozen or so inherited cloth napkins. My plates - mismatched - were my great-grandmother's. My table is formica and the chairs clawed by cat.

Can I blend myself into another home, with another person, with different silverware and paper napkins?

We joked yesterday - Updated for the new millennium! Two rooms of one's own! $20,000 per year and a cheese and wine per diem. Maybe I wasn't joking... I will gain in space, and the ability to move about, from room to room, will be wonderful. But only one room will be 'my own' and it will not be the room in which I can work.

I have lived alone six of the past nine years. It is sometimes lonely, but it is a loneliness of which I have grown fond. I wonder - I hope - will I be able to be lonely still when I move?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

"So what should I say?"

Lighthousekeeping has been my least favorite of Jeanette Winterson's novels. The story seems forced at times, the beauty of the words doesn't blend as seamlessly into the story as in her other works. Still, it contains some of my favorite lines, one of my favorite pages from all her works:

"Why didn't Babel Dark marry Molly?
He doubted her. You must never doubt the one you love.
But they might not be telling you the truth.
Never mind that. You tell them the truth.
What do you mean?
You can't be another person's honesty, child, but you can be your own.
So what should I say?
When I love someone?
You should say it."

In another of her stories, asking 'what can kill love?', Winterson claims: "only this: neglect." Shall we say then, that doubt is a kind of neglect?

I love you. You are my beloved and your name is like water and I am thirsty. Your person is salve and I am sore. Your conversation is unguent and i am burned. Yes. this can be love.

What is neglect? To stop seeing you, to take you for granted, to let you grow dusty; to place you on my shelf of trophies and never take you down; to stop exploring your riches and to believe I can move on to my "real life" having learned you by rote.
What is doubt? To insert my fears between us; to insert myself between us, relating no longer to you but to my own projection of you; to mourn your loss before I've even won you; to tether you to a conception of 'truth' and 'honesty' which I - hypocritically - have not even begun to grow in my self.
If I doubt you, I cannot trust you; if I do not trust you, I have already turned away. Holding you at arm's length, I practice my neglect and call it 'sensible relationship'.

Can there be love without complete, unreserved, unconditional trust? I cannot imagine it. Harder still, can we say that that trust must be earned? You love someone else; you have left me; you are making a different life; we scarcely speak ... if I love you, can I doubt you?

Oh, J.W. - you've changed Kierkegaard to Pew, a blind lighthousekeeper...

I wonder whether I will admire this book now when I reread it.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

"When your heart is full of love, you're nine feet tall!"

I wish that joy could be such a muse to me as heartbreak and indignation are! I am intoxicated by the beauty of which my life seems so wonderfully, defiantly full. I am more loved that I have ever thought possible. I am more connected than I have ever dreamed could happen. I find conversation and laughter and possibility and chance and warmth - it seems - all around me. It seems that I have never been so happy and it seems that all this is only a foretaste of the future of which I sometimes dream.

The words look trite and I cannot capture the deep and fierce optimism I feel. No matter. I'll let it stand.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"words mean things"

If I could choose a leitmotiv for the past five years it might be "words mean things." A leitmotiv that would later become its own fugue...

And still, meanings are so slippery!

I went to pick up my produce box today. I've been getting one weekly the past month. I used to only get a box every other week, as it was difficult for me to finish a whole box by myself. Now I pick up my box on Tuesday and need to buy more produce by the weekend - it's wonderful. I mentioned this to the woman who co-owns the store - I told her that I'm going through my produce box much faster than I used to. She apologized for the way inflated costs of organic food have sometimes resulted in smaller boxes. I tried to explain that I had only meant that I was eating more produce, but she'd already begun helping another customer and only half-heard my explanation.

It had never occurred to me that the produce boxes had gotten smaller; I actually am eating much more produce and I am pleased with the quantity and variety in my box. But then, I am sure it never occurred to her that someone might purchase a produce box and then let nearly half of it go bad in her refrigerator...

I don't think this was an example of my actually choosing inadequate words to express my situation, it was simply an occasion in which neither I nor the woman with whom I was speaking had adequate information about each other - I didn't know about the impact of inflation on their store's operations and she didn't know about my laziness/lack of inspiration regarding food. Still, I was disappointed that what I had meant as a casual attempt at conversation about my own silliness/change had been interpreted (and not necessarily wrongly interpreted, given her situation) as a critique.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hangover Eggs

There is nothing in the world that I want more when I am hungover than eggs, over-easy, dripping over a pile of fried potatoes. Salty, with cheese and, today, with ham. To be sure, I love this meal when I am not hungover. But when I am, there is little else that is more comforting. Perhaps only the enduring, persistent love my friends bear toward me...

When I am drunk, I am chatty. Confessional. I have learned that, if I want to keep my own secrets, then I had better stay sober - or learn to have no secrets. I annoy and disappoint myself. And still my friends call me the next day, they go shopping with me, they smile and look at me and there is kindness and generosity and love.

I do not deserve this. I deserve a stern talking-to. I deserve to receive fewer invitations. I deserve a shake of the head and a reproach. And what I get is, consistently, love. Not a "love" that says -I don't care that you get stupid when you're drunk- but a love that says -I care, and, yes, you do make a bit of an ass of yourself, and I love you-

If I let myself think too much about the very drunken conversations I had last night, I will reproach myself - How could I have said that? and that? and did I say that or did I dream it later? I will sigh heavily and feel the disappointment rise and feel like a failure again. And it occurs to me that those conversations I only half-remember were listened-to by my soberer friends - and if they can look at me with kindness today and the next and the next, then I suppose I ought to be similarly kind with myself.

I am eating watermelon now. Full and sleepy and humble. When I nap I will dream that I can learn to love my friends as well as they love me.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

how to make chocolate cake

step 1: find recipe

this is more or less easily accomplished. serious eats always has fantastic ideas, as does epicurious. having found the perfect chocolate cake recipe, it is very important to note the ingredients.

step 2: procure ingredients

i plan to use scharffenberger chocolate for this cake since i know i like it, i know i can get it at dominicks (assuming i can reach it - it is on the top shelf), and this cake is destined to be a dream cake, one that will have my friend climbing over themselves to be in my good graces. the bittersweet chocolate for the ganache - well, i'll be at the mercy of the dominicks gods, since i'm too lazy to head over to newleaf for guaranteed good chocolate. the last questionable item is the beer. i am supposed to use stout and i do have a can of guinness in my fridge (leftover from the last time i made gingerbread), but i thought i'd try to find something a bit more interesting.

i wanted to get some chocolate stout, but the good people at hahn's liquor store did not seem to have any. so i got a breckenridge vanilla porter instead. which leads to -

step 3: taste-test ingredients

i had not tried the vanilla porter (actually, i've never had any of breckenridge's brews until today), and i am enjoying it. it's very nice and dark, a bit toasty, a bit chocolatey (perfect) and just a hint of vanilla on the finish. it smells of vanilla more than it tastes of it, but that doesn't really bother me. for the cake, i think it will be rather nice, since it is a bit smoother than the guinness. on the other hand, it is just a bit lighter than guinness and i worry just a bit that it might not provide the lush richness a deeper stout might. so,

step 4: worry that the ingredients won't be quite good enough

if i don't use the right beer, will it matter if i use good cocoa? if i don't use great chocolate for the ganache, will it matter if i chose the right beer? if the whole thing turns out ok, but not great, will it even have mattered that i went to the trouble? would they all be just as happy if i brought duncan hines smeared with boxed frosting? of course, this collapse of certainty leads to only one thing:

step 5: nihilism

nothing really matters, does it?

step 6: despair

if i can't make the world's most luscious chocolate cake, what good can i possibly be? how can i justify my existence?

step 7: epiphany

existence, eh? right. ok. existence is produced through the taking-up and completion of projects. so the cake doesn't have to be perfect to justify my existence, it just has to be completed.

step 8: faith

and really, how bad will it be after all? i mean, it's chocolate cake. two of the most beautiful words in the english language.

step 9: action

commence baking

Friday, May 9, 2008

self direction ahoy

As of Saturday I have been finished with coursework. Since Monday I have been a cranky hell-beast. There is nowhere I *have* to be. Nothing (much) I *have* to do. I've been rattling around my apartment, half-heartedly reading a few sentences, doing a few push-ups wondering how in the world I will begin to motivate myself for my new 'real life'.

There are no more syllabi to guide my readings, no more term papers to direct my writing, no more grades as carrots for which to strive. I can be as ordered or as relaxed as I like. Whatever suits me.

How am I to know what suits me????? Being busy, terribly busy suits me. Having more to do than time to do it suits me. Sacrifice suits me. There is no sacrifice now: I have more time than things to do.

And so I'm a cranky hell-beast, irritated that I am not now burning with passion to write, to read, to achieve!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

discipline + passion = ?

Recently a dear friend expressed a desire that I too have been encircling: how to become disciplined in keeping commitments? I identify myself in certain ways, but I act in ways that contradict them. What does this do to the self I am creating?

Concretely. I claim to value:
- steadfastness
- hard work
- perseverance
- thriftiness
- simplicity
but I am lazy, I give up easily, I complicate my life, spend too much money, time, energy on foolish trivialities, etc.

I claim to want to:
- begin recycling
- exercise to become strong and healthy
- cut out sugar and white flour (well, significantly)
- send out conference papers and journal articles regularly and often
- read a new book/article a week
but I keep throwing away yogurt containers and milk cartons, I eat donuts and cake, I haven't gotten my bike tuned and I sleep in rather than read or write.

So my projected self, though developing, does not have enough in common with my practiced/practical self. I do not, as Beauvoir might say, 'coincide exactly with myself'

If passion is not channeled, then it is like a destructive flood - powerful but murderous. And if discipline is not filled with passion, then all that remains is a desert. neither can sustain life.

hmmm. accountability anyone?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


When Kierkegaard describes despair he notes that it is both indicative of privilege and evidence of sin: to despair is to persist in a lack of faith; that it is possible for us to despair negatively shows us the possibility for faith, i.e., relationship with god. Despair is then likened to an abyss: the terrifying depth of the abyss also reveals the height of the mountain. Both depth and height can only be measured relatively. When you look down, when you train your focus downward, you find depth - and this is part of despair. When, however, you look up, when you orient your focus upward, you can only measure height. This is part of, or the beginning of, faith.

As I can recognize myself expanding into peace and generosity, it is difficult not to look down. Indeed, there is some good in looking down, so long as my downward perspective is part of an upward orientation (ok, i'll explain that!). When I look down and see where I've been, when I see old behaviors which I have been discarding or modulating, when I see old fears that no longer have power, I can see how high I've come, and I am both humble and proud. If peering gently into that abyss prods me to remember to keep moving upward, then that peering is good. If peering into that abyss reassures me that progress has been made and helps me to trust in further, future progress, then that peering is good.

Unfortunately, peering over the edge and into that abyss can make me fearful. "What if I slip?" "What if this progress I made is only temporary?" What if I can't go any further?" "What if I'm not as far up as I think I've climbed?" In such a case, I may become fixed upon the depth below me and then bring that fear to the height above me: "I can't do it" "I will never climb far enough" "There is so much to do and I don't even have the proper shoes" " If I climb higher, I might fall and then where would I be?" "It gets steeper..."

So currently I am sneaking grateful glances over the edges and am both cheered and worried:
- I am so glad that Maria had so many loving friends around her at Mass on Sunday (the subtext, which embarrasses me and so I didn't want to write it is that I am both so glad for her and so proud of myself for experiencing that happiness without jealousy. there. no hiding, right?)
- I am so happy that I have been able to keep myself from saying some of the hurtful and negative comments I used to say to Paul. I *can* watch what I say if I pay enough attention.
- But I am just past ovulation and will begin the slow (ok, not so slow) descent into PMS and crampy, cranky pain. What if I am just as ugly to myself and my friends in a week? What if I've not *really* been growing?
- What if my self-perception is off? I can swear my stomach looks flatter today but no one else would ever be able to notice. What if the same is true of my attitude, my person? I feel different, but can anyone even see it? Is it actually helping my friendships, or is it just in my head?
- I don't know how to be loving and firm, yet. Do I?

Some of this worry is helpful, at least for now: I am not likely to let my head swell over my progresses quite yet. And the cheering is good too: I am not likely to throw in the towel over my worries.

To learn to fail, continually, cheerfully, without stopping, without blaming, without self-pity, with love and gratitude ...

Monday, April 14, 2008


i have been gaining a much clearer sense of direction these past weeks: rather than fight my tendencies, i will work with them to produce behaviors and results i can admire. sounds simple, yes? well, i never said i was *smart* ...

as a result, i find myself directed to change the way i relate to people in certain relationships. some of this is difficult, some less so. in particular, i found myself being quite blunt with a friend about some behaviors i found unnecessary and difficult to generously interpret. as a result, i was informed that i "may not be as calm as [i] claim to be."

ouch! that stung! particularly since i was not particularly shrill, neither had i (or have i generally) claimed to be calm. and i wanted so very very badly to retort: "no, it is you who claim to be so very calm. and your behavior earlier and these past weeks has shown you to be anything but." i did not say this.

i want so very much to be recognized as *right*. relinquishing this is difficult. instead, i only told this friend that the behaviors i mentioned were not ones i was able to patiently tolerate at present. i am trying to remind myself that what i spoke was true and that i cannot control how others choose to interpret me. i can only control me and what i think of others.

letting go of this desire for control - a control i never really had, nor ever could have - is really really difficult

Sunday, April 6, 2008

the buck stops here

Apparently there's a little game going around. Once 'tagged' you must post a 6-word memoir about yourself and then tag other bloggers. Since I know no one but the one who blogged me (thanks, Jenna!), this is the end of the line for me.

vortex -

read it as a sentence. i like it that way.

baking powder and vinegar

I've been neglecting housework these past weeks as I race to finish up this semester. Certainly, if I used the time I spent procrastinating on chores, I would have both a clean home and time to complete my academic work. Still I procrastinate.

I've just - finally - scoured my stove. I've been meaning to do this for weeks; every time I've walked into the kitchen, the caked-on grease splatters, spill-overs and crumbs have drawn from my lips a sigh as despairing as a dirge. That stove has been taunting me, reminding me that I have not been on top of things, that I fail, that I have not been managing my time properly, that I have not been feeding myself properly, that I am undernourished and not only in terms of dinner.

I have so very much to do today. Deadlines have kaleidoscoped - they seem to have infinitely expanded. But just now I have finally scoured the stove. It sparkles, it shines, it practically sings. I feel more relaxed than I have in days. Finishing the dishes doesn't seem so daunting. Outlining one more chapter of Nietzsche? Peachy. 20 more pages of Beauvoir? I'll do more! Plato? Great-o. Grading? ugh. grating. (ok, this is going to annoy even myself now!)

The point being that I should realize by now just how important these seemingly trivial chores really are. Doing the dishes, folding the laundry, scouring the stove are such mindless, easy chores, none of which can really be done while also doing anything school-related. But when they are not done, they elicit such a sense of failure - "I can't even get my laundry folded! I am a miserable wretch!" every single time.

Clearly it is not enough to have sparkling moments academically. My stove must also sparkle. There's going to be a metaphor in here somewhere. probably something having to do with my character. probably having something to do with dark, unscoured corners of my ethical orientations which seem trivial and easily brushed aside. But then, I've got too much work to do to spend time fully exploring this ... ;-)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

mirrors everywhere

It is humbling and a bit disconcerting to imagine yourself as others see you, particularly when the reflection is less than flattering. I am lately reminded of my snobbery and my pretension. In efforts to distance myself from particular behaviors and traits I find unattractive in my friends, I elevate myself to push them down and away. By so doing, I show myself just as pettily related to those behaviors and quite the antithesis of the cool, collected, superior being I wish to be.

Just yesterday I indulged in some eye-rolling and grumbling about an acquaintance who tries to engage conversations with those she considers intellectual superiors but social equals in - what seems to be - a plea for affirmation and validation. Just a few hours after this 'indulgence', having chatted with a professor while ever-so-slightly under the influence, I was uncomfortably reminded of my dismissal of this acquaintance. I genuinely like this professor and I enjoy conversations with him. Further, I miss having conversations with people who are not, strictly speaking, my peers; having left Beck's my day-to-day conversations and community have been more limited in range. However, looking back on the rather rambling, disjointed conversation I carried on, I wonder just to what extent I resembled the young woman of whom I was so indulgently scornful. Just how much petting and approbation was I looking for? How tedious was my nattering?

How do I go about reminding myself, continually, to be generous in my opinions and attitudes toward others? When I find myself puffing up, wanting to distance myself from an opinion, an attitude, a statement, a mode of comportment, how do I make myself relax, ease up, let go and exhale?

How do I remind myself to re-orient myself ethically toward the one I see, toward those I cannot see, toward the one next to me, to myself?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I don't want you to feel ... X

I don't want you to feel guilty about
I don't want you to feel sad about
I don't want you to feel angry about
I don't want you to worry about
I don't want you to feel sorry for

These are (generally) well-intentioned sentiments, and I do not want to denigrate those good intentions.

But it doesn't really matter, does it? We really are blind, aren't we? Feeling around in the dark, denied access to everyone else's thoughts, feelings, meanings and intentions. How silly we are when we say "please don't feel/think X." As though our saying so could prevent or remove the feeling. As though we could actually intentionally change another person's perspective.

When 'you' say: please don't think that I think X about you, do you see what you're doing? No.
Ok. When I say: please don't think that I think X about you, I am acknowledging the possibility for you to think that I think X. By so saying, I have, actually, already thought X. But I don't like X and I see the harmfulness of X and so I don't want you to think I've thought X because if you thought I thought X then you would be hurt and you also might think less of me or love me a little less or ...

When I ask you to not feel a certain way, I acknowledge its possibility while refusing to accept what I admittedly think would be a reasonable response were X the case.

If I ask you to not think of me that I think of you in a way in which I don't think you want to be thought, could it possibly be true that I am actually revealing more of my own insecurities about what you think of me? I say: please don't think I'm angry with you. But am I not perhaps meaning: please don't be angry with me?

How foolish to ask people to not think things, as though the asking doesn't require the one to think the very thing you don't want her to think.

So when I worry that perhaps you will think X of me, or that you will feel Y toward me, perhaps I will do better to examine the ways in which you occasion a way of worrying about myself that I can only understand when I see myself in you. When I worry that you will think X about me, it may be more true that I worry that you will see X in me. When I worried that my lover was not making sufficient progress toward his degree, that worry had nothing to do with him. I saw myself in him reflected back to me and worried about myself through him and then mistakenly projected that worry and irritation onto him.

When I worry that, for example, you will think I'm selfish, I might be more honest if I said instead "I worry that I will find that I am selfish when I see myself reflected back to myself in you"

Sunday, March 30, 2008

love hopes all things and is not put to shame

The way Kierkegaard discusses the story of the prodigal son/expectant father (Luke 15) can leave a reader a bit stuck in the language which could lead the reader to forget Kierkegaard's larger point.

For Kierkegaard, we are the expectant father who waits and watches the distances, hoping against belief that his son will return. We are the father whose other son resents our longing for the prodigal. We are the father at whom our neighbors laugh and pity. In a "real" family (and not a metaphysical one), given a family, a father/parent raises up and knows the son/child intimately, often better than the child knows him/herself. A "real" parent has memories which remind her of her child even during long absences. A parent of a lost child closes her eyes and calls up an eye color, the curl in a lock of hair, the texture of a cheek.

If we are the expectant father waiting and watching for, for example, the Son, then we do not have such memory to remind us that we ever even had a Son. Indeed, we become a father to a Son we never raised up from infancy, with whom we were never pregnant. But this may be to become too connected to language.

For Kierkegaard, and for Christians, yes, there must be expectant waiting for the Son. But this is not the only Good for which we always wait. If the only Good we can recognize is a Son we've never seen, we may miss the Goods that reveal themselves in other ways.

If love hopes all things, then there can be no discrete content - no definite object - to the hoping. Hope is relating only to the expectation of something good. Can we be so arrogant to exhaustively know the manifestations of Goodness? If love also believes all things and is never deceived, then *all things* must be related to Goodness - we must believe them to be so. Love acknowledges that this action, word, event, relation, situation appears bad - even hateful - and persists in believing that there is a deeper love motivating it. If all things - even those that appear hateful - may be related to love, then in hoping, love hopes for a goodness which is ... everything.

To love then is to relate to the world, to existence, in a way that calls forth love continually. To love is to continually orient oneself toward hope and away from fear; toward belief and away from despair; toward goodness and away from self-pity. Further, it is to do this without any other promise, for itself and for no other wishing for reward. Love must always be its own reward and not a talisman against nihilism. Love must be an orientation and not a tool for achievement.

Love hopes all things - and wishes none of them concretely. For hope to be loving hope, it must be willing to accept everything and to continually will to orient itself toward what is as love.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

the corrections. middlesex. brothers and sisters

i wish my family life appeared to me as a story as bittersweet and wonderful and disappointing and perfect as do these moving, strange, improbable, real fictions. family relationships seem to have such potential for definition. in particular, the parent-child relationship is deeply interesting to me. how strange it must be to have a child! i cannot even imagine what it must be like to birth yourself into the role of parent. to be that someone for a someone else. to love someone imperfectly and completely and to receive imperfect love in return.

i don't suppose we can ever really understand our parents until we have children ourselves. reproducing our families, we meet our parents again in our bodies and ourselves in our children.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


this is not the end of the world
i will keep repeating myself
nothing is ever written in stone
there is still room and time for change

i will keep repeating myself
acting and speaking in ways i regret
there is still room and time for change
after all i'm not yet dead

acting and speaking in ways i regret
is not a death sentence
and after all i am not yet dead
and the same tree makes new leaves each year

regret is not a death sentence
nothing is ever written in stone
the same tree will make new leaves
and this is not the end of the world

i am falling in love with the pantoum. this is my third one. i am not yet very good. my poetry skills (such as they ever were) are a bit rusty. but the repetition keeps calling to me and this attempt shows why: my life seems to move in concentric circles. i repeat the same patterns over and over and over again. but each repetition carries a different weight; brings new meanings and significances. if i can begin to think of each repetition as progress, perhaps i can stop myself from despairing every time i find myself repeating behaviors and thought-processes i hate. spiraling outward, not in.

Monday, February 25, 2008

plato procrastination

oh to be heard!

oh to express!

these must be some of the sentiments driving the insane number of blogs out there. mine too. is this just as meaningful a 'community'?

i could share all kinds of neat things here. or i could pontificate majestically and often. what have you. what is interesting is that those are the sorts of things we used to share more with family, neighbors, customers, teachers, children. we get to craft our audiences now, culling from the population at large the most generous, receptive audience we can find.
- you make your own home-made laundry soap with sustainable, green ingredients??? omg, me too!!!! you are sooooooo cool!
- you are trying to save money by reusing things, not buying things and cultivating overall thriftiness??? wowowowow!!! awesomes!!!
- you love to shop for makeup far too often and spend too much money when rent is due and have to live on bread and yogurt sometimes because you simply had to have a new pair of boots????? *soulmates*

the point is that, though there are some variances within these little niche communities, and though finding people with the same goals and aims as you can be really validating and really, really important, it seems, perhaps, a bit lopsided. a bit off-balance. a bit like seeing the world through a kaleidoscope and exulting in the beautiful patterns 'of the world' when you've put them there yourself.

as a student in the academy, i have the privilege of doing whatever i want most of the time (within reason, we're not talking spur of the moment trips to prague). i can read what i like, write as often as i like, spend my days rolling around in theory theory theory. i have the leisure to volunteer, to spend time with friends, to take in (cheap) chicago culture. i have no kids, no husband, no family nearby to take up my time. only me and cat.

on the other hand, without appealing to the "real world" so often spoken of, i wonder if this does not make me - like most others in other such crafted communities - a bit like a bonsai tree, or like a hothouse plant. i seem to flourish. but just how well can i actually withstand opposition - wind, changes in temperature, drought, parasites? which plant is healthier: the lush hothouse plant or the smaller, ragged outdoor one? which plant is hardier: the sheltered plant or the interdependent one?

i can craft elegant sentences. i can logically connect them and construct a balanced, meaningful and beautiful paragraph. i can recognize failures in reasoning. i can connect such failures to larger patterns of thinking. but can i withstand opposition? where reason is not recognized as an authority, to what can i appeal? where the syllogism obscures, rather than corrects, understanding, how can i speak? where events defy ordering, how can i think?

i am well-prepared for a living of thinking. but for community? this is uncertain.

confronted with those who will not listen, can i make myself heard?