Tuesday, December 28, 2010

preparation for resolutions

How do those of you without children, dogs, real jobs, roommates, live-in partners, medication schedules, yoga/spin/expensive class of choice get out of bed at a reasonable hour of the morning?

Is there anyone other than me who fits that category?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

we have turned

we have turned every one to his own way.

This year we practiced three times, each for several hours. We labored over the 16th note runs ("For Unto Us a Child is Born" really is the hardest). We practiced the final "Amen" the night before the event (and that is harder than the 16th notes).

About halfway through the evening, my voice opened up a bit and it was easier to achieve those Fs and Gs.

Toward the end of "All We Like Sheep" there is a bit that changes up the runs on "we have turned" and C and I went over and over that until we nailed it. Last night, however, I did not nail it. At the end of it, I second-guessed myself and went astray. More accurately, I just gave up and came in at the next measure. And I knew it! And we'd practiced!

Strangely, "Lift Up Ye Heads" was the chorus I sang best. That was a surprise.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


I fully support healthfulness and am happy to hear of others' success stories regarding improved health. However, I've never, ever seen skin that glowed. I think if I saw someone with glowing skin, I'd be concerned for them, and wonder if maybe they hadn't heard what happened to the Radium Girls.

Friday, December 10, 2010

already weeping

The thought that I will (probably) outlive Alan Rickman is just too much to bear sometimes.

Monday, December 6, 2010

breaking up is hard to do

Dear Wine,

you are no good for me and I don't think we should see each other any more. I think it's best if this is a clean break--don't call or write or text or email. I know how that will go: you'll say "let's just get together for a few minutes, just for one glass." Next thing I know, I've drunk you all up. Honestly, if I'm going to lose control like that, I'd rather do it with chocolate or cheese.


the philosophotarian.

ps. I mean it. I mean it super hard.

Friday, December 3, 2010

note to self

I have this fantasy of being All Set. Fully Prepared. Ready for any and all Contingencies. Although I am only a poor graduate student, I have been using loan money to purchase things like:
* a warm winter coat
* hats that fit my head
* warm woolen tights and well-insulated boots
* a bed and a comforter
* reading glasses (see right)
* wool skirts that suit my shape and fit my body
* a laptop and a netflix subscription (cheap gym!)

The idea being that, if I get these things now, I won't have to worry about them when I no longer have loan money to supplement my income. In a few years, when I've moved on to Exile U, I'll already have a warm winter coat, hats, tights, skirts and glasses to keep me All Set. I'll have a bed and a table and a desk and bookshelves. I won't need to get these things later, I'll already have them.

I am finding that I am nearly All Set. Sure, there are some things I'd like (a few silk slips; classy, versatile earrings that don't turn my ears green; a velvet sash or satin cummerbund. Basics like that). But I have enough shoes, enough skirts (more or less), enough sweaters. I am supplied with tights, with scanties, and with undershirts. I have more glasses now than I need (the old ones are still perfectly good for around the house). My kitchenware is more than adequate. It'd be nice to have a chair that supports my back and allows my feet to rest on the floor, but I think that's pushing it with the universe.

But if I am All Set, that must mean that I am Ready to Go. Which means there is nothing left but to finish my dissertation, find a job and become a Person. This frightens and disappoints me. I don't feel All Set. My feet are warm, I look put together and sufficiently polished, and my things have cozy little homes, but none of that makes me feel any more ready to be the person I have been, ostensibly, preparing to be.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

oh, and

Philosophical Investigations
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

and maybe something Christmas-y?

or not.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Books I must read soon

Works of Love
Anna Karenina
The Princess Casamassima
Fear and Trembling
Discourse on Method

Wherein the curse of eve is a mighty curse

And lo, the angel of the lord came upon them and the glory of the lord shone round upon them: and they were sore afraid.

Suffering under Eve's heavy curse, I rolled out the pie pastry for Thursday's pie. It didn't feel right. I couldn't tell what was wrong or different, but it was not the same and it was despised and I esteemed it not. Like sheep, it had gone astray, and turned every one to its own way.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

And so I made a chocolate cake as well, just in case the pie was not edible. Alas, it, too, like a sheep had gone astray and turned to its own way. And so the cake was not quite right, either.

At that point, I contemplated a pumpkin spice cake. It was midnight: For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people. Yet the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. So I went to bed instead.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

The next morning, I arose and shone, and ate a tiny piece of the pie. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: the pie was not terrible! It was indeed safe to eat. I ate a small sliver of cake, too: Comfort ye, comfort ye my people. The cake was not terrible, either. A smidge dry, and a smidge dark: not bad at all.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

Thanksgiving was going to be just fine.

Cooking while cursed and while practicing for this year's DIY Messiah is so wonderfully dramatic.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I got to practice my pie-making skills last night. I don't make pie very often. I think my last attempt at pie crust involved a box of Jiffy mix (don't judge me too harshly!). While making this dough, I was convinced it wouldn't come together. Not having made a good dough before, I wasn't sure what to look for, or what my goals were. Still, I followed the instructions reasonably well and the result is both lovely and delicious!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

my platform

Philosophotarian, if elected to goddesshood, will even entertain other peoples' conundrums right here on this blog. That's right folks. Philosophotarian will, if asked to do so, open her big mouth and dispense advice.

2011 campaign

I'm running for goddesshood next year, so you should plan to vote for me.
I will thwart evil and reward goodness.
I will have a particular fondness for the brilliant, witty, and wise.
Best of all, I will provide practical advice in real time to those who ask for it.
I make very good points and I am very often correct.

So vote for me! Add me to the pantheon! philosophotarian for goddesshood 2011!

*I'm not running for capital-G divinity. I don't have to be the best of the best. No, no. There's room enough for many. A parliament, not a monarchy.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I will not spend thirty years taking notes

After a weekend of naughty excess, I am returned to productivity and virtuousness. Shall we make a bet? Or, if play is not to be endorsed, then perhaps I may be dared? Double-dared?

I must now turn reading notes into research into section 3 of chapter two. Goal: 5 strong, new pages by the end of the week and revisions of previous writing. Who will shame me if I do not meet my goal?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

pay my boon and sing for joy

I wish I could write polyphonously.

clearly not learning from Aristotle

When I do work in earnest I am quickly shown how little I work in general, how lazy I am most of the time. If I used my time better, I could be so much more accomplished. I am, as it is, so very far behind. When I do see clearly how undisciplined and lazy I’ve been, I become very disappointed in myself and quite ashamed of myself. When I am not working, although I recognize that I am not working, I do not take a measure of work left undone. When I begin to work again, I remember how quickly (and slowly) I do work, and am able to take better account of just how much work I have not done, just how much more work I have made for myself, just how much longer it will take before I can even begin to catch up.

This is a very ugly habit. It has deleterious effects upon my character. I grow resentful and envious of those who are better disciplined and more accomplished. I grow angrier and angrier with myself. Moreover, I despair. I grow discouraged. Petulant. I become so disappointed in myself that it seems inconceivable to me that I am not a disappointment to everyone I love. How can anyone stand me? I am lazy, careless, weak, cowardly.

It becomes clear that no one but my own self has ever stood in the way of my success. When I am not working, it is easy to point to all the teachers who did not encourage me, even those who declined to offer guidance when asked for it. It is easy to point to the family from which I sometimes feel alienated. It is easy to point out that I meet few people with whom I can discuss philosophy in ways that are simple enough for me to understand without being trite or silly.

When I begin to do work again, I remember (why do I ever let myself forget?) that I never had to be brilliant. Never had to be the smartest person I know. I only ever have to (ever had to) work consistently to the best of my ability and always try to improve. That’s all. I don’t have to move at leaps and bounds. I will never be able to do so. Avoiding work because I cannot do everything at once is so foolish—and I know this, of course. There is not—there never was—any time limit. Had I kept plodding at my own very stupid pace, I would be so much further along than I am now.

And then I think of the ways in which I spend my time, the things with which I fill my head. If I’d spent half of the time I currently spend reading magazines reading texts in the history of ethics, I would be very well read. When I then remember that I reread these magazines, sometimes more than once, I am very ashamed. I could have written at least one conference paper. I could have read books that are much more edifying. I could have lost five pounds. I could have tried a dozen new recipes.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

file under "not getting it"

Dear Sir,

Yes. I did give you my phone number last May. You asked for directions to Clark street (what don't you understand about a grid system?) and I gave them. We were both walking to Clark and you started talking to me. You were pleasant enough for a stranger. Fine. Then you suggested that we might hang out sometime. That surprised me and I probably responded something like "uh. maybe. sure." Then you asked for my phone number. I gave it.

You texted that evening or an evening or two later. I don't really remember. I apologized for having given you my phone number. Said I didn't have time for new friends--hardly had time for the friends I already had--and I was seeing someone and I wasn't available to hang out. I think you asked if it was okay if you hung onto my number in case I had time at some later date. I'm pretty sure I said I would not have time at some later date.

I don't remember if you actually texted at some point a few months later at which time I would have responded that I still did not have time. Then you said ok, you'd delete my phone number. At some point you did say you would just delete my phone number.

(keep in mind that we met once, briefly, on the street, strangers)

So why did you text me Sunday evening, after a year and a half, to ask if I remember having met you? "Hey. This is ------. We met a while back. Do you remember?" I believe that the event I remember is the last time I gave out my phone number to a boy. So I believe I am correct in thinking the text message I received Sunday is from that boy I met a year and a half ago. What don't you understand? I am not available. I will never be available.

I didn't respond. If you text again, ------, I will say "No. You must have the wrong number."

Monday, November 1, 2010

baking for dummies

Imagine that this is the recipe you choose to make:

3 c sugar
1 c oil
4 eggs
1 can pumpkin
2/3 c water
3 1/3 c flour

makes 2 loaves

Now, imagine that, from the start, you decide that that is too much sugar and too much oil. Also, you will use brown sugar, not white. And you'll make muffins, not loaves. You amend to

1 3/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c oil
4 eggs
1 can pumpkin
2/3 c water
3 1/3 c flour
salt, soda, spices

makes 24 muffins

However, you had to dash out for the brown sugar while the quinoa was cooking (oops) and the sweet potatoes, apples and dried cherries were roasting. So

Before mixing together the sugar, oil and eggs, scrape out the burnt quinoa and put the pan to soak. Stir the roasting fruit/veg.

Mix together the sugar and oil. Add the eggs. Realize you have only 2 eggs. The recipe, now, is

1 3/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c oil
2 eggs
1 can pumpkin
2/3 c water
3 1/3 c flour
salt, soda, spices

Decide to use buttermilk instead of water; begin to make purple rice:

1 3/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c oil
2 eggs
1 can pumpkin
2/3 c buttermilk
3 1/3 c flour
salt, soda, spices

Dump in the can of pumpkin, stir the rice and the fruit/veg. Begin to combine dry ingredients in a rather large bowl. Realize you have less than 2 cups of flour. Add oats. Dump the purple rice into the pot of lentils you'd made earlier in the day.

1 3/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c oil
2 eggs
1 can pumpkin
2/3 c buttermilk
2 c flour
1 1/3 c oats
salt, soda spices.

Add the remaining ingredients. Decide to add a shredded apple. Add the roasted veg and fruit to the lentils and purple rice. Eat a bowl. Decide it's bland, but will be better later on with kale and chicken sausage.

1 3/4 c brown sugar
1/2 c oil
2 eggs
1 can pumpkin
2/3 c buttermilk
2 c flour
1 1/3 c oats
salt, soda spices
1 shredded apple - cortland is nice.

Bake at 350 for about 20-25 minutes.

Try one.

Realize you forgot to add the salt. Feel even more disappointed because, had you added the salt, they actually would have been pretty darn good. As it is, they are a little bland. Eat 2 anyway.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Zeus takes the scales in his hand

and weighs the fates of the champions. Just as Hector, beloved of Zeus, was fated to die, so must I write this evening. Fate is fate, regardless of desire. I have no desire to write, but fate does not care. (Neither does Zeus.) I will battle the wind to reach my home, pull on my heroine pants, make a big pot of tea, and continue writing.

I hope I don't have to be either Hector or Achilles. Hector never gets to finish the dissertation; Achilles never gets a job afterwards. Doom either way. I have to figure out how to be Aeneas.

I wonder what my metaphors will be when I move on to Middlemarch.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Dear Everyone,

It seems that many of you missed the memo, so here it is:


FROM: the philosophotarian

SUBJECT: leggings

Leggings are not pants. Leggings = undergarment. Alternatively, leggings (like flip-flops) = verboten. Do not wear leggings in place of pants, skirts, shorts, kilts, etc., unless you are a method actor in a production committed to historically accurate clothing. In which case, I expect to see codpieces.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Heroines need pants to wear for heroic activities

This heroine has 11 pages. Villains everywhere are perking up, ready lure the heroine away from her heroic activities. Stop, villains. It will not do. I will not submit to your villainy. I will pull on my new coffee-colored, petite-length, super-soft writing pants and thwart you. Yes. Thwart. I expect to reach 24 pages by the end of the weekend.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

But Rilke makes it better

Lösch mir die Augen aus

Lösch mir die Augen aus: ich kann dich sehn,
wirf mir die Ohren zu: ich kann dich hören,
und ohne Füße kann ich zu dir gehn,
und ohne Mund noch kann ich dich beschwören.
Brich mir die Arme ab, ich fasse dich
mit meinem Herzen wie mit einer Hand,
halt mir das Herz zu, und mein Hirn wird schlagen,
und wirfst du in mein Hirn den Brand,
so werd ich dich auf meinem Blute tragen.
--Das Stundenbuch, in Das Buch von der Pilgerschaft no. 7

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

prickles and you don't let anyone get close to you

Tuesday October 12
1:47 am

I just recently awoke from a dream. Cat decided to chase after a python which had slithered 87 feet up a tree [actually, I think it was a wall and a tree]. Cat fell out of the tree and snapped his neck. Intense grief woke me up. In my dream the tears came so thick and fast--tears piled on tears before any even fell. If I could have formed other thoughts, I would have worried that I might drown or choke on tears. I sobbed in a great howling wail. I didn't even hear myself making sound. Felt rather than heard the wail which, looking back, didn't even feel or sound real.

And the pain! A column of pain from my neck to my belly. Squeezing, suffocating pain. Even now [I woke up and wrote this a few minutes after having the dream], I've lost the depth and reality of the pain and it is only a memory of a dream.

That's what I felt for my cat in a dream. I have never felt grief over any human person's death. What if I never do?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Aunty Philosophotarian reads Kafka

Tonight I am teaching philosophy for 2.5 hours to a bunch of freshmen. I am both excited and terrified.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

a dinner party with Disciplina and Necessitas

I still haven't written. Haven't done much with my notes. Haven't reread the two articles I plan to use to introduce my chapter. Haven't pasted notes into a magnificent new outline.

What I will do is this:

Head to the grocery store
Buy a chicken, a lemon or two, some dried figs and nettle tea
Roast the chicken with butter and herbs and potatoes and an onion
Bake a cake and fill it with the figs and lemon
Brew the tea and drink it and breathe

When I have cooked for myself and fed myself and taken care of myself, I will permit myself one hour for dissertation work. No more than one hour. After one hour I will stop. And then I will tell myself, "I have begun."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

replete with excuses

I want motivation, determination, and bravery in a bottle. Take as needed. Now in prescription strength.

I am stalling. I am not working. I am afraid to make progress. I am afraid that I will never make progress. I have devised lovely plans for myself and for my work this semester. Every day I find some reason why I can't start now. Can't start this minute. Can't start today. Tomorrow. Next week. When my dry cleaning is returned. After my doctor appointment. After the weekend. After I hear from my sister. After I've found a better chair. After I've cooked something for dinner. After I've picked up groceries. After I've scheduled the x-ray. After my next workshop. After ...

My goal is five pages every week. This is a very, very doable goal. I could write no more than one page for five mornings and meet my goal. That is such a very small amount of writing! I still have not begun to write.

Sometimes I dream of quitting. I am, quite frankly, a quitter. I simply don't do difficult things. There. I've said it. I could quit, I tell myself in a tone of voice reserved for other naughty suggestions (I could buy a new purse; I could eat a pint of ice cream; I could have a second drink). I could quit and do something easy. Something that would be effortless. Something that would require nothing from me.

I inhale the fragrance of quitting. The minty and zesty top notes of more time and fewer demands reach me first, followed by the watery, floral allure of letting go. These are nearly enough to convince me. The cedary, molassesy, earthy base nudges me out of my reverie. There, at the bottom of the perfume, is the reminder that there is nothing that I can do that will be effortless. Nothing I can do that won't challenge me. Nothing I can do that will require nothing of me. This doesn't inspire me to work but it does remind me of the futility of quitting. I neither work nor quit.

This is how I write chapter two.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


My cat is wailing. He’s been doing this lately and I do not know the cause. Perhaps he is filling our otherwise empty quiet space with the noise of his own insistent conversation. My cat doesn’t seem to appreciate the noises of the city as much as I do: the industrial laziness of the cicadas; the whoosh of the express trains and the rhythm of the red line trains; the CTA announcements behind the cicadas and whoosh and car alarms and street traffic; the rustle of leaves from the very large tree outside my window; the saxophone player at the el stop who plays my summer theme songs through purple night air; the jangling of dog tags and the clatter of shopping carts; slamming of doors and running down stairs; the pulsing atonal siren of the cicadas; the yelling, the talking, the drunken mariachi outside my bathroom at 2 in the morning: this is my soundtrack.

I’ve discussed this with some people before and I do think I am not wrong. Other people have other ways of classifying types of people; I have my own. There are two sorts of people: amoebas and pencils. Amoebas are shapeless and shifting, taking on this shape, no this one, no this one, no this one. An amoeba’s behind sometimes precedes its in-front which may be at odds with its behind. The shape of the amoeba is most noteworthy when it resembles something else: a cloud! an ink blob! a horse head!

A pencil’s behind always follows its in-front. A pencil comes to—and has—a point. A pencil can in fact be used as a pointer, can be waved or shaken—much like a knife—for emphasis. A pencil knows precisely where it is going and why: toward the end of the sentence. A pencil loves nothing so much as the terminal period.

An amoeba is unaware of its own direction or purpose. An amoeba, attempting movement, may find itself distracted or repelled or impelled or compelled and find itself someplace very different than it (thought it might have) intended.

A pencil carries with it only a ghost of a past. Mistakes can be unmade. All evidence erased. A worn-down eraser is the only indication that perhaps the pencil has committed some error. The eraser, however, is silent, unable to tell any tales, voiceless, a mute servant.

An amoeba can hardly hide. It is very simple. Wears its metaphorical heart on its metaphorical sleeve.

A pencil, though pointed, grows dull and must continually resharpen itself. Eventually it dwindles and must be discarded.

An amoeba divides itself and divides itselves and divides itselveses and divides itselveseses and divides itselveseseses.

A pencil is singular. An amoeba becomes community.

If there is a problem with my classification, it is because I have a disproportionate amount of sympathy for the amoeba. I wish I could be more of a pencil. I wish I had a point, a direction, a purpose and an eraser. The usefulness of a pencil is immediately clear. The usefulness of an amoeba much less so.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

the end of an age

Two new years begin soon. As for anyone who has never left school, the end of August marks the beginning of a new year and the end of that strange and shapeless in-between time that is not part of a year at all. Some people term this time "summer;" I call it "the time of the year I cannot wear boots."*

The beginning of October marks the end of a decade and looks like the beginning of a new one.

I am plotting strange and wonderful plans for these new years.

I am going to begin pouring words into chapter 2 any day now--perhaps even today. I have been shaping the container all summer and I think it might be ready to hold the words that will make it visible. I, naturally, will not know if this is the case until I have poured a great number of words into the chapter. Lately, like a potter, I've been gliding my hands on on unformed, sloppy, wet shape. Later, like a sculptor, I will chisel at existing words to finesse that shape.

I am going to learn how to read poetry. This might be even more difficult than writing my dissertation. Suggestions welcome. I cannot remain illiterate any longer.

I may work on my sewing skills. I may learn to knit. I will become a pro at baking bread.

I will travel this year. I don't think it even matters where I go. I need to see new things. I need to learn to navigate new surroundings.

*except for last summer, which was exceptional

Thursday, August 12, 2010

it's like drowning in virtue

If you begin now, you should be able to read every post at Inky Fool by the end of next week (assuming you choose to do a few other things as well).

It is a good thing my boss does not know about my blog, because then she would know that this is precisely how I am spending all of my time at work this week. I call this research. I believe I am significantly wiser today than I was yesterday and at least three times as wise as I was on Tuesday. You may decide for yourself, at the end of next week, whether my reading is the cause of my increased wisdom.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

by the lamplight

I've bought at least four dresses this summer. Two hats. A pair of shoes. A watch. Books. Many books. Spent $875 to receive a free copy of the 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style. And yet toilet paper feels like an extravagance. I walk into the bathroom, count out two squares and fretfully blow my nose. The roll is worn very thin and I only have three rolls left and I really ought to reduce my spending, tighten my belt (I could use a new belt), watch my pennies. I hardly feel a twinge of guilt when I purchase a new dress, but toilet paper--and trash bags--feel like luxuries too precious to afford.

It's nearly eleven o'clock when I write this. I know I should sleep soon but my chest hurts (again) and that worries and frightens me so much that I no longer feel tired. Neither can I write. I have nothing to say. The thought occurs to me that if I should die before I wake I will never have to worry about toilet paper ever again. This does not comfort me as much as I would like. It does make me laugh a little. I know I am being extremely silly. I just don't know how to stop. I keep the lamp on until I fall asleep. I'm not sure what it is I think this will do, what kind of help it will offer, but at midnight it just Makes Sense. In the morning I wake to the sound of rain and a meowing Cat and I am okay.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Wardrobe: Shoes

Dear inhabitants of Chicago summer,

Flip-flops are unlovely. Fwap, fwap, fwap, fwap is not an elegant sound-accompaniment for a life. How can one think of someone who fwaps everywhere as beautiful and stylish?

No. No, darling summer-people. They are all wrong. You are all wrong.

Your shoes should support you, should cushion your whole body from the assault of asphalt. They should help you to stand tall and with enviable posture. How can you prepare a life--your life--when your toes are splayed, when your arches sag, when your ankles roll, your back sinks and your shoulders droop?

Your shoes should make walking a pleasure and should help to guide your every step. Your gait should be smooth and should feel effortless. You may dance to the beat of the drummer of your choosing, but there should be some rhythm in your step.

While my blog sleeps, I will creep into her room and steal away all of her offending shoes. On tip-tip-tip-toe, I glide, gathering up all this junk food for the sole(s) in several armsful. I order them banned throughout the kingdom. When she awakes, there will not even exist a word for these fwapping offenders. In her closet will be sturdy and lovely shoes that will cradle, cushion and comfort. In them, she will walk like a queen. Even in the simplest of clothes, she will appear fully, impeccably dressed.

Friday, July 16, 2010

or maybe not

ok, you two. maybe this blog doesn't have to die. if i can find a way to re-purpose this blog so it has more of a theme ... if it didn't feel quite so naked ...

perhaps not death but an enchanted sleep after which Princess Blog will awake wonderfully refreshed.

i suppose this makes me a fairy godmother softening the spell of the evil witch. heh heh.

during the enchanted slumber this fairy godmother will work very hard at providing a new wardrobe for Princess Blog.

stay tuned, then ....

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I will be deleting my blog at the end of the month. It was an interesting experiment. Thanks to those of you who read and commented on my posts.

All best,


Monday, July 12, 2010

Punctuation garden gone to seed

I did not earn my good-worker dress. Darn. Maybe by the end of August I will have earned it. By the end of August, I hope to have 10 pages written. That's worth a new dress I think!

It has been difficult to get through the reading list I created. This is for a variety of reasons:

1. It's hot in my apartment
2. I've been busy with final copies at work
3. I've been catching up with friends
4. Some of the books are so badly written I throw them across the room in frustration. Getting up, retrieving the book, returning to the couch and finding my place in it all take up a surprisingly large amount of time.

It is difficult to avoid being distracted by the disastrous prose I've been reading. My first thought is usually that I missed something--that I read too quickly and so overlooked the word(s) or punctuation that make the sentence or conceit work. Because I am so generous, I re-read the sentence and too often conclude that I was correct - the sentence is badly written. Then I turn forensic grammarian and try to figure out what would have made the sentence work - sometimes it's as simple as a preposition switch or the addition or subtraction of commas. Other times it appears that a sentence's failure can be traced to the author's attachment to a certain phrase within the sentence: the rest of the sentence simply does not fit with the phrase but the author prizes the phrase more than s/he prizes clarity. Misuse of verbs is unfortunately common. Relationships don't cut, you cannot emasculate a thing or idea, and you cannot sever a split. Lastly, it appears there is an all but irresistible temptation to resort to important-sounding vagaries when approaching innovative or original thought. I suppose that it must be easier to leave readers with a mysterious-sounding short and pithy-seeming sentence immediately followed by something different and easier - more familiar that is - than it is to write one's way to an explanation of what one means.

How will I ever learn to write well when I must slog through so much bad writing? Bad writing is distracting. It is self-perpetuating. It is unethical. It is a disservice to everyone. It generates bad karma.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

"What's FGM?"

I've only had two sips of coffee but I'm wide awake and all abuzz. I wish it were the coffee. Shock, anger, fear, frustration and horror produce a more potent rush of adrenaline than caffeine.

I have attended a few training sessions to refresh my knowledge before doing advocacy work again. The sessions have a large number of attendees - probably at least 40 people. A social worker came in to give a brief presentation that introduced the special concerns that immigrant survivors of sexual violence face and briefly described the legal/social remedies created to help survivors get help and remain in the country: VAWA, U-Visas and T-Visas. The social worker displayed a list of the crimes that constitute VAWA violations. One of these was FGM. As if on cue, more than half the room asked: "What's FGM?" I was surprised. I don't think of myself as terribly aware of, well, the world, generally. "What's FGM?!"

What surprises me too is the misinformation that courses through the room. A D&E is not a "medical" abortion. The Sexual Assault Survivor Emergency Treatment Act (SASETA) does not cover abortion costs. At all. Ever. A survivor may not have an abortion performed in the emergency room. Emergency contraception will not hurt a fetus.

It will never be appropriate to stare in surprise or disgust at evidence of physical harm or at symptoms of STIs.

It will never be helpful to give incorrect information. If you are unsure whether a person will be able to take 8 or up to 12 weeks unpaid leave from work, then do not pull a number from your head and hope you are right. If you don't know when the first trimester ends, don't just guess at some timeline (1/3 of 40 weeks, folks). If you don't know the difference between making a police report and pressing charges, don't talk yourself into knots. If you don't know the difference between an order of protection, a civil no contact order or a restraining order, then don't offer them up specifically.

Giving misinformation hurts others. But what about when you don't even know you have or are giving incorrect information? Why is this not addressed explicitly in training? Giving bad information confuses and re-victimizes survivors. But I have not heard a single staff worker say anything about the harm false "facts" can do.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

failed relationship

Dear "bistronomic" restaurant,

We had a lovely time together last night and I appreciate the energy and humor you brought to the table. You were lively, surprising, and attractive. You portioned yourself out in small servings lest I become overwhelmed by your variety and inventiveness. You were hip, fun, cool and easy on the eyes.

So please believe me when I say that it's not you, it's me. Really.

I like your flash, I do, but I need more sustenance, something simpler, easier to digest. The brioche twinkie with the deconstructed caesar salad, for example, was brilliant and the salted caramel with thick dark chocolate was heavenly. But I can't build a life on brioche twinkies. And now, the morning after, I feel cheap and used and a little sick.

I won't be returning for another serving of your dynamic gastronomy. I'm staying with my braised kale, barley risotto, whole wheat couscous and ripe stone fruits. I'm renewing my commitment to oatmeal, yogurt and berries. There's a life there for me, a wholesome and - yes, I'll dare to say it - delicious life and I don't want to give that up for a night of pleasure followed by a morning of regret.

Goodbye, bistronomic restaurant. I wish you well. I hope you meet others who will give you what I can't.

Don't call


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

love believes all things and is never deceived

I'd forgotten - a little - what it means to advocate for survivors of sexual assault.
To be an advocate for a rape survivor, one must believe everything s/he says no matter what.
To be an advocate, one must direct all of one's energy toward being on her/his side, in spite of anything
To be an advocate, one must set aside any tendencies to evaluate the survivor and and take care of her instead.
To be an advocate, one must trust the survivor, even when trust is difficult.
Advocates must trust survivors.

Although I understand the reasons for the methods used to train advocates, I would appreciate a conversation about what this means ethically and epistemologically. I suppose that conversation doesn't have to take place during training.

But what does it mean to produce the effects of love without the love? What does it mean to put someone else's needs above everything else; to drop everything to take care of someone simply because she needs it; to trust what she says simply because she said it; to refuse even to let oneself consider whether anything she has said might be false - what does it mean to do all this as an outsider, as someone who can and will leave, as someone for whom this is not a crisis, as someone who manufactures, on the spot, compassion and authority for several hours at a time?

Kierkegaard claims that love believes all things and is never deceived. The one who loves does so regardless of the risk of being considered gullible or foolish. The one who loves commits to believing the beloved against reasons for disbelief. Of course, for Kierkegaard, the one who loves is following Jesus' command to love one's neighbor, albeit in a radical, self-altering way that even secular folks can understand.

Why do advocates believe survivors? Advocates do not believe survivors out of love (though some may indeed be moved by love to work with rape survivors). Advocates are trained with certain political and pragmatic goals in mind: advocates believe survivors because it is expedient to do so. Advocates believe survivors because it works. This makes it easier - particularly for volunteer advocates - to separate their advocacy work with the rest of their lives; advocacy training and work need not move volunteers to experience any deep ethical or epistemological crisis: volunteers need not import the practice of believing all things into any other part of their lives, nor need they consider the implications of such belief for their advocacy work or their "real lives".

How deep - and of what kind - is the impact of advocacy training and work outside of the settings in which it is needed?

I admit that one could not conduct a training session about loving survivors. That could be a panel presentation, perhaps, at a conference attended by seasoned advocates. If Jesus had had PowerPoint and ran a seminar, his commandment wouldn't have been nearly so effective. Kierkegaard's book is so convicting because he describes in such detail what it means to love. Love believes all things and is never deceived. Love hopes all things and is never put to shame. Love builds up. Love hides a multitude of sins. Love abides. These things would be terribly unhelpful - and inappropriate - at an advocacy training.

And yet. Why do we believe survivors? That's not a question one can ask in training. This is not a place for hypothetical and theoretical conversation. Believing survivors is a political choice that works to help survivors to get the best care possible. But I wonder if being already motivated by love (an ethical commitment not easily at home in a secular world) might help advocates to find or create something like joy even in the emergency room, even while watching a homeless woman's fingertip being sewn back onto her finger. Expediency doesn't seem to help combat advocate burnout. Love might.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I'll be the best dressed philosopher you ever did see

Apparently reading for new clothes is the way to go - I've made significant progress on my reading list since deciding that I am allowed a new dress at the end of the month for my hard work. How exciting!

It is also exciting to become suddenly aware of an improvement you didn't realize you were making, even if the improvement is relatively insignificant or even trivial-sounding. The fingernails on my thumbs and pointer fingers had had horizontal ridges on them for - I think - years. I'd file them down when applying nail polish but otherwise never thought of them. Yesterday I noticed for the first time that they are gone - those nails are smooth and straight. I hadn't noticed the ridges growing out or the smoothness growing in. How lovely to see evidence of improved health in an unexpected way. Encouraging, too.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A new carrot!

I've been falling woefully behind on my reading for this summer. Woefully. Woefully. Today, however, I have a plan:

If I can end the month of June only 1 week behind, then I will treat myself to a new dress. I have my eye on one already:
If I do not make up the reading, then I have to wait until I've started writing chapter 2. I think. I think it's a good plan. Maybe I'll treat myself to a hat to congratulate myself for having thought of it:

Addendum: I got this one instead:

i love my job. really.

Dear [student],

I regret to inform you that you have failed to meet the minimum formatting requirements indicated by the Graduate School in the Formatting Manual for Theses and Dissertations and the Formatting pages accessible via the Graduate School’s website.

The Graduate School takes very seriously failure of this magnitude. You will be invited to a meeting with the Deans of the Graduate School, your dissertation director, your graduate program director, and your department’s chair. In this meeting you will be asked to explain how and why you selected the formatting procedures you followed. The Deans will undertake a special review of your academic career prior to this meeting. A report of this meeting will be added to your department’s file and may be used in the future during departmental evaluations.

The Graduate School makes every endeavor to facilitate the success of the students admitted to the programs under its jurisdiction. When a student exhibits failure of this degree, and at this stage of the academic career, the Graduate School must seriously reconsider whether to allow the student the privilege of continuing his or her degree.

Please complete the enclosed reply letter and mail or fax it to the Graduate School within one week of receipt. Failure to do so will result in automatic dismissal from your program.

CC: GPD, Department Chair

Encl: reply letter.

ps. this is all in fun.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

the handwriting itself, independent of anything it may convey

Though I love the tug of a pen across paper, I write better with my hands on a keyboard. For some things, however, only ink and paper will do. To do lists should not be typed up. Neither should recipes. Reading notes should be typed. Worries and fears should be written. Apologies should never be sent via email or typed and handed over. For an apology only heavy paper and thick lines of ink will do.

For some apologies even the power of creamy paper and black ink is not strong enough. I cannot apologize, for example, to my mother for abandoning her to her life. I cannot say "I'm sorry" for not being the daughter she longed for in any way that could make sense, that ease her life. Neither can I apologize to the world - to everyone in it - for my insistent excess when I've had a drink or two too many.

All I can do is bear gracefully my own guilt for having stopped being my mother's daughter, and bear just as gracefully my own disappointed self-loathing when my conduct does not meet my standards.

Friday, May 28, 2010


I've had a new breakfast lately, inspired by "Resolution Muesli" but simpler: into a round ziploc container, throw a handful or so of oats, a pile of defrosted frozen fruit, a dash of cinnamon or a drop or two of vanilla and then top with yogurt. Take to work and let sit in bag or on desk until hungry, by which time the oats will have softened, the fruit fully thawed and the flavors melded. Hearty, wholesome but not too virtuous-tasting. Easier than oatmeal. Portable. Non-squishy. Delicious.

I too like carefully plotted lists. I too like perfectly sharpened pencils. In the shelf below my new alarm clock, I have a small vase full of identical sharpened pencils. I find this extremely satisfying.

I do not have a story prepared for this evening's party. Theme: "the best i ever had". This is a story party, we are to come prepared to tell a story related to the theme. But such a tiny little life I lead! Shall I tell a story (ha! a paragraph) about the best mascara I've used? A story about the best poem I ever wrote (not very good, but I liked the conceit: a woman with a ragged hole in her chest, stumbling forward, offering her pulsing, gushing heart to a very horrified man. Silly lady! He didn't want your real heart! It's a figure of speech. You'll die!)? A story about the first time I used the word "fuck" in a term paper (most satisfying use of a naughty word)? About the best (only) date I've ever had with a woman (terribly stressful!)?

It occurs to me that I have no stories. I am story-less. I don't mind the mundane. But I think I might have more to say if I lived in a cloister (at least then I could have a best ever vision of god) (at least then when I talked about my best bowl of oatmeal, there might be appreciative nods and kindled wonder).

M acknowledged that some folks worried that the theme for this party could make the event kind of a downer but insisted that it didn't have to. I agree. But when I try to think of something amusing, it all comes out Miranda July. I like her work a lot, but even when she's funny, she's so very, very sad (or at least I think so). Best date with a woman: Winterson, natch (but subversively. hmm.). First use of the word "fuck": Lydia Davis. Best awful poem: Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt or Lorrie Moore. Flip a coin. Could be either one. All of these: sadly amusing, that is, amusing in sad ways, like a damp hand on soft down. Unless someone brings a heat lamp or the sun, these stories will not do.

It's nearly 3. Still want to work out. Still have 2 loads of laundry to fold and put away. Trash to take out. A shower to take. A story to imagine.

Monday, May 24, 2010


There was an impotence then. A thorough-going powerlessness. A hardly articulated ever present longing to escape. The moths would gather at the porch light by the back door (but there was no front door. It was the door. The side door. The door). They would cling to the screen and fly in sometimes. It got dark early and stayed dark long and the mornings smelled of mud. Mineral mud and fish and trees and damp.

How I hated it all! Hated it all so much I couldn’t love what I loved: the smell of morning, the pale light through the telescoped tree tops, the smell of fire every evening while the trash burned. These things I remember now and I love them. How I hated them all then, lumped them all together because they were together and they were my life and I wanted to escape. Embarrassed to go into town and stop at the Ben Franklin. Embarrassed at the Laundromat. Embarrassed to hear the story of the red ants. Again. Embarrassed to see the moths flying into the kitchen.

Rushed through the days to earn the comfort of night to remember that night here is just as long as a day. My sister’s curling-up ski slope toenails slicing my ankles in the bed we had to share. Wedged between the wall and my sister’s adenoids, deprived of the breeze that scooted around the bunk bed and hit the door, falling. The adults in the other room, walls cliché-thin, playing canasta (sometimes they’d head to Escanaba which sometimes, to amuse myself, I’d rhyme with “Canada”) or cribbage, voices low, keeping me awake. I was a very light sleeper and listened.

Morning brought the coldest milk I can ever remember. Or maybe it was not cold and I contrasted the warm milk with the perfect coldness which I thought I remembered milk could have. Whether the milk was warm or cold, it is still and always will be the coldest milk I can ever remember. I still wish my milk could be that cold.

This is not to say that there was never pleasure. Pasties with ketchup: heaven. Perfect food. I never did watch a fish being filleted but my great-grandmother certainly fried them up well. Walleye and bluefish. Free blueberries picked in wooded fields owned by no one. Or at least no one charged. I was a model berry-picker: I always picked far more berries than I ate. Like filling my basket or tin or bucket or whatever they gave me with virtue until I overflowed the tin and had to ask for a fresh one. No one picked as many as I did. Diligent. Quiet. Focused. Well-behaved. Sugar-plums, too (though you had to reach for those).

There was the pier and I think I sometimes sat there with a book. I think I also tried to look cool. I think I tried to look tall and lanky and beautiful. How I wanted to escape, escape everything, escape it all.

I don’t think of escape any more. Haven’t for years. I think it has occurred to me that there is no escape. Wherever I go, the days are all as long and the nights are all as dark. What a hopefulness there was behind that longing for night: later, when I’m older, when time has passed, things will be different. Something will have happened to me. Some magic something will have happened and will have taken me away from all of this. Some prince will have come and taught me how to be happy. Now I know that that is not the case. There is not a prince in the world who can give me that, who can teach me that. There is not anyone that can stand between me and myself and lift me off of myself and remove me from myself. I am what I must bear always. And so there is no escape. No running. No hiding. No new beginnings.

Still. What hasn’t stopped is the premonition of a future more real than this present. This can’t be my real life. No. not this. This is not yet it. I am still waiting for myself to arrive. That future one is the one to whom good things may happen. That future one is the one who may be loved. That future one is the one people will respect and admire and adore. This – this current one is merely a stand-in. Don’t get too close! Soon this inadequate one will be replaced and that future one is the one in whom you may confide and to whom you may entrust your very own self.

A new alarm clock sits in my new bookshelf. This clock belongs to that long-awaited future one who will replace me.

I no longer feel so powerless. My days are all my own and my nights are too. I am not consumed by that same helpless rage. I have things to do and often I do them. The embarrassment is not entirely gone, however. This might be already clear to those who know me.

I still think of those moths fluttering around the light at the back door (the side door, really. The only door at which a guest would knock. The door). The steps were red (and if they weren’t, they should have been). Standing at the door, back to the house, the trees formed a green-black wall nearly opaque in the night. It smelled of green and mud and fallen apples and the dying smoke of the night’s trash and the lake out back giving more light than the moon which was invisible for the trees anyway.

I am the one I’ve been waiting for.

Even so. Come quickly!

Friday, May 21, 2010

until next time

A new post is in the works. Seriously.


- nearly an entire week behind on my 10 week reading plan. Aieee! I hope to recover some of that this weekend, however,
- I have not been a hermit: lunch with J today. Then a drink with MK. Had a drink with a N on Wednesday and dinner with MJ on Monday. That doesn't even include the lovely time I've had catching up with D or the rescheduled coffee rendezvous with DG. So,
- Need to learn how to balance this healthy social activity with the intense amount of reading I've been doing; but,
- Have still been exercycling and strength training at super-star levels. Hooray! Feels very good (and not enduring belly-bloat during lady-time? very, very cool), even if
- I haven't been cooking nearly as much or as well as I should. Have been relying on my freezer (nearly empty), eating out (spendy!), and sandwiches and yogurt for too many meals in an attempt to save time.

To Do:

- Plan menus again. I don't need my meals to be very exciting right now. I do need them to be nourishing, packed with produce and relatively simple (so I don't waste [or 'waste'] time on food prep as an excuse to read less).

- Pack better lunches so I can stay in the office longer typing up my own notes

- Cut back on cardio (!!?!!!) to 30-45 min/day, 5-6 days/week and do 10-15 min of strength/calisthenics to keep my workout to 1 hour per day (yesterday, for example: 80 minutes exercycle, 20 minutes strength and about 10 minutes stretching. Decadent).

- Plot out my reading/writing/working/cooking/exercising etc. hour-by-hour every morning to keep myself on target (... that would be a little scary. Last resort).

soon: a post on waiting for my "real life" to begin

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

In addition to reading 260 pages of W.B. on Saturday, this is what I did:
I moved furniture around to give myself a little office (where my bed used to be).

I also gave Cat his chair back (which he already appreciates: he's taken several long naps on it already.)

I am hoping that having a separate space for work will be almost as good as doing work outside of my home - say at a cafe. It is kind of nice to be able to draw open a curtain in the morning simply by sitting up in bed. Not that it's gotten me out of bed any earlier yet.

Monday, May 10, 2010

penny-pincher reports

And hangs her head in shame.

I don't even know how much I spent this past week (mainly because all my receipts are at home and I am at work), but I did not stay within budget. This week's budget was already blown yesterday during another Target shopping spree. Den of vice indeed.

I am happier to report that I didn't fall too far behind in my reading plan for the next two months. I just have a lot of staying up/rising early to do in order to catch up. Staying up is getting slightly easier. Getting out of bed before 8:10? That's a much taller order. I don't know why: I'm usually awake by 6 or 6:15 (before napping with Cat until 7:45). I just can't convince myself to get out of bed. (It's cozy! And there's usually a cat snuggled against my feet! And I'll just stay in bed until I figure out what I'll wear .... zzzzz)

Goals for this week: catch up on reading, find costume for zombie prom, exercycle 5 hours, begin recording my reading notes and get out of bed by 7am every day.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Friday, April 30, 2010

re-acquainting myself with my inner penny-pincher

Holy spending, Philosophotarian! Someone needs a budget and fast! Where is the hero who will save me from my spendthrift ways?

Since mid-January, I've been very consistent with exercise. I am currently armed with a reading plan for the next ten weeks. Now, it seems, I need to strengthen my discipline in another area of my life: my budget.

I have been allowing myself quite a few splurges: I've ordered a lot of books from Amazon lately (those I don't feel too badly about); I had that little spree at the Gap (underwear! slacks! pajamas! I've been wearing these things all the time. still ...); then there was that indiscretion at Lush (it smelled so nice! and they gave me a goody bag! and a lady has to exfoliate!); let's not forget yesterday's decadent debauchery (strawberry-rhubarb cocktails that weren't too sweet! and "Miss Iowa" is back at Uncommon Ground! and one must eat while imbibing); there are groceries going bad in my refrigerator as we speak (I would have cooked last night, but I was out all day).

Looks like I need to go on a Cash-Only diet. I'll probably start by giving myself $100/week (starting next week). That's for everything: groceries, fun, I-ran-late-so-need-to-buy-lunch-out emergencies, cat food, toilet paper, clothing, makeup - everything. I can certainly get by on about $25-30/week on groceries, especially when I plan my menus. This will leave me with about $70/week for everything else. What I don't spend, I'll set aside, in a separate jar or something. At the end of next month, we'll see how much I have left.

In fact, dear readers, I will keep track of my spending this month and report at the end of each week and at the end of the month. With the money I hope to have left over, I'll plan, right now, to put some into my savings account, spend some on books at Amazon (I'll just put that money back into checking), and then see where I am.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A 10 week reading list

I'm trying to convince my mother to let us plant a lilac bush in her backyard next year. She doesn't need a whole lot of convincing, to be sure. But I may as well be honest and admit that I want the lilac bush just for me (like I want her to keep the rhubarb just for me, too). I'll go up in future springs and, in the privacy of someone else's backyard, stand like a swooning drunk, eyes closed, breathing in lilac perfume. I want white and light- and dark-purple lilacs, planted in a scented cloister to build the seclusion she'd like.

In the perfect world, we'd plant lily of the valley all along the sides of the house, too. Maybe just one side. Then I could fill tiny bud vases with the delicate lily-bells and large matronly vases with branches of lilac.

The house at which my family lived before moving to the house in which my mother now lives had lily of the valley planted along both sides of the house, and there were two lilac bushes. I think they were my favorite part of spring. Here in Chicago, I see lilacs around the neighborhood (and someone had lily of the valley, but I don't recall where any longer), but none of them are mine - I can't go around sniffing strangers' lilacs! Neither can I steal branches under the cover of midnight, nor pluck fragile fragrant bells.

Maybe in Exile I'll console myself with a fortress of spring-scented purple and white. If I must be banished for a hundred years, bearing heavy sleep and solitude, I may as well dream in a cloud of lovely color and perfume.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I could be a dandelion

I think I want all of these lovely sounding scents. How could I fail to swoon over one called "In the Library"? How lovely does "Russian Caravan Tea" (one of my favorite teas anyway) sound? If I surrender to the desire to possess any, the first on my list will be "Violet Empire."

I still have about 6 ounces of my Prada fragrance. And many vials of blended oil perfumes from Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab (their site is so much fun to browse! and the descriptions are so lovely! and the bottles so pretty!). And scented lotion (my current favorite is Karma Kream - orange blossom and patchouli smell so happy together). I am not experiencing any shortage of fragrance options. Perhaps it is that none of them feel (smell) just quite right. Perhaps they don't evoke just the right feeling, bring to mind any perfect moment. The scents I have, though lovely, are somewhat untethered to memory and so none of them feel necessary.

I should get out more. Do more. Have adventures. Visit more neighborhoods, cities, countries, worlds. Somewhere, in one of those worlds, I will find a scent that smells like home and I'll take a deep breath and move right in.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Divine Uterus Part I

In the middle of the journey of our life I came to
myself in a dark wood for the straight way was lost.
Luckily, I knew what that wood was,
so powerful and strong that the thought of it renews my wonder!
One less learned than I might have thought
that this place and its memory were so savage and
bitter that only death is perhaps more so.
I knew that I had encountered the door to my
uterus, strange and wonderful labyrinth of dark
and mysterious power.
I really cannot say how I entered there, so full of
sleep was I at the point when I abandoned the other way.
While I stumbled at the entrance, my eyes darkened by
the dark and red light that pulsed beyond the gate,
before me one offered herself to me who through
mystical silence seemed faint.
When I saw her in the great wilderness, I cried out and
begged her aid "whatever you may be, true woman or shade!"
She called herself - some utterance not translatable into
human tongue, the sound of which calmed my human fear.
"You must enter deep into your womb if you wish to leave
this dark and fecund place. There is no way out but in and
no way up but deeply down."
My heart sank at her words and I cast my eyes about within
the darkness that enfolded us.
She spoke, and then she moved, and I followed after her.

The day was departing and the damp and fertile air was
releasing its potency beyond the gates of the cervical city.
I alone prepared myself to undergo the journey which
memory will depict.
O muses, O high wit now help me!,
I sighed as I entered upon the deep, savage journey.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lists of True Things

About five years ago I descended into the lowest emotional abyss of my life. I was overwhelmingly sad most of the time. When I wasn't sad, I was terrifyingly numb. I was very much afraid that I would never feel any better than numb and that the sadness would continue to grow. Sometimes, on particularly bad days, when I felt consumed by feelings of worthlessness (because I would never get into a Ph.D. program, would never be funded for my studies, would never get a job, would never be qualified for a job, would become just like my mother, would never be loved, never be in a healthy, loving relationship, would be alone and lonely and incompetent and unskilled for the rest of the rest of the rest of my life), I would write Lists of True Things. On these lists I would write things like:

I am not hideously ugly
I am not stupid
I am not incompetent
I am capable of washing dishes
It is September
I am twenty-four
I have a master's degree
There are still leaves on the trees

It wasn't important to write things that were very deep. It was enough for them to be true.

I haven't written a List of True Things in a while - not since that year I think. My lists contain other things and are written for other purposes: to remind me of what it was I was meant to be doing, to organize a future I hope to have, to plan a menu for the week or the reading for a month.

It would be untrue to say that it was writing these lists that pulled me up and over the edge of that precipice. It was that and a whole lot of other things: that was the year I stopped using hormonal contraception, the year I began working toward my master's degree in philosophy, the year my father died. Perhaps not taking contraceptive pills acted as a placebo that helped me to focus on feeling healthy again. Perhaps being accepted into a philosophy program (not Ph.D at that time. not funded) both occasioned and quieted different kinds of professional/academic doubt. Perhaps the fact of my father's death (sudden, alone, friendless) jolted me into ordering my life to avoid ever becoming anything like him.

List writing is a near meditative practice for me. When I write lists, I think only of the list. Sometimes I write lists of recurring words in my writing. Sometimes I evaluate the positive/negative connotations of those words. Sometimes I make lists of furniture to buy, clothes to find, colors to combine. Sometimes lists of picnics to have, or books to read or things to learn to do. I make lists of what I have done, what I will do, what I must do and what I won't do.

Most of these lists have not been saved. Perhaps I will begin saving them more frequently. I'll put that on a list right now...

Friday, April 9, 2010

slipping from the wagon

Since defending my dissertation proposal, I've taken an unintentional break from productivity. I've been spending more time with friends, more time reading things for pleasure, more time at my mother's house, and more time in the office, checking in dissertations and theses for May graduation.

I'm struggling to regain balance. I have still been exercising (though this week I've only logged about 2.5 hours on the exercycle so far), but I haven't been cooking. I haven't been making my coffee most mornings; instead, I've been buying my coffee at the cafe down the street. I've been resisting my alarm clock. Drinking much more alcohol (still in moderation - much more than practically none isn't quite cause for alarm!)

Now that my proposal is defended and my project is (mostly) approved, I can organize my time differently. Rather than cloistering myself, I can build in some time every week to see friends. I need to better plan for it so that I still cook, exercise, keep up on housework and consistently read and write.

These past few months I wrote myself To Do lists every evening to keep myself on track. Sample:

Make tea
Read 2 chapters Nussbaum
Read 2 chapters MUW
Read 50 pp Golden Bowl
Eat dinner
Trash out

"Make tea" carried just as much weight as "2 chapters Nussbaum" and was just as satisfying to strike from the list. These lists were useful - rather than sit on my sofa and wonder what to do next, I simply consulted my list and did what was most appealing (or least unappealing) at the time. By the end of the evening, everything had to be accomplished, no excuses. I got a lot done this way.

I've been slacking on the list-making lately and this might account for my diminished productivity. When plans come up or change, it is difficult to put them on the list or to figure out how to restructure the list so that I can get work done and remain flexible enough to have a bit of a social life.

To Do:

Resume list-making

Monday, March 29, 2010

she always gets the guy in the end - except for when she doesn't.

Perhaps it is a symptom of my academic training, but even when I think I’ve set my mind to “off”, it often turns out that the switch rests somewhere between “on” and “off”, and that I haven’t quite managed to achieve a full stop.

Watching a silly rom-com while exercycling yesterday, I found myself irritated by yet another expression of that tired, smug relational “truth” – that trust must be earned, and that one cannot trust someone who has been known to violate certain standards of trustworthiness, as by lying, cheating, dissembling, looking away, not responding…

One can only trust the perfectly honest, perfectly truthful, perfectly transparent; one trusts those clever and consistent enough never to be found out. The rest of us, those of us who keep secrets, spill secrets, doubt, worry, or desire; who are at times at odds with ourselves; who equivocate, who change our minds, who find that we may have been wrong; who imperfectly and incompletely conceal where we would be plain and reveal where we would be opaque: we are not to be trusted. We will, at times, hurt you with our imperfections, with our lack of insight, foresight and even, sometimes, hindsight. We may appear to be lying when the truth of today’s ambiguities collides with conflicting previous truths. We may be the target of your anger when you feel threatened by and powerless to prevent the million minute infidelities, indiscretions and simple failures committed against you, against your previously-but-no-longer unimpeachable trust in us.

How could anyone ever trust anyone? There is no reason to do so. Trust is unreasonable.

This is, of course, precisely what makes it so lovely, so heart-catchingly wonderful when it is simply and continually offered.

If I choose to trust you, then I must trust you. And if you do something or say something or embody some attitude or adopt some perspective that prods my complacent trust in you, and if my reaction is to withdraw that trust, then I show my trust in you to be conditional – so long as you behave in ways that do not challenge my view of my own safety and surety, you are trustworthy. As soon as some behavior of yours reminds me of the precariousness of my position, then you cease to be trustworthy. At best, you are suspect. This is, of course, not what it means to trust.

If I choose to trust you, then I must trust you. And, yes, of course, this is difficult to discuss because words can hardly convey certain distinctions and shading and tones that change everything. If, for example, you tell me you love me, and if you then turn away from me, set me aside, ignore me, mock me, expose my secrets, and laugh at my nightmares, perhaps I will not trust that you were sincere in declaring your love. Or perhaps there will be revealed an irreconcilable difference in our conceptions of love that make such trust or declarations foolish.

But if I have already chosen to trust you, to place trust in you; if we have developed or are developing some way of relating to one another that requires for its continuation a measure – perhaps a growing measure – of trust; then in the moments in which I fear that you do not see me, in which I doubt your commitment to or desire for me, in which I worry that you may be keeping something important from me – it is in these moments of unrelievable anxiety that my choosing to trust you becomes a pressing commitment.

Just as being patient means being willing to endure feelings of impatience for the sake of the beloved, refusing to project those feelings toward the beloved and refusing to demand of the beloved that she “make it better” in some way – trusting may mean a willingness to endure feelings of great uncertainty, refusing to project those feelings toward the beloved and refusing to demand that the beloved account for herself in light of one’s own feelings.

But what, you will now want to say – and you are not wrong to say it – about cases of, say, clear and pernicious infidelity? If I have decided to choose to (continue to) trust you, then can I cease to trust you? Yes, of course. But I must recognize that it is still my choice to stop trusting you. The fact of your infidelity does not require me to stop trusting you. And it certainly cannot always be an indication of stinginess or narrowness when some one does stop trusting some other one. But it cannot be said to be so simple as that the fact that you did X revealed you to me as one who must not be trusted. If it reveals anything, perhaps it reveals a need to reevaluate the commitments assumed to be in place but not lately articulated. Or something like that.

And when you do do something – as you will – that moves me to doubt and worry and fear and fret beyond my endurance, so that I cannot bear alone the pain of my doubt; after you have made your attempt to soothe me, then I will accept that attempt as a balm for my soreness and take up my commitment to trusting all over again. Without reproach. Without accusation. Without making of my hurt a grievance to be brought over and over. Trusting without ever being able to know, certainly, that your efforts to soothe my doubt were made in good faith and not held out as a mask to conceal from me the accuracy of my fearful assessment.