So Tell Me ... What's The Weather Like on YOUR Planet?

06 June, 2013

So, the Barbie thing.

Googling "Quiet dignity" "Barbie" does not in fact turn up a new toy line, but rather references to the latest tempest in a teapot among organised science fiction writing/fandom/thing, such as this one, which quotes a rather interesting bit, a part of which is:

She has always been a role model for young girls, and has remained popular with millions of them throughout their entire lives, because she maintained her quiet dignity the way a woman should.

("Role model" is kind of an interesting phrase, isn't it?)

But anyway, the thing that came to my mind when I saw that going around (with its associated "She's a nice girl, she doesn't dress slutty, she doesn't complain to Ken about having things tough, and so on" rhetoric) was that Barbie is quiet because she is made of plastic.

This isn't a far-fetched thing to read when a science fiction writer talks about this kind of thing, it's not like robot housewives aren't a staple in genre and even in the surrounding culture.

A woman should be quiet.

Like an inanimate thing.

A toy, to be specific.

Made out of a manufactured substance.

"The way a woman should."

Dear Unfortunate Implications Fairy: do you think C. J. Henderson noticed your visit at all?  That was a very generous gift you provided.

18 May, 2013


Little white pills.
(One and a half of them -
I cut them with a kitchen knife every other day.)

Little white pills
Treating to the numbers
(I never knew to notice but
Maybe when you're fifteen you don't pay the right sort of attention
Or maybe
The kid with the dissociation problem
Is not the best at body awareness.
Ya think?)
They checked my throat,
Little pen marks and a tape measure,
And told me
"Little white pills, one and a half of them."

I stopped taking them
It didn't seem to matter.

When I had doctors
I would tell them
"I took little white pills,
One and a half of them.
I want you to find the numbers."
They found the numbers,
And sent me on my way.

I argued with one,
"These are the wrong numbers.
Here are my printouts.
This is what the new standards are,"
And she told me
My numbers were fine.
The one time they weren't,
She checked again,
And they'd changed.

Sometime in my late twenties
I found a bentwood cane
In an antique shop.
"Necessary tools should be beautiful," I said.
It was about the right height,
Red and knobbly and wonderful.
I didn't usually need it
But it was nice to have.

I took little white pills
For a while
They made me feel stoned
When I changed my dose
But the world didn't hurt so much
In my mind
And that was nice.
I had to stop
When I was pregnant

My knees never recovered
From the pregnancy
And stairs were hard.

I got a new doctor
And I said to him
"I had little white pills
One and a half of them
And I want you to check my numbers."
And he did.

And he said, "I don't treat numbers,
But your numbers
(The lab would say they're fine
Like your other doctor did)
They aren't good.
I would give you little white pills
Just for this
But look --
This other number --
Those are antibodies
And they shouldn't be there."

And he gave me little white pills.
Half of one a day, to start,
And I went home with a scrip
And told everyone I knew
"I have an autoimmune disease!"
And some of them understood
Why I was so happy.

One day
There was a truckful of rocks to unload
And I took the kids outside
And I helped
Because I had little white pills.

The little white pills
Don't change my body
Into a body that isn't nonconsensually suicidal
But they start to take away its weapons
And I didn't notice
All the ways I felt better
Until the little white pills
Went away.

And then I noticed
That my knees hurt again.
That I was so tired
Too tired to think.
I noticed
All the things I knew before.
(Fatigue, depression,
My appetite is gone because
My metabolism is fucked
It didn't go long enough
For my fingernails to shatter
But I bet when they grow a little more
They will.)

I noticed I needed that
Bentwood cane
And I hadn't remembered
The last time
I needed it to make it through a day.

"I need new little white pills,"
I said
While trying not to want to die
In a body that was trying to kill me
Because somehow
Having it all come back
The chills
The acne down my jaw
The way the pain kept me awake
And my ankles felt like tennis balls
Of flaking, brittle skin
With the fatigue
And all
(At least my heart didn't go flipping out
Like it was doing before I got
Little white pills
This time
That scared the fuck out of me
And I couldn't say
"I think I'm going to die"
I have kids
I can't leave them like this
I couldn't even tell the doctor
Which was stupid
But it was all the same damn thing
My life a ruin for a lack
Of little white pills
I suppose
But I digress)
It broke me
And I could barely get out of bed
The day I was going to see the doctor
Who could give me
Little white pills.

(My grandmother took the pills
I don't know if they were little and white
I wonder sometimes
If that was why--
Or part of why--
But no matter.)

He gave me little white pills
I gave him blood
To check my numbers
He said "I'll call if they're really bad"
And I took my scrip
And yelled at the pharmacist
Until they gave me
Little white pills
Just one at a time
To replace
The ones that didn't work.

Today I had to have a beer
To make the pain stop.
I will take my little white pill
And hope
To be more than a little better than I was

01 March, 2013

Runnin' Down a Dream

Last night I dreamed my teacher told me to get to know a goddess.

I thought that was interesting, so I did a little research.  (The goddess in question has an odd intellectual presence in my life, so it's not totally random....)

That research was increasingly interesting.

And then I turned up that in her native territory, it is customary to burn offerings for her the first Friday of the month.

And I looked at the calendar....

So then I started looking up what gets burned.  "Herbs", the internet tells me.  I grumble a lot.

Then Little Foot comes home from the grocery store and hands me a pot of basil.

(I looked it up.  Basil does grow there.)

I don't even know, man.

So I got my liege's assistance with applied pyromania and set up a little something.

Religion is weird.

21 February, 2013

The Yellow Wood

I was thinking about this before I read Dver's post on Choice, but I think I have it articulable now.

People talk about the price that comes of doing intense spirit-work, the obligations and taboos that accrue if one pursues that as a lifework.  And it gets talked about because there are people who will treat their community's medium as a public service, who are enraged that the local witch needs to pay the electric bill, who are consumed by fits of jealousy and want to know why someone else can pierce the veils between worlds and bring back messages and not them.

And a while back when people were talking about god-slavery as a practice/calling, there was one coming in with a great deal of, "Well clearly my gods do this much more seriously than yours," as if there is only one way to do it, and only a particular set and flavor of framework for devotion (one tending towards the ascetic, the henotheistic, the heavily taboo-bound) was relevant.  (I was a touch nonplussed by running into subbier-than-thou-by-proxy, but such is the nature of religion at times?)

But everywhere is a complicated network of choices, and I can trace back through mine, and see each decision, each angle, even at times when there was no choice possible, no other option: to do otherwise would be a betrayal of myself or my vows or some other principle I held dear.

I recall a night looking Neb.y in the eye and seeing before me the grand fork, one way towards Little Foot and family and the life I was urgently trying to build and had been seeking for a long time, the other towards ecstasy and transformation and vast unknowable deeps on the far side of the dark.

I reached into the future and put my arms around my child, and I said, "You cannot have this."

And the god laughed at me, a long and hearty laugh, and He said, "Prove it."

So I did.

And that has made all the difference.

20 February, 2013

Nome for the Holidays

I've been thinking a lot about nomes.

There's this illusion, you see, of a unified religion in discussions of ancient Egypt, usually a variant on the Heliopolitan cosmogony, with Amun-Ra instead of Atum-Ra, and sometimes with bonus Ptah in around the edges.  The different myth cycles of each nome vanish in a kind of vague, generic lens of past culture unification.  (Much like, I imagine, the particular mythologies of Athens dominate discussions of Hellenic culture, though for different reasons in that case.)

But each region had its own myth cycle, its own stories, its own emphases, its own take on things.  A book I'm reading at the moment had a Roman-era mention of a fight breaking out between delegations from two different towns on the subject of crocodile veneration or crocodile smiting - the subtext of which was "honor Set" vs. "execrate Set".  And that isn't, as is usually handwaved, the "Oh, Set's reputation tanked as one went on in Egyptian history", that's two contemporary groups with profoundly different theologies.

And every so often I run into someone who is deeply agitated about some bit of myth - often Set, not always - and I am coming to think that the perspective of "You have to be okay with this god, here's why" is a bad idea.  Or at least an unnecessary one.  The ancients certainly never sorted that shit out, if they were having slapfights about it while bemused Romans took notes.

Here's a complete approach, entirely supportable by mythos:

The regular workaday patterns of the world are a seamless whole which must be preserved.  Into that smooth fabric of being, disruptions are introduced, things that do not need to happen: the storm blows your roof in, or someone dies, or some other needless and painful moment happens.  This happened in the sacred stories, too, and restorative justice only goes so far: Wesir was not returned to his wife and family, but was established in the Duat.  Set becomes the beast of burden, confined to the polar stars so that he may not threaten the fragility that he created, one whose name is cursed.

Not only is this or something like it functional, supportable, and findable in multiple places, it's something that satisfies most people's needs.  Wrestling with the question of those unnecessary disruptions does not require tangling with grey areas; they did harm, so we cast them out, we curse them, we make wax figurines of donkeys to go with our wax figurines of snakes, trample them and burn them.

Here's another complete approach, also supportable by mythos:

An unchanging system is a stagnant one, a vulnerable one, and its weaknesses will reveal themselves in time.  To be powerful, it needs to be tested, prove itself, and overcome that which challenges it, and thus the function of challenge is essential to the health of the system.  Whether it is Heru-Sa-Aset winning the potency, cunning, and self-determination required to become an archetypically powerful king, or Wesir himself learning the secrets of rebirth rather the hard way, the road to revealed power cannot go the easy route that has no conflict.  The workings of Set, while not necessary to the functioning of an ordinary stable reality, are signposts marking the way to a change of condition.

This is a road for revolutionaries, for kings, for spirit-workers in the shamanistic style who are torn to pieces and put back together by the spirits, for those who can afford to imagine a different world and for those who can't afford not to.  Those are the people who need Set, or something like him.

I tend to figure most people don't fall into either group, and they can choose which they feel more aligned with - or something else entirely.  Theological conformity isn't that important.

19 February, 2013

The Physical Possibility of Gender In The Mind of Someone Watching

Last week my liege and I took the kids and went to visit his grandmother.

This is always an exercise in barely-contained chaos, really, and at one point the three adults were sitting in the kitchen while the kids chased each other around the loop of the house, shrieking and bellowing with glee.

"They're so girly at this age," commented his grandmother, perhaps because Little Foot - upon hearing a comment on her shock of hair - paused in her orbits and brushed her curls forward into her face to show them off, before of course whooping and charging off again like a very perky hound of hell.

At least, that's our only possible guess as to what might have been meant.

It's stuff like that that makes me feel like an alien anthropologist.  "Tell me about the customs of your quaint little planet...."

13 February, 2013

Summoning the Irony Demons

Because really, having my previous post about my state of crisis being constantly barraged with the sort of spammer who shits on the most recent post is bothering me.

I am making a post just for the spammers for a bit.  Maybe I will be less personally disconcerted by spam here or on subsequent posts when I have something of substance to say.

05 February, 2013

Once Upon A Time

Sometime, a lifetime ago, I was severely depressive.

I know, I know, a big shocker that.

But one of the things that happened with that depressive episode is, basically: I never fully recovered from it.  I spent a lot of time denying that, and it didn't do a whole hell of a lot of good, because it wasn't actually true.

(Reality is what doesn't go away when you stop believing in it.)

Life has changed a lot from the late nineties.  I am not sure I entirely recognise who I was then.  It's a complicated old world, and a lot has happened between then and now.  But there are scars.

I'm a whole lot healthier, in so many ways.  Having an assortment of medical conditions that can be treated with pills and potions treated with those pills and potions can do a lot for sheer physical resilience.  The kids don't seem as heavy as they used to, even.  (Well, Little Foot feels like she weighs about a fucking ton, but she's a big kid, and it's a smaller fucking ton than it used to be?  Dunno.)

Maybe I can dig back enough to unearth those old wounds and try to heal them true this time.

Maybe I can forgive myself for who I used to be.  And for the years of denying that it mattered.

(That's always a tough one.)

Just pinged a therapist.  We'll see if she works out, eh?  Or I can try another.  But inertia is the thing, and I kicked inertia by writing the one.  (I still like my old therapist but I have moved further and further away from her, and with the kids the transit is just unworkable.  I would like to drop by and see her sometime, introduce Little Foot, but when the fuck am I anywhere near Brookline?  Never.)

22 January, 2013

Back to Breath Again

I have been pondering how to find aspirations - a word which, again, is rooted in the concept of breath.

A friend who I was talking to when I was having my health breakdown this weekend referred to Feldenkrais phrasings of "able to fufill one's avowed dreams", and that's the place it all falls down for me, back at the beginning of everything: figuring out how to get there from here means having to find a 'there' to get to.

It was a couple months ago that I figured out that I want to be when I grow up.  I am nearly old enough to legally qualify to be President of the United States, and I only just started getting the inklings of aspirations.

Part of that is a social problem: I got a lot of "you're good at this thing" feedback and not a whole lot of help figuring out what I wanted, what mattered to me, how to pursue what I might want to do with my life.  (And while there's no way anyone could have meaningfully guided me to what I actually am doing with my life when I was a teenager, because my life is too damn weird, I could have gotten here with more productive back end stuff.)  This is a systemic problem; I wrote about it before in the very limited and specific field of sex ed, but I do think it comes down to things like critical thinking, internal development, and paying attention to the inner narratives of kids, all of which the culture I grew up in stink on ice at.

A lot of people muddle through that to finding what they want to do with their lives okay, though that doesn't seem to be the goal; as far as I can tell the actual goal is to get people who are dulled into shapes that are adequately bland so as to not argue with the demands of corporatist reality.  (People having dreams would be inconvenient when trying to coerce them into tedious jobs, after all.)  People with goals for themselves, aspirations, desires, they're hard to keep in little boxes.  They go looking for something better, more suited to them, or something eventually, if they haven't been broken.

But the social stuff is, at least from where I sit at the moment, comparatively minor.

When I was thrown out of college ("given the option to take medical leave", sorry), it was fundamentally because of the consequences of severe chronic depression at minimum.  And that's the culmination of a long stream of "does not fulfill potential" type things, wondering why I did not continue to be the eager-beaver overachiever of my childhood - a childhood where I was so overwhelmingly something that people went and built me curricula to give me something to do, which on the one hand let me learn a lot, and on the other hand left me woefully unprepared for realities where people didn't try to keep and hold my interest with shiny opportunities all the time.  And I knew damn well that the authorities of the school (or at least my godsawful dean) were mostly concerned with getting me shuffled off-campus so that if I killed myself it wouldn't reflect badly on them, because they weren't into looking after the Lesser Beings, you know, the people with mental health problems.  That was a school for the High Achievers, you know.  Not the disappointments.

Not living up to expectations means not having a college diploma, and that means having the devil of a time getting a job, by the way.  Because everyone wants a damn diploma.  I think the secretarial gig I picked up wanted a diploma but accepted me anyway.  And not having any goals, any aspirations, any clue about what I wanted to do - especially when I had Failed At Science - made it hard to figure out what jobs I might even begin to enjoy, anyway, or do well at.  (I discovered I was a pretty good secretary.)

I also discovered that I had a circadian rhythm disorder that falls brilliantly into the social model of disability.  By which I mean that when I could set my own schedule - as I did before they threw me out of school, trying to minimise my early morning classes and so on - I did fine, but being expected to keep a nine-to-five basically destroyed me.  I managed to muddle through well enough to pay the rent, but I lost any ability to do much of anything other than work, eat, and sleep, though I maintained a social life on the internet with my remaining few bits of competence, trying to hold on to some sense of self.

A major depressive episode later, and some re-aggravation of my PTSD that I didn't recognise was happening in that form at the time (I mean, I only recognised it as a thing that was relevant a few months ago and that's something like a thirteen year gap), and I was wound up in a ball of neuroses and inadequacies that was hard to comb through.  I didn't have at the time any clear sense of why I had sunk into the depths that time, which meant I had no idea how to prevent it happening again.

My understanding of myself had become that I could fail, and fail catastrophically: that I could shut down for reasons I did not understand and cease to be able to respond in a clear or meaningful way to the outside world, that I could neither maintain my commitments to others nor protect my own boundaries.  That my mental state was at best delicate, capable of collapsing, unreliable, that I was fundamentally untrustworthy because my mental health - or perhaps my moral rectitude - was not sufficient to overcome my circumstances.

I built a life around those assumptions.  The expectation that failure was implicit, inevitable, imminent: that circumstances could send my capacity for anything into a death spiral at any moment.  Futility was my watchword.  I would set myself small tasks and reward myself for them, but nothing in the sense of a long-term goal.  (The longest-term goal I accomplished was 'write a novel', which was assembled from a long sequence of goals the outer time limit of which was about three days.)

What's the point of having dreams, anyway?  When one isn't stable enough - or mature enough, or sane enough, or disciplined enough, or (some virtue or other depending on what seems appropriate for the beatings) enough - to achieve anything, why waste resources investing in an aspiration?  I marinated in my own perception of worthlessness, because I could not imagine a better world.

I would ask my doctor to check my thyroid levels regularly, and got grudging acquiescence and no help beyond that.  Eventually - and this was a long time coming - I built up the personal reserves to imagine that I might deserve a more compatible doctor, and swapped to one in the same practice who seemed plausible.

Who basically diagnosed a suspicion of my Hashimoto's in our first visit from our interview, ran the appropriate tests, and told me what it was the second visit, and got me on treatment.

And I take a little pill every night before I go to bed, and when I wake up I can do things.

All kinds of things.

I was on the little magic pill for like a week when my liege came home with a truck full of cobblestones and was unloading them in the driveway.  And I not only imagined that he would appreciate help, I managed to figure out a way of getting out there and helping him, and made the task go a whole hell of a lot more smoothly.  All of which would have been beyond my scope a week before.

I am prone to commenting now that I have four major diagnoses - chronic depression, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, delayed sleep phase syndrome, and also recently discovered a significant nutritional deficiency which we haven't tracked down an etiology for but are currently attempting to bludgeon to death with a ridiculous number of supplements - all of which boil down to, at some level, "You feel tired all the time and you can't get shit done."

And as I wrestle with starting to get all that stuff treated I find myself wondering ...

... now what?

Because I'm nearly old enough to be President.  And I have never felt able to have the luxury of dreams.  So now that I might not be a failure, now that I might be able to do something in the world... I'm at a total loss.

(While I was in the middle of writing this, I got email from the ACLU titled "You can't suppress a dream", and I just ... ... stared at it for a long time before I hit delete.  I don't even know, guys.)

19 January, 2013

The Illusion of Able-Bodiedness

Right now, I really want to be able to pretend to be able-bodied again.

I have spent much of my life getting good at pretending.  It meant that my incapacities were moral failings rather than concerns of health, sure, but somehow it's easier to be a failure than to wrestle with actual embodiment, and living in a body that in subtle, quiet ways fails to serve what I want to do with it.

(But in the spiritual process that comes of needing to sharply start shedding those comfortable lies, the comfort goes along with the lies....)

What brings this to a head, of course, is the way treatment brings health into a sharp relief.  If I can take a pill and be more energetic, more functional, stronger, more competent... then all the structural incompetence is something that can't stand, and I have to replace it with something else.

If I manage to put trust in numbers when I could not put trust in myself, and the numbers not only reveal my autoimmune problem but other deficiencies in my chemistry, then I cannot ... not honestly ... say that one set of numbers validates me and the other does not.

Even if it would be nice, when the treatment for the other set of numbers makes me frail and helpless and trembling and unable to stabilise my emotional state, to say "I don't believe in this" and throw it aside.  Because I looked up the problem, and it had things like risks of permanent neurological damage, and even if I don't believe in the dualism and even if I don't know how to comfortably be in my body my mind, I was using that thing, okay?

Being angry is getting me through it.  It gives me enough strength to keep from collapse.  Maybe not the best of solutions but for the lack of anything else that works I will just keep at that.  I can be angry at the loss of my illusions, here, even if many of them were illusions that I was worthless, that I was just as free to act and be and do what I dreamed in the world as anyone else.

I spent time working on, wrestling with, fighting my way to a place where I could work on embodiment, on not drifting up into the realms of the theoretical and the mind.  This is a thing that's part of my training in my Craft work, something that I need to do to be effective in reality, and as I get deep into this work, deep deep in, my body's frailty catches me and I am caught in this deep, penetrating weakness.  And because I can't just stop what I'm doing, pop up into the realm of the mind, for so many reasons, I have to face my way through what it is to be embodied in a body that ... is like this one.