Thursday, March 9, 2017


For the last three weeks or so, I've been in pain. My back has, it seems, always been fragile, but I've worked very hard to keep it in check - lots and lots of yoga and core work to keep things just right.

Turns out, I was living much closer to 'not right' than I'd ever imagined. After the seemingly innocent task of bending over to wash my dog, I straightened and knew there was a problem. I thought it was the same problem I had crop up from time to time (especially when I crouch to wash my dog) - a bit of lower back pain that goes away relatively quickly with a little rest, some extra core work, maybe a couple of Advil. But this was not the same problem. This was sciatica.

I've never had sciatica before, though I knew it to be a painful condition. And it is. It suuuuuuucks. It's not just lower back pain; now my ass has started getting involved.  Holy criminey, that shit is painful. It feels like I am sitting on a stretched bruise, and the feeling of pain has been going down my legs and up my back and into my hips the more I dealt with this situation. I let a whole week of this shit go by, thinking that at any moment my back would start to feel fine again.

Yeah, that didn't happen.

So, I went to my doc, got some pain meds and a recommendation for a Physical Therapist. I'm now back from my second PT visit, and I tell you what - I feel like I have barely improved, that I don't even know how to move my own body, and I'm scared that temporary injury is about to become permanent pain. Like, really scared. I know that the PT gets this a lot because after every session she sends an encouraging email. Like, it's probably company policy to send encouragement after every session because the progress is so incremental. But I kinda need those stupid emails, because I'm still in pain, and still very frustrated.

And it's only been 3.5 weeks.

I can't imagine what chronic, years-long pain does to a person. And, to the best of my ability, I don't intent to find out. Once again, though, life is showing me the other side of things. Like, maybe the people who piss me off for driving so slowly are doing so because pain cuts down on their reaction times, and they still have to get to work. Or maybe dishes don't get done because the act of bending to put a damned dish away sets off days worth of pain. Or maybe someone seems flaky or selfish for not showing up, when all they're really doing is trying to avoid current and future pain.

Pain is teaching me deep lessons. I hope I don't need to keep learning these lessons for long.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Alternative Universes

So, I just cried while brushing my teeth.  I'd just let the dogs out before putting them to bed. The sky was especially clear and the stars were especially bright, and I looked up just so that I could feel small. I've had to reduce the politics in my various social media feeds because it's hurting me. Like, physically making my chest hurt with anxiety and sadness.

And yet... there are people in this country that think, or at least hope, that the election of Donald Trump is a good thing, and that it gets the country going in the right direction. And I'm thinking about my history classes, and I'm thinking about the racist, misogynistic rhetoric, the words that match so closely to the fascists of the early 20th century, and I just... I'm dumbfounded. Then I see this Murderer's Row of cabinet picks and advisers, and I'm sick to my stomach.

It makes me feel like I've just stepped into an alternate universe.

Which is both true and untrue. For there are more Americas than I realized, but these have always been here. America has always been this way, and I am just now seeing it for the first time. I didn't think that anyone, save for the most avowed, unrepentant racist, could vote for someone who called Mexican immigrants rapists. The way he mocked the reporter with arthrogryposis, the way he talked down to the Gold Star mother?  I mean, I would understand if Clinton lost to Romney, or McCain or even Ryan... but to lose to the Pussy Grabber guy? To the racist? I was taught that racist was about the worst, most awful, most terrible thing that you can be, and that you should try very, very hard to, at the bare minimum, not be a racist. I swear, it feels like he won BECAUSE of his rhetoric, not despite it.

And it's whipping my head around to hear people say that the economy is in the shitter - are you kidding me? What the hell are they talking about?

But that's where the alternative universe kicks in. I live and work in the Austin, TX area, one of the most vibrant, diverse, economically fruitful places to live in the States. I do not live in Southern Louisiana. Or Ohio. Or Michigan. Or Pennsylvania. Places where globalization has hurt, not helped the people living there, many of whom are hard-working individuals who are watching the world rise up and progress around them. This did not happen over night, and it will not be fixed over night.

I think to the pages and pages of detail in Clinton's website - her very specific ideas for helping people in these areas. I and think to the unscripted vagaries of Trump's promises, and I wonder why they could possibly think that would work? Facts and figures vs. bluster, and the bluster won. But you know, Clinton spent no time in those states, and even though she had a plan, she didn't spend a lot of time talking about it to the people being rogered by globalization. And when she did, she didn't speak to the people. God, she is a shit campaigner, and not trustworthy in the eyes of people who just want you to look in their eyes and tell them sincerely that you've got their backs. Seriously, that's it. If they can look you in the eye, they'll trust you, because a lot of these are good people. I know that because I traveled the country for my job, and I know these people.

And yet.

These are the same people who say making it about race just makes it worse, who dismiss entirely the voices of people laying bare their hurt and anger and fear. Just as I couldn't imagine someone else's bad economy because I live in my blue, prosperous bubble, perhaps they couldn't imagine how voting in someone who, in their mind, had great ideas, despite his 'problematic language', will cause real harm to people of color, the disabled, trans and queer folks, because the worst of him will not affect their daily lives.

The Friday after the election results, my friend T dragged me to a celebratory karaoke (my lawyer friend won local recognition, and it really was a big deal). And many of us were still in pain, but we still wanted to sing and to celebrate our dear friend. And what I found was that it was the country songs that spoke to my soul, and made me feel that there might be a way out of this. And that struck me as odd. How the sounds which originated from white Appalachian folk and black Southern blues could so beautifully capture the pain of missed opportunities, and heart break, and the need for a change. The similarities, I think, were not accidental.

How convenient for the ruling class that the two groups with the most in common are at each others' throats.  I mean, how does one even begin to pull our groups together - for if we worked together, we'd have the politicians on the run. While there is much where we can agree to disagree, we would have to acknowledge that racism (prejudice + institutional power) exists, and that there are whole communities of all colors that have been decimated by technology and globalization, with no good solutions around keeping these places vibrant and successful once the money-makers no longer had any use for them. We would have to see both our conservative and liberal neighbors as good people and patriots.

And maybe that's a bridge too far.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Oh Hell, I should have just posted this:

Melissa says it better than I ever could.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Friendly Debate on Fat People

I started a bit of a friendly debate on Facebook by posting this link:

That a respectful back-and-forth on the subject of food, exercise and weight could be held - on Facebook, no less - says a lot about the people involved, as this is a subject often fraught with imperatives, judgement, and shame.  As it turns out, they were debating on the finer points of a larger subject that they both generally agreed on, namely that most people would benefit from good food and moderate exercise.

One of the participants in the FB point-counter point (whom I'll call Person A) quotes,
"those who tend to be fat will have to constantly battle their genetic inheritance if they want to reach and maintain a significantly lower weight." 

which he followed up with, 

" I may have to work harder than others, but I can increase muscle mass and decrease body fat - and maintain it, just like anyone else" 
 "If we focused on becoming stronger, and eating a diverse variety of foods which were devoid of bad shit, we'd all be healthier. Weight loss would be an inevitable side effect for the majority of people.... but I'd agree that weighing a certain amount is not a goal unto itself. Being strong, being able to run a few miles without falling over, those are goals everyone should share."

These remarks are some of the least inflammatory I've seen on health and weight in a public forum, and on the surface seem quite reasonable.  I mean, eating well and being able to run a few miles without keeling over are admirable goals, right?

Please re-read those well-thought out words again, and see if you can spot what I spotted. Even Person A admitted that this is a standard he cannot reach. 

The person on counterpoint (whom I'll call Person B) included these equally thoughtful words, 

"When we concentrate on the visual change it COULD cause, it discourages people from continuing that positive behavior if they don't see a change. Whether it does for some people or not, the reason for it should be to feel good, physically and emotionally... hinging it all on some number takes away from the joy of it and keeps people from continuing."  

And my favorite:

"I'd like to see people who are confident and happy with themselves. Who can use their body as they would like to without being told that they don't or can't do something."

Do you see the difference now? 

I posted the link because I believe, as the author does, that the intense focus on weight loss has been both a massive failure and actively destructive to fat people especially (though not exclusively).  Additionally, and most personal to me, when both experts and the general public speak histrionically or piously or authoritatively of health, they conveniently forget mental health and the complicated relationship that the current atmosphere creates around fatness and food and movement and sense of self.  People forget about the concept of agency, and instead mistakenly believe that over-simplification and shame will somehow magically change the corpulence of our nation.

In short, Person B and I have an issue with the Should.

Those of you familiar with my drunken slam poetry might recall that my threshold for Shoulds is quite low. I feel my fight response rise up when I hear people opine that fat people Should be making every effort to make themselves thinner. To be clear, Person A was in completely different league of discussion, but I'm going to disagree with his assertion that "weight loss would be an inevitable side effect" of a healthier lifestyle, mainly because what constitutes a healthier lifestyle begins well short of being able to swim or run several miles a day.

While I genuinely believe that healthier habits encourage stronger, more mentally stable and more metabolically sound bodies, I just don't agree that it makes for thinner bodies.  The USDA study on HAES also disagrees, and demonstrates that the focus on health instead of weight, while useful in improving metabolic markers, created almost no change in weight.  Additionally, health and circumstance are so individual that the ability to run a 5k and eating only food "completely devoid of bad shit" could be a fairly meaningless set of comparatives.  More importantly, I really don't think that any of it is a requirement for walking through the world unmolested by the Shouldy Police.

And this is where Brian is asking for better, and where Person B is going with her argument.  The message we receive in a constant stream from media, loved ones and enemies is that fat people Should (ah, there's that word again) make the pursuit of health via weight loss-inducing activities our most important goal.  I wonder sometimes if they just don't understand the magnitude of maintaining the body in a state that goes against its genetic and environmental indicators.  I wonder if they don't get that maintaining is a full-time job.  And I wonder why they can't grok that this kind of constant struggle simply doesn't work for me.

Over the last decade I've been carefully incorporating more healthy habits into my life. I love caring for myself, and I love my life, and I want to be active and happy as many of the days of my life that are possible, and I believe that these healthy habits are in alignment with those goals.  While doing this, I have to take into account my mental health and my personal history with weight loss dieting and my step-dad's creepy weight-based emotional abuse, and I have to navigate the difficult association that these healthy habits have with activities of a weight-loss bent.

And that's the nut of it, isn't it?  The expectation that healthy habits will cure obesity create an atmosphere fraught with triggers and dangers for those of us who've suffered for our weight.  We can't simply take on healthy habits to care for ourselves, we have to carry the weight of expectation, we are forced, by every commercial and weight loss book and Jamie Oliver special, to focus on a desired end point, rather than the journey.

We live in an atmosphere that gives no quarter for our own sense of what's best for ourselves, because there is a veritable army of people willing to tell us what to do.  If we should disagree, or simply decide not to, we are accused of needing to get real, to stop deluding ourselves.  And this, in my mind, is the worst of it - that the thing we are told on a daily basis is that we cannot trust our own experience. I can't think of anything more insidious than to make someone doubt their own reality.

So this is more complicated than can be fully described by the written word, but I felt it so necessary to try.  Brian's post demonstrated his passion for acceptance and anger at those that would work against such concepts for the purpose of making money, and when he demands better, he says a truth that I feel down to my toes.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I wrote this a while back, and never published it...

Sorry for taking so long to get back to you - I've been traveling in areas where I have a lot of family, so I've been traveling and visiting what seems like nonstop for a few weeks now.  Additionally, I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed with some important decisions coming my way regarding career, school, exercise, and my own mental health. I decided to give myself some time to shut out the noise and really feel what it is that I want to do. 

Essentially, I've come to the conclusion that I will NOT be doing anything - ANYTHING - that sucks. 

The general narrative is that some things - school and exercise, especially - are inherently, unavoidably sucky.  Excuse me, but fuck that.  I've been avoiding those two things because of that narrative, and I'm done with it.  There's got to be a way to make these things fulfilling and enjoyable, and I'll be damned if I'm going to do it any other way.  So, of course, the scary part is figuring out a new way of doing / thinking about these things so that a) they won't suck, and b) they are part of the flow of my life.

This brings me to Kung Fu.  I have both loved and been greatly fearful of my Kung Fu classes.  At first I thought it was just nerves; starting something new can be scary, and being bad at something is part of getting good at something and that whole thing.  While fear is often something to be pushed through, it is just as frequently a messenger, and in this case the level of fear and anxiety was telling me that I'm not ready for these classes.  I asked a professional trainer for her advice, and she agreed with my assessment.

It was incredibly difficult to cancel my classes, and this brought up some pretty painful stuff from my history that had to be worked through.Without going into too much detail, I'd managed to anxiety hop my way from feeling like a failure at the Kung Fu classes to dredging up a lot of guilt about some decisions I'd made in the service of my own self-care.   When I need time to myself to work things out in my head, I feel guilty about taking time from my friends and family.  When I decide that I cannot be around my father or my ex step dad, I feel guilt about hurting my father's feelings, or hurting my sister because I can't be around her dad, since it limits my attendance at family gatherings.

It turns out that taking care of myself, finding joy, and avoiding things that suck aren't just what's best for me, they are what's best for the people around me.  I don't have to disguise my anxiety about certain situations, I don't have to agree to the un-agreeable, and I can choose which fears to push through, and which to honor.  I'm sure a lot of this seems basic stuff, stuff that a 36 year old woman would have figured out by now, but it is a revelation to me, and I am so grateful that, even though late, I've learned these lessons at all.
...a few months down the road and I am still feeling a little (though slightly less) anxious about what to do with my life.  As with most things, it comes down to money and time.  I'd love to say that it's worth whatever debt I'd get into to become exactly what I want to be; however, a) career-wise, I feel spectacularly passionate about exactly nothing, and b) I've had a sneaking suspicion that the careers in which I'd excel would underpay me at exactly the same rate in which I am currently being underpaid. Putting myself into significant debt for something I'm not passionate about and would reap little or no financial benefit seems like a bad idea.

However, I have another sneaking suspicion that going to school and getting a degree will be rewarding in ways that I haven't yet figured out, and I can visualize the future opening up in ways I haven't anticipated. I've always had the feeling that I'd be a late bloomer, at least compared to my sisters, who have had specific career choices / goals in mind from the get-go.  While I genuinely enjoy the training that I do, it is not enough, and I think I'm almost there about figuring out what would be enough.

For shits and giggles I took an online career quiz, with results listed below:

1,2,6, & 10 are careers to which I've already given serious consideration, so it's good that I've been on the right path, at least kind of.  I wish I could be more clear about my next steps, but when I know, you'll know. :)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Soooo close, yet not really

So I've talked in the past about trying to figure out where I want to go, career-wise.  I'd like to travel way less, and I've decided on some kind of formal education, but I still need to make money and work on my skills in the interim.  I spoke with various managers at my company about possible job opportunities, and found out about one that seemed like a nice fit.

It was (notice the past tense) my understanding that the position requires less travel, but still has a great consulting and training piece, and would help me to work on becoming more detail-oriented, all while able to attend a local college.  Growth and fit, all in one job! So then I set out to (massively over-)prepare for the interview, and I was looking forward to the opportunity to show my colleagues what I could bring to the role.

But then I actually did the interview (5 rotating interviewers, 3 hours total, someone bring a drink please), and saw that the position was more of a secretary to the person doing all of the cool consulting and training shit.  On the way home I had a real moment of clarity and realized that not only I would NOT like this job, I realized that I have already had this kind of job and hated it.  I mean, there was a pretty damn good reason why I no longer did that kind of work - I can do the detail-oriented stuff to an extent, but I. DON'T. LIKE. IT. 

I am simply not detail-oriented.  There, I said it. I'm just not.  Now, I can organize pretty well, but at my own pace, and with my own hierarchy, and I can scope the big picture like a motherfucker.  So why in the name of my mother's grits would I choose to do something that I actively dislike, especially since there are others out there who are so much better at that kind of thing?

Yeah, I couldn't think of a good answer to that one, either.

Not only that, one of my favorite coworkers is also up for the job, and he would be perfect for it.  So I withdrew my name as a candidate and told them I believed that they should seriously consider him.

There's a bit of a feeling of let-down, especially since I put so much effort into the prep, but I am generally feeling pretty great about this decision.  I actually used the interview as an opportunity to see if I would like the job, and when found out I didn't, I didn't fight to make it right.  It's not right, and I am so fucking DONE with trying to fashion myself to fit a popular job description.

So I'm left with this wrung out / kind of thrilled feeling about this bit of personal evolution - not only did I dodge a bad career decision, I somehow clarified my strengths. I have no idea where to go next, but I have a sneaking suspicion that something will rise up to meet me soon enough.  Whatever I end up doing, it will be in the direction of my natural and learned talents, because I am officially too old for that other shit.

Monday, May 2, 2011


(Repost from my Tumblr)

The news of Bin Laden’s death brought to mind the crushing sorrow and uncertainty that I (and so many) felt when I saw the live shot of the towers falling.  I was angry, and wanted someone to PAY.  Some motherfucker had just destroyed, not only thousands of lives, but thousands of families.

Through the years I’ve had time to reflect - we talk about 9/11 constantly, like it was the worst thing that happened, ever.  It was so terrible, and yet… terrible numbers of people die every day from war, famine, poverty, lack of access, often at the hands of American forces and policies.  We bemoan the tragic loss of that one day, but seem so disconnected from the day to day realities of our own bloodied hands.

Even the incursion that killed Bin Laden no doubt killed innocents, as have many of the battles in this war.  We have killed far more innocents than were murdered on that grave and horrible day.

And yet.

The fist pump on the news of his death was automatic and satisfying.  I wanted him dead.  I didn’t want a trial.  I didn’t want to hear any words from him.  I was glad that he’d been taken out.  Fuck you, you fucking motherfucker.

Of course, it occurs to me that this retaliatory sentiment is what feeds the fire, allowing the rancor and murderous hatred of one another to continue.  I said Avada Kedavra, the killing curse from Harry Potter, and yet… as I recall in the book, my new hero never did.  Not even when battling face to face the man who killed his parents, not even after having seen him continue to kill so many of his friends and loved ones.

I’ll think on this for a while, not sure that I’ll ever fully reconcile these twin desires for vengeance and peace.  Though, maybe that’s what it’s like for those in the middle of all of this fighting - tired of the death and destruction, yet unable to put down the sword.