Live long and prosper.

27 Feb

As the vast bells of the internet are tolling, Leonard Nimoy, the once and forever Spock, is dead. Gifs of numerous episodes are spreading through Imgur and Reddit, clips from Simpsons episodes and Big Bang Theory appearances are retweeting their way across twitter, and celebrity after celebrity after news site after commentary blog after cooking blog after Facebook wall are sharing their remembrances and goodbyes. Everyone’s got their memory to claim – even the LA zoo, something as far in my mind from Star Trek as can get.

And honestly, my first response to all these shares and reposts and drudging up of decades-old publicity photos was to be rather angry.

How dare all these people take a figure’s death as a means to their fifteen seconds of limelight! How dare they try to re-associate themselves with a man that many of them hadn’t spoken of in years? How dare they all take Spock’s death and tie it to their own paltry claim to momentary fame?

And then I realized how goddamn idiotic I was being and got over it. Because all these sudden up-croppings of old memories around Nimoy and Spock – well, they’re all amazing.

A man is dead and people across time and space are talking about his life. Here is a man, this trending hashtag says, who did something. Look at all these instances people remember. Here, as Spock. Here, as a guest. Here, as an ordinary man. Here, as a hero who happened to be spotted having a good time at the goddamn L.A. zoo.

And imagine that – leaving this world as someone solidly appreciated. Imagine if the world’s response to your death was to well and truly miss you, so much that they cling to remnants of your existence by talking about your clever lines and generous nature, by posting pictures of your proudest moments and your happenstance smiles.

I think this is one best kinds of mourning.

But to be fair, it is one of the best of men to mourn.

When You Are Raised In An Outline

17 Feb

I was raised in an outline.

No, not under a rock. Yes, I was sheltered, but not quite in that sort of way. Rocks prevent you from seeing the sky or the grass or the wind or the stars or the storms or anything, frankly, that isn’t already under that rock with you.

No, I could see more than that. I knew what else there was. I saw the stars and the storm and the lust and the poverty and the decisions and the choices and the birth and the death and the lifestyle and the beliefs and the very different ways of breathing out there. From my own little prescriptive outline, I could see all these other formats. Most I considered mere variations on the theme and format my limbs were propped up against. While I made my points in A-B-C some other person with really the same main header even if they said it differently was arguing for it as I-II-III. It was all right. We were really writing the same essay. We just said our oh so neat and oh so powerful five paragraphs differently. But we each still had our patterns, our expectations of our personal rise and falls and the great shape that our lives and humanity were supposed to take.

Everything else, the remainder of non-outline chaotic confusion, I just assumed was a deviation. An outlier. Those were not-even-essays where the structure had gone horribly, horribly wrong. They clearly didn’t work. They babbled. Said nothing. Destroyed their own sentences or tripped up their points later. There was no way anyone could consider them valid. There was no structure. No logic. No empathy. No – anything. No, this could not be a sufficient response to what the world, I assumed, expected of us all. This, as my outline out-dolers had told me, was unacceptable.

Imagine my shock and utter confusion when I discovered that these rules and regulations, this structure, this expectation I had molded myself to and excelled at filling – that it was not the norm.

I was the outlier.

I was the deviation.

My expectations were wrong.

The world was easier to get by in than that. It was crueler, more inattentive, it cared not for courtesy or protocol or forethought for one’s fellow humans.

Get your words out on the page; it matters not how.

So many babbling idiots – I understood then why the world so often wrote in blood.

But still – my ink, it glistened so.

I Am In A Room

8 Feb

I Am In A Room

I sit in a room that is silent.

Yes, there are cringes and twinges of floorboards

and pipe songs and even the echo of someone upstairs,

but the cosmos is always ringing a little.

It is silent.

My mind makes its war in the room –

plastering memories along the molding of the floor

and hanging dead hopes from the high ceilings

and using the walls to buttress itself as it catapolts

its knives and leers and cocky little smiles,

knowing that I on the couch could have done better.

There is no noise in the room;

I am breaking.

The ground is a minefield.

I cannot move from this spot for fear I shall explode

one of its tricky little pitfalls,

and trip the explosion it’s loaded in my brain

with the fire of one toe placed wrongly.

It’s not a dance.

It’s not a limp.

I do not move.

I am silent.

I breathe.

The one defiance against death,

this slow, meaningless rise and fall

that is the only assertion that I still am

within this tired, still un-noise.

I make no sounds.

But I make change with the room.

A dollar-fifty oxygen,

a 23-year exhale.

Or something like that.

The math’s never really made sense

and I am too quiet to ask.

Maybe I am being shortchanged.

I really don’t know.

I am in a room.

And the room and I are silent.

The cosmos is ringing.

But this room has no door.

Harper Lee is releasing a sequel and I am incredibly skeptical.

3 Feb

I first read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird at the command of my 8th grade required reading list. It was the summer of female heroines in all their near-diversity: I met Francie from Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Scout from the aforementioned Mockingbird, and the host of Chinese mothers and daughters from Amy Tan’s Joy Luck Club. I had mixed feelings about Tan’s and Smith’s work, but Lee’s opus I immediately and thoroughly fell in love with.

But to be honest, I haven’t really returned to Mockingbird since 8th grade. I’ve kept it on my shelf, smiling at its cracked spine and yellowing pages (I’d gotten my book second-hand to begin with) and thought fondly of Scout and Boo Radley and Atticus Finch and the fight all of them wages against the war of their time. Yeah, I’ve got some major nostalgia going on, but I remember that the book discussed the themes of racial injustice in its time in a nuanced and direct and honest way. It pointed out the injustice of its time and made the world stare very, very hard at it. It is a good book. It is a book about lost innocence and learning hard lessons about a hard world. It is a book with meaning and worth and challenge. It is a book I dearly hope people continue to read.

But it’s a book I am… uneasy, I suppose, about giving a sequel.

Haper Lee recently announced that yes, she is releasing a sequel, presumably to be titled Go Set a Watchman. The book, apparently, was written in the 1950’s and features events contemporaneous to the time. Watchmen was in fact Lee’s intended first book, featuring an adult Scout who looks upon the events of her time through the lens of childhood flashbacks. Lee’s editor, however, liked the flashbacks so much that he advised Lee to turn those into a book instead. Enter Mockingbird.

I don’t know Lee’s motivations for wanting to publish that original attempt about adult Scout now, half a century later, after her “dear friend and lawyer” Tonja Carter discovered the old manuscript. I can guess at the motivations of Lee’s publishers.

But, I mean, whatever. It is Lee’s right as an author to publish a sequel – or anything else – if she wants to. The woman has already proven herself. She’s witty and smart and eloquent and endearing and ballsy. Her first published attempt at a novel became a classic, and it even did so during her lifetime. That’s impressive. The woman can publish whatever she damn well pleases.

But distancing Watchmen from the force of a woman that is the individual Harper Lee, I… worry.

Mockingbird was revolutionary for its time as a social commentary. It was a book that looked at the engrained, systemic injustice of a society and said that no, this is wrong. This is bad. What we, the whites, are doing is bad. We are bad to everyone who does not conform to us, even other whites. This is not okay. This is not working. And through its characters, the book got angry about it. It got confused about it. And this was good and necessary and meaningful.

But… it was a white’s awakening. Scout is white. Atticus Finch is white. There are white defenders and white villains and white protagonists and whites saving the world from other whites for the poor black people who were suffering because of what the whites did to them. And all of this was narrated by a white woman.

Again, by the standards of the time for when Mockingbird was published, this was a step forward. A woman author challenging those around her to step up and check their racism and rape charge duality? Sweet.

But… it’s still pretty damn white-washed.

I want to trust Lee. I want to believe that Watchman will be as grand a masterpiece as Mockingbird. But honestly, if it’s another book full of white main characters about a history where things happen to black people instead of through them, I’m not sure I want it. Remember all those hashtags that’ve been floating about saying #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #WeNeedDiverseAuthors? Yeah, those aren’t just trends, for the moment. Those are desperate truths. The publishing landscape throughout fiction is starving for color of every kind. Race. Disability. Gender. Sexuality. All those other identity markers.

Lee wrote a book about the white experience amidst black oppression. And she did it well, the first time. I don’t really think we need a second iteration.

I worry that Watchman just won’t be able to stand up to Mockingbird. I’m afraid that if Watchman falls short, it will taint the work done through its predecessor. I don’t want what was a really good thing warped by an inept follow-up. And I don’t want a movement that’s fighting really hard to become a reality, a movement of variety of voice and eyes that can tell you what they see from a first-hand perspective, to be overhauled, however momentarily, by the excitement that this famous white woman wrote another book commenting on black people. It’s good that a book by an author of any particular race include characters of not-the-author’s-race, yes, but they shouldn’t just be caricatures and they should be more than just plot props. They should be real goddamn people. Not just historical background noise.

And I’m just not sure that’s going to happen in Watchman.

Maybe Watchman will be great! I don’t really know yet, do I? I haven’t read the book. I’ve barely had a synopsis available for perusal. I could totally see Harper Lee completely blowing us all away yet again. And that would be a good thing.

But until then, I’m going to sit here amidst all this white washing and be pretty damn skeptical.

**Trigger Warning**

2 Feb

Over on his blog, the ever-fantastic Chuck Wendig is currently hosting a comments-based discussion (brave one, he is) on trigger warnings when it comes to written material. Not every book is exactly “safe to handle” for every reader. But is that the reader’s job to gauge? Or the writer’s job to present up front, like an STD in a potential lover? Should books come with sets of trigger warnings?

For those who don’t want to read the N paragraphs below, I’ll tell you my personal opinion up here: No.

If you’d like to know the credentials behind that opinion and the whole long rambling comment I left in Wendig’s discussion, then, dear reader, venture on.

I pretty much promise there are triggers.

* * * * *

Context on me as a commenter: As someone who grew up with abuse of many kinds, eating disorders, and depression and who spent most of college in and out of treatment, residential and outpatient, for the lasting impact of all those things, I talked and was taught a crap ton about triggers. My therapists and I and the other lucky people in treatment discussed triggers around food, triggers around weight, triggers around body image, triggers around physicality and sexuality and self-esteem. There are about a *makes up really funny-sounding humongously big number* triggers out there. Some of them might stir feelings in me of wanting to not eat for a week, or puke up anything I do. Some of them might make me want to tear my skin apart. Some of them might send me flying back into a near-hallucination of memory-based, stimulus-galvanized panic attack where what’s real and what’s not becomes really slippery and I have to tell myself over and over and over again that the floor is real, the wall is real, the door is real, the friend beside me is Person X or Y and they are there to care and not to hurt me like my brain is trying to say there are, conflating them with so many person Z’s in the past who have. Triggers can be loud, concussive noises that send my adrenaline bursting. Triggers can be soft, gentle, well-meant and goddamn *wanted* kisses. Triggers are songs and sentences and slantwise jabs from strangers. tl;dr – triggers are everything.

But they are not everything *always.* What could poke at my emotions or my sanity one day might be something cathartic and beneficial another day. If the entire world is a trigger, then, as I have been told in so many group sessions again and again, it is not my job to censor the world. That’s not feasible. And that’s not fair. While I am not responsible for what’s happened to me, I am responsible for how I deal with it. If I want to do any semblance of living, it is my job, now, to figure out warning signs and preventative measures and people to throw in my safety net and what to tell them about different scenarios and breathing techniques and focusing techniques and fighting techniques and no, it’s not fair that I have to do all these things, but that’s just how it is. Because that’s how I get better. That’s how I fight back the triggers and pick off their numbers, one by one. Neural plasticity is a wonderful thing. But if I continually hide, never ever deal with the thing that hurts me, never practice coming up against it because I’ve cloistered myself from any possible sharp thing, then I am never going to change. I am going to remain crippled and afraid and hiding. And that’s when everything that led up to these triggers wins.

Yes, flashbacks are damn painful but I’d rather navigate my way through them than never be kissed by another human being ever again.

Yes, reading about suicide might make me remember my own attempts, but it also reminds me that hey, there are people out there who have experienced these things too, or who at least understand them well enough to write about them this way. And that’s way more valuable, how much less alone that makes me feel, then reading about rainbows and sunshine all day long. Because really that’s only going to make me nauseated.

There’s a difference between seeking out specifically triggering material and reading material that might crop up some stuff. I know not to go reading pro-ana or pro-mia stuff. That’s just intentionally triggering. And dumb. And not well-written, really. And on a day when I’m teetering back and forth across the line of sanity, I know that maybe I should pick up a Harry Potter book instead of Forman’s ‘If I Stay.’ But on days when I am angry at the world and what it has done to me, IS doing to me, then it’s those days that I really, really need Miriam Black and Palahniuk’s cast of psychopaths and N.K. Jemisin’s gloriously unsafe Nahadoth. I need characters with dangerous thoughts and dangerous emotions because they make me feel unalone in mine. They make my existence feel justified. They make me feel like I’m not just some aberration amongst the rest of the human race.

It’s up to me to know when my brain can play nicely with them, or meet them, if I’ve never perused their pages before. That vigilance is not your job. The only amount of warning you’re required to give me is a synopsis on a book jacket. Anything more, and it’s really just cheating.

—–

The only kind of trigger warning I want:

trigger warning

Why I Am Not Angry At Tess Munster

28 Jan

For all you folks just tuning in – for what amounts to about 50% of the time I’ve been alive, I struggled with an eating disorder. And by “an eating disorder,” I really mean several of them, because eating disorders are slippery, wily creatures that’ll change shape on you faster than you, the eating disordered person, can change shape yourself. They’re like viruses, in a way. They mutate at an incredibly fast rate, all in an attempt to stay alive and present and growing faster than your body and your medicine is able to kill it off. I’ve seen anorexia. I’ve seen orthorexia. I’ve seen bulimia. I’ve spent more of my adult life in treatment for those things than I’ve spent out of treatment. I’ve been inpatient, outpatient, residential, full time, part time. I’ve had so many fucking talks about nutrition, science-drawn, evidence-based nutrition, and science-drawn, evidence-based weight/height/body type scaling (no, don’t even talk to me about BMI, the Bullshit Mass Index), and really just what it means to be happy and healthy in general. Mind. Body. Spirit. Biochemistry. Whatever.

As someone who’s gone through all this body image and self-love and plain ol’ health crap and is willing to say she has a fair handle on what’s “right” and what’s “wrong” and what’s “really rather more than 50 shades of gray” area, I jump a little, whenever people start talking about weight and dieting and health and parameters. I will adamantly defend what I know to be reasonable views based on science and the individuality and stochasticity that is biology (which I have a degree in, if you’re in need of further credentialing). If necessary, I will readily jump at someone for their incorrect and unhealthy statements, whether they’re  tending towards the “too strict” or “too lax” end of the spectrum.

Tess Munster is a plus size model. At 5’5″ and a size 22, she is one of the largest models even in plus size to have ever been signed. Cool. History-making. Whatever. From what I’ve seen in general chatter scattered across the internet, the Tess Munster critics point at her and say, “Oh, we shouldn’t to celebrate her as a role model, because that’s clearly unhealthy.”

Ha. Aha ha. I’m sorry, but since the fuck when was modeling ever about healthy?

Models don’t get signed because they’re a paragon of health. They get signed because they look good in the clothes that need to be sold. There are tall, thin people out there who want to feel fashionable. There are short, wide people out there who want to feel fashionable. There are other humans who are 5’5″ and size 22, like, people, they exist, and they deserve a model to show off clothes on their body type just as much as people who are super tall and lanky. Modelings sells clothes. Modeling sells looks. Modeling does not sell lifestyle. Pretty sure that one’s Oprah. At core, modeling is about selling visual aesthetic, not health.

Over the course of anorexia recovery, I learned that the body’s default is to hang around the end of having more weight instead of less. Human bodies developed in order to be able to survive a famine. In most cases, it’s super fucking easy to gain weight. Your body won’t really put up much resistance to that. Gaining weight is natural*.

You know what’s not? Starving yourself for years, even decades on end so that you can get one more contract as a high-profile super model. Taking diet supplements, purging on the down low, exercising obsessively, forcing yourself to behave, to live so unnaturally that eventually you maybe don’t even notice your body whispering please stop. Because it doesn’t matter that you’re tired. It doesn’t matter that you nearly fell on the runway today out of sheer exhaustion and a little too robust a spell of dizziness from not having really eaten in the past three days. It doesn’t matter that you feel like shit. You look like heaven, and you’re getting paid like it. You have stripped and shed and shaved and shanked your body of its natural existence.

But ah yes, after that tanning day you have such a nice glow, don’t you.

Yes children, be like these not-overweight ones. The ones that are secretly, invisibly killing themselves to look good. They are good role models. Do not eat too much and let yourself go. See how unhealthy she is? Never mind that she doesn’t fuel her career with a mantra of self-hate. Never mind that at least she’s the happy one.

Because this game was never about happy. It was never about healthy.

It was only ever about what you looked like.

That’s all that modeling cares about.

That’s all that modeling is endorsing.

Stop pretending like it cares about more than it does as one more excuse for our systemic fat-shaming.

Leave these models to their lives and let us throw other role models at our children. Role models whose message, whose job is to teach children how to be, not just how to look.

And then when the children want clothes, when the teenagers want clothes, when the adults of every shape and size want clothes – let them see the magazines, the ones with people of their body type, whether that’s 6’5″ and toned to core or 5’5″ and a size 22, because both of these body types exist en masse and really just want to buy a fucking t-shirt that’ll look pretty good on them, because hey, these days, it’s damned dangerous to walk around naked.

————–

*”natural” in the sense of “biological default in the average case”

Magic at the Edges

25 Jan

Originally deposited this on my crazy ramblings tumblr, but decided to include it here too. It’s a pretty good narrative of what’s been a large lump of my current frustration.

I wait up for people I shouldn’t.

I flock to artists,

people who breathe stories

and know how to put the

soul back in your eyes.

People with hands and mouths and voices

that mean something.

I like brushing fingers with those.

There’s magic at the edges.

But ours is too pragmatic a world

if you cannot always live at the seams

and I befriend too a more practical sort

with data and trends and facts

and a reality that will crush any of the hope you had

because there is no god anymore.

Not these days.

But I glory in the realness of what they hold,

the light in their hands so tangible

and undyingly right to believe in.

Here is a world of truth, they say.

The magic is in finding it.

Art and reality make such beautiful children.

I wish I weren’t just harboring nightmares.

Monsters, distortions, twisted fact flinging fate

at you like you were dead to begin with.

Even darkness can have opaque eyes.

I wish that I could see again.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 217 other followers