Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Taking a half-truth and making it whole

"Parts of you die all the time. Sometimes it's beautiful, sometimes it just hurts."
[Henry Rollins]

This is a quote from one of Henry Rollins spoken word shows. Henry Rollins is a fairly popular guy around our apartment; it isn't too rare for one of us [Matt and myself, that is] to randomly bust out with "Everything was fine until the motherfucker came." The above quote, however, is from one of Rollins's more serious pieces. On the DVD we both have, it comes right before my favorite piece, one where Rollins talks about watching his best friend die, and all of the aftermath of that experience.

i've been thinking a lot about this quote, about the fact that parts of you die all of the time. This, I have--after much deliberation--decided is quite true. And sometimes, it is beautiful. And sometimes, it does hurt. But I think the thing that bothers me about this statement is the absense of in-betweens. Sometimes, a part of you dies, and it feels satisfying, or excruciating, or fitting, or just plain ok. Sometimes, the things that die are things you need: confidence, propriety, self-love, joy. Sometimes, the things that die are the things that you want to be without: obstinance, prejudice, self-pride, hate.

I think I am really connecting with this idea right now because of some events that have happened recently. In fact, it has more connection with Henry Rollins than I may have initially suggested: you see, Henry Rollins and his best friend called themselves collectively, "The Chosen One." After hearing this bit, a friend and I--two years ago--began calling ourselves the same thing. However, in the last year, specifically the last six months, The Chosen One fell apart, and fell apart hard. Both of its constituents made grievous errors; they both hurt each other, and they both somehow failed to pull it back together. Granted, they are both hard-headed, but this part of the duo is now just hurt. The pain--still--feels huge and irreversible. I made a decision to just end it, because the hurt was too much. I couldn't take it anymore, and I realized it wasn't doing me any good. In fact, it was harming me.

That part of me died. But there is an implicit circle to life: in the place of dead things, the living feed off of the fodder and grow, become stronger. When I was able to start to let things go, I took all of the energy that I was putting into trying to revive a too-dead thing, and I nurtured those that are living. They sprung up and are bearing beautiful, sustaining fruit, and for this, I feel nothing but blessed. Yes, something has died--but so many more things are living. And this, I think, is where the focus should be. There is so much beauty and support in my life, and I am probably the happiest--in new relationships, as well as in my revitalized "old" relationships--that I have been in friendships for a long time.

Which brings me to my last topic, which is a little bit of link-love for the parent blog that I find most articulate and thought-provoking. Dutch and Wood of Sweet Juniper are a "tag team" of bloggers: Dutch is a stay-at-home dad, who left his job at a law firm so that he could stay with their daughter Juniper while Wood pursued her career in law. I really support this type of family arrangement; I think the idea of a stay-at-home-dad is great, and I think it's awesome that Wood gets to do what she loves in addition to being a mom [I tell Joey all the time that I would love it if he ever decided he wanted to be a SAHD].

Anyway, Dutch recently wrote a post that really got me, and I've seriously been reading it daily, just because it is a good life statement:
"'Does Juney have a strong heart?' she asks me almost every day. I tell her it is a very strong heart. Sometimes her silly questions send me spinning, thinking not only of that tiny mortal organ inside her chest, El Corazon, but her figurative heart, the heart of pop songs and bad teenage poetry, the one that will lead her through life's greatest joys and disappointments. I felt so helpless knowing that as sure as it has its own separate rhythm, there will come a day that it will suffer, and there will be nothing for me to do but hold her bigger fist in my hand again and squeeze it, and if she'll listen I'll tell her how strong it still is, that it is never really torn or broken, but merely wounded and exposed, and that even in that state of terrible vulnerability, the most important thing to do is not let it grow cold."
I don't think it can be said any better than that.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I am woman, hear me roarrrrr

Tonight, I did something I've never done before: I went to a sit-down restaurant and ate. By myself. And though maybe it shouldn't, this feels like a big thing.

I've always been one to enjoy my own thoughts. I think this is why lab work appeals to me--and maybe to so many other people. Sure, there are lots of people in my lab, and sure, we have a lot of fun goofing around, watching videos on YouTube, insulting the hell out of each other, but we do have a lot of time for [somewhat] quiet contemplation. So it seems natural to extend that into the dining sphere, right?

Honestly, in no point in my life have I been hurting for dining companions. At school, I had my friends and Joey; at home, I had Joey, some of our friends, my family, sometimes just my brothers. Here, I have Matt, Oneil, Justin, and Jennie. But tonight, Matt and Oneil were out of town, Justin was eating with parents, and I have plans with Jennie for tomorrow: so I set out of my home with about two hours to burn, and I sat down at a cafe. Actually, it wasn't that easy. I vacillated on the issue: could I sit down and eat by myself? Maybe I would just get to go. No, I would sit down. Finally, I thought of my hero when it comes to eating alone [as it is a move she was brave enough to make before I could], Allison, and I decided to channel her. I made it to the corner of Coming and Spring. I was nervous: first, the door was stuck, and I felt like a fool, trying to open it while trying to figure out if the door that read the name of the restaurant was indeed the door to the cafe. I know, I know: I'm going to be a doctor?

So, I unstuck the door, walked in, chose a nice little table meant for two. The other set of silverware was unceremoniously swept away, and I settled in. I decided I could do this. While quietly contemplating the menu and sipping on Diet Coke, I wondered why I hadn't thought of wine and deliberated over my meal. As I almost always do, I chose two or three things that sounded delectable to me, and made my decisions in the split-second before making my order.

Then came the hard part. Looking around, I noticed that the restaurant--which is fairly small--held mostly cute couples and picture-perfect advertisements for "Girl's Night Out" wearing largely atrocious dresses. Thinking about it, I realized that there is some kind of stigma against girls dining alone. I've seen guys do it often--burying their faces into books, they somehow look perfectly validated as they eat by themselves. Men dining alone are automatically stereotyped as the "bachelor," eating alone because they choose to. Women dining alone are manless; they have no option but to dine alone, crying into their Diet Cokes because they have no man to take them out, no grossly-dressed friends to gossip with. I also realized this: fuck stereotypes.

I do have to admit that I broke a little bit: I did text message some while eating, but mostly because Joey was on break for the only time tonight, and also because I was making plans with Justin. Still, I was able to eat at MY speed, enjoy my thoughts, and eat all my food without feeling fat or guilty.

So the upshot of all of this: I love dining with friends, family, and my beautiful Joey, but I am definitely going to go it alone again, maybe make it a monthly habit. I walked out of the restaurant with my head a little bit higher, and I am realizing now that I am thankful for the things I do have: the bravery to walk down the street by myself, the good fortune to have the money to spend on myself, and the introspection and self-love to realize that I make a pretty damn good date for myself. Those are all things that you can take to the proverbial bank.

But next time, I'm getting that wine.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Social responsibility and the S-word

Anyone who knows me can attest to at least one single fact: I have a sailor's mouth. Like most people I know, I spend my youngest years in a household where swearing was simply not allowed. It was [supposedly] unChristian-like, and of course, noone likes to see a child swear. I held off swearing longer than many people, and my first month or so of cursing life was awkward. "Fffff-uck," I'd exclaim, or, "You know what? f-UCK you." Don't let anyone fool you--cursing well is an artform, and one I would like to think I have mastered.

However--also, many would attest, there are words that I just do not say. . I don't say GD because I do put respect in the Bible, and I show my respect for Big Guns Upstairs by doing my best to refrain from taking his name in vain. I don't say the n-word-that-is-degrading-to-black-people, or the f-word-that-is-degrading-to-gay-people. I never say that anything I don't like is "gay," because--as it has been said many times--"gay" and "stupid" are not synonymous words. I believe that most curse words never hurt anyone, but these words hurt everyone--the people who say them, the people who they degrade. Words are powerful--they hurt in ways you never even imagined.

So it's nice to know that someone out there is showing a little responsibility.

And, here's something I thought I would never say: That someone is MTV. Keep in mind that I am part of a generation that grew up, literally, with MTV. We're approximately the same age. We cannot remember a world in which music videos and The Real World did not exist. I know that I myself once loved coming home to an episode of TRL, and I spent my summers watching people butcher Jay-Z's "Big Pimpin'" on Say What? Karaoke. But, in the past couple of years, MTV and I parted ways. It became too obnoxious, too "holy shit, I turned the TV on six hours later and ANOTHER guy is doing a jello shot off of ANOTHER girl's ass."

However: on Tuesday, Joey informed me that he had watched MTV the other day, and that they had decided to censor the new-ish Sean Kingston song, "Beautiful Girls." Now, I'm not a fan of censorship, and I'm still waiting for the word "ass" to show back up in that Fergie song I love so much. But I fully stand behind MTV's decision to cut out the word "suicidal."

Suicide is no joke. It is not glamorous, it is not beautiful, it is heart-breaking. Perhaps you wonder why I have any right to say those things. So I will qualify my suicide experiences with you.

First: one of my best high school friend's father committed suicide when I was seventeen. If this is not personal enough for your tastes, consider this: I was the one who had to tell her. Noone who ever had to say the words, "Your father shot himself; he's dead" to a friend would ever believe that suicide is beautiful.

Second: I saw how my parents reacted to my "suicide." Mind you, this is a unique experience in that I never tried to kill myself, nor would I ever try. However, in the midst of receiving treatment and testing for bipolar disorder, I went home for a weekend. In the middle of the night, I snuck out of the house to see Joey, leaving a note on my bed to explain to my parents where I had gone. While I was gone, someone shot a gun outside my home. My parents woke up, and because I had been in some depression, they immediately worried that I had taken my own life. The situation was exascerbated by the fact that I was not in bed. My mom called my cell phone, absolutely panicked. There are no words, honestly, to describe the tone of voice a parent has upon realizing--or even thinking--a child has died by his or her own hand. Noone who has ever heard that voice would ever believe that suicide is glamorous.

Yet, there is this long-standing cult of mystique and tragedy and glory behind suicide. Romeo and Juliet die by their own hands because they can't be together. Jeffrey Eugenides's virgin sisters throw themselves off of roofs and stick their heads in ovens because they want to escape their overbearing parents. Esther Greenwood just can't get out from under that bell jar, and even if she escapes suicide, her writer didn't.

I'm not saying that it's bad to write about suicide--the world is not perfect or beautiful. Suicide happens, and it is sad. But I do support MTV's decision to bleep out a word that--when used flippantly, with no qualification--can be harmful to those who hear it.

Which leaves me with only one thing to say, the most beautiful and true sentence about suicide you will ever hear:

fuck the poets of the past, my friends
there are no beautiful suicides
just cold corpses with shit in their pants
and the end of the gifts

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

All you need is...

Ok--so it is most intense desire and intention to get this blog off to a good start. My old blog was mostly a teenage replacement for the diary-under-the-bed. But that was almost six years ago, and the blog as a form has really evolved since then. In the past six years, we have seen men and women use the blog as a forum for intelligent discourse of many topics, as well as a chronicle of their daily lives. I read several "famous" blogs every day [see my Links section], and I am eager to put my blog on a plane above my LiveJournal.

That being said, I want to start my blog off with an excerpt from a paper I wrote for one of my professors last semester. The question posed was simply, "What grade should I get?" The underlying question, then, is "What did I take from this class?" Here is part of my answer:

"...I realized—more than ever—that love is the heaviest burden to bear, and the most important.

In all honesty, this has been the toughest semester of my life, as far as my personal life and my relationship go. Since January, I have been undergoing a fairly rigorous process of testing and treatment for what was eventually diagnosed as Bipolar II. This is not an excuse—my absences and my lapses in reading can in no way be blamed on my mental health, and this is not the point I intend to make. The truth is, you don’t have to be a Vietnam soldier to carry burdens. Humanity carries things every day. The things I carry vary—lab glasses, pencils, pens, a cell phone, my wallet, pride and ignorance, my disorder and the 75 mgs of Lamictal I take each day to stabilize my mood, therapist appointments, anxiety, joy, beauty, art—but I never stop carrying love. It is the only thing I can never put down. From the day we are born to the day we die—we carry love. We shed skin, baby teeth, hair, clothing, virginity, propriety, sobriety, notions of God and universal good—but love is indelible.

I thought the lesson I would take from this class would be a concept of monstrosity. In my head, this concept has arranged itself around a quote by Joyce Carol Oates: “We are beasts—and this is our consolation.” But it really is no consolation at all. Monsters are monsters because they cannot bear the burden of love: their existence is spent trying to shed what cannot be shed. Grendel, Frankenstein, Nathan Price, Okonkwo—they all look in at the labors lf love, and know they cannot carry the burden. Love is too heavy, and it turns them inside out. It could have turned me inside out too.

I intended to make the sweeping generalization that all humans are monsters, but I have realized that this simply is not true. I have done monstrous things in rebellion against love, but it is still my burden. I still carry it..."
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