Break down, it’s all right

1 08 2017

When I was 22 I gave up hope.

It was necessary, a way to keep myself alive, but I don’t know that it was a conscious decision so much as a fait accompli.

Almost 30 years late, and I’m still snagged on that word, hope: hope you’re feeling better; hope it goes well; etc. I didn’t use it at all, for years, but sometimes there’s no good way to avoid the word without drawing attention to its avoidance. So, I use it, sparingly, and always with a mental reservation.

I gave it up because I was broken, as a person. I may or may not still be broken, and perhaps I won’t ever get past those breaks without at least a handshake with hope, but I have managed to put together a life without it.

It’s hard, and I wouldn’t particularly recommend it to anyone, but if you have to abandon hope, you can, and live.

The loss of hope is, or can be, less a tossing-away than an uncovering: you’ll see things, in this hope-less life, that you wouldn’t otherwise. I can’t say if this new sight is worth it, relatively speaking, but, again, there is a kind of clarity, here.

This is how I’m coming to see my response to the 2016 elections. Something broke inside of me, and I couldn’t get a handle on it. Now, I’m thinking that I had a kind of hope in American politics, a hope I never really considered, never really recognized, and that now that’s gone.

Again, a hard thing, but not the worst thing. Again, I gain a sight, a sense of the meanness of this country, which, however maddening, is useful to have.

The differences between the personal and the political hope-loss are that I didn’t know I had any left to lose, and that I thought I already knew how the US could be; that’s what made election night so unbelievably painful.

A more significant difference is that I ended up in a place where there are already a hell of a lot of people—mostly, people of color—who had discarded hope long ago. They haven’t given up; they just don’t expect that everything will somehow turn out right. No, there is work to be done.

This work would be easier, I’d think, if there were hope; or maybe it would just be easier to avoid the work. (I have evidence from my personal life to support both possibilities.) Regardless, there is work to be done.





Drifting this way and that

17 07 2017

These days I’m floating, a bit askew, a few inches from the ground.

I can touch down when I need to—when I have to teach or work my second job—but other than that, I’m untethered from the world.

This has been going on for awhile. It’s not unpleasant, but it’s not, well, it’s not much of anything. Better than bone-crushing anxiety or quaking depression, a slow dissolve ends in sorrow, nonetheless.

I noted a coupla’ posts ago that I don’t know if I’ll remain in New York, if I can afford to stay here, but as real as the financial questions are, the really real issue is that I don’t feel really real. I’m not quite here.

Brooklyn, Chicago, if I’m not, here, I won’t be, there.

Again, not an emergency; the lack of urgency, perhaps, is part of the problem. I’m not drowning beneath, so am not fighting for air. I’m low in the air, not fighting at all.





Polka, tango everyone

5 07 2017

Niece #2 got married in June, to a rather nice gent.

They live in the Twin Cities area, so, of course, got married in Green Bay (where none of us lives). It was lovely.

My sister, who is very organized, was a bit frazzled on Friday morning: the Saturday forecast called for rain, and—did I mention this was an outdoor ceremony?—she (and N2) needed to decide whether or not to put up the tent.

Ugh, she said, that tent is so ugly. But we have to do it.

Saturday was hot and bright, and no one noticed the condition of the tent under which we so gladly sheltered from the sun.

The bride was emotional. The groom was emotional. The ceremony was short, and they both said I do.

At the reception, the maid of honor, Niece1, offered a funny, heartfelt speech, as did the best man (Niece1’s husband—why yes, the bride and groom met through the sister and the best friend), and my brother-in-law, witty and charming, welcomed the groom into the family with an unabashed I love you.

I danced with cousins I hadn’t seen in decades, and relaxed with my sisters’ friends, who I see every few years when we all gather for celebration.

No one talked politics.

Oh, and I met my grand-nephew, who is the chillest baby in the Midwest. He was handed from stranger to stranger to stranger and reacted with, at most, raised eyebrows. My habibi.

It was strange to be back in Wisconsin, as it’s always strange to be back. I remember when I moved to NY and how the buildings pushed up next to the sidewalks took some getting used to; now, it’s normal to me, and it is the wide lawns and low buildings which startle.

Still, some things reassured: the (oh-my-god-how-incredibly-cheap) beer and the cheese curds. Some like the breaded kind, while I prefer the batter-fried: salty and super hot. The accompanying conversation with friends was also a bit salty, although a bit more relaxed.

I’m not certain of my future in NY—it is a costly and hard place to live—but it felt good to see the lights as the plane turned over Manhattan and we glided into Queens.

LaGuardia may be a shit airport, but for as many times as I’ve flown into and out of it, it is mine. And after a weekend in a place which is no longer mine, it felt good to be home.





Live it up, rip it up, why so lazy?

25 05 2017

I got home from picking up final papers and projects and began singing Supertramp’s “Fool’s Overture.”

No, I have no damned idea why.

This was my first Supertramp record—only it wasn’t mine, it was my sister’s. I don’t how often she played it, but I used to lay on the floor of our (finished) basement, stereo speakers on either side of me, and listen to the hell out of it.

I didn’t listen to the whole thing again, don’t know if I’ll ever listen to an entire Supertramp song again, but, y’know, in case you were wondering what you were missing. . . .

(Yes, I’ve been missing. Still working on that.)

Anyway. Memory is weird. Life is strange.





Misery

1 05 2017

Colds suck.

I know, I know: everybody gets ’em, everybody hates ’em, ain’t nothin’ special about ’em.

That’s part of the suckage of the common cold, innit? It’s just such goddamned ordinary misery.

A serious flu and you take to your bed, achy and feverish and wanting nothing more than to be unconscious, but a cold? Yeah, you’re achy and you want to sleep, but you can mostly also do whatever it is you usually do, just with more breaks.

And if you’re not knocked flat on your ass, it’s easy to think, Oh, yeah, I’ll be better soon. Only the damn thing lingers. One day you can’t stop sneezing. Another day and it’s all Give Me Fever, and the day after that you swear you’re going to cough your lung inside out.

And then you think, Oh, okay, I’ll be better soon, and STILL WITH THE COUGHING.

At one point earlier today I wondered, hopefully (!), All this coughing: maybe I have walking pneumonia?

I do not have walking pneumonia.

No, I’m just bored and impatient and tired of being tired and crabbing like any middle-aged crabby broad would do.

Just enough with the fucking coughing already, though, okay?





Ramble on

3 04 2017

Oh, hey, hi! Hi! ‘Memba me? I ‘memba you! Hi!

Yeah, no good reason for the light no posting. Reasons, yes, but not good ones.

So what’s new?

WELL. I bought a new coffee machine. An expensive, fancy-pants coffee machine that readers of a now defunct website (ie, Gawker) declared their favoritest coffee maker.

I’d bought a cheapo coffee maker oh, a year ago, and never really liked it. That it was cheap didn’t bother me, but it was too small (Heyyy, why not get a 5-cup pot?) and every time I filled the water re-cept-a-cle I dribbled into the filter.

(Yes, I could have filled the water, first, then plopped in the filter, but THAT’S NOT HOW I DO THINGS—at least, not coffee things.)

Anyway, I didn’t love it, but it worked, so, whatever.

But then I saw the defunct piece on the expensive, fancy-pants coffee machine and I thought about my unspent Christmas money (why yes, I’m middle-aged and my parents still send me Christmas money—don’t yours?) and it was on a little sale (i.e., under the threshold at which I’d buy it) and so I bought it.

And. . . it was fine, at first. It has an insulated carafe, which I thought Whoo-hoo, no more burnt coffee (burnt and flavored coffees are the only bad coffees), and that first cuppa was, well, it was really nice.

But the second was a bit. . . not hot. And the third, even more not-hot.

Huh, I thought. And then thought no more.

Next day, same thing. And then, instead of just staring out the window with my lukewarm mug o’ joe, I took a look at the coffee maker. Whereupon I noticed that there was no warmer.

Huh.

Makes sense, really: the carafe is supposed to keep the coffee hot. But it didn’t, not really.

No problem, I’ll just return for the one with the glass pot. At which point I began reading the Amazon comments which I apparently completely blanked on before buying the damned thing, and lo, there were the observations about not-hot joe!

Well, what about the glass pot option? Glass pot breaks. Many commenters: glass pot breaks.

Me: That’s no good.

And then the weird little shit about this model—the filter sits directly on the carafe, there’s no place to store the lid when the coffee’s a-brewin’, and then no place to store the filter when the lid’s on, the carafe realllllly likes to hang on to that last bit of coffee that I otherwise insist belongs in my mug—all of the stuff that I shrugged off in those first, delirious days of fancy-pants coffee making, all of that was no longer charming and do-able but annoying and oh-my-god-I-paid-how-much-for-this-fucker.

So, glass breaks and annoying shit? No. Next model, please!

An hour or so later, after checking this machine and that (all expensive), I landed on this one. It’s programmable, about which I care not one whit (which is good, given that commenters complain that the programming gets fritzy), but I do like the removable water tank (if only for cleaning purposes), and that I can adjust temps.

And yes, I got the red one. I’m not usually much for red—the color makes me nervous, to be honest—but I thought, Ohhh, that’s nice.

It’s still too goddamned much for a coffee maker, of course, but as this officially counts as A Splurge, I officially Don’t Care.

On the other hand, if I don’t like this one, I’ll go back to the cheap-ass options and spend the difference on a bottle of scotch.





Nothing I try to do can work the same way

9 03 2017

I don’t know how deep these cracks go.

I noted at the end of the last post that I didn’t see what was always there, but the real kicker was less or not just the lack of sight but that I thought I did see: I thought I knew what I did not.

This isn’t just about thinking that racism or sexism weren’t that bad: I knew, knew, that it was bad, but that knowledge had not, somehow, been fully absorbed—tho’ I thought it was.

I hate head/heart binaries, so I’ll go with head/body: I had all of this knowledge tucked safely into my noggin, then the election came along and cracked my skull, and it all flooded down my spine, into my guts, and buckled my knees.

My body was not prepared for the blow.

To put this in less somatic terms, my sense of self is based on some notion of awareness (which, oy, creates all kinds of problems for me. . .), so I try very hard, intellectually, to maintain an awareness of my inability to be aware. I try to keep in mind that I’ll think I know more than I do, so, y’know, best not to run too far ahead of myself. And while I sometimes fail at this I sometimes also succeed, I sometimes remember there’s more out there.

And maybe that’s where I went wrong: Because I did sometimes remember about the out-there, I forgot that there’s also something in-here, in me, which affects how I experience that knowledge. It’s not just or even primarily emotional, but more basic, ontological.

The failure to see is painful; the failure behind that failure, even more so.

I’m fond of quoting Leonard Cohen’s line from “Anthem”: There is a crack in everything/that’s how the light gets in. Maybe so, maybe so. But if the light is to reach all the way down, then so, too, will the crack.

This is not the worst thing, but it is a hard thing. If I can manage it, there’ll be a reckoning ahead.