I’m With Her, the Learning Curve Edition

Screen Shot 2016-09-26 at 7.51.05 PM.pngscreen-shot-2016-09-26-at-7-51-16-pmMy bone deep terror in the face of the 2016 election boggles even me. I keep thinking of all these things I want to do – actually finish a novel, for example, and then the fear takes over. How do you create art in a world where Trump can be elected president? (I’m serious…these are things my brain does) It all came to a bit of a head, however, on Saturday night when I was trying to watch the Kingsman with Kelly and Taekia. I made them pause it twice because I was too distressed about the possibility of a Trump presidency to a) focus on the movie or b) let them stop discussing it with me.

Over the course of the conversation I could see Taekia working up to something, putting an argument into place before she said it, but I’m so very, very glad she did.

“It’s a kind of privilege, though, isn’t it? That kind of fear?”

Everything clicked into place then, so easily that I’m ashamed I didn’t realize this before. Everything about this fear comes from a place of privilege.

Let’s be honest. The foundation of my belief in politics comes from the West Wing, which is a show about optimism and possibility and the belief that government can be a force for good in the world. It’s an extremely flawed vision. Intellectually, I’m aware of this, but emotionally, unconsciously? Not so much. Trump has revealed that foundation to be unstable at best, rotten at worst, and the naïve part of my gut figured that if we could elect Hillary Clinton instead, we could dismiss Trump as a fluke.

But the genie will not go back in his bottle. The reality of a Trump presidency that I fear – the codified bigotry, the economic and environmental disaster, the gutting of public education, the violence, the police state – these are realities for so many people who live in our country, whose very existence is at the whims of current power structure that benefits me as much as it benefits so many people who support Trump. Just look at Flint, at Little Rock, at Charlotte and Tulsa. It’s an emotional, social, physical reality I’m only beginning to realize how much I don’t and can’t understand, even as I do my best to learn about it, to acknowledge it, to work to eradicate it.

Hillary Clinton, even as president, cannot fix this. No one person can, no matter what position of power they have. And Hillary Clinton herself is flawed, and votes and her support for past policies have grievously helped to uphold the systemic injustices that our country is riddled with. Given the state of things, I understand the impulse to burn it down. As Taekia stated so astutely later in that same conversation, this system we have, this unfinished symphony, was written by racist, sexist white men. And I can see the hopelessness that makes people think we can’t get from here to a much better there.

I have to start building a new foundation. That’s my job, the intellectual work that I have to keep doing. I have to read more widely, listen more carefully. An uncomplicated belief in possibility is as dangerous as an uncomplicated nostalgia. So let’s start at the beginning with a few things I’m surer of than others.

  1. No one, and I mean no one’s lives will be better under a Trump presidency.
  2. As tempting as the scorched earth approach might be, and I’m only starting to understand how tempting that is, I don’t believe we’re going to get there any faster that way. In fact, I think we might get there more slowly.
  3. If we’re heading toward a revolution of some kind, and I sincerely hope that we are, the politician I want in the oval office is one who has demonstrated an ability to listen to and respond to criticism. Hillary Clinton is not perfect, and she has policies and practices that make me very nervous (examples include but are not limited to the way pragmatism turns to compromise and any policy towards Israel that isn’t OH MY GOD STOP) but never have I seen a politician with such a beautiful learning curve. Nor a politician whose continued work to understand the nuances of our country, of race and gender and economics, go unnoticed and unappreciated. If we’re taking to the streets, I want someone who is going to read the signs and listen to the chants, and then act on that knowledge.
  4. We can’t change the world by electing a president. Every four to eight years we have this dumb Green Party/Libertarian Party conversation where two new presidential candidates will pop out of the wood work, talking about bucking the system and then go away. You want more than two parties? Great, so do I. You want revolutionize the system? Me too! But we can’t do that every four years or every eight years. We have to do that every day.Do you know who your city council members are? Your state representatives? Do you vote in the midterms and the primaries and the school board elections? Do you show up at Town Halls even if there is absolutely no chance you’re going to meet Obama? I don’t, but I’m going to start.

The president is important, and I firmly believe that our country is going to be a better place if we elect Hillary Clinton than if we don’t. And I also firmly believe that is the question that we should try to be answering when we go to the polls. So I’m proud to say that I’m unequivocally, enthusiastically with her.

I hope we show up on November 8th to vote for her, to give ourselves a chance to start to rebuild after this madness, to make things better going forward – not just incrementally, but revolutionarily. But more importantly, I hope you show up on November 9th too.

 

Image source – Texts from Hillary is, yes, a little droll for the topic of this posts, but how could I possibly resist?

Dentists

My least favorite place is the dentist. I imagine purgatory to be a dentist’s waiting room with the pungent smell of fluoride and the high hum of the drill in the background. Ominous picture right? It’s not that I have a phobia of the dentist, I just find the whole experience overwhelmingly uncomfortable. There are very few things, which aren’t food, that I want in my mouth.

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Through a series of unfortunate events, I’ve recently found myself sitting in the dentist chair, the horrible paper bib hanging by a cold chain around my neck, looking at a tray of scary looking tools and brushes. My dentist and I were going over my x-rays, and she began to interrogate me about my eating habits. “Do you eat a lot of carbs? A lot of sugars? Chocolate? Do you drink a lot of Diet Coke?” Not gonna lie, I felt personally attacked. I mean really, does it look like I have the body of someone who regulates their diet? Absolutely not.

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You see, it was just explained to me that not only do I have six cavities, but I also grind my teeth at night and will now have to start using a mouth guard. She explained how there were many more visits to her chair in the future. I don’t think you can quite understand the depths of my despair.

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I had also recently made the unfortunate discovery that my current insurance plan doesn’t cover fillings. For the past few weeks, I’ve tried to hunt down the most cost effective place to pay to have someone spend forty five minutes staring into the back of my throat, while physically assaulting me with the weapon of their choice. And along the way, I learned that a tooth has five sides (each of which can have its own individual caviety) and gums have the habit of receding like hairlines. But I found a place and resigned myself to getting stabbed with Novocain accompanied by a lecture.

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There’s nothing quite like getting a filling. You’re very aware of what’s happening to you, every twist and poke and prod, but it’s unnerving feeling nothing but the pressure of the tools.  You just feel this weird vibrating, as you’re staring up at two people, and your trying really hard to not make eye contact or make it awkward. You try closing your eyes, but then you’re forced to open them because the dentist is holding up the mirror, making you stare at your gaping tooth, saying, “No really, you really fucking damaged your teeth. See?? SEE?!”

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This of course could have been avoided had I flossed, says my dentist. She asked me if I flossed and how often; I replied maybe twice a week and gave me the most disdainful look I have ever received, saying twice a day is a goal I should aim for. I personally felt this was uncalled for considering most of us don’t floss at all, let alone everyday (don’t lie to me, and don’t lie to god).

But I can’t help but think she may have a point.

 

Jessica Jones, Or When Watching Hurts

jessica-jones-article-main-photo-640x360Jessica Jones came to Netflix on November 20, 2015 – all thirteen episodes, barely a day of television if you’re really committed to binging, a few weeks at most if you aren’t.

I just finished it yesterday. For those of you playing along at home, that means it took me ten months to watch thirteen episodes of television. That’s less time than the average American television show with its 21 to 24 episode seasons. What took me so long you might ask? Did I not like it? Did I even want to finish?

Of course not! It’s a super hero television show featuring a strong, badass female lead who drinks a lot of whiskey and takes no bullshit and runs around solving crime. It is everything that I’ve ever wanted out of the world. (Aside from a heist movie with an all female cast, but look – I’m getting that too!) And yet, even when Hannah and I were bored with endless How I Met Your Mother and got stuck during the Fauxlivia parts of Fringe, we still didn’t go back to it. Instead of buckling down, I’ve spent the past five and a half months watching episodes of America’s Test Kitchen and Parts Unknown over and over and over again.

Even still, once I sat down to finish it, I split my attention between the action on television and the action in my Two Dots game.

There is something unbearably real about watching a woman who has suffered the kind of sexual, mental and physical abuse that Jessica Jones suffers walk through a world that doesn’t believe her, that doesn’t believe in the power a man held over her. The metaphor is too shallow – abusers don’t need mind control to make victims, to hide themselves in plain sight, to avoid justice and persecution. Abusers and rapists, particularly when they are white men like Kilgrave, often get away with their crimes, leaving the women they abuse trying to put back together a shattered life with little to no support from the systems that are meant to protect them.

Just look at Brock Turner, who was released after serving only three months of his six-month sentence, a sentence meant to protect his fragile soul from the damage that might have been incurred in prison. Brock Turner is about to embark on a speaking tour to warn college students about the dangers of alcohol and promiscuity. If we can’t blame the woman, we have to blame alcohol and hook up culture, because god forbid the guy who committed the action carry the weight of it. Can’t you just hear the echoes of Kilgrave blaming his parents? Blaming Jessica?

For every 1,000 rape cases, 344 are reported. 63 of those reports lead to arrest. 13 of those cases actually get referred to prosecutors. 7 of those rapists will be convicted, but only 6 will go to jail.

When you hear stories of women who were abused, can’t you hear Kilgrave saying, “Oh, my god. Jessica, I knew you were insecure, but that’s just sad. I’m not torturing you. Why would I? I love you.”

When you hear stories about men who kill women who rejected them, can’t you hear Kilgrave saying about Jessica, “Dear God, I would do anything to see the look on her face when she realizes she’s helpless. I’d make her want me. Then reject her […] Or maybe I’ll just kill her.” Is that not the exact thing we fear when we invent boyfriends to get guys in bars to leave us alone?

This is the problem with good art – it can be incredibly difficult to stomach. Sometimes, it forces you to image horrible possibilities and sometimes you don’t have to imagine them. 1 in 5 women on college campuses will be sexually assaulted. It’s not imagination, but a very real, very pervasive fear that governs what women do, where we go, who we talk to, and what we say. Its much too easy to put yourself in Jessica’s place, trying to reconstruct safety in an impossible world where your abuser not only walks free, but you have to watch his power grow.

This could happen to me. This could happen to someone I love.

But finish I did. I didn’t fall asleep easily last night.

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I’m doing my best!!!

Before you start this depressing blog post, please view this 16 year old Alt Rock song that has some relevance to the below, but mostly has just been stuck in my head all day.

Perfectionism is one of those wonderful traits my mother passed on to me. Pair that with my phobia of disappointing anyone and you’ve got a pretty good recipe for disaster.

Essentially I am afraid of being wrong. Sara touched on this a bit in her previous blog, how my mistakes are more in number but smaller in size. That’s because, when presented with a problem, instead of calmly taking care of it, I panic.

This is why I don’t test well, especially multiple choice tests. When presented with four different answers that are all designed to trip me up, suddenly every single thing I’ve learned flies right out of my ears. I find different ways they could all be right.

It’s also the reason that I am still writing this blog post even though I stayed at work until 8:45 tonight. When I say I’m going to something, then I need to do it – I have this need to follow though.

This is one of the things that I like least about me. You lose a sense of control over yourself when you feel so chained to pleasing others. It pains me that I would sacrifice things that I enjoy, that I find valuable, because I can’t say no, or I can’t stand up for myself, or I feel like I have to prove myself over and over again.

It also affects my work. Instead of addressing a problem and then moving on, I harp on details for hours. And then my emotions spiral as I think of all the ways this problem could’ve been solved if only I had done this, or that, or the other thing. And then I get mad at all the time I wasted worrying, when I could’ve just gotten more work done. Honestly I have to say, it’s pretty exhausting being me.

I’ve thought about a million different ways this can be solved. Short of actual therapy, I’ve tried relaxation techniques and better organization methods. And I’ve definitely tried to not give a fuck. But I can’t shake this very innate desire to please, to do well, to be perfect. I want be right 100% of the time. I want to be liked by everyone. I want people to think I’m important, and smart, and beautiful, and good.

But what’s really hard, and really kind of sad, is that I know I am all those things. When I’m alone, I can understand that I am doing well, that I am doing my best, and that as far as humans go, I’m definitely above average. But all that disappears when I am faced with the reality of a situation, and it doesn’t matter what I know or what I am. I become terrified and I think that the reason I won’t be able to do the things I want or be the person I want to be, is because I’m not good enough.

Slowly I’m getting better at being nicer to myself. The first step to solving any problem is of course, admitting you have one. These days when I mess up, I can get over it much more quickly, can see where improvements can be made, and address them properly. Sure it’s dull work, but it’s better than the emotional spiral I’m usually faced with. Perhaps one day I’ll be less neurotic, and more carefree, but today I will settle for doing my best.

 

Seeking a CS Rep for the End of the World

ab43b3a24c617d3e2914223b052e8d22ac7529b3d47af745d16d5e1017254481The thing that kept me up at night this week is an easy one: I fucked up at work this week. It was not, perhaps, as catastrophic as it could have been, but only because it was fixed with minimal involvement from anyone’s boss. It was not fixed when I left work on Monday, so I spent Monday night trying to sleep and instead feverishly imagining all the ways I might be called on to explain myself. How might I make it sound just a little bit better, if asked? Tuesday morning I breathed a sigh of relief, but by Tuesday afternoon the world was, once again, barreling toward the apocalypse. I found out yesterday at 4pm that I was 95% out of the woods. The remaining 5% would have to wait until Tuesday.

My boss does not and will never know how close we came to the end times. Or at least how close I felt to the end times.

In so many ways, I like to do things on a grand scale. In my more flippant moments, I like to say that I ball too hard. Where Kelly, for example, maintains a constant low level bitchiness, I like to lull you into a false sense of security by being nice most of the time. And then I’ll cut you off at the knees. Our mistakes work the same way. Kelly misses some flights or misbooks them, but they are all budget flights, less than $100. I wait too long to apply for my visa, and then my parents end up paying for not one, but two international flights. In this case, my mistake could have cost the company some money, and damaged our relationship with an account not exactly known for being the paragon of rationality.

We don’t talk about mistakes like this much. We talk about failure, as a part of the creative process or catastrophic errors that lead to tragedy, but I can’t be the only person I know to have screwed up at work in ways that were not insubstantial, even if they weren’t firing offenses either. And yet I can’t think of anything anyone I know has done.

Had this mistake not been resolved as well as it was, I might not be talking about it either. It’s pretty easily one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done. A true baloney head moment, as my mom used to describe my school-aged missteps. But I also had help. Someone sent me the wrong form, and someone else decided this was the day she was going to stop checking my work. But I also didn’t do most of the work to fix it. Aren’t the worst of our mistakes always the ones we can’t fix ourselves, however much we might like to?

I’m not a detailed oriented person. Sometimes, this is carelessness. Sometimes, this is arrogance But most of the time I think it’s just the way my brain works. I don’t check things by running over them with a fine-tooth comb. I read them 12 times instead. I figure anything I don’t catch on the first try, I’ll have caught by the seventh or eighth. Anything I haven’t caught by the 12th no one else is going to catch either.

I don’t believe that there has to be maliciousness or carelessness for mistakes to be made (ten points if you know where I got that from). This week might not have been so bad if I felt like some of the people I was working with were operating under that assumption. Be kind, people. There’s enough purposeful malevolence without all of us going around assuming it. Shit happens.

Oh, and when you’re kind to your badass customer service counterpart, sometimes she fixes your mistakes for you.