Monday, February 27, 2017

Get Out.

Saw this on Saturday night.
It's excellent and worthy of the buzz it's getting. Go see it in theaters!

Friday, February 24, 2017

Reconciliation by Melissa Febos.

Read Reconciliation by Melissa Febos over on Lenny.

Her piece is about two of her relationships, the most notable of them being her relationship with her dog.

Cheezburger funny dog cute funny dog

I really miss having a dog-friend. I think about it every day.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Vain. Selfish. Cruel.

There are worse things in the world than being called fat. It's a descriptor that's often hurled as an insult, a catch-all meaning unattractive, sloppy, uncontrolled.

I take up too much space. My shoulders are thick. My thighs are thick. My bones are thick. I could never be slight. Never delicate. Never the femininity of lace and fragility.

It took deprivation, mania, and obsession in order to have a 140-pound body that was rejected nonetheless. So much work. A constant, all-consuming struggle to take up as little space as possible, but still be seen.

If I did everything right, there was a chance I would get what I wanted. There was a chance the parts of me that felt empty and broken could be filled with his temporary solace.

Maybe I'd feel more alive with his hand around my throat.

Maybe I'm not happy, but I could feel that comfort temporarily if it's pounded into me when I ask for it.

There's a galvanization, a resolved confidence that comes when you project it all onto another body. It's easier to call out the cracks.

It's easier to walk away from when it's someone else.

How deeply can you hide from yourself?

On a good day, I wonder if my mental illness isn't just the compacting of my gender and existentialism.

I still have to live here. In this body. A body I too-often resent. Then it grows ill and I see it for what it is, infinitely complex and fragile. Precarious health. Absurd illnesses. Waking up to a paralyzed face. Eye patch and straws for weeks. Waking up to vertigo. A topsy-turvy wild-ride you can't ground. These illnesses of the head and brain. Your true center, unhinged and untethered and yet your only means of communication to this place and these people.

And how can you look to the future? What dignity is there in aging if the world falls apart? How can I live with dignity when it's torn from me, penance for my existence here and now. And when I chose to hold onto myself, when I make choices and attempt at living values I can stand, there is always a price. Goodness is its own reward. A reward you give yourself when nobody cares to look.

And if this world is as bleak as it seems to me, how do others bare it so wholly? How can your glass be half-full, when mine is vinegar in a children's cup?

Why does kindness make me cry? Seeing the goodness in men is something I've given up on an infinite amount, over an endless cycle. Masculine self-worship through the ages. Penis flags and ceremonies. How does a man reject generations of his kind? Why do I expect so little of men? The smallest of kindnesses seems a shucking of his ancestors. Maybe there's hope in him, he held the door open. Maybe he's a radical, he's being kind to the staff. He hints to tearing the system down, by wearing a pink shirt.

I can't seem to think of my body without thinking of those who have judged it so harshly. There was a time when it was new to me, my fatness. Always chubby, but never worryingly so.

Then it was too much. 

I remember walking across the busy city street when I noticed you. I yelled your name and waved excitedly. You mother gasped audibly and looked at my body in horror. She did not look at my face or address me. She looked only at my full body. I remember the look so vividly. Abject disgust. I was ignorant to it then, but it's seared into my mind.

I'd gained so much weight over such a short time.

I remember one night, courting sleep in my basement bedroom, wishing my mother and her friend would settle. They were on their second bottle of wine and were talking loudly. My mother spoke of my body. This new body nobody recognized or understood. It was too big. She couldn't defend it. She had no excuses for my body. She lowered her tone as she said it disgusted her. She said this with shame, hoping for absolution.

It wouldn't be hurtful if it was met with my own anger. But it isn't. My body has stretched outwards, away from myself and into spaces it isn't meant to occupy. Muscles and organs are taxed. Its integrity is compromised. It is not wanted by those I should be courting. It is not courted. It is too soft. Too large. Too heavy. It is the cause of, and answer to, all of my medical problems. No matter the question, no matter the doctor, I'm too fat.

I was never a delicate flower. Always tall. Always thick. Meant for labor and battle. Nordic Viking blood. Hearty settler bodies. Fat was rare. Fat was necessary.

For my frame to be feminine it takes deprivation. It takes sorcery. Body hair removal. Much of it. My hair is deeply rooted. Follicles sprout two or three hairs at a time, happy to keep me warm. My features seem toddler-like,broad faced, large grin, round features. My chest is large, heavy. My only feminine inheritance. Tits. Who cares. They're in the way. They're not perky. They've grown to accommodate my weight gain, obscene and too much. The need to be contained.

It can be difficult to think of my body in new ways. The paths have been set. My only experience with thinness was attained through anorexia and bulimia. That's what it took, for a thick body to be acceptably less thick.

What would it take to get there through acceptable means?

And if I stopped eating, what then? What if I lift weight and lose some weight. Will I be any happier? Will I resent the ways in which I have to manipulate my body in this world in order to feel less hideous? What of romantic love? What comfort is there in knowing your attraction to me is based on a body I've raged with, seemingly endlessly.

Will sex be more accessible to me, if my body fits into certain spaces? Will I trust an easier?

What if with every pound lost all I really gain is bitterness?

And if I'm able to find ways in which to alter my relationship with my body, will that be enough?

What if my thick body wants to be thick and round. What if getting out of my circle and spheres means disordered thinking?

Arguably, it's all disordered thinking. Calorie counting. Obsessive working out. Hard lines. These choices are for one goal, and that goal is acceptable and aesthetically aligned with what is wanted, so it's an acceptable harshness.

Bulimia and anorexia are not healthy. They are worrisome. But in the meantime, I looked good. My disorder was not outwardly visible. It is now. This fatness cannot be ignored.

I am not an easy going person, it seems. Oddly enough, my only true pleasure these days is sitting with a dog and talking to it in a ridiculously detailed way, narrating our situation. Unloading a grocery bag and explaining my purchases. This is a can of beans. This is cellery. These are mushrooms. Smell this cheese. This is garlic. Smell this box of crackers. Tail wag. Giggle.

How is it parts of me are so heavy and the other parts so light? I gravitate towards the ridiculous, no doubt because of the weight of my nihilism. Is that so obvious though, really? An appreciation for the silly and the absurd might be a desperation for levity. It could also just be the biological imperative to laugh at farts.

It always comes back to my body. I don't know how to move forward through mine. I don't know how to readdress myself.

I do not know how to think of my body in a healthy way.

As soon as I became aware of my body, it was through what was wrong with it.

And as soon as I starting craving attention through my body it was quick to be humiliated.

How can anyone want me and my body?

How can I move away from ingrained shame?

There are worst things than being called fat. And of all the terms I would use to describe myself today, many of them I am proud of. I've worked hard on certain parts of myself. But for whatever reason, the most obvious, daily realities of being fat will always be my main signifier. They're also the most painful. Unpacking it all is as difficult as weight-loss. Do I need to run, lift and reflect in order to shed a pound? Is everything linked? Do my guts know how I feel about my self as a sexual being? Does my metabolism slow everytime I wish I were dead? What if my fat cells stick to me in order to keep my warm, and comforted? Do they not know they're smothering me?

There are worse things than being fat, but it doesn't always feel that way.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Organizing our way through mental illness.

McGill Daily has a piece up called Organizing our way through mental illness by Saima Desai.

The piece works through the links between mental illness and working in social justice/caring about social justice.

Desai quotes a Baffler article by Laurie Penny:
The isolating ideology of wellness works against this sort of social change in two important ways. First, it persuades all us that if we are sick, sad, and exhausted, the problem isn’t one of economics. There is no structural imbalance, according to this view—there is only individual maladaption, requiring an individual response. The lexis of abuse and gas-lighting is appropriate here: if you are miserable or angry because your life is a constant struggle against privation or prejudice, the problem is always and only with you. Society is not mad, or messed up: you are.
It's can be difficult to balance self-criticism with real, lived oppressions and limits. When discussing "the secret" of self-realization:
It would be nice to believe that all it takes to change your life is to repeat some affirmations and buy a planner, just as it was once comforting for many of us to trust that the hardships of this plane of existence would be rewarded by an eternity of bliss in heaven. There is a reason that the rituals of wellbeing and self-care are followed with the precision of a cult (do this and you will be saved; do this and you will be safe): It is a practice of faith. It’s worth remembering that Marx’s description of religion as the opiate of the masses is often misinterpreted—opium, at the time when Marx was writing, was not just known as an addictive drug, but as a painkiller, a solace when the work of survival became unbearable.
I find the language of it all odd. How "self-care" has been politicized, when really it existed before it was a headline. It was justing taking care of yourself. Or resting. Or taking a fucking break. I understand it as a political act, in the way in which it's used to describe consciously prioritizing taking care of yourself since the world is brutal and not kind. Penny herself ends with the Audre Lorde quote, "“is not self-indulgence—it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Laura Salaberry feminism march feminist protest

We gotta take care of our minds and bodies in order to resist.

Recommended reads:

Life-Hacks of the Poor and Aimless by Laurie Penny

Organizing our way through mental illness by Saima Desai

Tuesday's at home.

Monday night I ended up eating something my body didn't agree with, so I spent the evening folded in half with weird ghost-cramps and nausea. I ended up getting very little sleep, so I slept in on Tuesday and took the day off of work.

I spent the day yesterday sleeping, mostly. I got up in the later afternoon, took a shower and had something to eat. I then watched 13th on Netflix, which amongst a complex list of issues, was about the prison industrial complex, and the direct policies enacted in America to feed and sustain that system.

I haven't lived my life entirely ignorant of the prison industrial complex, but I didn't realize to what degree the political/corporate interests were all so directly linked. Nor did I realize the complexities of oppressing folks openly through shady language use and back-room deals.

I don't know that writing to Michael has changed the way I see prisons, but the reading I've done, and the information I'm trying to take in has changed the way I see people who are incarcerated.

I highly recommend seeing the doc, it explains everything so clearly. There are a lot of things I didn't really know about - as a Canadian. Things like mandatory minimums, or that prisoners lose the right to vote. In Canada, prisoners can vote. I don't know about mandatory minimums here, but I'm looking into it. The documentary also had startling statistics about the amount of people who do not face trial, but simply plead guilty in order to "cop a deal."

I know our systems are very different, but our cultures are linked nonetheless.

Some of the stories shared in 13th really shocked me. I have trouble understanding the logic, and enforcement of laws that put someone in jail for 20-30 years on a drug charge.

I have trouble understanding the ways in which prisons are expected to "rehabilitate" people. How are these dehumanizing systems to benefit anyone?

How likely is prison reform?

What I'm reading:

Why Scandinavian Prisons Are Superior

The Norwegian prison where inmates are treated like people

Monday, February 20, 2017

A letter to Michael.

It's been busy.

I actually worked overtime last weekend, both Saturday and Sunday.

I missed half-a-day two Thursday's ago, and Friday this past week due to government exams, so I needed the extra hours to make up for lost wages.

I've been busy, which means I've been tired and going to bed early. I cut what I can when things get hectic, and often that means cutting cooking, art and housekeeping.

I'd applied to two large candidacy pools for government administrative and clerk positions.

I've had to take a litany of exams, one of which involved an arithmetic section that kicked my ass.

I actually just received an e-mail that said I was being added to a first-round for a pool that will be filled out in the next few weeks. So, if I have the basic requirements met, I'll be asked to do exams next week. This pool is closer to home, so it's more interesting to me.

I've been thinking about including my letters to Michael here.

I would edit out sections that speak too specifically to him and his experiences as to protect his identity, but for me, they're where I put a lot of detailed writing attention.

Here's an example, my most recent letter:


Hello Michael!

Well. I’m pooped. It’s about 4 in the afternoon and I’ve spent most of the day writing exams. I applied to a candidate pool for the federal government for jobs in clerical, administrative and assistant jobs. They’re entry-level positions with a good living wage. This morning I took a Grammar and Language exam, and then this afternoon I took an Office Skills exam that kicked my ass. There was a brutal arithmetic section. Everything was timed. It was bananas. You’d have 8 minutes to do 15 math problems with fractions and division and multiplication all in your head. It was nuts. I think I answered 6. Then there was a section on Classification that had lists you had to put in order, again, in your head, in like 8 minutes. It was so nuts! I can’t have done well. We’ll see. They had a section on verification I think I did okay on. And then a weird word-problem logic section I think I did okay on. They have a cut off grade of 40/75.

I’m just re-reading your letter from February 8th. I’ll try and make a note of sending you stationery. If ever you’re in need just ask though! And remember there’s a delay so maybe when you have a few sheets left ask. I’ll send you some more today, in another envelope (of course).

I’ve only read select pieces by bell hooks, we studied her work when I was in university. I thought she might challenge you - and I know you’re looking to think of things differently and be challenged - so I thought she might be able to discuss gender, sexuality, feminism, relationships, blackness and masculinity in interesting ways. I'm happy you're enjoying her work.

In feminist studies, we use the word intersectionality a lot.
in·ter·sec·tion·al·i·tyˌin(t)ərsekSHəˈnalədē/nounthe interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. "through an awareness of intersectionality, we can better acknowledge and ground the differences among us."

I’m going to include a large print-out of the wikipedia article on intersectionality, since it’ll describe it better than I ever could. What’s important though, in most social justice approaches today, is the understanding of intersectionality and the role it plays in oppression.

I also love vocabulary builders. We have that in common! I told you, I get daily words sent to my e-mail! I also read a ton, and love highlighting words or phrases I’ve never heard. After this morning’s exam though - I’m thinking I need to start re-learning basic math! Lol!
But I love words and language!
There are only so many hours in the day! We have calculators now! Leave me alone math! 
I definitely can see how I would not seem shy. I’m often told I’m imposing from the outside. I am not really shy in terms of friendship or speaking up. I’m shy romantically and with men. After my first relationship I cut a large group of guys out of my life. And I didn’t have very much trust in men, especially not heteronormative type “dudes.” So I went into feminist studies and spent time with a lot of women and lesbians and queer-identified folks of all kinds, and it was a safe space for me, away from heteronormativity.

When I finished university I had no idea what to do with myself. I wrote an undergraduate thesis my last year, and I knew I didn’t want to go back to school to get a Masters degree - but I also had no idea what to do with myself for work. So, I went back to technical school to get a degree in graphic design, something applied. A trade. I was 25 at the time. It was a rough decision to make, going back to junior college where kids would be much younger. But I did. All of a sudden I wasn’t in classes with 30 kids, some of which were born in the 90’s. I couldn’t get over that. One kid, who I would eventually be friends with, was 17. He was a tiny baby to me. It was hard on my ego.

I eventually became friends with two guys, one was from the East Coast of Canada, from New Brunswick, so he didn’t speak any French. The other was a local guy from the country. We would sit at a table together and tell jokes and laugh until we cried. They’re too really good, nice guys. V had a girlfriend, and was close to his sister and one of his best friends was a girl. It’s hard to explain, but there’s something special about guys who aren’t afraid of women. Guys who don’t instinctively sexualize them. This was a guy with a lot of girls and women in his life and he knew them and loved them and we could become friends without it being weird. Then, with M, he was also very sweet, and had a hometown vibe to him. We took the subway together once and he asked me to step back from the subway track because it made him uncomfortable, my standing so close. He said it with such earnest sentiment, and so sweetly it took me back… Who is this sweet guy who has this oddly simple chivalrous nature to him? It’s like he was from the 1950’s.

By the time the three year program was over, I told them both they were good friends of mine, and that they changed my relationship to hetero guys. Basically, before them, I had zero trust. It’s very hard for me, still, but they did something for me I really appreciate.

M moved back East, and V is now in Toronto. We keep in touch though, and V and I are still good buddies.

It’s hard being attracted to heterosexual guys when most of them are so awful. Lol.

I really appreciated your saying not to be too hard on myself about my positivity level. The fact is, it’s a hard thing to change, but I have been getting better, as I continue to grow. I get what you’re saying about your own positivity and your own environment. You’re right, you are in a very mentally crippling place, and you must often need to be your own light, your own strength. A lot of what you say, can apply to most of us. I mean, we live in this world through our own mindsets.

I don’t know what it is to be imprisoned. My experiences with confinement are more akin to surviving a bad depressive episode and knowing to just “stick it out.” It’s an odd sensation, feeling your own mind is out to destroy you. Your positivity is of the utmost power. You can achieve and project great things. And no doubt, it affects those who come in contact with you.

I know when I’m kind, and open, and have a good day, I can feel certain interactions and the flow of positivity.

I do find it helpful to laugh and be kind, and then see funny things and kindness in others.
Being able to laugh at things, and enjoy little bits of sweetness helps. There are these things around us too.

Your letter mentioned you laughing when you saw the Trump illustration I did. That made me happy! I wasn’t sure what you’d think of it! I’m happy you laughed! When I went to a protest here with it a lot of people took pictures of it.

I’m happy my question about self-expression made you think! Our letters to each other are no doubt a means of self-expression! Sometimes learning what we like and what feeds us is a journey in itself!

Like I said earlier, I love language and books - but I’m shit at math! So math isn’t it!

I always enjoy receiving your letters Michael! And I’m happy that as we get to know one another and share information, stories and ideas, we’re developing a short-hand.

The last thing you mentioned in your letter was the shooting at a mosque here in Québec City. It’s been big news here, rightfully so. Québec City is about 2 hours away from Montreal. It’s our capital city. It happened on a Sunday night, and on Monday at work people were inconsolable. Gun violence is rare in Canada in general. Hate crimes are rare. A mass shooting is practically unheard of.

Quebec as a province had a mass shooting here in 1989 referred to as “the Montreal massacre.” We have a world-class engineering school, and that engineering school had started letting in, and promoting the education of young women. A guy, who didn’t get it, and then projected that onto women and feminists, went to that school, separated the women from the men, and shot 28 people. He killed 14 women, which he targeted specifically.

This shooting in Québec, is the biggest shooting we’ve had since. Six people died, and 28 were injured. It makes me really angry because some American coverage (the fake-news type shitty blogs and twitter) were saying it was a Muslim-on-Muslim crime - which it WAS NOT. The shooter was a racist, islamophobic pro-trump shithead who was known locally as someone who was racist and misogynist and had shitty opinions.

This was home-grown terrorism. Similar to the church shooting in the U.S - the Charleton Church shooting.

This is shitty, hateful, racist kids with hate in their hearts and only violence as a means to express themselves. These are kids who are white-supremacists and neo-nazis.

Quebec isn’t perfect. Canada isn’t perfect. Locally, there were marches and there was a big service open to the public to honour the victims of the mosque shooting. Québec City is reeling and they’re dealing with what’s going on there. Our prime minister and local community leaders called the shooting what it is - terrorism, so I’m happy we’re not dealing with white-supremacy openly from our state leaders, like you guys are in the U.S.

That same Québec City mosque was getting harassed locally for a while. Someone sent them a pig’s head and a pork cookbook - real racist shitty stuff.

There is racism and fear everywhere, it’s just been a brutal time since Trump was elected. It’s like these really shitty racist, douchey people feel entitled to be openly racist and shitty now. They’re emboldened.

I gotta go, I hope this letter finds you well! Sorry to end on such a bummer note.

I've edited it slightly, but there's a lot here. It fills you in on the last few weeks.

I really enjoy writing letters. There's something intrinsically literary about it, and I just think communicating with someone else in such a considered way is beautiful and artful.

Should I include more of my letters to Michael here?

Black Parents Explain How to Deal with the Police.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Alain de Botton on "good communicators."

De Botton writes:
What makes people good communicators is, in essence, an ability not to be fazed by the more problematic or offbeat aspects of their own characters. They can contemplate their anger, their sexuality, and their unpopular, awkward, or unfashionable opinions without losing confidence or collapsing into self-disgust. They can speak clearly because they have managed to develop a priceless sense of their own acceptability. They like themselves well enough to believe that they are worthy of, and can win, the goodwill of others if only they have the wherewithal to present themselves with the right degree of patience and imagination.
Quotes from an interview with him over on Brain Pickings.

Ultimately what he's referring to is the ability to be open and vulnerable. In approaching someone from an honest space, you're able to receive and communicate in a way that's willing to exchange and adapt. Are you coming to me to engage?

It takes a lot of energy to engage someone in a meaningful way. I'm not always ready for it. I don't always have the energy or the attention span. It can be difficult to remain present and alert to a conversation when your own mind wanders. 

There's rarely a fully open conversation, in that we censor ourselves. We wonder what to say or how to say it, we struggle for the language. We can't always find the words. Thoughts trigger other thoughts and memories, we scan our own experiences for relevance - it's easy to fall down a well when trying to find something pertinent to say.

Being able to approach someone in a calm, stable way involves a lot of self-assuredness, and it also take courage to engage the world. The days, things are so rough politically / in local culture, being present and open and vulnerable is a big ask. We can't be on all the time.

I'm generally pretty confident in my ability to communicate - but when the energy is there.

That's the rub.