Category Archives: Grumbles and Rants

Go On.

This is the part I didn’t want to think about.

Not because I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. Because I did know, and I didn’t want to suffer through it twice, once imagining it and again when it happened. There was nothing I could do to change it or influence it or cut it shorter. It was part of the deal when I first signed up, and there was no mitigating it.

I’ve only got a few weeks left, but I swear, every single day is harder. I keep looking for ways to soften it, ways to carry on, but nothing seems to work. Except with startling frequency, when I open my Bible, it is speaking of endurance or perseverance. Which means that even though I want to turn around and leave, right now, yesterday, before that, I can’t.

And I suppose that in itself is part of the reason why I’m here. When things get hard is when you find out what you cling to. I don’t cling to the thought of the glory of the degree or of the power of the paycheck. I can’t even cling to being done, as all around me the world whispers “just what until you see what you have to do next!” The only thing I can cling to is that it is God who brought me here, will bring me through here, and will take me away from here.

But it keeps getting harder, and I don’t understand why I just can’t be done already. I can’t understand what could possibly make the next few weeks worth it. No deal. No choice. Or at the very least, certainly not enough faith to even ask for what I most want, which is to somehow be done sooner. Done now.

Spinning

I know it’s traditional to be reflective this time of the year, but honestly, I think I am in between every semester. It’s the only time I seem to slow down enough to think, and thinking can’t be rushed. I’m probably particularly reflective because I hit a milestone in my trips around the sun this year, and because this is the last full semester of classwork coming up. It has left me in this peculiar space of partly feeling like big changes are coming, and partly not.

I feel like I should be preparing for some big turning of my world on the inside out, and yet feel as though I have no indication what those changes might be. But the flip side of that is knowing too well what changes are coming, and so deluding myself into thinking it will be no big deal. In another 6 months, I’m moving again. And even though it’s to a familiar place, it still means packing up all my belongings, tugging free what tendrils have rooted, and trying to retransplant. And the truth is, that will happen almost every 2 months for about 3/4s of a year. Surely that’s enough change for anyone.

But maybe trying to gear up for that season of rapid transition is part of the feeling of getting started on something new–I can’t dwell on that much shape-shifting. It’s hard enough to get through it without holding your breath for a year, so I find myself mentally “skipping over” that chapter and trying to figure out what comes next. The reality is that would be trying to divine what is going to be happening more than a year from now, and of course that doesn’t make sense. So mentally and emotionally, I think I’m trying to prepare for “what comes next” as though it would be forming during this semester and happening during this summer. But knowing that, in reality, that’s not so — well, it really puts a damper on one’s planning, I can tell you that.

It feels a good deal like spinning wheels — gearing up to get moving very quickly, yet going nowhere. I looked through seed catalogs the other day, but I’ll be spending the first half of the gardening season in one state, and the other half of the gardening season in another state. I’ve finally found a choir I enjoy singing in, but that will be over when I move, and there’ll be no looking for replacements for at least a year.

There’s a feeling of helplessness, I think, in being unable to plan. It’s not that everything ever has to go according to plan, but it’s just that there’s no bracing yourself for what comes next, or carving out a little piece of something to look forward to.

Hurting Each Other

You may remember when I first mentioned The Civil Wars. They had an intense form of music, with the emphasis on the two very talented singers. This would be typical of one of their songs:

I found their obvious talent to be a big draw, but I didn’t buy their CD, because they were still just playing around. Joy would be up there dancing cheerfully to the glummest songs, and she and John Paul would drag out words through all sorts of auditory acrobatics together, just because they could. I wanted to see what would happen when they settled down a little.

They didn’t show many signs of settling down; their tour schedule was brutal, and it there didn’t seem to be much of a hurry of putting out another CD. I waited.

Joy and her husband Nate had a baby boy. No new CD. The Civil Wars went touring in Europe, leaving John Paul’s wife and children back in the states. No CD.

Abruptly (almost in the middle of a show), the band canceled the remaining tours and put their status on indefinite hiatus due to “irreconcilable differences.”

I was sorry, but not surprised. Of course both of their respective marriages had to be strained–how could they not be? Of course all parties involved were facing serious burn-out. How could they not be?

What infuriated me was the general public’s response, their entitled response that Joy and John Paul had no right to be in falling out, had no right to deprive their fans of continuing music, and, in general, were both acting like a bunch of babies who were engaging in needless drama to increase their fame.

The land of “fandom” (ha) continues to engage in wild speculation, attempts to find one or the other to blame, demands answers, and, generally, is making far more drama out of it than either Joy or John Paul ever did or likely ever will. Yes, Joy and John Paul aren’t speaking. But when Joy granted a rare interview, she didn’t blame or accuse or explain away. She acknowledged tension, and didn’t throw anyone under the bus. John Paul has yet to speak, allowing many to therefore decry that he must be the guilty party and he needs to hurry up and come around.

Really? A man who is unhappy enough with his life choices that he publicly apologizes to his wife for being such a jerk is not likely to be a man who wants to “talk about it.” It is far more likely that he is filled with his own regret, and has more important things to deal with then some people who think they’re entitled to entertainment, be it musically or by getting the dish on whoever it is they want the dish on.

It was nearly a given that Joy would be the one who would be able to speak, even if just something gracious and oblique. She has been in the better position. She was touring with her husband; John Paul had to leave his family behind. She was basking in the glow of being a new mother; his wife, I’m sure, saw plenty of the public speculation that John Paul and Joy were romantically involved. How hard must it be to be separated from your husband who is off on a tour of fame with a pretty lady who everyone thinks he’s an item with?

They did their best to honor their commitments, including offering to pay people their travel costs for arrangements they’d made previously to attend their concerts. They also finished the CD that they’d been working on, even though the tension was high. Here’s a song off of that.

This CD I might have to buy.

On the first CD, they were pretending. They agreed on what made good music, and they made music. On their second CD, they’re raw. The songs are more real to them, and they’re singing from the gut, not playing with their talent. I hear the difference, and it means more. And they know it, too.

I am grateful for the music, but I hurt for them, because their hurt is real. But there are so many people trashing them and bashing them for–hurting.

And that, in itself, is a reason to hurt. People are pretty screwed up.

“This is how I go, when I go like this.”

I’m having trouble writing, lately, but it’s not writer’s block, exactly. It’s just that every once in a while I get seized by a strong sense that I’m only adding to the terrible problem of word pollution, and I ought to do my duty for all of humanity and be quiet.

I have plenty to say, but I lose nearly all faith that any of it is worth hearing. One time I read a description of someone mocking the large landscape of the Internet with the not so mild rebuke that all anyone had to say nowadays could be succinctly summed up in the phrase, “This is how I go, when I go like this.” It stung, not because I disagreed with it, but because it cut so close to the quick. What else am I saying? Perhaps silence is a virtue. There is much wearying with too many words, and all that.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), this is balanced by something else I’ve heard oft quoted. I don’t remember the exact saying, but it was something along the lines that no matter what, you were still going to have to write a million words of complete garbage before you’d had enough practice to write anything of value–and I’ve seen the same principle applied to such things as musical instruments or any other skill honed largely by excessive amounts of practice (like walking, for instance).

So even while I dread coming here to write anything–it will be horrible–I continue to be drawn to write. It will be horrible, but someday—maybe when I’m 64 or maybe even 63–I’ll have practiced myself to a point that my words will be worth reading. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the dread of writing never really fades, because I suspect that (as again this could be applied to any art) an artist will never be fully satisfied. They will be instead always finding one more step on the golden ladder, and always much too preoccupied with “next” to spend much time looking behind.

I can come to terms with slogging. Sometimes there is nothing to do but do it; grit your teeth and wade through. The problem is, well, the innocent bystanders. The ones that have to hear you, practicing scales again. Missing your note again. Trying to reach those notes just out of your reach, again. The urge is to close the door, close the windows, and possibly not practice if there is anyone within a good half mile radius.

The problem with that is that I’ve also discovered that sharing your work is almost as much of a skill as improving the work itself. It takes guts to let anyone see or hear what you’ve labored over. It doesn’t do much good to practice enough you’ve amassed a certain amount of skill, and then promptly burn all your labors so no one will know. It’s been done, but it’s not the path I’d like to follow, and so that means subjecting people to scales and painfully trite writing. I’m sorry. Hopefully, in time, and with sufficient therapy, you’ll be able to move on.

Me? I already am. That’s why I’m here.

SomeOne Has To Do It

It’s interesting, sometimes, thinking of all the little things that make the world go ’round. Someone has to pick up the trash. Someone has to be a plumber. Someone has to write the blurbs on the back of the cereal boxes.

The flip side of that is that someone has to be the one discovering new things. Someone has to make the beautiful things.

Sometimes I hear about lives, about things people have done. Past lives. Past lifetimes. Some people–they’ve done so much. So many things. It makes one think about Heroes. Maybe there is just another class of people that just isn’t like us. They do wonderful things that us ordinary folk just can’t quite obtain.

I guess one of the things that fascinates me is that at some point, one seems to have to choose. I suppose that irritates me. I want to have a piece of everything. Why does one have to devote oneself to ONE thing? It’s boring.

Sometimes, I’ll do something like read a piece of journalism, and I’ll think “I could do better than that!” Or perhaps, “That would be fun to do that!” But I’ve never, ever thought that I would like to be a journalist. Take those classes? Adopt that value system? No. I can’t ever even say “The people need to know!” or anything like that. It’s just that when I see something powerful–a flood, a huge project, a personal struggle–I want to capture it, make a way to grasp it.

That’s essentially what I like about photography. Things are so fleeting, and it’s so hard even for your own two eyes to take it in. When you capture it well with a camera, you have a chance to hold onto things for just a little longer. To really look. To try to absorb it. And I think that one can do that with words, too, to help capture a picture that is bigger than even words.

But I don’t want that to be my job. I don’t want to network, I don’t want to go to school for it, I don’t want to work long hours meeting deadlines. I just want to be able to see something powerful, capture it, and put it out there for other people to try to grasp as well.

But that’s a different story. When you color inside the lines, that’s not something you’re allowed to do unless that’s your job, and that’s the job of a journalist.

Sometimes I can’t help but entertain ideas about selling my hand-work; putting my artistic aspect to monetary function. Not devote my life to it, mind you. A person can find a million thoughts to shoot that idea right out of the sky. But why not? Some in the world sells things they make. On the side.

Someone out there sells their novels.

Someone out there wins the lottery.

Someone out there is happy in their job.

Someone out there is quitting their job and taking their life in a totally different direction.

Someone is experimenting and exploring.

The thing is, when they fail, we just call them fools. And when they succeed, we call them heroes. And if they don’t even try, we don’t remember them either way.

Mostly, what we tell people is “choose.” And it kind of makes me mad, because it’s true. The human experience is a finite one. You CAN’T do it all. Just as I find I pursue photography or writing to try to capture things that I can’t experience fully in one moment, a single human cannot experience everything that can be experienced. That’s why “someone” is doing it, not “everyone.”

Even if I can see it, I don’t want to come to terms with it. I keep trying to find a way to do more, to be the hero–the heroes we’ve all heard about, in big ways and small ways. But there is, of course, always the fear of failure–or, to put it another way–the realization and the rebellion against the idea that we are limited. That maybe everything isn’t possible. That we really are mortal, and there really isn’t anything we can do about it.

What then?

Listen To Me Talk

Last night I performed some uncharacteristic web-browsing—in that normally I don’t. I am either looking at products (e.g. fabric, patterns, etc), researching something in particular, or quite honestly staring at the screen wishing myself in bed but being unable to dislodge the glowing screen from in front of me.

It was an eclectic mix, from an organization teaching surgeons in Africa, to a science fiction writer—an atheist—dying of cancer, a commentary on recent super-hero movies (which I don’t even watch). But all in all, I went to bed thinking a 25-page blog post, being of course too tired to write it out just then.

I guess one of the things that stuck with me most was the idea of trying to find the balance about asserting who you are versus telling everyone else that your way is best.

The dying atheist roundly dismissed all conservatives as deluded and stupid, and said that while liberals weren’t perfect, at least they were in touch with reality. I’ve seen the exact same sentiment by conservatives spewed at the liberals, each asserting that the other side is ignoring the Obvious, Clear Evidence that their experts of choice have defended.

And the African surgeons made absolutely no bones about being a Christian organization, interested in teaching Christian surgeons, and being more worried about being disciples of Christ than being politically correct. They prayed over their patients openly, and made their faith their number one priority, with their field of service coming second.

On the one hand, I am so sick of assertion. This is where the movie commentary comes in—the commentator made note of the fact that one of the greatest powers of super-heroes in modern movies is Absolute Certainty. The superhero knows that his actions are right, that there will be no negative effects from his decision, and that he will be Always Right. We can sit and say “that’s stupid” when we’re looking at a movie, but—how does it go? Art imitates life?

Sometimes I am just at the point where I just don’t even want to know what someone else thinks. I’m tired of the dogmatic assertion. I don’t even want to go back and read any of my older writing, with my dogmatic assertions about sewing, or life, or whatever. You don’t know what you’re talking about, okay? You really don’t. Stop talking.

To quote Margaret Mead (I don’t know who the heck she is), “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Less talking, more doing. Stop talking about what you’re doing. Be quiet and be busy. I don’t care about your facts or your projections; if that’s all you want to do, go away. Liberal, conservative, atheist, bible-pounding warrior—shush. Work. No whining.

But on the other hand, I am jealous of the Christian African Surgeons. We believe in sep’ration of churchnstate. ‘N business, ‘n healthcare, ‘n mostly neighborly discussions. It doesn’t matter how important your faith is to you—you’re expected to work for 40 hours a week and deny anything but work in that time. When you go home and want to have faith unto yourself, fine. But you should be a totally different, sanitized person for the rest of the time. Like, the majority of your waking hours. Pretend to be something other than what you are, or at least stifle it and stuff it down.

I wish I was better at being like the African Surgeons, and insisting that Christ came first and would color everything else. I wish I was comfortable telling the world about African Surgeons, but I hear my own voice—“shush. We don’t need to hear what you think.” I carry around the important things, the things that make me think—and don’t speak them, for dread of adding to the clamor. So I join the throngs spinning out cotton candy. Is that more worthwhile?

No. Maybe I am just afraid of being pigeoned-holed? They way I just did to the dying atheist? I start talking about God, and I’ll just be lumped in with the girls who go to church, and talk there with the friends about the baby their trying to have with their boyfriend, but they’ve had a miscarriage. I’ll be lumped in with the guy with a son out of wedlock and 5 girlfriends later, who’s so proud to see his son performing in the church choir. I’ll be lumped in with the patriot movement, the God-likes-us-to-go-kill-bad-guys movement. I’ll be assumed a Fox-News watcher. I’ll box myself as a self-righteous façade, someone who likes to talk about pious things, but doesn’t understand the holiness of God. I’ll be one more voice insisting I’m right, and benefiting no one at all.

Always be ready, we’re told, to give an explanation for the joy you have within you. I get comments on my smile, on my laugh, on my positive outlook (speaking of facades one puts up for 40 hours at work?), but it would be entirely unprofessional for me to give a reason. To say “God is good, and He grants grace.” Why? Why is it in Africa you can say that and in America you can’t?

But I don’t want to be the preachy one. I don’t want to be the one filling all the voids with I Am Always Right; I am not a super-hero. I don’t want to be The Chicken Who Has Laid an Egg. I just don’t want to hide the light that I have found under a basket. I want to take the basket away, without sending out shrill platitudes of emptiness. Such noise is unpleasant regardless.

I suppose, when it all boils down, the question is—is it possible to not be a hypocrite?

talking behind backs

so on one of my other blogs that should probably just be declared dead (it was sewing related; I doubt I’m going to resurrect it anytime soon), I recently was asked to moderate a comment. It was some feminist telling me off for not knowing my history and how it was “patriarchal values” which put women in “purely ornamental” roles, and how when women sought power they were “mocked for their impractical dress (which men put them in)” and if “couturiers (and men) had their way, we’d still be trussed up in corsets and not working.”

I guess if I had more energy, I would attempt to go gracefully respond to her comment, on that blog, and in context. But I don’t have that much energy or time, to give her a proper response (truly a much longer blog post than I’m willing to write right now). So here’s what I did instead:

I laughed and laughed.

And laughed.

Ooooo my goodness.

You can re-tell history however you want, and argue it till you’re blue in the face, especially when there are no longer any eye witnesses. . .but here’s one thing I bet pretty solidly one: Basic human nature has not changed. Not from the beginning of time until present time.

You can argue politics, you can argue movements, you can argue whatever you want that makes you out to be the hero and everyone else the bad guy–after all, from the beginning of time, the winners write the histories. Why change that grand tradition now? You can argue exceptions, and you can argue extremes, and you can cloud the issues.

Here are some things that I think I see throughout all of history, unchanged by any of the above:

(a) Women want to feel pretty, much the way men want to feel strong. You can argue–some would. You can quibble over words. I would still bet you a serious chunk of change that the average full-blown feminist still spends more time on her appearance than any average male. We enjoy being ornamental. Oops.

(b) Yeppers, often times Men want power over Women. Odds that Man’s first thought for binding women is CLOTHES?! Extremely minimal. Too many other more direct routes for warfare than saying “here, honey, wear this and sit down and look pretty.” Clothes may sometimes be a symptom, but are rarely the main front. They are signs of other, deeper things, but not the cause of other, deeper things.

(c) Expensive clothes, as those made by couturiers? Not the kind of things guys want to spend money on. They spend money on clothes for women because women want it and pine after it. Not because (on average) they want to spend lots of money on CLOTHES. Having a real hard time with this whole “men made us do it” argument. How about now? NOW who’s forcing you to wear shoes with 4 inch spikes that cause serious and permanent bodily damage? “Oh, oh, male oppression! He’s making me go shoe-shopping!!” Really? REALLY? Don’t pass the buck. You wore the clothes because you wanted to. Back then? They did, too. Personal responsibility, folks. Personal responsibility.

(d) patriarchal values rarely have anything against women working. Patriarchal values want women working. Just maybe not on the things you think they should be working on. Patriarchal values do laugh at women in fancy clothes while they say they are just as tough and strong and brutal as men. Honey, if you don’t mind getting dirty, why are you wearing clean clothes? Don’t pretend to be something you aren’t.

(e) Corsets have bad rap. Same with shoes—if you don’t wear them too tight, they don’t cause damage. In fact, there’s pretty good evidence that abandoning support from the south side north has lead to considerable shoulder, neck and upper back strain, and that we’d all be happier wearing corsets. Properly laced.

(g) Fashion is always a joke, no matter the time, culture or political atmosphere. Those who have nothing better to do than worry about how people should dress are just not really either connected to the real world or representative of the whole–just of the elite who don’t have anything better to worry about than their status and mirror-glass reflection. Fashion is about Making Statements and everyone knows, Statements are Cool. Popular fashion works off of that principle in the same way as High Fashion. It’s a corollary to Jackson Pollack’s art. It doesn’t matter if it looks good, just if it’s cool. Fashion is always a sell-out to common sense. Don’t pretend otherwise.

The poor lady who was “horrified by my proclamations about feminism” would not be comforted by this post. . . humanity is often a horrifying thing. And what binds us is rarely so much the bonds which someone mindfully attempts to place upon us, but rather the bonds which we place upon ourselves. Like fashion, which has no excuse–never has, and never will.

(any views of feminism not withstanding)

(sorry)

(but not really)

(why are so many feminists so dang bitter and angry all the time? Is a cheerful feminist an oxymoron?)

I Hate TV

I had to watch an episode of House for my school work.

I hate TV.

I hate how everything is broken up into tiny clips, chopped up by ads.

I hate how they build each clip to a roaring emotional rage, so you will stick to the channel even through the ads.

I hate how the roaring emotional swells make you glad for the commercial breaks to let your adrenaline come down.

I hate how every sound, every camera focus, every facial expression is design to jerk at primal emotional reactions. Pain. Rage. Lust. Fear. Danger. Grief.

I hate how well it can work.

I hate the subtle or not so subtle ways they say that living by raw, unrestrained emotion is okay, normal, good.

I hate that it can be so hard to tear one’s self away from a very vivid game of emotional puppetry, and yet there is never anything worth taking away from it.

I hate that it always pounds on the most primitive reactions of the body, and never goes deep enough to stir the soul.

Why don’t they just use bigger print?

Use less words and make them bigger. I don’t care how many syllables you use, but use less words.

This request is directed at textbook writers. Srsly. I used to tease my brother that he just went to the library and picked out his books on the quality of height and width, but it appears that textbook writers are confused about the fact that this was just a joke. Quantity does NOT equal quality. Once you reach a certain number of words on any given subject, you are not “exploring in depth.” You are “obfuscating”.

It’s bad enough writing a tedious book on a tedious subject, but do you have to obfuscate on top of everything else?

New Years Late–better than not at all

So because I am the last person on earth to “get with it,” I just finished watching a clip of London’s New Years display.

(1) I kind of wished they hadn’t used music and had just gotten better recordings of the sound of the fireworks, which is awe inspiring in and of itself. A good fireworks display always makes me think of the super-natural.

(2) Why does America have such sucky holiday traditions? I have never once in my life bothered to stay up till midnight on New Years Eve, never mind watched the boring ball drop in NYC. But I would totally make it to midnight every year to watch something like that fireworks show! Heck, I might even make a trip and pay some money to watch that live!

Okay, there, I went and watched a clip of “the ball” dropping, for the first time in my life. Can you say pathetic? PATHETIC! Pansies! How’s somebody supposed to get excited about the New Year watching that?

I mean, I dunno, I always kinda thought celebrating by blowing things up was pretty American. First Mexican Hammer Parties, now this. . .I feel so cheated, so gyped. If we actually had holiday traditions worth keeping, maybe I’d more of tradition keeper. As it is, the majority of American traditions mostly boil down to “eat and shop”. Don’t get me wrong, I like to eat, but I do a pretty good job of it year-round, so it kinda doesn’t make the holidays stand out much. And I never much liked to shop, so that doesn’t fall under the heading of “tradition I’d like to keep.” If you like to drink, the holidays can be a good excuse for that, I guess, but I don’t drink so how would I know? And maybe if you don’t live in an over-regulated state where it’s illegal to do fireworks yourself, you can do your best to be a pyromaniac yourself, as long as you have a big pocket and tolerant neighbors. Oddly, I don’t have any of that.

And then everyone thinks I’m a heathen because I don’t celebrate holidays. I don’t have money, and I make pies whenever I feel like it. What’s left?

I just somehow feel like a wanton display of excessive explosives should have been a no-brainer for this country. Instead, we’re all watching grainy YouTube videos of a London display, because we have nothing better in our own back yard. Dang!