Human, and Understanding

They’ve left me facing wall
To the left a landscape painting,
Under hard glass
reflects harsh lighting
There are no windows here

Doctors have lost their hearts
All surfaces are sterilized
No life forms allowed
No healing can happen here
The signs out front are wrong

Insides machines beep the time, and
Tubes drip cold fluid into my arms
But humiliation and fear
are what have frozen me
I have to get out!

Suddenly, the curtain pulls back
In this sterile maze
Life reaches out to life
A nurse, human, and understanding,
Has brought me warm blanket

***

Check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + some of my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Written in response to Daily Post Prompt: Blanket

Featured image via Steve Greer

Margaret Atwood on Existing in Two Places

Writing, like any art or discipline, takes daily practice and dedication to learning about the craft from those who have come before you. In learning, I like to teach, so each week I will take a piece of advice from the greats, both living and dead, famous and not, and apply their lessons to my own work and share my thoughts and progress with you.

This week I have chosen a quote from the Canadian poet and novelist, Margaret Atwood.

mg_5527Margaret Eleanor Atwood was born on November 18, 1939, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Because of her father’s work and research in forest entomology, Atwood spent much of her childhood in the backwoods of northern Quebec and traveling back and forth between Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, and Toronto. She did not attend school full-time until she was eight years old.

Atwood began writing plays and poems at the age of six and realized she wanted to write professionally by the time she was 16.

In 1957, she began studying at Victoria College in the University of Toronto, where she published poems and articles in Acta Victoriana, the college literary journal. She graduated in 1961 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in philosophy and French.

She is the author of more than thirty-five volumes of poetry, children’s literature, fiction, and non-fiction and is perhaps best known for her novels, which include The Edible Woman, The Handmaid’s Tale, and The Blind Assassin, which won the prestigious Booker Prize in 2000.

She has also published fifteen books of poetry. Many of her poems have been inspired by myths and fairy tales, which have been interests of hers from an early age. She has also published four collections of stories and three collections of unclassifiable short prose works.

Atwood is also the inventor, and developer, of the LongPen and associated technologies that facilitate the remote robotic writing of documents.

She is a noted humanist, and, in 1987, she was named Humanist of the Year by the American Humanist Association.

“I exist in two places,
here and where you are.”

— Margaret Atwood

This week I’m thinking a lot about Atwood and her book The Handmaid’s Tale. Of course, because today her book becomes a show, and I’m pretty stoked about that since I recently read it, but I’ve also been thinking about time. I’ve been thinking about what it means to be the writer and the reader, and for time to pass between both. I’ve been wondering what it means for me to exist as I am now, and for me to exist again with you when you read these words. I wonder in what forms I will exist when I am read after I am long gone?

I know that I am a human and I know that all humans are mortal and still my own death seems impossible to me. How can there ever come a time when I will not breathe, or think, or write, or love, or look to the sky and feel small, and here, and so myself and so a part of everything that exists? How can there come a time when my heart stops and with it the thoughts in my head while the world goes on spinning and humans go one warring, inventing, and evolving, doing things I will never witness or be a part of?

This makes no sense, and yet it is a certainty, and it hurts me so every time I remember it.

I am afraid, I admit, not to be anymore. I want to face the fact, but I also want to keep it out of my mind. Why let the inevitable distract me and keep me frozen? Then again, the fear can be a motivating and focusing force until my end comes. If I want to live on after my death, I must remember that I am going to die and use what I have to limit my fading into the nothingness.

When I read the words of other writers they come into me, into my time and place, or some form of them does anyway, and I am happy to give them life again. I suppose I want a bit of that too. I want to know what it feels like to exist again and again and yet still be me, growing and changing here and now.

I want to live in every human and in every time after this one and words seem to be the only way to do that. It is a selfish thing to want, but I can’t help wanting it either. I am afraid of not being.

I am angry too. To be limited to this body, to this mind, and to this time feels so petty and unfair. One day there may be better ways to circumvent these pesky limitations, but for now, all I have are words. I have the imperfect ability to write down who I am and the improbable hope that in the future, minutes or eons from now, you will read them and remember me.

But who will it be that you remember? By the time this goes out I will be a little different, and the longer the distance between now and then the more the difference between the Lisa that wrote this and the Lisa that exists. So, I suppose no part of me will live on really, only bits of who I was. Only a snapshot in my history. Still, it’s all I have, and I am happy to give it to you.

Because even though I am not that Lisa anymore that does not mean she cannot be of some use. She can be a friend, a comfort, and warning, or a dream for you. She can walk with you when you feel alone, same as she walks within me. She can exist far longer than I. She can travel through space and time and be what I cannot.

And because the Lisa I am now is jealous of where that past me is able to go and where she is able to be, I will send this out and immediately sit sown to write again. I will send myself out to you over and over again, and one day, if all my works, everything from my little notes and journal entries, to the stories I’ve endeavored to tell here, and the books I may one day write, were to be put together it would be the closest a person could come to time travel. To real, complete, existence in another place and time.

I hope it happens for me one day, and that something like magic will allow me to feel what it is like to be here and there, now and then, and me, with you.

exist1_sq.png

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Check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + some of my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Biographical information via Wikipedia and Goodreads

See also: Margaret Atwood on Writing Poetry

Featured image via Unsplash

Short and Sweet Reviews // The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

“Nolite te bastardes carborundorum.”

In The The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood tells the story of a woman named Offred living in what was once America but, after the United States government is overthrown, is now called the Republic of Gilead, and governed by a system based on 17th-century Puritan roots.

Offerd—meaning, literally, “of Fred,” or belonging to Fred—is a Handmaid, a fertile woman who must act as a surrogate for the wealthy and privileged men who’s wives can no longer bear children. Offred still remembers the old world, when women had freedom and choices, and despite the danger of forced labor, or death, or both, she can’t let go.

Originally written in 1985, this book has been recently rediscovered by the public due to Trump’s election, the rise of the conservative right all over the world, and Hulu’s adaptation premiering this week.

I for one didn’t find a lot of parallels to our time and our current political climate except in the way it was allowed to happen, in the easy silence and acceptance. We are often silent and accepting, and that makes us easy to control long past when our energy and outrage flare and burn out.

“We thought we had such problems. How were we to know we were happy?”

Still, some of it felt very plausible. The way women will become complicit in the oppression of other women, hoping the same won’t happen to them. The way women will participate in the oppression of other women to ensure the same won’t happen to them, only for the same to happen to us all in some way or another eventually. The way that women are given only hard choices, but still will hold all the blame for what they must do and with whom. The way men will betray and pacify you and never truly see that women are just like them with the same needs for freedom and fulfillment.

What felt relevant will be different for every reader, but I believe everyone who reads it will find something of this tale in our present times and in our deepest fears. For me, the book was terrifying because, as a queer woman of color, I’ve spent much of my life terrified of a rising up of the religious right. I do not think I would have the same privileged place in Gilead but instead, would lose my life or be sent to labor camps.

Hush, he said. … You know I’ll always take care of you. I thought, already he’s starting to patronize me. Then I thought, already you’re starting to get paranoid.

So, I wouldn’t call The Handmaid’s Tale a prediction, but more of a warning. A warning about acceptance, and complacency, and the false belief that it can never happen to you. It is also an encouragement, to tell the stories of your time. Offred reminded me a bit of Anne Frank, who didn’t give us the historical breakdown of how Hitler came into power but instead simply told her own story and made us feel what Hitler’s power did.

But unlike The Diary of a Young Girl or even 1984 as I’ve read The Handmaid’s Tale often compared too, Offred’s story doesn’t read so timeless. With references to specific movements and changing views of porn, gender roles, sex, and sexual orientation it made it hard to bring the danger into our time.

The style of writing makes it a hard read at first. Not difficult to understand, but difficult to stay engaged and interested in. Things either progress slowly and we are left frustrated for more information, or we are thrust forward and back with little or no understanding of how we got where we are. Stick with it through the first third, it gets better, and there will be answers to many of your questions, but not all.

I do consider it a must read, because it is different, and interesting, sure, but also because it is a warning, and because it is about women and the ways people can suffer and let other people suffer, which is something we all too easily forget.

“I want to be held and told my name. I want to be valued, in ways that I am not; I want to be more than valuable. I repeat my former name; remind myself of what I once could do, how others saw me. I want to steal something.”

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Check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + some of my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Featured image via Tom Blunt

If This Were Your Last Moment

Hello, and happy Monday! Yeah, I know, I know, Mondays aren’t exactly happy. Mondays are for being tired, and grouchy, and remembering all the things you don’t like about your life. Mondays are for wanting to crawl back into bed. I know.

But, let’s try something different. Let’s think of Mondays as a chance at a fresh start, a reset of sorts, every single week. Let’s take this opportunity to do it differently. Let’s make the changes we want to see in ourselves and the world, okay?

“Stop, breathe, look around
and embrace the miracle of each day,
the miracle of life.”

// Jeffrey A. White

Sometimes I do this thing where I pretend that I was popped into existence just this moment and in seconds I am going to pop back out. This moment and whatever setting I am in, whatever people are around, and whatever thoughts and feeling I have are all I’m ever going to have. I look around and wonder if this was the last moment I was ever going to have, would it be enough?

It may sound like a strange or even morbid practice but forces me to be mindful and to take quick stock of my life and where I am at. Every time I have don’t this I have found that instead of being disappointed by wherever I am and whatever I am doing, I feel grateful and I see more beauty around me than I otherwise would.

In those moments I realize what is important to me, and it is always surprising. It doesn’t matter as much how many adventures I have had because if I were to pop out of existence just now, none of it would matter to me anymore. What matters is who and what I am leaving behind and who and what I will spend my last moments seeing. I thank the universe I got to be alive at all and hope the people who will live after know I loved them with every part of my being.

Then I pop back into being regular old me, feeling my regular old feelings about my life. I still feel guilt, and shame, and regret, and jealousy only now it’s a little less.

It’s a useful practice and gives me a bit of perspective, but it would probably be exhausting to live every moment of your life that way. For all the woo-woo talk of the “enlightened,” I don’t think the average person can or should. What I think this practice does is teaches your brain that it is okay not to spend so much time “elsewhere.” On what you wish you had, or what you hope you have, or what you shouldn’t have done, or what others think. None of this is now, and none of it is helping you.

None of this will matter when your last moment comes.

What matters, what I think and what I hope will matter in the last moments is the beauty and miracle and love of it all, and all of that surrounds you every day, you only have to get outside of yourself and the bullshit. Sometimes you have to see a patch of grass, or a cloud crossing the sky as the miracles they are. Hear your breath, feel your heartbeat, listen to the voices around you and remember how rare it all is. This world, you, and whatever you are doing, are some of the rarest things in the universe.

Of course, life isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. This sink full of dirty dishes, this pile of work on my desk, and the complaints and critiques we hear in meetings and at home don’t feel much like miracles or wonders of the universe, but they are. You don’t have to love them, in fact, I encourage you to do what you can to change what you don’t like, but you still must acknowledge the beauty of every moment and the privilege you have to be there to experience it.

These unpleasant moments usually come and go either unnoticed or unwanted. I moan about my life too and wish it were something else until I force the realization that this is the only life I have and it is a very beautiful and special one, especially when you consider that there are so many who get no life at all.

There are vast stretches of the universe where no life exists. There are some who had life yesterday and don’t today, and there are many who aren’t alive today to see what you do but will be another day when you no longer are.

This week, just take a few moments from time to time, to look up from your screen and find some beauty and wonder around you. It is there, I promise, no matter how much you hate work, or your commute, or coming home to dirty houses, grouchy spouses, or demanding children or pets. I promise there is are wonder and beauty to be found, in this moment and throughout your life.

Take time to find the good, and work on making more of it, slowly, every day, every minute, when you can. Imagine what would matter, how would you feel, or what you would look to if this moment was all you had.

Maybe another day at the office isn’t the worst thing. Maybe a patch of grass is a miracle. Maybe the swirling dish water is beautiful. And maybe every human you know is the most important thing in the universe and you should feel grateful, special, honored, to be a witness to such marvelous and transient moments.

Attention must only be paid to what is around you, now.

***

Check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + some of my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or help support what I do by sharing a cup of coffee.

Featured image via Unsplash

 

 

If We Were Having Coffee // A Week of Getting Back

“That’s what I do: I make coffee and occasionally succumb to suicidal nihilism. But you shouldn’t worry — poetry is still first.”

― Anne Sexton

Hello, dear readers. Thank you for stopping by for a cup of coffee and a bit of conversation with me. I’ll have a cold brew as usual despite the dreary look outside. The weather reports promise a turn for the warmer soon, and I’d rather not be full of hot and bitter brew when it comes.

I apologize if I’m sluggish. I’m not feeling all that well, but I’m fighting it, with the aforementioned cup of coffee mostly. I slept in much later than I meant to, which seems to be the new theme around here just about every Sunday. The bed felt too comfy, and the house was too cold to get up until well into mid-morning when I found myself well behind in everything I hoped to accomplish, including meeting with you.

I beg your forgiveness but remind you, with a smile, that it is always better to be late than to have never shown at all, right?

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I’m in a good mood today despite not feeling especially well. I started the day with breakfast in bed because I have the best girlfriend in the world who heard me mention we hadn’t had homemade biscuits in a while yesterday and made sure I had some, with a healthy side of bacon when I woke up.

Still, I’m tired, and these words are coming slowly, but I have a playlist featuring songs from Tarantino movies playing in the background, and I’m keeping busy, running around the house trying to clean what I can before the caffeine leaves me and I’m back snuggled under the covers and sleeping again.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this past week was not especially eventful, but that was a good thing. I was able to get back down to my quiet tedious work of writing, and reading, and thinking.

I wrote more posts this week than I have in a while, and I worked a bit on some sort of editorial calendar, but I haven’t gotten very far. The problem is as much as I love writing here it never feels exactly like real writing, no matter how much I tell myself is certainly is. I suppose what I mean is it isn’t exactly the kind of writing I want to be doing, or, not the only kind. So, once again I am searching for other places to send some words too, and next week I’m going to start working on a zine of awful things in the world.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I finally made progress on my 30 book reading challenge this past week. I finished Saga Volume 7, it was amazing and heartbreaking like all the others and made considerable progress on Orlando: A Biography by Virginia Woolf which is turning out to be such a surprising and delightful book. It’s like reading an adult fairytale, so refreshing and different from my usual picks.

I’ve also gotten back to learning a little something every day. One of my favorite birthday gifts this year was The Intellectual Devotional by David S. Kidder. It’s a thinkers version of those books of daily prayer or aspirations, but instead every day I learn something new on history, literature, philosophy, mathematics and science, religion, fine arts, and music.

And, and, I’m working my way through a YouTube playlist of James Baldwin interviews, talks, and debates because, I am ashamed to admit, I have only just recently discovered how truly amazing this man was.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that staying productive this week is going to be tough because this week is going to be a good one for TV!

The Handmaiden’s Tale premieres on Hulu Wednesday. I just read the book this year, and it was good, weird, but good, and I am very interested in seeing what they do with the show. Dystopian stories have always been my favorites, and this was the first that really made me think about privilege and perspective in the telling of suffering. As a woman, it also scared the shit out of me.

Then, Dear White People is coming to Netflix on Friday. I really enjoyed the movie and, same as above, I’m interested to see where they might take a show. I think stories like this are important. The world is changing and they way people are processing their positions within society are different now too. Some things are getting better, mistakes are being made all the time too, and we ought to be able to have a conversation about it all, and a little entertainment too.

Then, then, on April 30th, the show I have been waiting forever for finally becomes a reality, American Gods! New Gods, technology and media and money, and old Gods like Odin, and Anansi, and even Easter going to war here in America. I cannot wait!

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this little blog of mine hit yet another milestone this week. I have crossed the 3,400 followers mark! I know, that isn’t a real milestone, but it’s felt like forever since 3,300, and I needed a boost before long wait to 3,500.

I hope most of you are real people but either way I am grateful for each and every one of you. It’s not 10,000, sure, but it’s still good for the old ego and keeps me motivated. It feels good to know that so many people stopped by here at one time or another, some of you when I was a worse writer than I am now, and still thought me worthy of following and checking back in on here and there. I hope I can keep getting better and you can keep finding reasons to stick around.

Thank you all again, really, from the bottom of my heart.

***

If we were having coffee, I would tell you that, as much as I’d love to stay and chat all day with you, there is so much more to be done around the house and in preparation for the coming week. I’d like to work on some of that reading I talked about and get a jump on the writing too. It’s early enough too that I might get in a nice long hot shower and a good body scrub and a face mask too.

I hope you had a good week. I hope you accomplished what you set out to do, or you learned a lesson or two for the next. I hope this weekend was a relaxing one and you got to make some time for yourself. You deserve it you know.

Thank again for stopping by.

Until next time :)

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Check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + some of my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or share a cup of coffee perhaps?

Written for the weekly Weekend Coffee Share link up hosted by Nerd in the Brain

Featured image via Abi Porter

 

The Week’s End // A Roundup of Important Reads

Hello friends and welcome to the weekend. I’m back to rounding up my favorite finds across the web every week again. So, if you’re looking for some interesting reads to check out while you relax, look no further, I got you covered. Here are the things I found important, inspiring, and interesting enough to share:

drea the vibe dealer

Today is Earth day!

Refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, and recycle

Or get out and #MarchforScience

Sigh, is America great again yet?

Silence is powerful too.

Comfort each other.

The last Rachel Dolezal interview you ever need to read.

The most infuriating thing I read this week.

“Seriously, this guy has a point.”

We just spread our shit around, don’t we?

DNA.

Forget the unicorn frap!

What do you think? Have you read, watched, or written an interesting thing this week? Has something on the internet made you feel strongly? If so, drop a link in the comments, we’d love to check it out!

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This list was originally sent out along with today’s newsletter: Words Mean Things + some of my own existential musings. Check it out and subscribe, or help support what I do with a cup of coffee or three :)

Featured image via Unsplash

Protect Drunk Girls

Women have always been regarded as the sole source of all their suffering, and no one more than the drunk girl.

In her stumbling and fumbling, through her tears, and in spite of her laughter, we know her to be immoral and gross. We know that whatever should befall her on this “ladies night,” this “birthday celebration,” this “newly single,” “newly engaged,” “newly employed” or “just glad the week is over” night, is exactly what she deserves.

Can you imagine, having done no legal or moral wrong, but upon having bad things happen any way you are now made to be the villain in your own trauma?

This is the great shame of society, among which there are many more, but what do we do? Do we seek to rectify, to apologize, or to make the next time right? No, we persist in the belief that a woman looking for fun finds what she seeks and a woman without reserve and modesty gets what she needs I suppose. It’s easier that way, to go on as we have and let the harmed fade away, or be put away by force if need be. The best among us try, but even in us, the way we find is wrong.

“Where are the men!”, we cry, “to keep us surrounded and safe?”

Where are the women I say! To keep us safe but more than that to keep us sure of our right to live, and drink, and be merry. Why can’t we be loud and a little too much from time to time without humiliation and pain? Where are the women to tell us it is okay? Where are the women who would see us safely home? Where are the women who would cry out to the men of their sin instead of always inventing and enforcing new ones for us all to suffer under?

Summer is coming, with warm night, open rooftops, and cold drinks and signs screaming “ladies drink free ’til midnight.” Drunk girls will be let loose in the world, and I feel for them knowing many won’t make it through what should be a time of joy but many will come through changed forever and with that will come shame and blame because no one will protect them.

If you see a pedestrian on the ground, hurt, bleeding, not breathing, do you help them? Or do you assume that they brought their injuries on themselves and leave them? Do you feel annoyed at the inconvenience, huff, and leave them to their fate?

Imagine you saw an intoxicated person getting into the driver seat of a car, would you say something? Would you call a cab or summon an Uber from your phone? Whatever you would do, I bet you know what you should do. If you saw a drunk woman walking alone on the street would you do the same? If you saw her surrounded by a group of men would you walk away?

Too often I have been out with others who have lost track of their friends or allowed them to leave with strange men. I try to speak up but all I hear is so and so is going to do what they want, and I’ve felt powerless.

I’ve even, I’ll admit, fallen into the trap of judging, ridiculing, and turning a blind eye out of annoyance and frustration. It’s hard to keep caring after you warn them and warn them, and still, they don’t listen, but I have to wonder about the consequences. I wonder how much of the world’s suffering do I carry because I didn’t protect a woman in need?

Many of us have made the same mistake. We’ve had too much, done too much, and ended up in dangerous situations. Some of us walked away unscathed? Did we deserve a consequence? Did we deserve to be groped and raped? Could you look yourself in the mirror, remember a time when you went out of a wild night with a friend, and tell yourself you deserved the same as the countless women you’ve seen in the news who are now missing, assaulted, or dead?

Of course not. You made a mistake, or maybe it wasn’t a mistake at all, and that is yet another idea we have to rid ourselves of too. I hope when it happened to you had someone to look after you. I hope you know how lucky you were.

But I want the world to change. I want all women to feel protected, and I want all women to protect drunk girls at all cost. From those who would take advantage of them, hurt them, or abandon them.

Drinking or not, every woman is worthy of care and comfort. Drinking or not, we all want the same thing, some time to let loose and feel a part of a place and time where there is only joy and love. There is no sin, no shouldn’t have, there is only the safest way, and we all have to help each other to that.

Protect carefree girls. Protect girls who do too much and take it too far. Protect young girls who are learning their limits and those of the world. Protect girls trying to have the night of their lives. Protect girls having a bad night too.

In a perfect world, you would never have to worry but this world is far from that, and something else must be done. We can appeal to the men. Love us, respect us, protect us, some will and some won’t but how can you know the difference? And anyway it is hard to trust the same ones who ridicule and abuse you.

I say we look to ourselves, to women, all women, to have the understanding and the courage to lead the way to safety, love, and a sense of freedom. Help your sisters find nights of fun and release without fear, or guilt, or pain.

Protect drunk girls, wherever you go, the night of and every night after, for as long as they need you.

#protectdrunkgirls #sharpie #bathroom #advice #paradigmshift #bethechange #smashthepatriarchy

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Check out my weekly-ish newsletter for interesting reads + my own existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering, or share a cup of coffee perhaps?

Inspired by the Instagram account @ProtectDrunkGirls

Featured image via Unsplash