Why Do I Write?

The simple truth is,
I just like the sound of bone on brick and
the feel of brain matter against barriers satisfies me.

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Check out my weekly-ish newsletter for important weekly reads + existential musings on life, love, and inevitable human suffering (:

Written in response to Ink in Third’s Three Line Thursday Prompt: Blocked

Featured image via Unsplash

 

To Be Cynical is to be Human

Hello, dear readers and happy Monday! I know, I know, Mondays aren’t 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.

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

“Show me somebody who is always smiling, always cheerful, always optimistic, and I will show you somebody who hasn’t the faintest idea what the heck is really going on.”

― Mike Royko

We are living in the age of positivity. We are living by the rule of mind over matter and the fight fight fight for hope and optimism. We are walking around smiling, hoping, and telling ourselves and everyone we know that it’s all going to be all right, and it’s exhausting.

Yeah, it’s nice to always be positive. I am always trying to be positive too, but honestly, expecting to live a life where you wake up every day full of optimism is not going to end in anything but disappointment. You can’t do it every day.

It’s good to see the best in people, and it’s good not to be blind to the worst. It’s good to know you can make a difference and it’s ok to be exhausted and infuriated by how hard it is. It’s ok to see all the pain of the past and worry that we’ll go on repeating ourselves into the future. It’s ok to have a less than perfect view of our future, and it’s ok to feel overwhelmed and discouraged too.

And yeah, it’s nice to want to change the world for the better every day. I want to do that too but honestly, sometimes I want to step back and just worry about myself for a while too. Expecting to give yourself day in and day out to other people without ever wanting to give up or give in lead directly to exhaustion and disappointment too.

The fact is, no person can sustain one emotion or one way of feeling or expressing themselves forever. We do our best to keep to the middle when we can but often before we can recognize it, let alone stop it, we are swinging wildly from one end of the spectrum to the other. This is normal. This is okay. Being positive all the time sounds nice, but that does not mean it is the best way or the healthiest way to live. It might not be the right way for most people. And that is okay.

We all want to believe the best of the world, and every day so many of us are fighting to make the belief into a reality, but sometimes we have to take a break. Sometimes we just have to be real with ourselves. The world is shitty, people are shitty, and the whole damn system is set up so that you have to work so damn hard just to feel like you aren’t going to your grave feeling useless and forgotten. It’s a hard life. It’s unfair, and it hurts, and no amount of positivity changes that for everyone. I might not even change it for you.

Here at Zen and Pi, I advocate for feeling the full spectrum of human emotion in ways that are heathy for each individual. That means sometimes being angry, sad, and yes, even cynical. Sometimes, because we are human, no matter how hard we try we want to feel bad, and we want to express that too. Sometimes we are mean, or indifferent, or unforgiving. Sometimes we just can’t be the bigger person. It’s understandable! We are hopelessly flawed. It’s okay!

They say cynics can’t learn, can’t grow, can’t change or help anything or anyone, and maybe that is true, but the perpetually positive are just as blind and stunted if you ask me. Each one lives with only half the story, half the human experience. Each condemns the other, and both are fools.

To be human is to hope, and to be human is to be hopeless too. Both stem from having an accurate view of the world and the people inhabiting it.

So, this week, if you can’t always smile, say nice things, pay it forward, or let it all slide, it’s ok. Do your best and fuck the rest, you know?

I know I’ve had a pretty hard time keeping my chin up, putting one foot in front of the other, and smiling while the world seems to be burning all around me. There is so much going wrong in the world, and there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot we can do about it right now. Some days I’m pissed! I’m disappointed! I’m fucking tired! And I’m going to be, off and on, forever because that’s what people do.

So, I’m buckling in and turning on my frown y’all. I may have to sit through this, but I don’t have to like it. I don’t have to be chipper, and I do not have to start every morning with telling myself that it’s all down to my attitude because sometimes that is nothing but a dirty lie and here at Zen and Pi we do not lie to ourselves.

I’m not saying give up hope. I’m not saying give up the fight. I’m not saying happiness is impossible or that real change will never happen. I’m just saying it’s ok to let your cynical flag fly because the world is a shitty place sometimes and being a human is hard. It’s ok to be less than enthusiastic about society and human potential at the moment. We are all disappointed, still, and we will be for a long time. Let it out. Express it, share it, and don’t feel bad or apologize for it.

Give yourself permission to be a Negative Nancy if you need to until you don’t need to. Don’t let the world tell you how to feel about whatever you are going through. Don’t let the world tell you that suppressing or denying emotions they deem unnecessary, or “wrong” is in your best interest. Just feel, and be real, that’s all I’m asking.

Fight when you can, smile when you can, and step back and curse it all when you want to too.

It’s all human, and it’s all right.

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If We Were Having Coffee // A Wonderfully Dull Week

“Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after.”

—Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea

Hello, dear readers! Thank you for stopping by for our weekly bit of caffeine and conversation. This week I’m having some cold brew, homemade and in copious amounts. Since I started tapering off of the steroids, my doc prescribed I’ve had headaches almost daily. It seems that caffeine is the only thing that helps. God, I can’t wait to be off of this stuff.

I feel good today, and I did most of the week. I am 100% sure that it’s down to all the warm weather we have been having. This coming week we’ll have one day of winter-like weather, but the rest of the week we’ll be climbing through the 60s and 70s. Spring is coming y’all!

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that this week was pretty uneventful, and it was wonderful. I ended up spending a lot of time alone, even at work, and getting some much-needed writing and brainstorming done.

When I wasn’t out on my route, I was working in an office closed off to other people. The room I work in is also a classroom for new employees so when a new class starts the room in closed off to other employees, except for me because I care for and inventory the equipment stored in there and use the computer and files to track employee testing.

So, I worked and wrote and listened to music and podcast with minimal interruption. It was nice, like a mini vacation, but at work rather than away from work.

I am glad I savored it because this coming week will be a very busy one. That same class that blessed me with a quiet room is the same class I will have to teach now. Classes take up a significant amount of my writing time when they happen, and I dread them, but they are a necessary evil so that I can have a space and a bit of silence to work on what matters to me on a regular basis.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that the highlight of the week was the #Losslit, a monthly challenge to write tweet-length responses to ‘loss.’ #Losslit happens the first Wednesday every month, but I’ve never been able to get my shit together enough to properly participate. I always miss the times, or I miss the day entirely, but this month, I put a reminder on my phone.

For the entire 2 hours, I was able to follow along and post a few of my own, some of which got shared among the highlights on Storify. I love little writing exercises these and doing a monthly one takes some of the pressure off of preparation. If you want to participate check out @Losslit‘s twitter.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I am worried about getting sick again. This may not be the best analogy, but I feel like my experience last month left me with a sort of PTSD. I spend a lot of time worrying that every discomfort, every instance of heartburn, stomach upset, headache, or, just anything happening with my body is a signal that all the awfulness of last month is going to return.

I have noticed some symptoms, but I am riding a line between trying not to panic and trying not to brush it off. I suppose I should be telling my doctor this too, but I hate to bother him over nothing, or maybe it is something, but probably it’s nothing, right? Sigh.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you I finally finished Plato’s The Republic! Having a fun book to read after really helped encourage me to get through it and I think it may be the strategy I employ going forward when I find myself burned out on a book. I’m reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood now. I’m not sure if it’s good or bad yet, but it is interesting. Dystopian has long been my favorite genre, and there aren’t many written from the female perspective, as far as I know. I’m eager for recommendations if you have any.

I  am just happy to be reading for fun for a while and not to learn. I love non-fiction, and I love learning new things and hearing new points of view, but after a while, I get burned out.

I spent a little time going through my overflowing bookshelf last week in preparation for a purging—a purging which is in preparation for buying a new bookshelf—and realized I had a bunch of books lying around unfinished. Books like Inferno by Dante Alighieri and The Odyssey by Homer both attempted and abandoned because they are hard reads. I am thinking 2017 may be the year of reading books I failed to finish or understand in the past by tempting myself with more exciting and interesting reads after.

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If we were having coffee, I would tell you that I had better get going. My mind feels a little foggy. I’m unfocused, and I feel my motivation waning. I still have so much to do around the house, laundry, dishes, dusting, vacuuming, ugh. I think that if I don’t get up now, I won’t for the remainder of the day, and I’ll be pretty disappointed in myself come evening time.

I hope you all had a good week, or at least one more eventful than mine. Stop by the comments and leave a note, let me know how you are and what your highlight of the week was.

Until next time :)

An American Dream #blackoutpoetry

A post shared by Lisa Blair (@zenandpi) on

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

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

Hello, friends! Guess who forgot to post the roundup this morning? Yep, this forgetful girl. Better late than never, though, right? So, if you are still 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 this week:

ARGENTINA-ANNULAR-ECLIPSE
An annular solar eclipse on February 26, 2017. // The Atlantic — Photos of the Week

The terror of being black in America

Weekend plans?

Protect trans kids.

How much does a piece of straw weigh?

Smoking means something to smokers.

Trump didn’t create those jobs.

Please, protect trans kids.

It’s that time of year again.

Policing the police.

Free, or cheap, mind expansion and experience.

Love, understand, and protect trans kids.

tumblr_om42liclyw1qiqkmao1_500
Happy Women’s History Month // @FemaleCollective

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 this morning’s newsletter: The Sweeter the Solitude, along with a few existential thoughts from me. Check it out and subscribe!

Original image via Unsplash

Five Minute Friday // A Purpose After the Fact

I grew up with religion. I grew up in churches with stories about fate, and destiny, and every human’s part in God’s plan, but I don’t believe in that anymore.

There is no purpose for any of us, not one we come into this world bearing anyway. It was a hard pill to swallow, but now that it has gone down and been digested, I feel better.

Humans need a purpose, though, and when I found I didn’t have one, I made one up. I found one or two that agreed with my interests and drives, my values and my hopes, and I got to work. I told myself the sweetest lie. I have a purpose.

Does a purpose after the fact count? Is finding a few things to inside a hand-made decorative bowl you impulse bought from Target the same as having a reason for existing?

I was sprung into existence on accident, and I figured while I was here I might as well make myself useful. I know this, and it doesn’t matter one bit. I don’t need fate or divine purpose. Meaning I made up, just for me, is enough to get me through this life happy and fulfilled.

I made meaning out of a life that might have been nothing at all.

That is magic.

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Written in response to Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday prompt: Purpose

Featured image via Unsplash

More Women of Color for 2017

“Two friends and I set up a rule — no more white women for 2017. We are not accepting friend requests online or in real life. We don’t have the energy required to vet people and then wait for the other shoe to drop.”

— Graeme Seabrook

Earlier this year, at work, I overheard a woman a white woman complaining about her families struggle to pay for her eldest child’s college education. They had applied for many scholarships, but either hadn’t received enough or any. This woman, in her frustration, and with no shame at all, told a room full of people, “If my child’s last name had been Gonzalez, things would be easier.” Sigh.

This woman didn’t understand that when it comes to private scholarships, white kids tend to get them more, and public ones, like the Pell Grant, are need-based, and minorities tend to be poorer. So, it has nothing at all to do with race and more to do with income. The fact is, this woman makes too much money, and her kid didn’t meet merit-based requirements, that is why she didn’t qualify. None of this is the fault of anyone named Gonzalez.

Now, I already didn’t like this particular woman, but what killed me was all the other white women around her nodding along. Women I’ve known for years who swear they are not racist, who swear that they don’t see color, who swear that times have changed and we all need to come together in love and cooperation. White women nodding along to a racist statement like that are in fact racist themselves or cowardly. Neither type of woman is I want, need, or have time for in my life anymore.

This isn’t an isolated incident either. Things like this happen around me all the time, and no amount of running to HR or speaking up stops it. They never stop thinking people of color are lazy, or getting something they aren’t. They never stop assuming darker skin means you don’t belong here, or that you are guilty, or stupid. They never stop blaming everyone else when a little of the suffering and hardship of the world touches their lives lightly and for the briefest moment. I am tired.

There have been so many white women I counted as friends, women I thought of as open-minded, tolerant, understanding, and compassionate. I never know they were racist until it’s too late. That is, not until after I’m emotionally invested in the relationship I had—and subsequently lost—when they expressed their true feelings. I don’t mean to say this is everyone’s experience, or even that it is typical, only that it is mine and many others and that it is hard.

My anger has been bubbling, I will admit it. It was on a slow burn before but this last election cycle has left many angry, bitter, and even more than that, exhausted. And now, between the hate I hear on the news, the voting demographic breakdown, and the kind of crap I hear and see from white people on a daily basis, I can’t take much more. I just can’t.

This is anger, not hatred. I do not hate white people, I do not blame all white people, but I am exhausted by white people, even the allies, at times.

It’s been bubbling for a while, and I am trying to find a way to care for myself without saying or doing things I will regret later. I am weighing what is best for me against what people will think of me, and I realized the latter shouldn’t matter. I am the one who has to live with me, and I am the one who has to carry the pain of my past and the anxiety of my future in this country, alone. I have to do what feels right, for me.

Last week I read a story on Medium by Graeme Seabrook about her own anger and exhaustion and her need to do what was best for her regardless of the feelings of white women in her life. She, like me, isn’t full of hate, she just hurt and tired. She said something in that story that has stuck with me, she said her and her friends have a rule: “No more white women for 2017”. I read the story, and I couldn’t get those words out of my head.

Those words frightened me. This is not how we are supposed to react. This is not how we are supposed to think or feel. This is not the “right thing.” We are supposed to be bigger and better than that, right? But the more I mulled it over, the more I understood it. It wasn’t about hate, it wasn’t about exclusion or racism, it was about prioritizing. It was about the kinds of people, connections, and even media that we seek out and demand. It was about who we let take up space in our lives and minds. It’s about diversifying your life for a while.

I have many white friends I adore. Friendships I would never give up because they add value to my life. Hell, I am half white myself. I was raised by a white woman. I am engaged to another half white woman who was raised by a white mother too. I couldn’t exclude or hate whiteness without hating myself, my loved ones, and where I come from too. It’s possible but it’s not me. Instead, what I aim to do, is stop making whiteness and white voices the default, the norm, the prized, and the protected, in my life.

In 2017, I am not entertaining white questions, concerns, or criticisms especially on the subjects of race, gender, sexuality, politics, or religion. I am not letting them think it’s okay to be ignorant anymore and I am not letting them force me to educate them in exchange for their compassion. I am not letting them slid by doing the bare minimum or nothing at all. I am not accepting ignorance, fragility, or innocence as excuses. I am not accepting apologies so easily anymore.

I’m looking for new friends and new connections with women of color, from all cultures. I want to read more from women of color. I want to donate money to and buy more from women of color. I want opinions, advice, and stories from women of color. I want to follow, reblog, retweet, and reply to more women of color. I want to be among more people who look the way I do, feel the way I do, live the way I do, or suffer the way I do too. I want to help people who need me.

I think all of us should seek these voices, regardless of our own race, gender, or sexual orientation. Let’s all make women of color a priority in our lives and see what we learn about ourselves and the world.

But even as I write this, even as I feel so sure this is what is right for me, I feel that familiar guilt. I am making assumptions. I am not giving the benefit of the doubt. I am dividing people. I am accusing people of feeling things they don’t. I am judging books by their covers. Except, I don’t think all white women are racist, but I know some of them are and I just don’t have the energy to wait around to find out who is who.

I know it may sound harsh, and I may be hurting some feelings, but I’m only working out what I need. I want to try something new. I want to change the way I see and experience the world and the people around me. I want to find safer spaces, different spaces, and hear new points of view. I want to know what the world might be like if whiteness didn’t command so much of my time and attention.

So, sometimes when someone is hurt, vulnerable, and maybe even a little afraid, or at the very least just tired and in need of a little space, we should give it to them, even if it hurts us to do it. I’m, not cutting anyone out, I’m just cutting different people in. I’m not trying to hurt anyone or hate anyone, I’m just trying something different, for me!

And I am not apologizing for it.

I do not have the time or energy to accept you now and wait for you to hurt me. I have chosen to put myself and my emotional safety first. I have chosen to center women of color in my life in every way.

I do this BECAUSE I have been judged by the color of my skin every day. Suffering does not automatically make me a bigger person. It just hurts.

— Graeme Seabrook

P.S. I am sure many of you will have thoughts on this post, and I do welcome them, but please remember this is a place for me to express my feelings. I am under no obligation to reply to hatred or harshness. I reserve the right to delete and block, and you have the right to create your own internet spaces to write how you feel too. Thank you for reading.

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Featured image via The Root

Tired of Wandering

Tired of wandering through fog and forest, I stop, and
swing my ax wide to satisfying thunk and thud. There,
one leg off at the knee, one left to go.

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Written in response to Ink in Third’s Three Line Thursday Prompt: Clearing

Featured image via Unsplash