Blogmas: Finding Peace

It’s no secret that I am areligious. In fact, one of the most common jokes I make (or is made about me) is that I worship the devil. Of course, that is not a form of not-religion, but good luck convincing most people of that.

While I would like to believe there’s something greater out there, I fully admit I could never understand what that is, so while I do strive to be a better person and to try and make sense of life, the universe, and everything, I don’t prescribe to any set of rules or named deities.

That being said, I do have a nativity scene up for Christmas. Or, more specifically, a crèche, because that’s what my family always called it and my grandma was really into French for whatever reason. I cleared out a bookshelf at eye level in the great room area, and set up the figurines in the same way they were always set up when I was little. I don’t do this because I believe in Jesus Christ’s divinity, and I don’t do it to honor “the reason for the season” despite my stance. I unpack the box marked “manger” every year in someone from my family’s handwriting, this crazy sturdy, old box that’s been moved from state to state with staples all up and down its sides, and lovingly unwrap each king and lamb and angel because it’s the one constant that I’ve always had at Christmastime, and to me this crèche represents joy and goodness and hope.

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We always put it out on a white, sparkly piece of fluffy fabric like Jesus has been born amongst the snow. It’s as historically inaccurate as you can get.

So here’s what I was told about this set. My great uncle, so my maternal grandmother’s brother, collected the pieces one by one in the 1940s. I’m fairly certain the barn piece itself is not from that time, but the figures each still have the pencil marks on their bottoms with the price (between 5 and 15 cents). This story has always enchanted me.

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I didn’t get a great picture, but my set has four kings rather than three. My mom always said “yes, there were four, one was just really late.”

First, when I was very little, I couldn’t imagine my great uncle ever being young himself, but when I got a bit older, I put myself in his shoes, trudging out into Boston’s winter, almost unimaginable to a child who had never even seen snow, with just a nickel in hand to the corner drug store to buy a single lamb to add to the collection.

I wasn’t allowed, or able, to touch the crèche when I was very small, as it was kept atop a hutch that typically housed other fancy breakables, but once I could reach it, I would play with it. I remember doing so in secret at first because I knew I shouldn’t be touching something so old or fragile, but I was always a careful, quiet kid, and quickly everyone got over it.

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Mr. and Mrs. Cow

No one ever indoctrinated me into any religion throughout my life, and for that I am entirely grateful, but there was some “Christianity is the right one” background music. I mean, obviously, we had a nativity scene up and were celebrating Christmas, but I didn’t really know who Jesus was. My actual focus was on the animals. There was a long stretch of time I wanted to be “a farmer” when I grew up because in my head that was a person who just owned a bunch of animals and pet them all day, and the crèche was like my mini farm. It had sheep, and cows, a donkey, and even a camel! And my loose understanding of Jesus, deeply influenced by animated Christmas specials, was that the animals came to see him, and to me that was very similar to a Disney princess which was another aspiration of mine. Princess Christ, if you will.

When I was eleven and my mom and I moved out of the house I had lived in my entire memorable life with my grandparents to Ohio a thousand miles away, that first Christmas was pretty hard. It was nothing like the ones that had come before, except the crèche was there. It was always there.

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So many sheep!

It was there when we lived in that first city in Ohio when we started fresh and I finally started making friends, and then it was there when we moved less than twelve months after that to the most rural place I’d ever seen. It got put up in the tiny one bedroom apartment we lived in for a couple years, and then again put up in the house my mother built with her own fucking hands on seven acres where we actually did have real live cows. And then when we were forced out of the house and back into those tiny apartments, it was put up again. It saw me cry, it saw me go through a phase where I actually did believe in Jesus and so badly needed him to believe in me, and it watched that belief slowly fade away.

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Thanks, Princess Jesus!

And now that I’m again a thousand miles away from the people I grew up with, including my mom, the one Christmas constant I have is this scene of the birth of the messiah from a religion I don’t follow, collected by a man who’s no longer alive and I hadn’t spoken to for at least a decade before he died, and passed down through three generations to a heathen. But despite everything it carries, it gets to look out on a different me, a married me, a happy grown up me, and even though I don’t hold what it represents literally, it is certainly a beacon of hope and joy in this house.

 

 

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Worrying

I used to do this thing in college where I gnawed on the inside of my lip. It created a bump, and I just kept fucking chewing it. When I developed the “anxiety bean” in college, I was dealing with a bunch of fucked up shit, and I managed pretty well mentally, but the physical manifestation was a slight cause for concern. My dentist noticed the bump, and he called in his father, also a dentist at the practice and an absolute asshole to boot, to take a look. The guy glanced in my mouth for all of five seconds, looked me dead in the eye, said, “You’re giving yourself cancer,” and walked out.

Well, thanks Motherfucker, DDS, I’m just chewing the ever loving shit out of my mouth because I’m riddled with anxiety, but that news is like the sound of the ocean, the smell of lavender, and petting a cat all at once. Maybe that was just a scare tactic, but I did eventually stop and, as far as I know, didn’t develop oral or any other kind of cancer. But, exciting news, everyone: it’s back!

There was a short time earlier this month that I thought maybe it had never actually gone away. It seemed like it was a normal part of my mouth and like gnawing on it was what I was supposed to do, but I know the truth: there was a long stretch of time I didn’t have this–almost a fucking decade–and there’s a reason it’s back now.

I have almost none of the stressors I had back in college, and when I look around everything in my life is absolutely amazing. I still have anxiety, but it’s much more manageable than it’s ever been in the past. So what the fuck, anxiety bean? I thought you’d fucked off for good?

I may have figured it out today. I was reading an article about Roy Moore and the “school” he was part of that detailed all the ways that those involved believed that women were not their equals. And I was chewing like a fucking cow on cud. Moore has been accused of abhorrent behavior with underaged girls, as I’m sure you know since the news is everywhere, but he’s not the only abuser who’s been highlighted in the media. Every day something new comes out about someone, and I think that’s great (not that it happened, but that it’s being brought into the open), but apparently this is taking some kind of fucked up emotional toll on me that I was not prepared for at all.

As probably most women will admit, we already live with this little cloud following us all the time that reminds us to do things a certain way, and it’s extra fucked up because it’s basically reminding you to not be complicit in your own rape/murder because if it happens IT’S YOUR FAULT. Sometimes you can almost totally silence it, sometimes it’s looming and booming over you, but mostly it’s just kind of there, hovering on the horizon, prompting you to get your keys out before you head to the car. But now the sky always feels stormy. I’m no more afraid of anyone or more aware that this shit happens all the time, it’s just constant and so real and raw now.

I’m not advocating for these allegations to go away. This shit is important and in the end will hopefully lead to more openness and less harassment and assault, and my reaction to it doesn’t really matter, so fuck this blog post all together, but it’s just interesting how something like this can affect a person. When I compare me now to me about 10 years ago, my situation is so drastically different, and yet I’m having this same pretty intense stress reaction that I’ve only experienced one other time in my life. How are these things equitable?

And on top of that, I consider my experiences, while harrowing in their own right, to be nothing compared to what I know other women have faced, and yet my whole person is off. How are others coping? How have they coped all along? How have women stayed so sane for so long? (By so long I mean the history of the entire human race, by the way.)

Anyway, the point is, everything is the fucking worst, and I don’t know how to transition out of that to NaNoWriMo without making the above seem like an excuse for the below, so here goes: I FAILED.

I’m closing out NaNo at 31,882 words. I actually don’t consider that a failure since it’s more than I’ve written in probably a couple years, so I’m incredibly proud to have done that and to essentially be back on the writing wagon. But I’m so fucking glad it’s over. On the bright side, come January Vacancy will begin being posted again, and I’m pumped about all the content to come. Also, tomorrow is December 1st which means blogmas begins! Will I fail at that too? Will the anxiety bean grow? Only time will tell! So stay tuned for more upbeat posts about sexual assault and serials. (Shit, idea for a band name!)

My Own Worst Enemy

I know I probably come off as a pretty angry person due to these posts, and you probably imagine me yelling at people a lot in real life, but, Dear Reader, I promise you, I’m actually pretty chill. Some might even call me nice. Too nice. Nice to the point where I let people walk all over me on occasion. And so nice I will walk all over myself.

Someone was on the phone while in the bathroom at work today. The public restroom. Talking. I really want to not care what people do, but I wish people wouldn’t try to hold phone conversations in echo chambers because I am such a spaz that I insist on being extra quiet so I don’t disturb them. How fucked up is that? The answer is: totally fucked.

And it’s no one’s problem but my own, I acknowledge that wholeheartedly, but this is the person that I am, and if bitching about it on the internet is my only reprieve then just let it be, okay?

So someone’s in the disabled stall on their phone having their conversation, and I’m being extra dainty in my stall, not that anything I’m doing would make that much noise, mind you, since I don’t shit at work. But I’m being delicate and quiet nonetheless.

It’s also the first day of my period, so I’ve got a tampon in my pocket. I pull it out extra quietly, and I open the wrapper even more quietly than I would normally because gods forbid the other women in the restroom know what you’re doing in the privacy of your own stall which happens to also be the only fucking place you could possibly change a tampon anyway.

So in taking extra care to be quiet, I inexplicable also am very soft-handed, barely gripping the plastic applicator. Don’t interrupt the woman speaking very loudly about her child to someone who is not doing a very good job watching them, I hiss at myself, disposing of the wrapper. And then, tragedy. A perfectly good tampon slips out of my hands and onto the disgusting public restroom floor.

I binned it, of course, and since it’s day one I had to create a makeshift toilet paper pad and waddle back to my desk where I decided to wait it out til I had to pee again which was inevitably less an hour later.

It ended up being totally fine because whatever, that’s life, right? But I’m really amazed at myself here. Amazed at the idiocy. Why did I let that happen? Why can my grip be so easily influenced by some stranger who I know, logically, would not care if they heard me fiddling with sanitary products and even if they did care THAT’S RIDICULOUS AND NOT MY PROBLEM? Why is this who I am?

I pondered this for way too long today. It even depressed me a little. But then, THEN, there was a tub of chocolates left out for our department and honestly, it mattered so very little after that. I almost stopped asking myself why I do this to myself.

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NaNoWriMo

You’ve probably heard of it, but in case not, November is National Novel Writing Month. The basic idea is to write a novel, or 50,000 words, in 30 days. It averages out to 1667 words a day which is very doable. In fact, it seems almost too easy. And that’s how it gets you.

I have very mixed feelings about the concept, for myself specifically, and a bit on the whole. Sometimes I think it turns writing into almost joke. Is the craft for everyone? Well, yes, of course. Should it be accessible and practiced by all? Definitely! But writing quality, heartfelt work takes much more than 30 days and an ironwill. The site says as much, admitting the month of November is actually a word vomit, which I appreciate, but I do wonder how many people utilize the month to spew and then just wrap that up and call it a novel and throw it on Amazon. When junk is touted as a NaNoWriMo Novel™, I think it gives the whole practice a bad name.

On the other hand, fuck what anyone else thinks–this is an awesome opportunity to join a community and get some shit done!

I’m also probably a super salty lady when it comes to NaNo because I’ve been doing it on and off for 8 grueling years and have not won once. SAD. But I intend to do better this year, and by better I also mean different. Instead of a novel, I’ll be continuing Vacancy.

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Hell yeah I cropped this image to look like a book cover. Go me.

The serial has a special place in my heart because it’s an idea that had been rolling around in my head for a very long time in a couple different iterations. As I said in my reintroductory post, I just took on too much with it. The anxiety of getting something completed, of not really editing, of jumping in with little direction, it was all too much. But if I can shit out 50,000 words, I’ll set myself up with roughly 20 posts which I can edit prior to posting, of course, and posting weekly starting in January will bring me almost halfway through the year, so I’ll really have some content by the end of this thing provided I can stick to it.

But can I stick to it??? Yeah, that’s what this is for. Alongside getting a good friend to flounder with me in the writing process and utilizing Husband’s creative capacity to its max (it was his idea to use Vacancy as the piece I should work on which was genius), this is my callout post. This is to keep me to my word. Whether you’ve read any of Vacancy or not, or if you ever plan to, you can be my buddy on NaNo and we can write together! Golly gee, won’t that be fun?

If anything, I’ve proven to myself I can write enough wordage to get the numbers through these blogs the last few weeks, so I know it can be done, but will it be done? Only time will tell. Here’s to avoiding failure! 50k here I come.

It Didn’t Say Juicy On The Butt

Since it’s the spookiest season of all, I thought I might share a little true tale of horror with you because, Dear Reader, I feel I haven’t revealed how truly fucked up I am yet.

I would preface this by saying that yes, I believe in certain supernatural things, but I also believe that I cannot possible understand these things so the names I give to them and my perceptions of them are basically irrelevant. What I do know is some fucked up shit has happened to me that I haven’t been able to explain. Doesn’t mean someone else couldn’t explain it had they been there, and I’m totally open to other explanations, but from where I sit, the paranormal is real if not terribly prolific or photogenic.

But, Dear Reader, I digress. This is probably the least fucked up thing, so it’s an easy one to start you with. This happening occurred on neither a dark nor stormy night. In fact, it was midday with very pleasant weather. It was as unspooky as it could be and in a lot of ways that made this whole thing spookier in the end. At the time, I lived in a very suburban neighborhood with an HOA and everything. Again, the spooky factor was super low. Like half a skeleton out of ten.

I was, what some folks like to call, “between jobs” at the time. I like to refer to it as my sabbatical where I transitioned out of the hell hole that is healthcare (but my time in healthcare is too spooky to talk about now, like eleven skeletons out of ten plus one Frankenstein’s monster). I used to take walks around the neighborhood by myself during the day and came to expect certain things–overgrown yards, broken up sidewalks, poor parking jobs (the HOA apparently focused all of its ire on me, so it didn’t have time for anyone else), and it was always quite quiet, so any movement got my attention.

I saw a car pull into a driveway. The most innocuous thing. I was walking toward the house it had parked in front of from the opposite side of the street but was still a few houses down from said driveway. I watched a woman get out of the driver’s side of the car. She wore a pink tracksuit and was blonde, reminiscent of Paris Hilton circa 2002, except she was very tall and broad shouldered.

The way most of the houses were built in the neighborhood had the front door recessed down a pathway, sheltered on either side by the garage and some other room. So, if I am walking toward the house from down the street, as I was, a person could disappear around the corner of the garage and into the walkway toward the entrance. This is what happened.

So no biggie, right? I’m still walking in the direction of the house, nothing strange, but I do hear some voices, high, excited voices, so it’s pretty obvious the woman walked down the way and knocked on the door and someone answered. At this point, I am parallel with the house, so if I glance to my left, I can see down that walkway to the people there and the front door. So I do. There’s a man and a woman in the doorway, facing out, welcoming the woman to their home.

But it’s not the same woman. (Spookiness intensifies!)

Ok, so we got like 3/10 skeletons here. I’m staring at the back of this woman’s head which is now brunette, she’s wearing something dark like jeans and a black shirt, and she’s much smaller–narrow shoulders and short. This is weird, I think, and I’m just confused, but I’m not thoroughly spooked yet. That happened when she turned around.

As the couple went inside, the Amazing Changing Lady glanced back at me, and I went cold. Admittedly, I have a problem with looking people in the eye, and that is exactly what she did, somehow from all the way across the road, two sidewalks, a lawn, and a walkway. It was kind of horrifying, but as I was still walking, a scurried away and out of her sight almost immediately.

I booked it home at a solid 5.87 skellies and thought hard about what could have happened. Was there a second person in the car? Was that just someone from inside the home? Were there shadows in the walkway playing tricks on me? None of these seemed plausible at the time, and they still don’t since it all happened so quickly. And what happened, if you put a name to it, would be some kind of shape-shifting, which is not a kind of supernatural thing that I actually believe in. Ghosts? Of course. Demons? Why not? Aliens? Not even supernatural, just plain real! But shapeshifters? Go back to Stephanie Meyer, please. You’re not even the cool kind that turns into an animal, you went from one generic lady to another! Boring.

So after writing it out, it doesn’t sound all that spooky, like a couple hand bones and a tibia at best. Maybe a tooth too. But in that moment it was very scary. I was sure she was going to come for me later, but so far no dice. Though, I guess if she’s a shapeshifter, she could be anyone, anywhere. Just waiting. But only if you believe in that sort of thing.

Nothing In Between

I unabashedly label myself a feminist. I’ve experienced some terrible treatment due to my gender, including when I was pretty young, but I know I’ve grown up in what is historically one of the best countries/times for women, so I’ve been wondering how I became so passionate. Injustice has always bothered me, and there’s never really one thing that contributes wholly to a personality trait or belief, but I’ve come to the conclusion that a big part my feminism’s origin story is rooted in one kinda strange thing: 90s music.

The first CD I ever owned was Meredith Brooks’ Blurring the Edges. (Well, that and the first Pure Moods album. I was a weird kid.) I was 10 when “Bitch” was at the top of the Billboard charts, and I knew every word. I listened to the entire album on repeat which came to be my biggest pastime, and I absorbed the words. I say absorbed like some pretentious douchebag because it was more than just memorizing what she was saying, even though a lot of it I couldn’t really understand (what 10 year old really gets the complexity of the Pollyanna principle?), but these concepts of wanting more, wanting to be heard, struggling against this force that didn’t have a name but constantly held you down, that was all there, and it helped me to later understand feelings that cropped up when some old guy catcalled me at thirteen or when someone I was supposed to respect insisted that women were literally less human than men in (their) god’s eyes.

Those sentiments were pretty prolific in a lot of the music at the time. Squashed between the 80s and 00s, two arguably similar decades that seemed to follow this borderline vacuous, we’re-gonna-live-forever, corporate-controlled mindset, the 90s define the word alternative. But where the 70s acted like a transition from the break in conservatism that was the 60s into the much more progressive 80s, the 90s didn’t ultimately do the same thing. There’s so much growth in pop culture during this time, but then the 00s took a huge step, not necessarily back, but in a totally different direction.

So I did some digging through my old CDs and with the help of Sirius XM’s 90s on 9, I’ve come up with I guess what you can call a playlist which I present to you with a tiny bit of commentary. Forgive some of these being from the 00s – my musical education has always been anachronistic.

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If I split myself into five people, these would be them.

 

(The titles below are all links but apparently my CSS or whatever isn’t setup to show you that because that makes total sense? Why would I want my reader to know some random words are actually a link? Aren’t WordPress themes just THE BEST?)

  • Meredith Brooks – “Bitch
  • Shawn Colvin – “Sunny Came Home
    • Shawn refers to this as a “murder ballad” which is just beautiful.
  • Spice Girls – “Say You’ll Be There
    • I could easily write a thesis on these ladies. Despite what people would consider problematic about them today, they taught me about girl power and for that I’m eternally grateful.
  • Natalie Imbruglia – “Torn
    • “Torn” is actually a cover, but there really isn’t any pop music that doesn’t owe something to the Scandinavians
  • Sheryl Crow – “If It Makes You Happy
    • Something about being caged and on exhibit.
  • Paula Cole – “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone
    • Another of my very first CDs was This Fire which I was totally shocked to see a naked Paula on the cover. I’d seen a lot of naked women by the time I was 10 because, well, they’re everywhere, but something about this cover didn’t scream sexualization to me. I can’t confirm this, but I always felt she chose that image.
  • Imani Coppola – “Legend of a Cowgirl
    • If you only watch one of these videos, please make it this one. The gender subversion is amazing.
  • No Doubt – “Just A Girl
    • “Don’t you think I know / Exactly where I stand” has always stood out (ha) to me in a world where everyone will tell you just how invalid your own experiences are.
  • Fiona Apple – “Criminal
    • I was asked by someone who knew me when I was young how I got to be so morbid and obsessed with creepy things now, and I think the answer is the demon eyes in this video.
  • Jewel – “Who Will Save Your Soul
    • Jewel wrote this at 16 when she was hitchhiking across America. WTF.
  • Alanis Morisette – “You Oughta Know
    • Duh.

 

Also I Hate The Word “Fleek”

Some people have really strong feelings about things that they really shouldn’t. Like, some people HATE pumpkin spice as if pumpkin spice personally hurt them. Like pumpkin spice broke up with them via text message. Like pumpkin spice punched their mom in the face. Like pumpkin spice used the key they gave it “for emergencies only” while they were on vacation and had a gang bang with strawberry acai and white chocolate mocha in their marital bed. But the truth is, pumpkin spice never did anything to anybody, and while the kind of hate pumpkin spice (or any “basic bitch” bullshit) gets is way too complicated for this blog post, it’s a great example of something that doesn’t deserve the treatment it gets, and I need you to know this post is self aware. I’m about to say something, and you’re going to think I’m a huge hypocrite, but bear with me, I’ll explain.

I. Hate. Eyebrows.

I hate those thick fucking, fake-ass, perfectly square, stamped-on-looking, woolly bear bitches the most–if you’ve been on the internet, you know the ones: Instagram brows. Now, like I said, this post is self aware. I should NOT hate eyebrows, and even more so I shouldn’t hate painstakingly cultivated ones. Eyebrows didn’t kill my father. They didn’t kick my cat. Eyebrows didn’t vote for Donald Trump. Eyebrows are honestly one of the least possibly offensive things. And yet…

Eyebrows, or rather, what they have become, offend me to my very core, and it’s mostly for this simple fact: the same people who made fun of a naturally thick-browed, ten year old me are the ones instagramming and praising these mile-high, drawn-on abominations.

Eyebrowminations.

Here’s the thing: I don’t give a shit what people do with their own bodies. Yes, I would encourage you to be healthy, but if you choose to fill yourself with crap then so be it. If you choose to tattoo a portrait of Dolly Parton on your left temple then by god, you do you–you could honestly have chosen much worse. Pierce your butthole closed for all I care. What I hate about the current brow trend is not really that it exists, but that it’s so insincere.

And not in the way that most fashion is insincere. Sure, people follow trends because they’re cool, but I’d reckon there are more than a handful of people who actually like how certain trends look, or at least grow to like them. My mom fondly looks back at her Farrah Fawcett feathered hair and would most definitely still have it if she hadn’t succumbed to peer pressure a mere four years ago. But the thing with this eyebrow debacle (debrowcle) is that no one really likes thick brows, they just like painting really wide, tapered, arching lines on their foreheads.

Yes, I am salty. Salty AF, some might say, because this girl has gone through hell and back to minimize her own brows at the behest of society. I have shaved, waxed, plucked, and threaded these little furry assholes into shape for years because I am weak and care way too much what people think of me. And you’re telling me I just could have waited it out til 2015? No, I couldn’t have, because what I got going on, which are actual, real life, thick brows, are not at all what’s being touted all over Youtube as a “natural brow look.”

I blew up at one of my best friends back when I was 20 or so. She had these gorgeous, delicate, wonderfully shaped brows that were so effortless. At least, that’s how I saw them; I am sure she, like most people, has a very different view of her own body. Regardless, if I could have replaced my own brows with replicas of hers, I would have done so in an instant and never touched them again. She texted me one day, very excited, to say she’d had her brows waxed. I should have been excited for her, supportive, asked questions about the process, anything but what I did which was basically berate her. If her brows weren’t good enough, then mine would never be. Besides a whole boatload of other shit I was going through at the time that no doubt contributed to my fuckery, I was too filled with self loathing to support my friend, and told her that her decision was dumb. Eyebrows made me selfish, and that’s one of the worst things you can be.

And this was before the big box brow trend even started!

So yes, I’m salty about the whole thing and I’ve grown to just loathe eyebrows. I hate the effort that has to be put into them, I hate that that effort is so incredibly painful, and I hate how shitty they make me feel about myself.

But I shouldn’t hate eyebrows. They serve a purpose. I was going to make this a Thing I Don’t Fucking Understand, but I actually do understand them. I get the totally fucked up desire to want to be pretty and doing the dumbest possible things to get that way, but I’m never going to stop hating eyebrows. Maybe someday I’ll shave them off completely. That might even be a trend on the horizon. And I’ll probably be salty about that.

But for now all I can saw is this, all of this nonsense, is browdiculous!