It’s been raining all week here in Chicago. I don’t mind the rain so much as long as I get brief reminders that the sun is still there, someplace and that the sky has blue tucked deep in it’s pocket, just waiting for an opening.
My face has decided to take the brunt of my stress these days. About 6 months ago I entered a phase I now call my skin’s “second adolescence.” Constant break outs, red blotches and surly attitude all abounded. I tried to stem the tide of rosacea but to no avail. I’m fairly sure it’s a combination of a number of things…parental exhaustion, stress of the self employed, nomadic and melancholic tendencies…and erm…perimenopause apparently. Too much information? Sorry ’bout that. It is what it is.
What really sucks is that all of my regular “coping mechanisms” tend to exacerbate the condition…so the best advice from the experts would be to give up coffee, alcohol and chocolate. Yeah. That’ll happen.
My poor face. I really like my face. I’ve never considered myself any kind of outward beauty really, I mean in the classical sense but I do like my face. The majority of compliments I’ve had throughout my life have been about my skin, weirdly enough so it’s interesting that this is where my stress shows up.
I always know I’m in trouble when I start to research quick fixes for things that really will take a shift in attitude and behavior to change. I’m so desperate to not give up anything. I know I ought to get more sleep. I ought to work out more than I do. I ought to be drinking all that water. I ought to give up coffee and chocolate. I ought to pray and meditate more often.
That list is a full time job. I already have a few of those…but as I consider it it occurs to me that I’m quick to give up the full time job that actually pays me, feeds me, sings me to sleep at night and that makes me sad. It makes me sad that the first list that I axe when life is complicated is the list that has my name at the top of it.
I wonder if that is what my face is trying to tell me, in no uncertain terms. I wonder if it’s saying that we’re really not doing so hot, that we need some time together to regroup. I wonder if my skin chose my face because it knew I was looking in the mirror each morning while I brush my teeth, lamenting the circles under my eyes. My skin knew I would notice the angry red blotches. It wanted a response, like my youngest son having a tantrum in the grocery store because he’s tired, because he’s hungry, because he’s not getting enough attention…
How wise of my body, then, to choose my face as its messenger.
After all my reading about the “physical” triggers of this condition and about the medical solutions for it the one thing that stands out to me over and over again is that what is required, is gentleness. In fact, in mentioning this recently someone said that she noticed “exfoliating” makes the rosacea worse…because the scrubbing, the digging, the pulling away the protective top layers…it’s harsh. The chemicals, the peels…it’s a violence to skin.
It makes sense that instead of stripping away what is needed is care, gentleness, quieting, calming. It makes sense, physically and emotionally. My face is being really honest with me, speaking to me from deep inside, sending a message from the whole of my body to take care.
And it’s all so clear to me…my body is reminding me that I’m thirsty and I’m tired and beaten down. It is having a tantrum in the grocery store. I hope I can put aside the cart and pay attention. I hope I will listen.
When I was young and new to poetry my mom bought me a book by Marge Piercy called “The moon is always female.”
It might have been because I was discovering this new language and trying on the clothing of poet. It might have been because I was at college, away from home for the first time. It might have been because we were both a little lost, drifting in the weird, deep water of the women’s movement. The current took us there in the 70’s and kind of left us there in the 80’s. It may have been all of those things.
It was the title, really, led me to pick up the book but it was the poetry that kept me coming back. Today I’d like to share one of those poems with you. I hope you’ll take the time to read it…find a line or even a word that raises its hand to get your attention and just breathe that a moment. I know you’re busy…we’re all busy…but just know poetry is the one of the 8 glasses of water you ought to have, meant to have, need to have…to keep your soul watered.
To Have Without Holding Marge Piercy Learning to love differently is hard, love with the hands wide open, love with the doors banging on their hinges, the cupboard unlocked, the wind roaring and whimpering in the rooms rustling the sheets and snapping the blinds that thwack like rubber bands in an open palm. It hurts to love wide open stretching the muscles that feel as if they are made of wet plaster, then of blunt knives, then of sharp knives. It hurts to thwart the reflexes of grab, of clutch; to love and let go again and again. It pesters to remember the lover who is not in the bed, to hold back what is owed to the work that gutters like a candle in a cave without air, to love consciously, conscientiously, concretely, constructively. I can't do it, you say it's killing me, but you thrive, you glow on the street like a neon raspberry, You float and sail, a helium balloon bright bachelor's button blue and bobbing on the cold and hot winds of our breath, as we make and unmake in passionate diastole and systole the rhythm of our unbound bonding, to have and not to hold, to love with minimized malice, hunger and anger moment by moment balanced.
For the last week or so I’ve seen this show up in my Facebook feed every couple of minutes-
If you’re my Facebook friend suffice it to say that I would love to do you a favor. Most of the time if I’m able I will be glad to do you a favor. This one, though, is tough. I have over 600 friends. I’m not willing to hover over every person’s name and unsubscribe from their likes and comments. I’m sorry but it’s true.
It sucks that this has happened and if you want to unfriend me I can respect that. I hope that you won’t unfriend me though because I like being your Facebook friend.
I’m not saying I like the new layout, to be clear, that ticker box drives me mental. It’s too much too often in my opinion. I’d delete that thing in a minute but not because I’m afraid of what other people might see of mine. Let me tell you why I won’t hover though. Maybe it will explain my position a little better.
It’s not the “trouble” it takes to hover over all those names and tinker with the page one click at a time that gives me pause, but rather the idea behind it. This is the struggle I’ve had over and over with social media, this idea about privacy. While I can see why someone wouldn’t want their mom seeing something they post on friend’s walls or their boss seeing what they do on the weekend I think we begin to miss the point of social media when we mistakenly believe that Facebook can ever possibly BE private. It can’t. It’s not realistic to hope for that frankly.
Social Media is BOTH of those things…it’s social….and it’s MEDIA. If you want to be social without broadcasting it then actually, social media is going to work against you in my opinion. If you don’t want the world to see something then don’t say it on social media. Just don’t do it. Email your friend or better yet CALL THEM or have coffee in person but don’t put it on the interwebs. It’s not safe. It’s not private, no matter how many people hover for you, my friend, it’s going to show up somewhere somehow.
This is why the whole “nude” pictures of celebrities and politicians showing up on the internet every few days riles me up. Yes, everyone is entitled to privacy, absolutely. But if you’re a celebrity or a politician, don’t freakin take pictures of yourself in the nude on your cell phone. Just don’t do it.
If you follow me on Twitter and I say something off-putting you have the power to a)ignore it b)unfollow or c)engage me on it. Those are your choices. That’s the chance I take on social media. That’s the chance we all take. This is why I always try to default to the number one social media rule I have in place, “be the very best version of yourself.”
What I “like” and “comment” about on Facebook doesn’t define but it does reveal me. If I don’t want someone to see something then the best course of action is for me to limit myself. In a way, knowing loads of people I don’t know might see a comment I make adds a layer of responsibility to my posting on social media. It’s not an invasion of my privacy, it’s a call to be a more responsible curator of my commentary and content.
I’m not advocating an if you don’t like it then leave” approach to this Facebook thing. Truly. I think there’s a work around and someone will find it and yet I want to make sure that we understand this one basic thing going forward and not forget, social media is social and it’s also media and I don’t see that changing in the near future.
You want to help the economy? No, really…forget waiting for Congress to get over it’s political constipation…support local and emerging businesses. I’d be very surprised if you didn’t know someone was trying to get something really wonderful off the ground. In case you don’t though, I’ll share with you this lovely lady, Alexia Abegg. She’s not trying to be a millionare, she does not have the cure for cancer (although some might argue that beauty can cure anything…and I’m inclined to agree.)
This is Alexia’s kickstarter page:
She’s got a little sewing store in Nashville. She teaches sewing classes. And she designs patterns, a part of her business which she’d like to develop further and offer to people outside of the Nashville area.
You like sewing? You like stimulating the economy? You like being a part of something beautiful?
Well, here you go. Amazing things like this only happen if we make them happen.
No matter what your political affiliation, all are welcome to help bring more good stuff to a market saturated with awful stuff.
Be a part of the solution.
I nearly forgot it was Friday. This happens more often than I care to admit.
Friday is our default Library Day it seems. By Friday we remember where we are. It seemed only right I post a library photo.
Strangely enough, after all my ranting about the sanctity of life this week the only books my boys cared to read were about guns and war machinery.
There is some heavy truth hiding in that dynamic. I’m just not sure yet what it might be.
I’ve been doing my best to avoid writing about this. I’ve been avoiding it because it’s complicated and emotional. It’s a dividing line and I can’t stand division. Give me addition or multiplication but save me from subtraction and division.
This week the stories of two death row inmates crossed my news feed, the stories of Lawrence Brewer, in Jasper Texas and Troy Davis of Savannah, Ga. They hold in common their executions for murder and perhaps little else. The headlines in my news feed were “White Supremacist Set To Die For Texas Dragging” in Brewer’s case and “Furor surrounds scheduled execution of Troy Davis in Georgia” for Davis.
When I read the accounts of Brewer’s conviction I was disgusted, horrified and outraged. Then I turned to the article about Troy Davis and I felt grieved, hopeless and outraged. Two different men, two different states, two different crimes but the same punishment…and then I was reminded why I am against the death penalty. I’m against the death penalty because I call myself “pro-life.” I am in favor of life.
Let me be clear about this. My being in favor of life, my “pro-life” stance should not be confused with ProLife™ which seems to now merely mean “anti-abortion” in the political/religious realm. My kind of pro-life won’t fit on a bumper sticker or billboard very easily. It needs flesh and voice and time and understanding. As a descriptive, the term has been ruined for me and I’m sad about that.
I favor life. I think there’s still redemption among us. I have no idea when “life” begins but there is certainly not much doubt about when it ends, no matter what Pat Robertson may think. I don’t like the death penalty. I’m not “for” it. I cannot imagine how I can be “for” it just as I cannot imagine the grief and fear and pain of the family of those who were murdered. I have no way of knowing how I’d feel if either of these men’s story lines crossed my personal family roads. I might feel very differently if it was me. I’ll allow for that. I hope not.
I’ve had the privilege of walking with a number of friends as they went through the process of labor. When we meet and talk about their birth plan I will tell them very clearly that the birth plan isn’t about success or failure, it’s not about the right way to do labor or the wrong way. The reason we want to have a birth plan ahead of time is because in the moment it’s a good reminder of what we envisioned when we weren’t in a great deal of pain. That’s not to say that in the moment we won’t also say, “Yeah, this ‘no epidural’ idea isn’t working for me” and moving from there. Pain changes things, a lot. The thing about labor, though, is that when it is progressing “normally” then pain happens and then it shifts and then it happens more often and for longer. It’s gets stronger. It gets worse before it gets better. A good birth plan and a supportive community is there to help remind of us the kind of birth we hoped for. In a way I guess I see statements of Faith in this way, not as rigorous and rigid rules meant to exclude and bring shame but rather a reminder of the kind of life I hoped for…the kind of person I hope I’d be in times of pain and grief.
And so I’m pro-life when it comes to the death penalty because I favor life, because I believe there is some redemption left in the world and because in moments like this what I want most is to model grace and peace and mercy. I suppose I am hard-wired for grace and peace and mercy. My only response to a man who murdered another human by dragging him from the back of a pickup truck is mercy. My only response to the man who professes his innocence at killing a police officer is mercy. I can only muster mercy, little else. I cannot speak for justice, it feels too unwieldy a sword for me to carry. I only know that in the face of the death penalty I favor life, mercy is all I have.
So tonight I lit a candle for Troy Davis and next to it I lit a candle for Lawrence Brewer, a small thing, a tiny prayer, for us all to remember what it means to be in favor of life.
We moved our family north a couple of states two weeks ago, a grand move. I’m pleased to say that most of the boxes are unpacked and arranged. At one point last week I bellowed aloud from the kitchen, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul!” I felt so good about the state of things in the house.
That pile of papers on my desk got bigger while I was out of town this weekend. The to do list in my head grew by leaps and bounds. The constant barrage of questions beginning with “Mom, when are you going to….” shows no signs of ebbing. Egad. Life is full and fast paced. It’s easy to feel as though I’m constantly losing ground.
Having just been to Nashville to clean our big empty city house threw me into an odd state of mind, I have to say.
And now, my daily tangent…but not really…
It’s strange to clean an empty house. It’s stranger when the house is your own and will continue to be your own at least as far as the bank is concerned.
We’d had the house exterior painted while we were in Chicago. This was the first time I saw the finished product. It looks beautiful. I didn’t think to take a photo and I regret that now. There was nothing in the house. Not a stick of furniture or a scrap of paper. We did a fairly good job emptying it a few weeks ago. I spoke aloud when I walked in.
“Hello, house. Lonely?”
I spoke aloud most of the day while I cleaned because I do that…when I clean, when I cook, when I drive. I’m glad to report that the inanimate objects closest don’t reply. It’s probably the need to think and connect and keep myself engaged. It might be that I just like to hear myself talk. I’m not ruling that out.
It took about 4 hours which surprised me. We’d only been there a year. The place was empty…but maybe it was because it was empty that it took so long. There was nothing to take up space, nothing to work around. It was a wide open canvas ready and waiting. Maybe that’s why I talked to the house. Maybe it really did feel lonely…or expectant…nervous…waiting for the next big event in its timeline- the arrival of people and animals and furniture to fill it up again.
And so I took great care, I really did. I cleaned every corner, every windowsill, every countertop. I washed it down and dried it off. I prayed through each room. I gave thanks with each toilet seat wiped down.
It was sacramental.
It was holy.
Gaining ground instead of losing it…I was reclaiming something and giving it away to someone else.
And so we return to Chicago- I unpack the car and see the many piles, the many bags, the many needs of the children and the responsibilities and the replies requested…life didn’t stop while we were gone, we weren’t greeted with empty space anymore. The effort I took to fill the space those two weeks after moving showed and then I was thankful for that too because it was grounding to see the life we’re building. Perhaps there is no lost ground, after all.
I’ve been planning to write about social media again for a while now. I’ve been having this inner psychic tug of war around my social media outlets lately. Luckily I’ve mostly kept them to myself. I’ve stored them up quite nicely in this metal file sorter I keep in the back of my head, far from the wireless lines that lead to my tweeting fingers and my Facebook status updater.
You know what it is?
I was fine, I mean really fine until Klout came around. I was even getting the hang of Google+ and Pinterest. I was constructing my own castle in a cute little social media neighborhood. I had a white picket fence and pink flamingos in my yard.
And then Klout came along.
It didn’t tell me to take the flamingos out of my yard but it kinda did. Klout is a service designed to tell me all about my online influence. So far I influence like 479 people. No matter how many times I tweet about it though, not one of those 479 people will bring me a donut so I ask you, what good is that anyway? I was doing just fine with Klout and had fairly forgotten about having signed up for it until one day a random tweet reminded me it was there and so I checked it.
My “klout score” was holding steady. “Cool” thought I. My klout is intact. I don’t know what it means (clearly not free donuts) but I was glad for not losing ground…because loss is bad, right? And this alone would be fine but then I had to check it again a few days later. And then again a few days after that. And then it happened. My “klout score” dropped.
This affected me. My klout dropped. Was it because during my move I stopped tweeting and interacting? Were my online friends feeling as lost in the shuffle as my children and my checkbook? Was it because I made a snide comment about someone else and their klout tweets? Was my influence dropping? Will I ever get free donuts?
As usual, with my social media rants this is where my real life friends, who love me an awful lot will say something like, “Ang. I think you need a social media fast” and maybe they’re right. Maybe I am a little too wrapped up in this whole online thing.
This whole thing can be an opportunity to understand some things about me better. This whole klout thing might be a chance for me to uncover a mechanism inside of my psyche. I ask myself as I read through my Klout rant, “Am I really this shallow?” To which I remind my self that this question is rhetorical and move on to the next question, probably a better question overall- “Why do I care about my Klout score?”
I already know this. It’s a long time life work issue.
I want to be liked and I’m a sucker for affirmation. Klout is affirming. Statistics are sexy when they are wrapped in a klout shaped box and when Klout likes me it means that I’m okay.
But you and I both know that’s not really true in the real world, clearly, from the obvious lack of donuts on my doorstep. In the real world I find affirmation in words and deeds of real life people around me. In the fact that people actually return my calls, ask me to lunch, say “thank you” and “I love you” through out my day. My online life is really just an extension of that. When I begin to question who I am based upon how I tweet therein lies the problem. I tweet therefore I am is a big fat lie…I am what I tweet is close but only if I follow my own number one rule for social media.
I’ll amend that to say that where social media is concerned I try to be myself…the very best version of myself. This is not to say that I am not genuine online, not at all. When I look at a Klout score to inform HOW I tweet that’s a problem. When I saw the number drop I wondered if I needed to be edgier, sexier, wittier, nicer, meaner…I dunno. And then I remembered my number one rule, be yourself, the very best version of yourself. It’s the rule I give my kids when they meet new people. Be the best version of you. It’s the rule I tell myself when I go into new situations, be the very best version of yourself. In real life, klout comes from being the best version of oneself. Klout comes over time, with interaction and engagement and care. Online, geez, who knows…what’s in the papers? What’s the hot topic? What are the hot button words of the day?
It’s all transient and transparent. It’s not real.
There are no donuts on my doorstep, people. No donuts.
So, I’m saying this out loud (online) not because I think Klout is bad, because I don’t. I actually do find it interesting and fun and as long as that is where it stops, as long as I don’t let it seep into my soul and inform my sense of real life “self” then I see no harm in it. And who knows, it may lead to an influx of donuts on my doorstep. It could happen.