I'm being a housewife this week, kind of, a weirdly-humored impostor or enfant terrible of housewives. I no longer have a politics class to attend; I'm waiting for the anthropology class that comes next week. The administrators here told me if I made trouble with all my spare time, they'd evict me. No fear. I love to clean, as I have told you, and I'm in the only unbusy person in my messy cabin. So my cabinmates and classmates and I all eat breakfast together, then they leave for class and I stay behind. (I remember when I was little and stayed home from school sick or "sick," how envious I was of my mother, that she had the empty house and day apparently to herself.) I sweep the dirt out of the entryway, out from among their shoes, out the door like Disney Snow White. I sweep up the hair on the bathroom tiles. I clean the sinks and handwash clothes in them. I prop doors open and open blinds and windows and turn off lights and am at a loss. I stroll around with a roll of 800 staring at my absent peers' rumpled sheets and dresser-top still lifes in the mid-morning light. Still lives?
In the afternoon they come home and do their homework while I take my turn playing the suburban neurotic, back in bed blank-eyed and headphoned; they are old enough for ovens and to make their own oatmeal cookies. I recover in time each day to preside at night over the variously timed fallings-asleep and then slouch in the dark in the light of my awful LCD for two hours. I'm either reading free anarchist downloads until I can sleep, or I'm making playlists until I can sleep. I'm slouching in the dark in the false and small electric/blue daylight among the shifting unconscious sophomores, cultivating praxis inside the flannel of my sleeping bag.
146/365. The end of this dock has become the one place that is pseudo-mine, aside from my bed.
148/365. This picture makes it look like I have been spending time with other people.
149/365. At the inspiration of my friend's scaring, I tell a horror story in my head about the Lantern-men.
150/365. Waiting for the storm.
That's Sui. She's really cool. I am reminded that I want to share the pictures I took when I met her in March for tea at her place. I shall do that tomorrow.
Tolerance for ambiguity is one of the most desirable qualities for an anthropologist — because it is an unavoidable part of cross-cultural living. But I don't have much of it. Almost none, at least of the interpersonal variety.
It's a legacy of my tenure as a therapeutic subject that I don't even try to tolerate uncertainty.
I used to say, "I did _____ and then she did/didn't do _____ and it feels like she really hates me now," and Dear Therapist would say, "How do you know? What would you think of just asking her, 'Are you angry at me?'"
So I got into the habit of asking people very direct questions when it's necessary to banish the discomfort of uncertainty. Are you interested in me? Do you think I'm a bad person? Did you really let me go because an old employee asked for her position back, or was I just a sucky barista and you didn't want to hurt my feelings? (Actually, that last one I still need to ask...)
It's pretty freeing. For the person doing the asking, anyway.
Direct questions assert some kind of force. But I don't take issue with that type of power play. It is mostly just play. I've always thought that giving up truths and secrets, whether in answer to questions or not, equaled the surrender of some measure of power. (Dear Therapist and I spent so much time talking about voice. [If you knock on my bones, you will hear a positively postmodern preoccupation with the theoretics of power.])
On April 18th, it snowed. The rain I had been walking into and out of of all night long to stay awake turned to snow; I watched it falling at 5:30 in the morning, and I knew I couldn't be the only one but I felt like it. I texted my friends asleep in the next rooms that there is snow because I did not want to be (the only witness). Later I told my professor that I couldn't come to class because I would get frostbite with only sandals in which to make the return trip out to the suburbs.
I have some beliefs about controlled substances, but I think my emotional response to drunk etc. people is mostly separate from that.
Sometimes I hate them passionately: I hate the ones who are better people when drunk, because that's sad, and I hate the ones who are worse people when drunk, because that's selfish of them. I hate them for demanding that they be allowed to say and do thoughtless things.
Mostly when I hate them like Violette Leduc hated her sleepers. ("Je me penche sur eux avec mes mauvaise intentions...Je hais mon dormeur qui peut se créer, avec de l’inconscience, une paix qui m’est étrangère.") It feels like they have defected from life and I hate them for that, for leaving me and leaving me standing there. I never forgive being the one remaining. I want always to be the one who flies away. I suppose most people do.
I woke up from a dream that I had set part of my leg on fire. First thought: Did I really? No? Too bad. I woke up from a dream that I had woken up and was lying in bed feeling out the frame of my hipbones with my hands. Languages linger, even the poor ones.
137/365. The Baths.
138/365. Friend and Japanese maples; pond.
141/365. Rest stop, southern Wisconsin.
142/365. This is where I wrote in the morning before breakfast.
143/365. Dining hall.
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edit: Thank you Erin & Sherry, Erin W., Amanda, and Sui, for giving enough to support Jeanima this month and partway through June. Very much love and appreciation.
The picture above is a new one that I just received! She looks bigger and somewhat less afraid, no? And she's got a school uniform. These make me happy. They also sent three bookmarks with her picture, which I would like to send to the first three donors this month—so there are two left now, after one early donation.
• beautiful bare-ribbed ballet dancers
• a blue-gray dawn from the bridge
• a kind office lady at the travel clinic
• a visit from my pen pal Noel, and an agreement that I should come see her later this year
• going back to bed. sleeping, in general
• driving alone with an old summer mix very loud
• endless free chai refills at the Curry Village lunch buffet
• rereading the Jenny Linsky books (so sweet)
• beginning (only) to catch up on correspondence
• when my thoughts turn to friends as I am falling asleep—I smile and not even voluntarily, and I think I almost fall asleep smiling.
The screwing-up of my internal clock left me somewhat without day-markers, but I still missed only two days in the last two weeks.
126/365. "Guys, why are we SO good-looking?"
127/365. In my department's office. Coloring is prima.
128/365. One of my contesserates made crowns out of these blossoms when she was little, I think.
129/365. Thoughtlessly carrying around a saltshaker. My group member: "Is that DRUGS?
I: "Yes, I am carrying thousands of dollars worth of cocaine loose at the bottom of my bag."
131/365. My friend deals with boy-induced pain/rage by burning him in effigy.
132/365. Stuck my camera-hand down into a thicket of happy planty things.
133/365. A reunion of my old small group (Bible study amigas).
134/365. Leaving Chicago.
135/365. I felt crafty once, that one time.
136/365. Remember the days?
On my way home, I found some empty vodka bottles and I threw them at the street one by one and as hard as I could. The smashing made me feel a little better. I scream a lot lately, mostly into my pillow or into my sleeve but sometimes just in the middle of the dining hall or while walking across campus. Lately, though, I am doing things more difficult (for me) than anything else I have ever done. If screaming keeps me from cracking, fine. And it does.
Thinking about the process of getting to know people:
After a while of it, I begin to say the things I want to say, and stop saying the sociable things to whose said-ness I am actually indifferent.
You can't have what you want from people. You can only have what they are. And if you aren't willing to see what is actually there instead of what you wish was there, there's no point.
Guidelines from anthropology: Respect that people's experiences are complex and subjective. Grant people the right to narrate and interpret their own experiences. Listen, at least a year for every hundred pages you hope to write. And ask questions. Acknowledge that to see, to listen, is to an extent a power transaction, and when you perceive (see or hear) someone as different than who they are, you have exploited their vulnerability and used your power against them. You be damn careful when you listen, when you look. If you're not going to be careful, don't do it at all.
It is home to a seemingly unjustifiable concentration of wig dealers. Somehow the spring darkness makes it the right kind of place for wandering — but then, I feel that way about cities in general...
In the last two weeks of my culture theory class, we were reading this guy who talks about "the therapeutic culture" a lot. The book (it's good) is essentially a genealogy of that culture. He says that it is the dominant one in the Western societies at this point in history — a culture centered on the individual pursuit of self-expression and the fulfillment of one's desires.
I want to say something to distance myself from that. Because it is NOT my ideology, but I have blogged about body image and happiness from time to time and those are topics that often fall into the territory of that ideology.
In the case of "body image," for example: I think that the (female, in particular) relationship with the body and the self in general is an important topic not because poor self-image interferes with the ultimate end of happiness and self-love, but because it interferes with the ability to engage in the truly important human pursuits: justice, love, the realization of grace. The whole body image advocacy thing is a fail if the ultimate result is individuals who approve of themselves. The point of the whole body image advocacy thing ought to be, in my opinion, to clear away the barriers to doing things that actually matter.
Neither self-love in itself nor self-loathing is a meaningful pursuit. To be at peace with oneself ought only be an entry point into getting down to the meaningful business of life — engaging in the struggles and stories that extend beyond the individual.
This kind of ties into my personal peace with antidepressants. When I think about it, I don't really like that I have to take them, that there's something wrong either with me or with this world that requires my brain to inhabit the chemical equivalent of a very spacious padded cell, but I take them. Not in order to be happy, but in order to function. Because I have THINGS to do. You see?
Self-loathing is a hindrance in life, but it's a hindrance to more than happiness: Happiness is not my telos. I don't believe it's anyone's.
"The awakened and knowing say: body I am entirely, and nothing else; and soul is only a word for something about the body."
a cool floodlit night. deep enough for birdsong.
if i set my hands at my ribcage and take a measure of
breath, (strength and woman-self,)
then hope is something about
the fit of my palms
about my ribcage. a
spell of as-
"The cultural project of reducing the female person to an objectified body has resulted in a disembodiment of the female person and a depersonalization of the female body. Parallel to this separation from the body runs a consequent separation from agentive possibility."
being this strength and breath,
both breathless and yet inimitably solid.
what does the span of my palms
here at my ribcage
there is nothing insubstantial about the weight of my stride
across this earth.
i sleeping peaceful-bellied under a close ceiling of goose-down.
and body i am entirely.