Friday, September 4, 2015

Limitations

A few months ago, a friend invited me to go to the theater with her. I said no thanks since I don't do stuff anymore. Live theater? Too expensive when I might get a migraine and either not go or force myself to go and be miserable. A movie? Even with earplugs, it's loud enough that I might get a migraine. Concert? Completely unthinkable.

Plus, the travel to and from stuff is full of peril. I could get a migraine if the subway is too hot, I sit near someone wearing perfume or if it's just too crowded. And if there are too many stairs involved, I can do it, but I won't be able to walk the next day because I'm so out of shape from being sick all the time.

I don't know about you, but I'm getting pretty bored with my "woe is me" routine. If I could just get a break from myself, it would be so much easier to put up with my shit. But I come here not to complain, but to make a point.

The thing is, I've always had limitations.

I used to roller skate in front of my house with a broomstick to steady myself. It embarrassed the Hell out of my mother, but I ignored her encouragements to try skating without a metaphorical net. This is because:
1. I really, really, really hated falling. Still not a fan, to be honest.
2. I was born with birth defects in my ankles and so they're pretty unsteady. Me on skates at all was either a miracle or evidence of utter stupidity.

Once in gym class, we had to walk a balance beam type thing, only higher. It was pretty much a two by four balanced on the stage and a ladder. The teacher gave us the option of using a big stick to steady ourselves. I went last and was the only one who opted to use the stick. I was openly mocked. I'm sure this was before I smashed my knees up in a car accident because we were still taking gym with the boys. (Starting in 7th grade, they split us up and the girls got stuck doing aerobics and other lame shit while the boys got to go outside and play baseball, which I suck at, but it would've been nice to to go outside. Apparently, our boobs would explode when exposed to fresh air.)

But I didn't care about my classmates' audible disgust. I'm clumsy and afraid of heights, and I was 10 years old, tops. I was going to do whatever it took to stay out of my school's non-existent nurse's office.


We've all got limitations. When you're a kid, you can't reach the high shelves and you want to eat candy until you puke, which isn't healthy for anyone. Until the age of 25, we're limited by our inability to truly understand the consequences of our actions (hence the higher car insurance rates). Some people can't sing. Some people can't remember the difference between their, there and they're and are judged by everyone else who was paying attention in school that day.

Yet we tend not to honor our limitations. We hide them so that people won't attack us for them. But the thing is - people who exploit other people's vulnerabilities are assholes. 

We don't want to live in a world run by assholes, but we do. And we let it happen. Every time we see someone be an asshole to someone else and we leave it to the target to defend themselves. It isn't rude to stand up for another adult - it's kind and supportive.

Sure I can stand up for myself. But I feel a lot less delusional when someone sides with me.

And then there are the people who don't respect our limitations. They're not assholes, they're just clueless. My friend actually appreciated it when I said I couldn't go to the theater with her. It's better than being cancelled on at the last minute if I was felled by a migraine. But other people might cajole and push me to go even though it's a bad idea. Not because they're assholes, but because they enjoy my company. Which is nice, but I'm shitty company when I'm in pain.

So I've started respecting my limitations as loudly as possible. When my extended family did a big camping trip this summer, I made it clear that for me right now, "camping trip" is spelled "let's go be sick in a forest." No one laid on any guilt or pressure. It's not like the entire extended family went anyway - and at this point, we'd probably have to reserve an entire mountain just to fit us all.

I'm also skipping a destination wedding next year because I don't want to be sick on a gorgeous beach. (And somebody will figure out how to live stream the festivities, or at least hold up their phone so I can watch via FaceTime.)

People can't respect my limitations if they don't know what they are.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

How to Make Coffee

This post originally appeared on my now defunct food writing blog, The Famished Freelancer, on 11/21/13.

Coffee in the morning
Photo credit: chichacha
My mother makes terrible coffee. So she has been told, and thus she shall believe evermore.  I'm not sure I've ever had coffee that she's made, since she hasn't made a pot since before I was old enough to drink the stuff.

You know how I learned how to brew coffee? We were throwing a party, and I was, let's say twelve or thirteen. And my mother asked me to make a pot of coffee because everyone hates her coffee. So I read the can of coffee. 

1 tablespoon of coffee grounds for every 6 ounces of water. 

I figured out how to work a drip coffee maker, put in the right amount of coffee grounds and water and got loads of compliments.

That's it. That's the big secret that has eluded my mother for decades. My mother, the science teacher. She's smart enough to learn how to make coffee, but she's decided that it's a hopeless cause.

My brother made some progress and taught both our parents to make coffee his way. But he makes coffee like a crazy person - fill the grinder with beans and call that the right amount of coffee for a pot. He never makes less than a whole pot of coffee, and if anyone complains that his coffee is too strong, he tells them to add water.  How they're supposed to do this after they've already added milk and there's no room in their mug is not his problem.

When it comes to coffee, my brother and logic are not are one with each other. 

He once ranted to me for five minutes about how evil Starbucks is. And then told me how delicious venti caramel macchiatios with an extra shot are. I suspect all the caffeine has affected his mind over the years.

My mother's inability to make coffee has not been an issue for most of her life because she was a tea drinker. Hell, she probably started making bad coffee to get back at people for forcing her to make coffee for them, you know, fighting the patriarchy. 

And she was content with this until her fellow teachers got her hooked on the daily coffee run. 

And now she's retired and doesn't have people bringing her coffee anymore. And she doesn't want to make a whole pot like my brother taught her because she only wants one cup. And she's decided that measuring out 2 tablespoons of coffee grounds and 12 ounces of water is just way to complicated. (And in fairness, I've seen her before she's had her caffeine - that may be an accurate assessment.)

So she got herself a k-cup coffee maker. Because it's easier to have other people dig petroleum out of the ground (and fight wars over it), turn it into plastic, mine the metal for the foil lids, then drive a truck (fueled by more petroleum) to take away the cups and lids to be recycled than it is to wield a measuring spoon before breakfast.

I'm just saying that people who live in flood zones should be a little nicer to Momma Nature. And that if you're going to insist that you can't do something I taught myself to do when I was twelve, I get to make fun of you.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

RoboJen

I could be a cute robot, but that would be weird.
I'm ready to have my consciousness uploaded into an android. I'm just waiting for technology to catch up. 

Yes, it's a horrifying idea, but ponder this - some scientists believe that they'll be able to make people live forever. This could happen in our lifetime. But think about it - do you really want to be immortal in the body you have? Chronic pain condition, bad ankles, bad knees, bad back and neck, nearsighted as fuck - screw immortality, scientists need to get on making my body work well before I consider staying in it for more than the standard 8 decades or so.

But an android body that we know how to maintain and fix? Sign me up. 

His Awesomeness and I started discussing this while we were crammed into tiny airplane seats on a visit to his family (the only travel my health has allowed for a few years). I was probably thinking about it because the latest migraine-preventing meds gave me such severe vertigo that I had to stop taking it. Because, of course it did. Other medications that failed to prevent my migraines have brought side effects such as extreme sleepiness, extreme wakefulness, suicidal thoughts (not impulses, just thoughts - weird one, that), and a permanently droopy eyelid. Add to that the meds that didn't have side effects, but didn't help either, and bring on the RoboJen.

To his credit, HA says that he'd want me uploaded into am android that looks just like me. It's probably those tiny airline seats talking, but I'd want RoboJen to be thinner than I am so that air travel and public transportation were more comfortable. 

But that bugs me. I don't torture myself with diets that don't work in an attempt to appease the assholes who have a beef with fat people. So why should I do it when it comes to imaginary RoboJen? I don't feel like I'm letting down the cause of Health At Every Size. It's just that bowing to assholes bugs the shit out of me. 

In this case, the asshole include the airlines who have made seats more and more unpleasant so that we'll pony up for first class. After the pix of the horrible hexagon airline seating plan circulated online, I decided to give in. Even though that seating plan may never see the light of day or be implemented in the US. If a picture of airline seats makes me claustrophobic, then I give up. For this year's trip to the Midwest, we're taking Amtrak with a private sleeper roommette. Paying for extra legroom or even first class may be in my future. Or maybe Valium so I don't mind flying coach so much.

Of course, if I could afford a robot body, then I could afford first class.

A healthy me (especially in android form) would be a very different me. But becoming RoboJen would be a change that benefits me. Becoming a skinner RoboJen would also benefit me, but only in the sense that sadistic airlines wouldn't be able to bully me into upgrading to First Class. 

I just read the lovely short story Today I Am Paul by Martin L. Shoemaker in Clarkesworld magazine. It's told from the point of view of a caretaker android that can change its appearance and behavior to simulate whoever his dementia-siffering patient thinks he is. So now my ideal RoboJen would look like me, but would contract into a skinny person for airline travel, pulling children out of well, etc.

Because if I'm going to have a robot body, then I'm going to have it all.



Would you want a robot body? Would it look just like you? Tell me in the comments.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Letting Go

The latest thing I'm trying to fix the migraines is EFT tapping. Essentially, you tap on certain acupressure points while talking to yourself. The physical tapping tells your lizard brain to calm the fuck down and the talking helps you focus and bring up feelings and emotions that you may still be holding on to.

On the most basic level, it helps with pain relief because pain = danger, so your lizard brain freaks out, flooding your body with adrenaline which then makes the pain worse. Because brains are hysterical idiots. So at least you stop making the pain worse.

For years, my doctors have been saying that something - they don't know what, but something - must be making my body so susceptible to migraines. EFT would say that my body is carrying around a lot of repressed emotions. Not that I'm self sabotaging or at fault. Subtle, but important difference there.

We're taught to zip it (especially women). Don't feel what you're feeling and certainly don't express it. But feelings don't just evaporate into the air. They hang around and create emotional and physical triggers.

I'll give you a generic, not triggering to anyone example. I was once in a meeting where we were reviewing a document I'd written. So I was running the meeting. As we're about to start, my manager comes in and announces he's sitting in (to judge my performance). He snatches away my copy of the document and won't let me leave to print out another copy for myself.

You're probably confused just reading that. How could he expect me to conduct a document review without referring to the document? Someone else gave me her copy. But my manager kept interrupting me and yelling at me. And all I could do was exchange WTF looks with my colleagues. I couldn't let myself react because he outranked everyone in the room and when your manager is being an asshole to you, you can't call them on it. Not if you want to stay employed. 

So all the shock, anger, confusion and whatnot that I started to feel in that meeting, but shoved aside? It stayed in my body. When I tapped and talked myself through that incident, I physically felt the anger. The stress of it all was still with me, causing the chronic inflammation which seems to be the mysterious thing that makes me so likely to get a migraine. (Maybe. Who knows at this point? It could take a year for this to work for good.)

With tapping, you feel the emotions and let them go as much as you can. The tapping relaxes you enough to really understand that you're not in that experience anymore and you're safe so you can move on now.

Which sounds great. But.

Yeah, yeah, I know that holding on to anger is like holding a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at someone - you get burned way more than they do. But what if your anger is the only thing validating your experience?

In that meeting, my coworkers exchanged looks with me that let me know it wasn't all in my head. Manager was acting cray. But what if he had acted that way with no witnesses? What about all the other experiences that people deny?

"I can't believe it."
"That doesn't sound like him."
"You caused it."

And no, I'm not talking about crazy bosses anymore. My anger was the only thing letting me say that this happened, and it wasn't okay. 

I'm working my way through Tapping for Pain Relief, which I can't recommend enough. In the chapter about anger, he suggests making a list of people you're angry with, then tap while going over everything you'd say to them if you could. (In many cases you could tell the person off, but you're never going to get what you need from them.) So I made a list of everyone I'd love to tell off. It felt like Arya Stark's kill list.

I started with the person I had the most anger with and I did not want to let it go. He's apologized, but it's still not enough. There is nothing he can ever do or say to make up for what he did to me. There is no way to make this all right.

Yet

"I can't believe it."
"That doesn't sound like him."
"You caused it."

In this case, letting go of anger feels like agreeing with everyone who's trying to gaslight me about things that have happened to me. It's my anger and you can't have it! My anger is my only testament to the truth. My anger was the only thing not telling me to just get over it and shut up already. Sometimes it felt like my anger was the only thing on my side.

I knew this anger was causing me chronic pain, but I sure as fuck was't going to forgive for touchy feely reasons. You have to be kind to yourself, but you also have to be honest.

I kept tapping on my anger and came up with a solution. I didn't have to forgive. I didn't have to release my anger for my own good. But I could release my anger out into the universe where it could hurt him instead of me, instant karma style. It was still pretty airy fairy, but it got the anger out of my body without taking away my power. I could finally throw the burning coal.

I came up with a new mantra - I don't have to be angry to be right.




I continued tapping and realized that he can't hurt me anymore. He can't say anything to fix it, but he can't say anything to hurt me anymore. He may try to blame me for what happened like he's done before, in between apologies. But it won't matter because I've moved on. I'm safe now because no matter what he does - fuck that guy.

Did my migraines go away after that breakthrough? No. Tapping can cure pain quickly, but it's not working that way for me. My kill list is almost 20 people long, though most of them don't inspire a primal need to hold on to my anger. It took me over 2 weeks to work through the list. And every time, I reminded myself that I don't have to be angry to be right. And it felt true, and honest and healing.

I may work my way through this book and then start over immediately. I may need to keep tapping every day for a year or more until I get better. Which is fine. Tapping is also good for managing anxiety, helping you focus and a bunch of other stuff. Doing it daily is a good idea anyway.

Will this be the cure? I have no idea. But unlike most of the other treatments, it has zero side effects. And my frozen shoulder* spontaneously healed, so that's pretty damn encouraging. I'm trying other things as well while we see how this goes. But even if it doesn't stop my migraines, I feel more at peace because I no longer need my anger to protect me.

*I pulled a shoulder muscle. It hurt when I moved it. So I stopped moving it. Then it stopped letting me move it. I'm not the first idiot to do that, and I won't be the last.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Hey, Hey, We're The Boomers

IFC has been showing The Monkees TV series, which just may be the silliest, stupidest, most fun TV show ever.

But...

I'm having trouble reconciling my love for The Monkees with my annoyance at the entire Baby Boomer generation.

Since the media tends to forget that there are generations besides the Boomers and Millennials, let's recap.

Greatest Generation - Grew up during the Depression, fought in WW2, racist and sexist because the good old days were only good for white men. (Hmm...maybe generations aren't completely one thing or another. Let's take this moment to say that my bitching about Baby Boomers is a broad generalization and of course it doesn't apply to you.)

Silent Generation - Born just before or during WW2. Think Don Draper. (On The Colbert Report, Matthew Weiner said that he got complaints from Boomers that Mad Men wasn't spending enough time on the Boomer hippie counter culture. He wasn't interested in telling those stories because they'd been told so much. Watch it here.) They were old enough during the 60s to have noticed what a horrible time it was to live through with the draft and social unrest and can we just integrate a school without someone threatening to kill children?

Baby Boomers - born after WW2. There are so many of them that many of them could only go to school for half days because the system just couldn't handle that many kids. Some worries about social security are based on the same thing - there's just so many of them! Which is the same thing we all hate about locusts. And zombies. They also get credit for the social and cultural advances of the era. Some of it is deserved and some of it...well, John Lewis, the student leader of the civil rights movement is from the Silent Generation. As were the Peggy Olsens of the world who paved the way for women in the workplace in later decades. You can't be blamed for forgetting this fact because Baby Boomers spent so much time talking about everything they did to save the world. Even though your racist tea party uncle who always ruins Thanksgiving is a Baby Boomer.

Generation X - Don't mind us, we just invented Twitter and Google and blogs and grunge music. Slackers, my ass. When the media remembers we exist, it's usually to get snarky about our pop culture obsessions. But that's OK - we learned to tolerate being ignored by our Silent Generation parents, who #1 were ignored by popular culture themselves and #2 ignored us because parenting was all about benign neglect back then. 

Millennials - Have more ways to communicate than any generation before them in all of history. Refuse to answer work e-mails. From what I hear, also refuse to define their sexual/romantic relationships because saying, "hey, are we exclusive or what?" displays too much...I don't know, self respect? Think they're the first generation in America's history that will do worse than their parents, even though that's actually Gen X. Are already kicking ass and taking names at making the world a better place for everyone who isn't a white male. I mean, we did our bit, but we didn't have this many activists who are still in high school. Though maybe we did and just didn't know because we didn't have the web yet.

Which is just a long way of explaining why when The Monkees sing, "we're the young generation, and we've got something to say," I always respond, "We know! You never shut up about it!"

Boomers spent their teen years listening to The Beatles and what would become classic rock. Generation X also grew up listening to the music of our generation - when we could find it among all the classic rock radio stations. We were barraged with so many messages about how great the 60s were that we had to throw our own Woodstock concerts. Until they became messy train wrecks like the original, and we stopped.

It's hard to hear The Monkees' war protest songs with the wisdom of hindsight. All these anti-war Boomers were awfully eager to declare war on Iraq. Especially since we don't have a draft anymore, and they don't have to worry about their own kids getting called up to serve.

They set out to save the world from war with all the earnest sincerity that task required. Instead, they saved their children from the draft and the military-industrial complex carried on with a professional military.

I watch The Monkees romping around to Last Train to Clarksville, and all I can do is shake my head and say, "Oh, honey."

It's hard to be nostalgic about something once the associated bullshit has been exposed.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Those Fucking Duggars

So, a member of America's Freakiest Family was a child molester when he was a child himself (and may still be for all we know). Color me unsurprised. Since I read about this over a year ago. (The current furor is prompted by In Touch magazine obtaining legal records proving the story.) Plus, they've always been pretty fucking creepy.

Which makes sense since they belong to the Quiverfull movement, which aims to ensure that conservative Christians win the culture wars by outnumbering the rest of us via giant families. No, really. The name refers to a quiver full of arrows - arrows being children in this case. They like their women subservient and pregnant as often as God allows. Even when it's a health risk to the mother, or the marriage has already produced several children with special health needs. 

They also don't believe in going into debt, so many Quiverfull families live in overcrowded conditions. That gorgeous house The Duggars live in? They were building it themselves (literally - home school field trips were to construction sites so the older ones could learn how to build a house), debt-free, when TLC came along and did a special on completing the house - with professional assistance. Without TLC, the Duggars would still be living in a 2 bedroom apartment. They were clearly in over their heads with that one.

How do I know so much about the Duggars? Because they're a total freak show and I could not look away. I read about them and their religion as much as I could, because what the hell was wrong with these people?! You see pictures of them now and see a very large family. Back when they first sullied our televisions, they dressed like Mormon fundamentalists. 

Actually, that's completely unfair to Mormon fundamentalists. The Duggars dressed in a style best described as Prairie Hideous. Their (shared) dresses all featured giant white bibs or collars, so they could, "draw attention to their faces" and away from their sinful, sinful bodies. Of course, all those dresses drew attention to was themselves. (Pictures here.)

I watched, along with a lot of my raging liberal friends, because TLC was/is a modern freak show. When we first met the Duggars, TLC was all about extremely large families, conjoined twins (and their separation surgeries, allowing us to gawk at their anatomy) and dwarfism. Instead of gaping at people in person in a carnival tent, TLC let us gape at them through the TV. And back then, the Duggars' clothes and hair alone were enough to qualify them for the freak show circuit. They started dressing more mainstream to protect the ratings of the show, which is really the only way to support that many kids.

I finally couldn't watch anymore when I saw how much the daughters were drinking the kool-aid. One of the older daughters was asked by a producer how she felt about not be allowed to kiss boys. (They can't even hold hands without parental permission.) She pretended not to know what he was talking about and insisted that she'd kissed her brothers - and kissed one of the little ones on the cheek to prove her point. She was trying to be sarcastic, but failed. And knowing what we know now...ugh.

By that point, I'd already been worrying about how many fans they had. Millions of people were watching them sincerely instead of hate watching them. It made me queasy to see how many people agreed with their extremely retrograde world view.

This past week, I've seen liberals drowning in their own smugness on social media. Yes, their religion protects molesters and blames the victim. It has such a fucked up view of sex that the little ones are forbidden from dancing because moving their body in an enjoyable way could lead to masturbation. So yeah, I can even go along with the argument that their religion encourages sex crimes through extreme repression and misogyny. 

But - and here is where I've forced to defend the goddamn Duggars, and don't think for a minute I feel good about it - as far as we know, not all Quiverfull men are child molesters. We haven't heard anything about any other molesting Duggar brothers, and I'm sure that there is more investigative journalism going in that area right now than in corporate corruption and other worthier causes. So I'm going to assume that there's a good chance that at least once Duggar son over the age of 14 has gotten that far without molesting his sisters. #NotAllQuiverfullMen if you will. 

Now, I'm not saying this to be fair or because I like them - because I don't. I point out this fact because people love to point their finger at anyone who hurts children and declare how they'd never do that themselves. (When a local child was killed a couple of years ago, all the quotes in news stories were either expressing sympathy for the parents, or horror at the killer (how could he do that?). I didn't hear anyone sympathizing with the poor little boy, who must've been so scared and now doesn't get to grow up because he asked the wrong person for directions.) Child abusers and molesters are "other".

Except they're not. Children are far more likely to be molested by a relative or friend of the family than by a stranger. (In case you don't feel like clicking, 90% - that's ninety fucking percent - of reported sexual abuse is done by someone the kid knows.) America has been watching several sexual abuse survivors every week on 19 Kids and Counting, and had no idea. Abuse victims are so good at pretending everything's fine that no one had a clue until they finally get the courage to tell someone. And too often that someone doesn't believe them because their abuser seems so normal. So not "other".

And that's why I'm (sort of, not really) defending the Duggars. Because if we're going to protect our children, and support survivors of abuse, then we need to stop thinking that only freaks abuse. That it's only creepy uncles and weird strangers we have to worry about. Yes, we still need to teach kids about stranger danger, but anyone can be a physical or sexual abuser. You can't assume that you know what everyone does behind closed doors.

I'm not saying that we should teach kids to be afraid of everyone they know, or that we can't trust anyone. I'm saying that we need to get over our false assumptions so we can protect kids from all abusers instead of just the ones that fit the profile.

So no, I won't be rejoicing over the Duggars' downfall, no matter how much I've wanted to wipe those smiles off of their smug faces. Because the problem is so much bigger than them.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Stop Making Me Defend Snoop Dogg

Mont Saint Michel, but it could be Kings Landing
People are making fun of Snoop Dogg or Snoop Lion, or whatever he's calling himself these days for saying that Game of Thrones is historically accurate. Fans of the show love to make fun of other fans who miss the fact that Westeros is clearly not on Earth. It's that sort of superiority that geeks just love.

But let's look at it realistically. George R.R. Martin based the plot on the War of the Roses. The Lannisters are based on the real-life Lancasters, and so forth. The style of this world is based on Medieval Europe. There's nothing all that alien or foreign it the look of this world. Game of Thrones relies heavily on Earth mythology - swords, knights, beheadings, dragons, zombies (albeit ice zombies). 

When you look at the map of Game of Thrones the geography, it's nothing like Earth, except...it may not be as heavily based on European geography as the Lord of the Rings was, but still, it kind of is. The seven kingdoms are on a big island continent, and then you cross The Narrow Sea to get to more countries. England is on an island with other nations (Scotland and Wales), and from there you cross the English Channel (a narrow sea) to get to other countries. Hell, the big giant ice wall manned by the Night's Watch is blatantly Hadrian's Wall.

The only thing that's radically different is that summer and winter each last for years unread of months, and the duration is irregular. Winter can last for 7 years or 20. But I think we can forgive some fans from noticing that important detail. The show might as well be called, Wait, Who Is That Again? Between all the naked bodies, and massacres and a cast so large that some of them only see each other on the red carpet...exactly how shocking is it that some fans think this show based on the events of medieval England is actually taking place in medieval England?

Oh, and scientists have figured out a way for those long, irregular seasons to be theoretically scientifically possible. Basically, big cosmic disaster screws up a planet's orbit. With all the talk on Game of Thrones about how entire societies can crumble and disappear (like Valeria which we sailed past last week), how can we be sure that this isn't all taking place many thousands of years in the future? All this has happened before, all this will happen again. 

I'm not putting forth my own little fan theory. But I am saying that people need to fucking roll with it when other fans mistake Westeros for medieval England. Because in some ways, it is.