Nostalgic for Another Age

The Lady in Gold by Anne Marie O’Connor holds my thoughts a lot lately as I’ve been reading it. In a time where wealth, elitism, and a hostile environment towards modernism in art and Jewish culture become a chaotic romantic period all its own. I continually think about what it must have been like to be part of high society. To live with papers writing about you and to see painters display portraits of yourself commissioned and hung on gallery walls. To live during a time of revolution and oppression all at once.

I often think about the way things were then. About what being a young woman in society looked like. The oppression of the feminine sexuality in the brink of its liberation. A time when social standing could be both a blessing and a curse to the private and social life depending on the pastime you chose as a lady. The more I read about it, the more I find myself wishing to ah e lived it. To be part of the golden revolution of sexuality and modernism. To go to fashionable parties and meet the artists of the time, talk to hem about their artistry, to speak on political climates and to spend time bejeweled in gowns at operas with friends.

Most days I wish I was born in another era.

What I both love and loath about the time is he way men treated women. Male callers would respectfully call on you and show you a good time, but to be seen as anything but virtuous while out with the male caller would mean the complete destruction of your eligibility were things not to work out. If you were less fortunate, you’re marriages would be arranged, with wealthy older men who probably had mistresses and STDs. Still, the glamor of the wealthy lifestyle would have been nice. To own palaces and fine jewelry. To attend social events regularly at salons to exchange new and exciting ideas. To get dressed to the aces and go out dancing as a single debutante. The thrill of being chased after, and the thrill of knowing you had a chance against all chances to sense the changing tide of female liberation.

Of course, the book I’m reading takes placed during both WWI and WWII. With political anxiety at its height threatening the liberation you so desperately were seeking and the research of Freud was so nearly honoring, only to be swept under the rug of war along with racism. What a trying, terrifying, and anxious time it would be to live in, if we are being realistic. Not something to envy.

Still, I romanticize the idea of living high society life in those days at its glamorous height. I envision myself much like the rebellious women of the time. Sensually dressed in the latest forbidden fashions. Frequenting salons to talk on the artistic and political climate (which only means talking about men, which I would be a considerable advocate of being young, single, and allowed my forgivable ignorance). Sipping champagne and tea on hot afternoons in galleries, alone and mysterious…and stubbornly unchaperoned. Loudly fighting for women’s suffrage and rights at the turn of the century.

Yes, I’ve been daydreaming about it a lot. Wondering why such things no longer take place? Though, to be realistic once again, such lifestyles require not just wealth, but elitism, something most Americans, myself included, would cringe at. That is the unfortunate issue with fantasies like this…they have so many negatives about them that at the end of the day you wonder how good could anyone in high society, then or now, really have it? Still, the shallow part of me wishes being able to dress up and go to respectable house parties Gatsby style wouldn’t be too bad if one could avoid the drama and times were fairly peaceful.

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Until After the Wedding

Every word she spoke increased my sorrow, and made me realize just how bad my parents relationship had become. Not that I didn’t suspect it at some point to happen. When I was a teenager I noticed that my parents didn’t have much of a relationship, and despite my mothers efforts, my father was clueless and unfortunately more selfish than he would ever realize in his emotional ignorance.

My sorrow deepened even more as I recalled all the times I confided in my mother about concerns I had in my own marriage…and she responded with “You definitely married someone like your father.” No less, all the times she told me “You’re just like your father.”

Thank you mom. You’re so supportive.

The sense of hopelessness that it left in me made me consider that my marriage may end up looking like hers one day. Where my husband feels more like a roommate and less like a husband. Unfortunately hints of that have already started in my relationship, and to divulge my feelings to my husband and get an honest response out of him….I had to get him buzzed so we could talk about it without anyone saving face or telling lies a few nights ago last week.

The hardest part of being in my mothers situation is knowing that she was worth more long before my father was married to her. She was a teacher, with a good savings, paid well in her district, and a solid retirement plan. When my father got hold of the finances after they were married, he lost my mothers retirement and asked her not to go back to work until after we kids were out of the house. A closeted sexist and an unfortunate product of the era of his parents. He wasn’t counting on pregnancy and time to increase my mother’s health problems, and eventually he seemed to set himself up well for retirement and with life insurance policies on both he and my mother, but unfortunately no retirement plan for my mother, and no financial security either. Now she is unable to go back to work, and her health costs are taking them both for all they’re worth…which oddly enough gives me a sense of comfort know my fathers poor decision making has not come without consequences to his actions. It’s just unfortunate that my mother has to lose her peace of mind and security in her marriage over his lacking.

I had been wise in asking my husband to keep our finances separate. A method that many family and friends had given me flack for. Saying that I was not being wise or truthful to my husband about our finances and that it wasn’t right of me as a wife to request it or withhold from my household. Still, my husband was kind enough to agree to it. We each put what we can into our joint account, and we each do what we can to keep our own savings and checking accounts in line. If I’m broke, it is only my fault and no one else’s. No one can financially abuse me. I can choose what I want to invest in or not.

Still, financial abuse is not he only concern my parents relationship has caused me to be afraid of. My father, will sell nothing of his own, but often suggest selling things of my mothers to make ends meet. He will often be distant or removed emotionally and not have any kind of romantic attachment to my mother when he doesn’t feel like it. His moods swing and she falls victim to his coldness, not that he cheats or physically hurts her…but he neglects her…something I have noticed ever since I was old enough to become observant. All attributes I can see great potential of in my own relationship. Which makes me increasingly afraid.

Still I fight so hard to remind myself that my husband is not my father. He tried to ask me how I’m doing. He tries to take care of me. Even if he’s feeling distant he never pushes me away if I attempt to emotionally approach him. He may struggle with words, but he admits that. He asks for affirmation. He asks for my respect when he feels he is not getting it. He never makes unreasonable demands.

Still, we are young both in age and marriage…and so much has yet to happen.

Beach Bummer

My husband didn’t come on this Sunday evening car ride. He had to work. So when my parents stopped in, I felt free to accompany them to the beach to just sit and watch the water move.

“We need you to come up with some different words.”

“Why?”

“Because you always resort to saying, I’m good, just tired.”

Because I’m always fucking tired, mom. I thought as loudly as I could in her general direction. But then I finally blurted out:

“Well would you rather me tell people the truth when they ask me how I’m doing? Would you like me to tell them that the existential crisis is crushing me and my depression is exhausting?”

She said nothing. Her most direct way of mentioning her discomfort was silence. I was used to it by now. So I leaned back in the seat as the breeze met my lips and kissed them and my breath mingled with the summer air. I pretended that my breath alone was the reason the air was becoming more humid. That summer came directly from my mouth. I mouthed the word summer, just to feel a sense of power over nature.

My eyes closed, all I heard were the seagulls on the water honking their loud songs, and my mother shifting in the front passenger seat. Dad was outside the car, talking to an acquaintance of his, who had greeted us only moments before, and to whom I responded when I was asked how I was doing with I’m fine, just tired. Like I did with everyone, including my mother and father.

I had no motivation to get out of the car, neither did my mother. So my father ventured alone into the waves after wishing said acquaintance farewell. As I watched him walk further into the lake, I wondered how long it would take me to drowned if I went out to far and quit trying to swim. I wondered if I would be able to quit swimming if I tried hard enough, or if instinct and discomfort would save me.

On days like this…it felt as if nothing could save me.

Sage Leaves and Dirt

When was the last time my feet had touched the ground? Like, the real ground? Dirt? It had been two weeks at least. Maybe three. So I wandered out to the garden, barefooted and spirit trapped within its own internal war, but he moment my feet hit the grass I felt all that stress and anxiety release. There was sage for picking in the garden. I would start there.

I did not start at the sage, but rather in a desperate moment of anxiety I laid on the grass and stared at the sky for a while. Why? Because I wanted to be reminded that I was so small in so vast of a world. That problems of mine were just as fleeting as my own life, and would soon drift away as time passed. That feelings were just feelings, no matter how strong they are, and that they too could fail me just as my own body could.

I needed to be reminded that I was finite. That a hundred years from now it is unlikely that I will continue to exists in the physical world, and all my emotions and problems would too.

I found comfort in this. As I laid on the ground staring into the sky, watching the clouds change from gold, to pink and purple hues, I found comfort in knowing the sun would also set on my stress, my sorrows, my anxieties, and my whole life. Maybe not today, but one day. I let that comfort wrap around me as the sky deepened in its blue.

I picked my sage and smelled it as I walked back to the stone steps of my tiny porch. Putting a soft leaf in my mouth to chew, I took my last deep breath of fresh air before entering and closing the door. Who knew I could feel so much better with just sage leaves and dirt?

A Really Bad Dr. Visit

“So, I noticed you’re getting fat…”

Really? You couldn’t have said it nicer? You’re a medical physician. A specialist. Yes, I’ve gained weight, but seriously, 150 lbs is not that bad a weight for someone 5’4″ much less a diabetic who has only been skinny because of bad blood sugars for so long. I finally get healthy. I finally get on track. I finally have lower blood sugars and am eating right. Exercising for 30 min to an hour every day, and for what? You to sit in your white coat and crudely call me fat.

This is like, my worst nightmare and it happened only last week when I went to the doctor. I had gotten my blood sugars down for the first time in ages, and finally was food logging, exercising, and doing all kinds of stuff that I ought to be doing…only to have it once again not be enough. When we got home from my appointment I cried to my husband. I made false promises and threats never to eat again (I love food so we all knew it was a lie), and I walked, oh did I walk that night. An angry four mile walk where with every step I cussed out my doctor in my own head. Furiously. Violently.

I had worked so hard to get better, only to get the mixed message that I had gotten worse.

Insulin is not a cure to diabetes. Insulin, at least the more you take it, makes you fat. The fatter you get….the more insulin resistance you build, which means over time your body may not react to insulin anymore if you take too much. The fatter you get the more diabetic complications you can have too…all caused by taking insulin, the very hormone that is supposed to save your life.

Then they tell you, if the high blood sugars don’t kill your organs, being overweight will. So either way you lose.

Oh yeah, eat healthy and exercise right? That’s the cure! So many people talk about diet and exercise like it’s such an easy fix, but really the food industry makes even healthy living hard.

Insulin is like slapping a bandaid on the real problems. Like how healthy and low carb food costs so much money. How medical companies are afraid of us getting better because a healthy nation means they don’t make money. How most foods in the grocery store at all ever, are practically indigestible for the human body, have little to no nutritional value, and causes people to gain weight with high sugar, carb, and cholesterol content. The lack of fiber and protein content. Oh and don’t get me started on artificial sweaters (which also cause weight gain, cancer, and plenty of other issues). All things that cause so many health issues and weight problems in the US, and no one does anything about them.

I eat as low carb as I can in this kind of environment, increasing my proteins and vegetable intake considerably, and even use meal replacement protein shakes with less than a gram of carbohydrates in them (they taste like slightly sweetened chalk water with a touch of sadness, but I still drink them). Last week I managed to get to the store and get myself organic lettuce, organic peanut butter, organic frozen fruit (3 kinds), vanilla yoghurt, strawberry yoghurt, organic chicken breasts, and 5 varieties of organic and nonorganic fruit. It cost me just shy of $100. For so few items. Most of which were on sale. Then I made my husband Jumbalya, and couldn’t eat any of it….the struggle was so real.

Exercise then. Am I right? Surely that’s the cure!

I’ve exercised for 30 min to an hour every night for the last several months. No less than 30 min daily. Either a walk, a bike ride on my recumbent in the basement or outdoors, and playing Racquet Ball once a week for an hour every week with my coworker. Like, really high impact.

So what is a girl to do? How do I get healthy and lose weight as a type one diabetic? I’m considering eating some kind of parasitic worm at this point because I just freaking give up!

Unhelpful Criticism

“I don’t mean to use such harsh words, but this look like something our China team would come up with.”

Please tell me what in this phrase is a helpful direction? What does that even mean? I guess you would have to be a racist to know.

Clearly, my boss really struggles with giving constructive criticism.

This particular phrase really bothers me, firstly, because it speaks badly of a team that the owners of the company chose to work with overseas and that we are trying to have good communication and relationship with. I haven’t ever seen our China team come up with a design, and if they work for us and were chosen by our leadership, why are you insulting them? Aren’t we all working for the same goal? Aren’t we all supposed to be on the same side? Saying things like this puts a bad taste in the domestic team’s mouth and just makes you look racist.

Secondly, “don’t mean to use harsh words,” is not an excuse to then use the harsh words. You do mean to use them. We all know it. It only makes people more aware of how much you actually mean to use and are going to use harsh words. It means you are aware of how you sound. It means the words you have chosen to use, were selected and intentional to be harsh and you know it. Foolishly, you are trying to remove yourself from your own responsibility, which is an indicator of bad leadership. To be a leader is to have responsibility, and to show you wish to remove yourself from the responsibility of your position and the tact you know you ought to have while holding it lessens your dependability.

Constructive criticism doesn’t use “I” or “Me” statements. It explains why a design or photograph does or doesn’t work based off of brand goals and statements. It doesn’t use insulting analogies. It builds up where it needs to and it makes helpful….emphasis on helpful…suggestions to give a better direction.

Consider this a public service announcement.

Victims

My car was in the shop a few days ago, and since my husband and I get off work pretty close together, and our jobs are only a couple blocks away from each other. I told my husband if he dropped me off at work in the morning, I would walk over and meet him at the car in the parking lot at his place of business.

Big mistake. On the way, I got cat called not once, not twice, but 5 times…as well as followed.

The first one was pretty usual. A honk and some lewd yelling. I flipped them off and they sped up. The second was immediately after them, a small piece of the chain reaction, only this one was a man with a young boy no older than eight or so in the passenger seat. I kept walking and mumbled curses under my breath for that one. The third one was just a honk, and when I ignored it and kept walking, they made a u-turn and started back my way very slowly. That really freaked me out so of course, I ducked into the nearest business I could. A hardware store within the block of where my husband worked, and sharing a parking lot. I told the manager what happened, and asked him to forgive me for loitering for a while. He offered to call the cops. I told him I didn’t get a good enough look at the car to really have that be useful. Only that it was a blue car, darker blue, but not navy and not quite royal either. When we looked out to see if any blue cars were around, and saw none, I finally was ushered by the manager to exit the building out the back door to get to the shared parking lot faster.

When I got in the parking lot, and half way across nearly to our car on the far side (where employees are directed to park), I got cat called again. Twice. One guy hollered and I increased my walking speed. Then another guy from another car did too just as I reached for my door handle. I yelled back some vulgar words, remarking on the kind of trash I thought the guy was, since he was nearer to me and I had just about had it with cat callers for one day. He was older too, not like the previous four who were all probably under 40 or so I guessed. I got a better look at him than I did the others since he was closer and moving slower as he was leaving the parking lot.

Of course, when safely in the car I locked myself in, and turned on the AC full blast. The thermostat claimed it was 87 degrees. I felt like I was out of breath and melting. It had been a hot walk in my bootcut black jeans and blazer. What pissed me off was that nothing I was wearing was provocative. No makeup. Wearing all black with a company t-shirt underneath. Which also made me super aware that people who catcalled me on my way to my husbands workplace might now know where I work and watch out for me.

After a quick moment to catch my breath I called my mother to look busy in the car in hopes people would leave me alone. While recounting my tale to her, my mother remarked “I always worry about that with you. You’re so small. Anyone could just grab you up and throw you in a trunk.” Thankfully I’m pretty strong which I half heartedly pointed out to her, but she wasn’t wrong either. On a hot day wearing all black and exhausted by a long workday, I was probably a tired target…which might make me an easy one.

My mother had even asked what I was wearing on my walk after I had recounted my tale and calmed down, conditioned by the culture she grew up in, and every fiber of my feminist being was outraged and I got wound up again. Then I had to calm myself down once more as my heart raced in anger, disappointment, and fear. I was not alone, and how many other women had worse experiences on the matter than I? Too many. It made me angry for them. For the women who were asked the same questions. For the women who were victim blamed.

Why does anyone want to victim blame? It’s rude and insulting to the victim, and it doesn’t call-out the perpetrator for their harassment. II’ve thought about it for a while now. Why do people victim blame? The more I think about it the more complex the answers or reasons become. Part of it is I think people want to give others the benefit of the doubt to make their worlds feel a little safer. Cat callers mean no harm. They would never act on their catcall. It’s just a compliment right? Besides it doesn’t it take two to tango? Then there is the justification issues. Lot of people do it (apparently) so anyone might feel justified in asking how the victim may be asking for it because they have catcalled women before thinking outfits and mannerisms are some kind of justification for it. They want to justify their own actions so they don’t feel badly about it, or worse, they don’t think they’ve done anything wrong.

When I was harassed, I felt objectified and upset, and when I was followed for a while by the blue car, it didn’t really feel like I was being complimented as some might think. It felt like I was being intimidated. Maliciously targeted. I was afraid. I hated it. Worst part? I got cat called walking to my car (which I had gotten back that afternoon from the shop) in the parking lot the next day when I left work.

So what do I do about it? I can’t go back in time and call cops or come up with better comebacks. So as an artist and letterpress printer, I decided to make posters. A weird response I know, but it was more or less to release my anger as well as an act of public service. Because letterpress printing has its therapeutic qualities. The result:

It’s a pretty great feminist work if I do say so myself. I also like how the image shows the rectum as well, so you can either think it says don’t be a dick, or don’t be an asshole! Or both! You can pick your part! This poster was also a really satisfying way to use my newly purchased gold ink, which looks beautiful on the black hand-cut card stock. Not bad, for my first truly feminist work.

Ideal Accident II

I know not a lot of people seem to believe in God given moments of strength anymore. Yet, even while I didn’t expect it, it was certainly made clear to me.

It’s amazing how in all His power He shows Himself in whispers. How clearly we see them after He has been so soft and subtle. How foolish I often feel that He was holding me in His hands and I never knew.

Yet, how many does He hold and they refuse to see.

Since the car accident, I have taken to heart a great deal of thankfulness and humility in a very short amount of time. Mainly because, it has come to my attention, that I did not once have a panic attack during our trip about driving. Even during and after the accident.

This is only a complete miracle. Considering that prior to the accident I had so many concerns about driving such long distances. Yet, in the moment of crisis, I was not panicked to dysfunction, but rather I was able to act in clarity and with sober (albeit shaken) emotions.

Upon this realization I thanked God feverishly over that. Because there is nothing within me that indicates that I should have been able to do so. Even my husband, whom I love and is usually the level headed one, was brought to an unreal place of panic that I had to coach him through after he got off the phone with the police. Even then I was so proud of him for holding it together while he called the cops.

Still, Im certain so little of that was in our own strength. It was clearly a God moment for me, and I continue to be shameless about telling myself and others that it was.

Not only that though. The fact that engineers were created to give us safe cars is a miracle. The fact that police officers put themselves in such a place of danger to help people like us on dangerous interstates is a miracle. The same for tow trucks who maneuver heavy machinery to keep the highways safe for others is a miracle too.

In light of darker times, seeing people help other people can also seem like a miracle.

Ideal Accident

People always say “It happened so fast,” and you nod in agreement usually because you can, to a degree, understand how an accident can only take a few seconds to happen, but unless you have been in an accident, you really don’t know how quickly “so fast” happens.

Today I learned the hard way.

We hydroplaned on the interstate and ran into the median. I knew the moment I tapped my break to decelerate from my cruise control as I felt my car fishtail that it had been a mistake to even tap the break at all. Neither of us was hurt. Both of us were shook up and knew we were not emotionally fit to drive.

The cop was really friendly. He issued no ticket since he had also been caught in the downpour prior and nearly lost control himself. Low visibility then too. Traffic didn’t slow. It didn’t even slow when we hit the wall, but then again we hit no one and thus no one felt obligated to stop. He kept saying how it was good that we were both buckled and that I did all I did to stay out of the rest of traffic, however ungraceful it felt.

My aunt drove us half way home, my dad met us at a park-n-ride and took us the rest of the way. We loaded, unloaded, and reloaded vehicles. I spent at least an hour on the phone with the insurance agent as we sat in a BK parking lot. In all honesty I told the insurance gal that if I had to have my first accident this was an ideal accident to have happen. It was near family. It was just us. I did all I could to stay in my lane and hit no one else. It could not have gone better as far as accidents were concerned. Still the sinking feeling of watching our own bumper get ripped off and the sparks flying as we scrapped helplessly to a halt against the concrete didn’t make the accident seem so ideal.

I wondered what would have happened if we had left a little later in the morning? If we had went to the in-laws first before we got on the road? Would conditions have been improved? Would it have mattered? Then, to top it all off, I totaled my husbands car and induced quite a panic attack in him. I kept finding myself asking if he was mad at me for breaking his car. He said he was mad that he didn’t have a car, but not mad that I had an accident. It wasn’t my fault. He was just glad we were alive despite his attachment to his little car, which was old and probably was nearing the end of its long life anyway.

A little whiplash had settled into my neck, so I took an epsom salt bath and some Tylenol after I had finished all my phone calls to the family. My husband joined me in the tub a little while later and held me close as I thanked God silently for the safety we were granted in our accident. We stayed there until the water cooled before snuggling our aching bodies in bed together and breathing in unison as the cats cuddled near our feet. We still had my car. We were alive and home. It was enough.

The Vacation That Wasn’t

When one goes on vacation in the area that family lives, one really isn’t on vacation. I have noticed this since becoming an adult, and it was further reinforced when I got married. We come to MI to relax, and we end up leaving way more tired than we came.

Were it my choice, and had I the funds to stay in the area without and family knowing, I would simply not notify anyone that I was around, and take time to myself to recover from the busy hustle and bustle of my own daily life, unfortunately, my husband is not that way. He would rather let everyone know we are around, and then let all others instigate our plans, by making them for us…because as I’ve said before, he is not a master of planning.

While well meaning, my family is not exactly a relaxing group of people to be around. They are intense, opinionated, loud, and not always the wisest. Still, they’re well meaning. They just think everyone should be happy. An opinion I have mentioned in previous posts, that I do not hold. I don’t think life is about being happy. I believe it is about doing the right thing, even when it is not in our nature to do so and can mean personal unhappiness. So I often just smile and tell them that everything is wonderful. Because that is easier than arguing with them about learning to ride the waves of that which we do not enjoy or find happiness in.

Coming to visit the family is very much a chore, but one that is an act of love I try to put efforts into all the same. I want to have a relationship with my family, even if it is a shallow one (because my family struggles with depth) and I want them to know that I am willing and glad to love them to the extent they’ll let me. However, this takes great effort from me, because the emotional toll of giving them my time when it often feels a bit wasteful, is difficult. I’m not good at small talk. I’m not good at talking about myself verbally. I’m not good at being around groups of people for very long amounts of time. So spending time with my family exhausts me. Which makes vacations to visit them, no vacation at all.

My husband, of course, is completely in his element on these occasions, so much of the time he drags me around to the homes of friends and family at his own pace, and often I have to tell him to leave me be for a bit and go visit people without me, simply because I cannot people anymore. Only yesterday I had driven two hours from where we were staying to visit my brother and sister-in-law because we had not yet seen their new house up north. It’s a lovely place, but of course, after having driven two hours back home, my husband wants to go spend time with his own grandmother, by this point I’ve spent a total of 9 hours driving in two days time and seen not only both brother and his wife and my aunts (whom we are staying with), but also my in-laws, a couple friends, and my grand parents. In two days. That’s just too much for me. So I sent him off to visit his grandmother on his own, because I just couldn’t make it happen. I was too exhausted.

This afternoon we have a lunch at my grandparents house. Both my aunts, my in-laws, and us will be there. After that we may go spend time with my sister-in-law to watch movies, or I’ll just send my husband and hope she understands that is have spent far too much time with people to have energy for that sort of thing. I just need to take a long nap or something.