Mourning Carrie Fisher (and so many more)

Everyone is touched, in their lives, by different things. People react differently to what is going on in the world. When you are raised in a home where a thing is prominent, that thing becomes an unwavering part of who you are. You may not love the thing as you grow into adulthood but it is there, woven into the fabric of your soul. It is a part of who you are and the thing taught you lessons.

For me, music was a huge part of my life growing up. I would lie on the living room floor in front of the massive 70s style stereo system and listen to records and an AM radio “oldies” station for hours. I was almost always doing something else – drawing, reading, writing – but I had the music on. As I grew older, I carried the music with me. It has evolved and changed and now that massive stereo has been replaced with a tiny microchip and an internet server somewhere in a far off land. For me, 2016 has taken some of the prominent voices of that part of my life.

I was ten years old in the summer of 1991. I was helping my aunt assemble bouquets and centerpieces for her wedding while we listened to the soundtrack of Purple Rain. Although I’m sure it wasn’t the first time I’d ever heard those songs, it was my first, concentrated, “this is important” dosage. It was the exposure that would stick with me.

I can’t tell you how old I was the first time I saw David Bowie in Labyrinth (although, I can tell you I was young enough to call it Laby-rin-ith) but I know I loved it. Jim Henson was to mini me what Tim Burton has become to adult me: an enormous influence on my personality and my creativity. I would be lying if I said there wasn’t some part of me that wanted more than anything to follow Sarah into the Labyrinth and if I were to say that my love for the Frouds didn’t come from Labyrinth and the Dark Crystal, I would be naive or lying.

It seems silly to say, at this point, while talking about huge influences on my life, but Careless Whisper was (and really probably still is, cheesey as it might be) one of my favorite songs as an over-dramatic, broody pre-teen. 12-13 year old me would belt out the lyrics I didn’t fully understand to pictures of boys who didn’t appreciate everything I wanted to offer them.

The rest of 2016’s victims have been no less influential on my life, though.

Gene Wilder was in so many of the movies that introduced me to comedy as a child. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, aside, I watched those comedies 100 times over. Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Silver Streak, Stir Crazy. In many ways, those movies became part of the standard to which I still hold all comedy.

Alan Rickman was Snape, but he was also the Sheriff of Notingham. And he was Metatron and Hans Gruber and he had that voice that carried his deadpan sarcastic wit with such grace and poise that even poop jokes seemed eloquent. He may very well have taught me everything I know about sarcasm and snark.

I will be 100% with you and say I was probably three years old when I watched the original Star Wars trilogy. I saw Episode I and II in the theatre when they first came out (one of them twice because two different friends wanted to take me). I did not see Episode III and I haven’t seen VII or VIII. But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate their value or everything that Carrie Fisher and Princess Leia were to the world, as icons of true feminism alone. Leia as a character and Carrie as a woman were strong, powerful women in the world of the 1970s that, despite its claims of enlightenment and advancement, had not yet fully embraced the strength and power of a woman who could hold her own in an intergalactic war – or in the quiet, hidden warzone of Hollywood.

When someone mourns the death of a celebrity, they are not mourning the death of someone they have never met. They are mourning what that person meant in their lives. They are mourning the influence that person had on who they have become and who they will continue to be later on. They are not foolish or naive, they should not be mocked or ridiculed. Something that celebrity created in their time on earth touched that regular vanilla person’s life so profoundly that had that celebrity or that creation never existed, that regular vanilla person wouldn’t be the same person they are today. Something that celebrity created was responsible for a key sequence in the coding that makes that regular vanilla person tick the special way they tick today. Without that sequence in their coding, we would never know how they might be different but it might be the thing that makes them your friend.

untitled music post

Friends have started recapping their top 10s in music. Top 10 favorite albums of 2016, top 10 best concerts….

Leaving aside that if I ATTEND ten concerts in a year, I must have won the lottery or something, I don’t even know ten albums to make a list. It’s not an age thing. I didn’t suddenly get too old to know what the kids are listening to. It’s a disconnected thing. I no longer have the people in my life with whom I once talked about music. I no longer feel like I have the resources I used to have.

Steven was (is) a musician and one of the biggest music lovers I’ve ever known. He could spend hours digging through the racks of a record store. He found something new to love almost weekly. And he shared it all with me. I learned more about music, not only discovered new bands and new styles but how to find them on my own, while I was with him.

After we weren’t together anymore, I still did a lot of that. I searched for new music anywhere I could. I had to because so much of what I had to listen to reminded me of him and I didn’t want anything in my life that reminded me of him. So I went looking for something that was strictly my own. That’s how I found Kill Hannah, but that’s a story I’ve told more times than I can count.

MySpace was a great resource. When I was going through all of that, MySpace had all of their musicians divided up by major labels, indie labels, and unsigned. You could scroll through page after page of links to profiles for bands including “for fans of…” lists of other band each one sounded like. Within the next year, that feature kind of stopped working and then it went away completely, relieving me of yet another resource for new music.

Ryan and I had shared a lot of music before Steven came along. Years later, we tried to pick up the same conversation but it was different because I had had new influences. A fundamental difference in the conversation was now, he though “indie” was a style of music, whereas I considered it a tax bracket.

And as time went on, I found more people to talk with and we’d talk for a while and then we’d stop talking about music and start talking about other things. Or figure out that we didn’t have the same tastes and start talking about other things.

And pretty soon, I stopped seeking out new things. I’d go to shows and if I liked the opening acts, I’d pledge to dig into their catalog when I got home but most of the time, I didn’t. I listen to the radio and add songs I like to my ever-expanding Spotify playlists but it never goes farther than that. I don’t look into the artists themselves, just snag the songs I liked. But I didn’t have anyone to share with and it soon it wasn’t nearly as fun to find new things.

There is something in my personality, something in my wiring that makes me want to share the things with other people who will get as excited about them as I do. When I don’t have those people, I stop looking for things to be excited about.

And so, the moral of this story is that I don’t have ten best albums of 2016. I, honestly, don’t even have one.

Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that

Yesterday, November 8, 2016, the American people made a decision. We were given the choice, ultimately, between and a man and a woman. We were given the choice between a (failed) businessman with no political experience and a woman who has been working in the Federal government for several years.

We were given the choice between a man who spews ignorance and hatred every time he opens his mouth and a woman who has presented herself with dignity and grace at every turn.

We were given the choice between a man who all but bragged about sexually assaulting women as young as 15 and a woman who was forced to deal with her husband’s infidelity in a very public arena.

We were given the choice between a man facing civil and criminal court dates in the near future and a woman who was convicted by the court of public opinion several times over, even after two FBI investigations proved she had done nothing wrong.

Make no mistake, the American public was given the choice between a man and a woman and we chose the man, despite the magnitude of his crimes and the content of his (lack of) character, simply because he was the man. Because he is a white man. Because he is a rich white man.

At the very core of this decision has been an air of rampant misogyny. The newly elected president of the United States, Mr. Donald J. Trump, has spewed hatred toward every group of people that is not him for the past year. He has publicly mocked people with disabilities. He has vowed to deport Mexican immigrants and build a wall to keep new immigrants from entering the country. He has called Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists. He has proposed facilities and tagging systems for Muslims that are Nazi concentration camps in everything but name. He has ridiculed veterans and women and treated women as property and objects to be owned.

In her capacity as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton made decisions that may or may not have led to American deaths at an American embassy in the Middle East; decisions we, as civilians, will never fully understand, decisions that had to be made in the time it took to take a breath, decisions that may have not had favorable outcomes, regardless. And ultimately, the events that led to making those decisions were the events that kept her out of the Oval Office.

It was never about her acquiescence in the way she received the Democratic nomination. It was never about the platforms upon which she was running. It was never, really, about the emails. It was always about what is (or is not) between her legs. It was always about that part of her anatomy her opponent bragged about grabbing.

All of that was meant to be an introduction to a post I intended to go a very different direction. I apologize for ranting. I apologize if I sound bitter and angry. I do not apologize for BEING bitter and angry. I am angry. I am angry as a woman that as an American I will be represented in the world by a man with so little respect for me, simply because I have two of something he only has one of.

Maybe that’s what misogyny is really about. Men are mad that women were given two X chromosomes and they only have one.

I could spend the next four years, angry about what happened yesterday, angry at 180,000+ people in Florida who voted for Gary Johnson instead of Hillary Clinton, ultimately tipping the scales toward Trump. I could fume and fight, rail against his attempts at destruction of the things that make me proud of my country, that made me proud of President Obama.

Or I could use the next four years to bring out the best in everyone I know. I could do good things and love the people around me. I could offer kindness to the groups he has vowed to hurt. I could be the bigger person.

So, that’s what I’m going to do. I am going to love with all of my heart. I am going to create. I am going to stand up for others. I am going to mourn for those who suffer in the next four years. I am going to show the world that Donald J. Trump, a misogynistic, racist, homophobe, may have been elected as the president of the country where I live but he does not represent me. To echo eight years of conservative rhetoric, “He’s not MY president.”

I voted for her. I live in a state where the majority of my neighbors voted for her. The majority of my friends voted for her. Of that, I can be proud, even if I can’t be proud of the choice others made.

Holiday Hell

It is officially the 3rd of October, which means that my birthday is less than a month away.

It also means that people have been saying for the last two days that it’s officially Halloween season and no one has any place to get pissy with them about being excited because it’s “too early” or it’s “still hot outside.” And I’ll give you that. I’m totally cool with starting the official celebration of any holiday within the month (Halloween in October, Christmas in December, that sort of thing).

My struggle is personal.

No, I don’t have to compete with Christmas but competing with Halloween for the rights to my own birthday has always sucked. As a kid, it was all about, we did the Trick or Treating thing, we can’t really do something for your birthday two days later. When I got into college, no one made a big deal out of birthdays. Mine or anyone else’s, and having one so close (but not actually on) a day that was really just another excuse to get sloppy drunk, made it even more invisible.

But, I’m not here to complain about people neglecting my birthday. I’m going to be 36 years old this year and I’m pretty sure that I’ve had more than five but fewer than ten birthdays actually go the way I had hoped. So I’m used to it.

The thing is, as the years have come and gone, I have grown to resent Halloween.

Once upon a time, Halloween was easily my favorite holiday. I decided to embrace the day and the tendency to combine my birthday with it. So what if no one cared about my birthday? Halloween was a thousand times better anyway, right? And mostly that worked.

Until it didn’t anymore.

Now, there are people all over social media going on about how much they love Halloween and October and how it’s their favorite time of year, even better than Christmas. But it just serves as a reminder to me that I am not where I want to be in my life.

I want to be where I can call friends at the last minute and go to a haunted house or a corn maze (even though I’ve really never enjoyed either, I do enjoy people). Or go on a real ghost hunt. Or go check out one of the dozen scary movies playing at the cinema.

I want to be where I can make a batch of popcorn and watch scary movies on the couch, or in bed, with my significant other.

Being single and 250 miles from my closest close friends has made me dread holidays in general, if I’m being completely honest. I want to have a 4th of July barbeque with 15-20 friends and kiss under the fireworks. I want “birthday week” to be a real thing in my world. I want to do that bit with the scary movies. I want to decorate a Christmas tree with that same person I watched movies with and exchange gifts with people and drink mulled cider and eggnog.  I want to do that Friendsgiving thing where everyone brings something and we spend the day together enjoying one another’s company, not out of some familial obligation but because we’re friends (by the way, even spellcheck knows about Friendsgiving). I want someone to ignore me when I say I really don’t want flowers and cheap chocolate for Valentine’s Day and buy them anyway because he thinks I don’t mean it when I say I don’t want those things because “doesn’t every woman want those things?” And I want to be kissed on New Year’s Eve and caterwaul our way through an off-key rendition of Auld Lang Syne then get up the next morning to eat brunch with those same people.

So, yeah, I guess holidays in general have grown to be a source of general discomfort for me. But it’s definitely worse when you’ve grown to dread something that was once one of your favorite things.

I need you to hear me

Disclaimer: The following blog post contains subject matter which I have addressed before. It is possible that I have reached the point of beating a dead horse. I apologize in advance if anyone out there in internet land is sick of this story. Please feel free to stop reading here.

I want you to hear me. I have no illusions that the conversation will end with you telling me that you love me too and sweeping me into a passionate kiss. I have hopes, dreams, but no illusions. While I firmly believe in happy together, I have very little faith in the idea of fairy tale endings. I am a realist and a pragmatic soul and I believe that it is far less likely that two people fall in love with one another, simultaneously, at the same time, in the same way than it is for one person to fall in love with someone and the second person agrees to give the whole thing try.

So, I fully accept that confessing my feelings to you is going to earn me, at best, a what the hell, why not?

And I’m okay with that. But I want you to hear that. I just want you to hear me tell you that I’m fine with why not. I want you to hear that I understand that you may not reciprocate my feelings. But I want you to hear that I want you in my life.

I am not the girl who can’t handle being friends with a guy my feelings for him extend beyond friendship. I am not the girl who makes things weird. As long as we’re friends, I will care about you. I will support you. I will want to spend time with you. None of that will change. But I can care about you and support you and spend time with you as friends. And that is what I want. I want to be friends.

I struggle with close friendships. I am an extroverted empathic Scorpio; human relationships are very important to my well-being. I don’t think there is a substance – either natural or synthetic – in this world that could replace what I get from being intimate and emotionally bonding with other people. But I struggle with them. I approach every new relationship from the perspective that letting this new person through my walls gives them the ability to hurt me. Keeping everyone at arm’s length keeps them from having that ability. I know I push people away. I always have. Finding someone with whom I feel completely comfortable, with whom I actually want to share the parts of me I keep from so many people, is something that means a lot to me.

You weren’t supposed to hurt me. You made me comfortable. I wanted to tell you things that I kept bottled up, hidden away from even my closest friends, because I wanted YOUR perspective. I wanted to hear what you could offer me to help me deal with things when I really just wanted to push them aside. When I already knew the reactions I would get from the other people in my life, I wanted to find out what you would say. Because what you would say would be different. Because I couldn’t predict what you would say the way I could with others. And I wanted that. I looked forward to that. I wanted to hear your voice.

Not your actual voice, although that is no less comforting, but your Voice. The voice you use to share your thoughts with the world. Your special, unique way with words. I have grown very fond of your voice over the years; even when you aren’t using it to speak directly to me. I miss your voice in my life. I don’t want your voice to not be part of my life.

Even though I always knew there was the possibility that you didn’t share my feelings, even though I knew that finding out that you only wanted to be friends would hurt, for a while, I also knew it wouldn’t hurt as much as long as I still had your friendship. And I think we are, still friends, but it’s not the same.

Maybe you can’t be friends when there are stronger feelings involved. Maybe that’s what happened. But you aren’t that guy. You aren’t the guy who avoids confrontation because it’s weird or uncomfortable. You aren’t the guy who doesn’t talk about things when there is something to talk about. You aren’t the guy who promises to be there for someone and then disappears when they need you to be there.

Maybe you’re not avoiding me. Maybe it’s all a misunderstanding. Maybe you still believe you are there for me, that we are friends, that I should always feel comfortable telling you anything, that I should never feel like I can’t ask you something or come to you with a problem. But I don’t feel like that anymore. I feel like trying to talk to you is futile. Like you aren’t listening anymore. Like you don’t want to listen.

And I need you to listen.

I need you to listen when I have trouble talking to anyone else.

But I also need you to listen to my heart. I need you to hear that all I want, in the whole world, is to know that I didn’t fuck all of this up. I need you to hear that as much as I want you to pull me into you and kiss me, I want to be friends more. I want you in my life and if I have to sacrifice romance in favor of friendship, I will do that. I can do that. I have before.

But I need you to hear me.

Reflecting

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today was the fifteenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. I spent most of the day away from social media but the few times I did check in, I saw memoriam posts ranging from urging others to cherish their loved ones and time with them to anger and hatred.

I shared my own personal account of what had happened that day. What I remembered, how I spent the day, because everyone’s memories are different and even though we say #neverforget, I’m not sure we really do that. I am not sure that we remember – when it is not an anniversary of a tragedy – to appreciate what we have in our lives. To be loving and compassionate every day, to tell people what they mean to us, every day, not just on days like today. Because while the world became a whole lot smaller on September 11, 2001, and the people who were alive when it happened swear they’ll never forget, there will be a year when September 11, 2001, joins December 7, 1941, as just another day in our nation’s history books when another country attacked us out of hatred for our way of life. There will be a year when this day will not elicit emotional memorial tributes and recounts of where people were and what they were doing when it happened.

I shared my personal account of where I was when I found out what happened and the only verbal response to my words was a call for hatred. When I responded that hate, in any form, is not the answer, I was challenged and brow-beaten with a paragraph about “what if it had been your family? How can you love something so unworthy of love?”

The idea behind Dr. King’s words is not to love the thing that hurts you. It is to not stop loving because you have been hurt. And to not waste your heart on hate. Don’t hate the thing that hurt you, love the thing it hates. Love in spite of that thing’s hate.

In general, this means be kind to other people, be supportive of other people. Don’t just TALK about being a “good person,” BE a good person. More relevant to what started all of this, invite your Middle Eastern neighbors into your home for dinner and ask them to bring a favorite dish when they come, so that you can learn about them (and have a hearty laugh when they show up carrying tacos). Support Syrian refugees. Tell your Congress(wo)man that you support allowing refugees into the U.S. Because love is welcoming thousands of sick, hungry, injured homeless refugees in spite of the fear that one of them might be a terrorist.

Don’t blame an entire population of people for the radical actions of a small handful.

In the days following September 11, 2001, bombs were dropped on Middle Eastern cities in retaliation for what had been done. When it happened, I thought that is how you fight back. Don’t kowtow to the bully.

I changed my mind shortly after.

When I realized that those bombs in those cities potentially killed more innocent people than all of the active members of Al Qaeda combined. When I realized that potentially more innocent people died in Hiroshima than could have ever inhabited a military base the size of Pearl Harbor. When I realized that the United States had chosen to battle hatred with more hatred. I no longer believed that bombing cities was a brave act of retaliation.

There are things about being an American that I cherish. I am free to share these words without the fear of persecution. I am free to speak to plants and the moon and call it a religion without being tried for heresy. I am free to speak out against my government when I feel as if it is not serving its people properly. I am free to sit or kneel during our national anthem if that is what I feel is right.

But there are also many things about being an American that embarrass me. I am embarrassed at the way our elected officials disrespect the people who gave them their jobs – from the constituents right up to the President. I am embarrassed that people in positions of power encourage those below them to hate without regard. Hate immigrants, hate Muslims, hate gays, hate women. It’s all there, if you listen. The hatred in our nation doesn’t start at the bottom. It doesn’t start with racist redneck hillbillies in the deepest reaches of the Ozarks. It trickles down from the top. It trickles down from voter suppression laws. It trickles down from statistically harsher punishment for people of color than for whites for the same crime. It trickles down from persistent attempts to remove basic civil rights from women and from minority groups. It trickles down from a pipeline that has the potential to poison hundreds of thousands of people and the media silence surrounding the cries of those people. And, unfortunately, it also trickles down from parent to child, a child who is born only understanding love and must be taught hate.

As September 12, 2016, winds to a close and another anniversary has passed, I implore my fellow citizens of Earth to love one another. Battle against those who harbor hatred for western cultures by loving. I am not telling you to love ISIS (don’t hate ISIS either; hate is what they want, hate justifies their beliefs, hate justifies their actions). I am not telling you we should implement hug a terrorist day. I am saying they hate us because we are greedy and immoral, selfish and arrogant. Love one another and show them that we are not all greedy and immoral, selfish and arrogant. Even when they are not watching, even when they are not listening, show them good people.

Love those around you with everything you have. Donate goods and money and time to charities. Do good things because they are good, not because of what you might get in return. Be kind. Be generous.

Love.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

love

A radical idea for our election problem

In case you managed to miss the news, somehow, 2016 is a Presidential election year, here in the States. This is always a source of frustration and anxiety among the American people but this year, especially, many Americans – as well as citizens of other western, industrialized nations – are feeling the pressure to choose between two choices that much of the voting public are strongly against.

I have long been a supporter of the idea of a double blind election system, particularly where the President is concerned. Rather than candidates campaigning for themselves, there is a central committee. I haven’t quite decided who makes up the committee, how they are selected, but it would have to be a very scrupulous process.

From there, each person who is interested in becoming President goes through a vetting process then, when they are confirmed to be qualified for the position, they submit their platform to the committee. They submit their stance on the issues that will inevitably serve as deciding factors in the election – healthcare, environment, immigration, whatever happen to be the buzzwords in the current climate – and the committee presents the platforms to the public. The committee probably knows who the candidates are but not which platform belongs to whom and the public has no idea. No names are released until after the election is decided. The election, subsequently, is decided on issues rather than campaigns, on integrity rather than lack thereof.

To take it a step further, this year, especially, I don’t wonder if, rather than voting, we are given a test. How do you feel about this issue? Is it important to you, first of all, and second, are you for or against it? And our votes are based on how we answer those questions.

This test actually already exists and it seems to be fairly accurate. As it is, it only tells you which Presidential candidate fits your beliefs the best but it could be modified to include Congressional candidates, and ballot measures on the state and federal levels. For the most part, all of the questions would still apply so it wouldn’t have to be much longer than it already is, just offer more results. But instead of just saying “You align 75% with Candidate XYZ” it would just cast your vote, providing your results lean more than 66% toward one rather than the other.

Maybe it’s a totally radical idea. Maybe it’s something out of a 1950s dystopian future. But maybe it would take care of some of the corruption in our government.

Maybe it would get rid of our two party system. Maybe it would free us from our Stockholm Syndrome where we are held hostage by a broken system but keep defending it because it’s the “best one we’ve got.” Maybe it would get rid of media bias and candidate influence. Maybe it would get rid of that which makes Americans so frustrated and disenchanted by their own government.