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Archive for July, 2009

I’m against racism

P1060221Earlier today, I learned it was International Blogging Against Racism Week, thanks to Debbie at Body Impolitic.

As a white mom of a bi-racial child, I wonder about what to tell my daughter (who is 4) about race and racism. Up until now, I’ve done a few low-key things, such as making sure her dolls look like children of a variety of backgrounds, providing books with lots of different-skin-colored children in them, and most importantly, leading by example. Her dad is, as I may have mentioned before, a stunningly handsome man — whose family comes from India, but was born elsewhere. He’s an immigrant to the U.S., speaks accented English, and still struggles to read and write in English but is literate in his second language, his first being the Indian dialect his parents spoke. He’s amazing with spoken languages, and has been able to converse, at various times, in no less than six languages. Since both he and I are Jewish, I sometimes momentarily forget we aren’t the same “race” as defined in the U.S., because we are both results of the Diaspora and while we have different ethnic backgrounds, we share much of the same culture. I used to joke that I found a way to marry someone as different as possible from my own background, but still Jewish. There are some differences we are aware of that are cultural, some that are because we grew up with different class backgrounds, and some because of racism and anti-immigrantism that my husband experiences first hand, and I don’t.

As a person with dark skin and accented English, my husband has experienced his share of racism and anti-immigrant discrimination (and the overlap). When we were younger, and he would go out with a guy friend, I would express concern (okay, maybe it was jealousy) that he would be hit on and he would say, “don’t worry about it, no women start up with me because I’m dark skinned.”

I know that as our daughter gets older, she’ll start to get the question, “what are you?” Not long ago, when I was with superhero princess without her dad, and was talking with an acquaintance who said “she looks like she has an Indian background” I felt a little uncomfortable, like the acquaintance was proud of her ability to identify a specific “breed.”

This week superhero princess said something at the pediatrician’s office to the nurse practitioner who was about to examine her ear that there was a girl at school who was mean to her. This particular girl is white, blond, and a bit precocious, and tends to point out whatever differences she notices. I asked superhero princess for more information about the “meanness” and talked with the assistant director immediately. I was impressed with the response they gave, and I was careful to say that I knew my little one is “quirky” and I don’t expect every child to adore her the way we do, but that I told my daughter that not everyone likes each other, but everyone needs to treat each other with respect.

And I realize, that part of what is “quirky” about her, in this largely white town, is that she isn’t white. Her dad speaks English with an accent and doesn’t read books to her. There aren’t many other Jewish people around here, either (although we have a great small community). She insists on wearing a crown much of the time these days (right now it’s broken but that doesn’t stop her). She often wants to wear the same falling-apart princess dress for several days in a row. If I want to try to make her more “acceptable,” I can tell her not to wear the same dress two days in a row, or buy her a new, unbroken crown, or insist that she wear play clothes instead of fancy dresses (although that may make both of us miserable) — but I can’t make her white. And, G-d forbid, I wouldn’t want to — she is perfect. But I also can’t control the reaction she gets from the world.

I can help her grow strong. Give her a foundation of love. Lead by example. Treat everyone with respect. Give people room to improve when they are making an effort to change. Allow her to be who she needs to be. Invite friends from all different backgrounds over to play. Give her a solid foundation of her own cultures — Indian Jewish, American Jewish, Pacific Northwestern. The photo above shows in the background a needlepoint her great-grandmother made (sideways) and photos of her grandparents. (The “princess” culture she’s adopted on her own.) Talk about social justice, and engage with the community around us.

Any bi-racial people out there with advice for me in what to tell superhero princess about race and racism at this age, I would appreciate it. I am going to be on the lookout for more books that might help, we read a great one, An African Princess. In the meantime, I can lead by example in another way, by celebrating what is different about me from the majority of those around us, including my Jewishness and my fat body.

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160x600_04

Healthy or heavy?  Cuz… ya know… you can’t have any fat on your body and still be healthy.  For example, look at the woman in the ad.  She’s very thin.  She even put on a bikini to make sure that the scale didn’t add in the weight of clothes.  And, she is STILL horrified by what the scale says!  What hope is there for the rest of us?

*headdesk*

When I see things like this, I remember all those years I spent believing all the fat-hating BS in the “news” (I’m looking at you MSNBC & CNN) and in advertisement.  Besides, if it wasn’t true, they couldn’t advertise it, right?  Hah.  The naivete… 

Worse, I saw this advertisement while perusing the Buddhism section of Beliefnet.com.  Beliefnet is a website that has a lot of spiritual stuff for all the main religions and a lot of less commonly followed religions as well.  The focus is religion and/or spirituality.  But, ya know… they still can’t resist posting plenty of things about how religion can make you thin and therefore “healthy”… and they have a prominent woman who writes articles under the name of “our lady of weight loss”, making her sound like some kind of saint of diets and thinness.  Dieting and thinness is virtuous of course.  Not dieting and accepting yourself is degenerate or something…  grrr. 

To be fair, I don’t read anything from the weight loss pages of Beliefnet, so it’s possible OLOWL isn’t all bad.  Just her name and the headlines of what she writes alone has been enough to keep me far, far away.  Besides, at this point, I find all this diet and thin=health crap very trite and cliche.  Reading such things sounds as about enjoyable to me as listening to elevator music, when I’m feeling in a mood to let music lift my spirits. 

–AngryGrayRainbows

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Olde_Books_by_Satanarchist

I seriously love books.  When I first met hubby, I joked to him that I had a book infestation in my apartment and when I turned on the light books would go scampering under the bed or in the closet like cockroaches.  To try to avoid books taking over every surface and stacks climbing the walls, I give away lots of books to people I know.  I donate them to small and poor libraries from where I come from.  I especially like to help people discover books that they love that they didn’t even know existed.  I’m not sure if I have any skill for it, but I try.  My oldest friend and her husband tell me that they really love the books I give them.  “Towing Jehovah” went over especially well. 

I have an education in Finance.  I like math, which is a big reason why I thought I’d like Finance.  But, Finance is really a bunch of superficial and political jockeying that I really hate.  If I had any idea of the political world I was preparing myself for, I wouldn’t have touched Finance with a 20 foot pole.  I would’ve just been a math major or become a social worker instead… something I could really enjoy and believe in.  I quit my job in big corporate/huge multinational finance in February.  I don’t miss it.  It paid well, but it wasn’t worth it.  It was soul crushing. 

I am lucky to have a husband that doesn’t need me to work.  I’ve been healing the wounds of burn-out all summer and I may be starting to discover some jobs that might actually let me be me, rather than pressuring me into some person that I’m not and that I don’t even like.  I wonder if I’d be happy in a bookstore…  The pay won’t be what it was in big corporate finance, but do I care?  I’m not sure yet.  It is a huge reduction in pay to start with, but it could lead somewhere better like my own store or managing a store or something.  Goodness knows I am passionate about books.  I like to be around books that I don’t even want to read, but mostly I like to read books.  I have no idea where this book-love of mine comes from, but it has strong and I can’t remember not being like this.  As a very young child, I would take stacks of my Golden Books outside to read and I would get lost for hours.  One of my favorite splurges has always been to go to a bookstore and buy a dozen books at a time.  It is just so exciting to me…

So, I applied at Borders.  I have an interview on Friday.  But, part of me is not sure if I even want to go through with this.  I fear getting burned out again.  I wonder if being around something I love will continue to feel more important to me than making a lot of money.  I remember workplace politics and don’t miss them… and I fear getting back into that ring again. 

On the other hand, the job would be part-time, which would limit my exposure.  If I don’t like this path, I can always get back on the finance path or something related.  My skills in finance are still considered very
“hot” and I don’t doubt that once there are job openings again that I could get a job in finance.  Apparently expertise in SAP, such as mine, is rare and desireable.  SAP is a big, complicated software used by 80% of the Fortune 100 (I believe… I may have this stat slightly wrong).  It’s nice to know I have other things to fall back on. 

Then… there’s ya know… my ego.  Will it cause me a lot of pain about the pay-cut and not working in a white-collar environment?  I hope not.  When I notice superficial thoughts like that, I like to challenge them.  Maybe this is just the sort of challenge that I need to put my ego further in check…  who knows.  Well, not that I NEED a white-collar environment.  I would give up white-collar jobs all together to get a good non-profit job.  I seriously love non-profits more than anything else.  But… Borders is no non-profit.  Maybe this job could just be something to do until something I like even more comes up?  Maybe I will fall in love with it and climb the ladder of the bookstore and end up making some decent money in time? 

I think that I think too much.  Maybe the best course is to just take one moment at a time, listen to myself, make the best decisions I can and then go from there…  Deep breaths… 

Yes, I definitely do let overthinking get the best of me – especially when it comes to work.  Now that is something to chew on…

–AngryGrayRainbows

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wrt2self“Losing weight won’t make you any prettier or more desirable.”

If someone said that to you, would you believe them?

I think I might.
At the moment, my weight has declined a bit, and it feels as though something essential about me is being lost.
I am hanging in there with this temporary disequilibrium of self.
If I continue in this direction, the clothes in my closet, the clothes I’ve had for many years and love, may not fit, and I do not have money for new clothes. I have no desire to buy a new wardrobe. I don’t long for clothes that are a smaller size.

My body looks and feels fleshier to me than it did when it was fuller — I’m feeling like I’m being emptied out, not my full self. I’m a short person, and a few pounds makes a substantial difference on me, to me. The change I’m experiencing might be temporary, it might not.
The idea that as we adapt to differences in our lives — could be a change in seasons, could be a new medication, a change in movement frequency or intensity, other things that can cause our bodies to change — is not hard to understand. And when this happens, when I’ve grown a bit larger or smaller, there’s this gap between acceptance and a longing for what was. To adapt, I’ve needed to alter my diabetes medications, but just a bit — and this has to do more with changes in eating than changes in weight, I think.

When I first started getting smaller, a crazy part of me kicked into gear and I started eating less and less. And the advice I received was this: “Put yourself first. Don’t lose your self.” That helped, and since then, I’ve been eating in a more intuitive way, bringing a big bag of food with me so I had plenty of things with me, all things I like. (It wasn’t that long ago I scoffed at the idea of a food bag.)

The mythology of weight loss holds that in losing weight, a person finds her true self. The slender sylph is uncovered under layers of the former fat self, and the slim butterfly emerges from the chrysalis that was entered by the fat caterpillar.

My true self feels fat. No matter what my size, my self is abundant, generous, expansive, large, whole. I have no desire to take up less space, to require less fabric, to be more pleasing to eyes that see losing weight as emerging from a cocoon. My myth does not need to be that I am only “matching” when my interior and exterior are both the same degree of fat. My self can remain fat. (Although I’m not aiming for anything other than a resolution — perhaps temporarily — of some health issues, and likely will still be quite fat by most people’s estimation.)

Writing this brings to mind Heather MacAllister‘s Keynote Address at nolose in 2006. I wasn’t there, I never met her or saw her peform, but when she was memorialized across the fatosphere upon her death in 2007 (I hadn’t realized that, like me, she was born in 1968), I read her address and learned so much from it. The legacy of fat burlesque and what it means for perceiving myself as sexy, and the ability I have to experience abandon on the dance floor, are directly related to her art. I don’t have any terminal illness I’m aware of (other than the terminal condition of human existence) and I’ve not had the “added blessings” that Heather refers to in her address, but reading and re-reading this text has left substantial marks on my psyche.

I want to publicly thank my own body, my body that has suffered so much hatred and pain from inside and out, even before the cancer. My body that is fat enough to withstand TWO YEARS of unremitting chemotherapy—that’s right folks, if I had started out this journey as a skinny girl I’d likely be dead by now. My body that has brought me at least my fair share of pleasure and joy and is still allowing me to have the fantastic experience of life in a carnal body.

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Paradise_Open_by_Larsarts

Happy Wednesday and Open Threadiness! 

If I could, I’d climb into my monitor and go through that door… I’m a total fantasy nerd.  I just know there’s some medievalish land with dragons and stuff on the other side…

–AngryGrayRainbows

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Prisoner

Have you ever done something that hurt you physically or mentally so you didn’t do it again?  Because you knew if you did it again it would hurt again?

I have come to the realization I have done that about “movement” and because of that, I’ve become imprisoned by fear….fear of movement.

I work in our tiny little downtown area but I’m lucky enough to have a general store next door in case I need something to drink or just want to get out of the office and shop.  I decided the other day that my brain needed a rest from work so I trekked off next door and this is when I made my latest breakthrough.

I was walking across our parking lot to get to the store when I came across a curb that was put up to seperate our parking spaces.  Now, normally I would walk all the way to the street side of the parking lot to avoid this 4 to 5 inch increase in concrete but that day I decided to try to gracefully approach the curb and step onto it or over it.  I did it.  I stepped right up on that curbed and hopped down on the other side.

In the past couple of years I have suffered from back and leg pain, specifically sciatica.  It has been so bad at times that I was bed-ridden and my chiropractor made house calls to me.  The pain was so intense at times that I stayed on pain meds and thought I would never get better.  Now, granted, I still have back and leg pain but it’s so much better now than it was.

But memories of that pain….ooh, horrible memories of screaming out when I put my leg down and just trying to make it to the chiropractor’s office without passing out.  Those memories were some powerful stuff.  Those memories caused me not to take chances with movement anymore.  I stopped going to the gym (where I went regularly for about 6 months), I stopped even trying to take the stairs at work, I avoided any inclines whenever possible but declines were even worse.  Those memories played awful tricks on my mind.  I eventually told myself that I was never getting better and that I should stay as stagnant as possible.

Then came the walk next door to the store.   I walked over that curb like I had never had back pain.  The fear I had had, though logical to me, was simply something I could prove to be false.  I crossed back over that curb on the way back to the office and the next day I went down the stairs at work.  (going up hasn’t been that much of a problem)  Over the weekend I played with wonder mutt in the back yard and even ran a few steps, none the worse for wear.

Now I’m not going to say that the fear has totally subsided because I do think I’m pretty careful about how far I will go with movement…but the joy I have felt with the movement I’ve been able to emotionally chance has helped me break out of my prison of fear.  Fear is a strong emotion and can easily take over your life if you allow it to.

My hope is that you all have movement and motion in your life and if not, be gentle with yourself and just do what you can.  You know what you can do but don’t let fear rule your decisions.  (and this goes for more than just movement)

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Listen____by_Ciril

I have ADD.  ADHD… whatever.  I tend to leave out the “H” part, because my brand of the disorder tends to leave me drained and merely spinning in my brain.  To others, I may seem lazy, lethargic or fatigued a lot of the time…. which some small and unpredictable bursts of actual physical hyperness.  It’s loads of fun, let me tell ya.  That’s sarcasm.  I always seem to be trying to discover helpful (to me) metaphors for my ADD to help me deal with it… and, ya know, be less of a spaz.  While I’ve known some really neat people who were talented at funnelling their spazziness into being productive, I’m not really that kinda spaz.  This annoys me to no end.  If anything, my spaziness gets in my way more than anything. 

I have PTSD and was raised by people who were (and still are) way more spazzy than even me.  I am sure that my hyperness isn’t all ADD.  Some of it could be PTSD related (child abuse) and some of it could’ve been learned from my mother and step-father.  So, treating the PTSD and seven years of therapy have helped a lot.  Oh yeah… and the meds.  Ritalin is a life saver (for me, that is).  Even with all the work, treatment and meds, I still feel like I struggle a lot… most than people know or can see from my exterior.  Too often I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing (because I’m in such a hyper spin) or like if I stop spazzing out that my head will explode or something.  That feeling of being “driven by a motor”… yeah, I know that one all too well.  Sometimes it annoys me that it is usually my intellect or anxiety (or both) that is so driven…rather than becoming a marathon runner or something.  Being a marathon runner is far more socially acceptable than thinking a lot or just running in mental hyper circles and feeling physically tired much of the time because of it…

Every time I find something that helps, I post about it in case someone suffers like me and might benefit from hearing about it.  So, here I am.  I found something that helps – silence. 

I have generally been a person that avoids silence at almost all cost.  I will ramble nonsense just so that there isn’t any awkward silence in conversation.  Sometimes this works out to be some kinda comic relief.  I have a reputation for being a goof… or even funny… depends on your taste.  Some people just find the rambling awkward.  I can’t blame them for that.  I just never realized that I was avoiding silence.  I just had this really deep drive to not allow any quiet.  This has caused some problem with television.  It kills silence.  TV is all flash and constant stimulation.  I find it pretty darn impossible to find a quiet, silent and empty (in a good way) moment with the TV on… but that’s generally what I’m aiming for anyway.  I’m sure it didn’t help that I was, in large part, raised by the TV.  My parents were pretty neglectful.  I think my mother really wasn’t ready or able to raise a kid, so she encouraged a lot of TV watching just to keep me quiet… without needs, thoughts… ya know… emotions… annoying things like that.  So… not only does TV help me avoid silence, I have a long history with it.  It’s an old family member.  It was there for me when my parents weren’t – which was most of the time.  And, when things got abusive, TV was there to help me forget that realities of my life.  Sadly, it also seems like the more TV I watch, the worse my ADD symptoms are and the harder it is to manage them. 

I’m not sure where I got the idea… I suspect it was from many places and then not even explicitely.  But, recently, I got the idea that silence is something to listen for…. to listen to.  Silence isn’t NOTHING.  I suppose that is what I thought before… that it was just emptiness and nothingness and living at all.  I think I had the idea that it was some kind of living death or something… just something horrible.  Recently, the idea hit me that SILENCE is something.  What if I thought of it as something really lovely?  As a refuge from ADD and spazziness?  What if I thought of it as something enjoyable and refreshing?  Viola!  Breakthrough! 

For the last two weeks (maybe more… this has been coming on gradually really), I’ve been paying attention to silence as well as whatever is going on around me.  Like… if I’m reading a book, I pay attention to the pauses between syllables, words and sentences… and I find that I enjoy the reading so much more!  I’m not just speeding over the words so fast that I’m exhausted after a few pages due to my desperate attempt to avoid any pauses or silence.  Silence is pretty darn cool.  Who knew!!??  Okay… so ya’all prolly knew.  I sure didn’t.  😉

Whatever I’m doing, I try to lend some small part of my mind to hearing the silence in between thoughts, feelings and actions.  And, of course, all of a sudden, I’m finding it far easier to HEAR my hunger and fullness signals.  It’s easier to realize what I want to eat when I’m hungry.  It’s easier to be comfortable in my own skin and LIVE self-acceptance, body-acceptance and acceptance of my fat.  I’m less anxious.  Less of a spaz… and I feel far more secure in myself. 

While I am sure that some large part of my spazziness is genetic, I also would love to hop in a time machine and tell my parents to back the heck off and let me take my time sometimes and let me make peace with silence.  God forbid I actually took my time and thought about my chores.  That could earn me a beating, shaming, hours of lecturing… who knows.  I learned early on that taking my time and thinking… ya know… being present and allowing silence into my attention wasn’t safe.  My step-father especially saw my taking my time to be centered or think to be some kind of rebellion that should be beaten down.  Apparently I was born knowing how to do everything perfectly, so that taking my time and paying attention to what I was doing was really just trying to “get out of work.”  What a dumbass he was…  meh. 

In addition to keeping one eye on silence, I am trying to accept my spazziness.  Heck.  I’ve tried just about everything I have ever heard of or thought of to change it and it has only made things worse.  If my ADD can only be managed to a certain point and if being a lethargic person is simply a fact of life for me (due to all the spinning in my head, thank you ADD), then so be it.  A lifetime of shaming myself, starvation, over-exercise, caffeine abuse, experimentation with cocaine, trying to energize myself with overeating or binging, etc. haven’t worked.  Even moderately exercising and eating healthily and going to a bunch of different docs to try to get this fixed haven’t worked.  Trying to sleep off the fatigue hasn’t worked.  Vitamins haven’t worked.  Forcing myself to only sleep so many hours a day in the hopes my body would just give up on wanting naps and extra sleep and whatnot merely turned into an angry zombie who was more spazzy than ever.  I could write a book on all the things I have tried.  I’ll spare ya all further speechifying.  😀 

This all ties back to the focus on silence, because I’m suddenly finding it far easier to accept that I am what I am if I allow more silence in my life.  I’m not sure why…. but, I’m very happy to have discovered this.  Acceptance is a huge relief. 

Acceptance, however, does not mean giving up.  It is possible that I will never find a way around what is left of my ADD symptoms.  At the same time, I will probably also never stop trying to find a way to improve from where I’m at.  Right now, I’m tired of going through all the stupid hoops that the latest doc thinks will fix it.  But, I also know this will pass and I’ll give some new doc a chance and have some more tests for allergies, defiencies or whatever… and we’ll see how that all goes.  Even when that time comes around again, I will be holding onto my acceptance.  Acceptance may ultimately be the best option I have left… only time will tell.  Besides, maybe there is some reason why I am the way I am.  I will keep trying to find what the strength might be that is the other side of this so-called “disorder” of mental hyperness and physical tiredness…   maybe allowing myself to live in silence a bit will give me the space to find out how to use the tools I have more effectively.  I am so tired of fighting against myself… I’d much rather work WITH myself… now… how to do that is yet to be found…

–AngryGrayRainbows

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