Friday, October 16, 2015

How to Articulate This...

I SO don't want this to be yet another screed on being single and the value thereof and defining roles and all that bullshit. I really don't. But I feel the need to try and purge some of the frustration I feel about how society subconsciously believes that you've only succeeded in life if you get married.

I'm the only single person in my family, including cousins. I'm in my 40s, have never been in a relationship, and it seems unlikely to change anytime soon. I'm an introvert who is happiest when working a regular job every day, socializing with friends and family... and then going home to be alone and recharge.

I was raised in a fundamentalist Christian household, and grew up believing that no matter what else might come to me, that marriage and children would be inevitable and desirable. What I didn't consider was the fact that some minor childhood traumas and fears might make me avoid dating and building relationships with men, as much as I desperately wanted to be in love and be loved in return.

I had no illusions about who I might end up with; I knew I wasn't pretty or popular or fun enough to be sought by anyone handsome and popular and fun. The best I hoped for was a Mr. Bhaer or a guy who wasn't a Looker but was funny and smart. None of that materialized, because I wouldn't let it. Anyone who seemed interested was immediately rebuffed by me, to my own dismay. I couldn't help it. It wasn't latent lesbianism; having carefully contemplated both paths, I knew where my sexual inclinations most definitely lay.

But that is not the point of this, although it is it's own boulder of baggage that I still struggle with - avoidance through fear. Years passed, and I lived with roommates and then alone, and for the most part have been happy, barring those 5% of situations when I longed for a mate. And when I reached my 40s and knew that even if I married, I'd probably be unable to have children, I began to contemplate what my future might look like as a permanent old maid.

Society is not kind to the single, even as it occasionally envies it's freedoms. It completely forgets you, more often than not. You are automatically left out of Family-themed events, or Couples events, or vacationing groups. You might be included in a gender-specific weekend or vacation if you have built those kinds of relationships with others or belonged to a fraternity in college. You're not invited to dinner parties when everyone else is in a couple; you throw off the numbers around the table. At work, you must compensate for those with family emergencies or sick children or spouses, because you are free of such constraints.

And you are definitely not going to be encouraged to socialize with the opposite sex after a certain point. Close friendships between men and women are fraught with potential misinterpretation by others. I thrive in the company of men. I bloom. I used to love to go to lunch with my male colleagues and college guy friends (back when I saw them daily). This past spring I was temporarily transferred to the Tenor section of my church choir, and I have never enjoyed myself more in a choral setting. I gave myself the title of Lady Tenoress. I'm still mourning being moved back to the Alto section this past fall.

But I digress. My point is, society wants everyone to be tidily paired off. But it just doesn't work out that way. And when you can't march nicely into Noah's Ark with your mate, it would much rather pretend you don't exist, or reserve you for situations where it doesn't interfere with the flow.

Smashcut to this past Wednesday night, and another choir practice. A friend in the soprano section in her late 30s has just become engaged, and everyone is over-the-moon happy for her. She's the most deserving, sweet and worthwhile person who ever wanted to be married who got her wish. And yet... and yet... the subconscious relief that everyone feels that another stray member of the pack has been neatly paired off with a mate was almost palpable in the room, as folks talked about how they had found one another so much later than everyone else (how miraculous!), and that people had been praying for her to find someone, and how blissfully happy they were (she wasn't at practice that night so we were free to discuss to our heart's content). And I thought about the Bridal Shower I'd attended some weeks back, and how happy everyone was for her to be married and there were Bible verses and poetry and we were asked to write down wishes and prayers for the happy couple to be put into a box and read later... and I wanted to go out in the hall and fling my music folder against the wall and destroy it. I wanted to scream.

Because as much as I want a mate sometimes... and as much as I want to be left alone sometimes... I knew in that moment that she had been elevated to the status of a Completed Person. Validated. And that I was not, and would not be, until I was married. It's a validation that no longer is necessary in our Western society; women are no longer chattel, they own homes and cars and are able to live alone in relative safety and peace. But by God, we cannot seem to let go of it yet. My sisters and cousins are all married/have been married, and I could be the most wonderful sister, aunt, daughter, cousin... but I don't really count in quite the same way as them.

In just over a week she will be married, and I will move on in my mind to other besetting concerns like whether I should get hardwood floors (and how much trouble it will be to shift furniture during the process) or whether to put up a Christmas tree this year (what might the cats do to it?). But in the back of my subconscious I will still regard myself, like the rest of society, as not quite the thing.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

In Response to a "Blood Moon = End Times Warning" Post From My Childhood Pastor

Here's his original post:

Hi Don... this post showed up in my Facebook news feed, and I thought I'd read your blog. I wanted to tell you that while I find it entirely believable that we may be on the edge of a great societal upheaval, I am dubious about it being necessarily the End Times. In part, because I have heard you and my other pastors give their congregations these same warnings, with almost identical phrases, for over 40 years. As a 12-year-old at Belmont Church, I was so completely convinced that the Seven Last Years would come at any moment, I did not believe that I would live to be an adult. Let that sink in - I was certain I would not live to be twenty. I had no hope for the future, beyond going to heaven when I was executed for being a Christian, if I was strong enough to not deny Christ. Which, after all, is what those Chick Tracts at Koinonia Bookstore told me would happen. I knew enough to know that we couldn't be certain when the rapture would take place, and so it was best to prepare for the worst-case scenario.

We were prepared to be right with God and prepared to die in the End Times because scriptural prophecies were all pointing to it happening soon... in the 70s. In the 80s. In the 90s. And now in the 21st Century. Our family looked into buying a farm way out in the country to hide away, and my mom read up on edible plants. And I tried day after day to find peace instead of fear that I would be tortured for being a Christian. Even now if I wake at 3 am, I will stay awake thinking about what I will do when our world begins to collapse. Will I literally run into the hills, taking nothing with me?

It's not that I disbelieve scripture in regards to the End Times. But I do question spiritual leaders saying that they KNOW something is about to happen. Because to this day I bear the trauma of fear and anxiety of believing I would not live to grow up, because you told me I wouldn't. Not to my face... not to me personally. But to the congregation of adults I sat within, and my parents who believed you too, and then reinforced those teachings at home. Now decades have passed, and it hasn't happened, and I have to wonder what value there is for us as Christians in being perpetually on high alert. Because all it served to do to me was make me terrified, and more focused on how I could achieve a godly death, rather than loving God and my neighbors and living out the Gospel.

You are, and always have been, a beloved spiritual leader to me. I will never cease to respect you. You married my parents, you led my dad's memorial service. But I can't help but wonder if I might have ended up leading a less fearful life if I hadn't been led to believe that I would die soon in the Tribulation.

Thursday, May 21, 2015


So I had my penultimate radiation treatment this morning, and everything was sailing along as usual; I was on the table, My web mask had my head latched down, the machine was all up in my grill, and the technicians left the room and I waited for the beam to start up. I've mentioned before that when the beam comes on, it's as though my eye fills with blue light, even with the eyelid closed and a cotton pad over it. Well, it hiccuped this time. The light stopped, then came back on and resumed radiating.

When the assistant came in to set me free, I said, "So what was that?" and she stared at me blankly. "That pause in the light?" "There was no break in the light," she said, and I tried to explain that there had been a pause where "the light went away" and then resumed. She didn't understand, and said there had been nothing at all different. But there was a blip in the treatment! I protested, and she condescendingly explained about the superficial red lights that were over my face to help the machine position itself correctly. "No, not that light; I know that's different." "The radiation beam doesn't have a light; you can't see one."

This went back and forth for a while, where she was dismissing my description, saying none of the equipment registered any blip or glitch, and I was put on the defensive, saying that yes, there WAS something different, and I was just letting her know in case there was something wrong in the machinery that needed to be checked, which she also dismissed. An amazing combination of low-grade passive aggression, condescension, and defensiveness.

I gave up, and was walking out when I saw the other tech, and asked her. "Oh, that was just the Whatsis resetting; it does that every time."
"No, this was different; there's a blue light that..."
"There's no light."
"I understand there's no visible light. But when the beam comes on, there a blue light that fills my eyeball. It came on and then went off. That has never happened before."

More back and forth that implied I was being nit-picking for mentioning it, and still not comprehending why I was bringing it up. I simply wanted to let them know there was a blip, and I was interested in why and wanted to let them know in case something needed checking... but they were alternating between claiming that I was wrong, that there was no harm to me (which I knew!) and implying that I was being unnecessarily cautious. It was utterly infuriating.

So here's what I wished I had said back:

"Have you ever had external beam radiation in your eye? I THOUGHT NOT. So when I tell you that a blue light fills your eye, you should believe that I know what I'm talking about! I have had 24 of these treatments, and not one of them has ever had a skip in that light until this morning. I'm not complaining, I'm just letting you know in case something needs to be checked. We good? That's all."

This is not the first time that I have encountered this strange, low-grade defensive impatience. I don't know if it is just the fields of radiation and oncology, but when I bring up concerns or questions, I can get a strange, almost subconscious level of it. Almost an air of "Don't question me," or "You're being high-maintenance." Everyone is SUPER nice and friendly in general, when everything is going along ordinarily. But when I bring up a personal concern, like the fact that my right eye is even more problematic because of the clogged tear duct, and so the skin around that eye is particularly inflamed and painful because I have to continually wipe tears away, I am somehow being whiny. It's like they are inwardly sighing with frustration at me.

WHY WON'T ANYONE GIVE ME A RECOMMENDATION OF A FACIAL SKIN CARE PRODUCT FOR THIS PROBLEM I CANNOT BE THE FIRST PERSON WITH A QUESTION LIKE THAT IN THE HISTORY OF RADIATION THERAPY?!?! is what I'm beginning to feel like shouting. (By the way, they finally did give me a product recommendation and a sample; it was ordinary Curel Daily Moisture lotion. After asking three times, and being passed off from the radiation oncologist to the oncologist to the eye doctor back to the radiation oncologist. But again, quite passive-defensively. Barely detectable.)

Sunday, May 03, 2015

The Uncertainty of Freedom

One Long Confession Posting

When I closed my computer side-business, I did so because I was tired of it and had finally realized that after nine years, I was basically doing nothing much beside working. So many projects contemplated but not begun, so many books unread, cleaning and tidying and organizing simply never even started. The most I ever managed was knitting and crocheting and embroidery in the evenings in front of the TV, and dinners with friends. All of them perfectly pleasant, but not enough to make life worthwhile in themselves.

Now I have free time, and am so unaccustomed to beginning anything ("I just don't have time...") that I cannot seem to move forward. I feel like I am waking to a different existence where the possibilities are endless, but that my mind and ambition have atrophied. I'm not depressed, but I feel that anxiety I have felt in seasons of depression long ago, of knowing that I should be doing something worthwhile, but either I'm not interested enough in it, or too lazy, to actually begin.

I should play more with my cats
I should re-organize my kitchen
I should read my books
I should scrub and dust and thoroughly clean my apartment
I should get hardwood floors installed
I should get rid of unnecessary possessions
I should volunteer and help people
I should exercise more frequently

And as usual, I am shoulding all over myself. But once I've come to that awareness, and rejected it... I cannot shake the uncertainty of what I could be doing with my life and gifts. I know what I long for, but have either dismissed it as something I have no power to achieve, or I am too lazy to make the effort.

Anais Nin once said that "life shinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." Well, I am fairly cowardly, and sometimes when I try and step back and gain perspective of my life, I can barely take a step back at all, it's such a small, pitiful space. For example... my fridge and pantry are full of nothing much. Crackers, baking ingredients, beverages, spices, yogurt, hummus, condiments, cereal. That's about it. I stopped buying practically anything that was perishable (I switched to skim milk because it will last AGES) because I was either too lazy or self-indulgent to cook. And so as a result, that area of my life has atrophied, and I never think about cooking anything unless it's something I'm baking for an event. I'm really ashamed of this. Part of it was because I only want to eat things I am in the mood for, and I don't like leftovers. So food went to waste, until I finally decided to stop trying. And when you're cooking for one, there's no-one else to feed. SO many wasted, rotting vegetables!

I have my hobbies, I have my choir and church and friendships and shared meals and my beloved Sunday naps. But I could be SO much more useful to my world. And my #1 dream is a little house in the country on a hidden back road with a garden and a beehive and a shed... none of which I can afford without moving somewhere alien or ridiculously far away. (See how quickly I claimed it was too hard to accomplish?!)

On top of this, I worry that I have become too insular, too unwilling to be heartbroken, and that I am turning away from people and situations to avoid heartbreak or boredom or weariness... all of which are pretty much a given in relationships. I'd like to go back into therapy, but Lordy, it is EXPENSIVE! And now that my extra income from the computer business is gone, it's even more difficult.

I would like to be a much better and more worthwhile person, is what I'm saying...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Grrrr... Ralph Lauren!

Sooooo... a rather silly little request, but... does anyone know what the hell this pattern is called? I can find neither hide nor hair of it anywhere! Plenty of people selling it on eBay, and I bought it just a week ago at Marshalls... but no trace of it on Ralph Lauren's website or anywhere else!

I really just want one Queen or King-sized flat sheet, so I can make a duvet cover for my bed! It seems wasteful to buy a whole set (which is the only way they seem to sell it) because I only use full-sized sheets (which I have just bought), and so a too-big fitted sheet plus two pillowcases is wasted.

But it has become a bigger obsession for me, because although I can find PLENTY of named patterns on and throughout the web, this one is unnamed. Nothing on the packaging or tags, and on eBay (where several of them are listed) they can only describe it by appearance, even though there are plenty of other RL sheets being sold with the pattern name included. It just doesn't make sense! It's like a red-headed stepchild that RL dumped on the world and can barely bring himself to acknowledge (although it is packaged with his name).

Anyone who can help me?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Dear Elizabeth Warren

Please don't run for President... in 2016. You can run in 2020 or later, but not this time. We've seen what happened when a bright and engaging up-and-comer took advantage of the buzz and jumped in the race too early with Barack Obama. I think he wasn't ready. Another term or two in Congress would have given him more savvy, more experience and more equipment to do the job, and he has badly needed it.

You have the wit and the intelligence and the drive to fix problems that we desperately need, but I want you to not have a half-baked presidency; I want you to go in with the skills and preparation to fight a four or eight year battle against Big Money and not fall short. We need someone like you in the worst way... but a fully matured politician (as much as I hate that term) and not a beginner. I want you to survive and thrive in the office.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Christmas Letter 2014

Christmas 2014

Dear Family and Friends,

Christmas Letter, as per the usual. Let's see, news...
A Biscuit in a basket
Added a Cat. I acquired a gorgeous white-and-biscuit-colored kitten in late Summer named, appropriately, Biscuit. He is exceedingly floofy (his tail looks like a vast pouf of cotton candy), and bids fair to be bigger than either Bunny or Squeaky George. He is already large and in charge, and indifferent to things like other kitties' Personal Space. Very much an Alpha kitty, and he chases both his older siblings up and down the hall, especially George. George is still rather hissy about this addition to the household, and yet his affinity for licking cannot keep him from occasionally giving Biscuit a bath. It usually goes like this:
1) *hiss*
2) *lick-lick-lick-lick*
3) George remembers he doesn't like Biscuit
4) *hiss*
5) George runs away

I should mention that George is a big old coward. Bunny is beautifully dignified, as always, although she has been annoyed into reminding Biscuit of his place with an occasional *whap* of her paw. Her regular response is to simply go away when he gets all up in her grill. When he is full grown, I suspect he will prove to be either be a Maine Coon or part Ragdoll, and MUCH bigger than either of them. Hopefully he won't be a bully. But he is far more affectionate and cuddly with me than either of them, so in the "Who does Mommy love best?" contest, he's pretty much already won. But I make sure the others get equal time. Although Biscuit's determined attempts to drape himself over my keyboard while napping in my lap is a nuisance. As is the curtain-climbing.

Discovered my Specific Allergies. I had pinkeye twice this Fall, and the second bout was so bad that my eye doctor got a little freaked out. The attending doctor insisted I go get my allergies checked (it was allergy-based conjunctivitis) and it turns out that I am allergic to dust mites, cockroaches, and dog hair. Thank God, not my cats! But I am starting to take steps to reduce the dust mites in particular, with special bedding, more aggressive cleaning, and eventually putting in hardwood floors.

Resumed Choir. I went back to singing alto with the Chamber Singers and Parish Choir at St. Bartholomew. I took a choral sabbatical in the Fall of 2013, and so when it started up again this year I jumped back in, and was relieved that the burnout I was feeling 12 months earlier was completely gone. I do seem to spend a lot of time singing... more in the last 5-10 years than in all the years prior to that! I genuinely prefer singing backup or harmonizing with other singers -- I have very little wish to be a soloist.

Pining for a Farm. This year I really began to long for a property out in the country, or at least remote enough that I could keep some livestock without bothering my neighbors. My dream situation is a few acres (conveniently located near interstate exits so I can be on the road to clients frequently) south of Nashville, a smallish house, and space for beehives, and eventually maybe even chicken and goats. I want to garden and putter about and have a project shed. I want to have barn cats. I am technically "looking," but with full knowledge that it will be an Act of God if such a property were to come available in my limited price range and location.

Acquired Furniture. I finally got the last two pieces I have wanted to get for some time; a china cupboard and a good dining room table and chairs. Both were bought secondhand from dear friends, and I cannot express the satisfaction I get every time I look across the room at them. It makes me feel like I’m FINALLY a grownup! However, the floor around them is usually covered in cat toys, so it is rarely as tidy as I would like.

Ran Out of Updates. Seriously, I am sitting here racking my brain for anything new to tell about events of the past year, and I am drawing a blank! Things happened; I worked, I had appointments with computer clients, I spent time with friends and family... but nothing particularly notable! So I shall leave it there. 2014: A quiet year for me; not necessarily for the rest of the world.

God bless you and your family in 2015.
Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.