The identity crisis: Guess what you’re human.

Today Sam was looking at comic strip, the intended message was that sexism goes both ways. He felt that the comic only further divided the genders. Men and women are not a separate species. What we should really be focused on is the way that we treat each other irrespective of gender, age, bank account, race etc. So much of human history we’ve spent deciding who is human, who is civilized, who is worthy. Now days money plays a significant role in determining who gets to be human and who doesn’t. As humans we often argue our superiority over the other life forms that share our planet. We even argue our superiority over each other and there probably isn’t a single person out there who hasn’t viewed another’s circumstances as either a source of inspiration or affirmation of their own successes.

I watched a TED talk about how we view people with disabilities as either heroes or victims. So here we have Joe, Joe has no legs, he has a good job, a wife, 3 kids, a house, hobbies, friends, ex girlfriends, a gym membership, brown eyes, a cat, prosthetics, a wheelchair, a collection of vinyl records etc. Joe is a human. Some people will question Joe’s right to have children or even exist. Some people will assume that Joe is receiving special treatment that accounts for his success or that his wife is experiencing a significant burden. Some people will say Joe is amazing to have overcome such hardships. Many people will assume that Joe is suffering and struggling with the supposed limitations of his disability. Joe is a human. Not having legs is normal to Joe, he was born that way. Given the choice of having legs Joe might choose to remain as he is because he does not view himself as limited, lacking, or wrong. He is, simply. We are, simply.

Humans are notorious for crises of identity, their constant need to establish norms not just for themselves but for those around them. We are all fighting every minute of everyday to maintain and establish “self”. In establishing ourselves we are all too eager to promote and demote one another. We get mad at others for imposing definitions and yet how often do we adhere to those limitations in order to establish a sense of self and belonging?

I am human. Often I assume there is no place for me so I avoid company. I have decided the kind of poetry the world deems “good” and determined that my poetry does not satisfy those requirements. I have decided that to write the sort of poetry I have arbitrarily determined to be “preferred” I would have to compromise my ideals. To be famous I’d have to churn out pretentious bland poems but is this even true? There are published writers for whom I have the highest respect. How did they achieve publication? Were they just born better? Influential friends? Money? Was it a miracle and thus not something that can be achieved willfully? Isn’t calling someone else’s success a miracle or a matter of congenital genius a huge dishonor to them and the tremendous amount of work they’ve put into achieving their goals? Are we simply making excuses for ourselves encase of failure? How much of success is based on talent as opposed to passion? My guess is success is 90%+ drive. How many successes can one expect to achieve without first experiencing failure? 0%?

I detest most systems feeling that groups are often persecutory but what do I actually know about the system? Even if the system I envision exists by what criteria am I determining its members? Do people of authority automatically belong to the system? How do I determine compatibility in avoidance? Does having standards of any defined sort prove membership in the system? Or should I say does having standards of any sort that might preclude my immediate success and initiation prove membership in the system? Do we invent systems to avoid responsibility? Isn’t most of what we know comprised of opinions masquerading as indelible laws?

I have decided that the system is huge and all pervasive, that there is no profitable alternative to the system, and no niche in which I might prosper. I have absolutely no idea if the system is even real but if enough of us believe in it and if enough of us live our lives as though it were a fact, then the system real or not possesses an indisputable power over our lives.

As a child I determined the best way to handle bullies was simply to be myself, to not allow them to dictate my choices or my venues. I went on with my life and eventually they went on with theirs. I mean really if they want to make me the center of their universe that’s their issue but I can choose not to make them the center of mine. So why not submit the poems you love writing whether or not there is a system? We set the norms. If you want poetry to be relegated to Hallmark Greeting cards keep those profound juicy pieces to yourself but if you want to read good poetry for fuck’s sake submit good poetry over and over again until the “system” changes.

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Dance like no one is watching

ballerina-222584

I have had to redefine my idea of success or I should say I NEED to redefine it. When I was a teenager it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t work. I had no idea what I would do but I had every intention of doing something. I applied to one college because again it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t go to college and weirdly I decided that I would go to that particular college. I had decent grades if you completely exclude all things mathematical, zero extra curriculars (school took a lot of effort with the tutoring I required), and pretty damn good ACT scores (yay for the zone because I remember being completely surprised to find I’d taken the test at all). It wasn’t a matter of arrogance though I just really wanted to go to that school.

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My first go at college life was a disaster. I went to the wrong classes constantly, I forgot to eat, I lost my wallet twice with all my identification, and my laundry is probably still in the basement. That was the first month. Then I ran away to Sweden because I thought I have a chance at love here, the kind of love that lasts forever so I went for it. When Sam and I came back to the States we first had to live with my mom because he wasn’t legal. We attended the community college but I had every intention of going back to my first school. When we finally arrived there I found out I had forgotten to properly unenroll so I had a 0 for my GPA. My GPA would be purged in 2 years so I had to wait it out. I went to the local community college in the meantine. Then I went back to my school, the only school in existence in my mind apparently lol

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Writing saved my ass more than a few times. I have a severe math disability and I was failing Chemistry which was a requirement for my major. The teacher assigned us a paper worth 20% of our final grade we had to read a medical journal and create a summary. She didn’t expect us to be able to understand the journals fully because they were for doctors not students. Maybe it was my love of medicine (and all those extra medical classes I took for fun) but I understood my journal. My paper impressed the teacher enough that she didn’t even care about all the Fs I’d received. Everyone asks me how I graduated University with so many disabilities and the answer is simple I did the only thing I could do, I wrote.

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I quickly realized that normal almost never worked for me. I had to be willing to do things in very strange ways even though it made me look rather foolish. I am devastatingly uncoordinated that I can walk at all is almost a violation of physics. Physically I had to do almost everything differently in order to learn. I had to be willing to take dance and karate and look completely spastic. I had to say I am dead last in this class and I am completely botching my recitals but fuck it I will dance. I had to listen to good little ballerinas whine about me and repeat to myself they will not take my passion. I had to go to class with my unflattering leotards and my body dysmorphia and my pin thin classmates and say dance like no one is watching you. I had to go to class despite exclusion in PE and bullying all through school and say I have the right to dance. I took the same classes back to back sometimes just to help information sink in. I have had to work for my successes and I consider myself lucky generally speaking. Life is constantly humbling me. I always look like an idiot. I am always a student. I am probably not as much of a coward as I think I am.

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Now that I am out of school and the structure is gone I find it much harder since my head it full of chaos. I keep thinking things like a clean house is a sign of success, a perfect nutritious home-cooked meal is a sign of success, a full-time job is success, a perfect body is success now that I am not in school I have to figure out what success actually means for me. The me who doesn’t have a job, who can’t use the stove on bad seizure days, the me who has a messy house, and the me who has a healthy but imperfect body. What can I do? I can’t wait for therapy. I can’t just wait for life to begin once I am all better. I can’t wait for a cure because miracles don’t work like that. Sam suggests that I make tutorials. He believes we retain information better if we teach. So if you guys have tutorial requests that please god have nothing to do with math let me know. I say that but actually I started studying math because I thought it I studied something really really hard it might get my slow ass brain moving again. So far it hasn’t exactly worked lol I have a degree in Nutrition btw.

New Years Resolutions

In_the_Mirror_by_the_surreal_arts

Resolutions

I line them up like toy soldiers

They hasten to the rule of three

Polishing themselves

Until shoulderless heads

Incapable of bearing mishap

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Every year I undergo the agonizing process of phrenic and spiritual demolition by which I attempt to remake myself into a more manageable and deserving character. Rather then discard a bad habit, I reject the self responsible for indulging in said habit. I never learn from my mistakes because I am either dead or in the process of dying. A resolution to shed 5 pounds quickly escalates into a resolution to tackle every issue I have surrounding food simultaneously. If I am not perfect I am simply not good enough. If I am lucky I manage to catch up to the self of the previous year but I never achieve lasting success with my resolutions as they are always borne from self-hatred. This year I vow to start from where I am. To work with my current self as opposed to some lofty and capricious construct of self. The last thing I need is another ego to feed. I vow to break my goals down into manageable steps and take those steps one at a time.

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A vast majority of my goals are metaphysical in nature. I’ve found such goals to be completely unachievable in the absence of action because on their own they lack structure and coherency. What is happiness precisely? So far thinking myself healthy has been largely ineffective. What I need are concrete goals that will allow me to actualize my higher spiritual self. My goals this year are more task-oriented. Do A and B to get to C. As opposed to reinvent the alphabet. I keep doggedly trying to repair what isn’t broken. Each day I will write a list with a few tasks to tackle rather than sit about waiting for spontaneous mastery.

October 7 2010

Angelou

Why do I give up? There are all sorts of reasons. I lose interest, I get distracted by something more engaging or more immediate, I lose sight of my objective, I find the effort required greater than the effort I am willing or able to invest, I have considered the potential impact of success and decided that I am simply not ready to adjust my life to accommodate a “win”. There are infinite reasons and infinite excuses. Sometimes I realize quite simply that I am pursuing the wrong outlet for my ambition. At some point I chose to be a defeatist. At some point I decided that I didn’t deserve or even require happiness. As a teenager I saw all happiness as pageantry. If I wanted to be a writer I had to suffer. I would love to say that I understood the superficiality of that assumption as soon as I reached adulthood but it was many years before I began to question that stereotype.

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Our experiences are varied and sometimes, due to circumstance, limited. I do think writers need to be willing to explore their hearts and psyches, that they have to remain open and permeable so that they can soak in experience but I do not think that one has to have an extraordinary life in order to be themselves extraordinary. I want a peaceful, unassuming kind of life, but a life full of extraordinary emotions. Authentic emotions. Being human is an invitation to possibility. The heart has endless capacity and rather than glorify suffering, as if suffering alone were essential to my development, I want to embrace the moment in whatever sentiment it manifests. It is not a question of worth. I am alive and that is really all the validation I need.

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Fear is perfectly natural and I personally do not believe life gets easier. If life is anything like video games it probably gets harder each time you progress and that’s how it should be if you think about it. I kept thinking my shyness would lessen on exposure or lessen if I assumed the right facade but some years ago I came to think that being shy is fine so long as it doesn’t disable self-respect. Right now I am disabled. My biggest concern is that I don’t yet have the courage to speak up for myself. That is the main thing I want to learn how clearly express my intentions and how to clearly say no when I feel unsafe. I have gotten to the point where praise and criticism do not cripple, which is a significant milestone but I still feel uncomfortable expressing my needs.

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Today I am happy. I am absolutely in love with writing (with the activity not necessarily the products of my labor) and all those fears that in the past stifled my creativity do not dampen in the slightest my resolve.