Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Fortifying Trust

Stripped Bare (CAI2019)
The way things have shifted, trust has been eroded out from under us, to the point where we're told it's a virtue not to trust.

Where trust is punished and breach of trust is rewarded.

Where children fear the derision of being tricked through emotional manipulation by other children, who could only have learned that from adults, the newly-grown children.

Maybe emotional manipulation is an evolutionary choice that some bloodlines are making in how they pass DNA to the next generation; maybe cruelty is a strategy for survival that means the planet wins, since most people will not survive what's coming.

We can't trust each other, and we've built all our systems around this premise, with some people using their power to fortify themselves against what they see as the inevitable future of misery for most people (while blinding themselves to the fact that the misery can't be staved off with money).

They encourage the rest of us to mistrust each other, and to screw each other over and not feel bad about it, using media, games, and financial rewards to attract the worst in young people and exploit their youthful selfishness before they realize why society is built the way it is in the first place. They trick people into accepting less by reducing their access to education and health care, housing and food.

Without the ability to put even basic trust in the people who make decisions for all of us, we flounder around, unable to trust each other or the systems that we have been born into and embroiled with.

Trust is built through shared experience. Maybe we don't have to descend into chaos as they remove all the supports. Maybe there is a way to work from what is falling to build something different, not so vertical, more peace-seeking in nature. Peace-seeking missiles.

But we're all running around scared, clinging to the ideas we used to have, wishing things were different, indulging the freeze of feeling helpless in the face of a powerful desire to act. We know how much it's going to ask, and surely things are not so dire as that, are they? It's not time to give up on our dreams of a peaceful, prosperous life and just fight for basic dignity, for something slightly better than survival. Is it? This isn't the last chance to rally our talents to some purpose. It can't be.

Here we are, at a moment just before, like we've seen before in history, and the people with power are not doing the same things. They are doing worse, faster, with more widespread support and more coordinated, resourced, technologically-enabled deliberation, having learned from their past failures. They are spreading mistrust like seeds to the wind. What to do in the face of that?

It's all nice to say "band together" but it's not like that at all. Mistrust is not something we just decide not to have. We can choose to behave as if we trust, to hold our mistrust at bay like a nervous dog barking at us.

Can we trust ourselves? That is the biggest journey, the hardest because it's hard to do alone and hard to do with other people. Learning to trust our best selves is the on-the-ground work that supports the systemic policy work and the activism and the research that supports it all. It's the parallel process that lets us bring what's needed. Fortifying our understanding of our own hearts, strengths, and burning needs can be like building a strong boat and installing navigation. But how many people take even 20 minutes a day to deeply check in with themselves?

I fear for the futures most probable.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Losing Souls (from Maverick Missives)

Souls Fly (CAI2019)
Every time I let it break my heart
And that’s my part
I know before it happens
I know what probability means
The seams of reality are clear to me.
Why do I buck the trend
Put my money on an end that was never in the cards?
Why do I think this time,
Maybe this time?

Friday, May 24, 2019


Beholder (CAI2019)
I have a complicated relationship with beauty. Specifically, the beauty of my face and body. There are some people who seem to be universally beautiful - no one would ever dispute it, everyone notices it, it's just obvious they are beautiful, everywhere they go, whoever they meet. I've always known that's not me. I have a beauty, but it's not that, it's something else.

Somehow, though, I internalized the idea that the other kind is "real" beauty and my beauty is something lesser, in the same way I internalized that being female is the "lesser" luck-of-the-body draw. What's odd is this: I never doubted my beauty or my equality, I just learned that I couldn't expect anyone else to see it how I see it. I came to expect to be treated as second tier. Even so, second tier gets its share of wanted and unwanted attention.

I love my beauty; I make myself shy. At the same time, I find it hard to think anyone else can see it. I feel vulnerable, that I have no choice but to show myself to people every day. I expect them to see what they expect to see, not me, not really me. I both long to be seen, and also, to be completely hidden. Because humans suck. Their judgments are so manufactured and ingrained that a big swath of the population might as well be robots. I don't expect to be seen, so I'd rather be unseen by those who can't see me, anyway. Fly under the radar, don't draw attention to my beauty.

But I can't just settle in, because my beauty has a Quality. I don't know how to name that quality, but it's particular. It only appeals to some people and those people often respond strongly. In this way, it's thrown me off kilter. I get used to not being seen, and then someone sees me, and I drop into shy like I'm looking in a mirror. If I can feel someone notice my beauty, it makes me immediately defensive. I've been surprised too often by a strong sexual advance from someone I didn't realize thought my friendly was flirty, so I pay attention to that flash of notice. I don't want to give a wrong impression. I've learned to be very careful, and to stay stealthy. My beauty is like a landmine that might go off and wreck what I think is an interesting relationship, or it might attract unwanted attention from strangers. It might get me stalked. I've always treated it as something dangerous because sometimes it has been.

I increasingly push my beauty to stand on its own, be in the world, and only shine for people who can see it. No make-up, just my skin, standing the test of time as best it can. Wash-and-go hair, wild in a way I never could have allowed in my 30's. I let the weight sit on my middle, not happy it's there, annoyed by the inconvenience, but not willing to engage the level of discipline it requires to keep it somewhat lighter. Am I still beautiful, now? How many people drop off from noticing me when I wear baggy clothes and let my roots grow out? As I age, and don't hide my skin? Who still sees me? Who didn't see me before but now can see me, with myself showing more? I've never been less like my internalized idea of beauty, and yet I love how I look, when I catch it, which isn't too often. I like to see me.

Once a lover said, "I wish you could see yourself how I see you" and so I looked into her mind and I saw myself through her eyes. So different from how I saw myself, a distorted lens but lovely. Now I feel that, all of that, when I look at myself. A gift. One of many. When I let myself feel how others love me, distorted as it may be, I expand my own lens, refocus what beauty means, expand the meaning and embrace what I am, trying not to mourn what I'm not; trying not to tarnish my enjoyment with wishful shaming. Eventually, over time. I get beyond accepting myself reluctantly while working to be better. Through deliberate imagination and determined discomfort, I love who I am now. I continue to spin that in the direction that pulls me. Hardly anyone can see me at all, but those who do, they've got my attention. Like a secret handshake. 

The beauty of me is more than what I look like, and I don't separate those things anymore. It takes real work to get this far, and I don't like to look too closely at how much further I could go. It's not a light switch that comes on once you understand the concept. It's not a linear progression.

I love my beauty. I am working to not be so shy about it.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Clumsy with time (a Maverick Missive)

The one safe place (CAI 2019)

He says,
don't run from me because I'm clumsy

I hear the thunder, too
I will hold you
safe as me

you breathe
I breathe

move slowly, carefully
but waste no time

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

What's chosen (a potentially controversial post)

I've never had an abortion. That's just luck. I never needed one. I have thought a great deal about what I would do, on sweat-soaked sheets unable to sleep for worry because I was a day late. I have thought about what I would do and I think I know, but I don't know. Neither do you. No one can know unless they are in the situation.

For my whole life I thought that I would not. That I would be interested enough in who might come out of my body that I would do what it took to make it work, but do my best to make sure that it never happened. Still, too many times to count, when I was waiting, hoping not to see the second bar, all I could think was: End it now, before it grows. Get it out.

A baby is a parasite. I can say this, because I have grown and birthed two of them from my body. Pregnancy is a highly traumatic event for a body, over a long period of time, that changes your physiology, sometimes forever. The longer it goes, the more damage it does. At first it makes you sick to your stomach, light-headed, fuzzy, irritable, bloated. That's before there's anything that anyone would recognize as a baby, but it could be enough to get you fired. That's when you're begging for this tiny glob to take shape as the seed of a human, when you want the pregnancy. That's the tiny little group of cells that you love love love into, hoping for that big head, spinal cord tail, to show up on as early an ultrasound as your doctor will let you have. When you want the pregnancy.

We have separated abortion and motherhood, but they are the same conversation. Motherhood is a choice. When we make that choice, as women, whether under duress of "didn't expect this now" or the excitement of "I want to be a mom right now!"; when we make the choice, the first thing that we have to do is agree to a significant sacrifice. We choose to allow our bodies to be used as an incubation factory for another life. The only bodies we get to live in, for our one and only life on Earth. If we don't want to do that, we are not ready for Motherhood. That only stands to reason, because Motherhood will ask so much more than just our bodies.

We choose to allow our bodies to be abused, stretched, examined, poked, thrown off-kilter, our brains inundated with chemicals designed to cloud our judgement. We choose to allow our skin to stretch into shapes it will never recover from, our hips to be pushed wide so our backs will never sit right again. We agree to pain and difficulty navigating daily life, prejudice in our workplaces, not fitting into our own clothes or skin. We agree, even, to the birthing process. No one has invented a process to remove a new human from another human's body without pain and difficulty for the body carrying the new human. We get cut open, ripped open, or stretched past capacity, and many of us will never have sex the same way again, never pee the same way again, never enjoy life like we did before we consented to this sacrifice.

Motherhood must be chosen to be consensual. Sex is not consent for motherhood.

Every child deserves to be wanted. Would you choose the life that many children will certainly be born into, through women who felt they had no choice but to seek an abortion, but were denied? I want my mother to be looking forward to me, not dreading me. I want my mother to step into the role of mother, not step out with mental health, depression, addiction. I want to be wanted. We all do.

Every woman who wants to deserves to feel the joy of expectation, even if mixed with trepidation, with a pregnancy chosen; with Motherhood, chosen. That is the sacred bond. Sex is not consent for Motherhood. Sex is no more or less sex for women than for men. Pregnancy is a consequence borne solely by women, and pregnancy does not have to mean motherhood.

Did you know, that when you have a miscarriage, they call your much-desired, already-loved baby a "product of conception"? I know that. Do you know how I know? Guess. When a pregnancy is wanted and lost, they call it a "Product of Conception" or even just a "Pregnancy." Like it was nothing. But when a pregnancy is unwanted, they call it a "baby" and try to guilt you into making the kind of choice that no one should be forced to make if there are alternatives. Which there are.

Like you, I have a limited life in a body. I am a full fledged human and I demand consent over any time any person is inside my body for any reason. I am the owner of this body, it's the only one I get to live in, and I have as much right as any man to say that I don't choose motherhood right now, so I am not going to let this pregnancy continue.

If every early pregnancy is a baby, then so is every sperm. Men don't get to treat me like a machine, an incubator, just because they didn't protect themselves, or me, for that matter, during sex. When does the glom of cells become a baby? I don't know. I honestly don't. I wanted my pregnancies, so I always thought about the baby at the end when I was gestating whatever stage that end-baby was at. But I know that if I hadn't wanted the pregnancy, I would have felt very differently. I can't predict how.

When does the glom of cells become conscious and aware of feeling? Medical science does seem to have some information about that - nerves, brain function. When abortion access is not restricted, most abortions for unwanted pregnancies come before that point. Since pregnancy is very hard on the body from the start, and only gets worse as the pregnancy continues, most women would not prolong the decision. Most abortions that happen after the first trimester are for wanted pregnancies that must be discontinued because of medical issues with the pregnancy or fetus. Personally, myself, I feel comfortable with pregnancies ending in both those situations. Beyond that, maybe I, personally, would feel uncomfortable to make that choice. But it's not my situation, it's not my perception, it's not my body, it's not my life, and it's not my choice. So, unless it is, I feel strongly we need to leave that choice to the people in the unfortunate position of having to make it for themselves.

I claim this as my basic, human right to life: I get to pick how my body is used. I choose how I handle whatever happens to me after I have sex. I get to pick whether my body is going to be fundamentally changed. Me. Not you. Not them. Not him, or him, or him, or her, or him or him or him. Me. My body. Me. You would want nothing less for yourself.

If we want less abortion, we need to make birth control widely available in choices women want and men are willing to use. We need to provide early and regular education about consent and sexuality, honest and clear. We need to provide women with enough community support to leave abusive situations, say no to sex they don't want, and keep their bodies safe. We need to provide support to men to learn about responsibility, valuing women and our bodies, condom use, consent, and a host of emotional intelligence skills. We need to make sure the kids who are born have enough to eat and smaller class sizes and stable homes that lead to stable citizenhood, health care when they need it. That's what we need to pay attention to. There are already more people here than we as a society are willing to care for. Let's focus on that.

The abortion debate is about the personhood of women, and whether our personhood is less than that of men. Men would never allow a pregnancy to continue in their body if they didn't commit to wanting the baby. They only expect it of us because we are women, and it is a way to control us. The men making these decisions fear that they don't own the birthing process, and they want to control it, despite the fact that doing so requires enslaving my body to that purpose.

My body is female. My self is a person. A human. Full-on equal, brothers. I give consent to share my body. You don't get to decide if I submit my body to sex, or to a pregnancy. You don't get to say. That's equality of personhood.

Men take their own bodily autonomy for granted, yet somehow think it's fine to question ours. If you won't stand for my right to bodily autonomy, try to understand why mine is less important than yours.

Someone else's pregnancy is no one else's business.