I don’t post nearly as much personal content on this site as I used to, but from time to time I feel the need to veer off the poetry path. Now is one of those times. I feel like I’ve been watching my country slowly disintegrate since 2016, but I know that the underlying conditions that have led to today’s crises far predate the Trump administration. Overpolicing of Black communities — and in particular Black men — dates back hundreds of years. The Black Lives Matter movement dates back to the Obama administration, and the George Floyd protests make it clear that we still have a lot of work to do as a country. Trump’s not-so-tacit endorsements of white supremacist groups hasn’t helped, and neither has the continually growing wealth gap. The COVID-19 crisis and its resulting effects on the economy have created even more stresses for communities of color, who have been hardest hit by them.
I’m glad that the protests over the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd are calling attention to these issues of racial inequality. I hope that people will look behind the headlines about riots and arrests and consider the peaceful protests that vastly outnumber them. Nonviolent resistance requires discipline, self-control, and bravery. Not everyone does it well, and there are people on both extremes of the political landscape more interested in creating mayhem than in enacting lasting social change.
I’ve attended protests and demonstrations both as a young woman and a middle-aged one. I don’t have the stamina or the crowd-tolerance I used to though, and I’ve learned that it’s important to care for myself if I want to be of use to anyone else. At the moment, even a trip to the grocery store feels overwhelming, let alone rubbing elbows with protesters at a large demonstration. Masks only work so well, and they really don’t work at all if people don’t wear them properly. There are other ways to support the BLM movement that don’t involve direct action. As a white woman, I’ve had to acknowledge the privilege I’ve enjoyed throughout my life, and I’ve had to learn how to listen to and amplify the voices of people of color. There are many articles online about how to support the BLM movement and become a better ally to people of color.
Martin Luther King did an excellent job of explaining how peaceful protests can turn into riots. “A riot is the language of the unheard,” he said:
I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”
A friend of mine suggested that quoting MLK is not enough and that I should donate to organizations actively working to dismantle racism. I do donate regularly — I consider it my duty since direct action is often not an option for me.
If you are able to send monetary support, may I suggest the following:
Tara Mandarano recently posted something that popped up on my Facebook feed. She related that a friend of hers had called her an “Internet oversharer.” Tara had an eloquent response to the label, and many of her arguments echoed what I might have said when I first started posting to the Internet in the late 1990s. This was long before blogs were a thing. We called them online diaries, and you needed to know how to code in HTML to have one. You also needed an Internet Service Provider, a web hosting account, and FTP software. Not for the faint of heart.
My attitude toward what I share online has changed since I was in my 20s. It was a less crowded space back then, and easier to keep a wall between my IRL life and my online life. In spite of that, at one point I came close to being dooced because of something I posted on my website. I didn’t think all that many people even read my tiny website, and certainly didn’t think that something I said online would have real-world consequences. This is a mistake people have been making ever since, and it’s often young people who make it. A good rule of thumb is to never post anything about your job.
It’s very interesting seeing how standards for public versus private sharing have changed as a whole new generation of digital natives comes of age. I’m reminded of the video of Alexandra Ocasio Cortez dancing in college that came out a while back. Opponents intended to embarrass and discredit her, but she owned that video and even doubled down by making another one.
I believe it’s important to share life’s challenges as well as its successes. But I’ve also become more discerning about what information I share, and where I share it. There’s a reason why people mostly post photos of their babies and vacations on their social media feeds. Most of us want to project the best possible face to the world at large, and I’m not alone in that. But I also think it’s important to speak honestly about my struggles and how I overcome them. As someone living with a chronic illness, I appreciate the way “spoonies” can find a supportive community online. Illness often isolates those who live with it, and some illnesses carry stigma that make it that much harder to talk about. Meeting other spoonies online has made me feel less alone, and less weird. I’m sure the same is true even for those who aren’t living with chronic illness.
There’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction with people, but social media has its place, especially for those of us who sometimes have trouble leaving the house. I’ll continue to share my struggles and triumphs online, but I’ve learned to think twice before posting.
Nancy, one of my favorite podcasts, is doing a series on Queer Money Matters, and it’s gotten me thinking about how my queerness has affected my own financial well-being. Like my queerness itself, it’s all tangled up with other issues. Continue reading “How My Queerness Has Affected My Financial Well-Being”
Rather than resolutions, I prefer to set intentions. Time to take stock of my 2018 intentions and see how they played out.
I put this post-it note on my wall at the beginning of this year:
Intentions for 2018:
– Enjoy my third semester
– Enjoy my semester off
– Move downstairs
– Stay out of the hospital
– Get my PMP
– Take a week off to relax
– Stay sober
Overall I was able to fulfill these goals, if not always in the way that I desired. Continue reading “2018: The Year in Review”
October 11 is National Coming Out Day. Sam Sanders has a great episode all about the history of the day (hint: Harvey Milk had a lot to do with it) as well as its implications for queer communities of color. His guests also point out something that I absolutely know to be true: coming out is a process, not an event. Sam asks longtime NPR contributor Bob Mondello when he came out, and Bob’s answer speaks volumes. “Do you mean to myself? Do you mean to my friends?”
Coming out–and being out–used to be much simpler for me. Continue reading “Coming Out Yet Again on National Coming Out Day”
National Poetry Month is April, the cruelest month according to T.S. Eliot. And I get where he’s coming from, especially in Boston, where lilacs may or may not be breeding out of the dead ground. This month, everything bloomed late because the Weather Gods decided to send us temps in the 40s for most of March and April, and then bust directly into summer on May 2 with a high of 87. I should be used to this by now, seeing as I’ve lived in Boston for 18 years. But California spoiled me in my toddler years, and on some level I’ll always mourn weeks and weeks of room-temperature weather. The temperamental temperatures affect my mood as well, leading to unpredictable amounts of spoons.
The good thing about National Poetry Month is also the bad thing about National Poetry Month: everyone is celebrating poetry. As anyone perusing the listings I post can see, Boston has a thriving po-scene. There are open mics and slams and performances and launch parties and panels and exclusive hoity-toity readings every week and twice on Sundays. In April the listings just explode. And those are just the ones I know about–I hear about other ones all the time that don’t make my list. And then there are the informal writing groups, as secret and desirable as lesbian potlucks.
Continue reading “On Celebrating National Poetry Month While Earning an MFA”
So back when this was more of a personal blog than a poetry-related one, this is a thing I wrote. Sometimes I like to go back and read my own journals. Is that so wrong?
- Haiku improves with practice.
- Poetry is real work.
- Sometimes work is gentle, easy, and takes hardly any time.
- Sometimes work is hard and grueling and difficult.
- Sometimes I forget to do things I said I was going to do
- Instead of hating on myself or giving up, I can just start doing them again.[read more]
This website first came about in 1996, when the World Wide Web (yes, we called it that) was as wide-open and empty as the American West. Fresh out of Vassar with a degree in English and a middling aptitude for computers, I stumbled on a job for a website that forced me to learn HTML. Back then, all you needed to create a website was a text editor, some server space, and FTP software. If you were feeling really fancy, you got Photoshop and threw up some images too. I’d grown discouraged trying to break into more traditional print publishing, so posting my own writing on my own website seemed a great way to circumvent the endless cycle of applications and rejections.
Like most 20-somethings, I had no idea what I was doing. There were a bunch of other 20-somethings out there stealing sharpies and Xeroxes to make ‘zines, but I felt like I belonged to a small, elite group of people with the mix of technical, editorial, and design skills required to make a website.
What we now call blogs we used to call online diaries. No matter what you called them, they were homegrown, barbaric yawps in the wilderness. Traditional media still wasn’t sure that this blogging thing was going to take off (that’s a direct quote from a VP of Public Affairs circa 2008). Continue reading “The Not-So-Glamorous Life of a Working Grad Student”
So the thing about having a chronic illness is that you still get sick. In the last 25 years you’ve gone through all the special treatment regimens and all the relapse prevention workshops. So why do you still relapse? Because your illness is chronic, and you can’t control all the factors that lead to relapse.
So what if you manage it so well that you live a rich and fulfilling life most of the time? If you’re really managing it all that well, then you shouldn’t relapse at all. I did all the right things. I still got sick.
They say it’s like a spiral staircase; each time you have another bout, it’s the same but different. I haven’t been on this ride since 2014, but the whole thing is nauseatingly familiar: ER trip, inpatient hospitalization, outpatient treatment, FMLA paperwork, short-term disability paperwork, doctor’s appointments and follow-up visits, holistic therapy, yoga, meditation, slow re-entry to work. Yadda yadda yadda.
The slow re-entry to work is reminding me of the biggest factor outside of my control: the current crazy project that’s causing me current crazy stress. Add to that the doubled commute to my office’s new location and a change of personnel on my treatment team, and you’ve got a recipe for another floor on the same damn staircase. On the days when I’m not in the office, things go pretty well. On the days when I’m working, I limp to the end of the day, and sometimes I have to leave early.
So that happened. Which is why I haven’t updated this website since May. And why the spambots are now bombarding my comments with almost-legible suggestions that I visit their questionable links to learn more about how to increase traffic to my website.
To those of you who are still with me, I thank you.